Witness

The Abortions of White American Evangelicals

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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