Why the Next Supreme Court Justice Just Doesn’t Matter

Posted: June 20, 2016 by Matt Horan in Uncategorized
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scotusBy Matt Horan

I way too often make the mistake of watching election coverage on TV.  I tune in because I love American history, and enjoy taking the opportunities that present themselves to watch history unfold in our time.  So I watch election coverage with renewed hope each time, but thus far that hope has been extinguished daily.  So then I flip over to ESPN for news about my sports teams from Philadelphia, and my hope wanes even further.

I heard an argument made the other day about how important this election is when it comes to the Roe v. Wade decision being either upheld or overturned by the Court, thus affecting a woman’s right to have an abortion.

The first baptism I ever did was when I was interning in seminary as a hospital chaplain. I had not yet been given sacramental authority by my bishop, but when I was paged to come to the room of a mother who had just had a late term miscarriage, the traumatized young parents asked if I would baptize their baby.

They didn’t need a theological explanation about how a baptism wasn’t necessary, and how their baby’s soul was safely at home in the arms of God. They needed what Augustine called an “outward, visible sign of an inward, spiritual grace.” With apologies to my United Methodist brothers and sisters who keep a copy of the Book of Discipline on their bedside table; when a nurse put this tiny, tiny, little kid in my hands, my first baptism was soon underway.

It was one of the most profoundly sad moments of my life. I’d known this family for all of about three minutes before I was holding their 2 lb. baby. The tragedy was so fresh that, it was while I was holding the child when the mom asked the nurse whether it was a boy or girl. I kept looking at him or her, with completely formed facial features, and all I could think over and over was, “This kid never had a chance.” There should have been a first word, a first step, a first day of Kindergarten, dance recitals, and tee-ball games. But the kid never had a chance.

(I regretted that, at that point, his or her only name was “Baby G,” and so I would not be able to use the person’s name in their own baptism. When I left, they still hadn’t checked, so to this day, 10 years later, I still don’t know the name–or even the gender–of this kid who affected me so profoundly.)

My brief meeting with Baby G vastly shapes my views on abortion. He or she was not aborted, and so on some level I could be accused of comparing apples and oranges. That said, my desire for kids to have a chance to be kids is pretty well entrenched in my head and my heart.

As I have visited them in hospitals on the day they were born, or baptized them in their long white gowns, or sang with them in my preschool chapel class, or helped them learn about Jesus at Vacation Bible School, or helped them learn how God does not want them to wait their turn, but be a part of changing the world now during Confirmation classes, or taught them in middle school or high school English class, or coached them in soccer, or carpooled them everywhere, or chaperoned them on field trips, or just gasped as I watch them astonish us all when they show us their amazing potential in music concerts or science fairs or worship services, or in volunteering to offer selfless service to others in times of need; I have wanted kids to have the chance to be kids.

As I have visited kids in hospitals, counseled kids who were mourning the loss of a loved one, visited behavioral health floors at hospitals with kids who were mentally ill, guided kids with addictions, reassured kids who don’t think they matter, comforted kids who were scared, took deep questions from kids about the souls of their pets, visited kids in jail, listened to kids tell me about their parents’ divorce, waited out tantrums from kids who had been through trauma, played games with kids who are terminally ill, or led funerals for kids who died; I have just wanted kids to have the chance to be kids.

I know that abortion is a nuanced issue that affects many different people in many different ways. It is an issue that, sadly, has been hijacked by political operators as one more way to profit by making us all hate each other. I definitely want no part of taking sides in something so poisoned by our ability to dehumanize each other so that it’s becomes easier on our consciences when we destroy each other.

That said, abortions sadden me, and I am driven to remain hopeful that, someday, they will not happen anymore.

I don’t know exactly what to hope for. Perhaps someday medical science will develop a way to transplant an unborn child from one mother to another. Perhaps we will develop better birth control methods, and perhaps even find ways to make them more available to people across the socioeconomic spectrum.

What I do not hope for is a political solution. I find any reasoning that a Supreme Court will do something that will allow more kids to just be kids to be seriously flawed.  While I don’t want to be a part of a poisoned process, I don’t want to be a part of an ineffective one either.

Of course the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court Justices is incredibly important, and they must be the most gifted students of the laws of our nation, because they will make important decisions every day that affect millions of people, and they hold our government in check to keep it what it was designed to be.

It’s not that I think the Supreme Court isn’t important. The flaw is this: abortions don’t happen because they’re legal.

The fight over abortion always seems to boil down to a violation of rights.  One side considers the right of the mother to maintain control and ownership of her body.  The other side considers the rights of the unborn baby to be allowed to live.

See, abortions don’t happen because women (and men) have maintained control over what happens to their bodies.  Abortion happens because people decided to give their bodies away to someone else.

I know it’s old fashioned to talk about sexual promiscuity these days.  I’ve done over 40 weddings in my nine years of local church ministry, and only two of them had waited until they were married.  (Yep, I ask.  We discuss it in premarital counseling, which I require for all couples I marry.  Although, now  I wonder if this revelation will result in a steep drop in couples asking me to marry them…)

Now don’t get me wrong–I don’t think that premarital sex is a death sentence for a marriage.  Out of those 40+ weddings, only one couple has gotten divorced.  (And no, it was not one of the couples that waited until they were married to have sex.)

I would argue that a culture of sex without commitment is a death sentence–a literal death sentence–to many who live in that culture.  Even beyond the life threatening sexually transmitted diseases that are cultivated and nourished in such a culture, there are dangers aplenty.

