As I reflect on the state of our world, I am struck by the great divide that seems to be growing wider every year. This divide is not only in our political realm, but also in the concept of faith. Growing up, I was taught by my grandmother the joy of being able to debate and discuss difficult topics with those with whom I did not agree one hundred percent. My grandmother and I would discuss various things over coffee, often very passionately. My mother would become quite distressed with our discussions because to her it sounded like we were fighting. However, my grandmother and I were having fun and our love for each other and our love for vigorous discussion was fed.
As I have grown older, I have found it much more difficult to have these types of discussions. Our world has become so divided that many seem to only hold discussion on various issues in a vacuum and if someone disagrees that person is often relegated away by the other as "enemy." This is a tragedy which makes us an anemic society. Academically, the vacuum seems to be becoming an echo chamber of single-mindedness. It was difficult when I went to Seminary because of this growing trend amongst Academia. Because of my love of learning and being taught to think critically, I approached my Seminary studies with a similar mindset (that is the purpose of Graduate studies, is it not?) and would not eat the horse hooves and all in listening to what the professors were teaching. Sometimes, I would play devils advocate just to be able to explore other aspects of thought and would vigorously debate various points. Personally, this was meant not to attack the views of the professor but to better understand and expand discussion and deepen the learning.
Disagreement on an issue or a view does not equal a dislike of another person. That aspect of thinking was lost on some of my classmates and my professors at the time and it seems that our society is losing that understanding also. Personally, I can disagree with a person and still have a lot of respect and love for the other person. I may not engage in discussion on certain topics in order to preserve the relationship, but more often that I will do not for my benefit but the benefit of the other since not everyone can separate the views from the person, i.e. I am highly pro-Life but I truly care about some people that I highly disagree with on this point and are for the protection of abortion-rights. On this issue of Life, I can look at those that support abortion-rights and wonder how anyone can support the murder of innocent children but I don't look at the friends or family of mine that are supportive of abortion as murderers. I don't look at those that have gone through an abortion that way either. I do pray with them and if they are open to discuss, I will engage. Most of the time, however, I find that it does nothing to benefit the relationship and choose to let it lie.
There are many things which I can look to and reflect upon, but, in light of the time, I would like to focus on this issue of abortion being it is the forty-seventh anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States. We see the trends changing worldwide as we have seen countries like Ireland which had been a long-time advocate for the life of the unborn until recently to the divides within the United States where there are those that have gone from saying, "Abortion should be safe, but rare." to "Abortion should be legal up until birth and is a women's health issue." Having been a person that was "pro-Choice" and has moved to being very pro-Life it has been a great transition for me and I am more shocked by the way the language has changed. My "pro-Choice" mind was not because I saw abortion as a positive, but I did not want to see abortion to be done on in unsafe clinics.
Spiritually, I see this as an aspect of our country that should not be of great debate in our churches, yet I have a great many colleagues and pastors that have taken a view that is only what one could call pro-abortion. Why do I say "pro-abortion" vs. "pro-Choice?" Well, this is simply because the views defended by those that support organizations that support abortion and perform abortions like Planned Parenthood no longer speak about keeping abortion "safe but rare" but simply promote access to be freely given and oppose anything that may dissuade a woman from having an abortion, i.e. ultrasounds or hearing the heartbeat. My pro-Life view is not against those that have had an abortion, but it is against abortion and the lies that are being perpetuated about the "benefits" of abortion. I am supportive of those that are healing from the pain of an abortion and do not desire to make them feel any worse, but want them to know the healing love and forgiveness of our Lord, Jesus Christ. My views have always been for the protection of women and the healing of the women and my views always supported the "rare" side. As the Church, we are called to profess a healthy sexuality as God designed it which has become disordered since the Fall. This is based upon our calling to preserve sexual intimacy within the confines of a life-long committed relationship between a man and a woman. Even biblically we can see the consequences as that initial relationship became disordered and how we have abused our great and glorious gift of sexual intimacy. God has utilized the imperfect to do His work, but that did not bless the imperfection or sin. There is and has always been a consequence for the failings of humanity. The desire of the God and His use of the Church is to bring restoration. Restoration is not a justification of the failures, the sin, justification is the release from the guilt of the failure, the sin. God desires for our hearts to be turned to Him.
