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Crossing the Divide

I must begin this ‘Tuesday Letter’ with an admission.  I am a chicken.  I have been watching and listening… reading and considering… but I have stayed safely on the sidelines since June 24th.  Actually, I am not so sure that it is safe even on the sidelines, but I know it is safer than jumping into the middle of the debate.  I have not preached a sermon, made a public comment, or written a word about the debate since June 24, 2022.  That day, the Supreme Court reversed an almost 50-year court precedent we know by the case name: Roe v. Wade.  ‘Roe’ established a constitutional right for a woman to access an abortion.  Yet, even after the Court spoke, the debate continued in homes and churches, in college classrooms and most prominently in politics.  Since I can remember, people in our society have drawn up dividing lines over this issue. The debate is seldom pretty.  The Philadelphia Inquirer acknowledged the danger of engaging in the debate with a headline which read: Families Divided Over Roe.  That’s the fear of my chicken-heart… that if we engage in the discussion, we will each pick a side, sure that we are on the right side, leaving us as a divided fellowship.  To be honest, I am afraid that when you pick your side, you will not welcome me into your part of the fellowship.  To be really honest I fear that by the end of this ‘Letter’ I will have no side where I am welcome.

I know some of you are already irritated, sure that I am stepping over another line… that imaginary line we draw between faith and politics.  Some of you are poised to write an email to slap my hand for dabbling in politics.  As a pastor… as your pastor… you do not want me to talk about politics.  But please keep in mind that we have freedom “of” religion, not freedom “from” religion.  Thomas Jefferson’s encouragement that we keep a “separation of church and state” was not meant to silence the church, but to protect the church from the incursion of the government into our practices.  Why would we relegate such important questions as those involved in this debate… why would we relegate the question of the ‘value of life’ to the work of our politicians?  If there is any time for the church to speak, now is the time.  If there is any time for your chicken-hearted pastor to speak… But honestly, you do not need to hear what Anita thinks.  You need to hear and consider what God’s Word says.

So, once again I point you to the creation story in Genesis 1- God’s miracle of life.  The poetry of those early chapters offers us a glimpse into the heart of God.  Notice the perfection of the creation… the importance of each part… the harmony of how all of creation worked together.  In a final flourish of creativity, God brings humanity into existence, “created in the image of God.”  I have written several times about the Imago Dei- the Image of God.  Humanity is intentionally set apart by God with this gift.  Our value as human beings comes from this reality.  You and I are not valuable because we can produce something of worth, or because someone else says we are, or because we say we are valuable.  Our value is intrinsic… it is woven into our being by the Creator, who has etched His Image into us.  Every human life is created in the Imago Dei… every human life.  For those of you who identify as “pro-life” you are now cheering me on.  That life in the womb bears the Image, and thus must be protected.  But how often do “pro-life” people forget that the mother also bears the Image and must be loved and protected.  Her life, her struggle, her fears, her needs are also important.  When we draw up our lines, we invariably choose one life over the other.  Yet, in God’s garden every life is valuable, every life loved, every life welcomed by grace.

Here is where your chicken-hearted pastor must make another confession, I do not know how to balance the life of the unborn and the life of the mother in the graceful way that God desires.  We live in a broken world… it is hard for some to bring a child into this brokenness.  When we hear women demanding their rights, what they are really asking is for us to see them and value them.  And then, what about the child after birth?  How often do those who champion the “pro-life” side forget that once that child is born, he will need a good education… she will need a safe community… he will need food on the table and a roof over his head… she will need a society that welcomes her race and gender as a valued facet of her being… he will need good healthcare… they will both need a world that is not warming out of control.  To be pro-life means to value and even fight for the lives on both sides of the equation.  I have not seen a politician with that kind of balance since Gov. Bob Casey, Sr.  We hear a lot of judgement, but not much grace in this debate.  And for those for whom this is not a debate, but rather a real-life situation, they need better from the Christian community than just our division and judgement.

Today, I have no easy answers to offer.  Instead, I invite you to join me as I fall on my knees in prayer.  Lord, give us humility.  Give us listening ears that yearn to hear the stories of those caught in the middle of this debate.  Give us generous hearts, willing to sacrifice to help create a world where every life is welcomed.  Protect us from our instinct to divide, to judge, to hate.  Lord, give us Your heart for the brokenhearted.

With you, called to be God’s mission of grace to a broken world,
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