I woke up at the end of January to a news story from New York I couldn’t quite believe. The New York legislature had passed a bill allowing late-term abortions on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. And the picture on my news feed was of happy legislators celebrating their victory.
After some misinformation from Christian news sources, my sick feeling only became sicker. As Christians, it seems we fall into the same kind of reactionary, non-listening posture that causes all groups to overreact to each other lately.
Late-term abortions are not allowed for any reason but when a physician determines that the pregnancy puts the mother’s health at risk or that the pregnancy is not viable.
As Christians, how are we to respond? At Chase Oaks, part of our DNA is that we want to be known for what we are for, not what we are against. It’s not that we are against women’s rights or women’s health. So, let me clarify what we are for, which provides some much-needed guidance to navigate our influence in culture.
1. We are for the dignity, protection, and flourishing of all human life.
All human beings, whatever gender, race, religion, and nationality, are equally made in the image of God and have innate dignity and value that we are to honor and protect. Throughout human history, those in power have justified all kinds of injustices by dehumanizing groups of people based on race, gender, or ethnicity.
In America, slavery and post-slavery Jim Crow laws were justified in part because Africans were not considered fully human. Dehumanizing a race empowered the majority to inflict horrible injustice on a whole segment of fellow humanity. This kind of dehumanization and abuse of power are fundamentally at odds with biblical ethics. So, our job is to use our power to stick up for the powerless when they are dehumanized and abused.
What does that mean for the unborn? The Reproductive Health Act refers to the unborn as “products of conception,” a term that clearly dehumanizes, justifying termination of such beings. Can we dehumanize the unborn that way?
From a biblical perspective, the answer would be a clear no. The Bible makes it clear that God considers the unborn a human being, made in His image and worthy of all dignity and protection. To Jeremiah, God said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Psalm 139:13-16 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
Since God considers the unborn human life, we do as well. Since God humanizes the unborn rather than dehumanizes, we do as well. However we consider the ethics of abortion, we must do so realizing that unborn babies are, in God’s eyes, part of humanity that we need to value and protect.
Proponents of the New York law claim that a core motivation is to protect the lives of mothers, and we would agree that the lives of mothers need to be protected. Moms are, of course, human beings with innate dignity and value.
We would add that the same is true of the unborn babies involved. They are not simply “products of conception” but little human lives. The law is too vague, allowing medical personnel to define when a mom’s health is in jeopardy and when a pregnancy is not “viable.”
We would agree that the life of a mom is a worthy but difficult consideration. Researchers have found that this situation is extremely rare in late-term abortions. And of course, there are very few restrictions for abortions that are not late-term.
2. We are for civil and humble engagement in the public square.
I hope Christians have learned a lesson with this particular case because so many jumped to unfair conclusions about this bill before they understood it. We lose influence when we do so and violate how the Bible commands us to steward that influence.
I don’t expect a secular culture to make decisions in line with biblical truth. As Paul said, “Who am I to judge those outside the church?”
However, I am called to use my influence as a believer for the common good and to use whatever power I have for the sake of the powerless. The unborn are among the most powerless of all. And we are called to be a voice for those who have no voice when they are being dehumanized and abused.
We should be engaged, but we need to be godly and effective in our engagement. Otherwise, we get pushback that is self-deserved. We need to listen, find common ground, assume the best about people’s motives, and share a strong point of view with humility and civility.
3. We are for forgiveness and healing.
Those who have had abortions often feel intense shame for what they have done and, at times, intense hatred and disdain by Christians who rail against abortion.
As a church, we realize we are all in the same boat as sinners who need forgiveness and healing. We want to make sure we provide a safe place for women who have had abortions to realize forgiveness in Christ, to move from shame to freedom, and to find healing.
That’s why we have a whole ministry called Forgiven and Set Free designed to accomplish just that. We also partner with Real Options, an amazing organization that helps women make and implement a life choice and find healing and help if they have chosen abortion in the past.
4. We are for life other than the unborn, too.
Evangelicals have been known for caring for the unborn, which I celebrate. We haven’t done as good a job communicating or living out a Christian commitment to care for the lives of certain other groups—like the poor, the prisoner, the immigrant, the refugee, and all who are disenfranchised and dehumanized because of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and nationality.
One of the reasons Mother Teresa was so convincing and influential when she spoke up for the unborn was her deep involvement in life issues for those who were already born and suffering. We are seen as hypocritical when we only appear to care deeply about one life issue. We need to link arms with others who share common ground on being for life in any of these ways and pour our heart and soul into caring for those who are living to help them not only survive but flourish.
We also need to care for children who are born into difficult situations, and I am delighted to see how God is growing the heart of many Chase Oakers toward fostering and adoption, which is a necessary and good companion to protecting children while they are yet to be born.
We live in a pluralistic world that has many points of view. With our Christian point of view and the influence we have as citizens, let’s be sure to engage in a way that sticks up for the powerless and that is respectable, humble, accurate, and effective. Let’s be for life in every way.