There Are No Others
last night, I posted this quote from Brennan Manning’s “The Ragamuffin Gospel” on Twitter:
“We are not pro-life simply because we are warding off death. We are pro-life to the extent that we are men and women for others, all others; to the extent that no human flesh is a stranger to us; to the extent that we can touch the hand of another in love; to the extent that for us there are no ‘others.’"
I must admit that I'm actually surprised at the response my post has received. Having people tweet that I am likely "an old racist anti-abortionist Republican" or that they now need to be protected from me was the last thing I expected to receive about a post that was actually meant to be – if anything – an indictment on that world we both find ourselves at odds with. Frankly, I don’t think that I have ever been further removed from that world than I am now. (However, If by "old" that person meant "holds to a traditional view of creation, fall, sin, redemption, recreation / renewal, and Jesus as Messiah and savior," then yes, I guess I'm old.)
Usually, I like tweeting or writing things in what's called a 2+2 model – essentially: you give the story but leave out the conclusion and let people come to it on their own. But tonight, I find myself reading through these responses, and writing one of my own...
I tweeted this quote from Brennan Manning in the context of a conversation I was having with some friends about our current political climate. I am frustrated and confused by the idea that Trump continues to hold so much support within the Christian-evangelical sphere, and was trying to understand why. From what I can gather, the only reason is because Trump has claimed to be pro-life – a stance that I don't believe he actually values beyond what it benefits him from the voters who praise him for it, and one that he has not held, historically.
I do not understand how the evangelical world – the world I was raised in and became a Christian in and met Jesus in – seems to continually support a man who speaks with such disdain for minorities, outcasts, refugees, and the helpless as though he were more of a savior for our nation than Christ himself.
So, in light of the fact that I believe "pro-life" has a more wholistic definition according the Scriptures that I, as a Christian, view the world through, I posted that quote more as passive (or not so passive) input for the culture I find myself wanting less and less to do with the more and more I see nationalism and power over and above meekness and loving compassion.
My friend recently posted a series of thoughts:
"Thought that Trump running would be the end of the GOP, but now thinking it will be the end of Conservative Christianity. What Christians who back Trump forget is that the ends do not justify the means. A bad tree never produces anything but bad fruit. I lament. Evangelical Christians are being mocked and ridiculed. Not for proclaiming Christ but for proclaiming Trump in the name of Christ."
I agree. Although I believe that Christianity as it relates to following the person and work of Jesus will continue into the future, I think that we are witnessing something like the death of evangelical nationalism, and frankly, I think that it's a good thing. The kingdom of Jesus is subversive, and Christendom as we know it looks nothing like that kingdom.
So, to answer your question, and the question of many people interacting with my post – the context of this expression was in relation to the abundance of life for all people, and my desire as a Christian is to acknowledge that life is valuable inside of the womb, yes, but also outside of it – something that I don't see "our" republican candidate showing much regard for.
All of that said, because many of you also asked a specific question, and I am obviously not a fan of political answers, I will answer specifically and clearly and acknowledge that – no – I am not "pro-abortion." As a Christian who believes that life begins at conception, I long for another answer than what I consider to be the forfeiture of life.
I am also not unaware of suffering in this place. Or of circumstances that seem to extenuate beyond crystal clear answers to them. I do not claim to understand every circumstance, and I never act as though I will, or even can. I have friends who have had abortions. I have friends who have been raped, and met women who's rapes have led them to their abortions. I have received tweets in response to my own tonight from a woman who claims to have read my thoughts in the midst of her seventh abortion. These things break my heart, irregardless of whether or not they break hers, or another's. I have friends who vehemently disagree with me, and I love each of these friends no matter what. People are not stances, or projects. I have heard many people this evening say, in essence, that to be "pro-life" is to be "anti-people" or "anti-person" or "anti-women" or "racist" or "misogynist" or something of the like. I certainly do not think that I am any of those things, and would hope that the life you and others who have followed what I've tried to do with it would be proof enough that to hold to a Christian position regarding new life is not the same as hating people or demeaning them as lesser than myself. I also have friends who are the product of rape whose mothers chose to keep their unwanted children, and I am so thankful for their life. This has been my reality. My everything, for years, has been to devote myself to loving others well no matter where they find themselves in this whirlwind of a world we sojourn in, and to point them to Jesus. In regard to the question, I believe that Jesus values life and has defined it in his book in a specific way. I know that others don't, but to disagree is not to incite a riot, and I am more and more aware all of the time that I am not the changer of anyone's heart.
I am making no apologies for my beliefs. Truly, they spring from and are the overflow of love, and much of the reasoning behind my position relates to the way that I see myself – as helpless and hopeless were it not for a Father who reached out his hand to save me. And yet, while this response is not intended to be a cushion for that belief – as some disagreements will simply be loud – I also acknowledge that "truth without love is a clanging gong," and I certainly did not mean to smash a crash cymbal right next to anyone's ears. At the same time, love and respect are not predicated upon agreement.
The post was intended for different ears, and maybe all of this backlash has actually proven to be a good thing, as it has helped me work through my thoughts on this current election cycle and the way that I interact with it – something I've felt radically insecure about save the few vague quasi-jokes since the debates have begun. I know as well as anyone that words are powerful and that words have meaning, and I know that writing this has been a reminder that I should not use them frivolously.
At any rate, I care about the people who follow what I do, but I also know that I cannot be afraid of or subject to them. This is, admittedly, something that I struggle with, but the convictions that the Lord has given me are convictions that I long to uphold, and I know that some of them will be inherently divisive. If you or others feel that you must separate yourselves, I will respect your decision, but I at least felt it important to spend this early morning writing to clarify, since I have always counted my fan-base as "relationships," and so many people were asking what I meant. You have been incredibly kind and supportive throughout the years, and I am blessed by your presence in my life.
I did want to say one more thing, in relation to a couple of tweets that people posted last night. I hope that I am not overstepping my boundaries, but I wanted to offer a thought...
It's a good thing to come to a place of realization that the artists you enjoy, or the people you look up to, are not your saviors. I know that no one ever called me "savior" so don't think I'm putting myself on a pedestal, but many have mentioned that they needed to learn not to be devastated at disagreement, and that they definitely disagreed with me. There's nothing I can say that will change that. No matter how much I'd like to garner everyone's praises (because I am entirely too self-absorbed), I know that people only let other people down. I have been let down by others, and I have let others down. As regards our topic of conversation, I am devastated at the thought of children lost, but there is nothing I can say save a miracle for us to see eye to eye, and that is what has devastated you. Even though I'd love to please everyone all of the time, maybe it's a good thing that I haven't. Maybe we both need to learn that I can't. I think that it's given me a boldness in standing for what I believe in, here, and I hope that it may offer you an opportunity to redirect your sights to the only person who will not ever let you down: Jesus.
I truly believe this. And I also know that any disagreements or discrepancies we have with one another will only be molded and shaped into agreement by the work of the spirit who transforms minds and reshapes hearts to see things we never thought we'd see.
Thanks for everything, friends. I hope you know that you are loved this morning.
P.S. – I hope that even if we disagree in regards to this conversation, we can all agree on what Manning calls for: recognizing the shortsightedness of a pro-life position that does not also care for the broken, the different, the other, and in our immediate context – the disagreer. Ironically, this section, copyrighted in a book from 1990, begins by using 'ol Donald as an example. There is no "winning" in a post like this. No "convincing" and no "defending" and certainly no appeasing either "side" of this conversation – simply an existing in the middle with an opportunity to think through and respond to the questions that have come.