Ending abortion through hospitality

by Anthony Bradley

Posted on Thursday, December 31, 2015, at 1:40 pm

In the wake of the terrible shooting last month at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., I began to wonder if evangelicals should completely change their approach to challenging abortion. What if they made a New Year’s resolution to move from protest to hospitality in 2016? Conferences, rallies, and on-site protests may raise awareness among those already committed to the pro-life cause, but they are not likely to bring about the change Christians really want. It also seems unlikely that abortion laws will change anytime soon, if ever. What remains, then, is the ancient children’s liberation movement practiced by the early Christian church that changed the world by taking in the children the larger society wanted to destroy.

When early Christians practiced what the Bible actually teaches (Matthew 22:36-40; James 1:26-27), it resulted in families opening up their homes to people in need. As a result, in the ancient world, children not only were protected, but they also became people. As the historian O.M. Bakke points out in his book When Children Became People (Augsburg Fortress, 2005), in ancient Greece and Rome, children were valued less than livestock, but Christians permanently changed the equation. It was common for the elite to exploit children of the lower classes sexually and subject them to grueling labor practices, including slavery. Sick and deformed babies were often left outside to die. Christians took them into their homes. Christian hospitality and advocacy put an end to infanticide. Christians bestowed upon children value and significance because of the way they treated them and, as a result, showed the world that children matter.

What would happen in 2016 and beyond if Christians opened their homes to take in the pregnant mothers who are considering abortion? The data makes this plausible. According to Pew Research, there are approximately 62.2 million evangelical Protestants. And according to recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, there are about 730,000 abortions annually. The Guttmacher Institute reports that 18 percent of U.S. women obtaining abortions are teenagers. Women in their 20s account for more than half of all abortions. Evangelicals alone could put the abortion industry out of business by putting down their picket signs and opening up their homes to unmarried pregnant women.

Christian hospitality would possibly mean inviting these women to move into our homes for however long was necessary to eliminate the financial and social costs of having children outside of marriage. Hospitality might also involve the encouraging men to marry the mothers of their children. Entire low-income families could move into the homes of Christians of means while they establish themselves and become connected to a church community that can give them the tools and skills necessary to truly flourish.

Are there not 730,000 families out of the 62 million evangelicals in America willing to open their homes to unmarried pregnant women considering abortion? Perhaps 2016 will be the year that evangelicals walk off the picket line, cancel conferences, and return to the ancient practice of changing the world through hospitality. 

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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