Last week’s march on Washington and many other cities drew widespread national attention. Many were for it, and how dare you criticize it. Others were against it, and how dare you entertain the idea of going to it. I am usually pretty good at resisting such binaries. The intense irony of the binary was summed up well with Hannah Anderson’s tweet:
And guess who came out on top? Sexual predators.
Until we address both supply & demand, we will never end abortion. #bothand
— hannah anderson (@sometimesalight) January 23, 2017
We will get back to the specifics raised in her tweet at the end of this post.
I didn’t go to the march, mostly because I didn’t have one close by that I could go to. If I had, I would have held up a pro-all-of-life poster of some nature. I was deeply disturbed that the organizers didn’t let pro-life feminists into the march. But then I realized, Christian pro-all-of-life women and men needed to show up anyway. And many did. That is exactly the kind of action in relationship with need that Jesus taught.
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
How much wisdom Jesus communicated through the choice of salt and light as the analogy for a Christian’s need of involvement in the world. Salt in its container on the counter of the kitchen, looking at the food across the way but never touching it, does not do anything worthy of its name. Salt that is in contact with meat but has lost its distinctive influence is not doing anything worthy of its name either. Salt is for flavoring. Salt is for preserving. And salt is meaningless if it is not in contact with the thing that needs flavor or preserving.
How can we be salt and light through something like a women’s march? What value is there in applying ourselves directly to the meat in question?
1) By affirming the concerns that we hold in common with other women at such a march, we can show how many of them flow from a Judeo-Christian understanding of ethics.
We are concerned by Trump’s language of sexual assault because God created women in His image, and He was the first to proclaim a legal penalty for sexual assault. We are concerned by Trump’s lifelong pattern of insulting women on their looks because God taught us that while man looks on the outward, God looks on the heart (I Samuel 16:7). We are concerned by Trump’s ability to discard his wives because God first instilled in us the need for faithful covenant in relationship. We are concerned by Trump’s mockery of the disabled and inflammatory statements concerning immigrants because God was the first to teach us to value and care for the poor and marginalized in society.
2) By affirming the concerns Christians share with a secular women’s movement, we can show the natural out-working of those same concerns applied to life before birth.
My next sentence may be the most important you will ever read on defeating abortion. We can not show the worth of lives before birth without showing the worth of life after birth. The perceived dichotomy between the two has become the great stumbling block for the pro-life movement, often championed by those who are also willing to defund social services that are a lifeline for the women considering abortion who might choose to give birth to their child. As we affirm the dignity of all human life after birth (the disabled, the immigrant, the poor, the marginalized) and advocate for a safety net for vulnerable children and single mothers who bring them into the world, we remove social stumbling blocks that cause many to consider abortion an option. We bolster a pro-life position when we do not separate it from an all-life position. We bolster a pro-life position when we put off language that dehumanizes the poor and marginalized that would consider abortion.
In conclusion, Hannah’s tweet reflects an irony for many conservative believers who resonated with parts of the women’s march initiatives. I particularly resonated with their first principle: Ending Violence. “Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of all forms of violence against our bodies.” Though Trump is not the first president with multiple allegations of sexual violence against him, he has definitely been the first to glory publicly in his misogyny, boasting to Billy Bush about 2nd degree sexual assault (sexual contact without consent for which he later apologized). But his multiple appearances on Howard Stern have best reflected his attitude towards women, and for those he’s only reveled, never apologized. Is it appropriate to call Trump a sexual predator? Well, his bragging of grabbing women without consent certainly fits that label. “A sexual predator is a person seen as obtaining or trying to obtain sexual contact with another person in a metaphorically “predatory” or abusive manner.” His inclusion of strip clubs in his casinos and glorification of porn culture fit such a label as well.
It is ironic that a man who glories in the male appetite for sex without consequences (for the man at least), which is the very culture that puts women in a place in which they feel they need abortion, is the same man celebrated for hopefully ending abortion. If you don’t address the need for abortion and male participation in a hook up culture that wants sex without responsibility, you will always have abortion. You may have it illegally. You may have it in back alleys. But you will always have abortion.
So I was willing to march, because though the march organizers want both abortion and a change to the culture of predatory sex that Trump has come to represent, I believe there is a better way. When believers address and rebuke the culture of predatory sex Trump represents, we are salt and light aiding in ending abortion. I am encouraged to see more and more orthodox believers putting off the binary between pro-choice and pro-birth and advocating for flourishing life both before and after birth. In doing so, we reinforce that flourishing life was God’s idea first and that we can go to the Bible for wisdom for life, and health, and peace. Truly, through Abraham’s Seed and the Word that reveals Him, all nations shall be blessed.
**Waterbrook/Multnomah is offering a BOGO promotion for preorders of Is the Bible Good for Women? Seeking Clarity and Confidence through a Jesus-centered Understanding of Scripture, which releases in March. Though I started this project 3 years ago, it seems more relevant and needed than ever.**