Abortion is, ultimately, an unthinkably selfish act. Abortion is one of those things that victimizes twice, that makes victims of everyone involved and destroys human potential—in both those who survive and those who do not. It is a crime that begins its work before any doctor even enters the room. Like most sex-related sin, much of what the church does concerning abortion is a misguided attempt to help God out, to fill in the blanks where scripture is silent and to exact vengeance in God’s name on unspeakable behavior. We’ve got our mission confused. The church is not the arm of God’s vengeance. It is the measure of God’s love.
This is another one of those issues
that is rarely spoken of from the pulpit. Like fornication and,
say, lying, it’s just kind of generally understood to be wrong.
In fact, I, personally, have never, not once, heard a cogent,
thoughtful sermon about abortion preached from a black pulpit.
Actually, what I mostly hear from black pulpits are cleverly
constructed and dynamically delivered homilies on the human
condition, but precious little of the building blocks of
Christian ethics, most of which our pastors seem to benignly
assume we already know or they have so tired of preaching about
such fundamentals that they’ve wandered way off of the script.
Half the time, I have no idea what these guys are preaching
about, since the fundamentals of personal salvation are
frequently missing from these colorful meditations, and the
basic protein of expository preaching is frequently subverted by
topical preaching, which is usually the pastor kind of gassing
on about what he thinks (much the way I do here). Basic
guidelines for Christian conduct are often missing, perhaps an
assumption not unlike the producers of Lost expecting you to
know three years of previous episodes. The rare times issues
like abortion come up in a sermon, it’s usually part of the
rhetorical windup, tossed in in passing during the hollering
sing-song. The congregants shuffle out having been entertained
but, more often than not, bewildered about what the preacher was
talking about or how to apply it to their lives. Lives they live
by assumption as most people are fairly gun-shy about even
asking questions about things like adultery and fornication,
homosexuality and, yes, abortion. These fundamentals are often
missing from our sermons and just asking the question tends to
cast suspicion and aspersions on the seeker. So, many of us just
come to church and go home, being fed empty calories from the
pulpit while governing our conduct based on what we assume the
bible says, what we done heard someplace that the bible says,
because pastors are, frankly, taking our money and not doing a
whole lot of pastoring.
I’d like to start with a couple of truths: First, the bible is silent on the issue of abortion. Somebody comes to you, says, “The bible says abortion is a sin,” they are lying. People love to come to you and say, “The bible says…” At best, what they might mean is, “Our conclusion, based on what the bible teaches, is abortion is a sin.” Which is much more accurate. In the Ten Commandments, God wrote, Thou shalt not kill, which more accurately means thou shalt not murder. Killing, either in self defense or in time of war, or even to save the life of a mother, is not murder. Murder is a willful act. Murder is killing to achieve a goal or purpose. Murder is killing when you really don't have to. And I say with absolutely no condemnation or hatred toward anyone that we can discuss the issue until the cows come home but, at the end of the day there is no escaping the fact that elective, non-emergency pregnancy termination is murder. It is ending a human life to achieve a goal or purpose, usually to cover a sin or to avoid responsibility. Which is a very hurtful thing to say to those who have made that choice, and I struggle with the dogmatism of such statements, but there's not much room to negotiate that hurdle. And we, the church, are complicit in the abortion epidemic because we routinely avoid our responsibilities. Instead of pouring ourselves into the lives of others, we holler and scream and parade around demanding the government come in and do our work for us. There is surely enough blame to go around, but my purpose here is not to blame or even to condemn but to offer a perspective on this issue, one the religious right regularly politicizes and exploits to forward its conservative agenda at the expense of the actual work of the ministry, attempting to do at the ballot box what we continually fail to do in our pulpits.
When does life begin?
A lot of people, including a lot of Christians searching,
perhaps, for some small comfort, wrestle with the question of
when life begins, as if that actually matters. A panel assembled
by NASA in 1994 was one of many groups to ponder this question.
The panel defined life as a chemical system capable of Darwinian
evolution. Other definitions include whether an entity can move,
eat, metabolize or reproduce. Some definitions of life confuse
life with the concept of being alive. A simple ‘We don’t know’
is often the best answer for some questions.  Most of us
Christians will immediately say life begins at conception, which
might be true, might not be true. When life begins should not be
something the church wrestles with. When life begins is, after
all, just balm for the tremendous guilt abortion inflicts on
everyone it touches. Maybe if we abort early enough, it's not
actually a child. It's just the potential for a child. All of
which is utter foolishness: when life begins is God's dominion,
not ours. The human impact of abortion, the toll on the mother
and the pond ripples into her family, friends, school, church,
and community, are inestimable. So bickering over such questions
is just a distraction from core truths about the church and its
Abortion, in particular, is something we dislike talking about beyond damming those who practice it and condemning the practice itself on a biblical basis without ever exploring what that basis might be. The dirty little secret, at least in my journey, is abortion is routinely practiced within the black church. Like sexual conduct, so very little is spoken of concerning abortion, that it kind of exists below the radar as something generally frowned upon but never explored much beyond the crowd-pleasing rah-rah of our Sunday hollering. As a result, sexual behavior within our churches, more often than not, is conducted along the general moral guidelines of modern society, with society’s views of sexual morays seeming more reasonable and credible than those of the church—mainly because the black church, at least, does so little teaching in this area. So too is the question of abortion, which is, at both the beginning and end of the day usually a woman’s great dilemma moreso than a man’s, considered in the context of the world’s view of such things moreso than in God’s view. We just don’t talk about it. Our pastors are more like cheerleaders, jumping and hollering and profiling up there in the pulpit, leading the rah-rah charge against abortion, while a silent majority of our sisters are tortured by unimaginable grief and unbearable guilt, suffering in silence before our very eyes.