On Being a Pro-choice, Pro-marriage Equality Christian Woman

Reading the posts about the large gathering of Christian women, IF: Gathering 2016, I came across a blog post titled "Longing to Belong," describing the ways in which Christian women really do need to find and build community together as part of our spiritual practice of prayer and service. It's a lovely essay, warm and welcoming and accepting.

But I have yet to personally experience this welcome from the larger Christian community at large. I am a pro-choice, pro-marriage equality Christian woman. I worship at an Episcopalian church, and even the US Episcopalian Church has recently been dealt the censure and judgment of the global Anglican body by being banned from voting on any Anglican matters for three years, specifically due to our church's acceptance of marriage equality as part of our Christian mission in service to Jesus's love here on earth.

In 2013, when the Texas Legislature debated and passed the disastrous HB-2 law that shuttered nearly 3 out of 4 of all women's health clinics in the state where abortion had been available (among many other desperately needed women's health services), I went to the Capitol to file my opposition to the bill. There, I was confronted by Christian women who refused to talk to me, who looked upon me with contempt, or mistrust, or fear, or anger, or hatred--but never with acceptance. Never with kindness. I even brought a cooler full of water bottles, bananas, and granola bars with me to hand out to anyone I met, hoping to start conversations. The pro-HB-2 women walked a wide berth around me, although one commented that she liked what I was doing. But she kept walking away with her companions rather than stay and have a conversation.

I don't belong to this group of Christian women. They don't want me. They have judged me and found me wanting. I don't believe they could ever accept that a Christian woman could follow the teachings of Jesus and arrive at pro-choice and pro-marriage equality positions, but I have. I pray. I read the Bible. I am raising my children in the church. And I feel very fortunate to have found the community that I have found at my church--a church that is not specifically pro-choice or anti-abortion, but that welcomes everyone, truly. Both the same-sex couples and the man who sat beside me in a class and declared homosexuality "an abomination," unaware, I know, that my own family includes a same-sex family.

I do not evangelize in the sense of trying to turn the world around me into a Christian world. It already is. There is no part of creation that is separate from God's love. I accept the infinite, timeless, boundless nature of God. It is fantastically humbling. To suppose that the manner in which I name and worship God is the only way to be in a walk with God seems the ultimate in spiritual arrogance, and a deep insult to the true nature and power of God and God's love. It would be more a reflection of my own fears and limitations than anything to do with God. There is a hymn that is a favorite of mine that resounds often in my thoughts: "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love."

So when I see the signs for IF:Gathering 2016, it has an invisible asterisk for me. I don't believe that I would be welcome there. Not really. Not with the beliefs that I have. I still can see the disdainful eyes of the women who came to the Capitol in 2013, who sang and prayed in the Capitol rotunda by themselves, inviting only those women who wore the correct color shirts to join them and worship with them. Christianity was reduced to a version of Dr. Seuss's tale, "The Sneeches." It was heart-breaking. And it continues today, when I try to speak up as a Christian for pro-choice views on women's health in online discussions. If this post gains much traction on the interwebs, I feel confident I'll be able to measure on my kitchen clock the hours until a Christian comments to me that I'm going to Hell for my beliefs, or that I'm not really a Christian, or that I'm some other sort of failure as a child of God. All because I have arrived at different conclusions and had the temerity to say so while claiming a place in the cool shadow of the Cross.


Annie said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful...I love your last line.
I am a Christian and have felt excluded in other ways from the box so many American, right-wing and often legalistic Christians have drawn themselves into. When I married my husband, we met in a calvary chapel, he was the worship leader. We had prayer meetings in our home frequently. We moved from our hometown to Oregon, and after a few years, everything changed for me. For us. My husband declared he no longer believed in God, and was now an atheist. It rocked my world and tore the carpet out from under my feet. I felt lost, but I clung to Jesus and to my faith. I now see that as one of the best things that could have happened in my life, due to the box being torn open and the black and white fading to sometimes gray. Love exploded into my life from so many directions. I had been afraid, like the women you speak of..because after all, the only reason we exclude and judge is because of either pride, or fear.
Anyways, my husband is now an agnostic, and he says it's because I never let go of belief, even when he mocked me and challenged my faith. I came to understand he was deeply hurt, and confused, and angry. And only love can heal any of those things. We dwell peacefully together, offense absent and open to each others opinions, sometimes widely opposing. It doesn't matter. Love is a blanket over all of that. Love is the answer. I've seen firsthand the power of love. It's a force not to be reckoned with. God is love. No matter what our differing views within the human race, it is what we should come back to. This has become a novel, I'm sorry...but I just wanted to address that though I am not particularly pro-choice, I know for a fact that we will all be mingling together in heaven...and those ladies who practically shunned you, well, they'll probably be there too. And that is the beauty of what we believe. That is Jesus. He accepts us all. xo

E. A. Haltom said...

Annie, thank you so much for writing your comment. It is so funny how we must hang on to our faith no matter what else is going on around us. I explained it once to my (also formerly atheist currently agnostic) husband by saying that just like when he searched inside his conscience and had a clear gut-level feeling that God was not real, so for me when I do a gut-level check I am absolutely certain that God exists. Anyway, your comment had me moved to tears it was so real and brave and beautiful. Thank you, and it's delightful to meet you.

Annie said...

Thank you, Liz. I have been following your blogs since you posted the one about your son's tonsillectomy, which was the one resource that helped my husband and I immensely during our 4 (now 9 year old) year old son's tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy. You are an amazing woman, and it has been a privilege to watch your life unfold via blogs. Maybe that sounds weird..haha..but I just found you extremely raw, honest, and especially inspiring. But you're so much more than that. You are real.
I hope you always find joy,