No longer content to merely minimize the importance for Christians of opposing abortion, a prominent progressive Christian social justice organization now argues that Roe v Wade itself should be upheld.
“As a Christian, I believe we must protect the rights of women and pregnant people to make their own reproductive health decisions, a right that has been protected since 1973 by the Supreme Court as a fundamental liberty under the 14th Amendment,” wrote Sojourners President Adam Russell Taylor in a column appearing in the organization’s eponymous Religious Left journal this month. “As a Christian, I also want to ensure there are fewer unwanted pregnancies by ensuring everyone has access to holistic health care and the economic support to care for their children.”
News that Sojourners officials would support a position that the American political Left considers the hill to die upon won’t come as a surprise. This is the same organization that has endorsed a steady stream of socially liberal innovations. But it fits into a long running pattern in which the group is insistent in presenting a position firmly on the Left as some sort of compromise.
Taylor, and ordained American Baptist Churches USA clergyman, tries to present himself as partway between pro-life and pro-choice positions, when he’s fully pro-choice in the legislative and judicial realms. He doesn’t explain what could be wrong with abortion itself, or why it should be made rarer.
“We must oppose extreme measures that would eliminate the right of women and pregnant people to choose whether they bear children while we also advocate vigorously for policies and programs that would dramatically reduce the need for unwanted pregnancies that lead people to seek abortions in the first place,” Taylor writes. He concludes his article with his hope that most Americans can work “to ensure that abortion is kept legal.”
The idea that we shouldn’t, as a matter of constitutional rights, allow states to regulate abortion is a position firmly on the political Left, not a compromise position. Argument for a more expansive social welfare state is one that faithful Christians can espouse, although it is also comfortably situated on the political Left.
Taylor writes that “Christians are called to be countercultural” but I don’t see clearly where he is being countercultural within his own political subculture. Abortion isn’t the only recent example.
In April, Taylor authored a column in which he condemned state laws opposed by transgender activists, including those that seek to preserve women’s and girls’ sports for biological females. The same publication ran a book review authored by a self-proclaimed “polyamorist Christian” with three partners. She declared that non-monogamy, kink, same-sex couplings, or casual sex are healthy expressions of sexuality when engaged in a consensual manner.
Sojourners had already departed from historic Christian social witness on marriage, sexuality, and gender. Sadly, we can now add an embrace of the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court ruling to the list of items.
In February, the organization ran a glowing review of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice CEO Katey Zeh’s A Complicated Choice. Earlier this past autumn, the journal published an opinion piece arguing that when life begins – and abortion in particular – is a “gray space, the boundaries of which cannot be fixed by law.”
Sojourners has historically published pieces either minimizing the importance of abortion for Christians, or it has argued that the best way to reduce demand for abortions is through an expansive social welfare state. Typically left unmentioned in those articles was why abortion is problematic.
IRD historically provides coverage of mainline Protestant churches and the ecumenical groups to which they belong. Sojourners was once thought to be on the Evangelical Left, but I’ve argued that this designation probably hasn’t remained accurate in recent years: the magazine’s tagline, “Faith in Action for Social Justice” makes clear that the latter is the focus of the publication and its broader advocacy organization. In the late 2000s I recall viewing an ad sheet for the publication showing that 11 percent of subscribers identified as evangelical (I regret that I didn’t keep that sheet on file).
Christians shouldn’t abandon the political space – we can organize ourselves to make a social and political witness in the public square. But there also will be points at which the Gospel will sit in tension with any political tribe or ideology. Just as faithful believers must be on guard against pagan syncretism, we also need to be on guard against syncretism that baptizes our political preferences as the “Christian way” of doing things.
The Gospel must be paramount, and if the church has historically spoken up for the sanctity of human life, we won’t be able to square that with a false idol of personal autonomy.
Comment by Tom on May 17, 2022 at 5:45 pm
The longer you live, the more you realize that the “evangelical left” is an oxymoron. Sojourners had to choose between “evangelical” and “left,” and they chose “left.”
Comment by Loren J Golden on May 17, 2022 at 8:31 pm
“To many on the Right, my support for women’s rights sounds like I’m dismissing concerns about the rights of an unborn child.”
In his 1438-word column, this is the only place in which Mr. Taylor spoke of an unborn child’s rights. In fact, it is the only place where Mr. Taylor spoke of unborn children at all.
