Highland Baptist Church
This week’s church trip revolved around a very politically-charged topic: abortion. This topic can bring up very strong feelings, it certainly does for me. Trigger warning if abortion is a difficult subject for you.
Another disclaimer: I have my own opinions on this topic. Since this is my blog, it wouldn’t be authentic if I didn’t share those opinions. This doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong, bad, or stupid for having a different opinion. Also, feel free to reach out to me about it. This blog so far has been a great invitation to my friends and family to have conversations with me about things they might have previously considered taboo, and I want that to continue.
This week I attended the Highland Baptist Church in Grove City with my friend Joy. I was also supposed to go with my friend and coworker Callen (Joy’s husband) and their 5-month-old son, Roscoe, but Roscoe wasn’t feeling well. This begs the question: am I making people sick when I ask them to go to church with me? Tbd.
It was an early and crazy morning for Callen and Joy, neither had much sleep from taking care of Roscoe. But Joy still managed to go with me, and both her and Callen prepared lunch for me after. I want to thank them 1 million times over for hanging out with me during such a hectic day.
For the first part of the day, we attended an adult Sunday school session. It’s technically a Sunday school for married couples, but I just went as a visitor. It was cozy, only 11 of us in the class (including me and Joy) and two instructors, and I really enjoyed it as a warm up to the day.
After Sunday school, we went to the sanctuary for church. Today, as it turns out, is “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.” I did some Wikipedia research to find the origin of this Sunday. In 1984, Ronald Reagan declared Sunday January 22nd “National Sanctity of Human Life Day,” which commemorated the 11th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Every Republican president since Reagan has continued the tradition. I tried to find out if the tradition of using the closest Sunday to the 22nd as “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” was a Baptist thing or a church thing in general. The Southern Baptist Convention has it listed on their official calendar, but I couldn’t find any indication that it was Baptist-only. I’m sure many churches that hold pro-life stances could use this Sunday to preach their message.
The sermon was more direct than I expected. I thought they might use a gentle approach, or something that was more roundabout, because I am used to approaching controversial topics like abortion very gently in my own life. The sermon went right to the subject, no mincing words. The pastor began by saying “I’m probably going to offend you today.” I wouldn’t say I left the church taking any offense to the sermon, but I did disagree with some points.
Let’s cover his core points quickly: Abortion is wrong, killing an unborn child is a crime (which our nation currently enables), and we should do everything we can to stop abortions. All of this is based upon the sanctity of human life, and how all life has value. He also stated Christian children are “arrows to the heart of Satan.” He said a lot of other things, too, I don’t want to make it sound like the entire sermon was him nailing this point home. Most of it was centered on the topic of abortion, but he had some other points that I could cover if I wanted to write a 10,000 word post. For your sake, dear reader, I won’t do that.
I won’t argue about when life begins, conception or later. I don’t know, and for my thoughts and feelings about it, it’s neither here nor there. When I was young, I couldn’t comprehend why someone wouldn’t want their baby, or wouldn’t keep their baby. And then I grew a little older, a little depressed. I had days where I didn’t feel loved or wanted. I had days where I was so stressed about money or circumstance I thought I might break. I began to see how sometimes it’s almost too much to ask to even keep yourself alive.
Then I got to college. I joined a social justice organization, I became educated about women’s issues, I became a feminist. I became aware of bodily autonomy, meaning a person has the right to control what happens to her body at all times. If she’s pregnant, she controls if she terminates that pregnancy. A woman can’t be forced to be an incubator for a child if she doesn’t want to be. In the same way that, if she has a kidney that can save another life, she is not forced to give it. In the same way that if she doesn’t want to donate her body to medical research after she dies, she doesn’t have to. Even her corpse will have bodily autonomy.
Bodily autonomy has informed my opinion on the pro-choice and pro-life debate for a long time. The freedom of allowing a person to control her own body seems like an undeniable right, in my opinion.
But one of the things I have always hated is the characterization of being pro-choice as being pro-abortion or anti-life. I don’t like abortion. I don’t like when a young woman is scared and pregnant and has to make a very difficult choice. I, too, think life has value. I think when a woman gives birth to a child it’s a beautiful, wonderful thing. I think if she makes the choice not to have her baby, it’s not an easy thing, or a happy thing. It’s a necessity for reasons I can’t possibly understand. I’ve never been in a domestic violence situation. I’ve never been homeless. I was educated about safe sex and contraception from a young age. In those ways, I recognize my privilege.
Basically, I think it’s really complicated. More complicated than I can convey in this post. It’s easy to draw lines at what is right and what is wrong. Abortion is quite literally a life or death situation, and in that way, it’s easy to call it black and white. But, I think there is so much gray that we don’t know or don’t see because we aren’t in a woman’s shoes when she decides to terminate a pregnancy. I, too, recognize I am biased in my opinion. I want to love and support women no matter what their circumstance, and I don’t want to draw the line at what is and isn’t moral for another woman.
As a final note, too, I don’t dislike Highland Baptist or their preacher or their members. I think they want to follow God’s word, and that includes protecting life. Abortion will always be a hot-button topic, and I respect them for addressing it head-on, instead of avoiding it and leaving it unspoken. One thing I really appreciated was how the preacher made sure to emphasize that being pro-life meant being pro-life for all of life. It means not only protecting an unborn child, but also protecting children, adults, and the elderly. It means loving and helping your neighbor. I really loved that, because I think sometimes people get so caught up in saving an unborn child, they forget that the mother who considered terminating her pregnancy (but didn’t) is probably the mother that needs the most help after her child is born. They also closed the sermon by loving and blessing everyone who might have had an abortion or encouraged one. Although it’s hard to preach about abortion, and then turn around and try to uplift your congregation, I think they handled it as best they could.