Saturday, September 06, 2008
I am a 'prisoner of hope'
Well, of course I knew it would happen. I've been "flamed" on HOB/D (House of Bishops/Deputies Listserv) by some of the brethren and sistern for my post (below) about why I am proud of The Episcopal Church and our stand on reproductive rights.
You should know that this discussion came about because of a larger discussion about supporting the budget of the National Church, which also includes our financial support (in terms of membership) of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
It's all the usual stuff: My sanity was called into question by one. The word "murder" was, of course, used. Another talked about the "genocide" of the African-American community (he was, of course, a straight white male). And, of course, abortion was compared not only in biblical terms of "the slaughter of the innocents" but the conversation fell with amazing rapidity into a comparison with "the Holocaust". (What's that rule about the significance of when a discussion reaches a point which mentions Hitler or the Nazi regime?)
Because I am, in St. Paul's words, a "prisoner of hope," (read: fool for Christ), I gave it another go this morning. This is what I wrote.
Here's the thing: I'm not pro-abortion. I'm pro-life, in the truest sense of that word - which most pro-lifers use simply to mean that they are opposed to abortion and choice.
I am not "in favor" of abortion any more than I am in favor of the death penalty.
Last time I checked, both were still legal. I'm not saying that this is your position, but it's always fascinating to me that the most ardent opposition to abortion often comes from the most enthusiastic supporters of the death penalty.
I'm also fascinated that the very ones who want "government off our backs" are often the ones who support laws to restrict the rights which pertain to a woman's body.
I am pro-life because in over twenty years of professional ordained ministry and more years than I care to admit as a health professional, I have never - not once - advised a woman to have an abortion.
Because I am pro-life, I have never - not once - advised a woman to not have an abortion.
Because I am pro-life, I have always worked with a woman - and the father of the child and her family, if they were / could be involved - to make the best decision for them.
I am pro-life because I am not in favor of abortion unless it has been determined by the woman, in consultation with her physician, the father of the child, her family and clergy that there is no other choice; that it is a medical or financial or social necessity and not just a whim.
And, what if there were other choices? What if it was a decision borne of fear or confusion which were never properly addressed with professional or family or clerical assistance - or even on a whim?
Well, because I am pro-life, I deeply, deeply grieve that decision, and not because "a life" has been taken. I have worked with many women - even those for whom abortion was the most difficult, painful decision of their lives, and I can tell you that they grieve, too. I have also worked with many, many women who have placed their child for adoption, and I can tell you that they grieve just as hard and as long about that decision, as well.
They, and I, grieve not because of the loss of "a life" but the loss of potential. The loss of what might / could / should have been. We grieve because there is nothing like making that kind of decision to put you in direct touch and find yourself before the Creator of all Life, all Hope, all Potential and it is deeply, profoundly humbling.
Even so, because I am pro-life, I would support with my very life the right of the woman to do what she feels is right in her heart and mind. My job is to help her find that right path, not determine it for her.
Ultimately, her decision - one way or another - will be judged by God. That's awesome enough. She doesn't need my judgment or any one else's. She needs our compassion and forgiveness - in the very same way that young, underage teens like Bristol Palin who choose to proceed with the pregnancy, get married and become children who raise children. These kids too soon discover that parenting is not babysitting. No one pays you for it and, after a few hours, you get to go home and listen to your iPod, talk on the phone or IM your posse.
We all know that the majority of young teenage girls do not get the support they need to raise healthy, whole children, which is why so many young girls - many of whom are disproportionately young girls of color - have little choice but abortion.
It also speaks directly to the terrorism in our home land known as domestic violence, including the physical and sexual abuse of children.
The pro-life democratic platform on abortion - carefully crafted by Evangelicals, Roman Catholics and Mainline Protestant men and women on both sides of the issue - seeks to reduce by 70 -80% of the abortions performed in this country by directing their efforts at the reasons so many women seek abortion - poverty, lack of access to good health care, poor or no education, lack of social support services, lack of awareness of options to prevent pregnancy, including abstinence and other birth control / prevention measures.
Because I am pro-life, I support this platform which recognizes that abortions have been performed for almost as long as people have been having sexual intercourse and that abortions will continue to be performed - legally or illegally, often at the risk of the life of the woman - but it does not take away the rights of an individual in order to appease the moral outrage of a particular group.
I am pro-life because I trust the life of the woman to determine what is best for her life. You may disagree, and that is completely your prerogative, but the fact of the matter is that abortion has been made legal because it has been determined by the medical definition of when "life" begins.
It is intelligence blinded by arrogance to place one's "feeling" or "sense" or "belief" about when life begins up against that of the knowledge of trained physicians and scientists. You have a complete right to your feelings, senses and beliefs, but you have no right to impose that on the facts of the matter.
I am pro-life because I recognize that we live in a pluralistic culture and that my religion, my understanding of God is not the only one in the global village of America. There are other religious bodies who support abortion - many under the same circumstances as articulated in the position of TEC.
You may even have a feeling, sense or belief about what God feels about abortion, but you have no right to impose that on anyone else. This is still a democracy, not a theocracy. Can you say, "Iran"? Or, "Iraq"?
There are items on the budget of the national church which I do not support - some of which, in fact, make me angry - and I have voted against them when they have come before convention or lobbied against them in committee. But to vote down an entire budget because I disagree with one - or a few - items is as illogical as cutting off your feet because you don't like your shoes.
You come back to the next General Convention ready to work for your cause. You spend the intervening three years working and organizing to make your point. Or, you sigh deeply, and as one of our brothers once advised, you "hold your nose and vote."
I have chosen to take responsibility for my own pro-life position rather than to call into question your position and beliefs or hurl thinly-veiled ad hominem attacks. I am not trying to change your mind, only to explain my own, trusting that we have the emotional and spiritual maturity to live in the tension of peaceful disagreement.
I hope this has been helpful to you.