A Message from Ellen
June 29, 2022
June 29, 2022
No matter how you feel about the action of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe .vs. Wade this past week, I want to remind you that in our faith family and in our own families there are:
- Women who have had abortions
- Women who have given birth and had those children adopted by others
- Women who have given birth to children they did not want and who needed but did not get support or help to raise those children from their family and community.
- Those who long to have a child but have not yet been able to conceive.
- Those who have adopted children whose parents were not able to care for them.
- Couples whose marriages have broken up over the stresses and expense of caring for children.
- Those who fear that they might not have been birthed if abortion had been easily accessible to their mothers.
- Those who grew up in foster care (or in a family) without the security of a permanent home or the gift of unconditional love.
However you feel, and however you talk about the issues of abortion, I caution you to remember that our individual opinions always have a story behind them and grow from our life’s experience. Therefore, our views grow from our truth and experience. But they are partial because we are partial. Christians of good conscience can “agree to disagree” about how the issue of abortion should be handled by the state and by individuals. This issue is not simple, nor is it black and white. And those, from both sides of the polarized chasm, who tell us that abortion is simple tell such partial truths that I suggest that they can verge on untruth.
In Scripture we read the Psalmist words of praise to God, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” [Psalm 139] God tells the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” [Jeremiah 1] And we read in Exodus 21 that the person who kidnaps another and sells them into slavery (trafficking) shall be put to death, but if a pregnant woman is injured in a fight and there is a miscarriage, but no other harm, the one responsible shall be fined.
The scriptural affirmation that is basic for all Christians is that God alone is the giver of life. And every human life is a gift from God. So, to be pro-life in the widest sense is a core Scriptural value. But being consistently pro-life is complex.
Politically we are pressed to pick a camp (for or against). But from a Scriptural position, we recognize that being consistently pro-life is not easy or always clear, and that neither the Democratic nor Republican parties are consistently pro-life. I hear loud voices that are both anti-abortion and also against the any gun restrictions. That puzzles me. Being pro-birth is not the same thing as being pro-life. For example, it is not pro-life to demand that abortions be made illegal in every case, but refuse to expand access to health care, to refuse to demand safe, affordable housing, to resist a living wage for honest work, or to fund education so inequitably that only some children are taught to read. It is not pro-life for churches to work to ban abortion, but to refuse to hold priests and preachers accountable for abuse of women and children. And it is not pro-life to insist that my rights and choices are all that matter. Scriptural ethics recognize that we are all related to and responsible for each other.
Roman Catholic Nun, Joan Chittister, said “I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think that your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born, but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life, that’s pro-birth. We need to have a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
I caution us all to think and to talk very carefully and compassionately about this polarizing subject. Abortion is not a moral “good”, but it is – like prisons, gun control, limits to health care, lack of affordable childcare or housing, and poor underfunded schools – a complex moral issue.
Before posting something on social media, think carefully about the people you know and love, and consider their experience which is likely very different from yours. Part of being pro-life is remembering that God has made us different from each other for a reason, and that they – like you – are a child of God. And if you don’t know anyone who holds a different opinion, then that could mean that we are not listening or open to those we love who hold different opinions. I know many families and church families who just don’t talk about where they disagree. And that can create real wounds.
Pray for our country. It appears to me that thoughtful, nuanced conversation has dropped off into the canyon that is created by “sides” or “camps” that seem to be hardening. This is a morally complex conversation. Do not be tempted to spout slogans that are such partial truths that they make us into liars. Be generous and compassionate with those who differ from you. Instead of judgment, be curious about how their story supports their opinions. “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Confession of 1967 – Part 1: 9.13 – Human Sin (Inclusive Language Version)
Wise and virtuous men and women through the ages have sought the highest good in devotion to freedom, justice, peace, truth, and beauty. Yet all human virtue, when seen in the light of God’s love in Jesus Christ, is found to be infected by self-interest and hostility. All people, good and bad alike, are in the wrong before God and helpless without God’s forgiveness. Thus everyone falls under God’s judgment. No one is more subject to that judgment than those who assume that they are guiltless before God or morally superior to others.
May God have mercy on us all.
Ellen Fowler Skidmore