False Dichotomies

Many people presume that because I am a pastor, I must, therefore, be pro-life. It is presumed to be the “Christian” position on the subject, right?

And I want to be able to call myself “pro-life”. Really, I do. I am a big fan of life. I am thankful for it. I do my best to treasure it each day. I work hard in both my personal and professional life to try to make life better for the people I encounter on this journey through life.

Life is beautiful. Life is a gift. Life is precious.

Who wouldn’t be a fan of life?

So I want to declare myself “pro-life”.

But, somehow, that term has already been taken. And the people who have claimed it have told me I don’t belong. That I can’t be in the club because, as much as I love life, I also believe women should be able to make their own choices about pregnancies and abortion.

They invite me, instead to join the “baby killer” club. Or the “amoral abortions for everyone all the time” club. Or the “pro-abortion club”. At its best, we call it the “pro-choice” club.

But while I am a fan of keeping abortion legal, of allowing women to make their own best decisions about what to do with their own bodies, I’m not a big fan of abortion. If a woman came to me for counsel, I would invite her to consider many other choices before she made the choice for abortion.

Where’s the “let’s improve the status and condition of women so that every pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy” club?

Where is the “let’s call ‘rape’ a crime and stop finding excuses for men’s horrible behavior” club?

Where is the “childhood poverty is a real problem and some women can’t afford to raise children” club?

Where is the “doctors recommend termination because the pregnancy is not viable” club?

How do I sign up for the “physical health of the mother’s life matters” club, so the life of a fetus is not afforded more value than the life of the woman carries the fetus to term? (For an important testimony about this issue, read here.)

How can I join the “single mothers and unmarried pregnant women and girls still face stigmatization and judgment, so let’s take care of that before we move on” club?

And how can we wrest the “pro-life” mantle from people that seem to believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth? I would like to expand the term beyond “anti-choice” and make it a broader celebration of all of life.

If we were pro-life, we’d be opposed to the death penalty. (I have to give props to my Catholic brothers and sisters, who do have consistency here).

chittester

If we were pro-life, we would be actively working to reduce the number of deaths in this country by gun violence.

If we were pro-life, we would be busily reminding our politicians that children (and their mothers and fathers) need access to health care, education, food, and safe living conditions in order to succeed in this world and to live good and healthy lives.

But, instead, we narrowly define our terms about only this one issue, as if our lives weren’t complicated and connected to each other, and as if we weren’t each doing the best we can do to get through the day.

I faced this choice once. I was young, unmarried (and not ready to be married), and not ready or able to raise a child. And when I considered my choices, I was thankful the choice was mine. I instantly had great compassion for my sisters who have chosen abortion.

I was also thankful I didn’t have to make the difficult choice of abortion. Because I was healthy. I had a family who wouldn’t disown me. I had access to healthcare and good food. I had friends who stood by me.

I placed my son for adoption. Without a doubt it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. The most painful. And also the most beautiful. My son is now 25 years old and I have been a part of his life all the way along. I am so thankful for the gift of his life, for the blessing he and his family have been in my life.

And all these years later, as profoundly thankful as I am for his life, I remain firmly pro-choice in my pro-life-ness. Because one thing I have learned is that life is difficult. There are painful choices to make. And rather than take away those choices from people in difficult moments, why don’t we, instead, love the lives who are in the midst of the pain. We could seek to make their lives better, safer, stronger, and healthier so they may more easily believe that life is the best choice for them to make.

Let’s stop with the judging. Lay it down. Because the people who were the meanest and the nastiest to me when I was a publicly pregnant teenaged girl were the “pro-life” crowd who judged me to be a sinner and had no qualms in telling me how I had erred.

If they truly cared for the life of my unborn child, shouldn’t that care have extended past the circumstances of his conception? Shouldn’t their pro-life-ness have extended far enough to offer me help in my life, especially as I made the choice they were seeking to mandate for everyone?

How sad is it when the most compelling reason I could think of to get an abortion was so “good” Christian people wouldn’t judge me?

Judgment was not what I needed. And thankfully, I was a part of a faith community who chose love and grace over judgment. They helped me through the difficult days once I had made the choice for life. I will forever be thankful for the grace of God I received from the people who mattered.

So let’s choose life without removing choice from the equation. Choose all of life. The messiness. The pain. The beauty. The joy. And let’s create a society where, no matter what choice women make, they are able to live into a better life each day, for themselves, and for the children they choose to have.

This article was also posted at There is Power In the Blog.

And see this article about Planned Parenthood’s language change.

