The trail of Dr. Kermit Gosnell the provider of questionable abortion services has brought the abortion debate back to the fore. Pro-life activists use this to strengthen their case, and activists on the pro-abortion side do likewise too. When such issues come to the fore, it creates a space for ideas to be discussed and important questions to be asked. One such question is how should Christians respond to the abortion question.
Christian Response – Bumper Stickers? Facebook Posts? Vote the opposition out? Overturn Roe V. Wade?
Often times, well meaning Christians feel that if others would realize that a life is being killed, they would stop abortion. So some Christians try to use graphic images and hyperbolic language on everything from Facebook to Bumper stickers to get people to think abortion is murder. But more often than not, judgmental words falls on deaf ears because the problem isn’t so much intellectual as physical and spiritual. Being judgmental is rarely a good approach to a problem. Why? Because even Christ has asked us to not look at the speck in others eyes. We need to start trying to find the log in our own.
The politically active Christian conservative response is to keeping voting for the right candidates at the county, city, state national level to somehow overturn Roe v.Wade. It is good to not want to vote for the pro-abortion candidate, but how does voting for pro-life candidate really solve the issue of millions of babies being killed in the womb. Overturning Roe v. Wade is good, but that will not solve the abortion problem. Just like liquor production/consumption went underground during prohibition, If Roe v. Wade were to be overturned abortion will go underground too. Lives will still be lost (may be to a slightly lesser degree but they still will be). Case in point, abortion is illegal in India but it happens every day. I am not suggesting that Christians shouldn’t attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, we should… but we need to realize that Roe v. Wade is just the tip of the iceberg, abortion issues involve huge underlying cultural strongholds that are seldom acknowledged, rarely talked about in popular Christian circles (in my humble opinion).
An Iceberg Kind of Problem
Problems of this iceberg kind that are deeply rooted in a society’s cultural values cannot be legislated away, they require a multifaceted, long term, bottom up approach. Problems of the iceberg kind need action oriented solutions that slowly and steadily chip away at the root cause of the problem. To address a problem in a multifaceted approach, we have to first understand the deep rooted multifaceted nature of the cultural causes of abortion.
Causes for abortion:
1. Breakdown in family structure leading to children being seen as a burden to living an affluent, peaceful and carefree life.
2. Inadequate familial/community support during pregnancy leading to wrong headed guidance during the vulnerable phase of pregnancy.
3. Irresponsible use of sexual freedom.
The Real Question… the Right Answer
Given the deep rooted cultural causes, the question of Christian response is not so much about how Christians should respond to the problem of abortion as much as it is about how Christians should respond to the cultural causes underlying need for abortions… The best answer, in my opinion, is not in bumper stickers or political power but in the willingness of the Christian(s) to go the extra mile with the lady in distress wherever God has placed us. Most women that go to abortion clinics go there in distress. They opt for abortion because they do not see another way out. We need to love the people in distress as God loves us. Depending on where a Christian is in his/her life, ‘going the extra mile’ may mean different things… To some it may involve considering adoption of the children of mothers at risk. To others it may mean supporting a family that is going through adoption of a child of a mother at risk. Or it could mean helping the mother at risk during pregnancy and after pregnancy so that she can get back on her two feet and move on with life. We need to have a ‘go the extra mile’ with the lady in distress approach instead of the ‘grab the leavers of power’ and change course approach. Going the extra mile as Christ has called us, is not a silver bullet. It is the start of a long process of going extra miles. We will walk and not be weary, we will with God’s help come victorious in the end. Let us now look how going the extra mile works in different scenarios.
Consider Adoption – Go the Extra Mile Yourself
Modernized culture sees kids as a burden and not a blessing from God. When we look back at History, back in Rome when Christians were persecuted left right and center, abortions (infanticide) was a huge cultural phenomenon among the pagans. Children were thought to be a burden back then too. Lacking modern abortion procedures, they gave birth to children and left them in some secluded place to die (as per Roman law, until the father ‘owned’ the child, it did was not a person. The father could discard the child as he would his property). The Christians would go look at these places, take the abandoned infants and bring them up as their own (Link here). Surprise, surprise… one more Christian is added to the number. Among other things, Christians kept adopting kids over a few centuries and surprise, surprise… one day the Roman empire became Christian. As modern Christians, would we be willing to consider this patient, painstaking, long term approach to true cultural change?
If Christians truly want to save lives, we need to be willing to adopt kids from the ladies in distress who do not have the support structure, in the form of a good family to be able to raise kids. Unfortunately, many modern Christians view having kids as a burden, so find it difficult to ‘go the extra mile’ of adopting kids from distressed moms. The pro-abortion activists too do not want to ‘go the extra mile’, in the sense that they want the distressed mother of the child to be exempted from having to ‘go the extra mile’ of having the child. The pro-abortion folks would rather kill. Of course, the Christians majority do not want to kill, but often we do not seem to be too eager to want to save the child by adoption either. Apart from voting for the ‘right’ candidate (as though that would solve the problem of dying kids), we Christians are mostly content going to prayer rallies and shouting with all our strength that it is murder. We are not wrong, but we aren’t doing enough either. The question to the ‘transformed’ Christians is, are we willing to show the world that children are a blessing. Going the extra mile means we are willing to do more than what is required of us. The Word of God mandates that we do so (in one form or another). Are we open to the possibility of God calling us to ‘go the extra mile’ of adopting unwanted kids.
