Stories and lived experiences I do believe change minds more than anything else.
A sheltered world is an ignorant one. Of course new awareness brings its own disruptions and burdens and we will each have our own opinions about when and at what age or how much people ought to know about any given thing.
If you are saturated with people just like you, it is less likely you will experience mind-changing moments. Many people grow up in communities without access to certain information. Maybe even more people grow up with preconceived ideas about things detached from actual lived experiences. We are still so very segregated.
“Ignorance is bliss.” Keeps life simple. Puffs up certainty.
In my case, I grew up in a Conservative-Christian family and community and became educated and informed to see the world in such cultural ways prior to my ability to experience what other communities had to say. I was surrounded by likeminded-ness and my education and the Christian books I would read largely helped me to defend myself from arguments I was not yet having. Though I didn’t regularly engage with skeptics or liberals, I would read books that helped me be ready for their dissenting beliefs so that when the day came, I could “always be prepared to give an account for the faith I had.” And because I didn’t want anyone to suffer for eternity, I took that burden and responsibility very seriously. I built up my intellect and sought to understand God sincerely. Too much was on the line.
I already knew the counter-arguments to what others would say before ever having such a conversation. I wasn’t really equipped to listen because I believed I had a truth that the rest of the world needed to believe to be saved. And if you believe this, then openness is a pathway to deception. Build your house on the rock! “Do not conform to the pattern of this world…” It was spiritual warfare after all. The enemy was out to deceive me. I imagine there’s many people who would simplify my lived experiences over the several years in this way. I have been deceived.
Social Media has largely taken this “ignorance-control” away (though these algorithms do no favors). So much is freely available. It is harder to manage the ignorance we once would otherwise be unchallenged by. People’s stories can be shared with little restriction.
Reading many of the posts in my social media feed this week, I’ve seen so many stories from women sharing testimony of their experiences and the choices they thoughtfully and often painfully made. Angrily sharing testimony of the experiences they had and the information that is often left out of such partisan squabbles.
These stories will change minds. I will encourage you again and again because I was once so stuck in the mud against you. And my heart and my beliefs grew to love you, grieve with you, vote for you, and fight for you. I had not yet heard such stories, I’d only been prepared to argue against them.
“Though seeing they do not see, though hearing they do not hear…”
Stories of the complexities of abortion are unlikely to be featured in these communities unless they are stories of deep regret that can be used and weaponized to carry the existing idea forward. It is important for people to see and wrestle with stories of women seeking abortions and all that is personally considered let alone the very medical and nuanced reality of necessary abortions. Unfortunately in the communities I grew up in, those stories are suppressed by the innate knowledge of the social-suicide that would come with such public testimony. Such truth-telling has a cost.
The dissonance is a hard thing to fight through. People do not resist change, they resist loss. And when a person has been trained to see things as deceiving their God, or forsaking the certainty of their faith, or endangering their eternity, the cards are significantly stacked against their considerations of other ways to be and see the world. We often must first address that sense of loss before having any successful ground to share our testimonies.
Which is why the brave stories of Christian women and doctors will likely have more impact than others in this case. Stories of people who shared the belief but lived experiences made them see differently.
In college, my beliefs began to change and grow as I met people who did not grow up in my community or religion or political framework. (Stories and lived experiences).
I entered the professional world on the eve of a divisive election where ONE issue seemed to be reason enough to compromise every value my faith community had ever been taught to hold to: The topic of the unborn. The compromise that was taking place to see this through was astounding to me.
I realized I’d never given proper consideration nor investigation to such a cultural division. I had maybe more lenient views than others, but the honest answer I realized was that unlike so many other things I spent so much time seeking to understand, I had a very surface-level understanding of abortion. Primarily regurgitated views of my faith teachers and the exhausted witness to the never-ending comments of debate. I would have told you I was pro-life and that I cared deeply about the unborn. But that I felt this wasn’t enough, I was watching babies wash up on Syrian shores and hearing arguments that we shouldn’t accept refugees because they might be terrorists. I was watching black children be gunned down walking home and hearing arguments about why they had it coming. I was looking at data and seeing that abortions rates declined when “liberal policies” were put in place.
I was writing far more frequently in those days and decided I would dig into it sincerely. So I spent the lonely time of the first few weeks of my new job digging into it. I wanted to know what the Bible actually had to say. I wanted to understand the process of pregnancy to birth in a more scientific way. I wanted to look at the political history of the pro-life movement and what case Roe V. Wade was making.