With all the issues that face us in the world, the one that I feel that under which our faith in God and His Word would be the protection of life, particularly the most vulnerable - the unborn. It is simple and when a person is being truly honest and not speaking to the fringe arguments such as trying to bring up the tragic occurrence of a miscarriage or stillborn child which, if one were to stop for a moment and think before they speak, a reasonable person would find the argument of exception to be on its face offensive particularly if you have every experienced either or been with another who has been faced with either tragedy. The abortion argument is not centered on these issues and no person that desires for an end to abortion would argue on this issue. Not to say that there have not been misguided laws presented, i.e. the Ohio law which presented a segment that would require doctors to try and save the embryo and attempt to re-implant an ectopic pregnancy which is currently not possible and, unfortunately, this type of pregnancy is not viable and puts the mother at risk. If a pregnancy puts the mother's life at risk and is viable, however, that is a thing which would require great prayer and discernment of both the mother and the doctor and knowing many mothers, my wife included, having had that conversation many would risk their own lives for the baby in their womb (as a husband, I would struggle with this decision since both lives are valuable for me but ultimately I love my wife more I am also aware that it would need to be her decision and I would have to support her regardless of how I would feel about the risk of becoming a widower with children and the probability would be she would choose to save the baby). The issue of risk to the mother is, thankfully, not the norm as are the other arguments of rape and incest (the data shows all three to be less then three percent of all abortions performed). As Christians, we should be in agreement that ALL life is precious and should be protected and should not celebrate the death or suffering of anyone, including our enemies. Unfortunately, that is not the case and most troubling the least protected are the unborn.
God created all humanity in His image. We are special and unique and have value. I, personally, don't stand behind the death penalty, though I know that their are biblical arguments in support of it. I look to Jesus' treatment of the woman brought to him who was caught in adultery and the forgiveness that he gave to her. She was clearly in violation of the Law and deserved to be stoned to death under the Law, but the reality is that one can't speak the Gospel to a person who is dead. There are truly things worse than physical death and, though, we don't know the outcome of the life of the woman spoken of at the end of the seventh chapter of John and the beginning of the eighth chapter (though there is a tradition that says that she was Mary Magdalene), we do know that the path was lain before her to come and be a follower of Christ. As Christians, we are not meant to preach hate, but we are called to offer guidance and correction which can be difficult for anyone to receive. For women struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, we can be a light that shines on their lives showing alternatives. Ultimately, we should be a light speaking honestly about the gift of our sexuality when ordered properly.
We are meant to be different than this world that we live in and not of this world as this is not our permanent home. We are called to be sojourners. The reality is that no one in this world should be seen as unwanted especially the unborn. Unfortunately, we forget this in our calling and either respond with a wagging finger or with false love that attempts to act as if our failings, our sin, is in need of some form of justification. Jesus never justified sin, he sought to forgive it and release those bound in it from the lies and the shame. When aware of our sin, we are, as Martin Luther put it so well in the Catechism, to "fear and love God." Our sin puts fear in our hearts at the realization of our sin, but being washed in His forgiveness we love the new life promised to us. It is not an excuse. It is a renewal of self. It is dying to self. We are called to pray for those with whom we find differences. We are to pray for those with whom we disagree. We are to pray for those who make themselves our enemies, not because we hate them but because they are placing themselves against God. The purpose is not to call for their condemnation, but to pray for their reconciliation with God.
I have been saddened as I have found myself at odds with some with whom I have had a positive relationship, it calls me to pray for them more and more. It has caused me to see how different our worlds are becoming. It is amazing how we may look at the same thing and have such opposite views. That, however, is the way of the world and it highlights the calling of the Lord. Our Lord loves them too. He doesn't love me anymore than my brother or sister that may or may not believe in Him. In fact, He calls me to pray for them and seek to be a witness to them. Not with a wagging finger, but in a constant attempt to continually amend my own life that I may be a better witness to them. God only knows how far and how much I fail to live into the life that He desires for me. The reality is the only life that I can truly amend through guidance and prayer is my own. I can only pray for those things that trouble me and pray for those that live contrary to the Word of God and ask the Holy Spirit do the same for them. Ultimately, that is where it begins. My greatest prayer is that my children grow in their fear and love of the Lord and realize that we are to live differently seeking our Lord's correction and amendment in their lives first in order to be a positive witness to others. I know that many of my classmates from Seminary would think that my faith falls under the snarky name of "Fundagelical," which is a criticism of Fundamentalism and modern Evangelicalism, which does not wholly fit me but may in some ways have some truth since I do believe in reading the Word of God plainly as Martin Luther urged us to do so long ago. My hope is simply to be a light and my hope is that things will be better for my own children and that we once again will be able to find some unity what we call the Christian Church.