So then you're going to ask what I mean by that, right?
Well, it means just what it typically means. I hope and pray that abortions would be very, very, very rare, much less common than they are in our North American culture. As much as I agree that women's reproductive rights are important, I think the rights of unborn children are even more important, if we have to set them up in opposition to each other.
I also know that the issue of abortion is fraught with all kinds of emotions, and each family decision to consider one is highly individual. So I very rarely state my arguments for the pro-life position in such stark terms without qualifying them. There are clearly exceptions to the pro-life stance, times when a woman needs to make this decision for herself, and have all the protections of the law, and safe medical systems in place, without fear, without guilt, and with the support of her family and faith community.
I'm also pro-life because I wish we were having more babies as a culture. I think babies are a good thing.
And I'm pro-life because my denomination is pro-life. We have a social statement on abortion, and you can read it if you wish: http://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Abortion. Two of my favorite summary quotes from the social statement include:
- As a community of forgiven sinners, “our love for neighbor embraces especially those who are most vulnerable, including both the pregnant woman and the life in her womb”
- The gift of human life comes from God, has intrinsic value, worth and dignity in all phases of development, and is guided by God’s law
So this brings me to the next point. I'm pro-life, but I'm pro-life not simply on the issue of abortion, but more widely, I'm for life because I believe the Spirit is the Spirit of Life, Christ came to redeem and give us new life, and God the Father created all life.
As such, I am called as a Christian to advocate for systems of life and human flourishing. If you read this blog regularly, you probably know there are certain topics that come up over and over again that I believe are important "life" topics in our contemporary life. Here are some examples:
1. Advocacy for refugees: http://lutheranconfessions.blogspot.com/2014/09/lets-be-safe-haven-for-those-fleeing.html
2. Welcome of immigrants: http://lutheranconfessions.blogspot.com/2014/08/four-principles-grounding-action-for.html
3. World hunger: http://lutheranconfessions.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-struggle-against-poverty-as-object.html
4. Domestic violence: http://lutheranconfessions.blogspot.com/2014/05/yesallwomen-yesallbiblicalwomen.html
5. Just war practices: http://lutheranconfessions.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-3-words-2014-mythreewords.html
So now let me end by telling a couple of stories, this time about the LGBTQ community. Sometimes people ask me why I am so focused on advocacy for, being an ally with, this community. It's a good question. If we were to stack up all the social justice issues of our day, would advocacy for the LGBTQ community rise to the top? Perhaps the answer is no. If you asked me to force rank current issues, I'd probably say I'm most concerned for the vulnerable population in Syria most of all, and for immigrant children in our own country languishing in cages and inhumane border facilities most of all.
However, I do not meet these situations on a daily basis. They aren't "immediate" to me, if you will. On the other hand, I see daily the impact of a death-dealing community on my neighbors and church members who are LGBTQ. So I end up working for justice on their behalf because they are my immediate neighbors, and my friends.
A couple of stories. First, there is a couple I blessed this summer when marriages for same-gender couples were temporarily legal in Arkansas. I got a call early on a Monday morning saying, "Could you come down to the courthouse and marry us?" Of course I said yes. These are people I love, members of my own flock. So I drove down to the courthouse with my three year old and my wife, and we stood with them after they came out from the courthouse with their marriage license, and we prayed for and blessed them and helped them say their vows before each other and before God.
I think strengthening families is definitely about life. But then, even more, they drove down to Little Rock the next day, and for the first time were able to put the second mom's name on their son's birth certificate. Until that day, they did not have guarantees that they could both visit him in the hospital in emergencies. They lacked the security all other families regularly have to be able to care for their son.
That's about life.
Yesterday I hung out for an hour at St. Martin's, our campus ministry center. While meeting with our campus pastor and a few others, a representative of the transgender community came in to talk with our campus pastor. They are planning a transgender day of remembrance ceremony there in November. This annual observance remembers those who have died in the past year through acts of violence against transgender people. So far this year, hundreds of people have been killed simply because they were transgender.
So it amazes me, given that so much violence against the transgender community comes precisely out of the religious community (think, for example, of how the current campaign against an anti-discrimination ordinance in our own city, Fayetteville, is led by religious communities who should know better, who should be against, not for, discrimination), that this person is willing to come into our campus ministry community, and wants to work with our pastor to plan a day of remembrance service.
That's about life. That's about protecting life, and about extending life and community to a group of people so often excluded from it.
Another parishioner who is in a same-gender marriage regularly works to battle the prevalence of rape in our society. There's an organization for this: http://nwarapecrisis.org
Because rape is the opposite of life. And Christians are called to be about life.
I could go on. I simply can't tell you how often I've had conversations with folks who are LGBTQ who, when they told their faith communities they were gay, that the pastor said things like, "You can leave." or "you can't teach Sunday school." or "Get out!" Christian communities single LGBTQ people out often, denying them freedoms, casting them out, sometimes wanting them to wear some kind of label that says, "I'm gay, so be careful of me."
That's death-dealing kinds of stuff. It kills the soul. And since these are people I know, and they are my friends, and I love them, I know of no other way to advocate for life than to extend whole-hearted welcome to them, and guarantee to them all the ministries of the church extended to everyone in our faith community.
Because it's about life!