Lesson 11: Responses to the Abortion Lesson

My attempt to come up with some guidelines for moving beyond the abortion stalemate did not work very well. I received three kinds of responses.

The first felt my effort to be carefully neutral ended up being irrelevant. Lupe, who has spent time as a political prisoner and journalist, knows far better than I about communicating in this kind of situation. She felt my formality took the life out of my thoughts. “What we need to do is talk to each other honestly, with affection and truth, and not choose words as if they were pain-medication pills. …. We do not counsel each other. We hold each other, comfort each other, admire and praise each other, or frankly, criticize and even blame each other. No formal, encompassing words define or describe what we do, but we use very basic words for feelings, emotions, grudges, anger or pain. ….” She was right that my caution resulted in writing what I thought I should say rather than what I really wanted to say.

The second response believed I was trying to write guidelines for a public conversation that existed only in my mind. This group claimed there is no real public discourse going on and probably never has been. They called for a different strategy that works to correct the breakdown of our elections that had previously enabled us to live together in spite of our differences.

Scott articulated what I think I was hearing when he wrote that he has given up on direct conversation with Trump conservatives whom he knows personally. “Instead, I focus on non-judgmental interactions and modeling Christian love.” He feels “the mainstream church must mobilize to take back our Jesus,” so we can counter the spreading of disinformation by Q-Anon and Trumpsters. John also has frequently advocated this strategy. Paul has questioned if anything will work at this point.

This makes me wonder if I am presumptuous, believing I can propose guidelines. Anything I come up with is surely going to reflect my pro- choice position. At the same time, I still think it is worth some effort as I believe there is always a vague disjointed conversation going on somewhere underneath all the angry arguments.

The third response suggested we should be talking about tactics for getting our case across rather than guidelines for some unrecognizable discussion. For example, we should reject the present labels. Pro-choice is not pro-abortion. I repeatedly heard people claim nobody wants abortion except as a necessary evil available in tragic situations, or words to that effect. They also feel we should challenge the pro-life label because the group just really opposes abortion and not other destruction of life.

For the most part, I was hearing frustration at the inability to have any meaningful conversation. Most seem to think we should continue to try to talk with one another honestly and with affection, as Lupe proposes, in hopes that a breakthrough might someday appear. They might think my guidelines are naive in the present situation, but I would still suggest that we, at least, can see the value of starting with some self-examination and continuing with compassion, regardless of how the other side acts. The goal has to be eventually getting beyond the we-they standoff.

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2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Kerry says:

    I actually think the guidelines you suggested accommodate Lupe’s eloquent call for honest, heart-to-heart dialogue. Three points of yours stand out to me as really essential if we’re ever to get beyond this impasse: loving compassion as the mode of dialogue, affirming the presence and viewpoint of everyone involved in any decision about pregnancy, and not sacrificing an attainable good for an unattainable perfection.

    Because I embrace what Cardinal Bernardine called the “seamless garment” ethic of life, I’m troubled by any action or policy that risks coarsening us to life: abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, war. But at the same time, I have to recognize that the seamless garment doesn’t merely cover conflicts between physical life and physical death, but also conflicts that improve or minimize quality of life: poverty, illness, loneliness, fear, and so on. So sometimes the “perfect” has to give way to the “good.” Sometimes, perhaps, age and illness render life utterly and hopelessly miserable. Sometimes, perhaps, bringing a genetically disabled fetus to term is worse than not.

    I admit that except in extreme cases, navigating a course in the choppy waters between the perfect and the good is fraught, and often excruciatingly so. But because what’s at stake is so important, it seems to me appropriate that it be so. Appeals to quick yes/no algorithms may be the easy way out, but not necessarily the right way out. Sometimes we just have to go with a less than fully satisfying decision and, as Bonhoeffer said, throw ourselves on the mercy of God.

    That’s why I think your criteria for dialogue about abortion are helpful.

    Ok. Here endeth the sermon!

    • Fritz Foltz says:

      Lupe was worried about sermonizing as well. I think we need to spend more time articulating what we think. I’m finding people want to know where I stand, but even more how other lay and ordained people are living out their faith in this situation.

      People should hear the ‘seamless garment” position and your explanation was superb. I’m not sure why I wanted to identify myself as pro-choice as that label hardly describes my position adequately.


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