An Admonishment of the Evangelical Church on the Subject of Abortion
I don’t know how old I was the first time I went to church. I’ve been in it my whole life until 2020 — Sunday school every week, Vacation Bible School every summer, and Kindergarten through 12th grade in a private Christian school for my whole education. As soon as I left for college, I immediately went church-hunting, and later found the megachurch I’d call home for the next ten years. I write this not to any one particular Evangelical individual, and I hope to say up front that if you grew up believing as I did, you should know my opinions on this subject evolved over half a decade of research and soul-searching. If you still agree with what I believed as a teenager, I’m not expecting you to give yourself political whiplash and try to change overnight. I do hope, however, that you keep digging and finding real people to empathize with and listen to and understand. But this is not for you. I write this to the powers and institution of the Evangelical Church and political movement as a whole, because it has played a vital role in the waking nightmare of the rollback of Roe v. Wade.
As part of my conservative Christian education, I was raised to believe abortion was the unforgivable sin. In my high school graduating class of 20 students, three were pregnant or had already given birth to a child by graduation day — the result of an abstinence-only education. For assignments in my Conservative Evangelical Bible classes, I had to write papers on abortion and why it was wrong, why the arguments from “the Left” were poorly constructed, and why I was right for putting the life of the hypothetical infants first. I believed all of these things well into my early twenties, until I began to read the stories from women who had actually experienced them — women who would have died without an abortion, women who desperately wanted a child but needed an abortion because it was more humane than giving birth to a child with no lungs, women who had dreams to follow and other children to care for who needed an abortion because their lives — all of their lives — depended on it.
You, the institution of the Evangelical Christian Right, say you’re Pro-Life. You claim it means that you care about people. You claim that abortion is murder, and you hold tightly to this belief, because if you lose it, who’s to say what previous core belief you’ll lose next? To you, abortion is only a sin, not a safe and necessary medical procedure required by hundreds of thousands of women in the United States every year to merely survive, and required by hundreds of thousands more to thrive. To you, the Evangelical Church, those hundreds of thousands of women, all with names and faces and stories and hopes and dreams, are merely an “appeal to emotion.” You rail against the idea that a woman should have a right to choose what she does with her own body, and you tighten your grip on her neck as you decide it’s your right to choose, not hers. Because to you, Evangelical Church, abortion is your foothold to power. Your well-trimmed narrative of abortion, including when you’ve decided to believe a life begins, is how you control your congregant’s actions. But that’s not enough for you.
People are leaving your institutions in droves — even your well-manicured, celebrity-filled ones — and it drives you mad. When you realize your control over those who willingly enter your houses of worship is slipping, your stranglehold over those you claim to empower but only abuse tightens. So you run to Caesar, employing the use of his lawmakers, his power, to strengthen your own. To hell with the Separation of Church and State, you say. We’ve got lives to protect! But you don’t protect life. You protect your own power. You only want to conserve the control you believe you have. You subjugate and manipulate and crush, and then you demand that you be served. You demand that your subjects spend hours and hours of their own time, in many cases away from their families, in what you call “God’s House.” And yet you call yourselves Pro-Life, the party of “family values.”
Jesus said he came that you might have life, and have it to the full. Saint Irenaeus said that the glory of God is humankind, fully alive. Tell me — what about your spaces promotes the fullness of life? Fullness — in all its messy, untethered wildness? From where I stand, on the other side of a lifetime in your institutions, your Evangelical spaces have become whitewashed tombs, sparkling outwardly and rotting from the inside, reeking of death. You claim freedom yet demand subjugation. You worship the death cult of capitalism, because it tells you your Manifest Destiny is not only good, but profitable. You idolize purity, yet protect the wolves who prey on women and children among your fold. Apparently God can only forgive a Man After His Own Heart, but not a woman after that same Heart who needs an abortion to survive.
A petulant ruler, you’ve made abortion central to your theology. “We must protect the unborn,” you say. So telling of your institution, that your greatest care is for the ones who don’t yet exist here and now. Meanwhile, those who are here — the poor, the sick, the orphan, the widow, the marginalized, the refugee — they get little or no attention from you. They cost you money, time, and influence, and you need that trifecta to win elections and gain more power. You are no different than the mob who killed the Christ because he didn’t come to wage a political war. You are no different than the ones who shouted for Barabas. You have hidden your faces from the image of the Christ in you and taken on the role of the Accuser, punishing women who choose to build their lives as they see fit.
You crush the women you claim to protect under your heel, your foot on our necks, telling us we must procreate to have a purpose. You tell us that children who don’t exist are more important than our own God-ordained life paths and desires. You require us to sacrifice our dreams. Our futures. Our selves. You demand this so that we churn out more Christian soldiers, to continue your perverse, power-hungry mission.
What you don’t know is that following God for those of us outside your walls means stepping into a fuller, more vibrant reality — one that does not give such weight to your toxic, masculine power structures. You are so obsessed with the punitive, angry god that you have created in your own image that you know nothing of the God of the universe. The God I know is open, beautiful, in all; the God I know is Love. The God I know is not beholden to your demand for certainty; neither are we beholden to your demands that we bow to your stolen power.
You don’t care about us, the women of your churches. You don’t care about what we’ve sacrificed for you. You don’t want community. You want empire. You don’t want to know how you could improve, become more Christ-like. We’ll tell you, but you won’t take it to heart. You want cleared forests and more land. You will threaten to crush us if we stand in your path. You will tell us it’s for the Kingdom, but you will disregard the notion that you’re building your own kingdom, not God’s. Your ears are closed to correction. “If you bring criticism, bring solutions,” you say. But you don’t want that either. Solutions means losing money. Solutions means slowing down, losing ground. Your god is gold, your savior is your own splendor, and your holy spirit is Spotify Playlists. You are a detriment to your own mission. You are enamored with ego, Grammy nominations, clout, fame, and dominion. It is not Christ. Your cause is no longer noble or good. Your church is a sham, and your value of expansion over empathy is meaningless. What is the meaning of “building the Church” if all you’re building returns to dust?
“So what are you building,” you ask me, “that gives you such a right to criticize?” I’m building my house on a firm fucking foundation. And I’m doing it by leaving yours.