I agree with everything you mentioned in the ask about abortion, but do you think it is unloving to believe abortion should be illegal? I’ve been told time and time again how it is not sensitive to the woman in the situation to not give her a choice, but for the sake of innocent lives I personally believe it’s the government’s job to protect them. Is this insensitive or unloving as a Christian?
I wish I could give all sorts of nuanced guidelines about how to fight for changing laws and government policies and social trends, but I lack the intellect and information to really weigh in here. I can only tell you what I believe about it.
Everyone will be called to fight a different battle in their Christian walk, whether it’s abortion or poverty or injustice or disease, and I can’t speak for your personal calling. But some things to consider, both general and specific:
1) The separation of church and state is crucial to maintain freedom and humility.
While I commend you for wanting to illegalize abortion, let’s pull it way back and see the big picture: that once the “institution” of church starts to gain a foothold in the government, we begin to impose our values on the world. That means we are revoking the human right to choose, which can only increase rebellion.
I’m not saying that fighting to change abortion laws is wrong, but I’m suggesting that making it “illegal” could be religiously oppressive. People do not play nice under oppression (e.g. the Prohibition) and any sort of sweeping-policy change has a profound effect on society that requires your full long-term attention to consequences. That means following up on anything you fight for: which many of us never do.
Let’s say you win and abortion does become illegal. Suddenly the women who want one are going to back streets, paying exorbitant amounts to some so-called doctor who could be a fake, which puts women at risk. That’s not uncommon even today. Even if you changed the law, the law does not change people.
Laws about homicide, theft, and violence make sense because they are mostly universally agreed upon. Even then, these laws don’t always deter criminals: it makes the worst of us more clever to work around the law. So with a much stickier issue like abortion, where not everyone sees eye to eye, making it illegal will encourage a lot of backdoor crime.
That’s not to say that we should legalize everything and let people run amuck, but just to consider how complex the abortion issue really is: it’s not a clear-cut black-and-white decision. Not everyone thinks, “This law against murder is so lame,” but some people would think, “This law against abortion is forcing my hand.”
If the church is also going to step in every time they think a law is “wrong,” this not only squeezes freedom but will destroy our humility. Church history has proven this over and over: when the church is given worldly power, it has hardly ever done good with it. Which brings us to —
2) The church must be a safe haven of grace for sinners, not a platform for political culture. Only a gracious church could possibly hope to shape the cultural landscape.
While many laws will change according to the demand of their times, the church should be an irreplaceable beacon of hope and healing for those who have been culturally burned.
Let’s say for a moment that the culture is one individual. How do you introduce this person to a new way of thinking? By hammering them with law reform and picketing them and shouting at them through a bullhorn? No: you love them like Jesus does. However you would act on a micro-level, you can work that at the macro-level. Social reform begins with the individual.
Some would say, “Oh that’s so ideal, we live in the real world.” But why should we abandon the ideal just to settle for a devalued “real”? We can still pursue an ideal while we deal with the pain of reality. In fact, that’s more reason to pursue the perfect righteousness of Christ, not less. No one was ever helped by settling for less.
3) Great men and women who fought for social reform always stayed at ground level with the oppressed.
It’s cool if you decide to run at Capitol Hill over some laws you disagree with. What’s even better is to open your home and your church to rape victims, the homeless, war veterans, the mentally disadvantaged, and pregnant women who need guidance. If you really believe it’s the government’s job to protect the unborn, then you also better make it your job to provide for real hurting people. Otherwise, and I say this out of love: you’re like every other hypocrite.
If you do feel called to fight for what’s right, it cannot only be to change laws. The great historical figures of our time, for all the faults they had (because they were human too), also endured with the people they were fighting for. They were not just great speakers: they were in the dirt and grit and mess of oppressed lives. They were willing to die out of love for the people.
I want to be careful here because I know some of us can name bad examples of overzealous people who died for the wrong things and fought the wrong way. But a stark difference is always in how someone reaches out. Mother Teresa was involved directly hands-on with the poor in Calcutta; Hitler made eloquent speeches while killing millions of people he hated.
Screaming for policy-change is easy. It’s like every other annoying church out there who idolizes principles but neglects their community. When a government can see a church who actually cares for the broken and is genuinely pleading for better laws: that’s when those who influence policy actually take notice. While you might disagree with abortion, if your church loves on women who have made that choice and guides pregnant women towards healthy decisions without judging them, you will stand a chance to be heard.
The raving religious is never heard, and if you’re just another voice, you’ll be thrown in with them. Do both. Fight humbly for what is right, but help those who have been wronged. Your voice will only be heard if your hands are moving.