Christian Hospitality and the Abortion Industry
As the Center for Medical Progress continues to release damning video footage of the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, and other involved parties, many American Christians are asking what can be done to stop such atrocities against unborn humans.
The call to defund Planned Parenthood is one way that many Christians are making their voices heard, and the success of this movement would have considerable implications for the availability and practice of abortion on demand across the nation. Some have asked, though, what women will do for healthcare if Planned Parenthood is no longer the major healthcare provider it claims to be. This is an important question to ask and to answer, among many others. But is defunding Planned Parenthood enough?
The war between the Left and the Right on the issue of abortion tends to be reduced to these buzzwords: pro-woman versus pro-unborn-child. But as Christians believing that each person is created in the image of God and that each is deeply loved and valued, we are called to care for both woman and child.
To be pro-woman and pro-child simultaneously, the needs of the women who are faced with unexpected or unwanted pregnancy must be identified. The pressures of pregnancy are many: adequate healthcare and transportation to appointments, financial assistance for groceries and clothing, lodging for women and children during and after pregnancy, parenting classes and childcare—and this list is not exhaustive.
These needs are all elements of basic living and can be addressed through the practice of Christian hospitality.
New Testament scholar and pastor Kelly Liebengood argues that the whole book of Romans is structured around this idea of hospitality. He notes that the first eleven chapters of Romans, where most scholars have spent time dissecting Paul’s arguments and constructing a theology of salvation, actually build up to chapters twelve through fifteen, where Paul gets into the practical application of how we are to live, in light of what Jesus has done for us. We are recipients of God’s hospitality, and Paul instructs us to live that out: “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).
The Church across the United States has already begun participating in such a movement of hospitality, working to address directly the needs of women faced with unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. Groups like Obria Medical Clinics are helping women get access to quality healthcare. Groups like the Gabriel Project are helping women with specific financial needs for clothing and baby items. Groups like Hannah House are helping women by providing lodging during pregnancy. And groups like Avail are helping women with childbirth and parenting classes.
This kind of hospitality, which is being practiced by many but has potential to grow, is radical. It is not radical merely in the sense that it goes against cultural temptations of self-preservation and isolation. There is another, more fundamental meaning of “radical,” one that is often overlooked by all but the mathematicians among us: “the root of.” At the root—the very heart—of the Gospel is hospitality, which calls us to make room in our lives for others in the same way that Jesus has made room in His life and in His kingdom for us.
Confronted afresh with the horrors of the abortion industry, my friends and I have felt powerless as to what to do; we know the importance of articulating truth, but we have struggled with how exactly to put it into loving practice. For those of us who are still trying to make this hospitality a part of our lives, here are a couple of guidelines.
Hospitality thrives in a community. As individuals, we are not meant to meet every need of every person in our lives. Such a task is simply not possible. However, when we find ourselves part of a community of Christians, our ability to practice hospitality increases. We can join in with the groups that are already doing amazing works of hospitality, and we also have the opportunity to start conversations in our faith communities and ask questions like, “How can we practically help each other and others we encounter? What gifts, talents, and resources do we have to share?” Then we put the answers into practice, just like other organizations have done and are doing.
Hospitality grows over time. We can start small, by volunteering at our local schools or pregnancy centers, or by simply starting conversations with the people who we encounter. We can pray for the grace to see others the way God sees them, and we can ask God for wisdom in how to receive others the way that Christ Jesus has received us. Starting small, we can invest time and energy into the people around us. We can make a plan to increase our hospitality over several years, knowing that the seeds we are sowing will grow over time. Our words and actions, small as they may be, can have significant impact that we cannot always anticipate.
I remember one instance of the power of simply answering a phone call. It was a friend I hadn’t talked to in a while. She was calling to tell me she was pregnant unexpectedly and that she was considering having an abortion. I opened my mouth with what I’m sure seemed to me a grand defense of life, but in the end what came out was the clichéd “It’s a child, not a choice.” But that conversation led to more conversations, and eight months later, she called me and asked me to take her to the hospital for the birth of her son because her boyfriend, due to circumstances beyond his control, could not make it. At one point during her pregnancy, she told me that those words about a child and a choice had kept playing in her mind and ultimately convinced her not to go through with an abortion. I was able to practice a small bit of hospitality with the resources available to me—a phone, a listening ear, a car, and time. It started small (an answered phone call) and ended big (with a beautiful baby boy in the arms of his mother). I am convinced that if we let the practice of hospitality start small, using the resources that we already have, it will grow into something beautiful, with the power to help women choose life for themselves and their babies instead of abortion.
It is not enough to call for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Christians must continue to take the call to show hospitality seriously, to welcome others as Christ Jesus has welcomed us. We must open our homes, our schedules, and our checkbooks to help the women among us who are in need. By joining in the efforts of those already practicing this kind of Christian hospitality and by starting new initiatives to meet other unmet needs of women and children, Christians can help to reduce the demand for abortion.