From what I know Houston has some good pastors who are setting great role models by adopting kids in addition to having kids of their own. Read Pastor Voddie Baucham here 6 of his 8 kids are adopted is one example (Note: in some parts of his video, Pastor Baucham comes off as being more critical of the culture and consequently less critical of the Church. My tone in this post has been to be more critical of the Church’s response than the culture outside the church.)
Support Ladies in Distress – Go the Extra Mile
Of course, some of us may not be in a position, either financially or socially, to be able to adopt the child of a lady in distress. So what can these Christians do? I am one of these Christians. Given where I am, I cannot adopt a kid. I don’t think I’ll be anywhere close to adopting a kid any time in the near future either. How can Christians that cannot adopt ‘go the extra mile’ to save the kid? One answer… by providing as much outside support to the mother of the kid as we can to help her through pregnancy and adoption process, if she decides to give the baby for adoption. Or help her grow the child if she decides to keep the child. Help the mother get back on her feet after delivery. Provide continued community support to the mother. It is good to sponsor Compassion kids in Africa, Asia and South America, but sometimes we also need to look after the Lazarus at our doorstep. All of this involves Christians following an ethic of self-giving Christ-likeness. Are we willing to be conformed to the self-giving image of Christ?
Often times when a woman without the good familial/community support realizes that she is pregnant, she hits a point of crisis. She is vulnerable to opinions expressed by people she is with. At such times, a woman’s needs are specific and predictable which opens up avenues for Christians to help. A woman in distress will visit a pregnancy testing clinic. If such a woman in crisis steps into the Planned Parenthood center to get a pregnancy test she is likely to end up choosing to abort the kid. Christians need to have pregnancy centers which become a place where women in crisis can come and get counseled. The good news is, Christians run such pregnancy centers (here is an example http://www.houstonpregnancyhelpcenter.org/) but they tend to be understaffed and are in constant need for volunteers, our time may be well spent helping at such centers rather than plotting overturn of Roe v. Wads, so to speak. Such pregnancy centers need help from Christian men too.
If a woman in crisis decides to not abort the child, then she needs a home, a support structure which she is cared for until delivery and the child is given for adoption. She also needs support after delivery to go back to school or work. Christian families need to open up their homes for this cause. There are some families that do this, but again we need more. Even Christian singles who may not be able to provide such help can complement the help provided by Christian families. Christian singles, instead of congregating among themselves doing dance nights, game nights and movie nights, can provide community support for such distressed ladies living with the Christian family that supports them.
Need a Reality Check?
Irresponsible use of sexual freedoms is another root cause that increases the probability of rampant abortion. The liberals advocate providing greater access to contraceptives. This is a tricky topic among Christian conservatives. Christians mostly oppose this. Christians are right in opposing illicit sex outside of marriage. But the reality is, restricting access to contraceptives is not going to impact the sex culture in high schools, colleges and other places. Given this reality, wouldn’t it make sense that we should at least allow people to provide themselves the possibility of preventing an abortion using contraceptives. My thoughts on this topic are still evolving, they are not final yet. There are a good number of Christians who are opposed to broader access to contraceptives, they have good reasons. But I for one do not find their reasons are very persuasive given the reality of the sexual culture we live in.
The BIG Need: A Christian, Go the Extra Mile Culture
As Christians, we have been judgmental of others long enough. We’ve looked for the ‘speck’ long enough. We blame politics, we blame the Supreme Court Justices, we blame liberal advocates of abortion… It is perhaps time for us to look for the log in our own eyes so to speak… There is no easy silver bullet to solving the abortion problem. The abortion problem is deeply rooted in cultural breakdown which needs to be changed bottom up. Back in the first century Christian world too there was no silver bullet to changing the Roman culture. But then there was the Gospel, Christians responded to the Gospel by loving people around them. As the gospel worked itself in the culture from the bottom up, the culture changed, people changed. Christians of the first few centuries who were saved by the Gospel’s power were empowered by the Holy Spirit and went the extra mile to save others by adoption and other means. If modern Christians obeying God’s command ‘go the extra mile’ along with those in distress, we too will see similar results as the first century Christians.
Let us not only use the Dr. Kermit Gosnell fiasco to ‘just talk’ about pro-life causes or find fault with others, rather. let use this opportunity to look at ourselves introspectively and see how we can ‘go the extra mile’, by an ethic of self-giving, to save kids either by adoption or by providing support to mothers in distress. If enough modern Christians, with the help of the Lord the Holy Spirit, will create and foster a patient, painstaking, persistent ‘go the extra mile’ culture, that will become an avenue to bring about bottom up cultural change.