I wanted to do this because I could not name one person from my communities that had done this work. It seemed everyone I knew just had talking points built around their own sense of logic.
This work really fractured what I thought I knew. Even as far as “life begins at conception.” Or what we call a living thing.
Every time we wash our hands living things die. That might seem petty stacked against the potential for human life but it was not something I was really thinking about before.
I learned Republican justices wrote the majority opinion on Roe V. Wade.
I learned that conservatives and Christian’s were historically quite pro-choice (sometimes just until fetal viability) and that it was largely things like the advancement of ultrasound technology that factored into more aggressive points of a pro-life argument.
I learned that the Bible had very little to say about abortion, including one instance where the Bible seemed to directly not equate an aborted fetus to a living mother. (A payment of penalty had to be made on behalf of the mother but not the unborn.)
In fact there were really only like four other instances that felt of any insight to developing any biblical understanding of abortion.
- The command to be fruitful and multiply
- God curses some women to not have kids and this is a point of victory for Gods people. In other cases God causes women to miscarry.
- The famous passages “I knit you together in your mothers womb” or “before you were in your mothers womb I knew you”
- When John the Baptist “leaps” inside Elizabeth’s womb when a pregnant Mary visits.
Pile that against well…The Flood, the killing of every first-born in the plagues of Egypt, God’s people celebrating the idea of smashing infants on rocks. Jesus stating things like “it would have been better had you never been born.”
Point being, as usual, any argument could be made or undone with all that is happening biblically. I found absolutely no clarity there.
Plus, my mother had many miscarriages. That invites it’s own spiritual questions depending on your thoughts of sovereignty. Did God know them when they were in her womb? Did god have a plan for them? Did God abort my would-be siblings? The question itself disturbs and angers me.
Adam, biblically, was not considered a living being until he was given his first breath. So was one’s first breath the true sign of life and personhood?
The variety of different scriptural voices gave me no definitive understanding of God’s view of the unborn. I found far more humanity trying to work things out than definitive answers from an almighty God.
Which led me to really consider the science and what became the interesting riddle of when does a fetus become a person? A question that seems more semantically focussed than scientifically. Far more belief seems involved in such a determination. Because it’s about the meaning of a word.
“Life” and “personhood” are two different things.
I have no doubt that a day may come where a woman’s direct body will not be needed to develop human life and goodness the ethical questions that will raise for another generation. Variations of this reality are already present.
I looked up the stories of pre-mature babies and tried to see at what earliest point a baby could survive with assistance outside of the womb. I learned about blastocysts and fertilization and all that takes place after conception and what we even define to be a pregnancy.
I considered the ethical questions like if we were to find a cluster of cells on Mars we’d lose our ever living minds saying we found life on Mars so should we hold such reverence to our own small beginnings? And well if that’s the standard should we grieve dead skin?
You get into things like “Well that clump of cells may not be a person YET but it has the potential to become one and it shouldn’t be stopped. It’s human life.” Coupled with “There should be consequences for terminating such things.”
Which leads to questions about those who masturbate or have periods. “The potential for life was wasted.” Should that be regulated if we’re seeing things with such value? It all just gets very strange and scattered and tiny yet significant and it’s just exhausting. It is a quest for specificity buried in a sea of subjectivity and religion and semantics. Because at the core is a question of meaning. And meaning is rarely, if ever, a stated fact. We are unlikely to ever agree on these things.
And yet…this conversation isn’t even about any of this. So much time and so many words can be stated that have NOTHING to do with the essential point. Even draw the line arguments about exceptions for rape and incest miss the point.
At the end of it all this comes down to what are we allowed to make a person do with their bodies? What are we allowed to force upon another body? Should a person have autonomy over their own body, health, and life?
That is the most important question that needs answering.
Every other conversation, every other point of view, is a consequence to how we answer this question first.
For many, the most beautiful moment of their lives was holding their newborn child. I imagine it is hard for someone to understand that such a beautiful moment might be seen by another as terrifying or unwanted.
For others I imagine it is hard to face that the thing you dream of having most is for another a nightmare. Your heartfelt desires are not another’s. Your choices are not the same and it’s not a matter of right or wrong but choice.
I’ve been on both sides of the phone with my friends. Of those overjoyed and of those devastated over a pregnancy test. I loved them each through every outcome; including abortion.
