The Church: Pro-Life or Pro-Birth? (Your Stories) of the comments on Monday’s post, Moving Beyond Pro-Birth, struck a cord and reminded me that it would be wise to reflect on where we as a church have been in an effort to figure out where we are to move to. The church, as made up of individuals, but it often becomes it’s own entity, for better or worse. So, this is a call out for you to share your stories about your church or a church you know of and how the church addressed the issue of birth and life.

Some have stories of hurt and judgment; others have stories of love and grace. We’d like to hear them all. Please feel free to post your story in the comments section below, and if you don’t have a personal story, please come by and read the comments of others. If we are to move forward it is wise for us to look back.

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Moving Beyond Pro-Birth

(This is not a critique, but what I believe is an honest starting point for a dialog regarding mothers and babies and how the church can be the embodiment of the love of Christ)

I have seen so much passion regarding this issue, so much time, energy, finances, thought and more being poured into the anti-abortion stance by Christians and christian groups. I’m not sure that I’ve seen so much passion from the church in the USA regarding any other issue (at least from my limited perspective).  I’m excited to see so much passion by the church (though at times I feel it is misguided) and I want to empower people to direct that passion to love for babies, children and mothers (completely families). I have a hunch though.

I’m starting to think and believe that the church isn’t pro-life at all. If you could call the church anything regarding this issue it would be “pro-birth”. When I look at the church wholistically and specifically regarding the issue of abortion I see a drive to insist that the only moral route for a pregnant mother is for a baby to be born. But before and after that I see very little effort by the church as a whole to live through our actions a truly “pro-life” stance. Let us love in actions and in truth.

So, that being said, here is my beginning list of ways the church can and should be The Church regarding the issue of pregnancy, babies, families, birth and abortion. I want to start with the ethos of the communities.

Looking at the statistics (regarding premarital sex) and beliefs (against abortion), I find it a little odd that (with one exception) I have never seen a young woman who was pregnant out of wedlock in any church or youth group I attended or was a part of (nor at Wheaton College where I went to undergrad). This concerns me on two levels. First, it says that couples that are getting pregnant and are unmarried are disappearing from the church, or could be secretly having abortions, because of the obvious social acceptableness of being pregnant and unmarried in the church. Secondly, it means the church, by and large, is an extremely uncomfortable place for a woman (or couple) who is pregnant to come to and find a support system.
The church is failing to live out it’s roll because we are shouting condemnation and judgement so loud no one is comfortable coming to us for the love of Christ.

Pastors and Youth Pastors need to take the roll of shifting the ethos of the church to be a welcome place for pregnant teens and unwed mothers (by and large it is not). Sermons need to be preached from the pulpit (of grace, not of condemnation), individuals and families need to be loved, cared for, apologized to. Students need to feel comfortable coming to the parents, youth pastors, or friends, for help regardless of the circumstances.

In addition, the church should be living by example a holistic love for people through out the life span, regardless of circumstance. By and large, most churches in the US participate in meager acts of charity (again, this has been my experience).  A person, of any age, should be able to walk in the church door and have their needs met. And I mean that to an extreme. (I’m talking church, not government, so feel free to accuse me of being a complete church socialist or communist ;).  Every man, woman and child within the vicinty of a church should be able to come there and have something to eat, proper clothes and a roof over their head (my church here is far short of that as well, and my own life does not live up to this standard I admit). It says something about us in the church when we claim to be pro-life, but we spend are money and resources on ourselves just like our neighbors while children go hungry around us and woman feel unable to go through with a pregnancy.

Lastly, we as Christians should be in relationships that would allow us the opportunity to intervene and shower our love and support on a woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy. I’ll be the first to admit, I have very few relationships that would put me in a position to help someone and support them before they made a decision. Abortions, by and large, are done in secret, many times because they want to keep the pregnancy a secret. If I was a young pregnant mother, Churches and Christians would likely be the last place I would go, you can feel the venom of condemnation and judgment just imagining it. We need to be those people of unconditional love. We need to be the people that a young pregnant couple could come to and ask for our support in making the right decision, and that we would love them in action, unconditionally. I fear the church (myself included) is not at that level of relationship with the woman (and men) who are being faced with these decisions, and we need to be. I think this is one of the churches great moral failings.

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Identification with the Poor

“Our children need to join us in this ministry of identification (with the poor). We do them no favor by hiding them from suffering and need. If we imprison them in ghettos of affluence, how can they learn compassion for the broken of the world? So, let us walk hand in hand with our children into pockets of misery and suffering.”
-Richard Foster in Freedom of Simplicity

Book Review: A book about Abortion

Post-election now, I want to learn and understand about the extreme passion that surrounds both sides of the abortion issue. I’m excited on one hand to see such passion in the Christian church about an issue, though I sometimes feel it is misguided, but I’m excited to see it and hope to blog and dialog about how we can direct that passion to caring for the lives of women and children in our midst.

This week I went to the library in our neighborhood. There is an extremely high teen pregnancy rate in North Minneapolis (I’ve heard one of the highest in the nation, but I’ll have to confirm that statistic). The point is that I did what I think some teens might do if they are sexually active or had an unexpected pregnancy, I went to the library, looked up abortion and checked out a couple books. There was only one book here geared towards a teenage crowd and it presented it self as an unbiased pro/con look at the issue.

I’m not going to name the book, I’d rather encourage you to try this same experiment (go to your local library, find the books about abortion geared toward teens and read them). But, I’ll share with you my impression of the book I read. And while I reserve the right that my opinion on this issue is still undecided, this was my honest impression of the book at the library that I read.

