Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Reminder to Pro-Life Christians

Published 01.21.09 at Townhall.com and Crosswalk.com

Today is the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling which essentially decriminalized abortion for our entire country. Those who endorse Roe are holding celebrations, while those who condemn it are holding protest rallies. Yet, like so many other issues, there are valid warnings for people on both sides.

For the moment, however, I want to speak exclusively to those of you who consider yourselves pro-life and Christian. The rest of you may follow along as you see fit.

For starters, we live in a country that is made up largely of self-identified Christians. This means that most pro-lifers follow Christ (though not all, importantly). But it also means that most pro-choicers identify themselves as Christians as well. Though many of us would prefer to marginalize their faith by claiming that they are merely nominal Christians or some other derisive comment, we should be very careful about implying that saving faith can only reside in members of our own political persuasion.

Now, lest you worry that this will degrade into an argument for moral equivalence or even for keeping silent, I want to assure you that I agree with you that abortion is the single greatest moral evil of our day. Nothing else even comes close. Yet, precisely because of our zeal to save babies, we run the very real risk of forgetting that Christ is more important than our cause. And though correcting our pro-choice brothers and sisters is appropriate, condemning them is not.

See, just like any atrocity, a serious view of abortion’s awfulness can easily jeopardize our Christian joy and happiness. “How dare you smile in a country where over a million defenseless lives are extinguished every year!” Furthermore, we can feel extra guilt over enjoying anything frivolous while age-based genocide surrounds us. “How dare you enjoy sushi or ‘American Idol’?”

But we must strive to remember that our joy comes—or ought to come—from being loved by Christ, not from making the world a more desirable place, including the prevention of abortion. And it is vital to maintain some humility in the midst of this particular evil.

Such humility comes from remembering that God cares more about the unborn than we do … infinitely more. After all, is there any one of us who has been humiliated, flogged and crucified on a cross in order to save them?

Furthermore, God knows the awfulness of this practice far more deeply than we do. Your pain at the destruction of life is but a passing whim compared with the deep grief felt by God any time one of His children loses their lives.

And yet, God smiles. He rejoices. He dances. He sings. He is radiant in happiness over the reclamation of any one sinner, and He is overjoyed to see those so recovered live out the simple joy of deriving every ounce of their identity, satisfaction and significance from Him. God smiles.

But how could He?

How dare He?

Does He not know?

Does He not care?

Oh, yes. Far more than either you or I do.

And one of the subsequent pains He experiences at the very real evil of abortion is the compounded evil of allowing our own interest in this issue to interfere with the joy we should have in Him and in Him alone. If we are not extremely careful, we can (almost without noticing the transaction) allow our passion for this very right and noble cause to fuel a bitterness over the death of children which will poison our passion for God … a God who is capable of smiling in the midst of the very thing we both ferociously despise.

If we act as if only the ending of abortion will allow us to be joyful, we are essentially acting as though Christ is inadequate for us—telling God that He is not enough. We must have our way as well.

Thus, we must be diligent daily to not let our pro-lifeism become an idol which we worship by seeking our real delight from what it can never deliver and has never done for us.

God loves abortionists. God loves women who abort. And God loves pro-choice politicians. And God even loves pro-choice Christians … just as He loves you in the midst of whatever known and secret sins He has paid to forgive.

How dare we hate whom God loves? And how dare we put our own judgment above His by allowing this particular issue to acquire more importance than the real Love of our lives.

“But I’ve never done anything so awful as those people ...”

Ahhhh. Now we see the real issue. Maybe you think that you are saved in part by Christ and in part by your own righteousness. And so maybe we are humble, grateful, loving and forgiving to the extent that we think we owe Him—but no further. The real problem is not in how much better than them we are. The real problem is not recognizing that, in and of ourselves, we are not better than them.

Until we realize that we are absolutely no better than anyone and that Christ still absolutely loved each of us enough to give up everything and come rescue us by His own sacrifice, we will always treat with contempt those who violate the rules we think are out of reach of our own depravity. And even if we succeed at getting this particular abomination stopped, we will have done two even more awful things in the process.

First, we will have alienated from Christ anyone who encounters our wrath. And second, we will have failed to heal the alienation from Christ in us which is the only malignancy that can produce such wrath.

And lest I be misunderstood, I should re-state something very simple: It would be the worst of all shames if you read this article and somehow sought to simply stifle your anger and behave more decently in your fight to end abortion.

You can’t.

But even if you could, that would be worse because then you would be oh so proud of yourself for fixing this heretofore unexamined sin.

Just as with every other element of your salvation, it is Christ alone and our pondering of just how much He has loved us that will transform us into the kind of people who can safely be entrusted with carrying the pro-life message and honoring God at the same time.

Take this to Him. Ponder His love for you. Allow Him to heal you. And from that, watch as your actions become completely different—finally running the risk of winning souls in addition to merely winning lives.

2 comments:

Kate B said...

Food for thought?
How do you feel about birth control?
It thins the lining of the uterus so that a fertilized egg can not attach itself. This would be a 7-10 day old baby at this point. I hear a lot of Christians talking about abortion and about stem cell research - but I hear silence on "the pill"
What are your thoughts?

Andrew Tallman said...

There are four lines of reasoning regarding the birth-control pill (which is a terrible name since it has nothing to do with birth, technically).

1. All forms of artificial contraception are immmoral because of their intent to thwart the natural connection between sex and children. The pill is merely the most serious violator of this because it intends to semi-permanently sterilize a woman.

2. Though some forms of artificial contraception are acceptable, the pill is uniquely problematic. The pill has three mechanisms, one to suppress ovulation, one to thicken the mucous lining on the cervix (thereby inhibiting fertilization), and one to thin the lining of the endometrium (which is why it is often prescribed for women with heavy menstrual cycles).

The first two methods are contraceptive (preventing conception), whereas the third is abortifacient (enhancing the chances that a fertilized egg would be expelled due to uterine inhospitality. In essence, the body knows the fertilized egg will starve and not receive enough nutrition to properly gestate, so it stops the process.

No one knows how often this results in a pill-caused spontaneous abortion, but the estimates are quite small, perhaps an average of one such event for every 5-10 years of continuous pill use, assuming regular sex. Still, most women don't know about this, and it's a risk they don't even know they're taking. Since taking a risk of having an undetected abortion is present in the regular use of the pill, using the pill is an immoral risk. Other methods of true contraception, such as condoms, are unobjectionable.

3. All forms of contraception are fine.

I personally advocate position number 1. And I think this is an issue which the Christian community has really bungled its thinking on. About once a year I do a show in which I discuss birth-control directly as an ethical topic. I've never yet written an article on it, mostly because there are several excellent ones already in existence. =)