I recently traveled to Atlanta to attend the annual Care Net conference. Part of the conference this year was a special summit to address the abortion problem in the Black community. Seven pastors and a couple people active in the Black pro-life cause were present.
The purpose of this event was to begin impressing upon pastors the vital importance and urgency of their voice being heard within our community, to help bring visibility and credibility to the message of life. I’m pretty familiar with abortion statistics, issues, effects, causes, and proposed solutions. But I heard something very early in the conference that took my breath away.
During the first session of the summit, a pastor from Alabama made this comment: “It’s fine to talk to people about their abortions and the impact it has had on them, and to encourage them to seek healing. But we really need to talk to people about their sin.” He ended his introduction of himself with this statement and sat down. No one else commented on what he said, and it was never mentioned during any of the other sessions. But this observation kept me awake that first night I spent in Atlanta.
Sin…. Seems like it would be obvious. It’s true that not every abortion stems from a sinful behavior. In fact, the number of married women having abortions seems to be on the rise. But in the Black community, 88.6 percent of abortions are had by unmarried women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So sin is definitely an issue. With all the talk about “unintended pregnancy” and “crisis pregnancy,” it’s easy to forget that there are problematic, (see, even I’m using a euphemism for sin right now) behaviors underlying the pregnancies and abortions.
The language of our day has been tweaked and massaged just enough to obscure what’s really happening. How would it sound if we started saying, “We’d like to decrease and prevent sinful sexual behavior, which would lead to less out-of-wedlock pregnancies.” NOW (The National Organization of Women), Planned Parenthood, and their cohorts would jump up and down screaming “foul” faster than you could say “contraception.”
It even looks funny to see “out of wedlock” in print, doesn’t it? No one says that anymore. Language has a huge impact on how we diagnose–and prescribe solutions for–problems of our day. Seems like when we said things like out of wedlock, people were more cognizant of the consequences of their behavior. It reminded us that there was a child being brought into the world without the benefit of a marriage. And we readily understood the legal and moral implications of that reality.
As it is now, if someone has an “unintended” pregnancy, it just means they didn’t plan well. The sex was intended, but not the pregnancy. So to fix the problem, you get help planning better–i.e., pills, condoms, or something else.
So where does sin come in? Bringing sin back into our conversation, especially among Christians and other faith communities, wakes us up to the fact that sexual sin violates God’s intent and design for sex, and that the pregnancy is really the least of our problems.
We’ve gone in the opposite direction of a holy God, who cares deeply about our lives, and who cares enough to establish consequences for sin. Being honest about the existence of sin keeps us aware that our problems lie in our souls, not our inability to organize and plan. It re-injects the ideas of responsibility, accountability, morality, love, and consequence back into a dialogue that has gotten off course.
Talking about sin will change how we feel about those who get caught in its trap (we’ve all sinned and come short, right?), and which remedies we promote to help the situation. It will motivate us to desire and work for inner healing, strength, and faith for women and families, rather than the shortsighted quick fixes being advocated now. Sin is what’s gotten us here, and dealing with sin is what will get us out.