I felt the book was extremely biased toward the pro-choice movement, or more specifically, it made a case for abortion as simply another form of birth control. While I respect that opinion, the book claimed to be an unbiased pro/con book and it did not do service to the anti-abortion perspective. I’ll include just a few examples.

  • The picture they chose to display at the beginning of the “Pro-Life Camp” chapter was one of a protester dressed as Death, scith and all. And though I recognize there are a number of protesters with disturbing scare tactics, it clearly gives a certain impression of this group when you begin to read.
  • When talking about the abortion procedure, they give one or two vague sentences about the risks. I don’t expect scare tactics, but they did not make an effort to list statistics or possible outcomes, they simply stated that like any other surgery there are some risks. They mentioned that a women’s uterus could be damaged during the procedure, but didn’t indicate that for some (again they should be giving statistics for this like they did for other sections) women that means they are never able to have children.
  • They give one paragraph to the religious views regarding the topic and they state that none of the Christian, Jewish or Muslim scriptures say anything about the topic of abortion. Again, I’m not arguing that they do, but there are plenty of verses that people reference that could at least be mentioned so the reader can draw their own conclusion.
My intention in giving this review is not to give fodder to one side of the argument or the other. One knows there are plenty of biased literature from the other perspective as well. My hope is that pro-choicers can read this and realize that to find common ground the pro-choice view must be honest and fair about the views of the pro-life group (and visa versa). And I hope that pro-lifers can read this and recognize that if education on the issues is important then making sure that information reaches the hands of these women needs to be a priority.

Wishing I Could Say Something Brilliant Right Now

This isn’t going to be much of a post, mostly rambling. Everyone’s reflecting on the Election and I’ve really been trying to just take it all in. It’s been a roller coaster of emotion lately. Here’s a snippet.

Excitement. Going to the polls and joining hundreds of your neighbors to participate in the democratic process. Kids where shouting from the school buses that passed by. We were all excited (those I knew were voting for Obama, others I knew were voting for McCain, others casting blank ballots). Many hoping for their candidate to be victorious, but more then that there was just a real sense of purpose and excitement that we were doing something important.

Nervousness. Throughout the day about the votes I’d casts, the decisions I was now complicit in. Later nervous about the safety of the president elect.

Joy. Around ten, after we heard the report on the television, you could hear horns honking in the street, kids running around shouting. You could feel it in the air in our neighborhood. The significance of this historic moment.

Sadness. Largely due to facebook, I’ve witness the extreme negativity expressed by people I know and respect about the election results. The most troubling are those I call fellow followers of Christ. (Update: My sister pointed out this came across wrong, here’s a further explanation) I deeply respect people on both sides of the election results. My sadness is regarding the doom and gloom response that the election is ushering in the death of America, bringing on communism, destroying Israel, that the election was stolen, and that those who applaud the victory do not care about human life. (all of that summed up in people’s facebook statuses). I’m not trying to censor or discourage people’s opinions, it just makes me sad that that is the first and primary response from so many people I know.

Commitment. I’m committed to moving on. Moving past this political discourse and toward a dialog and commitment to action to address the issues that have been so passionately on the minds of those with whom I share my faith. I pray we can find common ground and worked toward living out the unified love of Christ in this broken world.

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Allegience and Hygiene: An Election Day Reminder’ll be the first to admit, I can get pretty caught up in the political scene and scandals this time of year. The latest news story, the terrible “what if’s”, the deep ideological questions and more, all draw me in (which is not all bad). The danger of this, for me, has come when I lose sight of my allegiances.

I consider myself a follower of the teachings of Christ, though it’s a miserable attempt at best, I live my life trying to follow those teachings. In doing so, I swear an allegience first and foremost to another kingdom, the kingdom of God. Before I am a US citizen, I am a citizen of the kingdom of God. (Try not to get too creaped out by that statement. If you want to know what that looks like lived out, read more of my blog). All Christians, those who follow the teachings they read in the Christian scriptures, swear alligience first and foremost to the kingdom of God. Yet, we often, and especially during election season, forget that. We lose our creative abilities to live like Christ, radically and subversivly living his kingdom on earth.

Personally, I believe voting is like brushing your teeth. We all know “cleanliness is next to godliness” (It’s not really, and that’s not in the bible, but humor me for a moment). While we recognize brushing our teeth and taking regular showers is important, it’s not something we as Christians, pastors or churches spend a whole lot of time on. In all my years of church attendance I’ve yet to hear a sermon on personal hygiene. It’s something important, and something we should do, but we don’t spend a lot of time and energy on advocating for it. Instead we take care of our hygiene and move on to more important things like loving our neighbor as ourselves and living the kingdom here on earth and being the church.

What has struck me by the political discussion I’ve engaged in these past couple months is the passion so many Christians have about issues, and those issues are factors in their voting process. My earnest hope and prayer is that on Nov. 5th that same passion is translated into action by the churches and Christians on those same issues. I’d love to be a part of the movement in the church that takes that passion about pregnant women and babies and translates it into graceful compassionate churches that love the people, woman, babies, men so passionately. I’d love to see the same relationship building involvement by Christians and churches in the GLBT community. My fear and disappointment is that is not what I’ll see, may I be proven wrong.

I’ll close with a seven minute video by John Piper. A pastor and preacher who has been extremely foundational in my Christian faith. He is a phenomenal theologian and eloquent speaker and he summarizes his election reminder far more thoughtful then I:

(I’ll post a four minute version tomorrow for YouTubesday. But it’s worth a listen. Also, for the record, I don’t necessarily agree with everything John Piper says or believes.)

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