It also seemed from the book that when it comes to issues of human sexuality, particularly with abortion, and maybe a little bit with sam-sex marriage, that you were less likely to apply a biblical argument to non-Christians. In the abortion chapter, you said you couldn’t establish personhood because there are so many different religious views on personhood, yet when you’re talking about other issues, like poverty, there seems to be a difference in application?
No, there’s really not. First of all, let’s go back to the same-sex marriage chapter. When we’re talking about the most vulnerable, what we’re talking about is people who are not protected under the law. And so, when I address the issue of same-sex marriage, I start out the chapter by explaining that my own story with this is one of not knowing where I was going to land when I began the chapter. In the course of the research, what I found was that in our society right now, we actually have a second class of people who are really not protected under the law.
For me, the question of same-sex marriage in civil society, not inside the church, is a question of equality. Is someone equally human? If everyone reflects the image of God, then they are worthy of equal protection under the law. Right now, the way that the law is designed, there are more than 1300 privileges and protections that are bestowed upon married couples in a legal marriage that are not bestowed on civil unions, or even on single people. That’s a whole other thing to question, whether or not they would need some of those protections.
What I do know is that when I interviewed people and when I looked at the actual law as it stands right now, I saw that there’s no reason legally why we as a society are maintaining a two-tiered system of citizenship with regard to the LGBTQ community.
In fact, what we found in Supreme Court law is that the Supreme Court has already decided that marriage is such a fundamental right of citizenship that even mass murderers and multiple rapists cannot have the right to marry taken away from them. So if these people have the right to marry while they are in prison, how can I tell my gay friend that he can’t. So protecting the vulnerable, it’s the same thing in my book, and it’s really about protecting the image of God in all people.
When we talk about abortion, the question there for me is: how do we live in a society where we have a pluralistic democracy and have to win the argument in the public square. That argument must be won in a way that everyone agrees, or at least the majority of people agree. I am not going to win the argument only on the basis of my personal faith.
My personal faith actually tells me that life begins before conception. It begins in the mind of God. I see that in Psalm 139. I see that in the fact that we are all made in the image of God, but that is my personal faith, so if that is my only piece of evidence in the public square, I will lose that argument. In a theocracy, where Christianity rules and the Bible is actually the law, I could win that argument. That’s just not the world we live in.
What I do in that chapter, is I ask: if we actually care about the lives of these unborn babies, which I absolutely do, what is the number one thing that we have to focus on if we’re going to save lives? We already know what to do. You address issues of poverty. When services and programs are cut, like WIC, foodstamps, headstart, services that give women the ability to choose life, abortion rates go up. When those services are funded and given money, abortion rates in those areas go down, so in a practical way, if we actually care about the babies, we will address poverty.
In your role as Director of Mobilizing for Sojourners, when you’re using faith-based arguments to advocate for poverty issues, are you then appealing to Christians as opposed to the wider culture?
That’s what’s so interesting. There are certain things that all of us can agree on. Poverty is not from God. Most people can agree on that. Some people would actually argue on the other side of that argument, but they are the vast minority. In a pluralistic democracy, we can use the argument, poverty is not from God, and even secular people will agree with that. It’s not something that anyone wants.
You and Innes collaborated on an article for The Huffington Post about the Mississippi personhood ammendment. In it you talked about a heart-wrenching conversation you had with your mother that caused a long-term rift between you. You were stridently pro-life at the time and she confessed to having had an abortion when her life was in danger during a pregnancy. You told her she was wrong to do that. How did that experience shape your current views on abortion?
I always regret that moment. I really do. I regret the moment that I looked my mom in the face and I basically told her I wish she had died.
We all have regrettable moments as young people.
We do. We learned something and then we think we know everything and we become very militant, but without humility. Humility would have told me to put myself in her shoes. She’s the mother of a family with six children. What happens if she dies? It’s actually a blended family, so does that family stay together or does it break up? Do my two blood sisters and I go live with our father? Do we go live with our grandmother, who was dying of Alzheimer’s disease at the time?
Life is not black and white, and I approached her as if it is. My heart was hardened. The thing about hard hearts is that it’s all over Scripture, where the pharisees hearts were hardened. They approached Jesus himself with the law in their hands saying you are breaking the law. You are not perfect. It’s quite ironic.
What does perfection look like? What I’ve come to understand in Scripture is that perfection does not look like perfectly obeying the law. If that was the case, Jesus was not perfect. What perfection looks like is loving perfectly. That’s what we learn from Matthew 5, where it says, “Love your enemies, because if you love your friends and not your enemies, what good are you? You’re not much better than anybody else. So be perfect therefore as your father in heaven is perfect. So you could be called a child of God.” I was not loving in that moment.
Continued on page 3.