pro-life, pro-birth, pro-choice: thoughts on the conversation

Want to make a difference? Be pro-LIFE, not just anti-abortion.
-Adopt a kid. Adopt two kids. Encourage your friends to adopt, your churches. Adopt so many kids (and not just cute babies) that white people in grocery lines judge YOU. The Church was doing this in the Roman Empire long before they were even a legal religion, and when they finally accepted at legal they had a stone manger out front for people to leave orphans.
-Adopt a single mother. Stop having a guest bedroom and have a guest.
-Support food banks, or better,
-Imagine alternatives to violence.
-Impact poverty. Somehow. Get creative… or just pick something in place and run with it. My money says less than 75% of the people reading this are doing anything right now, but I bet they bought a kitchen aide mixer, a TV, or a cell phone in the last year.

The above series of points come from my friend Dustin – they comprised his Facebook status about a week ago. Since then, the abortion bru-ha-ha on Facebook has given way to the debate regarding birth control and the panel convened yesterday before Congress.

Can I be perfectly honest for a minute? And this isn’t out of snarkiness, this is out of honest confusion: why are some people obsessed with how women treat their fertility? Being in community with someone and walking through a difficult time with them is one thing – standing outside clinics or on street corners and informing strangers of their opinion is another. I am – once again, this is honest confusion – not sure what the end goal is in accosting people.

I’m sure I could dig up all sorts of history and statistics regarding when people began to understand pro-life as only having to do with a pre-birth human. There are lots of historical records and sociological accounts as to how society has treated fertility or lack there of and those are fascinating but perhaps for another time. What I want to throw out to the universe is the question I haven’t been able to stop chewing on since I read Dustin’s status:

How can people reclaim the phrase ‘pro-life’ as being more than simply ‘pro-birth’?

I am – for the record – personally pro-life and politically pro-choice. I hope I never have to make the gut wrenching decision that hundreds of millions of women have had to throughout the ages. I am also thankful I am a citizen of a country where I am allowed to consider options, although I don’t live in one now. (Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland – women have to fly to England for the surgery if they so choose.)

What would it look like to be holistically pro-life? How would people treat the death penalty or gun control laws? How would they view genetically modified food and the growing international obesity problem? How would they speak of human trafficking, genocide, war and other human inventions which claim lives? Would people talk about global warming differently?

As a confident but at times publicly reluctant member of the Kingdom of God, this is the conversation I think we need to be having. Dearest fellow members – can we stop talking about life as only existing in someone’s womb and instead embrace the mess that it actual is? Can we love people through that decision instead of trying to make it for them? Can we put our money where our mouth is and find families and homes for the millions of abandoned children throughout the world? Can we fight to fix the foster care system?

I understand for some Christians, loving people means hoping they share in a specific vision of morality. While I do not agree with that – either as a human, woman, social worker or theologian – I can respect those people are trying to love as best they can. What I’d like to invite anyone with that mental bent to think about is what does loving someone really mean?

I think loving someone means being patient with them. It means being kind and hopeful and not imposing my will upon their lives. It means being vulnerable and honest, caring and gracious. It means not keeping score of their wrongs against me. It means speaking truth within the context of relationship and making sacrifices for their well-being. It means knowing when to apologize and when to demand apology. It means laughter and joy, respect and communication.

I am not good at any of those things most days. My resolution for 2012 was to be better and I fear I have failed more often than not. I can make excuses – there’s been a lot of change in my life, PhD work is hard, being an ex-pat is stressful, communal living is difficult – but it comes down to me not making the choice to love as often as I should. So my reaction to my own question is that – to love better the people immediately in front of me at any given moment.

(I will also send letters to my Congress people telling them exactly what I think of some of these issues. I will support organizations and beloved friends who are on the front lines of this situation and I will find out what I can do here in South Belfast to make life better for others.)

may today be a day where I choose life and love so that others may choose it as well. may we understand complexity and embrace confusion and walk in light of love and grace remembering at all times that statistics have faces and stories just like ours.


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