Pro-life nod sparks progressive fury
Life | Followers lash out at liberal Christian author for bringing up the sanctity of life
by Leah Hickman
Posted 10/26/20, 04:25 pm
Progressive Christian author and activist Shane Claiborne received unexpected backlash earlier this month when he mentioned in a tweet his plans to write a book about the sanctity of life. “Shane, I love you,” replied one of his Twitter followers, Shannon Dingle. “But I would rather get rid of all my books than buy another take on abortion from a man.”
A poll asking when his Twitter followers thought life began accompanied Claiborne’s Oct. 16 post. Though just more than 50 percent of respondents selected “at conception,” the majority of replies to the tweet expressed frustration that he even brought it up.
“Unless you have a uterus, we don’t want to hear what you or other men think about abortion,” user Anne Rein wrote.
“I wasn’t really expecting … that kind of response,” said Claiborne, who has written books promoting communal, monastic living and demanding an end to the death penalty. “I feel like folks that are familiar with my work know that I’ve focused on a holistic ethic of life.” He clarified his planned book will deal with an array of life issues, touching on abortion as a necessary element of that topic.
The scolding Claiborne received from his followers despite his well-known liberalism shows a growing intolerance for pro-life legal and political positions in progressive Christianity. The Democratic Party has all but banished pro-lifers. Will liberal Christianity do the same?
“My circles tend to be very divided on [abortion],” said Claiborne. He said some use the Bible to justify bodily autonomy and reproductive rights while others emphasize living out pro-life convictions by supporting women and children in need and by opposing violence of other forms, such as the death penalty.
In 2018, Pew Research reported that, while the majority of adults in evangelical Protestant denominations oppose abortion, the majority of adults in mainline Protestant denominations say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. A Twitter poll Claiborne conducted on Oct. 14 put his Twitter followers in the second category, with about 68 percent saying abortion should be “legal, safe, and rare,” and another 9 percent saying it should be legal with no restrictions.
Claiborne said he hoped Christians could unite together to end abortion by other means: “I think we could actually work together across parties and political ideologies to make abortion rarer and rarer. … There’s things that we know would reduce the number of abortions and make it more feasible for women to have healthy lives and healthy babies,” such as, he says, affordable healthcare and childcare.
But Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said prioritizing other solutions that preserve the sanctity of life shouldn’t mean waffling on the question of abortion’s immorality.
“The pro-life generation is not monolithic,” she said. Her organization’s staff members and students vary on the political spectrum from liberal to conservative, but they’re all united in their acknowledgment of abortion as a moral wrong that ends the life of a human being. She sees students facing pressure from their progressive peers to discard their pro-life values during elections. But she hopes they’ll stand up for unborn life anyway.
“It’s the courageous thing to do to choose life and to draw that line in the sand,” said Hawkins. “Certainly not everyone is going to like you for doing that. If every church in America and every Christian in America would act like abortion is the violence it really is, then we wouldn’t have abortion.”
Editor’s note: A earlier version of this report contained incorrect information about Claiborne’s college career. He attended Wheaton College for one year and graduated from Eastern University.
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