The recent decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the federally guaranteed right for women to have an abortion was a victory for the pro-life forces in the country, which includes the Orthodox Church. It seemed to me a bit of a stretch to claim the Constitution guaranteed a right to abortion as the Constitution doesn’t mention it. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling mostly agrees that it is not an issue determined by the Constitution so belongs to each state to decide rather than being a federal issue. One issue the Supreme Court may have to decide soon is if there is no Constitutional right to an abortion which applies to all states, can states banning abortion forbid their citizens from going to other states to get an abortion, or since each state can decide for itself the legality of abortion do all states have to recognize what other states forbid or permit regarding this issue? In other words, does the Constitution demand that all states must recognize each other’s laws and recognize that any citizen in the U.S. can do what is legal in any state even if it is illegal in their home state?
While I do see the Supreme Court’s decision as being supportive of the sanctity of human life and the value of every human being from the time they are conceived, there is also a level for me which makes this ‘victory’ seem a bit hollow. Mostly because as I see it, no hearts or minds were changed by the decision. Christians didn’t do the hard work of trying to convince everyone that human life begins in the womb. The fetus is human and it is true that abortion cheapens our attitude toward humanity and life, making some humans expendable. But what was accomplished was a change in law which compels people to look for other solutions to unwanted pregnancies than an abortion. But Christians in their effort to support life, I think, are more supposed to try to change hearts and minds on this issue rather than just rely on a law to enforce their point of view. We have no goal to make ourselves political enemies of anyone, for we are trying to win all to Christ. “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:32-33). We will not accomplish our God-given goals to love God and neighbor if we rely on political means as politics are not part of Christ’s methods to establish God’s Kingdom. We are not to rely on the sword, but on self-denial.
Abortion, like the death penalty, gun violence and even war, uses death to accomplish its goals. Death is identified by St Paul as the final enemy of God (1 Corinthians 15:26). The fact that humans rely on death often to solve their problems speaks volumes about how godly we are or aren’t. Christians should see death as their enemy and not be eager to use it as a means to accomplish their goals – whether dealing with unwanted pregnancies, unwanted criminals or for resolving disputes. “We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...” (2 Corinthians 10:5-6).
Christianity’s goals are to win the hearts and minds of everyone for God. We should be focusing on that goal to proclaim victory. Our warfare makes the dead to live, not the living dead, said St John Chrysostom. Our goal is not really to get laws passed that make our lives as Christians easier by removing temptation to sin, or to impose our ideas on others by political power plays. We want people to embrace God’s love and to experience the presence of God in their lives. As St Paul says: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law—though not being myself under the law—that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19-26). If we follow Paul, and he does tell us to imitate him (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9), we have to work hard to try to be all things to all people in order that by all means, some will be saved.
There is a degree for me that the recent victory of prolife forces seems more a political victory than a moral or spiritual victory. Christians are relying on the state to accomplish their goals rather than using love as a witness to the goodness of God’s commands. We can call to mind that from the beginning Christians were able to change the Roman Empire without having the government or any laws on their side. And these early Christians won many converts because of the love they showed for each other as well as for the sick, poor, oppressed and needy. St Paul describes Christian ministry in these terms: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). As I said, no hearts or minds were changed in the Supreme Court’s decision, so no “reconciliation” was attained. And on the negative side, now some will see Christianity as a political opponent which is not what Christianity is. “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Our warfare and victories are supposed to be moral and spiritual ones. Christians should be working to create a society which does not see death as a solution to problems and which helps those who are tempted to use death to achieve their goals to see that death is part of the way of evil in this world. Christians may be on the winning side of the Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade, but now the ministry of reconciliation begins in earnest. Christians may have spared the lives of many unborn, now they have to show love to these families who are struggling with unwanted pregnancies. Christians need to work to support families and children with maternity leave, health care, livable wages and education – as a means to reconcile these families with God by demonstrating to them that they are loved by God and us their neighbors. Maybe the overturning of Roe will also overturn the polarities separating Republicans and Democrats on social issues which effect the working class so we can work to create a greater America for all.
“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.” (Acts 4:34-35)