Tangled Web, Part 2

In an earlier post we saw that support for abortion is woven into a web of cultural values—self-creation, personal autonomy, sexual license, etc. It is not that abortion supports those values, but rather that abortion abets the free pursuit of them. Seeing this helps us see why some people are so committed to protecting legalized abortion; its loss threatens the sanctity of these deeper values.

Yet this tangled web of cultural values only describes the ideology of the cultural elites whose voices influence policy-makers. The truth is that the elites that champion abortion on demand very rarely have actually ‘needed’ an abortion. Statistics show that rates of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and abortion are far lower in higher economic and education brackets. In short, those who advocate for abortion don’t get abortions. Those who get abortions are no less tangled, they are just tangled in a very different web.

Those seeking abortions are often caught in destructive relationships. The baby’s father may be absentee, opposed to the pregnancy, abusive, or unknown. The mother’s family may be distant, or unsupportive. There may be no other network that the mother can turn to.

Those seeking abortions are often in precarious financial situations. They may have limited education and job prospects. They may be single mothers struggling to provide. The prospect of another child to care for is overwhelming.

Such relational and financial deficits are often accompanied by spiritual and psychological weariness and suffering. Depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse, are common. Pregnancy and motherhood seem unbearable to those suffering such mental health shortfalls.

Caught in such a hopeless web of destruction, abortion seems the only option. In a sad irony, however, abortion, grasped as a “solution” to the predicament, only serves to exacerbate the emotional imbalance as regret and guilt follow. Not infrequently that emotional decline only feeds further deterioration in relationships and economics.

Responding to these two webs requires very different approaches. Most of us are not in much of a position to influence the ideological web and its increasing grip on our legal system. Nevertheless, this is often the web that receives the most attention through protests, breast-beating blogging, and demonstrating.

As individuals and as a church, we are much better positioned to minister to those caught in the webs of sin and brokenness that often lead to abortions. It may be said that people are complicit in their compromised relational, financial, and mental health condition. And it is true to a certain extent. The fly caught in the web only complicates his situation by wriggling to free himself. But Christ came to us with salvation “while we were yet sinners”, while we were his enemies, to bring us to God. We were no less complicit in our death and brokenness than are those suffering the soul-crushing relational, financial, and spiritual conditions that give birth to the death that is abortion.

We may not be able to stop abortion; the legal tide seems unlikely to shift soon. But we will always be in a position to discourage abortions, provided we view with compassion those tangled in the web of death and deception.

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Scripture Sandwiches

In our house we enjoy fried egg sandwiches: egg, cheese, and bacon or ham on an English muffin. There is some difference of opinion in the house about what type of cheese is best and whether the muffin should be spread with butter, Miracle-whip, or one on either muffin half. Otherwise, our appreciation is shared.

Fried egg sandwiches are a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Alone, eggs, cheese, and bacon all have their own glory, but together something new and greater arrives. That greatness even manages to shine forth, if only dimly, in the version of egg sandwich that one finds at the fast food chains. In a pinch, I’ll eat one of those. But attention to the individual ingredients repays the investment. Sure, you can use Aldi bacon, processed American cheese slices, and weeks-old defrosted English muffins. But a richer, more satisfying experience awaits the consumer who combines farm-fresh eggs, aged, sharp cheddar, and artisan hickory smoked bacon, nestled between slices of homemade sourdough bread. You’re already regretting that bowl of cold cereal you hastily ate this morning, aren’t you?

Throughout Scripture God has given us incredibly rich but compact summaries of key elements of his character, his plan, the person of Christ, and the substance of the Gospel. I think of verses like John 3:16, John 1:14, Psalm 103:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Timothy 3:16 and phrases like Jesus’s “I am” statements, “God is love,” “Be holy as I am holy,” “Mercy triumphs over judgment,” “Be wise as serpents, innocent as doves,” or the Golden Rule. We might think of these summaries as soul sandwiches: portable, practical, spiritual nutrition.

Like the sandwiches that filled my lunchbox and me through my school years, these biblical morsels may be the substance of our spiritual caloric intake for periods of our life. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a PB&J that people rely on to nourish themselves day in and day out. And here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with that. God didn’t intend for us to need a 7-course spiritual meal three times a day any more than we need that physically. What would concern me are two spiritual sandwich scenarios: (1) if spiritual PB&J were all we ever consumed, or, (2) if, over time, the quality of our ingredients declined such that our spiritual sandwiches were unpalatable, or worse, not nourishing.