It’s Time for Believers to Talk Graciously About Abortion Again – Part 2 #ODC

Over the weekend, I saw this article on Christianity Today online entitled “Critics Challenge National Association of Evangelicals’ Abortion-Reduction Initiative’s Funding.” Here is the first line:
“Recent criticism over the National Association of Evangelicals’ (NAE) choice of funding partners highlights the continued difficulty of seeking middle ground across the abortion divide.”

I was disappointed after reading the post. Not because people and organizations have strong pro-life convictions, I admire that, and I consider myself among them and am grateful for so much of their incredible work.  I was disappointed because it’s clear that some do not want to converse and seek middle ground.  To some, this is nothing new, but in another sense, I have been sensing a shift happening within evangelicalism that is understanding that growing divide between the Christian narrative and the American narrative. I trust that shift is still happening because I do see the evangelical world is filled with bright, generous, Spirit-led people (that may not get a lot of media attention). I hope this scene is not accurate of the changing big picture.

Here’s the brief recap from the CT post:
“The Generation Forum, a four-year-old NAE initiative to “converse and cooperate without compromising” in order to reduce abortions, drew criticism from World Magazine last week for being primarily funded by a pro-contraception group.”

The Manhattan Declaration issued a statement that they removed from their blog but here’s part of it:
“Reducing unintended pregnancy is a laudable goal, but here, as in all things, how matters a great deal … If, as in this case, it is through programs that undermine God’s plan for sex in the context of marriage, we must not compromise our values.”

World Magazine’s Marvin Olasky had a bit to say including: “He also noted that Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign, was one of four panelists invited to speak about reducing abortion rates at a Q conference in April. In a vote during the panel, moderated by Q executive director Rebekah Lyons, nearly two-thirds of audience members said churches should advocate contraception use by single 20-somethings. Such poll results send the message that it’s fine for unmarried evangelicals to use contraception …”

“As a professor and elder, I’ve seen how conflicted many young unmarried evangelicals are,” Olasky said in an e-mail to Christianity Today, “Many are hoping to garner some wisdom from their elders. It’s neither helpful nor compassionate when the elders follow polls rather than the Bible.”


As one who wants to see among other things, the number of abortions reduced and as one who attended Q this year, here are my push-backs. I offer them not as retaliation but for perspective in hopes of creating conversation:

Just a few days ago I wrote that we needed more dialogue and that there are still a number of especially younger evangelicals who do not wish to reenter the conversation. The reasons they do not want to renter the conversation are exhibited by the tone demonstrated by those mentioned in the CT article. I’m not trying to be mean or in my small way, exasperate this, but I do want to point out when the big players in the evangelical put out these statements, they generally do more harm than good, even in their own camp.

I imagine in their minds they believe they are holding the line, but to people like me, the conversation is being stifled.

Regarding the poll we took at Q, we can debate the wording of it but in fairness to the moment, by that point in the panel discussion it had already been established that abstinence was understandably the preferred message but we also had the reality of three-fourths of evangelicals admitting they have had pre-marital sex and how do we reduce the 1.2 million abortions that happen in our country each year. Bearing in mind that this is not the number of the abortions that are happening in the evangelical world and bear in mind that we would assume that the three-fourths number does not accurately represents the larger culture’s admission to having pre-marital sex. (It would be higher but it would be incredibly interesting if it were lower, wouldn’t it?).

In light of that, if you want to reduce the number of abortions among those that are choosing not to be abstinent, eliminating the option of contraceptives increases the number of pregnancies, thereby increasing the probability of the number of abortions and at some point, creates a greater distance between the Church and the general culture.

Let me put another way to my fellow pro-lifers – if we think it’s inexcusable to terminate a birth because of someone’s act of free-will to engage in sexual activity, is it not just as inexcusable for us to condemn the use of contraception that would prevent the conception that would potentially terminate the pregnancy?  If we believe in free-will, we as a followers of Jesus must present the options of abstinence, adoption, and prevention.  As an adoptive parent, this seems not only logical to me, but theologically responsible.

Like everyone, I wish everyone thought and acted the way that I think we should.  However, even in the Christian narrative, we  know that is not how a humanity created in God’s image, marred by the consequences of a sinful, fallen world but being offered God’s redemption through Jesus works.

If the goal is to advance the message of the Christian values concerning sex, marriage, and family and gain ground in the culture war, then that’s another thing all together. But let’s be clear – fighting that type of culture war is not the same as seeking Jesus’ kingdom.

Does it not seem more Christian to channel our efforts to reduce the number of abortions (and yes, promote adoption and abstinence)? I believe the distinction between advancing the Christian ethic on sex and family and reducing the number of abortions is a necessary conversation within the pro-life camp and I do not mean to be condescending towards people I respect but this is why conversation is helpful. By saying that, I am not suggesting that we cannot do both. But we need to be clear here – being pro-life is not the same as promoting the Christian sexual ethic.

Further, As Olasky points out, I too have seen how “conflicted young unmarried evangelicals are” but to suggest that pastors/leaders/elders/etc. are responding to polls over Scripture is an unintelligent statement from a mind that knows better. That straw-man rhetoric is not helpful. In other places, I have discussed my suspicion with polls and statistics, but even I must admit at the very least, they must represent someone. And if we are serious about reaching those outside the church and if we are serious about going after the one lost sheep, we need to pay attention to what is being said.

Though I appreciate some of what World Magazine has to say, I stopped renewing my subscription back around 2003-2004. My simple reason is that’s it’s too much “culture war” language and Olasky’s reaction here is indicative of that. Prior to not resubscribing to World, I admired Olasky’s courage and his skills of reason but I couldn’t get past his insistence of a “black and white world.”  There needs to be more graciousness and nuance in these conversations.  I find myself wondering is it an incapability of nuance or a business move to rally the subscriber base because what was said at Q seems clear to me.  I commend The CT post in being fair in highlighting it:

“During the panel, Brown noted that most people in the room likely preferred encouraging unmarried men and women to not have sex.  “I think that’s a very good idea,” she said. “But for those who are having sex and are unavailable to that message, we have to talk about contraception. I understand that may be choice number two.””

Friends, it’s not about compromising our values, it’s about compromising our approach in sharing them. Jenell Paris said similar during her introduction of the panel discussion.   There is a difference.  Further, this is what people like me appreciate so much about the Q conversation and the Lyons tone should not go unnoticed (from at the event and in the CT article).

Lastly, the Church is so much more than the pastors, elders, and the words being said from the pulpit, magazines, digital print, etc. If the Church really is about glorying God and not agenda, and is really concerned about loving people, we must be able to have numerous and varying types of conversations with each other and among other things, they need to be be marked with gracious words and attitudes.

May we listen to the other, may we be willing to discuss these crucial matters graciously and may we people of prayer committed to the way of Jesus.


  1. Amen! I have been trying to say things like this for so long, only to be forced out of my church for not falling into line. I am the parent of two natural children and two adopted children. I am pro-life except for life of mother, rape, and incest. I am so glad that someone many years younger than me is seeing the reality of this conversation, not just what we all wish the reality was. Many Christians today think that they are “right” in every aspect of beliefs and anyone who possibly my see things in a different way is a sinner. We are pushing young people away from the Church (and old ones too). Why would anyone want to belong to a Christian group who is more interested in religious politics than bringing others into the church? I so agree with your thoughtful and realistic discussion of the Culture Wars.

  2. Thanks Janice. I’m grateful for those like you who see it too.
    Love those last few sentences – can’t agree more.

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