Different Futures

I write these columns for the Hill Country News along with several other local clergymen. All of my fellow columnists are good guys, but I’m especially fond of Chuck Robison, because almost all of his articles are filled with references to things like “quantum convergences” and “radionic  chakras” (OK, I don’t think he’s ever actually written about radionic chakras, but I bet you that someday he will). He produces the sort of pieces I think Hunter S. Thompson would have churned out if he had lived long enough to get religion.

However, as much as I enjoy Chuck’s style, I’m going to have to take issue with the column he wrote for the June 20 issue of the paper. In that article, Chuck made a pretty standard case for abortion, but, to round off his argument, he offered a proposal for how Christian communities might approach the whole issue. In his proposal, women would sign a “formal binding legal document” indicating that they would never have an abortion, and men would sign a similar document indicating that they would “report” any woman who had an abortion.

Chuck’s proposal includes a national database and pre-appointment screening; women who try to obtain an abortion after having signed that “formal binding legal document” would be reported to their local congregations, and those communities would “then be encouraged to out these women in a public way”.

Now that there’s a distinct possibility that the issue of abortion could be returned to the state level, more and more abortion supporters are generating these sorts of dystopian scenarios. But just like Chuck’s proposal, these visions of the future have more in common with The Handmaid’s Tale than lived reality. Of course, there are Christian communities which are unhealthy and controlling and misogynistic. But, there also many which are loving and caring and supportive.

And since Chuck and the folks who support abortion never, ever, ever talk about those congregations, let me tell you about how we approach this issue in Holy Orthodoxy.

I’ve been a clergyman now for over thirty years, and I’ve never once asked a woman if she has had an abortion. Nevertheless, lots of women have come to me and told me about their abortions. They do that because ending the life of an unborn child generates a tremendous amount of guilt and pain and remorse. But in Holy Orthodoxy, we don’t try to add to that guilt and pain and remorse. What we do is work to relieve those symptoms.

And the way we do that is through the Mystery of Holy Confession. I stand with the woman before the icon of Christ Jesus. She tells our Lord and Master what she needs to tell Him. She kneels down; I lay my hand on her head, and then I read the Prayer of Absolution.

It’s a very simple service, but the forgiveness of the Most Holy Trinity is imparted in and through that service, and women who have been burdened for years with the trauma that abortion generates find peace and hope. They experience forgiveness.

Many of them also want to know what else they can do to continue that process of healing. But we don’t steer them towards activism or any other kind of public witness. What we encourage them to do is pray. Because, in Holy Orthodoxy, we not only pray for the departed, we believe that we will see all of our departed loved ones on the Great and Glorious Day of Resurrection.

So to help these women prepare for that reunion with their unborn child, we encourage them to give that child a name and to remember that child in their prayers on a daily basis. That way, when they finally do get to meet the child, it will be a truly joyous homecoming.

Chuck’s imagined future ends when Christians get together and “yell” at a woman who’s had an abortion. In Holy Orthodoxy, the future begins with a mother embracing her child. You can select which image you would prefer—that’s why we write these columns, after all—but if you’d like to know more about Holy Orthodoxy and how we approach issues like abortion, just give me a call or send me a note. I’d love to visit with you.