Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pro-Life or Just Pro-Laws?

Back on October 24, I wrote this regarding abortion:

"It's a subject about which I rarely write.  Mostly because I consider it a settled issue."

And at least for me, abortion is a settled issue.  It's wrong.  It's the denial of life.  And I don't think there's much to argue about it.

But apparently, I've been wrong.  At least, wrong about that last part, about the abortion issue being a topic over which little additional discussion is necessary.

Since I first admitted that I rarely write about abortion, abortion has become a flash point.  Not between liberals and conservatives, necessarily, but among evangelicals.  Evangelicals who appear to be "going rogue" over the methodologies by which America's pro-life lobby has been pursuing Roe v. Wade.

I'd never heard about the Personhood Movement until it flamed up in Mississippi this past autumn, driving a wedge between rash, pugnacious legal agitators for the cause and longtime pro-life advocacy groups like the National Right to Life committee and the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.

The idea of the Personhood Movement was to re-write state constitutions to define a legal person as one whose protections begin at the point of conception.  Which sounded good in theory, but left many other legal doors wide open for misinterpretation and even more crushing applications of the very ruling which started it all:  Roe v. Wade.

Fortunately, two Personhood attempts in Colorado and one this fall in Mississippi failed at the ballot box.  I say "fortunately" not because I'm pro-choice, but because I believe that in order to right the wrong of Roe v. Wade, we need to be crafting a far more robust strategy based on irrefutable legal integrity on the federal level.  After all, since when is murder a states-rights issue?

Then yesterday, I learned of the Heartbeat Bill being pursued by more rogue pro-lifers in Ohio.  On its face, this new measure sounds a lot more competent than the Personhood agenda, since it directly addresses parameters for both life - a heartbeat - and when abortion would be illegal:  upon the detection of a heartbeat.  Such a measure would be hard for even some ambivalent pro-choicers to ignore, since a heartbeat is a pretty basic proof of life.

Yet here too, the Heartbeat Bill may be the right fight, but it's being fought in the wrong place.  A state law cannot trump federal law.  Period.  This is a national issue, not an Ohio issue, or a Mississippi issue, or something for just politically-conservative states.  Plus, assuming conflicting laws regarding abortion will force a Supreme Court verdict amenable to pro-lifers does not justify the rancor, disharmony, and flat-out lack of logic that rogue pro-lifers have been perpetrating in their quest for success.

Brashness has become an admired trait among many conservatives in general and evangelicals in particular.  Being the bull in the China shop is now a desirable thing to be.  Words like "reckless" and "risk" have become popular terms in the church lexicon.  It's cool to be rude, casual, and unscripted.  Because we've grown fond of acknowledging that Christ's Gospel is offensive to unbelievers.

Yesterday, as I struggled to craft an essay reflecting my heartfelt views on the subject that carefully admonished - yet came short of denigrating - our friends in the rogue pro-life camp, I found myself coming back to one incontrovertible fact.

Some evangelicals prefer to handle the abortion issue as a purely legal matter, not a human one.

Many of us seem far more willing to bash the practice of abortion than we are willing to stoop down and minister to people struggling with a pregnancy they think they can't handle.  But after all, abortion on demand wouldn't exist if it wasn't for people thinking they needed it.

Let's think this through, instead of simply reacting to it emotionally.  Does the abhorrence we people of faith project about abortion revolve around an anger over a medical procedure?  Does abortion anger us because it represents the sordid narcissism of our culture?  Or do pro-lifers appreciate the gravity of a cultural ethos which helps drive some parents of pre-born children to consider abortion to be an acceptable, albeit unpleasant, option?

Frankly, isn't it a lot easier to vilify pro-choicers as amoralists than to sit down with real, hurting, human beings with complex sexual problems (which is what causes unwanted pregnancies, after all) and deal with these problems on a one-to-one basis?

So, in other words, is the pro-life movement concerned with simply outlawing something, or trying to minister to the root of the dysfunction which results in abortion on demand?  Because if all pro-lifers want to do is pass a law - ostensibly to save lives - but they have little concern over the people who think abortion can be a solution to an unwanted pregnancy, might even if we in that battle, we lose the war?

The war isn't just saving lives of unborn, unwanted children, is it?  Abortion is sin, but it's no more heinous in God's eyes than our refusal to love sinners who make what we consider to be heinous decisions.  Remember, there's only one unpardonable sin, and that's denying the deity of Christ.

What is the pro-life movement supposed to be about?  The sanctity of life, and how God is honored by life.  Right?  It's not about laws as much as it is honoring God.  After all, to Him, our laws are mere mortal technicalities over which we like to spin our wheels.  Is outlawing abortion going to reduce the prevalence of unwanted life in our society?  It will save lives, definitely, and that is a good thing.  But is banning murder of any kind the same as ministering God's grace to our neighbors?  Remember, 20% of evangelical women report having had an abortion at some point in their lives.  So this isn't just about unchurched, heathen women, but women you and I may sit next to in church each week.  How do we speak the truth in love to these women, especially when we reckless compete amongst ourselves with contrivances to outlaw a particular behavior?  Even if it's in as noble a cause as outlawing abortion?

Make no mistake about where I stand:  abortion is evil and should be outlawed.  But until we can address the demand for abortion, will simply making it illegal - regardless of whether it's through Personhood, Hearbeat, or federal initiatives - truly impact our society for the Kingdom?

Love.  Joy.  Peace.  Patience.  Gentleness.  Goodness.  Meekness.  Self-control.  Even while Christ was throwing the money-changers out of the temple - the story many evangelicals rely upon to justify their brashness - He was teaching them verbally about His Father's holiness.

As we work to overturn Roe v. Wade, let's do it as a ministry, not an exercise in legal posturing.

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