Why Christians (except for Calvinists) Should be Pro-Choice

I recognize that this post will be concerning for some of my readers — perhaps even heretical. Many of you will not agree with what I write here. I challenge you to read and consider anyway. Feel free to comment – in a respectful way – for this could be a dialogue. I rather prefer that it is.

My husband recently found himself in dialogue with an associate, who observed, with some confusion that he believed that my husband was a Christian, but was unsure. The question arose, because he had knowledge that my husband holds some “un-Christian views.” Upon further dialogue, my husband learned that his salvation was in doubt, based on his pro-choice, feminist views. I could not be prouder of my husband.

How funny is it that this conversation came the day after…. no kidding, the day after we watched the movie God’s Not Dead together. Nancy, Stephanie, per your earlier requests, I would now be happy to engage with you in dialogue about this film.

I was hesitant to engage this film, as I am much of Christian sub-culture, because my historical view of Christian sub-culture I have believed that its existence promoted a separate culture, encouraging disengagement with the culture in which we find ourselves. Also – I find aspects of it decidedly predictable, and often of lesser quality than that which exists in the culture at large. It is safe. I am not convinced we are to play it safe. And I am certain that God has not called us to disengage with the world and culture around us in a way that would lead us to create a parallel universe.

This movie may have changed my mind; not because it was fantastically done, or because the caricatures – ahem – characters were particularly well-developed; not even because the caricatures – err – characters include varying depictions of strength in both men and women. No, the reason this movie changed my mind was this: the crux of the pro-God argument was the importance of choice — that theological, spiritual, and moral choice must be allowed, and is congruent with God’s design for free will.

This is why I am pro-choice. This is an issue of moral choice, and as such, the decision needs to reside with the decision maker, as the subsequent benefits and/or consequences thereof will fall upon the decision maker. Precious few lawmakers (who are predominantly male) in Washington will ever feel the weight of one woman’s decision to have a child, abort it, or give it up for adoption, except perhaps as it impacts their voting record, popularity, and campaign funds. We cannot and should not mandate morality.

God saw it fit to offer free will, so that each person could choose to love, hate, obey, or not to his or her own degree. This was important for God. Why is it not more important for God’s people? It is the Holy Spirit’s design and work to convict, and I find that as I press more into my relationship with God I am more inclined to obey him in various struggles and choices of my daily life. But I am no legalist. I move when the Spirit leads me, and trust the Spirit’s timing. If we make moralist laws, we demonstrate distrust for the Spirit’s work in the world. How much more restful and faithful is it to allow the decision maker to bear the consequences of his or her decision?

As a counselor, I am often asked to help people make decisions or to tell people what they should do. I am loathe to take on this task, as I am not the Spirit in these lives. I know not the entirety of what someone is up against or what they will face down the road as a result of any given choice.  But I believe the Spirit does, and that people have the ability to hear from the Spirit to the extent that they know the Spirit. For that reason, I will continue to stand on the side of those who would honor God’s design for free will, and willingness to use even this choice for his good in the world. For that reason, I would call Christians to stop harming others by imposing their widely varied standards of morality on those who do not choose to believe or participate in their religious acts.

For that reason, I beg you to stop shaming women, or advocating for the restriction of their exercise of free will in the context of the abortion debate.

room to breathe

I began reading a new book last night… two, actually. I don’t often start 2 different books in one sitting, but the circumstance/context of my reading is new-ish. Prior to starting I had 3 other books “in process.” One for educational/professional edification, one for spiritual edification, and one for all of the above and then some. Now, I don’t really have much time to read these days, and I grieve the loss of sitting and reading until my brain, heart, and eyes are full. But this week I made a committment to read and discuss a book with other people. Okay. Here I go.

I am a Christian, although at times I present with a vague or ambiguous spirituality that may be hard for a stranger to pinpoint. This may come as a surprise to some of my readers, as I write more freely here about my faith than I speak of  in my daily life with the community at large. I love Jesus and am aware that the Bible and Christian tradition hugely affect my thoughts and perspectives on what is wrong with the world and and what could help. I take great delight when others who are not deeply spiritual discover my faith and with blinking eyes and head-shaking say, “You’re a Christian?” Recently, I got a “Like how Christian are you? Like you go to church and pray and stuff? How into it are you?” (giggle.)

Over the last 7 years or so, I am aware of God calling me back into a loving relationship with the Church. Yes, I am a reluctant lover. There’s some hurt in my past, some confusion, and a lot of feeling surrounded by people but deeply alone. I’ve had longings for monastic life, where I imagine escaping the trappings of surface-talk and presumption. I did run for a few different periods of time, to a different area of the country (and world) where local culture didn’t carry the presumptions of certain ideologies. I look back on Seattle as one of those places where I felt in my relationship with the Church and Christianity in general, I had room to breathe.

So last night, in beginning to read these two texts, I had two distinctly different reactions. One I read, as I often do religious texts, with my internal feelers on hypervigilant status. This, I recognize is a consequence of past hurt, but also as discernment. I did not find the first text to be overtly offensive (although I find the title itself unfortunate), but I was aware of feeling bored and also tired as a result of my own efforts at vigilance related to “What are they really saying for me? What are they really saying for women in general? What assumptions does this text make about the way I think about the world / God / my family / my self?” Whew. That was a chore! And I felt stifled. Already. One chapter in. I am suffocating in a small box.

I sat for a moment thinking about this reading experience. Then almost on impulse, opened up yet another book on my Kindle and began reading. This book is Jesus Feminist, by Sarah Bessey. Within moments, and mere lines of text, I felt disarmed, centered–as if I had just stepped into a place full of beauty and inviting rest. Here was a text I could rest into. There was space for me here, and permission to belong.

Why is this such a rarity for me in so much of Christianity? Why the need for hermeneutical awareness? I am saddened by the distinct differences between my experiences of these texts. Why is there not more space in Southern Church culture for folks like me, who identify with the description that Sarah Bessey writes of herself:

 I’m an uneasy pacifist, a Kingdom of God focused woman, postmodern, liberal to the conservative and conservative to the liberal in matters of both religion and politics (not an easy task, I assure you), a social justice wanna-be trying to do some good, and a nondenominational charismatic recovering know-it-all slowly falling back in love with the Church.

Dear Church… Dear Southern Church… Dear Evangelical Church…. Can we seek to become a place that demonstrates the inviting love of Jesus? Can we grow to welcome, in love, those who feel perpetually other? Can we begin to become aware of the assumptions we make about those who grace our thresholds? Can we be honest about ourselves and our questions? Can we admit the harm that we have done, and our complicity with oppressive political movements in the past? Can we stop, and consciously make space for others in our midst? I do hope so.