America is a country, not a church congregation. The United States is not even a Christian nation – never has been – and should not be relegated to the beliefs of any religious affiliation. Now, it seems the church is more American than any other religious sect. Flags have even become a staple in many congregations. Studies show more people embrace the evangelical label now, more than ever, and it is alleged that evangelicalism has been bound to the Republican Party. Instead of theological affinity for Jesus Christ, millions of Americans are drawn to the evangelical label because of its association with the G.O.P.
Evangelicalism has never been more politically unified than it is right now. In the 1970s, only 40 percent of white weekly churchgoing evangelicals identified as Republicans. In the most recent data, that number has risen to an all-time high of 76 percent. The evangelical coalition of 2020 had difficulty agreeing which sect is the correct one, or even if religious devotion is necessary to identify as an evangelical. But on Election Day, they speak with one voice — in full-throated support of the Republican candidate.
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade after nearly 50 years. This has created a seismic political and societal shift throughout the United States. One major goal of the anti-abortion movement was to get Supreme Court justices on the bench who would overturn Roe. Over the years, abortion became a litmus test for judicial nominees for Republicans. It was justices who would be opposed to abortion. And for Democrats, the party started appointing justices who would uphold Roe.
However, the decision to reverse Roe v. Wade institutionalizes inequality, because women with access to resources will be able to exercise their moral judgment in ways that women without the same resources will not. Restricting access to safe abortions keeps poor women in poverty, perpetuates the cycle that prevents them from social mobility, and allows wealth to remain in the hands of the rich, particularly white men.
In other words, the Supreme Court abolished the constitutional right to abortion in an opinion that is a direct attack on the separation of church and state. Religious freedom demands the right to an abortion so people can make their own reproductive decisions according to their own principles. What happened to the separation of church and state?
Abortion is an issue that draws upon deep values, personal experiences, and a range of identities. That is what makes it such a tough topic. There are many women who long to be mothers, but have not been able to conceive. Then there are others who have tried multiple times only for the pregnancy to end in a miscarriage. The thought of abortion is more painful in these cases. As horrible as both of those are, they do not equal canceling a woman’s right to choose. There are so many gray areas that must be considered.
Does this mean the church’s position is wrong? Absolutely not. However, America is not a church, and should not be governed by church doctrine. The church’s job is to preach the gospel and show love to all humanity. Rejoice with those that rejoice, and mourn with those that mourn. Women (and men) across the country are mourning the death of “choice” and instead of meeting them with compassion, the church is rejoicing. When asked about the new ruling, Pastor Erwin McManus had this to say:
Before we even talk about the Supreme Court decision I think I’d like to talk about the culture, the swarm around the decision. Because I’ve never been a person who makes decisions as an adult that doesn’t always have a sensitivity for a person who disagrees with me.
I’ve never been in a room – in my brain – with people who only think like me. So, no matter what happens in society, no matter what happens in culture, even with things that I agree with, I always take time and consider how the person who disagrees with me feels; how they’re reacting, why they’re reacting that way, and what’s going on inside of them.
And then I have another deeper motivation. I care about people who don’t know Jesus. And I care about people who don’t know Jesus more than I care about politics, more than I care about the law.
McManus is an author, futurist, filmmaker, and fashion designer. He is the lead pastor of Mosaic, a megachurch based in Los Angeles. He is a speaker on issues related to postmodernism and postmodern Christianity, and also writes and lectures on culture, identity, change, and other topics. Mosaic is one of the most diverse communities that exist. There are currently many people of varied race, color, ethnicity, economic status, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs who attend this church under the leadership of McManus.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade places greater value on the life of the fetus than on the pregnant woman carrying the child, which is a violation of American religious liberty. Now, it seems only certain people are entitled to religious liberty, which renders the entire concept meaningless. How did guns gain more authority than women? Is this what “Make America Great Again” looks like?
