We live in a highly controversial time. Whether it is because of increased political tensions, increased ability to express our own opinions, or the increased access to information at our fingertips, it seems like we cannot agree on a lot of things. I will say that this is something else you might not agree on, but I’m not asking you to disagree or agree with me. Rather, I am asking you to think about what you believe, and why you believe it. If you hold an opinion, as most of us do, then you should also carefully consider the reasons behind that belief. Perhaps, you just might change your mind on something. I know I have changed mine a lot over the years, and I continue to evaluate the reasons behind my beliefs. When I do this, I measure them and hold them up to the standard I strive to live by, and if they don’t line up, something’s got to change.
Disclaimer: This post does talk briefly about sexual health. Some content may not be suitable for children, but it’s not anything you shouldn’t be willing to talk to your doctor, healthcare provider, or guardian about. The rest is just controversial… you have been warned.
The Pro-Life Belief System
I have grown up in churches, around people that I would consider good Christians, and I have heard a lot of different sermons, messages, speeches, and opinions about being pro-life. In fact, I still consider myself to be pro-life. However, I have also come to realize that a lot of people who think they are pro-life are really only pro-birth. Don’t believe me? Let’s ask some questions and evaluate the average pro-life person’s view on some different issues.
The first issue that divides us into two strikingly different camps, is the issue of abortion. Unfortunately, the church has not handled this issue very well, and often jumps immediately to judging and shunning someone if they have ever had an abortion. I am not a woman, but I am a person with a heart and emotions. Whatever the circumstances were surrounding the person, they probably need support and encouragement more than anything else during that time. Rather than expelling them from the congregation, we need to be embracing them as a person during their time of need.
I have heard a lot of arguments against abortion, many of which I agree with, a few which I think are a bit too much. As a Christian, I believe that God created each one of us in His image. It is for that reason that each of our lives are valuable, whether you are 100 years old, 1 year old, or still in the womb. We bear the mark of our creator, and that has hefty weight in many Christian circles. (Although, if all Christians truly believed every person was made in the image of God, we should see less racism among Christians, right? Topic for another time…) One commonly used piece of scripture to support this belief is Psalm 139:13-16 where David writes of God,
“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”
This passage says that God not only knows us before we are born, but that he watches us as we are made in secret. He even knows our days before we have been born. For many people of faith, this is the end of the argument. The simplified basis for this belief is that babies are alive from the moment of conception, so their lives are just as valuable as anyone else. I completely agree that God made each of us for a purpose, but some people will stop the argument there, and that is all they will say. But in order to fully understand these views, we need to go deeper.
The next part of the argument surrounding abortion involves the heartbeat. Basically, when should an unborn baby, or fetus, actually be considered alive? From one side of the table, when is the group of cells/tissue growing inside a woman’s body no long a part of her body, and considered a separate entity? Lots of debate over many decades has gone into this argument, and I am not going to unpack it all. But the two main sides on this issue are these: Pro-choice believes that a woman should have complete control over her body, regardless of what is inside it. The other side believes that life begins immediately upon conception and therefore should be protected. Most informational sites will tell you the heartbeat begins anywhere between 3 and 5 weeks after conception. For many people advocating against abortion, this is the scientific basis behind their beliefs. If the heart is beating, then the baby is alive and deserves the same rights as any other human. What we believe about when life begins definitely impacts how we respond to these issues.
The counter-arguments used when discussing this topic usually comes down to the woman’s right to her own body. Again, I am not a woman, and I will likely hold very different opinions than many women out there. Please bear with me, I am doing my best to understand and present all sides as simply and as best I can. The basic principle is that a woman should have the right to decide what is best for her own body, including issues of reproduction, sexual health, and the right to be protected against sexual abuse and violence. If you were to take this basic principle at face value, I would agree with every word, and I think many other conservative Christians would too. What a lot of us seem to disagree on, is how the principle is applied in the context of abortion. Read some of these scenarios, and consider your answers to these questions…
Scenario 1: A teenage girl is having sex with her boyfriend. She becomes pregnant because they were not using protection, and she now faces a choice: Should she be forced to have the child in high school while making sacrifices in her education? Does she have an abortion and continue school to get a better education and better quality of life? Does she have the child and give it up for adoption? What about the boyfriend? What role should he have in the child’s life? Should he be forced to pay support if she has to have the child? Can he choose to take care of the child as a single dad? Should his rights as a father end if the girl does not feel she is ready to have a baby?
