The reversal of Roe Vs. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court reveals a lot about what people are thinking and where the culture’s heart is. The response gages the distance our culture’s values have traveled from that which God in the Bible promotes as human.
The Story God tells
God’s story emphasizes childbirth. The Bible, from beginning to end, from “be fruitful and multiply,” (Gen 1:22) to “she shall be saved through childbearing” (1Ti 2:15) and “the woman clothed with the sun” (Rev 12:1-3) makes making and bearing children the great hinge of history. It is the cry of Abraham’s heart: “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless” (Gen 15:2). It is how God accomplishes His purposes. While God also grants singleness, and therefore childlessness, as a high calling for certain purposes (1Co 7), the bearing of children is a great privilege.
Yet a modern distaste for getting pregnant has infected our Bible interpretation. You can hear it in sermons about texts that highlight how women in the Bible wanted and prayed (and sometimes fought) to have children. These sermons strangely begin with bemoaning backstory: “In those days, women put great value in having children…” As if, now that times have changed and we are so much more enlightened, women shouldn’t find value in having children. Womanist Wilda C. Gafney scorns in her midrash on Biblical histories, “So many women in the Scriptures are reduced to incubators.” This crass mischaracterization of the Biblical text more basically fails to value what God does.
What We Value
One woman recently responded to my rhapsodizing about the awe-inspiring bearing of children: “But I’m so much more than that.” Well, yeah, but are you less? Do you really want to relegate what is, in God’s view, your unique greatness? Not all women can bear children, but it remains the feminine gift.
Sidelining childbirth leads to the denigration of babies. They start to become interruptions.
Olga Khazan reflects in The Atlantic: “The question of whether to have kids has puzzled me my entire adult life…” She reports how child-free women “overwhelmingly focus on the benefits of their freedom and autonomy.” She then cites a University of Pennsylvania study that asked that school’s graduating students if they planned to have or adopt kids. In 1992, 79% gave an unequivocal ‘yes.’ In 2012, that number fell to 41%. The number who said “probably not” grew from 1 to 20%. We are outrageously detoured if our education does not lead us to value children as one of the main points of life.
So the Roe Vs. Wade discussion brings out what the Bible would see as some brutalizing attitudes of people as they respond. Do we hear of the beautiful privilege of bearing a new person in the image of God? This is not a woman’s issue. Modern men’s complicit attitude is no less dehumanizing. As men devalue their supporting role in providing context for this great event of humanity, as they eschew their responsibility to secure a home, as they sense no obligation for the intimacy they share with women, they are becoming like the lower beasts of creation. And they hide their concupiscence behind an endorsement of a “woman’s right to choose.” Thus, our vice-president Kamala Harris delivered her chilling message on CNN (at 2:28): “If you are a parent of sons, do think about what this [overturning of Roe vs. Wade] means for the life of your son and what that will mean in terms of the choices he will have.” Yikes!
Can the Human story Break in?
God gave a great gift to women in bearing children. The reality of it sometimes breaks in on peoples’ positions when they actually have a child. One atheist friend of mine was very pro-abortion. But I’ll never forget what happened when she had a baby. She couldn’t surrender what she thought was a position that stood up for women. However, she confessed to me privately: “After giving birth, I see that I could never ever have an abortion myself.” Because…? And therefore…? I hoped that she would one day follow that thinking through as she worked for what was truly good for women.
Yes, the response to the Supreme Court decision tells us a lot about our culture’s hearts.