Column Entry: “The Image of God and Roe vs. Wade”
Column Description: The term Communitas refers to an unstructured community of equal members often traveling from one place to another. Like the characters in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, we are fellow pilgrims on the road towards the Father’s house, following Jesus as the way, truth, and life. This column is a space to share common ideas about faith, communication, and culture with the intent of affirming the image of God in all persons.
By Elizabeth McLaughlin, PhD, Bethel University
The Image of God and Roe Vs. Wade
Is there a more contentious debate in our divided nation than abortion? This issue has haunted our national conversation since the 1973 decision that found abortion to be a Constitutional right.
Forty-nine years later, after this leak of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling, all hell broke loose with the harassment of justices picketed in their own homes; demonstrations of fear, anger, and joy on each side; and a renewed stream of toxic rhetoric between all concerned.
On protest signs, slogans reflect this tension, “keep your roseries off my ovaries,” and “Don’t murder your baby.” Is it “reproductive rights” or “saving lives”? Methodist ministers bless an abortion clinic while others faithfully protest outside these clinics?
Where is the dignity of God’s image present in this conversation? How can we apply this fundamental biblical truth to our own conversations about the effects of Roe Vs. Wade? How do our mandates to care for and replenish the earth matter in our speech? Any argument that sets a pregnant woman against the baby inside her is impossible to resolve.
The purpose of this column is to consider and ask the necessary questions for how this dilemma is framed for Christian communicators. We are concerned with honoring the truth that men and women are created in the imago Dei (Genesis 1: 26+) and how this issue affects discourse between believers, churches, in legislation, in relations between the sexes, and in the real plight of women who have unplanned pregnancies and circumstances.
We have issues with language about what is happening. How do we label each side? “Pro-life” or “anti-abortion? “Baby” or “clump of cells”? Pregnancy as “disease” or as “natural”? Women as victims or killers? Men as “sperm donor” or “father”? We cannot even agree on terms.
Christ followers who care about words and actions on this issue must remember that every person or group we interact with is an image-bearer who carries sacred worth before the God who made all of us. Here are a few questions to guide our discourse as we communicate our positions in different contexts looking for the image of God.
- Are we looking down at women who are sexually active as morally inferior, deserving the “consequences” they deserve? Or are they real people facing challenging financial, personal, and relational challenges? Are we empathic about the circumstances of their lives and ready to meet needs or are we Pharisees who judge? Can we be allies who come along side real women and their needs with empathy and then help them raise their kids?
- Do we consider men in these situations as sperm donors or potential fathers who might have a stake in a child of their own? Can we address abuse while honoring those wishing to be fathers? Can we empower men to become dads?
- When does a baby become an image-bearer with equal rights as a human being? This is like the conversation about fetal personhood, but goes beyond to the fundamental question of when a baby human exists as a member of the human family?
- Are we addressing some issues in the legislation for state laws to address dignity of all? Or are we punishing women for having sex? (In my state, new laws ask a woman to prove rape and incest before an abortion is permitted—like we cannot trust women to tell the truth about these crimes).
- Are we reflecting—in word and action—Christian values in our discourse, ministry, framing and programming a support for single women and their families in the spirit of Jesus’ love or are we turning our backs on those who may have broken taboos?
Prochoice advocates have accused the church of not caring about women and families after the child is born. Christians have a golden opportunity and call to share the gospel in real life that requires our time and resources to show our love and empathy to all image-bearers in this complex situation. Can we invest in a tangible way the rhetoric of Christian action? In short, we can show we are Christians by the way we love in deed and in truth (I John 3:18). Many are doing so, and may it be the same for the rest of us no matter what our social opinions.