Compassion in the Midst of Choices

Craig Spinks of has created a video titled Choices, (coincidentally only, no linkage to Choices Mt. Shasta).

In this video, Christa is a woman who chose to love and support her friend’s decision for an abortion following a very challenging diagnosis. The feedback on the video includes some obvious discordant thought on how Christa might have responded – but what seems to be missing is the reality that she never endorsed abortion, though she courageously made the decision to love her friend even – especially –  in the midst of an abortion decision.

My sense, and something that has been taking shape within my heart for some time,  is that the collective we – including the ambivalent middle and wherever else someone might tack their pin on the life-issues spectrum – need to have a conversation to find common ground around the topic of abortion, specifically, to address the ways in which we can reduce numbers, within a compassionate framework.  What does compassion look like?  This includes ongoing definition around these elements:

  • Providing real support, both practical and relational for pregnant mothers. Loving beyond our comfort level, risking, being generous with time and resources.
  • Increasing sexual education with a primary emphasis on abstinence, that teaches the “sacredness of sexuality to our children”, yet does not include shame-based tactics.
  • Increasing awareness of adoption, including intentional education to eliminate shame and bring dignity to the adoption process, and including the courage of women who choose to place their little ones with another for parenting.
  • Strengthening families with parenting insights and skills, relational support, and sexuality preparation for conversations with their young adults.

When we choose to dwell in the land  of dissonance  (lack of agreement; mingling of discordant sounds), we invite tension, often uncomfortable, that challenges our presuppositions about life issues.  It’s messy. There are differing ways of thinking about how one should respond to abortion in our culture.  At Choices, we hear plenty of opinions – such as those who feel the only valid ministry is pressuring women to accept the four spiritual laws.  But, rather than compromising our value of engaging people where they are, we’re extending the love of Christ embodied in our compassionate responses, and we continue to define and refine what it is we hope to accomplish – to use Francis Shaeffer’s words, to continually determine ‘how should we then live’. It’s not easy.

While  one can personally hold the position that abortion is the taking of human life, what seems to be  at issue here – and where the dissonance grows a wide and treacherous crevasse – is how to appropriately respond to an individual who is seeking or choosing abortion as an option.

It is easier to understand the need for change when we are face to face with human need – when you sit with someone in deep pain, and attempt to provide a place of comfort and peace – it is then you begin to recognize that the system is broken. It is then that you understand that telling someone what to do, manipulating emotions, shaming, or scaring someone isn’t love, isn’t helpful, isn’t respect and ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, isn’t Christlike.  If our only game plan is imposing our own belief system on someone who doesn’t live in that system, how can we expect to reach them?  In fact, my personal belief is that it is essentially counterproductive.  It could be construed that the Apostle Paul makes this exact point (1 Cor 5:10, 12).

Others serving Christ have been accused of compromising their standards. Todd Hunter gives us something to consider when wrestling with considerations of living in a postmodern culture:  “We are anchored in the Rock – but geared to the times,” (which, BTW, was the main guiding philosophy of Billy Graham), and “Postmoderns haven’t disregarded Truth – they are reinterpreting for the culture,” (which is exactly what Billy Graham did and got into trouble with his overseers and funders for doing so in the 40’s).   To dismiss postmodernism as mere relativism is to miss what is going on in the culture, and even more, to miss what God is doing in the culture.  Women and families are waiting for the love and compassion of Christ.

If we don’t get closer to getting this right, women will continue, out of desperation – not desire,  to choose abortion in the face of economic, relational and spiritual conflict, and lives will suffer and be lost due to unkind, dismissive, and disrespectful rhetoric and agendas.  People ‘on the ground’ at Choices are meeting with real people who need more than that.  My heart soared in the video when Christa told her friend, “We’ll continue walking through it together.”  We can’t make decisions for others, but we can choose to suffer with them in the midst of their challenges.

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