A distant family member has been sending me questions about my beliefs. When he started doing this I confess that I often responded angrily because I sensed accusation in his questions. My sense is that he thinks that because I’m a pastor I should believe the same things he as a conservative Christian believes. For me, I just remember all those conservative Christians of my youth who made sure to let me know that I was not acceptable to them and thus to their God. This no being accepted was due to my family circumstances and a general “you’re not living a godly life” accusation. We don’t really know each other (live in different parts of the country). The organization to which he refers is the Democratic Party

The most important question I had was about your support for an organization that promotes killing the unborn. I don’t understand how that can be justified especially by a pastor; can you help me understand that please? When I think about these two issues, I wonder if Jesus is more grieved by racism in this country or the legalized taking of innocent lives of the unborn.

Dear _______,
I have to confess that in re-reading through the discussion up to this point I hadn’t noticed that in addition to saying above that the Democratic Party “promotes killing the unborn”, you stated that I thought abortion was an effective means of birth control. I never said that.
What I did say is something to the effect that I am amazed that some people who claim to be against abortion are also, when you get into the details of their positions, against the use of birth control. It makes no sense to make it difficult, or impossible, for women 20170121_woc633_0to obtain what they need to prevent unwanted pregnancy. More pregnancies will only lead to more abortions. This leads me to conclude that many so called “right to life” people are actually just against the freedom of women.
I start with this because in the last month “The Economist” published a chart from the CDC that shows that abortion is now at a lower level than it was before Roe v Wade. How has that happened? According to the accompanying article:

A study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that this pattern was probably behind a decline in the abortion rate of a similar magnitude between 2008 and 2011. In turn, it attributed the falling numbers of unintended pregnancies to increased use of contraceptives. During that period, birth and abortion rates dropped in tandem. Data on unintended pregnancy rates are not yet available for 2011-2014, but the authors suggest this may be a continuing effect. (http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/01/daily-chart-16)

As to me “supporting an organization that promotes abortion”
There is a difference between saying that women have the right to make decisions regarding their own bodies, while also working very hard to provide women access to full reproductive care and “promotion of abortion.”
I don’t know one person who promotes abortion and I know a lot of people who are far  more strident than me. The reality is that whether legal or not abortions have happened and will continue to happen. I don’t know statistics but I have read tragic stories of women who found themselves in desperate situations. I have also read firsthand, heartbreaking accounts of women who, for reasons of health, have had to undergo an abortion. These women were celebrating the pending arrival of a child only to discover that something was incredibly wrong. I will err here on the side of compassion.
As a human being I value life. I don’t limit that valuing of life to the fetus and this is why I think that those who claim moral superiority are in many ways morally repugnant.
This is what I believe:

  • I believe that life is precious and hard, and that the ability to think critically is important.
  • I believe that providing women (especially those without financial means) access to comprehensive reproductive health that includes education and birth control is the most effect way to eliminate abortion.
  • I believe that sometimes women make poor choices (as do men) out of desperation and fear, thus we must have social services that help to provide stability in the lives of people living in poverty. (I don’t see the Republican Party doing anything here except saying that people living  in poverty don’t deserve help)
  • I believe that children are deserving of life. That means adequate food, shelter, clothing, education, and a safe environment.
    • So I support welfare programs for poor families. And sadly, the Republican Party in this country seeks to punish people for being poor and it is the children who suffer most.
    • So I believe that we must accept the refugee child and her or his parents.
    • So I believe that people deserve an environment that if free from harmful pollution.
      • I find it amazing that Republicans in Congress are going to authorize 20 billion dollars to pay for an unneeded wall but for two years have not come up with the 50 million dollars needed to fix the water lines in Flint, MI.
    • I believe that children (and all people) deserve to live free from the dangers of gun violence. Far more people have been killed in this country by guns than by terrorists (and far more people have been killed by white Christian terrorists than Muslim terrorists).
      • Did you know that gun accidents kill at least one child every other day? (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/10/14/ap-usa-today-gun-accidents-children/91906700/)
      • Did you know that Republican Party has forbidden the CDC or any other governmental organization to research ways to prevent gun violence? They do track it (at least until this year and 36,252 died by gun fire in 2015.
      • Did you know that we are the only developed in nation in the world with this pathology?
      • Did you know that toddlers kill more people in the USA than terrorists? (http://www.snopes.com/toddlers-killed-americans-terrorists/)
  • I believe that in their desire to affect the Supreme Court the Republicans in the Senate have destroyed the norms of that institution by refusing to vote for almost a year on President Obama’s nominee.
    • I believe this is a combination of a desire to overturn Roe v Wade as well as racism that has been directed against President Obama from before he took office.
    • I also believe that many Republicans have made a faustian bargain in their hunger for power and that we all will suffer. I wish I were wrong here, but each day brings more news of norms destroyed, ethics ignored, and hatefulness directed against minorities, especially Muslims. As a white middle class woman I could choose to ignore this and I would be ok for a time. But I would be deceiving myself because our country is going down a very dark road and we all will pay the price eventually. But as a pastor I don’t have that choice and so I will continue to work as long as I can in loving God and loving my neighbor and I will proclaim the love and presence of God to those who desperately need to hear it.

Getting back to your question about how I can support an organization like the Democratic Party. I am actually registered to vote as unaffiliated. Prior to that I was registered to vote as a Republican. It was through my study of scripture, prayer, seminary studies (at an Evangelical seminary), and immersion in a community other than white suburban middle class that I came to the realization that the Republican Party is “pro-life” in name only. While not all Republicans may feel this way, the party’s policies are pro big business and their message is one of disdain for people of color, poor people, women, and religious minorities.
So while you may not approve of me and my beliefs “as a pastor” I know that I am right where Jesus wants me to be.
May the peace of the Lord be with you,