A few weeks ago, a church friend returned from a trip to the south and said to a group of us, “The preacher in the church we visited preached a really good sermon on abortion, so I went up to him and told him you wouldn’t hear a sermon like that on the West Coast, and it’s a real shame.”
Some of us shifted in our seats, being fully aware of the official policy of our church on that topic – it is between an individual and God. I kept my mouth shut and didn’t ask what the text for the sermon might be. This church leader felt all pumped up and excited by someone who condemned abortions and those who have them. Now, I don’t like the topic and would gladly dispense free birth control and sex education to prevent unwanted pregnancy. I would pay more for my food in a restaurant if it meant my waitress earned enough to support the child she just conceived. I really don’t like abortion, but it isn’t a defining issue for me. I will do what I can to prevent unwanted pregnancy then I will let others choices be between them and God.
My church friend explained how abortion taints everybody in the country and God is punishing us by sending floods and wildfires. God withholds prosperity from this country because abortions are legal in this country. Okay. I understand that some people believe this. I understand how this belief causes them to treat abortion as a definitive issue in making political decisions. I disagree with their understanding of economics and natural disasters. I don’t understand where they get their scriptural basis for the idea that God will punish everybody for this policy. I don’t get why they don’t think Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t sufficient atonement for abortion. I admit I don’t get the full picture of why this is a definitive issue for some people.
Now, I do understand that people do have definitive issues. Mine is social justice. I may be allergic to any molecule of discrimination. The thought of the systematic discrimination in this country sickens me. I can get quite nasty over people who think people with mental health issues don’t deserve food stamps or medical care. Color of skin? No. Don’t bring any hint of separating people by skin color near me. I may get uncontrollably sarcastic. I hate bigotry with the same passion as others hate abortion. I try to be civil but occasionally fail on the topic of discrimination.
So we have before us two definitive issues. Curiously, these two issues represent opposing sides of the political aisle. People, who make their political choices based on a candidate’s position on abortion, say they aren’t prejudiced. I believe they aren’t prejudiced to the same extent that I’m anti-abortion. However, they do accept a level of bigotry that horrifies me, just as I am willing to work to prevent unwanted pregnancy but not pass laws making abortion illegal.
Anybody afflicted with social justice as a definitive issue was never going to support Trump. They are not supporting him and will not support him in the future. He just said too many things that for us were morally reprehensible. I understand that for many of my friends those comments were not definitive and those friends are still good people.
To be realistic, we can’t espouse every important issue before us. Some people are concerned about the environment. Other people champion animal rights. Some people see intrinsic value in clean energy. We will burn ourselves out if we try to pursue every issue with passion. I think this danger of burnout is why we sort our priorities down to one or two issues to define our priorities. There are whole lists of issues that align with abortion or with social justice making these two topics the two biggest definitive issues for citizens.
You know, my church friend is a good person. I don’t understand his belief on abortion, but I see him encouraging people. I see him supporting the ministries of our church that do include feeding people. He spent hours working on our homeless shelter and will probably work on our Tiny Houses project. He led our fundraiser for “No more malaria.” I love him, but when a discussion moves onto topics of equality and social justice, his words can make my skin crawl.
So where do we go from here? The first step is admitting that these two issues do divide us. The second step may be to admit that those who think differently may still be good people. I don’t mind if people want to think I’m misguided for trying to prevent unwanted pregnancy rather than outlawing abortion. The third step may be to admit that people who have different priorities are not always going to be sensitive to our own issues. I’ve been told that I’m going to hell for not saying the right things about abortion. The same people who tell me I’m going to hell will turn and say horrible things about people who are gay in front of me. Are they evil? No. They may be clueless, but then we all are to a certain extent.
The final step may be total honesty about how far you are willing to let philosophical priorities destroy your relationships, our economy, our communities and ultimately our country. We have a loud minority who vocally embrace that destruction. The rest of us need to bite our tongues and place the future of our families, neighbors, and nation before defending our own priorities. This doesn’t mean that we can’t work to promote social justice or to prevent unwanted pregnancy. It does mean that we need to allow others to make their choices without condemnation or judgment.
PS If you would have an abortion if pregnant, use a reliable pharmaceutical form of birth control and have your partner wear a condom. A contraceptive sponge will give you an extra layer of protection in addition to the pill or IUD and a condom.