Witness

The Abortions of White American Evangelicals

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The Cost of Being Pro-life in the 2016 Election

Abortion, in all its forms, is a horrible travesty. One that surely grieves the heart of God to depths we cannot fathom.

Yet in a terrifying twist of irony, white evangelical America just had an abortion … and I’m not sure we even realize it. By the account of many, it would seem that in this presidential election we chose to make an idol of one particular issue. But that idol – as idols always do – demanded a sacrifice.

A (seeming) victory for those who abhor the reality of abortion has come at the expense of threats to the humanity, livelihood, and in some cases the actual lives of refugees, immigrants, ethnic minorities, and women. Being “anti-abortion” with regard to reproductive rights has unfortunately and devastatingly come with the cost of capitulating to other national policies that will not only “abort” the lives of others, but require the “abortion” of other long-standing priorities and values among the evangelical community.

When I heard the election results, I desperately wanted to strip off my own labels — white, American, Christian, evangelical – strip them off as if they were clothes someone vomited all over. I knew I’d wake up disappointed as neither major candidate got my vote. But I didn’t know that I’d wake up that morning crying and thinking I’d rather be naked than wear my own labels.

We fought for this one pro-life issue, and in doing so created an open path to a whole slew of pro-death-issues: racism, xenophobia, hatred against gays, and the gross objectification of women among others. It wasn’t on purpose, but we did it nonetheless. And now, we will deal with “the legacy of a Trump presidency [that] is grievous to imagine.

In a terrifying twist of irony, white evangelical America just had an abortion Click To Tweet

The Terrible and Terrfic Gospel

If you’ve ever walked alongside a friend who decided to go through with an abortion (as I have), these feelings might be eerily familiar. The disappointment I have in what happened in our country feels more like devastation. Having Neil Gorsuch as Trump’s conservative Supreme Court justice nominee isn’t the only answer to decreasing nationwide abortions, and it certainly wasn’t worth the price we had to pay.

Life, for the Christian, must be upheld in all its forms and throughout all its stages. The moral problems with abortion go beyond a single issue. When one takes another’s life—at any age, for any reason, whether deemed innocent or guilty—one usurps God’s power. Usurpation has many skins: by literally killing another human being, by using hateful words to degrade another’s life, by thinking one tribe is more worthy than another, by forcefully showcasing one’s power. Hate and anger toward others equates to murder the Bible says (Matthew 5:22, 1 John 3:15). As Christians, we are mandated to uphold the dignity of life itself, not merely the dignity of the lives we like or of the lives we consider innocent.

Gorsuch as Supreme Court justice nominee wasn’t worth the price we had to pay. Click To Tweet

The gospel is both terrific and terrible in this.

Terrific when we think about how our own personal salvation came about: that God the Father would permit the murder of Jesus, his own Divine Son, for the sake of a world that rarely acknowledges this indescribable gift.

Terrible when we think about people like Saul of Tarsus, Hitler, Joseph Kony, ISIS. Terrible because it mandates that we define good and bad differently than even the best earthly culture defines it. Terrible because my rap sheet of white lies and small group gossip makes me just as culpable and in need of a savior as Hitler who’s external sins far outweigh what sin I deem myself capable of.

On the one hand, we thank God for his terrific gift of Jesus Christ; but on the other we thank God we could never be as terrible as that sinful human being, never that in need of a savior.

How God Means for Christians to End Abortion

There’s an amazing story of a tightrope walker who strung up a cable across Niagara Falls. A crowd gathers beneath him and he asks if they think he can walk across. They all shout yes. He does. Then he grabs a wheelbarrow and asks again if they think he can walk across with it. They all shout yes. He does. Then he asks if they think he can walk across with a man inside the wheelbarrow. They all shout yes. They all believe in his capabilities. He says, OK, who wants to volunteer? The crowd is silent.