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53 thoughts on “False Dichotomies

  1. This is another sermon that’s above and beyond the word “excellent.” One of these days I’m going to find a phrase or word that conveys my delight in reading what you wrote. Good job, Marci!

  2. Marci, once again you bring the full spectrum of life to the forefront and handle issues in way that actually make sense. You have always been a forward thinker and I am so glad to have you as a friend! Keep the brilliance coming because slowly and steadily we continue to make change for the better. Time for me to go do my service work now.

  3. Thank you, Marci, for speaking my heart so plainly here. I was raised with a supportive, Christian family and faced a similar circumstance to yours and kept my baby. While judgment (unrighteous) has been a constant companion for me and my daughter the past 28 years, love and support have also been, and I applaud your plainness and frankness about what true pro-life support means and what is the true value of a human life to us all.

  4. People are pro-life until the child is born, and then, sister, you better not be a problem to society. So how are we to think? Adoption is indeed perfect for many, but for many with severe depression, closely suicidal, the end does not bring about a success story. For many teens, whose families insist since they did the deed they take responsibility, how on earth does punishing a child help the situation? Abortion is complex, and I shiver every time someone blindly says it’s another form of birth control. I have stories of it in my family, if anyone ever needs to hear, and none of them were easy.

  5. I think what is being left out of this whole discussion is the fact that a baby is a life at conception. It has nothing to do with pro-life people being “self-righteous”. There are other alternatives. Even if you don’t agree with that, if you actually look at the facts, it is a living part of the mother. It’s no longer just “her body”. By 20-21 days the heart is beating. Around 22 days the baby is circulating blood. By 8 weeks a baby can actually feel pain. These are documented, scientific facts. Most women have abortions after 8 weeks. I am in a church (yes, church) group of other women who have made this sad choice, and our sadness has nothing to do with what society may or may not think of us. It has to do with the fact that, even though we know the Lord has forgiven us for killing our babies, we have a hard time forgiving ourselves, because we know the facts of what we actually did.

    • Thank you for your comment Francine.
      We can disagree on when life begins (and I know that many people do disagree with me on this), but the larger point of my post is that when we say “pro-life”, we shouldn’t only be talking about 3 week old embryos. We should be looking at life more broadly.
      I am sorry for your pain and loss. I am thankful you have a group with whom you can meet. But I would encourage you to consider this–the God who loves and created you is capable of doing more than forgiving you. The God of love and mercy, who knit us together in our mother’s wombs (as the Psalmist would say) is holding us all in the palm of God’s hand, under the shelter of God’s wing. You, me, the son I placed for adoption, any aborted fetus, are all safely and firmly in God’s care. Blessings to you.

      • I realize we have a kind and loving God, Marci. I will pray that you will also be convicted in what the Lord would want you to believe.

      • Francine, I believe in the South your last sentence would be expressed this way: “Bless your heart.” Even I know what that really means…but you’re right about the kind and loving God part.

      • Jules, No my last sentence didn’t really mean “Bless your heart.” And, if I did what does that “really mean”. What I was saying was that I hope that Marci would be open to what the Holy Spirit would speak to her heart.

      • Francine, let me apologize for throwing out a phrase but not explaining it. The ‘tone’ of your sentence, which admittedly is hard to interpret in a comment, sounded an awful lot like what some people say when they are trying to be a little presumptuous about someone else’s spiritual journey or relationship with God. I don’t know if you know Marci personally or not, but I do and I know her to be as faithful to the Spirit and open to God’s love and justice as anyone I know. She is an amazing pastor and a thoughtful, sensitive writer who does not need me to come to her defense. I wish you well.

  6. Thank you for putting into such eloquent words what I have thought on this issue for years… I have already shared it and hope your word spreads. If I lived in Idaho I’d definitely attend your church–keep up the good work!

  7. Stunningly honest, transparent, and beautiful. Thank you so, so much for your vulnerability.

    As I read your reflection I was reminded of something a chaplain friend once said: From a place of ignorance and with a bit of cynicism, some conclude it’s moral relativism. I know it as moral reality.

    Indeed, life is messy. Answers and solutions, if they are found, are rarely easy and convenient. Context in almost every matter is essential.

  8. Marci: I liked you before. I like you even more now. I’m really glad to know you, and proud to say we’ve laughed together…..

  9. I have to disagree with you here. Over and over again, the Bible makes no distinction between a human being in the womb and a human being that has been born. Therefore, a human being is a human being from conception to the time he/she dies.

