On Life and Light


If you like me, stop reading now.

Seriously. I have struggled with how to express myself on this topic, because I know that I will make some people mad.

So…. If you like me, read at your own risk. If you don’t know me keep reading. And if you want to participate in gentle discussion at the end, I would welcome it.

Life Chain is an annual event here in Jackson. Nationwide, thousands of people participate. The goal is to gather people together to pray for an end to abortion in our country, and to be a public silent protest.

I have participated in Life Chain events in the past.  I agree with the organizers that abortion is something that should be stopped. I am Pro-Life.

Life Chain was yesterday, and I wanted to share for a minute why our church and I did not participate.

Many people that I know and respect participate in Life Chain. I respect them and their decision to participate. It’s not that I think Life Chain is bad, I simply think it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. It creates more polarization in an already charged atmosphere. I know the focus is to stand in prayerful solidarity, but we need to understand how it is viewed by the very people the church is supposed to be on mission to reach.

Abortion is one of the most polarizing topics in our culture. People on both sides of the issue can’t comprehend how someone could stand on the other side. Pro-Life advocates can’t comprehend how anyone could terminate a pregnancy and not consider it murder. Pro-Choice advocates can’t understand how anyone can call it murder. When one side sees the other as murderers and the other side sees that side as crazy, it’s hard to have an honest discussion.

We don’t usually have conversations with crazies and murders. One we institutionalize, the other we put in prison. Both are solutions those passionate about this issue might endorse for the other side.

This has created a tense atmosphere akin to North and South Korea looking at each other across the DMZ. What happens for the average person? We don’t talk about it. People are afraid to bring up the topic for fear of being branded crazy, or a murderer. There is an uneasy truce that centers around, to borrow a phrase from another controversial topic, “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

And so, in the Christian community, I think in part to assuage our guilt, we stand on the road, once a year for 90 minutes, and feel like we have done something to end abortion.

It is, in my mind, the wrong tactic.

Why Abortion?

To understand any problem in hopes of finding a solution, we have to understand the root of the problem.  In this case, why would a young woman choose to have an abortion? Let’s dig into this.

The vast majority of the time, the thought process is: “I simply cannot support myself and this child.”

And here’s the kicker. They are right.

Nearly half of single mothers in the United Sates live in poverty.

If a teen gets pregnant and chooses to have her baby, she only has a 38% chance of completing High School, and a 2% chance of completing college. They will most likely live in poverty until that child is out of the house.

A single woman who is pregnant faces an incredibly difficult decision. We should never trivialize this.  Pro-Life advocates are quick to point out that adoption needs to be a larger part of the discussion. I agree. But we also need to understand that from the standpoint of that woman, what sounds like an easy solution to a difficult question is anything but easy.

So if we start by knowing that abortions happen mostly because women believe that they can’t support themselves and their baby, what can we do to decrease the number of abortions, not by protesting, but by working at the heart of the issue?

Here are my thoughts. Take them for what they are worth…

Abortion will change when the alternative is not a one-way ticket to poverty.

What would it look like for the churches of the community to band together to start a daycare for single mothers so that they can finish High School?

What if it was free to the mothers?

Our churches are filled with fully equipped children’s rooms and playthings. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We do need the determination and people willing to make sacrifices.

Would that decrease abortion in the community?

What if Christian employers decided that they would make allowances for the struggles of Single Mothers? Kids get sick, school gets cancelled and suddenly a mother with no more personal days has no one to watch her kid and so she calls in, again. She ends up loosing her job. We can’t tell every employer how to run their business, but what if we encouraged Christian business owners to watch out for women in this predicament?

When a young woman who is pregnant sees other women who have carried their babies to term succeeding, it will change the discussion.

What would happen in Christians of either political party chose to support programs that would empower and care for these young mothers? Yes they would cost money. Yes some people would take advantage of the system. Yes, we as the tax payers would get burned. But there would also be women who suddenly would have more options. What if our understanding of being Pro-Life began to mean being Pro-Young Mother in addition to the current focus of being Pro-Baby?

What other options can you think of? What happens when we start at the root of the problem rather than treating the symptom?

Abortion will change when hearts change.

As the church, we have spent much of our cultural influence on this one issue. We see Roe v. Wade as the problem and if we can just get the right President into office at the right time to appoint the right Supreme Court Justices we can overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal. I have been ashamed at some of the candidates I have seen the church support simply because of this one issue. The result is we have lost credibility.

Abortion will decrease as people become active participants in God’s redemptive purpose in our world. When we get our hands dirty.  Rather than spending time holding signs on the side of the road, we should be holding babies so their moms can go to school.

Abortion will decrease when we get busy with our God given task of making disciples in this world. When we are bringing people into the “light that leads to life,” (John 8:12) the light of God will change hearts and shape behavior. When someone is living in community with other believers they should have the support they need if they are faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

The more we focus on our God given mission of redemption and less on our people given mission of legislation the more progress we will make.

I have just scratched the surface here, but I wanted to add some thought to this discussion. I too think we should pray for an end to abortion. But we need to then step out of our prayer closets and get our hands dirty.