People are so much more than their ability to make babies. Something many people are even unable to do. We cannot restrict half of humanity to such purposes and demands. A pregnancy without consent is harm and violence before it is ever a disruption to quality of life or poverty. It is a demand that a person undergo the use of their body for nearly a year to the ultimate destination of it being torn and ripped open. If you don’t want that to happen, but have that forced upon you, that is violence.
I can name no other scenario in humanity that we would try to make sense of this. Just because I have a good kidney that might save the life of another, I cannot be forced to give it over. It is my body needed, even if the arguments and ethics were all stacked against me, I should have the autonomy to choose to be cut open and shared to another. And that is not an insane or evil thing to say or uphold.
There are so many other points about outcomes such as adoption that seem unable to acknowledge that a great number of people simply do not wish to be pregnant. They do not wish to give birth at all.
Arguments against this even go so far to assert controlling the sex lives of others. “If you don’t want kids, then don’t have sex.”
Such things are not up to others! Use all the influence you want to persuade, but it is not something you get to control.
So often people with no desire for children are viewed by my former communities as incredibly selfish. Yet any real perspective of Earth’s current resources, conditions, and climate ought to at least allow the very selfless point of view of being concerned for the life of our planet. We face the hard future of overpopulation and increasingly limited resources. Even if you think it selfish to not want kids, (which doesn’t have any standing on these choices) there are very ethical reasons to not start families. Considerations I have a hard time believing the ancient world put much thought into. Our fruitfulness and consumption is not just killing creation at irreversible rates, it could eventually kill all of us.
While we argue about the rights of the unborn and the lives that could have been, we have already become our descendants Armageddon. That is not an attempt to overdramatize anything, it is playing out as we speak and the top minds of the world are all trying to warn us to no avail.
Most of us find the idea of life more sacred than life itself. Our world does not reflect such wants and beliefs. Think of the things that could happen if we all were consistent in such ideas. We would all benefit from a more wholesome understanding and I pray we get there somehow.
So many people have shared stories of their traumatic pregnancies and the children wanted that they had to seek healthcare to remove. These stories cannot be buried under virtues. People will die because of this new ruling and the politicians that beat their chest without empathy nor understanding to win ego points, elections, and find value that they’ve apparently never found from love. They have to take it because they’ve lost their influence over the masses. They cannot win against the many so they rewrite districts and laws to achieve. These lines in the sand will only dig deeper as that becomes increasingly true and it will become increasingly true.
The worldview you hope to win people over to, will only suffer further abandonment. Your churches will grow smaller. Your power and influence will grow more thin. Your teachings will grow less relevant to the future of your children. And if you truly believe the unbelievers will suffer forever in Hell. What then can be said of your stumbling blocks?
What then can be said of your stumbling blocks?
This pendulum will not return kindly in your direction.
You have mistaken power and it’s acquisition more important than healing and service. I need not add another voice to all the ways in which life suffers in loneliness beyond the womb while more and more power is taken for this failing and desperate dominance.
As we have already seen, we will be forced to hear from and pay attention to the death and harm this puts on pregnant bodies in addition to what lives you already believe lost to abortion. And if you do nothing about this influx of tragedy, if you continue to respond in no way as you have before, if you continue to vote down policies that aid these tragedies, your concerns will be revealed as lies. All will see you’ve only been pawns in upholding a harmful power system that doesn’t care about you. You will have lost the culture and your religion will go with you.
Many already believe this to be so.
It will not be because you loved so aggressively for the unborn, but rather because you were never open to the other, your compassion was never louder than your pride, you offered control instead of freedom. You gained the world but lost your soul. You nailed government to your god and lost control of both.
I’ve seen so many who went to church on Sunday just to hear praise for this outcome without concern for those harmed. Some already say they’ve walked out for the last time.
These are but the first steps toward whatever new thing is coming into being.
Years ago I read a book by John Phillip Newell who told the story of a dream that Carl Jung once had. Jung saw that above the spire of a cathedral was the throne of God. Descending from the throne was ‘an enormous turd” that smashed into the spire and the walls of the cathedral crumbled.” Newell insisted from this vision that, “We are living in the midst of the great turd falling. In fact, it has already hit the spire, and the walls of Western Christianity are collapsing.”
Newell perhaps crassly added years later, “the turd always comes before the birth.”