It’s complicated


Where do we draw the line when protesting abortion?

By Connie Faber

One of seven options on Facebook for describing the relationship with your significant other is, “It’s complicated.” It’s an honest response to the sometimes-complex nature of romantic relationships. “It’s complicated” can also be the most straight forward response when it comes to theological questions like the ones posed by sanctity of life issues, including abortion.

The Bible teaches and our Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith (COF) affirms a clear-cut conviction: We should oppose action that takes someone’s life. The COF is very clear on abortion: “We hold that procedures designed to take life, including abortion…are an affront to God’s sovereignty” (Article 14).

The Confession of Faith Commentary and Pastoral Application elaborates on this belief, saying that it is God who gives value and transcendent worth to human life—we can’t acquire or earn it. “The sanctity of life is independent of the value that can be placed on a person by virtue of efforts, accomplishments, talents or any other measure,” it says. The commentary goes on to emphasize that in giving our lives value, God does not distinguish between the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:45).

This is where it gets complicated. How far do I go to stop someone who has decided that he has the right to kill another person? Someone like late-term abortion doctor George Tiller.

Tiller came to the nation’s attention in the summer of 1991 when the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue blockaded Tiller’s Wichita, Kan., clinic for 46 days, resulting in more than 2,600 arrests of 1,700 protesters. The “Summer of Mercy” drew national attention when a federal judge ordered U.S. marshals to keep the clinic open.

The Christian Leader reported on the two-month Operation Rescue campaign and for months the magazine received letters both supporting and critiquing editor Don Ratzlaff’s comments on abortion in general and Operation Rescue more specifically. While Ratzlaff and his readers agreed that God stands for life and grieves the loss of unborn children and the circumstances that prompt the decision to abort, they did not agree on the bestway to combat abortion.

And it’s likely that we still don’t agree, two decades later. Some of us work to change abortion laws while others of us focus on reducing the number of women who seek abortions. There are those who prefer to do nothing while others believe we should at the least pray, contribute resources or campaign for appropriate candidates.

As we prepared this focus on the sanctity of human life, we found several Mennonite Brethren congregations that are  involved in addressing this issue—offering support to women who have had abortions, partnering with a local children’s home and creating a home for unwed mothers. We plan to highlight some of these ministries in future CLs.

The COF Commentary and Pastoral Application suggests thinking of this array of responses as a continuum. It is along this continuum where we most often find ourselves disagreeing. Our passion for the value of life can cause us to judge the actions and words of others and to simplify a complex issue to the point of being black or white, all or nothing. Instead, we should willing acknowledge, “It’s complicated” and agree to disagree—an approach that can require humbly admitting that I don’t have all the answers even though I have plenty of emotion to go with my convictions.

At the other end of the continuum are actions that oppose abortion in ways that break God’s law, and if asked, most of us will say that Christians should draw the line here. But do we walk the edge of that line in our thoughts and sometimes even our words? We wouldn’t pull the trigger ourselves, but we don’t have a problem saying that an abortion doctor who is murdered had it coming. That he deserved to die. That it’s better to kill one man than to have that man continue killing unborn children.

That line of thought is why some Christians support Scott Roeder’s decision to kill George Tiller at close range May 31, 2009, while Tiller was serving as an usher at his church in Wichita. Roeder says he killed Tiller to protect the unborn.

“From conception forward, it is not man’s job to take a life,” Roeder said from the witness stand.“The only exception I even struggle with” is when the life of the mother is at stake. “These babies were dying every day. I felt if something was not done, (George Tiller) was going to continue…. If someone didn’t stop him, they were going to continue to die.” Asked if he regretted killing Tiller, Roeder said, “I do not.”

This admission fills me with deep sadness, as I think it should all followers of Jesus Christ. May we always side with God when it comes to the value of human life. Let’s challenge one another to watch what we say about the value of another person. Even when it’s complicated, let’s remember that God values each of us and that he intends us to nurture life rather than end it.


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