I’m taking a break from the “Where are We Now” series, but plan to come back to it soon as I believe there is more there for us to uncover, name and own.
Earlier this week I received an email expressing concern over the apparent lack of response from myself and the CGGC in addressing the recent law allowing late-term abortions in the state of New York. The email, in essence asked “where’s the outrage, where’s the compassion or concern for the most vulnerable in our midst?” It might be a bit of an understatement to say that I’ve wrestled with how to offer a thoughtful response to this important and timely question. What follows here are some reflections to that effect.
I, like many of you, have been grieved by the changes in the law in New York and an attempt for a similar bill in Virginia in recent weeks. Even more so, the celebrations by those supporting these efforts have produced even greater distress within my own spirit. Moments like this are sobering and disheartening: some in our culture have certainly moved well beyond “keeping abortion safe, legal and rare” as a society. We continue to move farther and farther away from the flourishing that God intended for us at creation. More than that, these kinds of efforts reflect a sense of evil or demonic-inspiration that are hard to grasp or comprehend.
We can certainly see that Jesus experienced outrage in His ministry. His clearing of the temple stands as the clearest example of His outrage over what was happening in the temple system at that time. His driving out the buyers and the sellers and turning over the tables wasn’t quiet or calm. There’s certainly a time for outrage and righteous indignation. I can’t help but notice that Jesus’ demonstration of outrage was a rare exception in His life and ministry, not the norm. I also can’t help but notice that this incident was directed at the religious institution of the day, not those outside the faith. Jesus didn’t go after Herod or the Roman establishment in this way.
I think that’s where I feel the tension in this moment. We live in a culture of near constant outrage. My newsfeed is filled each week with the outrage of a wide array of my friends – each making a case for the various injustices that exist in our culture and their righteous indignation towards those injustices. Each week there’s a new opportunity for me to express my outrage at the next injustice that occurs. I honestly believe I could fill several full-time roles just addressing issues that rightfully should grieve the people of God and fall far short of the flourishing that God intends for His creation.
Coupled with this sense of outrage fatigue is the suspicion that the outrage we experience in our culture rarely accomplishes anything but stirring up the emotions of those who already agree with us. Our outrage often just plays to our base supporters or preaches to the choir. It’s rare that our outrage leads to changed minds or meaningful dialogue with those who oppose our views.
I also have to confess that I suspect that we’ve limited our ability to play a prophetic role on this particular issue in our culture. I have many brothers and sisters in Christ who passionately support the rights of the unborn and oppose abortion as the taking of sacred human life. Surprisingly, many of those same brothers and sisters also seem to exhibit a gleeful lust in their support for their own right to own weapons of deadly force and utilize those weapons to protect their own rights. I’ve personally always found this inconsistency confusing and believe many others in our culture do as well. We worship a Savior who had every right to use the resources of Heaven to defend Himself against those who crucified Him, yet He laid down that right and offered the prayer “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.” I believe we’ve got to wrestle with a more consistent support of the sanctity of human life – both in the womb and outside the womb – if we hope to speak prophetically to our culture and how it celebrates death as a right we get to choose.
I’m not sure my outrage (or your outrage) really accomplishes much at the end of the day. I think that justice requires action. While we’re certainly within our rights to work toward legislation to address difficult issues like this, I’m not as confident that these efforts will succeed in producing the outcomes we desire or the outcomes that reflect God’s designs for His creation. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed at the magnitude of a challenge like this and how we actually affect change. What does it actually take to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God while addressing the scourge of abortion in our culture? It’s certainly more than a bunch of social media posts.
This is probably where I’ve felt the greatest sense of conviction this week: what have I done? I’m not so concerned about whether or not I’ve expressed an appropriate level of outrage, because I’m not sure that amounts to much more than angry venting. There’s a sense where that would just result in talking to people who already agree with me but never get at the deeper issue.
Am I willing to work toward change? Am I willing to “adopt” a mother and walk with her through this journey? Am I willing to help pay the medical bills? Am I willing to help provide diapers and child care and formula? This is a long fix, not a short one. If I’m willing, where do I even start?
This is perhaps what’s come to light to me this week. My failure hasn’t been in my lack of outrage or words of response. My failure has been that I haven’t done anything that’s changed the outcome for one of these little precious ones by engaging a situation that will require a lot from me personally. The answers to the challenges are more relational than legislative, more sacrificial than rhetorical and more personal than policy.
I don’t have all the answers on this, but I think I’ve uncovered a bit more of the problem. I think I’ve got some work to do.
CGGC eNews—Vol. 13, No. 6