Francis Beckwith was asked a question concerning the emerging church and abortion. It occurred here at about 73 minutes into the broadcast (listen to it). Essentially the question surrounded the emerging church’s concern for social issues such as women’s rights, poverty, aids victims, and environmental concerns as compared to their perceived concern for the issue of abortion. Beckwith expressed concern about what he believes to be the emerging/Emergent church’s “downplaying” or minimizing of the issue of abortion. 

I found this question important and one that need some conversation. While I been involved with all things emerging for some time, I have found this lack of engagement disturbing and inconsistent, to say the least. I could be wrong and this is why I encourage emergers to speak to this issue here or in their own blogs helping others see where they stand and why.

One person told me that the Religious Right has not been able to make much of dent in the abortion issue over the last thirty years. She saw it this way:

Now, if there’s a way I see abortion ending it’s through:
1. The decline of hopelessness and poverty and
2. The increase in respect for adoption and
3. An increase in respect for motherhood as a valid choice. 

Personally, I am not sure if the abortion issue is as simple as saying Republicans or the religious right have not been able to do anything about it. It is primarily a social issue and a moral one that necessarily presents itself before the legal system.

Let me ask a few question here: 

If we have a respect for intrinsic human dignity—the imago dei in all people—which motivates us to provide a voice for the poor, for those discriminated against, and for Aids victims, how much more do we have the obligation to speak for the unborn? There are over three thousand children who are aborted each day in the United States alone (over 40 million worldwide). That is more than who died in the world trade center bombing.

Isn’t it hypocritical and imbalanced for us to speak with 10 decimals about the environment, the poor, and aids victims, and speak with only a hesitant whisper, if at all, toward the dying unborn who are being scraped from their mother’s womb?

Are you so disenchanted with a Republican agenda that you neglect these little ones for fear of being identified with the religious right? 

If so, wouldn’t this neglect through disenchantment evidence an irresponsible and, indeed, sinful reaction that is totally inconsistent with the missio dei?

Even if we have, as of yet, not been able to do anything about abortion (which I do not concede—read Beckwith’s book), does this mean that we silence our passions and lay down our political arms in a democratic society where the people are the government?

Here are some more difficult questions:

Do you think slavery should have been abolished (or could have been) through a gentle appeal to the mass public to do what is right at the same time as keeping it legal?

Should America have given up on the abolition of slavery because for hundreds of years political activists were not able to do anything about it?

Do you think that it was right, in hindsight to have gone to war over the issue of slavery?

If so, would you support such a war ”a civil war” over abortion. If not, why not? What is the difference?

Do you, as an emerger, believe that life begins at conception? Or are some emergers—social emergers—uncertain about when life begins? Is this why you don’t speak about it?

If you don’t speak to this issue, do you really expect people to listen to you about others? Why? Sometimes silence can speak louder than words. In other words, there is a message in silence.

Please understand that these are just questions. They are directed primarily to those who are “emerging socially” and speaking loudly about social issues. I know that they make a lot of assumptions and I am ready to be corrected. My primary assumption is that while many emergers speak loudly about social issues, they don’t speak loudly about abortion. Connected to this is the assumption that abortion is equal to or greater than the other social issues that are fueled by a principled assumption of human dignity.

Whether you are an emerger, Emergent, or one who sympathizes with the concerns (like me), please join this conversation.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    3 replies to "Emergers on Abortion: Where Do You Stand?"

    • Dan Powers


      I was a bit amazed that there were no comments on a subject such as this. So, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts concerning the subject.

      First, I would like to start on common ground so that you do not miss understand how I feel about the matter. I find it hard to believe that a person can actually have a soul and perform such an act as an abortion, speaking of the doctor that is. It makes me wonder if there are those in the world that do not have souls or are these really men? In the popular Harry Potter series, the story present the idea in the last two books that when a person murders, their soul torn and they become less human. I must admit that there seems to be a hint of truth to this.

      I also agree with you on the industry. It is an industry based on death that takes advantage of women. Some of these women may feel trapped socially, economically, spiritually, and any other way. I am also sure that there is a subset that have bought into the idea that you can escape the consequences of your actions.

      I would also support a band on abortion. Though, I would like to see a clause in it for if the mothers life was threatened. Only because the legalistic world does not understand that some times someone has to make a choice when life is at stake. To me this seems to fall within the common sense realm, but common sense is anything but common. I find it interesting that both sides will state that they disapprove of the partial birth abortion and yet we still cannot put an end to it. The mothers life certainly isn’t in jeopardy, but that seems to be a sticking point. Plus, this country has a dichotomy in its thinking. If I kill the unborn by accident it’s murder but if the mother pays me it’s a procedure.