    I also note that there are no Scriptural refrences in this article. I would be interested to know what passages say that abortion is okay. Thanks.

    • Travis, thank you for your comment, but it isn’t pertinent to my post. You are certainly free to define life by whichever metrics you choose, including scripture.
      I don’t seek to take away your choice to do so.

      • 1) You said in your article that you wanted to keep abortion legal. Therefore, my comment is pertinent, as I believe the Bible is quite clear that abortion is not something God smiles upon. I am glad that you chose life for your son.

        2) There are a number of organizations in the area in which I live that do support ladies who are/were in the same situation in which you found yourself. I will link one here: http://choosehope.org/

        3) If one doesn’t live their life according to Scripture, then what exactly do we have to base our life experiences on? How do we know the answers to our problems, when we choose not to read the instruction manual?

      • Travis,
        Scripture actually doesn’t say anything about the 21st century abortion discussion. It does say to choose life. It does say to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, show compassion to your brothers and sisters etc. I am not really interested in convincing you to interpret scripture as I do. And while I am sure that God does indeed choose life, I also believe God is big enough to present in the rest of it as well.

        My point, simply, is that your ability to interpret Scripture ends at someone else’s body.

        We do not live in a Christian theocracy. So while you and I both choose to use scripture to inform our lives (albeit somewhat differently) neither of us has the right to force that choice on someone else.

        There are lots of things we can base our life experiences on–kindness, compassion, mercy, are three things that come to mind( and which I find in plenty in Scripture, by the way).

        Thank you for sharing the link. I hope it will be helpful to women facing this decision. I was thankful to know that adoption was a good choice for me. May it be so for many others.

      • Regarding Scripture, its use and interpretation, the following things come to mind:

        The Church and people who called themselves Christian existed long before there was anything known as “scripture” and the thing we now know and call the Bible. So I think a fair question to consider might be the source or compass these early following looked to for guidance.

        Interpretation of Scripture is, of course, is subjective. Before the printing press, the rise in literacy rates, and the various reformations in the Church, there was only once source of interpretation: that of the papacy (bishops, cardinals, pope). And even then, there wasn’t a high or elevated view of Scripture (something that is a fairly recent development).

        If we’re honest, then we know that we all pick and choose interpretations based on our particular biases, needs and agendas. Proof-texting, as it’s called, is practiced by conservatives, liberals, and everyone in between.

        There is a seemingly unavoidable problem with a “literal” interpretation of Scripture or treating Scripture as an “instruction manual” and final arbiter of our lives. That is, if one totally discards context (e.g. fails to consider the social, historical, political settings, and literary genre surrounding authorship and original audience, and then the final selection of the books / letters that made it into the Bible), then it seems we are faced with some major inconsistencies. Of course, very few of us, if any at all, really employ a purely literal interpretation when reading the Bible. That is, we all make interpretive choices. The instructions that slaves should obey their masters; that women are to keep silent, keeping the Sabbath, wearing clothes of mixed fabrics, the strict conditions of divorce, are a few that come to mind.

        As for my bible, I don’t recall Jesus saying anything about living a “life according to Scripture.”

      • Thanks for these comments. I am going to end the scriptural interpretation part of these comments. It has been my experience that people do not change their views on how they read the Bible because of comments people make on blogs.

  10. I was taught in my religious upbringing, and I firmly believe, that a child whose life ends in the womb is given another opportunity at life in another body elsewhere. I believe the scriptures to be the work of God, and I like to focus on the plentiful number of them which teach forgiveness, tolerance, long-suffering, patience and leaving judgment to God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about healing and forgiveness, not damnation, and I know the God we worship is Great enough to find a way for souls to live who have not yet had the opportunity to do so. He is also Great enough to give us the healing (mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically) we need to truly live this life from conception to death.

  11. It is so great to see someone in the church finally say what thousands (I hope more) have been saying. Finally pointing at the contradictions of the political system and the people who following it without any question.

  12. I love this post! It expresses my views exactly, though much more eloquently than I could. I’d also like to describe myself as “pro-life”, but I think that a better term is “pro-Quality of life”

  13. There was a wonderful discussion on NPR about this yesterday, about a secret 5 year dialogue that has been held by some of most adamant pro-choice and pro-life leaders together trying to find common ground. I just caught a bit of it in my car, but it sounded fascinating and very helpful, the result was a lot of compassion and respect for each other. This is very important, I believe, to end the mud slinging and hatred and stereotyping of folks who are passionate about this issue from any point of view.

