Article Aug 3, 2015

To Christians Who Celebrated the Supreme Court Decision But Remain Mum on Planned Parenthood Videos

So you have had a few weeks since the first video came out (three more have followed, here, and here, and here). Given your near-immediate response to most big news stories, never missing a chance to offer a hot take on the most pressing issue of the day, I would not have thought you needed a few weeks to post something about what the medical director of Planned Parenthood said on that video. Still, maybe you were busy or on vacation, I thought.

But, like I said, it has been weeks.

I know you to be a sensitive person, open to hear the other side of the debate, but I am starting to wonder.

Throughout the spring and early summer leading up to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, your social media handles lit up with posts celebrating the American shift toward a redefinition of marriage: you cheered in favor of Tony Campolo's newly-found support of same sex marriage; you stifled a smile when you heard about the evangelical church's brave decision to accommodate monogamous same sex couples as members, and you seemed to retweet any story that indicated a break among evangelicals on the issue. One of you even posted, "Hallelujah," next to a link to the Campolo story as if it was a moment worthy of invoking the divine name.

But then the Planned Parenthood videos came out, and together we all learned the result of abortion's dark logic: in America dismembered babies are available for sale.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I know from private conversation that many of you still support the notion that the unborn child bears the image of God and is therefore deserving of honor and care. In theory, you get what is so deeply wrong about what we are doing to ourselves as a people, as a nation, when we allow and fund such an atrocity. In theory, you believe it is an atrocity.

So why the silence?

Is it because you believe that abortion is too ethically nuanced, a complex of legal debates, medical procedure, and political posturing? I do not deny that this issue like much of life can be confusing, particularly when so many people in positions of power in society do not seem to think abortion is a big deal. But surely it is not as nuanced as the discussion about gender and sexuality that we have seen in the United States over the past few years. If I remember correctly, the narrow 5-4 decision in the Obergefell case did not dissuade you from triumphantly rainbowing your profile picture on facebook.

Is it because you think American culture is moving in another direction, one that supports gay marriage and abortion rights, and as an evangelical you do not want to burn any bridges with those to whom you are ministering? Perhaps you see your selective advocacy as another way in which you are seeking the shalom of the city into which you have been sent by God (Jer 29:7). To be honest, I hope this is the case, because it leaves open the possibility that you still feel an inner conflict about these issues.

If this is your position, then I would like to suggest that rarely do we see such acquiescence in the Scripture, particularly among those in exile (the community to whom Jer 29:7 is written). The general model of faithfulness in exile found in the Bible encourages a peaceable strength that speaks inconvenient truths to power even if it means negative consequences. In their best moments, Daniel, the three Judahite youths, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther operate within their various and sundry contexts to the glory of God and in faithfulness to the covenant even when it meant public ridicule and derision, and it often meant just that. Likewise Christian exiles (1 Pet 1:1) in the New Testament were no strangers to contextualization of the gospel (1 Cor 9:20), but that never means subverting the teaching of Scripture on the basic aspects of human identity for the sake of public acceptance.

Does it bother you that your selective public posturing puts you in perfect alignment with the most substantial power structures of our day and in opposition to the community of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

That is an honest question. I have often wondered about you, about what you really think of us. If you are confident that you are in the right, then the vast majority of those whom you call brother and sister are not only in the wrong but deeply deluded by false beliefs pertaining to the nature of humanity and its relationship to one another and God. If this is your opinion, please make your case. Play the role of the prophet, and show us from Scripture how we have gotten this so wrong. If you do not have the capacity for that kind of argumentation, point us to the ones who do, the ones who convinced you.

I do not expect a thorough biblical defense of Planned Parenthood's activities, and I think we both know why.

The modern predicament presents many challenges to the believing community, and our response will require a certain amount of trial and error. We will need to try out new approaches, new modes of communication, some of which will work in exciting ways and some of which will fail miserably. Throughout that process, we will need to examine our motivations and our priorities in light of the strains of contextualization, to ensure that we do not lose the main thing for secondary things or even marginal things.

Because of our shared human finitude and fallenness, we will no doubt have blind-spots, but if we ever find ourselves aligned with the power structures of this world against the community of faith, that should give us pause.

ERLC2018