Taking A Stand Means More Than Wearing a T-Shirt and Carrying a Placard

November 1, 2020

These days so many people are taking so many stands about so many different things.  Folks hear a slogan, get wind of a cause, and jump on the train – oftentimes without thinking through the responsibility that comes with whatever they have chosen to support.  

Most causes begin with a core of well-intentioned goodness. However, goodness carries implications far beyond feel-good philanthropy; well-intentioned words and actions, if not sustained for the long-haul, oftentimes cause more harm than good.  To take a stand for a cause is to assume deep responsibility for the outcomes.

There are so many causes ‘out there’; all merit our personal reflection and evaluation.  But two have collided within my spirit for many years as I have worked through the positions presented by listening to all voices as I find a solid place to stand and the conviction to assume the responsibilities I bear as a consequence of the stand I have taken.    

What are these stands? 

Right to Life and Women’s Right to Choose.  Two stands with such catchy names perfect for a t-shirt or a placard.  

They have become political footballs with little consideration for the actual human beings whose lives have become appropriated by others with no skin in the game. They have become a litmus test for ‘righteousness’ for decades; (think of the focus of the Supreme Court nomination debate, think of those voters who have made their stand the sole issue in the upcoming election). The harsh debates these stands generate continue to cause so much brokenness and create so many victims. Folks on either side declare they are on the side of the angels – and will they come together, but I wonder….if we were to look at the deep implications found in the stands we have taken, could a different place to stand emerge?

I hesitate to disclose my position here, because I would sure like you to read to the end of the blog without prejudging; but such hesitation threatens an authentic blog relationship.  So, right up front, I will tell you that I am pro-life. I believe all life is of God: sacred and intended. (Psalm 139:13-16), yet I don’t ascribe to Right to Life as it is so often portrayed. Why? Because more often than not, it seems that their stand only extends to the right to be born.  

So often, their stand seems to be ‘mission accomplished’ if the unborn child is successfully carried to term; but that isn’t truly right to life, is it?  The responsibility for a life newly born is just beginning! They may have ‘saved a life’ but for what?

What does right to life really mean? How deep does our responsibility extend? 

To stand for right to life with integrity doesn’t allow us to walk away from the delivery room and claim victory for ‘our side!’

Right to life should mean more than the mere right to exist.

If we are choosing to stand for the right to life, we are choosing to assume responsibility in ensuring that these new lives truly have the right to life:  the right to a good education and good health care, the right to live without being hungry, homeless, or stigmatized because of the marital status of her parents, the right to live accepted by society without consideration of his ethnicity, race, or sexuality.

The right to life is the right to live God’s best life; a life of hope and a future for all of God’s children.  (Jeremiah 29:11).  

The right to life is the right to be valued, supported and loved. Full stop.

Are those who take the Right to Life stand willing to assume this responsibility? 

Because here’s the thing: to truly assume the responsibility inherent in this stand, is to impact women’s right to choose in a way that itself brings life.

Over the years I have learned that women’s right to choose is never about selfishly denying life to the unborn.  Rather, women’s decisions are the heartbreaking consequence of a stark reality borne of guilt, abandonment, and societal obstacles; it’s not a choice at all, but typically a decision born of desperation. 

For example: 

  • If a pregnant woman loses a job because of ‘her condition’ – how will she support her child when he is born?  
    • Welfare, substandard housing, food, and education become the only future available to some pregnant women. 
  • If a woman has a child outside of a committed relationship, even today she is so often seen as ‘less than’ and her child even ‘less than that.’ 
    • The stigma of being unwanted, unaccepted, and a burden can quell even the strongest spirit – what mother wants that for her child?
  • If a woman is advised of prenatal conditions that will hamper the life of her newborn, she will feel the pressure ‘to choose’
    • Medical care for challenging conditions isn’t available for all so where’s the choice?. 

So, what if……Right to Life/Right to Choose are truly just two sides of the same stand? 

IF we believe in the right to life of every child, IF we compassionately walk alongside all women during not only their pregnancies but also during the raising of their children, wouldn’t the right to life and the right to choose become one and the same?  Lives of hope would be chosen for both mother and child. Life’s future would be to value and support humans from cradle to grave. Life would become a journey for us all to share in together in the light of God’s love!  

We as God’s children are called to bear each other’s burdens, love without exception, to lift up those who struggle and bring hope to the hopeless. All in the name of Jesus.

It has taken me a long time to get to where I am today, and I know I still have a long way to go. 

Where do you stand? It’s about more than a t-shirt or a sign.

And to God be the glory. AMEN.

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

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