Why Jesus is pro-choice
Jesus and the children in a stained glass window at St. Josaphat Basilica, Milwaukee. (Photo by Sharon Mollerus via Flickr | CC-BY-SA 2.0)
Jesus is pro-choice.
And Jesus isn’t just pro-choice because I said so. He said as much himself. And for too long, the pro-life crowd has hijacked the theological conservation about abortion. The Republican Party has used the religious right and its zeal for the single-subject topic of abortion as a way curry favor and votes.
But as a theology student, I’m here to tell you: It just ain’t so.
Maybe the greatest theological chess move that the pro-life crowd has offered isn’t selling the notion that God and Jesus are pro-life, but it has been their ability to completely neutralize any theological response from the left. In other words, conservatives have claimed God in the debate about abortion, and few on the left have said, “Wait a minute.”
I resent the idea that has been fomented by some theologians, especially in the Roman Catholic Church, that you cannot be a Christian and support the freedom to choose on pregnancy, part of a particular hang-up the historic church has about contraception in general.
They’ve used the issue as a cudgel to beat more liberal Christians into silence.
Granted, Jesus’ words, as recorded in the Gospels, are often tricky, vague or even contradictory. However, when it comes to the choice to have children, I don’t believe there’s much ambiguity, which makes the conservative position on abortion such a remarkable testament to the incredible marketing job the religious right has done.
Jesus’ words were unequivocal about one issue in particular, those who would hurt children. And though those same words have been used to justify the theological stance of the pro-life movement, they are, in fact, staunchly pro-choice.
In Matthew Chapter 18, Jesus said that it would be better for a person who hurts a child to have millstone cast around their neck and thrown into the sea. A version of the same verse appears in Mark and Luke as well, making this no later editorial insertion.
By forcing a 10-year-old or 16-year-old or a woman who may be ill-equipped to take care of herself, let alone a child, into motherhood, we are dooming many to a life of poverty. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine that a woman who was forced to carry a pregnancy to term against her will won’t also resent the child. Unloved or unwanted, possibly living a life of poverty seems to rise to the bar of causing one of the little ones to stumble. In addition to condemning the child to the misery of poverty and possibly being unloved, it also theologically dooms the mother.
That seems decidedly un-Christian.
Jesus was saying what many parents already know: Parenting is hard and often uncertain, even under the best of circumstances. Those who become parents and who are also Christian know they have a huge burden to bear in raising children without accidentally tripping them.
My wife and I made the decision (see there’s that word) to wait until after graduate school, until we had a home, and we were as ready as we could be. Even then, parenting changed every aspect of our life and relationship and no amount of videos, classes or “What to expect…” books adequately prepared us for the upheaval.
I was hardly ready for the change when it was planned, and at 34, I was about as ready as I could have been. And I can’t imagine being a parent without a little bit of age and stability. Quite frankly, a younger me would have been awful, and it would have been the children who would have borne the brunt of me being ill-prepared.
I am not pro-choice because I am in love with the idea of stopping a very early, pre-viable fetus. I just know parenting is hard enough when you’re ready, and even then, there are no guarantees about the outcome.
The irony is that the same political bloc that has insisted upon the sanctity of every pregnancy without exceptions has also been the same self-avowed champions of cutting social support systems such as welfare, food assistance and balked at the idea of subsidizing more housing or support for families that are ill-equipped to raise families. In fact, they’re the same group that in the Legislature continues to try to “drug test” all welfare recipients.
For those who would argue that terminating a pregnancy is tantamount to causing harm to “little ones,” Jesus’ words suggest that the little ones are born because they can “stumble” or “trip,” which is the translation of the word, suggesting that even Jesus knew the difference between a fetus and child.
Moreover, Jesus also was clear what his purpose on earth was in the tenth Chapter of John when he said that he came so that humans could live life more abundantly.
Again, the conservative pro-life crowd has used the verse as a cudgel to prove that because Jesus talks about life that he must be pro-life. But they often fail to contemplate the meaning of “more abundantly.”
When we force young girls, even those who are raped by family members, we cannot seriously believe that having a baby is living life more abundantly, let alone more compassionately. And how many stories do you know where a woman who was forced into such a situation lived more abundantly after she was compelled to have her attacker’s child?
Sorry, folks. Make all the arguments you want about sexual responsibility, assure people that you’ll be there to support all these young women, promote adoption – those are good conversations to have.
But you don’t get to steal Jesus.
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