      Now, to my objection on the issue. Though objection may not be the right term, I will let you sort that out. My objection is complicated and may or may not fit with the group of “Emergers” as you called them.

      Back in the Reagen era, the Christian Right and the Moral Majority crawled in bed with the Republican party. I thought that this was a good thing, but am now convinced that it is hurting the church and the Kingdom work. What has transpired over time is that the Republican party has built a base of loyal voters based primarily on a single issue, though a few others can be thrown in. Yet, this political base has yet to see dividends on its investment. If anything, the moral state of the nation has been in a slide.

      What disturbs me is the affect on the church. The politics of man are becoming the new theology and doctrines of the church. With little effort, you can get a large portion of a church to attend an anti-abortion rally or some cancer race for life event. These people will be willing to scream and shout obscenities to get their voices heard or work tirelessly to collect funds for the cancer foundation. Yet, make a call to help the poor or visit and share the good news, you will be lucky to get the deacons to show up.

      As the marriage of the church and the Republican party has matured so has the indifference to others, which has created an attitude of hate. The indifference shown towards the poor should not be a surprise. Remember Reagan successfully daemonized the welfare mom as someone squirting babies out as fast as she can to collect welfare checks and drive a Cadillac.

      As political activism has grown to be synonymous with a good Christian walk, I have seen the message of Christ being perverted. Surly, you cannot tell me that salvation or church membership requires having a republican voting record. Yet, the news has been littered with examples of this very thing and in deacon’s meetings some would give a warning about voting for the “right” person. I think that the problem, at least in part, is that much of the Church and its leadership has substituted Spiritual power for political power and wealth. So, now the game is to stay in control at all cost and keep the gravy train rolling. Keep in mind that power is a very strong narcotic and when combined with pride, anything can happen. Just like an addict justifies his habit so does the leadership.

      But, think for a moment. It is not in the interest of the Republican party to solve the problem. If they do, then they run the risk of losing a large voting block to other issues. To me, Sara Palin was a “token Christian” who’s only purpose was to buy votes.

      To get back to the issue of abortion. My objection is to it being the only criterion for judging a candidate. As I see it, the policies of business and deregulation have allowed this current economic problem to come up. We have allowed policies to be put in place that jeopardize our freedoms. You, as a US citizen, can now be arrested and held without charges indefinitely. All they need to do is label you a threat. The church has allowed, by virtue of its voting record, business to prey on the poor and we sit back and take a “buyer beware” attitude. To work for many companies you must sign away your right to legal action. You must accept arbitration or lose your job. Now, the company will pay for the judge and jury – no conflict of interest here.

      Shouldn’t we be concerned about the human trafficking? Each year within the US borders a million women are bought and sold into the sex industry as slaves.
      Shouldn’t we be concerned that people are going hungry?
      Shouldn’t we be concerned that people are denied health care? Are we not creating the haves and the have nots? How can we say it’s OK to bankrupt a family with health care cost? Don’t these lives count for something?

      The issues list can go on and on. If social issues are not address, we run the risk of the government becoming alienated from the people. As this occurs, you will see a more Marxist view taking hold as his words start to ring true in the ears of those who have nothing to lose. Eventually, things can reach a breaking or crisis point and then we will have social upheaval.

      I would also question the sanity of the single mindedness of only one issue. It seem to fit some compulsive mental disorder or some type of imbalance. This lack of balance and extremism mirrors the rest of society. Maybe the culture is having a bigger impact on the church then the church is on the culture?

      Some of the church’s problems get back to the fact that statistically there is no differences in the lives of Christians verse non-Christians and that the love of Christ is not being shown. If we can get people to live differently, we could draw more souls into the Kingdom, which would help solve some of these problems. There must be more to being a Christian than attending on Sunday and the occasional political rally.

      If you think that I am being a bit harsh on the church, I would suggest that you read the book unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. My personal experience validates the book as well as over ten years of being a deacon in a Southern Baptist church. I am ashamed of the hate within the secret walls of the church.

    • C Michael Patton

      Dan, there were, but we had a blog crash. In the crash we got the posts back, but no comments. I think there were about 200 here!

    • Kara Kittle

      I don’t really know an emerger and am not one, so I can’t stand up on this one.

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