Lesson 12: Why This Obsession With Abortion?

judges involved in abortion controversyShortly after I was ordained I was surprised when a fishing buddy compared himself to another friend with the words, “He is not a real Christian. He believes in abortion.” I was speechless. I had never previously heard my friend express one thought about religion. But even more, although I had written papers on the subject and engaged in academic debates in divinity school, I had never before had a face-to-face conversation that without question cut off any creative discussion. I sensed there was absolutely nothing for me to say.

At first, I thought that conversation was an anomaly or, at the most, the way some sectarians used the topic to convince themselves they were right. Others were amicably talking with me about when life begins. After maybe ten years, most of us could agree that the fetus is some form of life and the discussion turned to defining life or personhood.

Then suddenly, creative conversation broke down and confrontation took over. The exchange on the fishing stream came to characterize most of the conversations I had on abortion. It didn’t matter whether the participants were renowned theologians or fishing buddies, the lines were drawn. Those on one side were true Christians and those on the other were naive, ignorant, or even criminal. Innuendos and outright verbal assaults were thrown about that felt like mean-spirited self righteousness to me, no matter how much those speaking insisted they spoke in love.

For several years, my response has been trying to ignore the debate, hoping it would eventually go away. Obviously, it has not. Instead, it presently threatens to divide not only the Church but also the nation. Perhaps the way to return to creative conversation on this critical issue is to explore what happened. Let me very humbly offer my own perspective. I truly mean humbly, because I can only report where my own experience had led me.

I am inclined to think we are suffering from bad decisions about how the Church functions in a modern democracy. Until about forty years ago Christians, were expected to practice their religion privately. Then in 1979, Jerry Falwell, an Evangelical, founded the Moral Majority, an organization designed to promote political action. This movement gained speed in 1988 when Pat Robinson, a Pentecostal, ran for President.  It culminated in 2009 when Robert George called together Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox to sign the Washington Declaration that pledged co-operation in supporting political programs of mutual concern.

Throughout this development, abortion remained central and slowly but surely it became a political, rather than an ethical, issue. Few seemed to notice those participating in the debate were drawn into the movement from bioethics to biopolitics taking place in the larger society. Making a deal to get what you want was regarded as admirable. Results became all that mattered. Endorsing indecent politicians was accepted as necessary collateral damage. In the past, this kind of ends justifies the means strategy was understood as selling your soul.

The first step in reviving a creative conversation might well be recognizing the present discussion of abortion takes place in the context of the binary nature of politics in which people deal with ideologies and compromise. The second would then be remembering Jesus’ admonition that his is not a political program. A better Christian approach would be treating abortion in the context of how our faith helps us handle particularly painful real life situations as unwanted pregnancies. That would mean giving considerate thought to the proposals of all.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

2 Enlightened Replies

Trackback  •  Comments RSS

  1. Kerry says:

    Well said, Fritz. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started to write a column on the abortion issue only to back off because of reluctance – ok, timidity – to walk into the vipers nest. Thanks for your wisdom.

  2. John Myers says:

    OK, I’ll enter the minefield. Abortion is clearly an ethical issue. It becomes a political issue only when politicians become involved. Often, the issue is used as one more tool to divide us with identity politics in order to win elections. This morass was opened with Roe V Wade, where personhood was left undefined. In my view, this was a mistake for our society. Politicians have developed what has become a racist eugenic horror show masquerading as a reproductive rights issue. While other factors contribute in African Americans, currently 55% of all black children are aborted in the US – this in a population of 11%. The leading provider was founded by Margaret Sanger who was a proud eugenicist and located clinics in black neighborhoods because she felt we needed to eradicate the inferior race (her own words).

    While I am protestant, I very much appreciate the catholic position on this issue. Personally, my position on this issue has evolved. Originally, I felt there should be exceptions and I had trouble defining when life began. I was sympathetic to much of the 1960’s era talking points. As my faith matured, I came to understand it does not matter. All life is God-given. If you believe the Spirit of God lives in all people and all have equality at God’s table, that God ‘writes our code’ at conception, then the rest is meaningless.

    I truly sympathize with my sisters who have been victims of violence. I also know violence (killing) after violence does not make anything better. We must help them and severely punish those responsible, but killing does not help. Life is not a mistake. It should not be treated as one. We must respect all God given life. When we start chiseling at that with ‘but what abouts’, we start down a path that leads to eugenics – sex selection, mental inferiority, selecting against Downs and other similar, race, hair and eye color. This is an abomination.

    I think we must approach this issue with Christian love, not judgement. We must look for ways to bind us together, not for ways to divide us apart. Politicians see opportunity – don’t let them have it.


By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.