We’re gonna need a bigger table…

Honestly, there’s not much reason for me to weigh in on the Todd Akin controversy. Others have done so much more profoundly and better than I have.

Still, here’s what I’ve wanted to say:

Todd Akin’s comment was stupid (even the way he said it, “shut that whole thing down” betrays a complete lack of respect for the intricacies of a female reproductive system). I’m not an OB-GYN, but I did have a little run in with secondary infertility and let me tell you, I spent about two years absolutely obsessed with how babies get made.

But other than his lack of compassion, and speaking ability; other than his wrong-headed understanding of science, his position against abortion in all cases is consistent with the GOP’s official platform, right?

But I’ve avoided making comments about it on social media because I know that I have friends who sit in both “camps” in the abortion debate. And I didn’t really want that fight happening on my feeds. (Although, I have to say this: I am pretty certain that all of my friends are people who are incredibly horrified by rape, and respectful of legitimate obstetrical and gynecological medicine.) Also, please note that I will delete any comments that are nasty, un-thoughtful, unfair, stereotyping, etc. Let’s keep it well within the realm of Christ’s peace here, people.

Really, I’m not unique in this: that I know people who range the spectrum on this issue. I am, though, acutely aware of it because of the unusual trajectory of my ministry career.

I went to a denominational seminary and was ordained in a denomination that could be called “conservative.” Whatever that means…the terms conservative and liberal in relation to the church bother me, and often it’s trickier than just labeling an individual/congregation/denomination with one of those terms. (However, to play into that whole set of stereotypes, Todd Akin holds an M.Div from a seminary whose denomination kicked my first denomination out of fellowship when it got too liberal for them…I’m sure the splintered state of the Church makes Jesus cry.)

And then I left that denomination for another one, not so much because I had policy issues with my “mother church” but because I needed a job, and they were few and far between for women in that denomination in that particular time and place.

I’ve since served in churches that could be called liberal.

Sometimes I don’t know where I belong. Usually I just figure that I belong wherever God calls me. So, I am where I am.

But what this means is that I have friends who are, to use those terms I don’t like, both liberal and conservative Christians.

And I’ve heard good and compassionate arguments from pro-choice and pro-life folks. I’ve heard arguments from pro-life folks that contain echoes of feminism. I’ve heard arguments from pro-choice folks that are filled with the compassion of Jesus. I’ve heard people on both sides talk about the agony they recognize their position could cause someone.

And I wish these friends could all come over to my place for dinner sometime, instead of meeting up in cyberspace. They all love Jesus. Most of them are hilarious, entertaining dinner guests. They are kind. They care about people. They are working hard to hear God’s call for their lives. They love Jesus. We could have a lovely time…

…even if the dinner table were evenly split over abortion.

I wish we all hung out with people who didn’t agree with us on everything. Have you ever noticed all the little tiny bickering matches the disciples were having even as they followed Jesus?

Being with people who are not exactly like us is good for our lives: as citizens of a country; as followers of Jesus; as human beings.

I’m glad that I hear from people on more than one side of this issue. I’m not always sure what to think myself. It’s complicated.

And, abortion is tricky. I did a funeral last week for a baby who died at 22 weeks, as in 22 weeks from gestation.

The procedure that ended this pregnancy probably could be classified as an abortion. There might also be a way to not classify it as an abortion. The whole thing was terribly, terribly complicated. I can’t go into the details, but just imagine a complicated moral dilemma on this one, and then add about three more complicating factors and you get the picture.

I played no part in counseling for or against this in my capacity as clergy. I don’t think I should have. I think the people who made this decision were guided by their faith. What they decided is between them and God, and while it’s none of my business, I think they made a good decision.

I am grateful to God for the physician who was skilled at her craft (because, from what I know, this was a tricky one not just morally, but medically as well) and was able to do this safely. I’m grateful that it could happen legally in a well-regarded hospital.

But everybody ached as we placed that baby in God’s arms.

And this is where I think we who have Masters in Divinity degrees should be encountering this issue: in the real world where everything is not black and white. And where you are daily encountering people for whom these policy questions are life questions.

I don’t doubt that there are people for and against abortion who live in that place, and who understand the gray areas.

I just wish there were better ways for them to talk to each other and encounter each other, rather than what seems our only option at this point: to start discussions when someone says something that is clearly not well-thought ought, nor compassionate, nor wise.

One Response to “We’re gonna need a bigger table…”

  1. Heidi Haverkamp Says:

    Erica, this is fantastic. Thank you for writing it, and daring to speak to the complexity.

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