It doesn’t take long. Just check the comment stream.
Any social media post remotely related to faith, politics or both with a little traction will soon receive an assumed drop-the-mic comment about abortion – no matter the original subject matter.
It is played as the purported trump card for supporting white nationalism and other ungodly politics while claiming godliness. (Sometimes, I count to see how long it takes for the first of these to appear.)
Emotions tend to override thoughtful considerations concerning abortion. Though it is an ethical issue worthy of deep dialogue, rarely does a constructive conversation occur.
Opinions are too entrenched. Easy answers, even to such complex matters, are preferred. Bumper sticker slogans are about as deep as most are willing to go.
For many professing Christians, an oversimplified anti-abortion proclamation has become the exclusive lens (or the primary one among a few) through which political and religious life are viewed and evaluated. It gets packaged and labeled as being “pro-life.”
Yet this narrow understanding disregards the many emotional and physical complexities related to abortion as well as the political reality that is anything but the simple solution advocates often imply.
Both those who treat abortion with no more levity than a root canal or other medical procedure and those who naively want to outlaw all abortions, falsely assuming such political action will bring it to an end, are amiss.
Abortion is rightly a complex, emotional and ethical issue worthy of thoughtful engagement and compassionate responses. Yet few are willing to engage it in such a way that might lead to the very goals they claim to seek.
From an impersonal distance, it is easy to see abortion in simple, black-and-white, right-or-wrong terms.
Yet for many it is a heart-wrenching, high-risk matter that deserves personal, pastoral and professional involvement, not detached political pressures and religiously induced shame.
Those who so passionately treat the issue in simplistic, often aggressive ways, fail to face the political realities of abortion.
They do not look beyond simple slogans to the ways that abortion politics would actually play out or to the damages that could come from placing complex medical decisions in the hands of politicians.
In my column last week on the lasting impact of Jerry Falwell and Moral Majority, I stated an “overriding allegiance to a naïve perspective on abortion” was a major contributor to the narrow redefinition of Americanized Christianity. I want to explain, with one example, why that is the case.
All kinds of unethical (anti-life) and unwise politics get excused by professing Christians as long as the politician feigns support for a so-called “pro-life” (anti-abortion) agenda.
“Pro-life” is widely understood to mean an effort to gain a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. (However, even county commissioners and school board candidates use the political manipulation of being “pro-life” to signal an embrace of a different agenda.)
The naïve assumption is that a Supreme Court reversal would make abortions illegal nationwide and, therefore, stop them from occurring. But that is not even a possibility.
Even many active proponents of overturning Roe v. Wade know such a decision would provide no overriding, national ruling regarding abortion services other than allowing states to make their own laws. And it doesn’t take a soothsayer to know how that would play out.
Massachusetts would permit abortion services in the same way they do now. Mississippi, however, would surely outlaw the practice completely, accomplishing what state legislators there are attempting to do now with various restrictions.
A pregnant student at Ole Miss, for example, could easily be flown to Boston for a legal abortion in a high-tech medical clinic. A poor pregnant woman in the Delta would not have that opinion.
To make the same choice as a wealthier person would put her life at risk in the unregulated, hidden cottage industry that would arise, as well as make her a criminal.
Two people doing the same thing, but only one is arrested. Where have we heard that before?
It’s easy to claim to be “pro-life” and empower politicians who mimic such catch phrases.
But a significant reduction in abortions comes from the availability of education, healthcare and contraceptives. Yet it seems many prefer rhetoric to real solutions.
Also, an accessible alternative of adoption, something many Christian churches and other organizations do well to provide – though sometimes with deception and damaging guilt – is a vital part of constructively addressing this concern.
To reduce this issue to a slogan, political tool or social media “trump card,” however, offers nothing that is loving and constructive. Beyond detached or superficial understandings of this issue are real people who face real physical and psychological factors in making challenging reproduction and health decisions.
Constructively addressing abortion as a complex, emotional and ethical issue requires moving it out of the short list of issues that politicians use to get Christians to support them regardless of how their values and politics are otherwise at odds with the life and teachings of Jesus.
Jesus is the way, the truth and life. Being pro-life, for a Christian, is best modeled in the loving and inclusive ways he treated all people and resisted the manipulative temptations of political power.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.