On Abortion – Evangelicals need to stop being lazy

In the UK, abortion isn’t such a hot issue as it is here in the US.  I think in the UK abortion is seen as just one of many wrongs, such as gambling, abuse, pornography, alcoholism, materialism to name but a tiny few, we Christians would like to see less of.  We don’t single it out for special treatment like done so in America.

We are also much more opposed to the idea that prohibiting people from doing something is the best way to solve a problem.  The only solution evangelical Americans seem to offer to the issue of abortion is to ban it.  This seems to be the most antagonistic response possible, but I think the attitude in the UK is to offer a much more holistic solution.  If we can reach people with the gospel, if we can offer them hope, then all sins, including that of abortion, will be reduced.  Of course this is much harder, takes generations, but will radically renew society with the Kingdom of God.

I have come to see the approach that Evangelical Americans have to abortion, to ban it and oppose every facility, is really the lazy option.  It is like teaching a child to play nicely with her brother by taking their toys away so they won’t argue about them anymore.  It doesn’t get to the root cause of the argument.  Similarly, if American Evangelicals want people to stop having abortions they need to help them, and teach them the hope they can have and to value life.  Evangelicals need to take the long road, invest in other people’s lives and stop living in their Christian ghettos (see Better Late Than Never).

The feminism movement in the US has become synonymous with fighting for abortion rights.  It doesn’t have to be this way, there are many feminist causes that Evangelicals could back that may help to limit abortion.  For instance Maternity Pay and Maternity Leave (both of which are standard in the UK) should be championed by Evangelicals (churches need to lead by example by offering these) and will encourage women to keep their babies and not abort them.

There are other solutions worth looking at too.  The link with abortion and profit has to be broken, in a radical move I’d like to suggest that abortions are made free and centrally funded.  If an abortion facility knows it can not make money from performing abortions it will stop marketing them and contraceptives will become the preferred option.

In short Evangelicals in the USA need to stop taking the easy option of protesting; they need to engage with the communities they are in and bring light and hope so that abortion is eliminated because no one wants one anymore.  Simply protesting against abortion and calling for it to be banned is the lazy choice.

Better late than never

It has been ages since I last wrote something on here, it has been hard to pin down everything I have been thinking about and form coherent points.

In a previous post I promised an observation on why I believe there to be greater solidarity in Britain. I think it is to do with our schooling. Pretty much everyone goes to a school outside the home, unlike the USA, and shares a common experience. Uniforms help too. I can’t help but observe that the American preference for home schooling and small, mostly Christian, private schools, is detrimental to society and only adds to the ‘us/them’ dichotomy seen everywhere from politics to gated community.

Another realisation I have regrettably come to, and why at times I can finding living in the USA so depressing, is this.  Living in fairly atheist Britain, as part of what is essentially a Christian minority, I had always believed that if there were more Christians the country would be better. Yet I come to America where the percentage of practicing Christians is far higher and find ugly arguments over guns, xenophobic reactions to the plight of refugees and men, such as Ted Cruz, who calls himsef a Christian, with an agenda that is utterly different to what I believe is on Jesus’ heart (poverty anyone?).

I think it’s time to go home.

I will keep praying

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This image was drawn by a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist after the spring shooting and is circulating again after the latest attacks in Paris.  I must confess that it breaks my heart.

As a Christian I don’t want to be rejected and I hope I can offer some comfort and hope to people, even if all I can do is pray.  Surely prayers, even if you think they do nothing at all, don’t hurt people.

I am sorry that Christians and religion have offended people and we are now deemed to make the world worse, not better.  I’m sorry our message has been unhelpful.  We weep with you over this tragedy and others.  The Bible tells us Jesus also wept, he knew the world wasn’t right and I love that He felt real emotions and was devastated by all the hurtful things that go on in the world. He felt human pain and He isn’t a distant deity; that’s what I, as a Christian, believe.

As a Christian I cry ‘Abba Father‘ to God.  Abba means Daddy and I cry to him out of the nightmare that can sometimes be how living on this earth is.  I believe Christ came to die for me, to save me, even whilst I was oblivious to Him, and didn’t even want Him to die for me.  It is amazing really, a phenomenal act of generosity.

When I observe tragic events such as those that have just unfolded in Paris and Beirut, I can’t help but feel that there is a bigger picture, some evil out there that is larger than human nature.  I can’t deny that there seems to be a plan that is more significant than any one of us.  I’m led towards thinking there must be some deity, good and/or bad and I reject the idea that our world has simply come about by accident.  Put simply, being an atheist requires too much faith for me.  Humanity doesn’t seem to be some failed experiment either – there is too much goodness, in nature, in a baby’s laugh for instance, for me to say it is all here by chance.  I yearn to know the cosmic plan.

As I have tried to seek out truth, I believe I have found answers in the Bible and through the Christian faith.  The Bible tells me that God did not intend for the world to be full of suffering, and that He has a plan to put things right.  I am trying to find the faith to discover and believe His plan.

I want to be part of a religion that inspires beauty and does good in the world.  I love that Christianity has given us Handel’s Messiah and the Cistine chapel; it has also given us more charities, humanitarian aid workers and caused more people to become willing to go to dark and dangerous places than any other faith.  I reject the satircial world that Charlie Hebdo creates for us too, it is not enough.

There are still many unsolved questions for me, but I hope that I can keep on seeking and find some answers; I’m willing to pray, to believe and to hope.  I am thankful I can choose to do this and I remain hopeful.  I will keeping praying, for Paris and anywhere else that suffers.

