The headline recently ripped through the nation - "Doctor Accused of Severing Babies' Spines With Scissors in House of Horrors" - leaving a wake of shock, disgust and outrage, as well as resurfacing a never-fully-gone but all-too-often-forgotten discussion in the Church over protecting the rights of the unborn. Facebook and Twitter blew up with trending condemnations of Dr. Kermit Gosnell's actions and a new wave of debate began over abortion amidst the fresh wounds of the most recent scandal.
While awareness of the issues is important for those not engaged in the conversation, caution in how that awareness is brought about is essential. The Church has a history of being known for what it is against, not necessarily what it is for. We don't "drink, smoke or chew...or date girls who do". We also don't vote democrat. Ever. Right?! The caricature of the Church in the world as being prudish, legalistic, ignorant and unloving is all too often exaggerated, but frighteningly accurate at times. There's no question as to the mainline Church's stance on abortion, and no doubting the passion and zeal by which they have communicated that stance to our culture. We've made it very clear what we're against, but have we been clear about what we are for? Sure, some might say we are for the sanctity of life or we are for God's plan that children are born, not aborted. But how far does that get us? Socially, not very.
This post is not about preventative measures that could be taken to avoid unwanted pregnancies. It is not about taking a stance on one side of the political aisle or the other when it comes to the sanctify of life and when that life actually begins. This post is about the dark and harsh reality that many women walked into abortion clinics today terrified and alone, and walked out feeling worse. This post is about them, the rock and hard place they felt crushed between and the babies who were never given a chance to live as a result. This post is about where the Church fits in, what role we play and why it is no longer enough to be against abortion...we have to be for something far greater or the worst will continue to happen.
Perhaps the Church, now more than ever, has the opportunity to stand against the epidemic of abortion with an entirely new posture - one which offers hope, not condemnation; the remedy of life, not the sentence of death. Let's no longer be against something in theory without offering any real, tangible, ground level alternative in practice. Jesus always counterbalanced that which He was against with what God had deemed the better and more glorious alternative. He came not merely to give us the ability to say no to what was wrong but to say yes and amen to that which is good and holy and wonderful. While the Church more feverishly waves the anti-abortion flag we MUST more passionately and zealously and incessantly wave the adoption one. We must want the unwanted. It's on us. It's the more glorious alternative.
Let's let women hear the condemnations of abortion be drowned out by our louder proclamations of hope - that this child will be loved and cared for and provided for - and that you, the mom, will be honored for the noble and valiant choice you can make to give birth to life, not death, by giving your baby a chance in the arms of another. Instead of walk in shame-filled secrecy into an abortion clinic let's help them hold their heads up high, embrace the reality of the situation they are in and offer them an alternative ending to what for the moment seems like a tragedy in the making.
Several weeks ago my wife and I were brought into a deliberation room with the biological mother of the baby girl we were fostering. Case workers and lawyers filled the room as we found ourselves at the table with her. The decision before her was clear but painstakingly difficult. Either stand before the judge and have her parental rights forcibly terminated or willingly relinquish them by signing the papers that rested in front of her. She had no way out. There was no way she was leaving that courthouse with her parental rights in tact. However, if she didn't sign those papers there was no telling to what extent the weight of the law was going to come down on her. The rock and the hard place she found herself between was real and right and just, but still overwhelmingly emotional. Through her sobbing she asked to speak with us. As we sat at the table with her she had a few simple questions: Do you love my baby as if she were your own? Yes, we are madly in love with her. Will you take care of her and make sure she knows I love her too? Absolutely. It's our honor and privilege to have that chance.
With that, she signed the papers, and legally placed her baby in the hands of those who sat across the table from her. Us. We praised her for the difficult but noble and selfless decision she had made. In that moment she was our baby girl's biggest hero.
I have no doubt in my mind she signed those papers not out of fear of what might happen if she didn't but out of hope of what could happen if she did. She had the assurance of knowing that her baby would have a chance, would be loved and cared for and provided for. That's all she needed as a mom. While the circumstance is unique from abortion, the principal remains the same: She saw us across the table and knew she could make the better choice.
It's time for women who feel abortion is their only option to know the Church is sitting at the table with them. That while they may feel stuck between a rock and a hard place they have nothing to be afraid of and everything to hope for. Death is not the inevitable outcome, but life and love and possibilities are very real and evident before them. They need to know we sit alongside of them, not pointing fingers of judgment but extending hands of grace. They need to know that the one option they think they have is not the only one. There is another. Us.
Yes, we believe in the sanctity of life, that every baby has the God-given right to live and that abortion heinously interrupts the Creator's design. Yes, we are against abortion, but we are not against those who think it's their only way out of a difficult situation. We are for them. In our condemnations of the evils of abortion let's ensure those who feel guilty for having had one or having even considered one know there is no condemnation in Jesus. We are for them. He is for them. Together we are for their babies and we are for giving them a greater and more glorious option in Him. If we are going to continue to be against abortion, as we should be, we must with increasing measure be for adoption. If we are for sparing the lives of these unwanted babies then we must spend our lives willing to want them. Yes, preventive measures can be taken. Yes, we can encourage mothers to keep their babies and help resource them to raise them well. This is certainly the ideal, but reality does not always present us with these options. The issue will then remain: In the messiness, confusion, darkness and brokenness of all that leads to a place of hopelessness, will the Church sit at the table with the hurting and offer the more glorious way of Jesus who willingly, lovingly, graciously and sacrificially adopted us into the family of God?
While adoption is not the only solution, it is at least a beautiful one. It will not solve all the problems, but perhaps it can solve some. Adoption of the unwanted by the adopted ones in the Church is, with increasing demand, a greater and more glorious alternative to rightly confronting the reality of abortion we must strive for. Whether you bring these children into your home, or at least come alongside and serve those who do, let's spend less time pointing our fingers at the problem and more time opening our hands to be a part of the alternative solution.