    I think consciousness raising is desperately needed around this issue. I am pro-life but not pro criminalization of abortion. I can certainly understand why women seek abortion, and yet it breaks my heart that someone would see abortion as a best alternative. I think abortion is very damaging to all involved, first of course the babies, who die violent painful deaths, an issue that is not addressed in this world as far as I can tell. But abortion is clearly damaging to the mothers who have them. There’s a lot of statistics to support this and there’s a lot of good information at feministsforlife.org, a compassionate organization that seeks to help women heal from abortion as well as working to prevent abortion in a very nonviolent and nonjudgmental way.

    I believe unwanted pregnancy prevention is the real key to this issue. And hardly anyone seems to be talking about this aspect: I think our young men and young women are very confused about the sacredness of sex. Since the ’60s sexual revolution and now all the movies and TV depicting ridiculously short courtships where people have sex with someone they just met, there’s an underlying sense of urgency to get to it before you even get to know someone, which is wreaking havoc on relationships, creating a lot of unwanted pregnancies, children at risk, and very miserable people. Two people ought to develop sacred friendships before sex ever happens! But it must be a choice made by those people. And I think at this point in time, it is more up to women than men…

    Due to genetics, men have significantly more sex drive, so I believe it is we women who need to become a lot more choosy and a lot less desperate for men. Starting at a very young age we need to teach our daughters how to see their worth, which would result in a lot of men having to grow up and be more responsible and respectful in order to be with a woman. I believe it is possible to educate young women to see that they don’t have to compromise their bodies to men and boys who are not in it for love, how to discern this difference, and the amazing truth that they can actually change the way a man sees them when they make him wait for sex, then we would have a lot less unwanted pregnancy. I am not talking about the abstinence programs that lay big guilt trips with their religious overtones, but simply that loving and respectful sex is something worth waiting for. Of course we need to teach our young men how to respect women, no doubt. But I think women have a lot more power in this world stemming exactly from this issue that they are not currently using. And even beyond the sexual aspects, this power would literally transform the world into a more loving place, by we women standing strong with our values and knowing our value.

    I have so much more to say and no more time right now to write.
    Blessings to all,
    Laurie

  14. in reading my comment I just made, I realize I need and want to say that men need to respect themselves more as well, and that we need to teach our daughters and our sons to respect themselves… and I know this good behavior is not being modeled in a lot of homes but that is all the more reason to have our public schools start very early teaching children how to respect themselves and each other, not just around the issue of sex, but true self respect. It ought to be a required course every semester of public school, full of lively discussion…

  15. Thank you for writing such an intelligent, beautiful, and compassionate article on such an emotional and controversial topic. For years, I have struggled with how to express my beliefs on the topic of abortion, and I believe you were able to put my own beliefs into words that I could not find. I have always had uneasy feelings when the topic would be brought up because I never knew how to express my beliefs that although I hate the idea of abortion, and I wish there were none in this world, I also cannot fathom forcing girls and women to have children they do not want. I am also pro-life even though I believe women should have choice. I also want to be able to take back that label, and I agree that education is the key to reducing or even possibly eliminating the need for abortion in most cases. Bless you for choosing adoption for your son. I know that you faced a very difficult decision, but you did what was absolutely the best thing for you and your son.

  16. Pingback: False Dichotomies, Cont…. « Glass Overflowing

  17. Hi Marci, I saw your post in the comments section of the NYT and came to your site for the first time today. I agree with you 100%. It’s something my wife & I struggle with, because we are both Catholic, but her & her family are much more uncompromising in their beliefs and I have a “live & let live” and “judge not lest ye be judged” attitude. One thing I’ve mentioned to them before, is that just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it will stop. Murder is illegal, so is stealing, and using drugs, yet any of those things happen countless times everyday. So if a law is somehow passed to outlaw abortion, would that truly put an end to it? Absolutely not. So I try to be “pro-choice” in the sense that we should offer more support to women in need, because I feel like the painful decision to abort is often times reached out of desperation more than anything.

    I also like that you went to Trinity, I grew up in San Antonio, and currently live in Dallas with my wife and our 5 month old baby boy.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Andy!
      I agree, if we really took the command to “choose life” seriously, our actions would be more compassionate and focused on people and not Roe v Wade.