Scenario 2: A young woman is raped by a man. She becomes pregnant and she now faces a choice: Should she be forced to have the child and live with the constant reminder of her trauma? Does having an abortion help ease the trauma of being raped? Does she have the child and give it up for adoption? What about the rapist? Should he be forced to pay support if she has to have the child? Where do his rights as a father end if he forced himself on a woman who is not ready to have a baby? What if the woman is married, does her husband have rights to the child if it was conceived in a marriage?
Scenario 3: A woman becomes pregnant, but soon learns of complications. If she chooses to carry the child full term, either she or the child may not survive. She now faces a choice: Should she be forced to have the child and risk losing her own life during childbirth? How far along should she attempt to carry the child before an abortion is her safest option? If she chooses to carry full term, and there are complications, who should the doctors try to save first? Where do the father’s rights end if there are complications? What if the woman is married, does her husband have the right to tell the doctors not to save her, but to save the child?
I know these may be some extreme scenarios, but there is a good chance that even some of us who would call ourselves pro-life made some exceptions. This doesn’t mean we are bad people if we made exceptions. It doesn’t mean that we are saying a child’s life is worthless either. These are not simple and straightforward scenarios, and every single situation presented to us is going to have different factors worth considering. I am not saying I approve of abortion, but I am suggesting that it might be too arrogant of us to assume that we know what is best for every single woman in the entire world. Let me be clear on this, while I do believe that abortion is not part of God’s plan for the world, I also believe that He is willing to show people grace and mercy. Why should we expect everyone to live by the standards God calls us to?
Rather than casting judgement and condemnation, we should show people the same grace that God has shown us.
The next item that people who consider themselves pro-life may have strong opinions on, is contraception. There is a good chance I am going to ruffle some feathers on this one, so I challenge you to read on with an open mind. A lot of it may come down to a lack of education surrounding these topics, among parents and youth alike. I have heard some conservatives equate contraception to abortion, and they will argue against using it for their children or offering it as a benefit to their employees.
Birth Control may be a bit of a misnomer. While it does indeed help prevent accidental and unplanned pregnancies, it also provides a myriad of other benefits. Hormone control, or perhaps hormone stabilizers may be a better description of what the birth control pill does, (yes, I am also aware of the many other types of contraception including IUD’s, condoms, spermicide, cervical caps, and so many more). But the reason I want to bring up this one is that it usually takes the most heat when it comes to the topic of contraception. It’s not that these people are against all contraception, they are just against “un-natural” forms of contraception.
Lots of religious conservatives, will advocate for natural forms of contraception, those being the calendar method, the fertility method, the withdrawal method (As a married man, I don’t know why you would want to do that… just saying…), and most effectively: abstinence. Why are these forms of contraception acceptable while the pill is not? Stigma. I believe some people are misinformed and uneducated on what the pill does, while others hold to their religious beliefs asserting this as grounds for rejecting the gifts of modern medicine and science.
I believe God gave us these gifts, and while they have wonderful benefits, they can also be misused. Just because a woman or young girl is on the pill, does not mean they are galivanting around the town having sex with every Tom, Dick, and Harry. Taking the pill can have the benefits of balancing hormones in the body during the menstrual cycle in a way that reduces cramping, bleeding, bloating, and other uncomfortable side effects. Some of these symptoms can be very severe in women, resulting in not being able to go to work, go to school, or participate in other everyday activities. (I would also like to add the Period Poverty is a serious problem still in our country and the world. My wife may write on this another time. I look forward to reading more about what she has to say.)
