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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Praying for Reproductive Justice

I think my favorite pro-choice, anti-abortion quote comes from Frederica Mathewes-Green.

I like it not just because it's accurate, in my experience, but because Ms. Mathewes-Green was once an Episcopalian but left with her husband, a former Episcopal priest, to become Orthodox.

That's not "orthodox" with a small 'o' but with a capitol 'O'. You know. The real ones.

She said,
"No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg."
There are some, however, who refuse to believe that about a woman who has an abortion. They'd rather believe that most women have abortions of "convenience". Or, on a whim. Without the thought or prayer or....well....the agony that are all part of the decision to terminate a pregnancy.

These "anti-abortion" or "pro-life" folks believe in the 'power of prayer' and, for several years, have staged "40 Days for Life" - usually outside clinics where abortions are performed. Except, their prayers are designed not so much to reach the ears of God but those of the women who are entering the facility to talk about having an abortion or to have the procedure.

The point of their prayers is shame.  And, guilt.

Their prayers are all about shaming women into not having a legal, safe, medical procedure which may save her life and that of her family - a decision she has made "not lightly or inadvisedly but reverently and prayerfully".

The "40 Days for Life" people carry rosary beads and prayer books and crosses along with signs filled with gory images and messages like: "Abortion is Murder" and, "Repent" and "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and, "Abortion Kills" and, "Abortion Stops A Beating Heart" and, "She Has Her Daddy's eyes" and, .......

......... Well, you've seen them. You know.

Since this "40 Days for Life" campaign began in 2004, the movement claims to have saved the lives of more than 700 "unborn children" [sic] every year from abortion. This year, their website claims that, "For this campaign, we have received reports of 883 'babies' [sic] spared from abortion — that we know of!"

Four years ago, a UCC Minister named Reverend Rebecca Turner, who also directs Faith Aloud, a St. Louis-based nonprofit devoted to destigmatizing abortion, decided to run a parallel campaign called "40 Days of Prayer".

This year, a Planned Parenthood facility in Humboldt County, Northern California decided to promote the "40 Days of Prayer Campaign". The Six Rivers Planned Parenthood’s “Forty Days” programming runs from March 18 through April 27 with events at Episcopal, Methodist, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist houses of worship.

A flier promoting the event includes these words: “We trust you to decide about your sexuality, having your children, and planning your family. We are religious leaders who value all human life.  We accept that religions differ about when life begins. We are here to help.”

“We believe that human life is holy. That’s why we believe in your right to choose to be a parent or not,” the pro-abortion religious leaders continue. “It can be helpful to talk with friends you trust, with licensed counselors, and with whatever religious person you choose.  Humboldt County Clergy are available to talk with you about the spiritual aspects of choice.  Find out more by calling Six Rivers Planned Parenthood.”

“Humboldt County Clergy for Choice invite you to set aside time with your family and community to support women and reproductive justice for 40 days from March 18th through April 27th."

The prayers are all contained in a pamphlet and include petitions such as:
“Day 1: Today we pray for women for whom pregnancy is not good news, that they know they have choices." 
“Day 19: Today we pray for all pregnant women. May they be surrounded by loving voices.”  
“Day 30: Today we pray for women to throw away their secrets and claim their histories with power and truth.”
“Reasonable Christian people, when reading these prayers, understand that these are honest prayers for women,”  said Turner, who also developed this video which is played upon request for women in abortion clinics across the country.

“Whatever you decide to do, I want you to know that God is with you. God is with you right now in the abortion clinic,” Rev. Turner, wearing her collar, tells viewers in a gentle voice. “The Bible says that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.”

For women who struggle to integrate their reproductive choices with their spirituality, this message speaks directly to them. A common response is “Thank you, that’s what I needed to hear.” 

Apparently, there are more than a few unreasonable Christian people who have read the prayers and seen the video who do not want to hear this biblical message of God's unconditional love. Well, for themselves, perhaps, but not for those......those.....people. Those....feminazi murderers!

Fox News has, of course, been all over the story, as has Focus on the Family.

The National Director of “40 Days for Life” David Bereit told, “Planned Parenthood has stooped to a new low by exploiting pastors and churches to ‘celebrate’ the slaughter of babies made in God’s image and likeness.”

The inclusion of spirituality in the pro-choice movement, the Liberty Counsel proclaimed, was “comparable to the religious leaders in Germany who supported Adolf Hitler.”