Some bible verses in support of Solidarity & Fraternity

I have added a couple of posts arguing that Christians, American ones in particular (though I am sure we could all do better), should act in more solidarity with others, particularly the poor and underprivileged.  Here are some bible verses to back up that position which talk of brotherly love (fraternity) for others:

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” – Romans 13;9

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. – 1 John 3:16

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. – Proverbs 31:8

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.  Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. – Hebrews 13:1-3

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? – Isaiah 58:6-7

I will add more as I come across them.

Where have American Christians put their crosses?

It is my great pleasure to be living in the US for a couple of years, I am British and love being here, I know I am very blessed.  It is fascinating though to observe how different Christian populations practice their faith; surely we should all be pretty similar as Christians but it seems to me that our culture holds far more influence over us than perhaps it should.  For example, it troubles me that such a large number of Christians in the US are in favour of guns, which seems abhorrent to most UK citizens, but I know we in the UK have our shortcomings as Christians too.  How is it that Christians in different countries come up with such different ways of following Christ?

One overarching theme I have observed among most Christians in the US is that they willingly suffer no hardship, in other words they do not take up their crosses.  Of course there are many Christians here that do suffer hardship, but most of that is forced upon them, rather than something they volunteer for.  Jesus is pretty clear, we should expect to take up our crosses daily through denying something, otherwise we are not worthy of Him (Matt 10:38, Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23)

I had never thought about it before, but the Christians most admired in the UK are those that sacrifice something, whether it be money and status, or time and space perhaps through hospitality.  It is not unusual to give until it hurts.  In Britain there is a history of monasticism and Celtic Christianity which I think has somehow led to this sacrificial ideal, we do not take kindly to affluent and showy Christians.  Conversely I see little evidence of sacrificial Christianity in the US, but I do acknowledge there are many strengths, your esteem for the bible is something we Brits could learn from.

The problem is that so many of the issues that face America and the world today require a sacrificial solution.  American Christians need to take up their crosses.  The perfect example is action needed to save the environment; the carbon footprints of Americans need to be reduced.  Personally I try to help by not using a dryer and driving a smaller car so I consume less petrol (gas!).  These actions are commonplace in the UK because people care about the impact they have on the environment, but I am yet to meet an American, Christian or otherwise, who does either.

Similarly, if American society is to be redeemed it will probably require Christians to make friends with some non-Christians.  A great place to start would be in public schools that are in desperate need of Christian students and teachers.  My eight year old daughter was able to report to a teacher that one of her friends had been watching pornography online – this girl was helped because she had a Christian friend who acted when needed.  There are many more children in public schools who are in need of friends with faith.  I have heard many Christian friends bemoan that religion can’t be practiced in schools now and have therefore removed their children from them.  They forget that the greatest witnesses are people and that if we as Christians carry the Holy Spirit into schools ourselves, no law can stop us.  If allowing your children to mix with non-Christians seems like a sacrifice to you, then maybe this is a cross you are being asked to bear.

Poverty, so rampant in the US where inequality is enormous, most likely also requires a sacrificial solution.  Those that have more may need to give up something to help those here and abroad who have so much less.  It has occurred to me that the bad attitude many American Christians have towards the Federal Government may be sinful.  Furthermore, I simply have not got my head around the great patriotism in the US that is not accompanied with solidarity among its citizens.  Can anyone explain this?

Finally there is the obvious issue of guns, I firmly believe that many Christians are being called to give up the freedom to own a gun, and to do so would greatly benefit America.  No other group of Christians in the world has ever thought guns were a good thing.

The good news is that it is not too late for Americans to take up their crosses.  They can start immediately by taking some action to help the environment, there are a myriad resources and ways of doing so.  The other issues may take longer to tackle individually, but with collective action, done in solidarity with other Americans, they can be addressed.  There is hope and when we take up our crosses and focus on God as the source of everything we need there are great spiritual riches to be found.  I encourage American Christians to read about Celtic Christianity, to study the desert Fathers and look into Poustinias.  Could they consider if there are distractions in their lives that might be removed in order to find a new level of closeness to God.  God meets us and honours us when we give up what is precious to us for Him and maybe, just maybe, if taking up our crosses was practised nationwide this could lead to a great spiritual awakening throughout the country that will bless many in new ways.   The cross is good news, make sure you don’t lose yours.

Missing and under peer pressure?

What has happened to gay Christians who in the past believed they should be celibate rather than act on their sexual orientation?  I remember as a child that there were stories of gay Christians who had renounced their sexuality and chosen to spend life alone, with God, rather than living life as a gay person.  Being gay was far more socially unacceptable at the time, both in Christian and non-Christian circles.  I don’t remember meeting any of these people and I have no idea how many of them there really were, but testimonies of the difficult decisions they had made certainly circulated.

If these people believed that God had clearly told them to be celibate and perhaps that being gay was a sin, then how are they feeling now? Especially since the public mood is so pro-gay marriage and they now have legal permission to marry if they so wish.

These people have given up so much to obey God and if they still believe that celibacy is the right choice for them, must now be under such pressure to change their mind.  Of course God can also call heterosexual people to a life of celibacy but it can never be an easy decision for anyone.

I want to pray for anyone who is still confused, or feels they gave up so much to follow God, but are now wondering if they heard from Him correctly.  Answer their doubts please Lord.