The pill is just one way that women can make steps towards achieving equal opportunity with their male counterparts. I wish I could say that we were already there, but there is still a lot of work to do. I know there are more reasons why some conservatives are against contraception. Maybe it is because they believe it defies the natural order set by God. I might also argue that inequality also is counter to the way God intended the world to be. But that’s a topic for another time. Now, all this has been the set up for what I really want you to consider.
Are You Really Pro-Life?
Most people would just look at their stance on the topic of abortion and tell you that they are either pro-life or pro-choice. We have often only heard the two terms, pro-life and pro-choice. However, there is a third category, which I am not sure if it has been coined before. If not, I am putting in my two-cents in to coin it now. This third option is that you are pro-birth. What do I mean by this?
I believe that most people who think they are pro-life only support a pro-life stance on the issues mentioned above. They fail to adopt a pro-life stance when it comes issues of gun-violence, immigration, healthcare, government assistance, or even war. I will argue that many people have accepted a gross cognitive dissonance, and are content to live a life telling themselves they believe one thing, but in reality practice and advocate another. This may be you, I don’t know, but I do challenge you to really think about and consider what you believe and why you believe it. Lets start with one of the easier to swallow (and maybe least controversial) issues.
When it comes to healthcare, most people are probably in favor of having full benefits for themselves and their loved ones. No one wants to hear they have a terminal illness, but to hear that we aren’t covered for treatment would be beyond devastating. To adopt a pro-life view with regards to healthcare would mean supporting taking care of people regardless of their stage of life, history of diseases, or potential risk factors. Now somebody has to pay for all this, and when it comes to money, most people aren’t willing to part with it easily. This is where people start to draw lines on how much they are willing to support certain healthcare measures. But if we were truly pro-life, it shouldn’t matter what the person is going through, how much it costs, or what stage of life they are in, we should support making sure they have quality healthcare to get through their illness and have a good quality of life as well.
So what about government assistance? Those who are actually a pro-birth (or anti-abortion) stance basically believe that we need to get babies out of the womb and then let people deal with the consequences. They will never say this, but their actions prove it to be true. There is not enough support for families after the child is born, and most conservatives want to take away this support. People are against abortion, but once the child is born they don’t give a damn what happens afterwards. I want to emphasize how grotesque this mindset is. How can you say you are pro-life and yet be perfectly content to know that families are struggling day after day to put food on the table? I’m not talking about people in “third-world-countries”, because there are many places in The United States that still fall into this category of poverty. There are families where parents work multiple part time jobs just to provided for their kids. Single mothers and fathers who can barely make ends meet, and feel hopeless because they are not able to provide basic necessities for their children. We should be helping and caring for these people if we truly are pro-life. Pro-life arguments should not end the moment a child leaves the womb, but should continue and fully embrace the lifespan of that individual from the cradle to the grave.
Lets move on to the topic of immigration. This country used to be known as being the land of opportunity. I can remember in school when the lessons describing American culture began to transition from being a melting pot to the tossed salad. I was among those who pushed back at this initially, but I have grown to accept this idea that embraces the cultural diversity of the united states. One might say that on one side of my family, I am a third generation American. My great-grandparents on one side immigrated to the united states from Germany, just before the start of WWII. Had it not been for the opportunity of immigration, my great-grandparents could have been killed during that war, but instead they received the opportunity to start a new life. Why are we denying this opportunity to so many other people? (News Flash, all white people in America are immigrants or descended from immigrants!) The ‘right to life’ should not just apply to the unborn, but to people who are already alive and fighting for their lives. Otherwise, you just support the ‘right to birth’.
One of the big phrases that is being said a lot in response to the Black Lives Matter movement is “All Lives Matter”. I question if people truly mean that when they say it, only because I know what most conservatives believe about this next topic. When it comes to the debate on gun-rights and gun-violence, conservatives immediately jump to the 2nd amendment to cite their constitutional right to keep guns. I believe that guns used for hunting are one thing, but when it comes to protecting your home, there are a lot of better alternatives that you should consider first (stay tuned for my wife’s future post on Risk Reduction: Home Edition). I am from the North, but I also have spent several years living in the South. You may not know this, but I am much more likely to get shot if I step onto someone’s property in the South than if I had to step onto someone’s property in the North. Why can I say this? Because there are people who so adamantly believe in their property rights, that they are willing to kill someone over a piece of land. I have friends who have been shot at over something trivial, an honest and innocent misunderstanding. I cannot go into details, but I wish I was joking. If you believe that “All Lives Matter”, why are you so quick to kill someone over a piece of land or material possessions? How can you say you are “pro-life” if you are willing to shoot someone and kill them?