Ah, see how these Christians love one another!

And, the point is that God is love. For everyone. Not just those who agree with our point of view. As St. Paul reminds us, nothing can separate us from the love of God - not abortion or those "good Christian folk" who hate women who make the informed decision to terminate their pregnancies and those men and women who help them.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you want to stop abortion then begin to work on the reasons most women have an abortion: poverty, hunger, no employment or under employment and lack of job training, poor resources for education, lack of access to good, quality, preventative health care - to name the most common situations women who find themselves trapped in the God-awful place where they have to consider terminating a pregnancy. 

Begin to reverse those conditions and you'll begin to see a sharp decrease in the number of abortions.

That takes an a sense of God's unconditional love for every single member of God's creation. And, an understanding of God's justice. And, hard work. And, commitment. And dedication.

Oh, and the belief that the lives of women are sacred, too, and that women are capable of making important decisions for themselves.

So, pray, sisters and brothers, for justice and mercy and the ability for all God's children to be able to walk humbly with God.

Today is Day 36 in the "40 Days of Prayer Campaign".

“Today we pray for an end to the stigma perpetrated against women who have abortions.”

And, let all God's people say, "Amen."


JCF said...

Amen and Amen!

...and for an END to the framing that ONLY anti-choice Christians are faithful, prayerful, Biblical, or discerning of/led by the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

It does get tiresome, doesn't it, JCF, to be told that if you don't think or pray or behave the exact same way some folks do, you aren't a "real" Christian.

MarkBrunson said...

Well, I would agree, Elizabeth, except that, as I've said, I believe and will say that there are people who are not "real Christians." I think our failure in progressive Christianity (i.e. - Christianity), is to refuse the burden of proclaiming that fact.

The people who would deny the humanity and decency of pro-choice women are simply not Christian.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mark - If we use that language, don't we simply stoop to the level of those on the Right who claim that if we don't believe what they believe, we're not "real Christians"?

I get your point but I don't what to play their rhetorical game.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Walter - That was an inappropriate comment. I'm telling you that because, while I think you mean well, it's obvious to me that you don't have very good boundaries.

MarkBrunson said...

Perhaps, but we also have to take a stand and stop playing the game of "good-guy vs. bad-guy" in which we have to take an illusory high ground. There is no high ground taken in pretense; that's the lowest ground and we do violence to both ourselves and them by so taking it.

We are big on saying we want to show how Christians really act; now, aside from the Biblical examples and historical examples of Christians who called their detractors out for hypocrisy - which is what I'm saying these right-wingers are - there is the possibility to demonstrate how a Christian really can stand up to wrongdoing and injustice in their own ranks. Part of the accusations of hypocrisy and corruption from those outside the churches is because we, on the progressive side, refuse to call the right what they aren't. You can do that without a childish "I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I?" sort of exchange.

I really do want to help these people. There will be a time when they really are beyond reach, and they are unmoved by gentleness, because it's not a part of their worldview. But, I also want to help us - we are lying to ourselves to say that we are being Christlike when we extend a false courtesy to someone, "graciously allowing" them to call themselves something that we know - and we do know it, Elizabeth - they are not. It's not humility, but a sort of perversion of it - see what a good person I am for not saying what I really think. It's pride, and it hurts us.

MarkBrunson said...

Shortly put (sorry) I think this self-deception about what we say amongst ourselves and what we proclaim is poisonous to us, as well as others.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I hear you, Mark. I suppose I'm a good Anglican. I want both. I think we need people to call the Evangelicals out and we need those who stand on softer ground. I'm glad you are saying what you are saying. I just hope it's not wasted here.

Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk said...

Elizabeth you are a wonderful communicator. We share many stepping stones on life's path. After commenting I learned that it was necessary to present this as two comments do to the length. Please allow this old Rabbi the opportunity to express another view.

Many years ago in morning prayer I learned there are many paths to God. Buddhists have there path. Christians have there path. Jews have their path. Muslims have there path.

God Willing our goal is to encourage a relationship with the Creator. We should not impress upon others our specific religious beliefs. I feel it is good to discuss what we believe yet we should not press the ripe olive. We must be gentle with the olive else the oil could be lost...

Jesus said to a Jewish following, Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled, Matthew 5:6.

The blessing is realized in our lives by the way we live. In the Jewish Community we occasional say when we are making reference to a very holy individual 'that individual is a 'Tzaddik' meaning a completely righteous individual. What a complement! What an honor it is to be though of as being a completely righteous person.

