Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In whose name?

Sabrina, I was sitting in the lobby of a catholic church waiting to meet a hunger activist when I read the article you posted on facebook—George Tiller shot to death at Wichita church News Updates Wichita Eagle. I caught a flight that Sunday morning to Kansas City, MO to conduct a meeting with local faith based activists to discuss international and domestic poverty issues. I had already worshiped at a Presbyterian church that morning and was feeling rejuvenated and loving my job. It felt good to connect the good news of Jesus Christ with the very real life issues facing people in the world today.

As a community organizer I have always worked closely with the church. In most struggling neighborhoods the church is the only place folks can turn to for help and has historically played a huge role in many social justice movements. While there are differences including birth control, gay rights and yes abortions, the larger shared agenda has always been about the wellness of the community. I have not always agreed with “church folk” but I knew that they were generally good people that cared about the community. But there I was in a huge catholic church with hundreds of people listening to a priest talk about “knowing what’s right from sin” that I read—“GEORGE TILLER WAS SHOT TO DEATH AT WITCHITA CHURCH.” The one place that’s supposed to be safe, where your political persuasions shouldn’t matter.

No I am not pollyanna, I know that horrible things have been said and done in the name of God. But this felt different. This pieced my heart. Not only was this man, a doctor that cared for women, murdered in his house of worship, but killed by a movement that professes to carry out God’s will. As the words of this article ran through my head, I felt suddenly vulnerable. What do other Christians think about this? Has the larger Christian community become so myopic that any deviation from what the presumed norm is seen as evil? Do I, a tree hugging Black women that is Christian, supports stem cell research, does not feel threaten by LGBT community and supports a woman’s right to choose, have a place at the table?

The way the abortion debate is framed leaves no room for nuance or compassion. Being pro-choice does not require me to believe in abortion personally. While I believe a fetus is a developing human being, I know the framework of this conversation is housed in that individual woman’s body and I cannot tell any woman what to do. That is between that woman, her God and her healthcare provider! No one can presume to know her truth or what lead her to that decision.

When I hear anyone talk about the importance of an unborn fetus absent the reality of the mother, it makes we cringe! If this is really about the preservation of life why isn’t the pro-life movement advocating for healthcare, housing or jobs? The preservation of life does not stop once you are born. Furthermore, to not acknowledge the humanity of the women is disingenuous. No woman takes this decision lightly. Women need to be supported and cared for not judged and harassed. Have we forgotten who Jesus was, God mercy and grace? How can only anyone who claims to be pro-life turnaround and take one? The contradiction is frightening.

I am sad and disillusioned. If the church stays silent while people continue to kill in its name, it will begin to no longer recognize itself.


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