It has come to the point where I want to apologise for being a Christian; where I feel embarrassed to be a minister in a sea of prejudiced, inaccurate and archaeic law-quoting hypocrites.
It’s not just right-wing America using Christianity as a justification for persecution … it’s all the people who love to worship Jesus without taking the time, courtesy and energy of trying to follow him. Christ never once asked us to worship him; he did ask us to follow him; to do what he did. Following him is bloody hard work; worshipping him, in comparison, is a piece of cake.
You do not get to call yourself a Christian just by worshipping Christ. I’m sure someone would like to quote Ephesians here as in “you cannot get to heaven by good works alone” but even that is a selective quotation. It makes it clear that we get to heaven through Grace and Grace alone and the signature of Grace is that it cannot be deserved. Grace is radically unfair; Grace is God’s unconditional love for us. The woman having an abortion and the doctor aiding her are equally likely to receive Grace as the pro-life Christian. If you even want to consider calling yourself a Christian you have to allow Grace even when you really don’t approve of it. God gets to call the shots and God is always love. Read the dratted Prophets! No one ever does but they make that abundantly clear.
N.B. Heaven and hell are states of the psyche. There isn’t any nice land up there that’s exclusively for Christians … or Muslims … or anyone else. We’re all going to be surprised who we meet in the reality after death.
But to the point: I’m not the first person to call out Kay Ivey, Governor of Alabama for saying that state’s ruling on abortion comes from, “Alabamans’ deeply-held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.” Really? REALLY? (N.B. This blog was written in 2019 when Alabama Governor, Kay Ivey signed a bill virtually outlawing abortion.)
Apart from the fact that Alabama has the death penalty — and Kay Ivey has presided over the killing of six people — you cannot, cannot, CANNOT say you are pro-life and not challenge the NRA on assault rifles and, frankly, you cannot even go to war. Ever.
If you are “pro-life” you do not agree with the taking of any life, obviously including the life of a child in a school classroom. You truly do not even consider sanctioning the bombing of other people’s children (of any age) in countries across the world.
If you support pro-life, then you must be pro all life. Otherwise you are exactly the kind of person that Jesus fervently condemned, even if you think you are a Christian. Especially if you think you are a Christian. You are the equivalent of the Pharisees of his day – hypocrites of the highest order making sure they were seen to be following the law while holding no compassion whatsoever.
Jesus said “I come to bring a sword” (Mathew 1034) but it was not a sword to use to kill, it was the sword of truth, to cut through hypocrisy. Jesus was a pacifist. He restored the ear cut off one of the Temple guards who came to arrest him in Gethsemene. He really, really didn’t have to do that; everyone would have understood. But he did. Yes, I know he knocked over the tables in the Temple and chased the merchants with a knotted cord but there’s no report anywhere of any of them actually getting hurt. I’d quite like to do the same in Alabama right now.
What I find truly shocking is that people, like Kay Ivey, who think they are Christian obviously haven’t even read the Gospels.
How about this: “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Every single person every single one of us has hurt in any way is Christ. We cannot do anything to harm another (or for that matter ourselves) without doing the same to Christ. That’s because Christ is in all creation.
I can just hear Kay Ivey respond that she has done just that to save aborted fetuses. But if you are trying to be a Christian you don’t get to pick and choose. You don’t get to condemn the woman who knows she is carrying a baby who has already died to keep carrying it so it rots in her womb. You don’t get to condemn the teenager who thought she was in love and the condom broke; you don’t get to condemn the family which already has too many children to provide for and no benefits.
Even more, if you’re a Christian, surely you should know something about souls? That souls are immortal and that souls do not fully attach to the fetus until they are good and ready? And that souls aren’t affected by abortion and can – and will – return another time. Why is nothing about souls ever taught in seminary, in church, in the world? Why? Why? Why?
The answer to that is because we are all too tied up with our bodies … “the sins of the flesh” but both the Prophets in the Bible and great mystics teach that the first, and most insideous form of evil is “the world.” It’s the system, it’s the way things are, in the modern world, it’s generally what’s called “mammon” – the pursuit of money as opposed to spirit.
But the greatest of all evil is when we present this system as being virtuous. The system that disallows abortions is virtuous. Of course it is! It is all for the good! From what I observe, the Republican “system” absolutely loves to tell us how good it is. Democrats are far too busy arguing among themselves to get on quite such a high horse.
The first demon in Mark’s Gospel is found in the synagogue and that’s not a coincidence. You find evil very easily in our churches, mosques, synagogues and temples. That’s its favourite place to hide, looking all shiny and virtuous and full of glamour. These are the forms of evil that present themselves as the light. To truly succeed, evil must always look necessary or virtuous and it will encourage us to support and need it by broadcasting how good it is.
If you want to ask me if I’m pro-life, then honestly, I have to say “no.” I still eat meat and fish; I visited the statue commemorating Bomber Command, in honour of my father, and I think it was a necessary evil to fight Hitler. I don’t think abortion is a good thing and I am glad for better forms of contraception but I would never condemn a woman who had one (how could I?).
And in the meantime, I will continue to apologise for Christianity each time I do stand-up and each time I minister anywhere. Truly, fellow Christians, we have absolutely no excuse for not knowing better.