  18. Reblogged this on Pandora's Box Project and commented:
    I first contacted Marci Glass last spring after reading a blog post she wrote. The post focused on comments, made about rape counseling, by a member of the Idaho State Legislator, a man who is also a respected member and Elder in Marci’s congregation. I was exhilarated by Marci’s writing which proposed that we focus first on making abortion unnecessary before presuming to make it illegal. Not long after hearing the first fledgling of a first draft of our play, Marci and I spoke about this subject in more depth. In my naïvety I asked Marci for help in understanding the position of a person believes abortion should be illegal,– we were at the time struggling with how to fairly represent a view so far from our own. Marci, rightfully, redirected my attention. I had convinced myself that this was a matter of being either: for, or against, legal abortion, and I was wrong, I was only looking at the surface. Marci could not help me to understand a person who want’s to end abortion by controlling it, because her attention is turned to the harder path of confronting and taking responsibility for our deeper societal issues. She seeks to end abortion not by control but by empowerment. In doing so she reminded me to engage the root of this issue not it’s physical manifestation.

    Pandora’s Box Project began as a sort of liberal battle cry but it can be so much more,
    We can not change a culture that seeks to return to a simpler time, when gender rolls we easily defined by willing it, we have to take the harder path, we have to confront the negativity that has become so pervasive around issues of gender, we can’t be dismissive of a person’s fears but we can take responsibility and work together to a better future, it is at our peril that we close our ears to those we may disagree with, we are often less different than we think. 

    Following our phone conversation, Marci wrote this post: in her writing we are encouraged to engage in the harder work of supporting and loving women, rather than condemning them.

  19. Pingback: False Dichotomies | Pandora's Box Project

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  21. Would Jesus assist with an abortion and be happy with the end result ?? I didn’t think so. That should be all you need to know to not promote “choice”. Each child is a unique creation of God no matter what the circumstances. You are in favor of something Jesus condems–murder. You are to represent Christ in your words and actions. You are not to be of the world and support all that the world condones. But it seems Presbyterians can not find much sin in anything anymore. Quit justifying ending a life just because of the less than ideal circumstances of the mother. Everyone is not a victim. Everyone should be responsible for their actions. Churches should reach out to pregnant girls and offer them whatever they need to be able to keep the baby or research adoption options for them. This is what ALL churches need to be doing! Not supporting “pro-choice” abortion mills. Churches need to educate what horrors go on in these clinics and what is involved. These places promote death. Why else do they refuse to let girls have ultrasounds or hear a heartbeat ? How can churches support these places AND be following Christ ?? Impossible !

    • Heather, I do actually believe Jesus is present with women who have abortions, weeping alongside them. Is it the ideal? No. Should it be encouraged? No. But nothing can separate us from the love of God, according to Paul in the letter to the Romans.
      Your rhetoric is unnecessarily inflammable and does not help the conversation. There is no such thing as a “pro-choice abortion mill.”

      Had you actually read my post, you would see I am not a fan of abortion either. I believe the best way to end abortion is to make it unnecessary by providing contraception, by helping women rise out of poverty, by giving them access to health care and day care, and by stopping the cycle of shame people (especially “pro-life” Christians) place on unmarried mothers.

      You loudly claim to be “pro-life”. Do you then support access to birth control? Subsidized pre-school and day care? Assistance for women who face food shortage? You are clearly “pro-birth” and “pro-fetus”. I hear less care for the lives of the women involved. Once your rhetoric for “life” includes the lives of the pregnant women, let me know. Then we can talk.

      I would also add that I speak for myself and not for the congregation I serve or the denomination.

  22. Pingback: False Dichotomies | Glimpsing God

  23. Thank you, thank you for being such a calm voice of reason on this heated subject. I agree with everything you said.

  24. Would a heart beat be considered a life or a choice? I cannot understand how anyone with a conscience can support the execution of innocent baby. I wonder if you would still support it if there was a 50% chance it could stop your heart beat as well. It is murder in the first degree, no matter the reason. I will continue to pray God will show you how evil and wrong it really is. What happened to taking responsibility for your actions. Jesus would weep for the evil sin they are committing nothing else.

    • Sorry you can’t see my bigger point, Sara, which is that we should spend more of our energy making sure every pregnancy is planned, wanted, and supported. Once we do that, I believe abortion will not be seen as necessary by so many women.
      Thank you for reading.

    • Yes. I sent an email to the address you used to comment in the first instance, but maybe you haven’t received that. I’m interested in dialogue. I’m not interested in inflammatory rhetoric that is not factually based. I am also not interested in changing your mind. And by using ALL CAPS, it seems you are more interested in making your point than in having a conversation. Blessings to you.

  25. Pingback: Jesus and the Government | Glass Overflowing

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