Many people deem pro-life and anti-abortion as one in the same. They are not. Being pro-life also means defending it against the threat of firearms, which unfortunately have become a leading cause of death of children and adolescents in America. The death penalty, gun control, support for families, and immigration are also life issues. It seems more people are anti-abortion, but not necessarily pro-life.
As one who believes abortion is wrong in most cases, I am also pro-choice. This is seemingly an impossible feat for many Christians. This is puzzling on so many levels. One of the defining characteristics of humanity is free will; you know, the freedom to decide whether good or bad, God or the devil. Mankind was given the power of choice. The overturning of Roe v. Wade overlooks this truth and strips women of their “God-given” power to choose.
As a Christian, I believe the Bible, but many Americans do not and should not be subject to follow Christian mandates. If any other religion attempted to bully people into submission, the church would be furious. And, rightly so, because it is unjust. When speaking of this on the talk show “The View,” Whoopi Goldberg, the leading host, said:
I want to make things very clear. I’m very pro live. I’ve never been anti-life. I want people to have the lives they want, but I don’t want to force anybody… And I appreciate everybody’s religion, but I do not subscribe to your religion. I don’t ask you to subscribe to mine and you do not have the right based on your religious beliefs to tell me…
As “pro-life” Republicans remain focused on criminalizing abortion, it is not lost on Americans that this is the exact same party that is hellbent on harming women and families with their regressive policies. Is this even about babies, or just another strategy for power in hopes of “Making America great again?” Do these Trump supporters know that the former president has since expressed different thoughts about the overturning of Roe v. Wade? He is now saying this new mandate may not be good for his party.
Republican politicians have been asked multiple times to support programs that would reduce the likelihood of unplanned pregnancies and improve maternal and infant health. Again and again, they have refused laws requiring health insurers to provide no-cost coverage of all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives. They also continue to block efforts to institute paid parental leave, universal pre-K, and an expanded child tax credit that covers the poorest children.
This “Bible-toting” party has been given many opportunities to demonstrate its commitment to promoting the lives and well-being of the most vulnerable mothers, infants, and children. Each time, they have made different choices. Yes, root for the baby in the womb; but that cannot be the end goal. Vote in politicians who will put laws in place to take care of the women who cannot terminate a pregnancy. Help the kids who will end up in the foster care system because their mother cannot take care of them.
Thomas Jefferson, in his 1802 Letter to the Danbury Baptists, explained why a “wall of separation” was erected between church and state. But today, the separation of church and state is under assault…ironically, most often by Republicans, who rarely miss a chance to trumpet their fidelity to the Constitution. The First Amendment not only allows citizens the freedom to practice any religion they choose, but also prevents the government from officially recognizing or favoring any religion. This fundamental freedom is a major reason why the U.S. has managed to avoid a lot of the religious conflicts that have torn so many other nations apart.
It is one thing to question candidates about their value systems and moral compasses. However, it is another problem to violate the spirit of the Constitution by imposing de facto religious tests for public office – or suggesting that God is a political partisan. Getting along in a pluralistic society requires that while all faiths are respected, none is enshrined — officially or otherwise — in our laws or government. In practice, this means that on inherently personal issues where Americans are sharply divided (like abortion), the proper role of religion is to appeal to the conscience of the individual, not the state’s coercive power.
Christians who celebrate inequality on such a high level are not acting Christlike at all. Today, many celebrate the new mandate to protect the fetus, but after the baby is born, the child and its parent(s) are often left on their own. Given this reality, overturning Roe v. Wade cannot be the final goal for Christians. America is a country, not a church. However, love is the instrument that can start the healing process for this unsettled nation. This should be the heartbeat of every professing Christian, instead of bullying Americans to abide by the church’s theology.
Opinion by Blacklisted Saint
The View: Whoopi Goldberg
Battle Ready Podcast: Erwin McManus
NPR: How abortion became a mobilizing issue among the religious right
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