One of the highlights – if not the highlight – of my journalism career was being asked to help our sister newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, cover the Democratic National Convention in August 2008. I was mostly asked to liveblog and tweet (not so fun when all you have is a number keypad for texting in those Dark Ages), but I got a couple of bylines in the dead-tree version and got to be in the same city as Barack Obama became the first black major-party presidential nominee in our nation’s history. Pretty cool stuff.
Six months later, the Rocky was shuttered, and I left for better-paying writing jobs in non-imploding industries.
But covering the convention had a lasting, transformative effect on me, and it started at the very first event I covered, the convention’s opening interfaith prayer gathering.Bishop Charles E. Blake, presiding bishop of Denver’s Church of God in Christ, broke from the party to criticize abortion but aimed his most withering fire on pro-life Republicans and conservatives, some of whom had disrupted the gathering by shouting that Obama was a “baby killer”:
Others loudly proclaim their advocacy for the unborn, but they refuse to recognize their responsibility and the responsibility of our nation to those who have been born. They are presently and historically silent, if not indifferent to the suffering of our inner cities.
Further research led me to believe that Obama’s ideas for reducing the number of abortions would likely prove more effective than those of the Republican Party, whose quest to slash family-planning budgets and promote abstinence-only education has led to an information deficit, especially among poor girls and women, that increases, rather than reduces, the number of unplanned pregnancies and, therefore, the number of abortions.
This is a tough point to grasp. I’ve tried explaining it, probably not very well, to conservative Christians in various arenas, and I can’t say they’ve come away understanding that being opposed to legal abortion does not necessarily make a candidate more likely to be successful in reducing abortions – or even necessarily more “pro-life.”
But I think it’s something Christians need to discuss more. Because as long as we narrowly define “pro-life” to be only about abortion – a subject never explicitly mentioned in scripture – we will abandon the unwanted, abused, impoverished, famished American children who were unlucky enough to actually be born – and our scriptures actually say quite a lot about them.
The conversation on this subject is largely being led by our African-American brothers and sisters – I suspect because they deal more directly with the suffering of the inner cities more directly than the Christian leaders who are white. I’ve discussed before how Barron Jones was forceful on this topic at Summit in September. As I mentioned, Blake was the very first person I ever heard articulate this position. And, last night, a friend of mine from San Angelo, Rev. Floyd Crider, decided for whatever reason to unleash some prophetic words on Facebook.
Crider is part of a group in San Angelo called West Texas Organizing Strategy, which has done an incredibly effective job marshaling the resources of the churches who serve the city’s poorest neighborhoods and using them to lobby the city government to do something to rectify the crisis caused by decades of benign or (in the case of the era before desegregation) malignant neglect. So when Crider – who has helped San Angelo understand the benefit of collectively helping its poorest neighborhoods through cleanup projects, dangerous-home demolitions, affordable-housing projects and rezoning to eliminate the encroachment of industrial factories into the residential areas – speaks about the Christian response to poverty, I listen.
And this is what he said last night on Facebook (edited for punctuation and to correct a couple of typos):
Perhaps the decision is not pro-life versus pro-choice. I like to think that we should be “pro-active” and seek the zero-sum solution, meaning that on the issue of abortion, I feel that if you have zero unwanted pregnancies, you will have zero abortions. May not be easy to do, but you have to admit that the math is infallible.
We can work harder to prevent rape and incest, but most unwanted pregnancies are due to premarital, mostly teen sex. Abstinence (alone) has not worked. We must have “age-appropriate” material, written and visual, available to adults to make it work. If you don’t want it taught in school health classes, then make it available to pastors and youth pastors. If you don’t want them to handle it, then make the info available to parents, grandparents or caretakers. This has worked in other locations in Texas and states outside of Texas. The belief that if you talk to them about it, they will then want to do it is unfounded, and, in my opinion, ridiculous. Do you really believe that a couple of teens are in the back of a Chevy somewhere saying, “Wait! Stop! We can’t. We haven’t had sex ed yet”? Please. If we continue to do nothing but repeat, “Just say no,” we deceive ourselves and leave their education to their peers and the media. As a high school counselor, I was so tired of hearing youngsters exclaim that they didn’t think they could get pregnant if they were standing up, in a swimming pool, ad nauseum.
Further, if you say that you are pro-life, you need to be supporting Success By 6 or others who offer support to expectant mothers thru postpartum (this one to age 6). You ought to support the Bair Foundation or some other adoption agency. You ought to support Right Choices for Youth or some intervention and education agency. If all you do is try to “make” someone have a baby and then throw mother and child on the trash heap by benign neglect, ignorance or just callousness, you are NOT pro-life. You are just pro-birth.