Political Obsession. Practical Neglect.
Last week, I posted a link to Bryan Kemper's new book, Social Justice Begins in the Womb, on Abort73's Facebook page. Shortly thereafter, an ideological opponent commented that, "Unfortunately for your crowd..., social justice usually ends after the womb as well."
That got me thinking about the disconnect that exists between the church's perceived relationship to abortion and the church's actual relationship to abortion. Despite the fact that abortion is barely mentioned in most churches, the perception seems to exist in the world that abortion (and gay marriage) are all that Christians care about. This is an absurd and tragic mischaracterization – which raises the question, how did we get here? How is it that we have a church that is largely silent about abortion and a world that seems to think the church's highest ambition is to eliminate abortion?
I had the totally unexpected privilege of having lunch with John Piper last Wednesday. As we talked about Abort73 and the history of his own involvement in the abortion issue, he made a comment that speaks to this present dilemma. He said that in his mind, the thing that killed off the rescue movement more than anything was the fact that "you couldn't control the nut bags". He spoke of talking to crowds of up to 300 rescuers, urging them to remain calm and respectful during their arrests, reminding them that the American public responds to silent suffering, not self-righteous tirades (it wasn't the rage of the Malcolm X'rs that gained the sympathy of a largely indifferent nation – it was the steadfast humility and love of the Dr. King's). And while the vast majority of participants heeded Pastor John's counsel, there were invariably a few who didn't, and those (of course) are the ones that wind up on the news. Almost without fail, you can characterize them in four ways: Angry. White. Middle-aged. Male – men who count the giving of offense as the highest spiritual honor. For the last 20+ years, that has been the reputation the pro-life movement has been trying to live down. Progress has been made, but the world is reluctant to let it go. It serves them very well.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that those outside the church seem incapable of separating the church itself from the "religious right". If they spent anytime inside a church, they would soon see how silly it is to classify most Christians as being obsessive about abortion. But since their opinion comes from the outside, they've equated church priorities with conservative, political priorities (where abortion is certainly on the agenda).
It would be one thing if these false assumptions never infiltrated the doors of the church, but the damage hasn't just been from the outside in. As the social justice movement has gained tremendous traction in the evangelical church, abortion has largely been left out of the equation. In trying to live down the erroneous belief that Christians "only care about fetuses", we have become a church that cares even less about fetuses. And because abortion has been left off the educational agenda of so many churches, we have a nation of Christians with a thoroughly incomplete understanding of how solid the secular case against abortion actually is – which yields a general reluctance to challenge the world's thinking on the subject of abortion.
I haven't read Bryan's book yet, but it's title alludes to this fact that as the social justice movement has taken off in the church, abortion-vulnerable children have largely been left by the wayside. Having spent a great deal of time at Christian music festivals over the last two years, I see in them a microcosm of the church's overall reluctance to take on abortion. When a Christian band takes a vocal and public stand against poverty, disease or sex trafficking, the world celebrates their compassion. When they take a vocal and public stand against abortion, which almost none of them are doing, the world might condemn them as hateful bigots. So it is in the church. Just as standing against abortion may cost Christian bands some customers, standing against abortion may cost Christians some friends (and cost churches some members). That can be a hard pill to swallow, and as long as there is confusion about the severity of what abortion is actually doing (and how often!), we may even pat ourselves on the back for accepting the censure of the world and embracing more politically-correct justice issues.
But as more Christians realize how massive and compelling the case against abortion is, as more Christians come to see abortion as a love your neighbor issue (not as a moral or political issue), and as more pro-life ventures effectively represent the love of Christ, the misconceptions of the world will slowly change. More importanly, the cultural understanding and acceptance of abortion will also change. And lest there be any confusion, I am not arguing that we become what the world accuses us of being: obsessed with abortion and indifferent to the myriad of other human injustices. Rather, I am arguing that we become what we should be: a church that loves people and combats injustice wherever it is found, even and especially when it is an injustice being ignored or celebrated by the world – a church like the one Tim Keller described at the 2006 Desiring God Conference, of which the world says: "I don't like their approach to abortion, I don't like their approach to homosexuality, [but] if they left our city, we'd have to raise taxes [because] they're pressing so much of their heart and so much of their value into this city." He then asks us in reference to a world of unbelievers, "Do they know we love them?" And I ask the same question in reference to a world of abortion-vulnerable women and children. Do they know we love them?
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. You can also find him on Facebook and Google+. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.