This story illustrates the huge chasm between belief and trust. We believe that abortion is wrong and so we take time out of work to go fill in a circle next to a “conservative” man’s name. Have we done our duty? Yes, yes! we shout. But do we trust that abortion is wrong? Do we trust that abortion is wrong enough that we’d be willing to inconvenience our own lives and our family’s lives by adopting a child that otherwise would be aborted? Do we trust that abortion is wrong enough to offer a room in our house to a single mom and her children until she can sustain herself? Do we get involved in the government’s messy foster care system to uphold the dignity and value of human life that is wrongly-yet-often deemed as “property of the state”? Trust provokes us to risk our perceived self worth for the worth of others.

Is abortion wrong enough to offer to house to a single mom until she can sustain herself? Click To Tweet

Evangelical America believes abortion is wrong — but her lack of trust led to her own ironic abortions.

Morally, evangelical Christians stand for the redemption of all relationships. This means that when we discuss abortion, we cannot disqualify discussions about the mother and the father. The unborn child does not exist in a relational vacuum and should not stand alone in this discussion.

As Christians, when it comes to the issue of abortion, we must recognize that our responsibility is to the whole family involved. Statistics show that if we help build a community of shalom around at-risk parents, we breathe life into the roots of this issue, rather than ineffectively chopping off its branches. We have to come to grips with the fact that idolizing the idea of valuing life is not actually valuing life itself, especially when doing so means putting a man in power who openly hates sectors of people simply because of their labels. Not all black men are guilty; not all Muslims are terrorists; not all Mexicans are murderers; not all men speak “locker room talk”. No executive order can change these truths. Passively allowing such rhetorically wrong generalizations brings death to the unborn and the living.

At its best the label Christian brings hope of a glorious, loving dominion that will one day come in fullness — an upside down kingdom where God’s absolute power is recognized by all and stewarded faithfully by those who honor Him as Lord. Here, all human knees bow at his majestic redemption of things that earthly minds only murkily fathom. This is a kingdom full of life and flourishing. If I strip myself of Christian, I would be aborting the foretaste of vibrancy it can offer my planet.

We Must Not Abort Love

For those of us evangelicals who didn’t actively make this choice, our Christianity compels us to still love those who did choose it — somehow. And that doesn’t mean that we accept their decision. It means we stay engaged. It means we don’t shout in anger or stay silent in fear; we build bridges as much as possible rather than break relationship.

It also means we recalibrate our own Christian walk and draw boundary lines. We must boldly, yet humbly bring awareness and encourage those 80 percent of white evangelicals who voted for Trump to rebuild the relationships and values that were “aborted” because they sided with a candidate who has a woefully truncated pro-life stance. This involves serpent-like cunning, as we learn how to heal the blind who don’t realize they are blind. This involves dove-like innocence as we remember that we too have our own blind spots.

We must not abort Love. Click To Tweet
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48 responses to “The Abortions of White American Evangelicals

  1. This is the most intelligent thing I’ve read since this whole election debate started. Please get this out to all the news agencies. It needs to be read by all Americans. I posted it to my Facebook. Everyone should do the same.

    Gena, you’re a very talented writer with a beautiful soul.

  2. I completely disagree. Clinton was worse than Trump in every way. Her international actions led to the Syrian breakdown. Her relations to Russia were disasterous. Her lack of support for the Ambassador and team was awful. Her constant lies were amazing. Her attacks on women were harsh and callous.

    1. Another case of “news/information bubbles” because from where I stand, Trump has shown already that Hillary would have been much less bad… Such a bummer, to me, that we can be so far off! 🙁

  3. Gena, Thank you for your post on Missio Alliance. I think the metaphor and the issue do go well together. The only thing is, I believe any consistent Christian morality was bargained away a generation ago in the early 1980s (I was in college at the time). Some Christians (Catholic, Evangelical, and even old-line) went for a party-line that was pro-life in the face of abortion, but had disastrous spiritual and moral results that have continued to today. Suddenly, Christians were defending the so-called pro-life party’s repression of their own sisters and brothers in Latin America (as elsewhere), were enlisted as soldiers in unrestrained Capitalism, became advocates of the build-up of nuclear weapons, and called for the death penalty (the list could go on). It was another Constantinian seduction to which has been born “churches” which are not recognizably Christian when placed in the light of Jesus.

