I am concerned that, once again, the conversation is being diverted from systemic racism to the political issue of abortion (and reproductive rights). I use the word political to qualify the abortion discourse intentionally. Because it is a modern debate. And it is politically motivated. And it is motivated by racism.
Full disclosure: we are an adoptive family. Our youngest child is ours by way of a courageous, generous human who faithfully nurtured his gestation, and endured the trauma of giving him birth – all to entrust this new human into our care. We are changed by him. We are more because of him.
At the same time, the Bible is conspicuously silent on the subject of abortion. The one semi-direct reference is found in Exodus 21:22-24 which clearly does not view the killing of a fetus as a capital offense. Of course, all life is sacred. Still, the perspective on what that means has shifted significantly in my lifetime.
In 1968, a Dallas Theological Seminary professor, Bruce Waltke, wrote an article for Christianity Today. It seemed to reflect a common stance for Evangelical Christians at the time – that life begins at birth. Afterall, God breathed “the breath of life” into the first human. The breath of life, essential, first sign – proof of life.
Around the same time, private Christian schools were still preventing black students from enrolling, so, in 1969, several families in Mississippi filed suit.
In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled that tax exemption for private schools would be denied to those that denied entry to people based on color, including notably racist Bob Jones University (Bob, sr., preached that discrimination is Biblical).
The Heritage Foundation’s Paul Weyrich (of Religious Right notoriety) rushed to defend BJU by calling a meeting to discuss what issue could grab the attention of conservative Christians. Someone suggested abortion.
And just like that, abortion became a political movement, taking the nation’s attention firmly off of racism in the education system.
America religious historian, Randall Balmer, notes that the abolition of slavery, “the women’s movement, universal education … were [all] causes that were supported by evangelicals in the 19th century, [without] any correlation in the agenda of the religious right today.”
It seems it’s exceptionally easy to mindlessly latch onto an idea or movement – especially if it initially appears to align with one’s convictions. It “sounds” right, or “feels” right. But is it right? Maybe it is. And maybe it’s not the point.
I believe all life is precious, a gift – a miracle. There is no definitive answer to the question of when a soul becomes a soul. God tells Jeremiah (in Jer1.5) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you….” This is clearly a reference to God’s omniscience, not an anatomy lesson.
My concern is, now that national (and world) awareness of racism in policing has endured the first birth pangs, we will become distracted by peripheral issues – instead of coaching the nation through necessary changes, halt progress, and deliver stillbirths. I love the miracles that are my babies. May we love our neighbor’s babies as our own – and continue creating, imagining, challenging, working toward a more perfect union where all are free to fully grow as the image and likeness of God. Pursue love, right-making: the fight is a good one. #blacklivesmatter #dojustice