Tuesday, June 14, 2022

PASTORAL LETTER: "On Abortion Rights, What Happens Next"

A Pastoral Letter
June 14, 2022

Friends and siblings,

Abortion should be safe, legal and accessible.
  One in four women of reproductive age will have an abortion at some point; it's been an essential right for women in this country for 50 years.  It's a critical piece of promoting reproductive health and family choice, and encouraging well-being for women, children and the partners who love them.  So there is no doubt.  Abortion should continue to be safe, legal and accessible in this country.  Full stop.

Over the next couple of weeks, there's every reason to expect that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, and provide a road map for criminalizing abortion in many states.  It's important to note, for you and me and our families here, that New Hampshire is not one of those states.  There is work to be done here--a lot of work--to protect reproductive health and the right to a safe abortion; but New Hampshire is not one of the states that will quickly move to ban all abortions.  That message is critically important for all of us to understand and share.  Women will still be able to seek, find and receive the care they need and deserve in this state.

Still, nationally, the overturning of Roe would signal a sad turn toward limiting human rights, curbing human rights--in a country that claims to be a beacon of freedom, dignity and fairness.  And let's be clear.  That's what the overturning of Roe means: that a conservative religious community (with reactionary secular partners) can organize, manipulate and bully their way through the political process to limit and even abolish a human right we've come to honor and cherish as a people.  And this is a dangerous turn, a dangerous one indeed.

To my Christian sisters and brothers who have focused (almost exclusively) on this issue over these past five decades...I want to offer this.  Your contempt for women's freedoms, your contempt for reproductive health, your contempt for families who make complex and difficult decisions every day--is stunning and deeply antithetical to the gospel itself.  The gospel proclaims God's grace and love, and equally, God's partnership in our choices to live generous, healthy and just lives in community.  It's grounded in a profound belief that God alone is God, that God alone is judge and Lord over humankind and all creation.  By your actions, and your disdain for democratic norms over these 50 years, you assume to act as divine arbiters of right and worng, and you presume to play God in the lives of many.  You do this with women's lives in the abortion debate.  And you seem equally happy to play God in your approach to gay rights, gender equality and gun proliferation as well.  You know best.  You alone know best.  And the well-being of our families be damned.  The well-being of our schools be damned.  You are not doing "God's will," my friends.  You are making a mockery of "God," and religion itself.  

I'd suggest there's something deeply, profoundly wrong with this.  Theologically.  Spiritually.  You are flaunting the gospel to pervert the gospel.  And you'll be remembered for that.

To my neighbors in Durham, on the Seacoast and across New Hampshire...let's continue to organize for human rights.  We know--as people of different faiths, as people with hope and love--that this is the right path to take.  We know that the common good requires democratic participation, deep love for difference, and a steady and open-minded commitment to neighborliness and public health.  If you're a Christian in this environment, don't be bashful about claiming the gospel mandate here: that freedom and humility are paramount; that neighbors collaborate to protect human rights; that women's reproductive health is a matter of utmost importance for all of us (and that includes Christians in every way).  Don't hide your light under a bushel basket, and don't allow fundamentalist and reactionary voices (perversely claiming Christianity) to monopolize the civic discussion.  You can love Jesus and work boldly and tirelessly for human freedoms and public health...indeed, I would argue, you must.

In the meantime, if you are stressed by this news, or by anything the Supreme Court does or doesn't do this month, reach out to me, reach out to one another.  If your daughters and partners are unclear about what's available and possible in New Hampshire, reach out.  Planned Parenthood continues to offer clear and helpful information on where you can find the care you deserve and need.  And know that by our loving, by our caring, by our sharing of this moment, we shall overcome.

Yours, in Christ,

Pastor Dave