A Pastoral Response re Dobbs

The following is the text of what I said to Christ City Church on Sunday, June 26, 2022. You can watch the video, including Pastor Lisa’s prayer, at the end of the post.

Frypie, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Protestant theologian Karl Barth said, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” In other words, know what’s in Scripture and know what’s happening in the world; and interpret what’s happening in the world through the lens of Scripture. The lens of Jesus.

We try to do that here at Christ City. We aren’t just offering a faith perspective on the news of the day, like a Christian version of late night talk shows. Nor are we simply offering an exposition of the Bible, with no reference to our lives or the world God has placed us in.

We try to be faithful to speak up when we feel led to speak up but also to ensure that our spiritual formation is not just occasional or incidental or simply prompted by the news, but rhythmed and consistent: faithful practice and intentional church policy, conversations in community, protest and advocacy, discipleship in the way of Jesus.

As I’m sure all of us know, this week saw a very controversial decision by the Supreme Court. One which overturned the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade and removed the constitutional right to an abortion.

Let me start by saying abortion is such a hard thing to talk about. There are complexities and nuances and threads that stretch into numerous other areas beyond this hot button issue. Moreover, the Church—and American Christians in general—has not had a good track record in speaking and advocating on this with grace, with kindness, and with justice in mind.

Let me also acknowledge that I’m speaking from a position of privilege as a man. So I have spent much of the last few days just listening, especially to women—in my life, in my friend group, on social media—those who are most affected by this decision.

I know folks who are celebrating this decision. You may too; you may be one of those people. In my understanding and practice of faith, there is something called a “consistent ethic of life,” a valuing of human dignity “from womb to tomb.” That means that even before a child is born, there is something to be defended, protected, safeguarded, mourned if lost—even as we can acknowledge that a zygote is different from a full-term baby. Banning a procedure that ends the potential for life can seem to be a positive thing.

I also know many folks who are lamenting this decision. Not just because it removes a woman’s agency and ability to choose what happens to—and inside—her body. But also because of the cascading consequences.

This week I have read far too many friends’ stories about sexual assaults that left them fearful about what would happen if they were to get pregnant. I have read as friends shared their anxiety or their trauma about pregnancy-related emergencies, situations other than unwanted pregnancies in which the abortion procedure is utilized.

And we know that a disproportionate burden of the consequences of this decision will fall on women with less resources, women who are less educated, and women of color. Those already vulnerable will face further disenfranchisement, potentially even criminalization. And all of this without sufficient safety nets for those women and their children.

I’ve said before that one way I think about what the gospel of Jesus means for us is that where the image of God in human beings is most ground down, most threatened, most in need, we are called to listen all the more attentively to their pain, to act all the more decisively for their liberation, and to speak up all the more boldly against those in power.

I believe God is a God of life. Of every life and every sphere of life. What I think that means is that, if we really value every life and every sphere of life, we should do just as much for these little ones once they get out of the womb as before:

Universal healthcare.

Paid family leave.

Free preschool.

Comprehensive sex education.

Investing in better education for all.

Easy access to contraception.

Just immigration systems.

Addressing Black maternal mortality.

Holding sexual assailants and rapists more accountable and taking violence against women more seriously.

Better supporting foster and adoptive families.

School meals.

Disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline and eradicating mass incarceration.

Countering wealth inequality.

A minimum wage that folks can actually live on.

Affordable housing.

Prioritizing and uplifting the poor.

Strengthening civil rights and gun restrictions (not the opposite, as the Supreme Court did earlier in the week).

Now, it’s okay for you to not agree with every policy proposal I’ve named or have concerns or questions. I’m simply sharing with you some of what I think it looks like for God’s kingdom to come on earth as in heaven.

We (at Christ City) already advocate for some of these. We already work toward some of them. And our engagement is driven by our faith, by our theology, by our vision of the kingdom of God that Jesus came to inaugurate, by our commitment to the gospel that is good news of liberation for the least of these. And that will continue to be the case as long as Christ is at the beginning of our name and at the center of our church.

I’d been debating this week whether to ask one of our women elders or staff to share, being more affected by this decision than I will ever be. But I felt called to bear the weight of the responsibility of standing before you as the lead pastor of Christ City and saying all of this to you.

However, I did ask Pastor Lisa to offer a prayer in response to the events of this week. As she comes up, please know that if any of you want to talk or pray with any of the pastors about any of this, we are ready and willing.

The pastoral response begins at 36:35 of the video below.

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