I’m using this letter with permission. The issue is the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (next Sunday and how many are reducing it to an anti-abortion Sunday). What are your thoughts? (And I assume you’ll offer some wisdom for this pastor.) Anyone have experience with seeking to expand the meaning of “Life” for next Sunday?
I am writing with a heavy, somewhat confused heart, and am wondering if you and/or your Jesus Creed readers would consider helping me find some degree of clarity.
Sunday, January 20th, is instituted by former president Ronald Reagan as the National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. I have been informed at our church that, in order to honor that day, we may include in the order of worship a video related to the sanctity of human life that has, as its sole background photo, a picture of an unborn baby. The video is not a “for sure” thing yet, but it is a strong possibility.
The video (and its text) are obviously addressing the sanctity of unborn human life alone. When I viewed it I saw it as more of an “anti-abortion” piece than a “sanctity of human life” piece. They overlap; but they are not the same.
There is not one thing I disagree with in the video. However, I think its emphasis on one, politically charged issue, is a problem.
I believe it leaves many of us in our white, middle-class church feeling smug, self-righteous, and “off the hook” on a multitude of complex issues, all related to the sanctity of human life. When we watch this short video or focus on only one issue, we may feel like we don’t have to think about what we believe about issues like:
the multitudes of Americans without health care,
recent cuts in funding to programs like WIC or other food stamp programs,
waging war against other countries,
killing their civilians,
poor children in America,
the death penalty,
the inequities in our housing and educational systems, etc.
On top of all this, I noted that though the very next day (January 21) is also a national day of remembrance (grudgingly instituted by Ronald Reagan after Congress forced his hand) … Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday … we are not even mentioning it. Not even a tip of the hat … Not a peep about racism, about the church’s role in it, nothing … despite the fact that much of our new mission focus is toward people of color.
As I have prayed and thought about this, I am finding myself pondering the possibility that I may not be able, in good conscience, to preach that day if the staff proceeds as planned. I’m trying to do this quietly and with great amounts of kindness and civility. But, I cannot stand idly by while we focus in on a single issue to the extreme neglect of other issues that are just as close to God’s heart. My belief is that this kind of narrow focus severely hampers the church’s reputation amongst seekers and non-Christians, and presents a very small snapshot of God’s heart. It also tends to skew very strongly toward one political party. Sanctity of life means more than anti-abortion, and I say this as a mother and a pastor.
This all feels highly politically charged and “dangerous” and I am very unsure about how to even verbalize my discomfort without coming across as a person who supports abortion, which I am not.
I realize I may be completely out of bounds on this, and am open to thoughtful critique.
I am very curious about what other churches, pastors and preachers are doing with this very interesting, almost ironic juxtaposition of days set aside by our national government.
I am very curious about what you might do in this situation to work for a more consistent and comprehensive pro-life ethic, as well as for justice and reconciliation in the area of race in America.
What should the church do with both of these topics in light of the Jesus Creed?
Thanks for whatever help you can give me.