    1. Thanks for that Randy. I think you’re right, the Constatinian seduction as you poetically put it has been there for a good while. I think in many ways it’ll always be a temptation for us as believers for our dominant viewpoint to be THE viewpoint. In many ways, our finite minds covet it, assuming it’ll bring a form of heaven to earth.

      1. Perhaps a good answer, for the life of the church, is to maybe take a cue from the Desert Mothers and Fathers and go to the wilderness, or at least to the margins: inhabit the disciplines of re-location continually (inwardly, but also outwardly).

        1. Absolutely. Certainly when The Messiah came to earth, his people were looking for more of a Great King than a lowly carpenter. Jesus showed us true power comes with great humility

  4. I know a number of folks who are struggling with the labels and priorities they were raised with because they saw them lead to Trump. Which really meant they had to reexamine a multitude of things and reconsider what was animating the zeal that was handed down to them. Thank you for sharing this. It’s not an easy time to be a Christian, but it never is. And faithfulness stretches us in unexpected ways.

  5. Donald Trump seems to be only Christian when it’s politically expedient, as are many other American politicians. Thank God I’m an atheist.

    We fundamentally disagree, but I liked your way of writing. I just wish more people had had the same reasoning.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-38768901 “Donald Trump’s pro-abortion funding ban has infuriated many global health organisations as they say it will unintentionally lead to more abortions and more deaths in Africa.”

    1. Thank you for your comments on this. I appreciate you are willing to read such a post even though we disagree on religion. I, too, wish we could see the value of universal healthcare. Thanks for the article link. I like reading BBC

  6. This article makes me sad- not because the author doesn’t make a few valid points. But because I see the devil trying to use politics to divide and destroy the unity of believers. Personally to me, voting for the other candidate was not an option because of her lack of integrity among other issues. But that isn’t my point. I don’t group all Democrats as baby killers and terrorist supporters. Neither does my interest in national security make me an apathetic racist. We are called to help others and feed the hungry. Samaritans Purse has a fund set up specifically to help feed and educate Syrian and other refugees. For their immediate needs, would the refugees prefer you march on their behalf or send them resources? So there are ways to help without being labeled as anything other than sons and daughters of the King. We can’t lose sight that God still sits on the throne. We can’t let Satan get a stronghold on believers!!!

    1. Serious question, I promise. You were concerned about Hillary’s lack of integrity. In your opinion, is Trump and his administration showing integrity thus far?

      1. Curtis, great question, and I appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with people of opposing views. Not sure about the importance of faith in your life, but my Christian beliefs played a large role in my vote. Do I think Trump was the ideal candidate? No. He can be abrasive. His administration, I believe, is on the learning curve. There are flaws, but I like the direction they are headed. Terrorism frightens me. That does not make me hate Muslims. Christ died for each and every one of them too, whther or not they choose to acknowledge that. But I look back to the Bible. God has used Kings who started out as evil tyrants, and used them for the good of Israel(King Nebachudnezzer comes to mind). So is Trump perfect? Not by a long shot. But he is surrounding himself by people of faith such as Franklin Graham. My prayer is that they hold him accountable, and as he grows in faith, Trump will behave and lead in a godly manner. The difference between himself and Hillary (IMHO) –he really is trying to do what he thinks will make this country prosper and thrive, and keep it safe. Hillary liked to be politically correct and get wealthier. She made deals and accepted donations from nations that are our enemies, and that doesn’t seem to have the country’s best interest at heart.

        1. Thanks for your response.

          I can tell from your comment that we will need to agree to disagree on nearly everything you mentioned. So unfortunately, I’m just going to save us both some time and proactively bow out of this one.

          Have a great day!

