Clutching Our Pearls Isn’t Saving Lives

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People have sex. And not everyone waits to have sex until the circumstances are ideal for having a baby. That’s just the truth.

I’m not here to argue about what the Bible says about that or whether it’s right or wrong. I’m just saying it happens. Obviously.

And I believe the Church’s pearl-clutching, gasping, scandalizing response to sex outside of marriage contributes to the number of abortions.

I’ve seen first-hand how some very traditional, conservative church people treat young unwed mothers. I once watched a pastor hand out flowers to every married lady on Mother’s Day instead of to all the mothers because he wanted to make sure he didn’t reward a young, unmarried mom in the congregation.

My experience in conservative, evangelical Christianity has been that sex in general is fraught with shame — which means that any kind of sex outside of marriage is especially shrouded in shame and secrecy and stigmatization. When a woman gets pregnant outside of marriage, there’s proof of her shameful behavior — proof for everyone to see when they look at her. She has had sex. And because conservative Christianity seems obsessed with sex, they’ve determined that anything they see as a sexual sin is the very worst kind of sin.

Yeah, I know that many conservative evangelicals will say, No, all sin is the same in God’s eyes. But I’m telling you – I never heard of a pastor trying to withhold a Mother’s Day flower from the women who gossip or from the lady who had a petty argument with her family and wouldn’t speak to them for months or from the women who covet wealth and popularity. And I never heard of youth group ceremonies encouraging young people to sell their PlayStations and iPhones and give the money to the poor and receive a ring to remind them of their commitment to forego materialism and devote themselves to pure service to God and others. No, when we talk to teenagers in the Church about purity, it’s always about sexual purity.

So of course, when faced with a surprise, unexpected pregnancy, a woman is going to consider abortion. The alternative is that she’s probably going to be looked down on, talked about, maybe ostracized. So of course – OF COURSE – she’s going to consider abortion. Again – I wish that weren’t the case. I’m not advocating abortion; I’m just saying I understand why someone would choose that. Especially a young, unmarried woman in the Church!

Some people will ask – What about adoption? We should encourage unwed mothers to place their children for adoption. As if it’s a simple solution that is not also fraught with shame and guilt and stigma. Because from what I understand, there’s plenty of pearl-clutching around the subject of adoption as well. *gasp* I could never give my baby up! How can a mother do that?! And I’m not saying I dislike adoption – no, some people I love have been adopted or have adopted. I’ve seen the beauty of adoption, and I’ve also seen that it isn’t without its own challenges and trauma – compounded by the gasps and incredulous head shakes and judgment toward the women who place their babies with other families.

Ultimately, I think if we want to really reduce the number of abortions, we should stop obsessing about the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade and start looking inside the Church. We need to completely transform the way we talk about sex. We need to move from the root of shame – because anything springing up from a place of shame is not going to be beautiful and healthy and strong and fruitful. And we need to dismantle our unhealthy obsession with sex — which is at the root of the over-sexualization of people in our secular culture and the extreme purity culture within the Church. Both of those extremes sprout from the same root.

We’re also going to have to change the way we treat unmarried women who become pregnant. We can’t be harsh and cruel to those who choose to carry a baby to term while at the same time decrying abortion. I feel it’s important to say – some Christians actually do this well. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen followers of Jesus who respond to surprise pregnancy situations with compassion and grace and overwhelming kindness. If you aren’t seeing that in your church community, look for it somewhere else and either move into that community or learn from them and create that climate in your own church.

And we’re going to have to change the way we talk about adoption. We can’t just flippantly toss out a Well, just place the baby for adoption. There are lots of people who can’t have babies. We have to educate ourselves about the complexities of adoption – because it really isn’t a simple solution. And we can’t gasp and judge the women who choose to allow someone else to raise their babies. Adoption is a complicated decision – worthy of celebration and grief.

Even if the Supreme Court votes to overturn Roe v. Wade and abortion becomes criminalized for women and doctors, the issues of unintended pregnancies and sex and abortion and adoption aren’t magically going away.

People have sex. And the Church has to learn how to talk about it in healthy, compassionate ways. Because clutching our pearls certainly isn’t saving any lives.

