Should the Church Celebrate, Lament or Be Silent Over the Recent Abortion Verdict?

Shortly after the recent Supreme Court verdict that enables each state to make its own decision on abortion, an actress named Kimberly Elise twitted, “Millions of babies will be saved from death by abortion due to the overturning of Roe. V. Wade. Hallelujah! #allglorybetoGod.”  The article reporting her tweet added, “Elise became the target of vicious and seemingly relentless criticism by many on Twitter.”  I am guessing that she had counted the cost before making that statement (Lk. 14:28) since it is unlikely that anyone will be calling Elise’s agent any time soon.

A few days before her tweet, an email was sent to me by someone who has long served faithfully in one of the churches belonging to my organization. This person wrote, “While I personally applaud the [court’s] decision, I fear the division this will cause, even with opinions in the church. Is this something the church should address with its congregation? Curious to hear your thoughts.”

I replied: “The outcome will be what you are fearing, more so in churches where this sort of stuff has never been addressed, beginning with a basic introduction to culture and faith. Since most pastors have not gone there, largely in order to avoid controversy (that is, the fear of angering half the church), I am not sure how they are going to frame this: ‘We praise God that abortion is now in the hands of each state, likely drastically reducing its frequency.’ Or ‘we lament that women won't have access to clean and legal abortion in America from here and out.’  If we say nothing on this after the passing of this landmark verdict, then, what does this say about the church, that we only focus on the issues of personal piety and redemption? While that certainly is what the church needs to do continuously, this culture/faith stuff is now at our doorstep, knocking on the door pretty hard and demanding that we respond.”

The questioner responded: “I agree with you that the church should and needs to discuss and teach on these matters. Otherwise church members are only hearing secular voices on these topics!”  Yes, this is all the more so since we are not living in an ordinary time. This feels really different. Consider abortion: It was not that long ago social liberals agreed with Hillary Clinton who, during her 2008 presidential campaign, said that “abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.” That is the classic pro-choice stance that caters to the wishes of women (but not the unborn) but within reason. But that ship has long sailed, for what we are seeing right now—a vitriolic reaction against the court’s decision—is pro-abortion. How is that different from pro-choice? Bearing in mind the way many abortion advocates frame this procedure, it seems like getting an abortion has now become, one, a rite of passage for the modern woman without which she cannot emerge as self-autonomous (“My body, my choice”), and two, a political statement.

None expresses this outlook clearer than actress Lena Dunham who, in 2016, lamented, “I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.” Topping that pathetic comment is what comedian Laurie Martin recently said as to what she would do if a man impregnated her who was later found to be a Republican: “I will joyfully abort our fetus.” Many of us were so eager to talk about social justice—racial justice in particular. Well, where is justice for the unborn? (But consider yourself excused from that question if you deem the unborn as no more than a blob of tissues and abortion as no different than removing unneeded organs, like tonsils. I will talk to you some other time.)  

Yes, this feels different, or what one colleague pastor put it in his sermon given in the week of the verdict, “This nation, collectively, has values so distorted … Christians, wake up and understand … how serious it is for the future of this nation … as a human race.”  In such a time as this, if spiritual leaders remain silent as if everything is as business as usual, maybe the Lord will remind his church, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).

Whether to speak up, of course with “gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15), really depends on who we think are sitting in our pews. And this is where I disagreed with my colleague pastor who said in the same sermon: "Parents, you are worried about your kids going to good schools. Going to good schools and coming out with wrong values, they will be enemy to you. Whatever you believe they will laugh at your face. And they are going to do things that offend God with all of their education and with all the money they receive from work."  In “disagreement” I wrote to him, “A grown up version of the kids you described in the sermon, a good number of them (perhaps more than we care to admit) attend our churches.”

So what should we do? First, we should really pray for this nation. I am praying that President Biden has the fear of God. Second, before talking about individual issues like abortion, we must educate our people about the intricate relationship between faith and culture (e.g., Christ against culture, Christ of culture, Christ above culture, etc.). Third, overcome the fear of getting what Kimberly Elise is receiving for “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15): vicious and relentless criticism. How? One, be secure in Christ! Two, consider that as the cost of following Christ. Three, passionately believe that God’s truth in Scripture triumphs over any human outlooks or opinions (Jn. 8:32). Four, take steps to helping women in crisis. Five, operate out of love (1 Jn. 4:18).