Is there a bold religious movement for access to abortion?

An unholy claim and a pro-life people

April 19, 2022

The Washington Post recently trumpeted “An Increasingly Bold Religious Movement for Abortion Access,” implying that the faithful are finally getting on board with the cultural moment. Reporter Michelle Boorstein says “people of faith are trying to shift the narrative” in favor of abortion in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision affecting Roe v. Wade

Boorstein opens with Rev. Kaeley McEvoy, a United Church of Christ clergy member who worried that her new congregation, situated in a politically liberal suburb of Washington, D.C., wasn’t ready to learn that she had recently had an abortion. Boorstein says that to McEvoy, 

. . . the [abortion] wasn’t in conflict with her faith. When the pastor [McEvoy] and her then-boyfriend learned in 2016 that she was pregnant, the first place they went was to a cathedral, to pray—and to call doctors’ offices in search of one to do the abortion.

Her boyfriend, she recalls, described the scene at the time, saying, “something holy is happening here.” She later echoed her boyfriend, telling “a group of Christian abortion access activists meeting in a D.C. church: ‘Something holy is happening here, friends.’”

Something holy?

McEvoy says her decision — her choice, her autonomy — to abort was holy. Was it? What makes something holy? We need to know because God calls his people to “be holy, as I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). He is our starting point, our definition of what holiness is.

We know his holiness, in part, by knowing his ways (Heb. 3:10). God has revealed his ways — rooted in his holy character — in his law. He clearly forbids murder (Exo. 20:13) and the taking of innocent human life (Psa. 106:38), and he calls us to actively oppose such horrors: “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter” (Prov. 24:11, emphasis added).

McEvoy’s suggestion that her decision to abort is sacred is, in reality, unthinkable according to Scripture. God is holy. He is sinless (1 Pet. 2:22) and of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong (Hab. 1:13). He creates life (Psa. 139:13) in his image (Gen. 1:27) and commands his people to revere life and to be holy as he is holy (1 Pet. 1:15). 

Simply saying or deciding something is sacred does not make it so. McEvoy cannot, by her words, transform what God has forbidden into something he approves. Unlike God, we do not have the power to create reality with a word. Abortion is at the heart of evil in our day. Saying that abortion is somehow holy is to lie about the character of God — the giver and sustainer of life. 

As God’s people, we are not given permission to baptize our autonomy. Instead, we are called to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). Our lives, far from belonging to us, are no longer our own (Gal. 2:20). And true worship means offering ourselves to God and being confirmed to his ways (Rom. 12:1-2). 

Less support than you think

Even as the Supreme Court is poised to limit or even overturn Roe v. Wade, the Post is trying to legitimize abortion by claiming a surge toward abortion rights among the religious in America. But is it true? The article cites large numbers of clergy and “faith advocates” (450), Jewish rabbis (more than 1,500), a Catholic priest and former U. S. Chaplain, 54 faith groups, and “the most visible leader of Orthodox Christianity in the country (Greek Orthodox) as evidence that the religious community in America is shifting toward active support for “reproductive rights and justice.”

The Post identifies “most mainline Protestant denominations and non-Orthodox Jews as well as the Southern Baptist Convention” (SBC) as those who “adopted positions in favor of abortion legalization” in the wake of the 1973 Roe decision. Though this was true about the SBC when Roe was handed down, it mischaracterizes the SBC by failing to tell the rest of the story. The SBC embraced the pro-life position shortly after Roe with the beginning of the Conservative Resurgence in 1979, and is now among the most visibly pro-life denominations, actively advocating pro-life legistation, court decisions, and policies.

There may be reports of increasing support for abortion among some self-described religious people in America, but as recently as 2021, fully 77% of white evangelical Protestants believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. For Christians who take God at his Word, abortion is as grave a cause for repentance today as it ever was.

Respond in love

In the face of such abortion propaganda, how should we respond?

Plead for the lost. Remember that our political opponents are not our enemies (Eph. 6:12). Their pain compels them to defy God in an effort to quiet their consciences. We should pray earnestly for their rescue, for their deliverance from the domain of darkness and their transfer to the kingdom of Jesus, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-14). Apart from Jesus’ atoning blood, every one of us stands condemned (John 3:36).

Stay sharp. We have a spiritual enemy who uses crafty words to try and confuse us about what is good and true (1 Pet. 5:8; Matt. 4:1-11). But God has given us his Word in order to discern what is true (Heb. 5:14). He instructs us about religious leaders who “cause many to fall by [their] instruction” (Mal. 2:8) and who “profane what is holy; they do violence to the law” (Zeph. 3:4). We must read the Word regularly in order to know the standard against which we are to measure all other words (2 Cor. 10:5). 

Pray like Daniel. A man of integrity, Daniel prayed “a prayer of confession and repentance” as part of a sinful people. We, too, belong to a sinful people with a history of corporate sins against God’s law. We are not exempt. We should approach him humbly, in repentance, petitioning him for mercy on our land.

Speak in Love. Urge the people in your life to “seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isa. 55:6). Be a faithful witness of his power to save, the beauty of repentance, the freedom of forgiveness, and the hope of eternal life.

Check your own heart. The temptation to deny sin by calling evil good besets us all. Do you justify coveting, calling it stewardship, or pride, calling it self-esteem? Some justify sinful quietness — not speaking up when they should — by appealing to Paul’s admonition to live peaceable lives. These are but a few examples. What God forbids we often excuse under more respectable names.1Chapter 7 of John Bunyan’s allegory, The Holy War, depicts the Diabolonians tricking Mansoul into rebelling against Emmanuel and the great Shaddai by camouflaging heinous sins with inoffensive names. But new names are powerless to defang ancient sins. We all must run to the cross in repentance and seek the Lord’s forgiveness and grace to turn away from our sin and grow in true holiness.

Care for vulnerable children and mothers. God cares deeply about the weak and vulnerable (Psa. 68:5) and calls us to “vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; [and] deliver them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psa. 82:3-4). Preborn babies and their mothers need believers to enter into their suffering with practical help and eternal hope. As we are able, we should seek to join those who are already doing the work, like pregnancy resource centers, and help shape a future where abortion is unthinkable and unecessary.

The Word of the Lord will prove true, regardless of any claims to the contrary. In the meantime we must be wise. We must discern good from evil, what is holy from what is profane. We must do this “out there” in the world, as well as “in here” — our own hearts — not based on the testimony of any one group or religious leader, but always based on the Word of the Lord. And we must love others well, enveloping them in care as we gently speak the words of truth and grace over their lives. 

Candice Watters

Candice Watters is the Fighter Verses blog editor. She is a wife and mom, and author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, and co-author with her husband Steve of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. The Watterses have four children and are passionate about … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24