    2. Lauren thank you for your comment. I’m sorry that you see this solely as a divisive piece. I can only tell you that is not my intention at all. For me personally this whole process has been drawing my own boundary lines and readjusting what I will allow my own labels to be. I don’t group all Democrats or Republicans in such boxes either. You said we are called to “help others and feed the hungry” — I think there are times “helping” others can look like protesting for the sake of giving a voice to the marginalized and there are times it can be giving resources to refugees. In my book, A Smoldering Wick, you will read about meeting immediate needs but also working toward sustainable solutions. Systemic injustice and circumstantial woes can sometimes look one inthe same but addressing them must look differently. In my experience being a son/daughter of the king can often reap both good and bad labels from the world and the church. Amen that God is on the throne (and I will add) that his kingdom is both present and coming and that we usher it in further when we live like Christ.

        1. I’m curious to know who you DID vote for, or if you abstained? If you don’t mind sharing… I’ll go first. 🙂

          I voted for Hillary.

          And not because I thought she was fantastic; I believe she was deeply flawed. I voted for her because I was an ardent Bernie supporter. I believe that his policies could have done great things for the Americans who need help the most.

          In the end, he decided to support Hillary, and I trusted and valued his judgement. That was a significant factor in my vote for her.

          And in just these first couple weeks of the new administration, I feel even more confident that my vote was the right one. I just wish more folks had done the same. 🙁

          1. Curtis, I almost wrote Bernie Sanders name in, in the end I decided to vote for Evan McMullin, based on several factors, not the least of which I think we need at least a 3-party system for as nuanced as our nation is politically.

          2. Cool. I had hoped that more Evangelicals would vote for Evan, seemed like the right candidate for folks who were concerned about being consistent, policy-wise. Unfortunately, many people saw that as a vote for Hillary and thus voted for Trump… and the rest is history.

    1. Wanda, thank you for your question, it is one that is making me think. If she had taken drastic measures and imposed some of what I deem negative viewpoints of hers and created executive orders to back them as Trump has, I probably would want to strip my American label. I am confident however that much of my desire to strip my Christian and evangelical labels came from Trumps rhetoric on the campaign trail coupled with the 80-81% of evangelicals who voted for him. My female label would partially feel more empowered if Hillary won (obviously that was not enough to make me vote for her based on her sex alone), but certainly my female label suffered with Trump’s incredibly inappropriate words of sexual conquest. That piece of me feels more vulnerable than its typical state due not only to his past words, but also to the way he brushed them off as locker room talk. My kindergartener son and I had to have some heavy conversations about Trump’s words/actions because of things that came on the news. That was not the case with Hillary. While none of this is fully based on my son’s small-yet-innocent perspective, it certainly speaks to the profound lack of character that even a small child rapidly calls “bad”.

    1. First off, let me be clear, I have not torn off my evangelical label. I am still an evangelical. Secondly, no, I don’t believe I would have; but then again I was shocked by my own reaction to Trump’s win.

  7. Please explain how Trump’s pro-life stance is woefully, I believe you wrote, truncated. I can’t find it in the article now.

    1. Wanda, Trump has been anti-abortion but not pro-life. This is my point. His pro-life stance is truncated because he does not respect the dignity of all people and makes incredibly incorrect generalizations about groups of people like that Mexico sends us all their bad people, rapists, etc. I think we may just need to agree to disagree.

  8. To answer your questions about whether or not anyone is willing to help these women with unwanted pregnancies the answer is “yes”‘ and I was one of them. Years ago I volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center called Birthright. Birthright has helped women for over 45 years in nearly 300 locations. Their 24/7 toll free number is 1 800 550 4900. There are also Christain adoption agencies even international ones. There are many ways these women can be helped, but many reject it!

  9. How does defending the lives of the unborn , who have no voice of their own, not “uphold the dignity of life itself?”

    1. Wanda, I never say that defending the lives of the unborn is not upholding dignity. I am anti-abortion, and if and when I have other friends who want to know my stance on that, I will tell them I think abortion is wrong.

