(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.