Choice Sanctuary

No surprise, but now it is clear.

A group of religious extremists – namely, the majority of members of the Supreme Court – are going to nullify a 50-year old legal precedent in order to reach their long-time goal of taking away a fundamental and sacred human right: the right of a woman to choose to terminate pregnancy. 

The right to abortion is the mother of all rights.  So we must understand this pending decision as an attack on democracy.  A woman has a natural right to “vote” for herself on whether or not to continue a pregnancy.  Taking away her abortion rights is taking away her voting rights.

If you are against abortion, then don’t have one.  It is that simple.  You can be anti-abortion and pro-choice.  You just can’t impose your religious beliefs on the rest of us.  Especially when for many progressive Christians, reproductive choice is integral to our faith.  Our choice-making nature is sacred, God-given.  An attack on our reproductive rights is an attack on our religion. 

Which is why it is time for our progressive churches to declare ourselves publicly as “Choice Sanctuaries” – where we actively support each other in exercising our sacred human right to reproductive freedom.  “Choice Sanctuary” congregations can take on a variety of tasks:  helping women get medication abortions, operating an “underground railroad” to other states where “Choice Sanctuary” churches will help them through their abortions, and of course advocating politically for the full restoration of reproductive rights.  If you want to get involved in making this network happen, let me know right away. 

I believe that we have reached an historic moment as progressive Christian people.  While we have and always will be communities that welcome people of many perspectives and persuasions, no longer can we pretend to be “neutral” about what is happening in our country and our world.  This latest attack on democracy is just a particularly serious one in a string of dire threats, not the least being what happened on 1/6/2021.  There is a very real possibility that future elections will be “gamed” by Republicans in order to deny the will of the majority, and even to enable Republican legislatures to override the voters in the next presidential election.  Faith communities are foundations of civic society, building-blocks of democracy.  Our religious freedom is threatened by the religious extremism of a minority.  The climate crisis is staring us in the face but our political system has been crippled in response to it by this same extremist minority. 

This country is in serious trouble, and with it, the planet. 

Timidity by progressive Christian lay people, clergy, and churches is hereby declared OVER.

We must be bold and clear while being kind and respectful, projecting the agape love that is God.  We must take stands that in the past would have made us cringe for fear of offending somebody.  If we lose some “pledge units”, oh well.  The time for worrying about that is past.

So yes, declaring your church to be a Choice Sanctuary is going to cost you.  Be prepared for trouble, from within and from without.  But at last the communities around us, and the nation, and the world are going to know what we are made out of, what we stand for, and what we don’t and won’t stand for.

Let’s roll!

(See more of my “musings” here…)

Senior Associate Dean, 

Office of Religious Life,
University of Southern California

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