I always get nervous when I post about this topic because it brings out the trolls. At the same time, I can barely stand how horrid the conversations about abortion seem to go online. I believe in every part of me that there’s a better way to talk about this and find some better solutions together.
The problem is that the conversation is so charged, polarized, and completely unsafe that no one can say anything about it without things going bonkers.
We will never get to a new place until we can share in a more honoring, respectful, dignified way.
I care about this conversation because it’s affected me personally and many other women and men I know.
I care about this conversation because we are talking about human lives, made in God’s image, worthy of dignity and respect.
I care about this conversation because it points to who we are as a society.
I care about this conversation because I find myself in the midst of a pro-life, pro-choice paradox as a Christ-follower that I know many others are living in, too.
I care about this conversation because I know what it feels like to be in Christian groups that talk about this issue with no care to the women (and men, too) who are sitting in the pews or in the small groups who are suffering in silence because of the shame connected to it.
I care about this conversation because it sucks how “Christians” have been represented by the voices that are the loudest and most abrasive.
I care about this conversation because I believe we are supposed to be cultivators of the kingdom of God in tangible ways, and it’s confusing on what that looks like on this one in today’s world.
In the same vein as poverty, there are so many systemic issues underneath abortion that go far deeper than a simple cut-and-dried solution that we have to wrestle with. Addressing these realities will stretch us in ways that hurt because they will require us to actually participate in change instead of just pray or only offer a pat and distant answer to a deeply complex problem.
As I was pondering this issue this past week, I circled back to a conversation from our Refuge Advocates group last month about the hidden rules among classes and that the way out of poverty was through education and relationships.
Often, like in poverty conversations, we want to talk about simple abortion solutions: if people would just ______ or if our system didn’t ________ or if Planned Parenthood _________.
But the hard work of education and relationships, yikes, that will require something personal and sacrificial of each of us that is scary to consider.
Plus, I don’t think we can get to that place until we can start at the very base level of having an at-least-halfway-safe-somewhat-respectful conversation about it that leads to learning, understanding, and challenge among people who disagree.
Jose and I were recently in a conversation with a dear friend about Planned Parenthood and I will openly admit that it was not a dignified dialogue! We were horrid participants! The conversation kept circling around to the same place. While we were talking I kept thinking about these questions for deeper dignified dialogue from a previous post that rarely get applied in any of these conversations, either on Facebook or in real life (and yeah, I didn’t use even one of them in that conversation, either, so I’m not pointing fingers). Fortunately, we love each other dearly and always hug it out in the end.
I am not saying these guidelines will change everything, but they might be able to help us be able to hang together better as brothers and sisters who disagree but care and want to find a way forward toward better solutions.
Here are the basic guidelines for dignified dialogue first; they build the base:
And what I wanted to focus on in this post–questions that might help dig deeper and help us move to better places of understanding and learning in these conversations:
- What is your story? How did you get to where you are are today? (The truth is that’s the best thing we’ve got, to hear each other’s real stories)
- What are some of the primary things that influenced you to believe what you now believe?
- How have some of your views changed over time?
- What troubles you about where you have currently landed? What doubts do you have about your position or perspective?
- What brings you the most peace? What parts feel most clear?
- How have you wrestled with the scriptures about this?
- What do you fear? How has that influenced you?
- What misperceptions do you think people might have about you or your views?
- What have been some of the costs to your beliefs? Relationships, church, jobs, etc.?
- How have you felt misunderstood?
- What are ways I might be able to help you feel more understood? (bonus points for this one!)
I know, the cynic in me says what some of you might be saying to yourself right now: “Yeah, right, that’s so not possible on the topic of abortion. We’re way too far gone for that.” But I am enough of a hopeful realist to believe that we can humbly practice better conversations in small pockets.
That we can become safer people and stumble and bumble our way through it with grace.
That we can stay in when we want to run, ask questions when we want to pontificate, and listen when we want to speak.
That we can hold back from a horrid Facebook comment and ask a respectful question instead.
That we can ask for God’s help to show us how we can be part of the solution and not just keep talking round-and-round-and-round way up high in theory and in a protected place that never changes anything.
Please, dear God, help us find a better way to talk about abortion solutions.
ps: This week i have a post up at sheloves magazine. October’s theme is power, and it’s called When it Feels Right to Feel Bad. Eleanor Roosevelt says, “no one can make you feel inferior without your permission” but oh, that’s easier said than done.