With the South African elections coming up tomorrow we are inundated with talk of this party fighting for this right or that right or this cause or another. Even Christians seem to be primarily concerned with standing up for and defending our rights or protecting our religious freedoms. At best case Christians will stand up for one or two personal morality issues. As commendable as this is and as necessary as it is for Christian men and women, in all the various parties, to go to parliament and to conduct themselves with honour and integrity; what I really want to know is what we middle-class Christians will be doing to change the context in which many of our great injustices are given born. Or put another way, what will we do in order to fight for the rights of those who are not like us
Let me use the contentious issue of abortion as an example. It is easy for me as a white middle class male to be anti-abortion (and in principle I am) but far harder for me to be about changing the context in which most abortions in this country occur. It is easy to point fingers at the people getting abortions as lacking morality, and whilst not discounting the reality of our own sinful hearts, I think the truth is more nuanced than that.
There is a reality that in many communities life is cheap, sex is disposable and your worth is measured by your sexuality. Rape is an ever-present shadow of possibility. Sex can be used as a powerful tool to get out of poverty or abusive situations. Young girls barely able to care for themselves get pregnant. Get abandoned. Possibly even ostracised by their family. Alone and desperate they face what seems to them to be the only option open to them.
But what if we as Christians spent less time protesting at abortion clinics or picketing parliament to change the laws but instead went to the source and got our hands dirty changing the context in which the need for most abortions in this country take place. Abortion is not a problem, it is an inadequate solution to a far bigger problem. What if we as Christians were more concerned with creating the kinds of communities where abortions were not necessary rather than kicking against what is, in some cases, the inevitable outcome of a broken society.
What if some of us moved into these communities bereft of role models and lived our lives there as signs of hope? What if we intentionally chose to open our lives to young people, modelling family, worth, integrity and love? What if we were more concerned with showing young women they had value and honour and did not have to use their sexuality to prove their worth? What if we taught the young men on our street to be men who stand up to their responsibilities? What if we stood with them, when it was easier to run away? What if we showed them that real men use their power not to dominate or possess but to love and serve the weak and the vulnerable?
What if we opened our homes to rape victims? What if we took in young moms or soon to be moms who had nowhere to go except the abortion clinic? What if we were prepared to adopt these “unwanted children”, to include them in our family, our homes? To spend our finances and give up our plans so we could love the most vulnerable of society? What if their problems became our problems? What if their community became our community? What if their brokenness became our brokenness? What do you think Jesus said when he meant we are the light of the world?
Some Christians have a problem with me voting for a party that is pro-abortion and say that I am complicit in that act. I say no, I would rather vote for a party that promotes dealing with the issues that underline the context out of which most abortions in this country occur. I choose to fight not for my rights but for the rights and value of those who are forgotten or marginalized.
In the words of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army: “While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in an out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight – I’ll fight to the very end.”