Too missional for abortion?

by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, at 3:34 pm

The number one social justice issue for African-Americans in New York City is abortion. Period. The city's abortion rate is twice the nation average, with 41 percent of all pregnancies ending in abortion. According to recent data, the rate for blacks is even higher: 59.8 percent. For Hispanics it's 41.3 percent, Asians 22.7 percent, and whites 20.4 percent. In 2009, unmarried women accounted for 84 percent of the abortions in the city.

To make matters worse, votes will be cast today for Bill 371, which will effectively shut down New York City's pro-life crisis pregnancy centers by imposing outrageous regulations that most centers do not have the manpower to implement.

Then last month, controversy was stirred up over a billboard erected in SoHo noting, "The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb." The billboard was only around for a few days.

All of this has me wondering why the missional, center-city evangelicals, who are all about "justice," "loving the city," "renewing the city," "serving the city," etc., do not seem to consider abortion one those flagship "justice" issues.

I've been browsing the mercy and justice websites of several of New York's well-known churches and Christian non-profit groups for discussion of New York's abortion crisis. Outside of the crisis pregnancy centers themselves, I have not found much of anything. What one will find are very good discussions on subjects like fighting homelessness, improving inner-city education, opening women's shelters, and dealing with sex trafficking and juvenile delinquency. I raise this issue because I am concerned that perhaps the missional pendulum has swung too far in one direction.

There are groups of 30-something-and-under Christians in cities who are trying to present a different kind of evangelical Christianity-one that's not so political and not so much about "culture wars," protesting abortion, or escaping "the culture" to the safety of the suburbs. These groups have made a conscious decision to not live out Christianity politically.

But Christian withdrawal from politics can inadvertently undermine the justice work of the church by not having a voting presence to maintain religious liberties for Christians to do what they are called to do. I fully recognize how an organization's non-profit status constrains certain types of activities and speech, but if New York's Christians are not encouraged to get involved in the politics of religious liberty, people are going to die, literally.

If there were pro-life Christians on New York's City Council, Bill 371 would fail and the crisis pregnancy centers would not be in jeopardy of closing. Bill 371 is a reminder that if your center city church is too missional for the politics of abortion and religious liberty, Christianity eventually will be limited to serving and renewing the city in rhetoric only.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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