The following is a message I shared in our our church newsletter:
|Mother’s Day was originally a day to promote women’s equality, peace, and an end to war. It has become commercialized and sentimentalized and often is a painful reminder to those who have had complicated relationships with mothers or motherhood. |
And this year, Mother’s Day ends what has been an exhausting week in terms of news and religion. The revelation that the U.S. Supreme Court will allow states to force birth is the culmination of a decades-long war on civil rights by religious and political extremists.
As a pastor without a uterus, I feel my own voice should take a backseat to those who are more directly impacted, and yet I also have a responsibility to deploy mine for the good of my friends and family. You may have seen that some of my words from a Facebook post in 2018 went viral again. I want to set those words in context with my baptismal vow to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves” and my ordination vow to uphold the Discipline of the United Methodist Church.
Below are excerpts from the United Methodist Social Principles, which have this to say about abortion:
The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born. Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion.
But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child.
We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers.
While they have their flaws (especially with regard to LGBTQIA persons), the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church generally reflect a well-reasoned majority theological and social position on current issues. The UMC has historically viewed abortion as a “tragic choice,” but emphasized that it is still a choice between a woman and her doctor:
Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, family, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel.
The section on abortion also points out some of the best ways to reduce the frequency of abortion:
We mourn and are committed to promoting the diminishment of high abortion rates. The Church shall encourage ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies such as comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education, advocacy in regard to contraception, and support of initiatives that enhance the quality of life for all women and girls around the globe.
It is important to note that while both abortions and unintended pregnancies have been declining for years, many of the United States and Alabama legislators who are restricting abortion access are simultaneously pulling the rug out from under people who get pregnant. In Alabama, for example, we still have abstinence-only education. We have not expanded Medicaid. We are a “right-to-work” state, which means people who get pregnant do not have labor protections, nor do they have parental leave to take care of newborns.
All of these factors combine to make people’s lives harder, to make unintended pregnancy more likely, and to complicate pregnancy and delivery. These policies are at odds with the United Methodist Social Principles. They are also at odds with God’s vision of justice and shalom in the world.
I am continuously awed by the process of new life. I spend hours building birdhouses so that mama birds have a safe place to raise their young. I delight in this time of year, watching fluffy fledglings take their first timid hops out of a nest. I believe all life is sacred, and I long for a world where all of God’s family is aided to flourish. I am “pro-family” for the human world and the more-than-human world.
But I also recognize that evil is a force that warps the most holy things in the world, including parenthood and the Gospel. When our society weaponizes pregnancy against populations of poor people, indigenous people, and people of color, or when religious groups weaponize the language of love and care to oppress others, it is a deep betrayal of the Good News.
All of which has made the last week — and the last six years — exhausting for many of us who identify as Christians who seek liberation and healing for ALL people. On this Mother’s Day, I hope you will take care of yourself and your own mental health. Rest and self-care are radical acts of resistance in a system that demands exploitive labor, which claims ownership of our bodies, and which tries to appropriate our spiritual and emotional energy for its own agenda of conquest and colonialism. We say that we will “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” I hope you will join me in sacred rest, sacred lament, and revolutionary, worshipful, self-care.