Sunday, February 11, 2007

Abortion: Is there a bigger issue?

Last week in my Christian Ethics class, the prof discussed abortion and the immense problem it poses. Sure, it's obvious that if an unborn child is a human life, we should not kill it. But as we talked, it became clear that if the Church is to speak against abortion with integrity, there must be a dramatic shift in our understanding of the value of life.

What I mean is this: What are we, as Christians, doing to encourage women to not have abortions? Are the only tools we possess picketing, name-calling, and legislation? If so, we are fighting a losing battle -- unless we really believe that we can turn the United States into a "Christian" version of Iran or Saudi Arabia. Which is, I'm afraid, what some Americans desire.

But is there another way? One answer may be found in the way the Church deals with children who have been born. Two stories in particular drove this point home in class. One woman spoke of her struggle with fertility and attempt to adopt. She tried for over two years, unsuccessfully, to adopt a child, and then, mercifully, became pregnant. She was extremely frustrated at the way adoptions are handled, both in the U.S. and in foreign countries.

But then, another student spoke up, and explained that one reason adoptions, especially of foreign children, remain so difficult, is because of the number of people who plan to adopt and then never follow through. He told of a seven-year-old in an orphanage his parents ran as missionaries to Indonesia who committed suicide after hearing that the "Christian" parents who planned to adopt him had turned around and gone back to the U.S. upon finding out they were expecting a child of their own.

In the U.S., adopting a white baby is 3x more expensive than adopting a black baby. Why? Because many parents are more concerned with skin color than simply loving a child, and there are far fewer white babies available. Which may say something about the racial factors in abortion and adoption, but that's another topic.

This leads me to ask: What is our theology of life? In an age where so many children are born without adequate parental care, how does this affect our understanding of "be fruitful and multiply?" Is that mandate meant to refer only to the children who are genetically ours, or should it be applied more broadly?

What would it look like if Christians really began to care for ALL children, not just their own biological children? Perhaps if people recognized that having a child was possible with the support of their church community, many more women would decide against abortion. But have we, as Christians, really given them that option? Or have we, selfishly, declared that women who get pregnant should have the child and then "deal with it on their own"? Do we think we need to punish women for getting pregnant? How is that Christ-like? These are some of the questions and considerations that surround the issue of abortion and, for me at least, have caused me to reassess what my response, as a follower of Christ, should be when dealing with this issue.

I hope that, as the Church, we can reach out to pregnant women instead of making them feel more guilty and estranged, and will show our willingness to love children not only before they are born, but afterward as well.

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