Every year the “40 Days for Life” protests outside women’s reproductive health clinics is timed to coincide with Lent. For Christians this is a powerful season. It is meant as a period of thought and reflection on the Biblical experience of Jesus. For 40 days Jesus withdrew from society and anguished over whether his unique call — to bring a new vision of compassion and justice for all people — was worth the sacrifice of his life. Today we use this time to consider how to carry out his vision of justice and peace.
Therefore, the “40 Days for Life” movement is, to many of us, a mockery of that observation.
Rather than anti-abortion participants reflecting on their own growth, sin, and omissions, they gather, not unlike the Romans and Pharisees, to besiege women while berating them for the moral choices they make. Rather than creating a sacred space to offer the love and acceptance Jesus taught -- and protesters pretend to value -- they re-create the mobs and violence that surrounded Jesus’ death. Rather than remembering that women were essential, valued, respected equals in Jesus’ world, protestors seek to demean and shame them.
Religious pluralism is a profound good about our nation. Respecting one another’s views is a bedrock of democracy. That does not mean we have to accept everyone’s actions, even those done in the name of their faith.
For people of faith, we also have views, morality, and political affirmations that stand in powerful rebuttal to the persistent attempts to shame women and deny all of us our cherished values. We therefore stand in strong and unwavering repudiation that such harassment of women reflects one iota of what Lent is all about, what Christ’s message really meant, what comprises justice.
To carry out the teachings of the New Testament, teachings of inclusive love and justice for all, we profoundly support the moral agency of women. We honor their superiority as full human beings over nascent life in the womb. We support women’s capacity to exercise her own values of life, home, family, faith, children without a mob’s imposition of their own self-defined rules upon her.
For many of us, the upcoming 40 Days will be spent pursuing real goals of justice and equity that support the whole of life, not just the bare fact of fetal existence. We will be working to obtain far greater support and care for women, families, and children already on this earth so we can all genuinely live decently with security and sustainability. That is what Jesus taught us and that will be how we respect the sacred days.
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