Signs of the Kingdom: A Right That Is Wrong
By Louis Lotz
Thank you for your letter. Sorry my sermon on abortion upset you. I don’t retract a word of it, but I’m sorry I upset you. That you “reject everything I said” seems awfully harsh, but if we disagree on this issue it should not worry either of us. I have experienced rejection before, and you have doubtless been wrong before.
To your first point: yes, abortion is a “settled issue” in America. But the issue is not settled in me. We may have bestowed upon ourselves the right to destroy innocent life, but that right is still wrong.
To your second point: I know, I know, “a fetus is not the Gerber baby.” Potentiality is not actuality. An acorn is not an oak. I get it. But when does potential life become actual life? Let me ask you a question: would you abort a fetus one day before birth? I think not. One week before birth? Of course not. So when would you abort—ten days, two weeks, four weeks, six weeks? What is the dividing line between potential life and actual life? At which tick of the clock does this speck of non-viable human tissue become a certain, unique, irreplaceable human person, created by God, and created in the image of God? When does potential life become actual life? I don’t know. My position—that life begins at conception—may not be the right understanding. But until we know better, isn’t it the safest understanding?
To your third point: you must have “sovereignty over every part of your body.” I get that. But a fetus is more than a part of your body. The fetus has an entirely different genetic code than its mother. It has a different blood type. It is able to exist outside the womb at an age when it may be legally killed. It’s more than a part, it’s a person. Roe v. Wade reestablished, as a constitutional principle, an idea we thought had died on the battlefield at Gettysburg—that there can be human beings who are not persons.
To your fourth point: “It is easy to say that abortion is wrong, but what alternatives do you offer to a poor, unwed teenager?” Point well taken. If Christians oppose abortion, are we willing to vote for, and pay for, day-care services that will enable teenage mothers to finish high school? Are we going to support adoption agencies that can place unwanted children with parents who very much want a child? It is not enough to say no to abortion; Christians must say yes to better alternatives.
To your final point: Christians need to “get over it.” Please think very carefully about this question: is a human fetus on its way to becoming what, barring misfortune or lethal intervention, everyone will recognize as a human baby? If the answer is yes, I don’t see how or why we should want to “get over it.” How do we “get over” a culture that consciously approves, celebrates, and even enshrines in law as a constitutional principle its own most egregious moral failing? Say it ain’t so. Actually, don’t bother. It is so. More’s the pity.
Louis Lotz is pastoral leader of Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.