Pastoral Letter in Response to Supreme Court Abortion Decision

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

I do not need to tell you that our nation is tense. For years now, political polarization has been growing. Even within our own families, loved ones have drawn lines—sometimes to the point of excluding one another completely from their lives over politics. That on its own is a sincere, disappointing tragedy. But events in the past weeks, particularly with the United States Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which removed federal protection for access to abortion care, have only heightened the tension and further alienated us in our already polarized nation. How are we as Christians rightly to respond without allowing ourselves to succumb to, as St. James writes, “sordidness and rank growth of wickedness?”

Let me be clear. This pastoral letter is by no means a condemnation or commendation of the decision of the Supreme Court. We each have our own opinions on many and various political matters, yet despite our differences, we live together as a church, the family of God. What unites us in Christ is far more compelling and binding than our politics. Christians must—absolutely must—rise above the fray of worldly politics for the sake of oneness in the body. This is not to say that we do not have our disagreements or that we do not discuss our disagreements with one another; in fact, it is in the very heart of those discussions, rooted in love for one another, that growth in relationship happens. But, again as St. James reminds us, “let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” The good will come not of our own impassioned arguments, but in our listening to one another, compassionately and openly, and with words spoken to another in true love.

No one of sound mind celebrates abortion. Life is a gift of God, in all its forms. And yet Christ who came to earth to give us a model of the Godly life tell us, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” The matter for Christians always must be not what it means to be alive, but what it means to live—to live an abundant life. A life of struggle and hardship, beleaguered by poverty and physical exhaustion, is real for many—particularly women. When we as a society do not step up to undo these injustices, or what is worse, suggest excuses for why we should not or cannot step up to undo them, we fall short of God’s call for us “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.”

We as Christians need more understanding. We need to be quick to listen and slow to speak when we approach loving conversations with each other about the volatile issues, such as abortion. We need to recognize that even in our own parish, at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, among our own beloved church family, women have had abortions—not as a means to end an inconvenience, but as a way to save their own lives from death. We must also respect the deep-seated conviction that all life is sacred, even unborn life. This conviction is rooted in the fundamental belief that life is a gift from God, and indeed it is. We must, however, be sure that it is life that we are defending and not simply birth.

As Christians, we must commit ourselves to fervently caring not only for the unborn, but for all lives at all stages. We need adequate care for mothers and families who have children. We need adequate funding for schooling, as education has been shown to be the biggest factor in determining if a child grows up to live in poverty. We need generous, charitable care for people living in poverty. We need access to good healthcare for all people. We need fair wages for all people. We need just care for our elderly, particularly those who live on mere Social Security and Medicare—systems that year in and year out continue to prove more and more difficult for the elderly to make ends meet. We also, as counterintuitive as it may sound when speaking of life, need serious compassion and channels for end-of-life care when someone feels their life no longer is abundant. In short, we as Christians must have a passion for full and abundant life from conception to death.

Have no illusions. This conversation is not over—nor should it be. And neither is this conversation easy—and again, nor should it be. But it is a conversation that we must have respectfully with each other. Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For your anger does not produce God’s righteousness…As we faithfully grapple with this very real issue, with very real implications, not only for women, but for us all, we will come to a deeper place of appreciation and love for one another. What is more, we will model, as Jesus modeled for us, the Godly way of life for each other and for the world around, a world that desperately needs a shining beacon of respect, charity, and self-restraint. It is my burning desire that we Christians lead by humble example of what it means to live lives that embody the sanctity of God at every stage of life.

Your brother in Christ,

Pr. Daniel

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