      1. Ok, thank you for the correction. But I still would like to better understand why you made the statement “as Christians, we are mandated to uphold the dignity of life itself not merely the dignity of the lives we like or the the lives we consider innocent? It implies that people who fight for the lives of the innocent do not care about other lives. I think that is an unfair generalization.

        1. I said that because I think it’s important for us to uphold the dignity of lives of people who we don’t agree with. For example, I clearly do not agree with Trump, but when someone says he’s a demon or degrades his humanity, I am compelled by the Gospel to stand up for his dignity. No one is too far gone to not find saving grace in Christ Jesus. I have seen a lot of Christians argue for the rights of the unborn, and at the same time, degrade the worth of the struggling mother tempted to get an abortion. I also see a lot of Christians standing silent when it comes to upholding the rights and dignity of Muslims, Mexicans, and many others who subgroup/label appears what they deem as “anti-Christian”. As a young journalist, I was taught that if I were to ever interview a murderer, I would need to treat him/her with respect and remember that no matter what that person has done, they still have the imprint of God upon him/her. I think this is absolutely crucial if we are to be Christ-like, as he lived like this.

  10. You mentioned racism and anti-women behavior, abortion is a racist and anti-women act. Some women suffer terribly after an abortion, physically and or emotionally. More female babies are aborted than male especially in China and this sex selection nonsense has trinkled into the US. The percentage of black babies aborted is disproportionately larger than other American groups. We have Margaret Sanger to partially blame for that.

    1. I think you are making a generalization here that you should not. To say that abortion is “racist” is far too general of a statement. The reason the percentage of black babies aborted is higher than other American groups is not because black women who get abortions are racist, but because many of them are single with little to no support systems around them. If you were living on $10 an hour, struggling to pay your current bills, with a 3-year-old son whose daycare costs 80% of your income, and you don’t have any familial support to keep going, and you find out you are pregnant … abortion is a heavy temptation (whether right or not) and to say it’s a racist act in that moment is dehumanizing the woman walking through such a struggle. I am glad to hear you help at Birthright! I also think its important to note that while Christian adoption agencies are available as an option … it’s an option that is not offered in places like Planned Parenthood (which I think needs to change!) and many pregnant women think they may not have an option in saying who the child goes to.

      1. I am not saying the black women are racist. The people like Margaret Sanger who help make is easier for them to have an abortion are. Is it the Christian’s fault that their agencies are not offered in places like Planned Parenthood?

        1. Wanda, I need to stop this discussion here. You are clearly passionate about how you feel, as I am. However, you are assuming much of my stance that is unfair. I’m not going to keep saying, I did not say this or that. Additionally, I need to get back to my job. I wish shalom over you and I thank you for sharpening me.

  11. Neil Gorsuch may not be the only answer to decreasing the number of abortions that occur in the US, but it is certainly a step in the right direction, after all, it was a Supreme Court overreach of making laws ( That is not their job. They are the judicial branch not legislative) that helped get us in this mess.

  12. Very sad but not unexpected. I hope that social conservatives get their bucket list of orders and decisions to outlaw and criminalize abortion. That being done, I will tirelessly advocate for rights to health, nutrition, education and a host of other benefits that are vital for those children growing up strong, healthy and into their God-given potential. To do anything else would not be pro-life.

  13. Thanks for this, Gena, much appreciated, as is your tone. I fear our country has made a great mistake in concentrating on the legal issues at the expense of cause and effect. I’m a pro-choice Christian who’s grieved by the vast amount of common ground our two factions leave empty while fighting over the end result of a society that doesn’t value women and children like it values men. Shannon Dingle wrote the best pro-life article I read about the election. I’ll link to it here, if I may –
    http://www.shannondingle.com/blog//im-pro-life-and-im-voting-for-hillary-heres-why
    Thanks again, I look forward to reading more of your thoughts in the future.

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