When I was a child in school, occasionally the teacher would need to step out of the classroom for one reason or another (Consultation? Washroom? Cigarette?). Slowly but surely the placid room would build into various giggles, teasings, swats, kicks, and other childishness, all camouflaged by dozens of kid-voices, sometimes collaborating, sometimes overlapping but always rising and erupting in volume. In fact I’m sure that the volume would never have stopped increasing had some adult not desperately run in to the room to shout, ‘Quiet! Everybody stop!’

So, at the risk of attracting anger, death threats and shunning, I feel like I need to be the adult in the room and shout, ‘Quiet! Everybody stop talking! All of you, on both the right and left side of the room, be quiet. You up on the teacher’s desk, shut up! You’re not helping the issue just by making more and more noise!’

What issue is the adult shouting about? Well, it’s a big one – the issue of abortion.

Now before I inevitably get in over my head, let me begin with a simple statement: in my opinion abortion is sad and painful and leaves a trail of loss and regret. I believe that every life, even potential life, is loved and of deep, deep importance.

Now back to the shouting. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a revisal of New York State’s abortion law that had pro-choicers shouting in support and pro-lifers shouting in horror which led to shouters on both sides rushing to make pro-active laws in their own states that are friendly to their viewpoint.

So let’s try to rise above the shouting and be clear about what that law actually is. With apologies to all the people who have been shocked and outraged, Article 25A of The Reproductive Health Act is not open season to kill babies of any age, it is a law to give medical practitioners the legal option of saving a mother’s life in the event of a life and death decision late in the pregnancy. I admit it is troubling in many respects but let’s be sure we understand it for what it is.

When my wife was giving birth to our son, he was causing a significant problem because he was breech and coming one leg first. The doctor came to me for guidance in case he had to make a choice between mother and child. Fortunately he didn’t need to make that choice but what if he had to and there was no one there to guide that decision? The sad truth is that there are mothers who enter labor with no one by their side, no one to help or care, no one who loves them enough to be present.

No, abortion shouldn’t be birth control – agreed. Let me say it again, I am pro-life but ‘life’ is a term that is broad, that extends from pre-born babies to those who used to be babies. From the youngest to those who have lived long enough to sit in a nursing home. I believe in life and that’s the point. Life.

Pro-choicers, think about how pro-lifers feels about this. A fetus is a moving, thinking, feeling, living miracle of creation, a dream of hope for the future and a miraculous extension of the lives and dreams of parents, grandparents and others. A gift of glorious potential from God to the world. It’s a person, an innocent. A baby.

To sidestep the value and beauty of life is to lose our heart as a culture and our soul as human beings. It is like choosing war over peace; empty over full; nothing over something; death over life. There can be nothing but pain, loss and guilt if that baby is taken away and never exists. Destroying a life is inconceivable to those who have lost a child or can’t have one.

Please stop talking and try to feel and understand. Walk a mile in the other’s shoes.

Pro-lifers, think about how pro-choicers feels about this. Human beings of all sorts make mistakes as a matter of daily life.  Some of the most difficult mistakes to resist are the momentary lapses of sexuality; the human need for touching, sex, acceptance, closeness, singular importance, love. Advocating purity culture in a sexualized world is demonstrably ineffective. We have more than enough religious leaders who have strayed to remind us of this.

Not every person is in our circumstances or has the benefit of our perspective. To expect that every mother has the economic or social resources to raise a child, or the emotional and familial resources to support it, is living in a bubble of our own choosing. The hopelessness of an assault or a bad choice or a dangerous marriage can overwhelm and drown someone when they’re vulnerable. And people are especially vulnerable when we are shouting in their faces.

Please stop talking and try to feel and understand. Walk a mile in the other’s shoes.

Prepping for this blog led me into some interesting history about abortion and guess what I discovered? Shouting.

Absolute opinions, misconceptions, closed minds, loud voices on both sides, moralizing and talking over each other at the expense of genuinely hurting people. The extreme stories got told loudly but the plain, painful stories were mostly ignored. Different time and media, same old story.

During the mid-1800s the ‘Great Upsurge of Abortion’ as it was known, was a time when at least 20 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion. People like Madame Restell and Anthony Comstock were contemporaries on different sides of the debate, each brought heartache despite their moral shouting.

It was only after Christians organized to care for the needs of mothers, babies and families that abortion rates began to circle downward. They befriended poor women, desperate mothers and prostitutes; they organized orphanages and resources for adoption; they provided childcare so mothers could work or go to school. As a result, abortion rates were cut in half by 1910.

It wasn’t through laws or jail, censorship or guilt-laced yelling. They changed things by loving, caring, walking beside rather than shouting down. Kind of a ‘love your neighbour’ theme like Jesus had spoken of time after time. Today there is way too much willful shortsightedness from us, Christian friends, and our hypocrisy is showing.

Not for a moment am I suggesting that we be silent or passive about our deeply held beliefs but that we share them with grace and patience and love. This is a historically difficult issue that will not be solved easily so let’s take a more healing view and just stop the judging. Surrender the moaning and finger pointing and bless rather than blast.

It’s often said that conservative Christians are not pro-life, they are anti-abortion. Hmmm… Are we pro-life? Truly? Well then class, we need to stop our noise and listen. We must care about what our Lord cares about or change the name we go by. If you are lacking, God can supply more than enough love to go around.

We need to embrace a larger definition of pro-life. Pro-lifers are too often also pro-war, pro-death penalty, pro-militarization and against social programs that help people already born. We should care about dirty water, polluted air, electronic waste, etc. which are killing people all over the planet. Is it really such a hardship to ban assault weapons or register our guns? Shouldn’t fresh water, health care, safe housing and adequate nutrition be something Jesus people work for?

As is the case with most social issues, the remedy rarely comes soley through laws and especially not through shouting. The hope of the world always comes back to the love of God, handed out through the generous hearts and courageous actions of His disciples. Let’s change the narrative and be Jesus’ hands and feet and voice.

Or at the very least, stop the shouting.

And let the shunning begin.