When my day comes to leave this world the greatest complement anyone could give me is to say Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk was a Tzaddik. It is doubtful that will happen but it is a goal.

Observant Jews are forbidden to evangelize. Now in Reform and among other groups of Judaism that does not necessarily apply.

We have Christians that come to the Observant Jewish Community desiring to convert to Judaism. We are required to turn them away at least three times. In our rejection we sometimes are perceived as being cruel. However, a convert to Judaism is making a lifetime commitment to accept each of the 613 Commands our Creator Gave the Jewish people. It is clear that we take this responsibility very seriously.

In my past I was once a Baptist Pastor. That changed when I desired to present a chronology of Jesus Last Six Days on Earth. I did not plan to return to Judaism. Yet this is what resulted twenty years ago from carefully studying the four Gospels. I write about my rejection of Jesus and my return to Judaism in my book entitled A Sincere Journey Ends Without Jesus.

For anyone that may be interested in purchasing a copy of my book, A Sincere Journey Ends Without Jesus, they may do so at:

Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk
B’nai Noach Torah Institute

Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk said...

Elizabeth, I have two brothers that are just as Jewish as I am. Both are Pentecostal Pastors. Can you imagine what family gatherings are like? Maybe someday they will be surfing the internet and see my book. I wrote a book lovingly explaining why I do not believe in Jesus. This was my choice. How I was raised is another matter. My parents made that choice.

Being Spiritually hungry is not like a funnel that eventually leads Buddhists, Jews, Muslims etc. to Christianity. Being Spiritually hungry leads people to change the way they live. When no one is around. When one is at home, alone, they act like God is right their. They live like judgment day is one minute away.

Before writing in this blog I read the comments entitled Code of Conduct. This is good. You are saying we need to have a standard of living that Jesus did not have. Do Christians realize our sinful and insulting Jesus public words in Matthew 23 are?

But woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. You do not go in yourselves, and you prevent others from entering also... If you desire read the rest of Matthew 23 later.

Jesus used very strong language. It's sinful to use this type of language.

We should inquire, who is a Scribe? How does one become a scribe?

An individual can only become a Scribe if they are a Tzaddik. A Scribe must be a completely righteous individual. A scribes life is spent writing the Holy Scriptures by hand. The holiness in being Keepers of God Word is incredible. The detail required is amazing. A Scribe cannot make even one mistake. To do so would invalidate the entire Torah, Genesis Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Scribes were very educated men. I am saying they were not careless with their responsibility. They had nothing to do with the type of accusations Jesus accuses them of in Matthew 23.

We should inquire, who is a Pharisees? How does one become a Pharisees?

Daniel, Mordechai, Ezra, Nehemiah, Malachi and Zerubavel were Pharisees. Pharisees were Rabbis of the highest stature. They were the men of the Great Assembly. The men that Jesus spoke of were the Holiest men in Israel.

What is the point? Christian leadership is asking Christians to live on a higher level than the Gospel writers reported Jesus lived. This is not wrong. This is good. We should try to be the best that we can be. We should be careful not to be abusive with our comments as Jesus was with the Scribes and Pharisees. We should not label others as Jesus did. We should express our disagreements differently than Jesus did.

Where is there reconciliation in Jesus comments in Matthew 23? Where is there a restoration of friendly relations with the Scribes and Pharisees? Was Jesus being compatible? Where is the harmonization?

May each of us regardless of how we feel about Jesus strive to be better to others, loving and kind and to serve our Creator with a pure heart.

For anyone that may be interested in purchasing a copy of my book, A Sincere Journey Ends Without Jesus, they may do so at:

Warmest Regards,

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dear Rabbi - Thank you for leaving your careful comments here. Let me just respond to a few:

"Observant Jews are forbidden to evangelize. Now in Reform and among other groups of Judaism that does not necessarily apply."

I thought this was so when my observant Reconstructionist Rabbi friend said this but, apparently, she is excused because of the kind of Jew she is.

"Jesus used very strong language. It's sinful to use this type of language."

I assume you are being intentionally provocative in this statement. I don't know the standard you use to determine this, but I understand Jesus as both High Priest and Prophet. Surely there are many instances in Scripture to support "strong" prophetic language this is not "sinful".

I do appreciate your perspective and hope you will visit and comment again.