IVF, Abortion, Contraception, Sexuality, Gender and Christianity

The last few years have seen policy fights over a range of issues related to sex, sexuality, identity, rights, and more.

It seems as though there are two sides – always two sides. As with most things in America, we have some weird fetish with simplistic either/or thinking. It really helps no one, and no one wins. No one wins in either/or ways of thinking. Even the supposed winners don’t win. Everyone just suffers. Misery loves company though so maybe that’s the goal – so we can all be miserable together, living in fear, and constantly angry.

The recent IVF ruling in Alabama isn’t as simple as it sounds. The former US Senator from Alabama was asked about the ruling and he offered some wise insight – that this isn’t just a ruling about IVF. It will have long term practical implications. He made the claim that medical professionals will be less likely to come to Alabama or to stay there. This impacts entire medical systems and eventually the health of communities. And where there are health challenges, there will also be economic challenges and more.

This highlights the bigger issue with these rulings – they have impacts that go beyond just the policy changes. I wonder if those imposing their so-called Christian beliefs on others consider the unintended consequences of these policy decisions. Or does that not matter because the main concern is on being “right” according to their belief system. Consequences be damned. The world never operates in a way that we think it should. It never will.

So what is Christianity about anyway? Is Christianity about imposing certain policies on the rest of a society regardless of their beliefs, ethics, or popularity? There have been Christians throughout the centuries who believe it is their God-ordained duty to impose a “Christian” standard upon society for its own good. The Puritans certainly thought and practiced this. The Catholic Church did too. A good portion of human history has practiced the marriage of religion and political/governmental power. It seems as though there is currently a significant segment of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists who believe this as well. Apparently these folks sincerely believe that other people will change who they are and what they do because a law has been imposed on them. It’s the idea that others, and it is always someone else who needs to change, will see the light and completely change who they are. Can someone please show me an example in history where that has worked out?

The focus of these efforts are centered on the idea of “correct” belief. Being right is often most important. The challenge with this is that when being right is most important, we lose sight of the people and their humanity. We become blinded to the image of God in people. We think it is our job to save people. The biggest problem with this idea is that people become another task to be completed, rather than valued for existing. Focusing on being right dehumanizes anyone who we think is wrong. And in a way it dehumanizes ourselves too – we are somehow elevated above others. We are no longer human either. We are something else.

The other thing we lose sight of is reality. We end up in la-la land believing that the world will change to fit our idea of how it should operate.

Christianity isn’t about being right. It’s not about being good enough. It’s not about having the right morality or theology or doctrines. It’s not about any of that, nor should it be. Don’t get me wrong, bad theology is destructive. And I would say those who believe that being right is most important and those imposing policies on others based on their religious belief are basing their beliefs on some really bad and destructive theology.

I’m also not of the opinion that Christianity is all just experiential either. There has to be a base foundation. But you know, there’s such a thing as going to extremes. There’s actually a balance in the middle that we should strive for – a set of beliefs that interact with encounter of the holy. It’s left and right brain together. One offers a sense of order for your life and the other helps you to be in relationship with God and others.

Christianity isn’t about deciding that IVF embryos in frozen test tubes are children who need protection. Or that states and the national law should change regarding abortion. Or that laws should somehow restrict various contraceptions. Or that laws should say this or that related to people’s gender identity, or the roles of various genders. You know why? Because Christianity is never supposed to be about imposing itself on others. And Christianity is not the basis for making public laws – that may sound controversial, but really it isn’t. There’s a simple reason why – which version of Christianity are we talking about? Which denomination is God-ordained enough to impose its beliefs upon the rest of society? Freedom of religion isn’t about the freedom to impose your beliefs upon others. You are free to practice your faith as you see fit, so long as it doesn’t interfere with how someone else lives their life. You don’t get to impose your beliefs on others.

I can hear the “yeah, but” already. “Are you arguing to legalize murder?” No, I’m not. And you know what’s great about that – I don’t have to come at the argument about why murder should remain illegal from a theological standpoint in order to keep it a law for society. Murder is a danger to society. It’s a public safety issue.

Laws are supposed to be based on what’s best for the community at large – the common good. They are supposed to offer protection and safety for those that are not in the center of a society too. They are supposed to be oriented towards justice as well as creating some kind of order for a society so that more people can prosper and thrive.

Christianity has not done well when it has been the governmental system. Christianity, the institution, ends up being used in abusive ways over a population. It ends up being the exact opposite of what Christianity is supposed to be about. It ends up being just another form of tyranny. Jesus didn’t come to set up a government and rule over a nation. He actually rejected that in the temptation in the wilderness. You can read it in Matthew and Luke if you don’t believe me.

Christianity is about life, death, and resurrection. What needs to die in our lives? What is it that is in the way of our relationship with God? What is in the way of our following Jesus? What is the way of moving towards shalom, wholeness, completeness, peace? What is in the way…that’s the core question of Christianity. Those things that are in the way need to die off.

The desire for control is something that gets in the way of following Jesus and it needs to die. Seeing ourselves as the center of the universe and somehow more special than others needs to die. Thinking that we are somehow ordained by God to impose some set of beliefs on others definitely needs to die off. The use of violence, cruelty, fear, and anger needs to die. The ends justify the means, might makes right, and only the strong survive needs to die. Death is a necessary step in the process. You can’t get to resurrection until you go through death.

We can’t make resurrection happen – that’s not in our control. Only God can do that. Resurrection is so much better than where we are and what we think things should be like.

We don’t make a better world by imposing things on others. We get to a better world when we stop trying to control our way there and we let God’s vision for the world unfold. God invites us to a better world. Do we think we know better than God?

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