12 thoughts on “Clutching Our Pearls Isn’t Saving Lives

  1. I’ll have to admit I don’t believe in abortion. I can’t call myself a conservative Christian and I must admit I do not find permission to be judgmental of anyone anywhere in the Bible especially by a group who had to leave the church and start their own religion because the rules didn’t suit them – sorry they got such a late start. I don’t know what the answer is but I think it’s between the individual and God. We all answer to him in the long run and he has a way of keeping score n reminding us if we only listen.

    Enjoy your blog young lady.

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  2. Thank you for writing this. So much to think and pray about. It will be very interesting to see how the next generation handles this topic with their young daughters and sons. Hormones certainly play a role, and marriage at age 14 isn’t really our cultural norm…. Part of the fear, I think, is that increased education and conversation will lead to increase curiosity and experimentation. Has that happened with other, previously “taboo” topics – alcohol, marijuana, hard drugs, gambling, alternate sexual lifestyle choices? Some might say Yes. But the only topic accompanied by internally driven hormonal changes in the body is this topic of sex. Individually learning about, understanding, and managing these physiological fluctuations needs to be normalized, not shrouded in an entire additional layer of shame.

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    1. Your article touched my heart. As a young girl I was molested. At 14 I was raped. I thought I was horribly damaged. At 16 I got pregnant. I disgraced my family. I was told I didn’t deserve a wedding and I would never finish school or amount to anything. I got married and moved away. In desperation I was going to commit suicide. As I lay on the floor with a gun in my hand, Father God spoke to me so gently, not to do it. He told me to rise up and he would guide me. I loved my baby, got a GED, went to college and had a great government career although the marriage didn’t last. The irony is- my mother was pregnant when my parents got married. They knew the fear and shame I was going through. They got the same shame treatment. Why why why, weren’t they more compassionate? Years of counseling and I am in a good place. God has used my damage To help others. I am now a Daughter of the King!

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  3. I love that you addressed this. I was that girl who got pregnant as a teen. I knew that I could not have an abortion because I would not be able to live with myself. I considered adoption, but decided that I couldn’t do that either.
    I did get married to the father, but that didn’t stop the gossip and the hypocrisy I faced when I went to church. That hypocrisy drove me away from the church for a very long time. I still believe in God, but I avoid organized religion. And marrying the father did not turn out well either. But I stuck it out for almost 20 years because I didn’t believe in divorce.
    I have since realized that there are definitely worse things than divorce, like your children growing up in a dysfunctional family and thinking that is normal. They have all made some bad relationship decisions that reflected back on how they grew up. I am praying that they have have been able to overcome the bad example that I was for them and find the love they deserve.
    Keep the posts coming!! Your light and love has helped me face each day with a little more hopefulness.

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  4. This is such a sensible analysis of the abortion issue. I have a difficult time believing that women make the decision to have an abortion lightly, and certainly fear of judgement weighs into this decision heavily. If only people could honor the decisions of others without passing judgement. What is that old adage? Sweep your own doorstep without worrying about what happens at the door of your neighbors. Of course,we need counseling and sound, unbiased advice for women who are making these difficult decisions, and education on the topic is not a bad thing. The choice to give a child for adoption should be applauded instead of questioned. Why don’t abortion proponents ever consider the children who are born to mothers who are unequipped to deal with raising a child and become the subjects of abuse and neglect? Isn’t that also a tragedy?

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  5. Amen. Maybe we just need to love others and mind our own business. The sinless cast the first stone.

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  6. I am not a Christian but my mom is. Recently, a young lady in her church became pregnant out of “wedlock” (interesting term). The church had a debate about whether it was ok to do a baby shower for her. I said, let me know and we “Heathens” will have one for her.

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  7. Jenn, Thank you for saying what I think a lot of people feel but are too afraid to address. I am also Pro-Life; the whole life. I am never for abortion but taking that option away from a woman is not fair, not right. In a perfect world, all women of child bearing age would have access to good health care, be in stable relationships, have the resources to raise healthy children and no child would have chromosone issues that will cause painful death at birth. Until that utopia is achieved, we need to work toward the health of all people on the planet.

    I agree that we need to look inside of our churches, faith communities and build up people. However, we must still focus on the Supreme Court and Roe v Wade so that all women can have the access, if needed.

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  8. Can we add access to birth control? Why isnt family planning celebrated and accepted as a healthy way to grow families? If families could talk normally about contaception, that has a profound impact on limiting the number of a abortion and isnt that the goal? Plus hormone treatments are not just to prevent pregnancies, it is also used to help manage severe menstrual cycles.

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