Driving in the car yesterday I heard a panel discuss the various political anxieties regarding legislative bodies, governing official and the court system, particularly in reference to abortion.
I couldn’t help but notice the rigid, relentless and uncompromising use of the word “fetus” and “it” when discussing abortion.
I also can’t but help to notice that Apple has Siri and Amazon has Alexa and our world is surrounded by technology given names – usually feminine – as if intimacy was possible and relationship a given to a piece of programmable plastic designed for maximum distraction and minimal effort, basically the ultimate end of any affair with person or object.
So what do we do when our world is one in which we humanize our machines and depersonalize our babies?
When Jeff Bezos creates a speaker that can sell canned peaches or tell you the sun is out, it deserves to be called by name any time it is summoned – in fact, it won’t even deign to respond to you unless its name is used, which is more courtesy than many family members are afforded in the average home. But when a human life is present, it is referenced casually by the least intimate of names because it holds potentially the most awful of actions.
I have in the past, routinely do in the present and will certainly in the future minister to many women deeply changed by the abortions they had or participated in. The depth of the personal shame – unmitigated, by the way, no matter the cultural approval – and the personal wounding they experience is extraordinary. Often these women come from lives so painful it is little wonder that avoiding life seemed the best alternative to living it, for they themselves have often died inside far before the person they carried met a similar fate. The reality that God’s grace is for anyone who has had an abortion, encouraged one or participated in its act should be clear to anyone who understands Jesus of Nazareth, who proclaimed to those presiding over His own death “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Satan has taken hold of human agony, abuse, mental distress and traumatic pain to encourage the lie that someone must die for life to continue – of course, in typical form, he’s partly right. Death is required for us to live full lives, the exact promise of abortion rooted in pain, terror and often hopelessness. But someone’s child already died so our own children need not to – what happened at the cross is so sufficient over fear that nothing needs to happen at the clinic. As fact and not ego I can say I have met, ministered to and counseled countless people. And I have never – not even once – met someone whose trip to the clinic changed their need for the cross. I have never seen taking a life heal the person who has already lived one.
Abortion is hard to talk about, especially as a pastor, and especially as a man. Charges of patriarchy, lack of standing and religious bigotry meet their perfect union in a white Christian man writing on any women’s issue. But the reason I write as we near the Sunday we speak of the sanctity of life is not to provide religious commentary on socio-political dialogues. I write because Jesus has “destroyed him who held the power of death, that is, the devil, and freed those who all their lifetimes were subject to a fear of death.” (Heb. 2:14). We can be free from our fear of death, or of making death out of our fears. We can outlaw abortion or encourage it as a society but what no society can do is save – to actually transform the human heart so that it longs to bring life, and not take it.
We live in a culture more comfortable naming our toys than our children. When I must name my computer or it ignores me, but cannot name a child or society will disown me, we have reached the zenith of our inner spiritual angst – we have reached the apex of being created by God to invent and sabotaged by Satan to kill. This intersection of technological exhilaration and child annihilation is the moment when our knowledge has murdered our mercy and our endless potential promise of increased productivity and happiness has stolen our actual and certain chance at peace and joy. In an age more comfortable relating to our distractions than being honest about death we can only turn to the Jesus whose death removes the very pain we are distracting ourselves from.
I have nothing but Jesus to offer Democrats, Republicans, abortion providers and pro-life picketers. I write this not to alienate anyone who has had an abortion, nor placate those opposed. Ultimately what happened at the clinic must meet the cross. Only the death of the innocent can redeem the death of the innocent, and only Jesus can show us by the resurrection that there is life after death. My word to those who have had an abortion – God is good. He calls you as His child by name even if you couldn’t bring yourself to do so for your own child. And even if you felt you could not keep your child, He let go of His own for you. You may have never held your son or daughter, but you can be held like one yourself. To those angry at the context, never lose sight of the intense pain behind the decision to have an abortion. Usually physical acts are signs of spiritual life – or its absence. Have mercy. And to those unsure of how to engage, or what to say, or confused by the political nature of this issue – Jesus conquered death. If we want to show the gospel to a society medicating itself against the mirror, we must keep on naming what they do not want named, not only the voiceless ones on earth but now the One who speaks from heaven.
This might not be popular. But I’m confident it is correct. May compassion never cease to conquer the world that needs it.