Many of you who have met me in the past, oh, 10-20 years may not know my background in the Pro-Life world. Being pro-life was not just political or because we were Christians for my family, my parents were pro-life, and still are, with every fiber of their being. My mom long ago wrote a song about abortion, and after performing it a young woman came up to her in tears and asked what else she could have done – and so my parent’s ministry and life direction altered – they sought to answer that question, to offer a place, to extend loving and practical solutions. I grew up with our home a literal refuge for unwed mothers needing a place, from my years of age 11 until I was through High School, I knew, loved and grew up with various ‘sisters’ as they came and went through our home. In later years my parent’s ministry, Hope House, altered as they saw more needs, and as my younger siblings needed more of our home space. They opened a center in a downtown location that was able to offer classes in childcare, parenting help as well as a place for the used clothes and toys store that had been fast out-growing the space at our home. My mom eventually was able to connect two of her passions and added prenatal and midwifery services at the center as well. More recently, the Single Mom’s Support Center altered yet again; seeking to include women with serious boyfriends or even just poor married couples seeking help as well as the many Somali refugees pouring into Maine, and it became the Family Support Center.
And yet through all these 25+ years that Hope House has been doing its thing, it’s been doing them outside the regular parameters of the ‘official’ pro-life movement. Many times my parents sought to partner or team up with existing organizations, large groups that could have helped them in so many ways – and in turn spread their ideas of a center offering practical help while also giving crisis pregnancy counseling. I grew up yearly attending the Right to Life events every January, in Maine, outside the State house in Augusta. We scoffed at pro-lifers in warm places like Florida; we were seriously dedicated. Meanwhile, repeatedly those larger groups with national name recognition, they couldn’t work with my parents – they didn’t want to complicate their ‘mission’ with so many services. I grew up, left home, and was frankly, rather burned out by the whole pro-life movement. I have always considered myself pro-life, but I was tired of the rallies and the pushing and the yelling when the real work, as I’d seen it first hand, was being done quietly and yet purposefully ignored by those running the pro-life show.
Politics had been rather one-issue driven in my home too, so as I grew up I also learned more about stuff like taxes, and fiscal responsibility, and international affairs – my political views grew deeper and about more issues than only abortion. I haven’t, honestly, thought much about abortion in recent years. But I have thought much about Christians and politics. I grew up thinking that being a Christian meant you were pro-life, which meant you were a Republican. It was rather shocking to meet some amazing, solid Christians who encouraged and challenged me to follow Jesus better and who then also turned out to vote Democrat. And then came the last, horrible, nasty Presidential elections we just survived. This isn’t about that circus, but it sure added to my thinking about how a Christian, how a follower of Jesus, should behave to those they don’t agree with. And then came the Women’s Marches last week, and I found myself really looking at the pro-life movement again, at the political arm of it all, because today is also the Right to Life March/event day all across the US. And I find it ironic, or maybe sad, that there will be two such big events within a week of each other. Opposing each other, yelling at each other. And yet, really, both wanting the same thing. Under the rhetoric and the slogans. They both want children born and raised in safety, young moms surrounded by support and love, people given options and the help they need to get through rough times with their pride intact. Just as I learned that there are followers of Jesus who also vote Democrat, we need to remember that politics don’t define us, and they really need to stop dividing us.
I’m feeling the same burn out from this season of politics that I felt as a young women looking at politics around abortion, the same frustration that the powers-that-be are ignoring the real people, doing the real stuff. Today, as hundreds of thousands gather to defend the unborn, I hope they’ll be mindful of the hundreds of thousands who just gathered out of the same concern for the mothers – and realize that it’s only when we see them as a package, both mother and her unborn child, when we slow down and listen to specific stories and get practical in meeting those real needs, only then do we all win. And I hope we can all, on all sides of issues, look past our politicians and look past the big powers behind them, and consider what’s happening in our communities, find out where the needs are, and see who is helping to meet those needs. It is in our neighborhoods and circles of influence that we can truly love in action, love as Jesus modeled. The love my parents have been living, that’s not exciting, it doesn’t give high enough numbers of ‘babies saved from abortion’ to report back to the board to push the political agenda. Loving people takes time and effort, it means doing life with them, and will probably be messy and maybe complicated. People are complicated. No woman who finds herself considering abortion sees any of the options as easy, no, it’s all really complicated. I suspect no one who voted recently did so easily either, I think we all had a complicated decision process, it was messy. But complicated doesn’t fit well on picket signs. It’s better over a shared meal and a shared life.