I’m picking up on some of the examples of finding ourselves with a legacy from the past that brings consequences today. Last Friday, the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising abortion.
I find that result a cause of great sadness. There are three reasons to be sad.
1. It is sad for the lives that will be lost – I believe that life starts at conception and so abortion is about the killing of human beings. This is a great tragedy.
2. It is sad for the lives of the families that will be affected by abortion, mums who will believe that terminating their pregnancy is not just an option but the right and loving thing to do only to have to carry the scars often unsupported through life. And yes, there will be potential dads, grandparents and siblings who will suffer loss too.
3. It is sad because the continued and growing availability of abortion means that our society continues to down value life, not just in terms of the unborn child but in its attitude to those with severe disabilities.
I believe the decision was wrong. However, there are reasons why we are where we are as a society in Europe and North America. There’s a legacy and its important to recognise some of those things too.
First of all, specifically for us as evangelical Christians
1. If we present a debate purely in terms of culture war, rather than in terms of pastoral care, then don’t be surprised if people fail to see us as loving.
2. If we are more associated with protecting our minority rights than with speaking for the vulnerable don’t be surprised if we are seen to be self-interested.
Secondly, in Ireland there are the consequences of the Roman Catholic Church’s role in having children removed to orphanages where they were cruelly treated and the scandals surrounding paedophile priests.
Thirdly, society has emphasised the individual as autonomous, that includes a lot of presentations of Christian faith too.
All of those things have helped unravel the fabric of society so that it is no surprise when people stand up and say “abortion is simply about an individual’s choice about what to do with her own body.”
We carry a legacy and we share in the responsibility for it. This means that it is not so simple as getting people to campaign against abortion and for changings in the law to reduce or illuminate it. We need to think about the nature of society we live in and the foundations on which that society is built. A deeper, greater work will be needed to turn things around in this and some of the other moral issues.