In the debate over abortion, my position is clear (see this and this). However, the pro-choice perspective is not entirely without validity. Today I want to look at what I see as the best and most damning objection to the pro-life cause, because if we want to be taken seriously on the abortion issue, we need to have an answer.
The objection is this: While pro-lifers often accuse pro-choicers of caring about a child only after it is born, we are often accused of caring about it only until it is born. Sadly, I think this is an accusation that sticks.
Why are those who are the most politically zealous about ending abortion not equally zealous about caring and providing for those in our society who have the greatest need? For in most cases, abortion is the alternative sought by the most materially, socially, and/or spiritually needy among us.
While it is true that our nation’s welfare system is imperfect, and there are those who take advantage of it, we must acknowledge that there are also a great many people living in poverty through no fault of their own (to say nothing of those in other countries). Many of these people have no access to quality health care, good schools, or well-paying jobs, and have little to no chance of seeing their circumstances change without intervention.
Advocates of an unborn child’s “right to life” lose credibility when we fail to act on behalf of the poor — particularly if we object to abortion on Biblical grounds (do we realize how often the Bible speaks of our obligation to care for the poor?). The problem is that even most Christians view abortion more as a political issue than a spiritual issue, despite what we might say. Ironically, it is the political opponents of the anti-abortion cause that champion the cause of the poor.
The uncomfortable truth for Christians is that no political party aligns with the picture of how Scripture shows us to live coram Deo. Abortion and social justice are NOT primarily political concerns; both are Gospel concerns. If liberal Christians want to see mercy and justice for all people, then they need to deal with sin honestly and consistently. This means seeing abortion for what it is — murder (perpetuated most often upon the poor and afflicted that they wish to love) — and doing something about it.
Conversely, if conservative Christians want to see abortion come to an end in our country and around the world, then we need to come to grips with the Gospel’s implications in how we care for the poor and needy in our communities. After all, if abortion in America ended today, there would be over a million babies born this year into homes where they would be unwanted, or into situations in which even their most basic needs would not be met. Once they have been rescued from death, are we ready to rescue them in life? Are we prepared to adopt these children into our homes? Are we willing to come alongside young, single mothers (who themselves are often as fatherless as their children), encouraging them in the Lord and showing them the Father’s love?
During the first few centuries after Christ, Christians became known for their peculiar love and care for the poor, the outcast, and the unwanted. It was not uncommon for unwanted babies to be left outside to die, or thrown into the sea. Christians worked tirelessly to rescue these infants, adopting them into their homes or setting up orphanages to care for them. The 4th century pagan Roman emperor Flavian Julius, frustrated over the social conditions in the Roman Empire (which was soon to collapse), complained that the hated Christians were putting the Empire to shame:
“They care not only for their poor but for ours as well, while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”
It should come as no surprise that the Gospel spread like wildfire as Christians were vigilant in carrying out its social implications. Do we think it would be any different today?
Over the past year, this is an area in which I have personally been very convicted. Laurie and I have begun the process of being able to adopt someday, but I still have a long way to go in changing the way I think about social justice and the poor. There are some deeply-rooted preconceived notions which often prevent me from loving others as I should. Thankfully God is slowly breaking down these barriers and opening my eyes to the great need that surrounds me. The effects of sin are everywhere, and I am realizing that my role in combating sin is much larger than I’d ever thought.
Here are three books that have shaped my thinking in this area: