I’ve been sharing my story for years, as the Lord prompts me. Almost always when I hear a woman confess her abortion under a heavy cloak of shame. (And it’s incredibly important to know the difference between guilt and shame.) Almost always, it’s after they hear the story of how Jamie and I chose to keep Sydney. And the words of these women are almost always the same, “Your story has a good ending, but mine doesn’t.”
And this is a problem we have created… in the church.
Whether intentional, or not, we’ve created a culture in some of our churches where the “success” stories within the congregation become idolized. One of my friends calls it “ill-famous.” She refers to it as having an illness, or an exploitive sin, that a church can leverage to their advantage. (And she would know, because her family’s story has been requested for use by her church on multiple occasions… including a building campaign.) Unbelievable as it might sound, it goes something like this: If you’ve been healed from a disease, overcome a significant obstacle, or freed from the grips of horrific sin… your story is a commodity that can be used (exploited) by the church. And, obviously, the repercussions of this can be devastating to the church body, as a whole. As one person on the road described it: If you have reoccurring sin you just can’t seem to conquer, or some “almost-unforgiveable-sin-that-OF-COURSE-Jesus-will-forgive-but-the-church-will-NEVER-forget,” you become a second class citizen of sorts. It’s like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. You are forever known by the sin you committed.
When asked why I don’t share my story more, the truth is pretty simple. I’m not interested in dealing with a lot of judgmental Christians with HUGE planks in their eyes… on an issue Jesus had already dealt with. Like the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, I’m free for freedom’s sake. Period. Plus, self-righteousness disguised as holy righteousness isn’t something I have the patience for. (And for the record, neither does Jesus.)
But then I started listening to more women share their stories. And men. Would it surprise you to know that 54% of the women who had abortions in 2014 were identified as Protestant or Catholic? Let that statistic sink in. Over 50% of the women who had abortions in 2014 were professed Christians. Stop right now and take inventory of your thoughts at this exact moment. Are you reflexively questioning the salvation of these women? Were you overcome with anger and judgment because of the decisions they made? Or did your heart grieve for them, NOT from a place of superiority, but from a place of compassion?
When we first got on the road, Sydney and I had the chance to speak with a long time pregnancy care advocate based in Ohio. She had spent an extensive amount of time with young women who chose to terminate their pregnancies. (She also spent time talking to the Church about tangible ways they could help women facing unplanned pregnancies, but I will focus more on that in the next post.) At one point in the conversation, she told us that many of the women looking to terminate their pregnancies were professed Christians; and when asked about their decision to go through with the abortions, almost all of them had the same response:
“Jesus will forgive me, but the Church won’t.”
I STILL remember that moment. Sydney and I were sitting on the sofa in the RV and both of our mouths dropped open at the same time. So many thoughts were going through our minds and we were eager to ask so many follow up questions, but, first, had to recover from our stunned silence. This statement is profound, and in my experience (and the experiences of so many other men and women I have met), painfully accurate. Christ will forgive us for our sins, no matter how heinous they are, and never hold them to our face as a reminder of who we were. The Church, on the other hand, hasn’t had the best track record with extending grace when it comes to having children out of “wedlock” or to those who have had abortions. (See my Scarlet Letter reference above.) Honestly, the choice is rather simple: you can choose to take the pregnancy to full term and deal with all the whispers from within the church, or you can terminate the pregnancy and suffer in silence.
But, either way… you suffer.
When you think of the mission and message of Jesus, this is an incredibly damning indictment against the Church… and should give us great pause. (And this issue isn’t limited to the subject of abortion.) If I’m being honest, I imagine several people read the line “many of the women looking to terminate their pregnancies were professed Christians” and scoffed at the notion of anyone calling themselves a Christian while even CONSIDERING an abortion, let alone HAVING one. And here lies the problem.
Well… one of them anyway.
Years ago, Jamie and I shared our story with a local pastor. I remember the look of confusion that came across his face. He then asked, with genuine sincerity, “But, weren’t you guys Christians?” It was completely unfathomable to him that we would even consider abortion as an option if we professed Jesus as our Savior. (Ironically, he didn’t question our salvation when it came to having sex outside of marriage.) I’ve also had a young man look me in the eye and tell me there’s no such thing as a “pro-choice” Christian. (And before anyone COMPLETELY loses their minds, pro-choice DOES NOT mean pro-abortion. It would be SO MUCH easier to argue a “pro-life” stance if it did. This is something I’ve come to learn on this trip. And something I will talk more about in the next post.) Or that you can’t be a Democrat and a Christian because those two “positions” are diametrically opposed… most likely because of the pro-choice stance that many in the party adhere to. But, would it surprise you to know that 29% of Democrats consider themselves “pro-life”? Or that 21% of Republicans label themselves as “pro-choice”? (Click here for the stats.)
How many of you have an elevated heart rate right now? Creating the bullet points for all your arguments against what I just posted. I assure you… it’s okay. Remember, We’ve been doing this for 10 months and we know all the points and counter points. But, this isn’t about winning an argument. It’s about chasing after hearts. It’s about Jesus. For those who are chomping at the bit to say Jesus was against murder, I would respectfully remind you about his stance on hatred in our hearts being tantamount to murder at our hands. His words. Not mine. AND PLEASE HEAR ME OUT ON THIS: We’re NOT trying to change anyone’s stance on anything. All we’re suggesting is that NO MATTER your political affiliation, or your stance on the issue of abortion, how we communicate the love of Christ to those facing the choice of abortion is the most important thing we will ever do when it comes to the issue.
As Sydney likes to say, “We’re trying to save two lives here, not just one.”