“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
MLK. Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967.
As we in the church approach the conflagration of Sanctity of Life Sunday and Dr King’s Birthday on Monday, we must say to one another that this is a serendipitous occasion. Many of us will hear preachers thunder against the scourge of abortion on Sunday and find crickets chirping on Monday. But this need not be so. In both I hear the thunderous waters of Amos’ God rolling down from the heavens.
Years ago I happened on a weird stat. Abortions tend to go up under GOP presidencies and down under Democratic ones. Why is this I asked myself dumbstruck. Some may say this shows the cowardice of GOP leaders; but they have never really been timid about passing legislation designed to slow down the clinics and dry up funds for organizations such as Planned Parenthood (particularly those now affiliated with the Tea Party). Yet it is so.
The answer is that legislation is not the answer; not really. We could legislate abortion out of existence tomorrow and as a nation we would still be in much hot water. My own city is called “abortion-free” by the pro-life movement; but as a city the troubles are not in the past. So what is the problem?
I would argue that we have not a political problem but a philosophical problem. The problem is not with our wills; but with our hearts. Until we live in a country that values life, all life, we will need a Sanctity of Life Sunday to remind us that our God loves the whole world that he sent his son to live amongst us. Our need for this Sunday is found in the ‘b’ part of the verse; we were so thrilled by this arrangement that we killed said son.
That is our problem. We like killing. We worship death. Sure when somebody flies a plane into a building or disobeys the wise mom of the Johnny Cash favorite and do take their guns to town (or school or church or work) we get outraged. We yell. We scream. But then like the rude mom reported in NYC this week; we start yelling about the mourning being over before it can really run its course. If school shooting really outraged us; we would do something about them. But well we like our guns and our violent video games; and truly caring for the mentally ill would cost too much and cut down on the income we could be spending on guns and violent video games.
Sure we want Susie to knuckle down and have that baby. But who among us will be the first to come alongside her and guide her and help her with her bills. We is going to see that the idiot that impregnated her is going to learn how to be a dad. Who is going to teach her and mentor her in how to be a good mom. It’s not going to be MTV; I mean do you learn nothing from Teen Mom? Did you? Please tell me because my DVR is full and it is totally not on Netflix.
That bit of staged banter brings me to my point. What the church needs is not a revolutionary new way to garner support and win elections. What we need is to get back to being the kingdom of God come into our world; not the religious right or left. What we need to do is look back. In the beginnings of the church, our forefathers lived in a time that also saw a massive, organized systematic affront to children everywhere, the Roman Empire. The practice of the empire in birth was this: when a child was born the mother brought the baby to the man she claimed to be the father and laid the baby at his feet. If the man was to accept responsibility and care for the child he would pick the child up and name him. If not the rule of law was this: the child was the stay where he (or she) laid. The father could choose to abandon the child for any reason or no reason. But if he walked away; every good citizen was to respect his choice and walk away (as the child belonged to him to do as he pleased). The Church, however, saw each of this abandoned children as glorious members of another Father’s house. So word began to spread if your child is abandoned the church will pick the child up and care for him (or her). All over the Empire Churches began building homes to care for these (when they could not be assimilated into an existing home). So was the modern orphanage system created. Roman fathers became a part of history and the Father lived on in the millions of children saved (and the family members amazed and converted because of the brave love exhibited by the church).
In order to deal with a problem one must be willing to deal with both the causes of the problem and find a way to minimize the unintended consequences (don’t think there are unintended consequences read Dubner and Levitt’s Freakanomics). That is actually what the Democratic Party has been doing (without realizing it) and the GOP has been thwarting (unintentionally). There are always going to be unintended pregnancies, and problem pregnancies. It’s time for the church to put its money where its mouth is (and not in some SuperPAC).
As we talk about the Sanctity of Life, let us do so with the words of MLK on our lips. Let us call for an America where no baby is unwanted; and if they happen to be, let us call for a church to stand in the gap for them. Let us call for an America where there is no poor. Where there is food enough for everyone. Where there is help for the helpless, hope for the hopeless; and peace for those caught in the chaos of life. Let us call for an America where mothers are not demonized for their mistakes, innocent or otherwise. Let us call for an America where childbirth does not end careers or lives. Let us call for an America where fathers are not either. Let us call for an America that values all parents and stands behind them. Let us call for an America where life is valued more than our perceived freedoms. Let us be free to truly live life as it as intended to be.
Let us be people who have a dream of the America that was promised in our sacred writings.
Let there be change and let it begin with us.