Is the fetus in a woman’s womb a human being made in the image of God, or not? That, above all else, must be the question that frames the abortion debate, especially among the people of God. After all, it is unconscionable to discuss a woman’s “right” to an abortion, if, by exercising that “right”, she tramples the right of another human being to live.
The CDC reported that in 2019, 629,898 legal abortions were performed in clinics and hospitals reporting data to the CDC. Amortized across the year, that amounts to 1726 children losing their lives to abortion every day. How many more children must thus lose their lives, before abortion, in Mr. Taylor’s closing words, is made “more rare”?
Comment by David Miller on May 17, 2022 at 8:44 pm
Unrestricted abortion and pregnant people. This fellow has surrendered any claim to Christianity.
Comment by Let's use the razor on May 18, 2022 at 9:02 am
A couple points to consider:
1. If the preferred policy options of Taylor and Sojourners were adopted, would that end or substantially cut down on unwanted pregnancies?
2. If completely free birth control aids for both sexes were universally made available at any time would that end or substantially cut down on unwanted pregnancies?
3. If ‘access to holistic health care and economic support…’ was somehow developed and equally implemented would that end or substantially cut down on unwanted pregnancies, child poverty, and child abuse?
The obvious answers are no, no way, not possible, and dozens of ways to say the same thing. I would love to see Mr. Taylor and those who agree with him show us any proof that their solutions work. It’s simply the case that people are immoral, selfish, and irresponsible, as all sinners like us are. Why Sojourners and the Religious Left refuse to see this fact is unbelievable. Haven’t these people ever cracked open the Scriptures and read them?
Even if their solutions were possible to implement, as we see from the example of how West Coast cities are trying to handle ‘homelessness’ and ‘unhoused’ people, their programs would just become another way for grifters to rake cash off the government and do nothing for the people the programs are designed to help.
Eventually someone on the left has to figure out that there has to be a ‘wanna’ in individuals, a desire to do what is right, a desire to not harm others, and a desire to change their life; without it nothing will ever really change, and only help from someone bigger than yourself can help with. But I guess that will only happen when they figure out there are only 2 sexes, and multiple constructs self-imposed by warped, ill, or deluded individuals that actually think the term ‘birthing person’ can be a description of reality.
Comment by Lance on May 20, 2022 at 5:57 pm
Jesus was Jesus at the moment of conception.
John the Baptist was John the Baptist at the moment of conception.
Samuel was Samuel…
Isaac was Isaac…
We are who we are at the moment of conception.
There is no other way to look at it “as a Christian.”
Comment by Donald on May 22, 2022 at 5:45 am
This is not really a new position for Sojourners, AKA The Post American. In private conversations with me and other members of LaSalle Street Church in Chicago during the 1970’s, Jim Wallis essentially held the position of abortion on demand. He couldn’t answer the question asked by then Assistant Pastor Ronald Cook, Pastor Bill Leslie, or myself. Especially the one noted by Mr. Walton: when was Jesus, John the Baptist, et. al. “persons?” Or acknowledge that Thomas Aquinas was correct in holding that position.
Comment by David on May 23, 2022 at 10:02 am
I find the trajectory of Sojourners over the decades tragic, because as a young man I was an enthusiast for the group and magazine, called Post American when I first subscribed. I especially appreciated their stand in favour of non-violence. Although I moved in a different direction a few years later, I still gave them the benefit of the doubt, even as I was no longer following them regularly. When Wallis came out as pro-choice some years ago, I was disappointed, because abortion is in effect a violent solution to a “problem” pregnancy. It is difficult not to conclude that Sojourners, now perhaps to be known as Post Wallis, has strayed far from its “prophetic” origins in the 1970s and is simply parroting the dominant expressive individualism that has overtaken the larger culture. All Christians feel the pressures to conform to the spirit of the age. But if they do so willingly, they should cease to claim that they offer anything distinctive.
Comment by Glen Kissel on May 23, 2022 at 10:11 am
IRD fails to mention in the article that at the 50th anniversary of the Great Society’s “War on Poverty” our nation had spent $22 Trillion on poverty programs, that’s three times the amount spent on all the military wars since the Revolution. (Also the $22 Trillion does not include Social Security or Medicare.)
In other words, we’ve ALREADY implemented a grossly expansive welfare state, we’ve grossly overfunded poverty programs… and they have not worked.
Abortion is not the answer to a failed “War on Poverty.”