Christianity, Abortion, SCOTUS, and a Complicit Church
This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith.
Like many of you, I was shocked to read the draft decision from the conservative majority of the United States Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade and transforming this fundamental question of women’s healthcare, the very right of a woman to control what happens to her body, away from a constitutionally protected reality into one that would be at the whim of state legislatures.
So, I’d like to try, once more, to break some of the myths this week about abortion and Christianity.
As I said the last time this topic came up; abortion is a massively tragic choice that many women face. Every decision about abortion has difficult and challenging contexts. I don’t know anyone that is pro-abortion. What people like me, though, who oppose the criminalizing of abortion, believe is that this difficult decision is one that should be made by the woman who is pregnant… not by legislatures.
My own denomination, The Episcopal Church, has spoken clearly for decades that “all human life is sacred from its inception until death.” At the same time, we’ve been clear over and over again that legislation will not address the root cause of abortions. Our church has expressed “its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision.”
And the position of my church rests upon an acknowledgement that the biblical witness on the questions of abortion contain important nuances when it comes to issues of personhood and the sanctity of life.
Those who claim that a fetus is the equivalent to a human being from a moral and ethical standpoint cannot make that claim based on Scripture. Exodus 21, for example, is clear that if violence causes a miscarriage, the penalty is different than if you murder someone. Numbers 5 describes a ritual a woman must go through if she is accused of adultery, where the priest gives her something called “the water of bitterness.” And if she has committed adultery, the text believes that the water will make her uterus drop, her womb discharge.
Both of these texts absolutely reflect the patriarchy of their time. In the Exodus text, for example, the husband determines the punishment for the loss of the fetus and there is not any corresponding violent ritual a for a man accused of adultery in the book of Numbers. Thankfully, given the fulfillment of the law through Jesus Christ, we are no longer bound by these commandments. Instead, Jesus told us that love of God and love of neighbor is the principle upon which all the law and the commandments rest.
So, the question for the Christian is what does love of God and love of neighbor require of us? What does a true respect for the sanctity of life look like?
First, it requires respecting the sanctity and personhood of every woman. That means that when a woman is faced with tragic and difficult circumstances, the church should support her , help her make her own informed decision about what is best. And then, after she makes that decision, the church should walk alongside of her.
The second thing a Christian should do is advocate for policies that reduce the number of abortions in our country—which actually means advocating for policies that increase access to healthcare, particularly to marginalized communities that would be most adversely affected if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
I mean, the data is clear that countries with the most restrictive laws on abortion also actually have the highest rates of abortion. Instead it is policies like increased access to healthcare and birth control that actually results in far fewer abortions. That is why the number of abortions usually decreases under Democratic administrations and increases under Republican ones, ironically enough.
If this court does strike down Roe v. Wade, the lives of women in our country will be put at risk. Abortions laws will immediately take effect that will restrict access, which will increase the danger to women. And those Christians who have fought for this to take place will be complicit in the lives lost… they will be complicit in the emotional, spiritual, and mental anguish that women will be put through.
Make no mistake, a true value of the sanctity of all life—including the lives of women—means that if the Supreme Court makes this decision, we must all work together to create legislative protections for women in our country. The lives of countless women are at stake.
Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today.