The following is a series of pieces printed in our local newspaper,
The Racine Journal-Times
The first is an article in the column, "Parson to Person",
which runs periodically in the paper,
and is written by a member of the Racine Clergy Association.
It ran on March 3rd, 2005.
The second is my response, printed on March 9th, 2005
The third is a response to me, printed on March 15th, 2005.
Abortion: Move from battleground to common ground
By Michelle Olley What if all the time and money spent during the recent presidential campaign promoting the pro-choice and pro-life causes would have been spent on providing options that addressed the root causes of this complex issue of abortion?
To reduce the complicated human dilemma of abortion to a simplistic, politically debatable issue that can be flippantly won or lost, when most debaters on all sides have never suffered personally from the consequences of the position held, is absolutely irresponsible.
The extreme positions of both pro-life and pro-choice are inadequate responses to an epidemic of unplanned pregnancies, unwanted children and indescribable poverty worldwide. It appears to many that the extreme position of pro-life is really pro-birth, and the extreme position of pro-choice is really pro-abortion.
The Supreme Court Webster Decision of July 1989 and the 2003 Partial Birth Abortion Act may protect the unborn fetus, but they do not protect the life of the mother in serious medical conditions. They do little to serve poor mothers who need better alternatives and support systems to protect their children after birth.
Laws and policies will not end abortion. Many of the abortions, which occur throughout the world, reflect desperation, not an anti-life orientation. Those who are starving, abused, or neglected do not debate the ethics of when life begins.
The divisiveness of the abortion issue is evident in the ink and time given by the media. Those developing public policy or church law need to recognize the diverse perspectives and values not only among the people who speak, write, or campaign on the issues, but also among the women who have the abortions as well as the men who are partners in the pregnancies.
Those who make a pro-choice or pro-life stance a litmus test for public office or church membership are showing their culpable ignorance and limited perspective of a global, complex, multi-layered problem that has no quick fix. It is easy to be lulled into complacency when it isn't happening in our own backyard or when we are supported by an anti-environmental economy which is a threat to all life and choice on this planet.
What would it take to get beyond the "we're right and they're wrong" syndrome and the "baby killers" and "woman haters" signs? When will we have the patience, vulnerability, and courage to struggle through a process in which the goal Is "understanding, not necessarily agreement"? Would such discussion (internationally, nationally, and locally) enable us both individually and collectively to understand and be part of the struggle to build a more compassionate world which would protect and value all forms of life? Is it possible to find any common ground when we remain steadfast on the battleground? When we become so busy arguing over the right to choose, do we lose sight of whether the choice itself is a good choice for the long term? Or when we become so intense over the pro-life, do we lose sight of whether human life is possible after birth? If both sides would have some fruitful discussion together on what is best for family life and what conditions are necessary to support it, we may find some common ground.
Recently Professor John Jefferson Davis at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts called conservative Christians to focus on broader social issues such as the environment, racism, poverty, and help for the disadvantaged in society instead of just gay marriage and abortion. What a refreshing and encouraging step!
What would happen if we would explore togetherŠ * The root causes for more than a million abortions in the United States and 12 million in Latin America annually and approximately 30,000 deaths of babies in their first year of life here in the US.
* The connection between the number of abortions performed and the availability of pro-family programs of housing, parental leave, childcare allowances, educational and employment opportunities, etc.
* Support for measures to ensure better choices than abortion, as well as viable options for victims of incest, rape, and domestic abuse.
* Better alternative and support systems for women with unplanned pregnancies or unwanted children.
* The conditions under which women could believe that to choose life for their children would be better than choosing death.
* The possibilities of providing free prenatal and post natal care, free delivery at birth, and/or free adoption services for both parties.
* The development of a litmus test for each line item of all government and church budgets to determine if they support a consistent ethic of life for planetary survival of all life.
* The establishment of skilled pastoral counseling centers that provide support systems not only for women and their families who regret their abortions, but also for women and their families who regret the births of their babies and have unwanted and/or neglected children.
* A better understanding of the terrible life-long conflicts and consequences of no choice which occur in forced abortions and forced births.
What the world needs now is not just one more sit-in or rally or legislation, but rather a society in which people are working together to eliminate the root causes of both abortion and lack of choice, thereby creating a culture of life choices in which abortion is unnecessary, unusual, and unthinkable. And let's call that party "Choice For Life".
Sister Michelle Olley, Racine Dominican, is a ember of the Racine Clergy Association
A sin is still a sin
The March 3rd "Parson to Person" column by Sister Michelle Olley advised moving from "battleground to common ground" on the abortion issue. This sort of thinking, not uncommon to the column, is precisely why conservative clergy like me avoid the Racine Clergy Association.
Aside from a misguided overindulgence in liberal politics, it seems some clergy in town are afraid to call sin what it is. Let's be clear, Bible-believing Christians see abortion as the illegitimate taking of human life (except in those extremely rare cases which might save the life of the mother). We don't need to be spiteful about it, but neither should we apologize, nor try so hard to "soften" our position that it becomes meaningless.
Sister Olley's argument is more flawed than I have space to explain. But for starters - would she similarly equivocate with other sins like rape or child abuse? The absurdity of her logic is readily apparent when we simply substitute one of these other evils for "abortion". Try it. Read her article again, plug in "rape" instead of "abortion", and watch the argument fall apart.
Finally, her implication that Christians who adhere to their values are somehow "extremists" is saddening. Was Jesus an extremist when he condemned sin? Or did he try to find "common ground" with the Pharisees and Temple money-changers? Instead, Jesus called a sin a sin, then died for and forgave sinners.
No amount of "understanding" or "patience", "vulnerability", "courage", "process" or "discussion" will change what abortion is. Sin.
Rev. Thomas Chryst
Grace Lutheran Church, Racine
Religions vary in views
Rev. Thomas Chryst's letter in the March 9 Journal Times regarding abortion displays an intolerance which should make true Christians cringe. I understand that, in the doctrine which he teaches and practices, abortion is a sin under most circumstances.
It is his right to teach and practice this.
However, not all religious law and doctrine agree with his perspective. To paint religious law which does not agree with that of Rev. Chryst as a sin is hateful of those who practice legitimate other religious perspectives and laws. To impose one view upon those with other legitimate views is a constitutional violation of the rights of those who do not agree with Rev. Chryst's professed doctrine.
In his letter, Rev. Chryst invokes what he perceives as Jesus' stand on the subject. He forgets that Jesus interpreted life around him according to Jewish law, which is not concordant with the position Rev. Chryst espouses.
Marc Wollman Racine