This is the cognitive dissonance I cannot stand. The same people who claim to be pro-life are just as eager to take the life of someone they do not count as desirable. It is for this reason that I challenge the traditional “pro-life” belief system, and argue that these people are really just pro-birth. This kind of hypocrisy should be called out and challenged. Let me take a moment to speak to the church. I will address the church because I myself am a follower of Christ, and I would want someone to confront me if I had problems with my belief system and its application to how I live. As a follower of Jesus, we are called to live by a higher standard. We should be better than how we are currently acting. How can we call out one sin in the world, and yet turn a blind eye to a rampant disease within our own walls? We are called to love God, and love our neighbors, yet all we do is condemn them for standards they are not yet able to live up to. We have the power of Christ in us and can live to a higher calling, why do we expect those who do not yet know Him to act like they do? They will never know Christ if we don’t start sharing His love with them! Instead, we accept hypocrisy and idolatry as the norm within the church, elevating political leaders and human institutions above God. We turn to them for change that can only be found in Christ!
Some Final Thoughts
There is so much more I feel like I could write about. If we are pro-life, why are so many homeless suffering in the streets? If we are pro-life, why aren’t we adopting more children to give them a better life? If we are pro-life, why aren’t we willing to support legislation that gives everyone an equal opportunity to live? If we are pro-life, why aren’t we speaking out against domestic, emotional, and sexual abuse? If we are pro-life, why aren’t we concerned with the pattern of forced hystorecties among minority groups? If we are pro-life, why aren’t we more concerned about human trafficking in the United States and the world.
For those of us who are religious, perhaps a Christian as I am, why aren’t we going out and ministering to these people who are struggling? It shouldn’t matter what they are struggling with, we are to be ἐκκλησία, the ones called out. Church is not a building. It NEVER WAS. The Church is a group of believers who were called out to live like Christ and bring the message of his Gospel to the rest of the world. In other words, we are to bring good news to people! Especially the fatherless, the widowed, the oppressed, the marginalized, the immigrant, the abused, the pregnant teens, the prostitutes, the criminals, the gays, the fill-in-the-blank of someone who is different than you. Again, I believe there are many better options than abortion, but there may also be cases where it is permissible. I challenge you, that if you do take on the stance of being pro-life, you should be pro-life in every area of your life. If you want these children to be born so badly, maybe you need to go out and adopt some of them to give them better lives. Maybe you need to help provide resources to their parents so that they are better educated about what options are available. Maybe you should be advocating against sexual abuse and sexual violence instead of just against abortion. Abortion is just another consequence of the many problems in this world, maybe we need to address those problems first. Show some grace to those around you, maybe they will actually start to see Christ in you.
I know these are controversial times. And to be honest, it doesn’t seem like the division in our country is getting any better. I have chosen to speak out against some of these issues because I think there are too many voices on polar opposites, and the voices in the middle are not being heard. Chances are I said some things that upset you. You may be wrestling with some of these ideas because they don’t agree with your view of the world. That is okay. I merely want to challenge you to think about what you believe and why you believe it. I have said this several times now. This is a process, and all of us should continually think about what we believe. To change our minds only means that we are continuing to grow as people. I don’t have it all figured out either, but I am also not afraid to admit that I was wrong, (it might hurt my pride, but I will get over it). All I ask is that you carefully consider the argument and ideas that I have presented and put forth in this post today. If you disagree, or think I may have come to the wrong conclusion on something, please feel free to post your comments below, and then share this with others you know. I am supportive of healthy dialogue that benefits all the parties involved, because that is how we learn from one another.
For more reads on topics like these, check out my posts in the category Christianity.