When there is sex, there are children.  Sure, the wealthier you are the more access you probably have to birth control and the abortions we’ve seized the rights to, but that luxury doesn’t extend all the way up and down the socioeconomic spectrum.  My church partners with a couple different schools, and the family dynamic trending now is kids who’s parents were never married in the first place.  They lived mostly with their mothers, and have a few half siblings thanks to the men who have come in and out of their mothers’ lives.

The average number of parents in kids’ households is declining.  Fewer parents to help with homework, or drive them to sports practices, or chip in to afford dance or music lessons.  I attended a dance recital today, and the end of the recital was a celebration of the seniors who’d just finished what was probably, for most of them, their last dance recital ever after years and years growing up in the neighborhood program.

Their parents were all called up on stage as a part of the celebration.  Many of the dancers had two parents there, and many had just one.  For a couple there were aunts, uncles, or grandparents.  One of the dancers didn’t have any family members at all show up to watch her last recital, so the teachers crowded in and celebrated with her.  I was glad for those teachers, but heartbroken as well.

We’re having more sex, which leads to more children.  We’re making fewer commitments, which leads to fewer parents.  When there are more children growing up with fewer parents, they become adults who have only known a life with lots of kids and few parents.

Oh, and a vast number of those kids with fewer parents helping with spelling words or cheering for them in the crowd have little or no health insurance.  Churches used to be into helping with that kind of thing, but that was back before we sold all of our hospitals to corporations and got out of the business.  But don’t worry, Christians–you’re still paying for the medical care of the poor, you’re just doing it now by paying taxes against your will rather than joyfully giving to your church to share in the responsibility for accomplishing its important mission, which used to be a far more inspiring mission than the one that seems more and more common: staying open.

It’s true that abortion does thin out the population of children in this fewer parent culture, especially among the upper class, but it’s not able to keep pace with a culture whose children have now become adults who expect more sex, and less commitment, with kids as an inconvenient byproduct.  And why shouldn’t it be that way?  When they were growing up, they felt like an inconvenient byproduct lots of times.  That’s a normal part of growing up, isn’t it?

We’re not wired to be at our best like this.  It causes frustration, exhaustion, anger, and violence.  We look for ways to relieve the pain through drugs or alcohol, or unhealthy eating habits, or more promiscuous sex.  Anything to give us fleeting moments of pleasure as an oasis from the pain.  I heard a CNN reporter a couple weeks ago doing a story about the abuse of prescription painkillers:

“I find it interesting that Americans consume 80% of the world’s painkillers, but definitely don’t feel 80% of the world’s pain.”

“Family values” organizations have raised a fortune over the years in tax deductible donations by alerting us to the divorce rate that was creeping closer and closer to 50%.  But that statistic has now gotten stuck at 50%, which is a real bummer to those in the fundraising business employed by the average “family values” organization.

It’s not increasing because fewer people are getting married.  The average age of brides and grooms has been migrating north for the last several years.  It’s been pretty rare the last few years to do a wedding where both–or even one–of the bride or groom were under 30.

I hate to break it to you, family values fundraisers, but people aren’t getting abortions because they’re legal.  They’re getting abortions because nobody is making a compelling case for the power sex can have to enrich a marriage and bond two people together as they intentionally create a sexual relationship in which each partner gives themselves to each other, and only to each other, for a lifetime.  They’re getting abortions because we’re not teaching our sons and daughters that they’re worth the wait.  They’re getting abortions because they believe what their friends tell them about sex more than they believe their parents, especially since there are more and more friends around, and fewer and fewer parents.

Abortion is not the disease.  Abortion is a symptom of a much bigger problem–we don’t value ourselves or our neighbors the way we should.  We don’t believe that sex is a powerful, joyful, sacred part of bonding to your favorite person in the whole wide world, the one you have chosen to take with you on your journey through life.  We don’t believe that there’s any harm in giving our bodies away to anyone who will have them in hopes of using each other to escape from our pain and perhaps briefly feel better about ourselves for our ability to get someone to give us theirs without the inconvenience of commitment.  We are trying to find the most pleasure for the least cost.  God forgive us–we are bargain hunting for each other.

Sadly enough, we have become distracted by the symptom, and ignored the real problem.  So we fight and fight and fight and march and march and march and yell and yell and yell and hate and hate and hate and raise fortunes and spend fortunes on signs and lawyers and lobbyists to bend the law a little bit more our way, as if overturning Roe v. Wade would suddenly make it a better world.

Our problem is that we have cheapened ourselves and each other.  We have stopped seeing each other through the eyes of Christ–the one who sees us as so valuable that he would literally give up everything to claim us as his own.  The solution to that is not making abortion illegal.  The solution is a commitment to evangelism, welcoming more and more people in to the loving arms of our congregations to be welcomed and embraced and treasured, and told the story of God valuing us so much that he would step into the world and live and die and come back from the grave for us. If people are going to give themselves to someone else, they should do it knowing just how valuable what they’re giving away really is.

Put down your picket sign.  Go out and find someone who is not a part of the church yet, and be kind to them, and welcome them, and forget about making abortion illegal.  Let’s remind the people of this world how valuable they are, and make abortion go out of business instead.


  1. ryan85 says:

    “Let’s remind the people of this world how valuable they are, and make abortion go out of business instead.” This is a great line! As a director of a Pregnancy Center we often talk of how we will still be needed as a hands and feet ministry whether Roe v. Wade is overturned or not, and it’s because of exactly what you articulated in this post. Too many of us have a poor understanding of human worth and a poor understanding of sex and the family. We work to change that perception with every client we serve. Almost none of our clients “want” abortions. They’ve just conceived a child in such difficult circumstances they think an abortion will make life a little more manageable. It’s almost always a situation bathed in grief and shame. That’s not how sex is supposed to be and that’s not how God designed us to feel. Good stuff, Matt.


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