solutions vs. shaming

As I read through my twitter feed lately I am bombarded with opinions surrounding the issue of abortion. Each slide blasts the other with moral arguments designed to shame the holders of the opposing viewpoint.

I try to keep clear of anything that smells like politics online or in public speaking. So I’m not going to attach my opinion to any one side or party. What I am going to do is argue for a higher level of discourse.

For too long there have been some in the religious right that have used shame as a tool to attempt to vault themselves above others and to keep their members from speaking out in dissent. I don’t believe this is honoring to God who seeks to justify rather than condemn us. (Rom. 8:1,33) Christianity is not about bringing shame. It’s about being met in our brokenness, forgiven our sins, being made new.

Not only is public shaming incongruent with God’s ways, it is not productive. I can’t see a way forward in our public conversation by attempting to bring shame on those who see the issue through a different lens. Do we really think that cruelty will bring anyone over to our way of thinking? We can disagree. We can share our reasons for it. We can even attempt to bring correction when someone’s facts aren’t straight. But we can do it with kindness. This is how we follow in the steps of our Father in Heaven.

God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.

Romans 2:4 ESV

Now just so we’re clear, this shame based tactic doesn’t belong solely to the conservative side. Those on the liberal side of the fence are just as likely to play the shame game. State representative Brian Sims sets a prime example.

One side says shame on you for murder. The other says shame on you for telling women what to do with their bodies. One side values life above all else the other values freedom above all else. The end result is nobody gets anywhere in changing the hearts and minds of the opposition. In fact the only thing accomplished is that we now see each other as opponents rather than sisters and brothers.

We need a better way. We are tearing each other apart and building walls of separation that prevent any path to consensus. We need solutions not shaming.

While I do not believe our country will ever land in a place where all people are satisfied, there is hope for a majority consensus. It turns out according to polls that 80% of Americans believe abortions should be limited to the first trimester. In these polarized days, it is hard to get 80% of Americans to agree on anything. Let’s start there. Let’s ask compelling questions. Let’s work towards solutions.

One inference we might make based on the above statistic is that the American people see a fetus as a baby sometime before she is born. If this is so, why do those same Americans believe abortion should be allowed in the first trimester? Is it for scientific/ medical reasons or as a concession to the practical difficulties of having children? The answer is not uniform among all people but it is probably more to do with the practical. It goes something like, ‘Having a baby is a life altering event and I don’t have the right to force someone else to change the trajectory of her life.’

Okay. So instead of arguing over who’s rights are greater, the infant or the mother, let’s look at those practical difficulties and how we can minimize the negative impacts on the mother’s life and maximize the positive impacts.

One example may be that pro-life business owners and managers look at the realities of the work environment they control. If a woman were to become pregnant would she have to worry about being passed up for promotion due to her need for maternity leave or because as primary caregiver she may take more sick days and be less available for overtime? Let’s be real. Kids change life and priorities. That manager can minimize the negative impacts and reassure prospective parents by proactively developing an environment conducive to child rearing employees. What if instead of overlooking the pregnant applicant, the boss looks first to promote that person with an extra mouth to feed? What if companies provided a raise or a childcare allowance to those with growing families? On-site daycare is a popular pro-family concept. These can be expensive options. But if you are pro-life, isn’t it worth it? If we aren’t willing to share the inconvenience and cost of the baby, do we really have the right to condemn those who would end her life for those same reasons? I believe life is worth the expense! Other ideas may not cost anything at all. Creative options such as more work-from-home days for those with kids can allow for continued workflow during a child’s sick day.

And that’s just the work environment. What about the environment at church? In her neighborhood? Is she receiving love and acceptance or is she being judged and shamed? The conversation should continue. I am convinced that there is a way to better the environment in which the unexpectedly pregnant woman suddenly finds herself.

Bottom line. There are reasons women get abortions. Right or wrong, that is the reality. If pro-lifers are serious about saving lives, they need to be serious about changing the environment that those lives are born into. Women need solutions, not shame.

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