War is Abortion: Why Pro-Life Christians Should Care About Gaza

If there is one thing that most Christians of all denominations agree on, it is abortion. A 2012 Gallup poll found that 54% of American Catholics and 57% of Protestants/Others consider themselves “pro-life.” Every presidential election, we hear of prominent pastors raising questions about a candidate’s position on abortion. And while organizations such as Sojourners have tried to emphasize additional issues which ought to concern Christians as they go to the polls, the reality is that abortion is still a central issue for many people. This is not altogether a bad thing; since the earliest days of Christianity, the church has always had a special concern for unborn and abandoned children, taking them in and caring for them when others do not. These days, however, whether or not it is an accurate portrayal, “pro-life” Christians are more associated with picketing abortion clinics, hanging pictures of dead fetuses in public places, and gathering for the March for Life than welcoming such children into their homes.

But why should the term “abortion” apply only to medical procedures done in sterile offices? Is not the killing of pregnant women and would-be mothers also a kind of abortion? Is not the ending of a child’s life through violence also abortion?

With such vocal concern for the unborn across the spectrum of Christian perspectives, it should be concerning to us all how silent these 57% have been about the recent violence in Gaza. In 27 days of bombings and ground combat in Gaza, over 1000 Palestinians have been killed. One-third of them have been children, and many others have been women. Some of these women have even been pregnant. No matter anyone’s political leanings, this reality should make us sick. But where are the outraged masses of pro-life Christians when mother and child are being killed by the Israeli military? Are the children of Palestinians less valuable than others? Are pregnant women in Gaza not carrying a sacred life? It disturbs me that often the most vehement spokespeople against legalized abortions are the most vehement defenders of Israel, and I am amazed at the spiritual gymnastics people will do to justify an otherwise abominable practice of killing children.

Pastors are often no better at pointing out this contradiction. Instead of challenging their congregations to vocally oppose the U.S.’s unconditional support of Israel and the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli forces, my experience is that pastors in the U.S. either ignore the ongoing conflict out of ignorance or fear of dividing their congregations, or they endorse Israel’s actions in the name of a biblical mandate to care for God’s “chosen people” in Israel.  Neither response is sufficient.

I can sympathize with feeling uneducated about the conflict. It was not until I participated in a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to Palestine last May that I saw firsthand how Palestinians suffer at the hand of Israeli policies. Children, yes children, are imprisoned without cause on a regular basis. Homes are demolished by Israeli Caterpillar-brand bulldozers. Women give birth at checkpoints because they are detained on their way to the hospital. But it is not enough acknowledge our ignorance, we must address it. If more pastors and church members would commit to experiencing Palestine firsthand as part of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land in Israel, it would be impossible to stay silent. Churches could take advantages of resources from Sabeel, an ecumenical theology center based in Jerusalem which attempts to engage churches in more healthy interpretation of Scripture related to Israel.

Unfortunately, It is not only the conflict in Gaza which illustrates this sad disconnect between an earnest concern for unborn children and supporting indiscriminate killing. When U.S. drone strikes destroy homes and kill children in other parts of the Middle East, we find American Christians equally passive at best. We are quite willing to sacrifice the children of other countries and religions for our own sense of safety from terrorists. It has become too easy for us to look the other way while the U.S. government carries out abortions in our name and with our blessing.

We have to do better. As the church, as Christ’s body which extends beyond borders, we cannot ignore the cry of children in Palestine, Afghanistan, Mexico, Pakistan, Iraq, and beyond, any more than we can ignore the children in Chicago, New York, or Washington, D.C. If we cannot, as people of the church, find ourselves loudly calling and acting for an end to violence, especially when children are involved, then we can no longer call ourselves pro-life. War is abortion. It ends life unnaturally through violence, life that has not reached full term. It destroys the emotional, spiritual, and psychological fabric of those who commit it and those who are victims of it. We, who follow a God who was born amid the slaughter of children, must cry out in deep anguish for forgiveness for allowing the Massacre of the Innocents to happen over and over. Let us pray for the courage to be truly pro-life.

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3 comments

  1. Jennifer Ingle · August 1, 2014

    The deaths of women and children in Gaza is indeed tragic, but you are completely wrong about who is at fault. Thousands of rockets fell on Israel before Israel took action; I can’t help but notice your lack of concern for Israeli children – including those being traumatized by daily rushing to bomb shelters.

    So who is at fault for the Palestinian deaths? Hamas, of course. Notice the incredible lack of outcry by Arab nations over what is going on in Israel. They know what you don’t: Hamas is evil.

    The deaths in Gaza are the fault of Hamas, who asks Palestinians to sacrifice their lives for Allah. Israel is life-affirming: they inform when and where they are going to strike, so that civilians can get out of the way. Hamas forbids civilians from leaving; they want high casualties so they can blame Israel and trick unsuspecting people such as yourself who have difficulty fathoming the depth of their evil.

    Now to address Israeli policies in Gaza: Israel’s goal is to protect itself and its children. We are not even a century away from SIX MILLION Jews being massacred, and Jews understand today that the big mistake in the Holocaust was to rely on the nations for protection. Israel keeps itself strong because it must. Israel protects all of its citizens: Jews, Christians, Arabs, and Druze. Israeli hospitals routinely treat Gazans in addition to everyone else. When Gazan mothers want their sick children to be saved, they take them to Israel. Here is the contrast: when Jewish Israeli women want their children to live, they have to protect them from Gazans.

    Every Jewish school in Israel has armed guards. Every Jewish school in Israel has to have guards with live ammunition when they go on field trips. The purpose is to keep their children safe from those who want them dead, which include their close neighbors under the influence of Hamas. Do Gazans need to do this for their children to protect them from Israelis? No, of course not. Israelis believe all life is precious, including their enemies’ lives. Thus at every opportunity Israel seeks to preserve life, while Hamas seeks to end it (except for their leaders, of course).

    If Israel did NOT value the lives of Gazans, they could easily raze it and kill them all. Yet they do not. They If Gazans could destroy Israel, they would in an instant.

    There is so much more to be said on this topic, but I am hoping I have said enough here to help you to realize that you have been deceived into supporting the cause of evil rather than righteousness. See John 8:44, and blessings to you.

  2. brianjgorman · August 1, 2014

    Hi Jennifer, I can appreciate your perspective, but I think your insistence in defending the Israeli government wholeheartedly and with such devotion (“supporting the cause of…righteousness) is quite bizarre and unhealthy. Even assuming that some of your assertions are true, such unquestioning support of any government is not good. I have a feeling that you have never been to “Israel” and certainly never to any part of the West Bank. If you had, at the very least you would understand that Israel is not without blame for the current conflict.

    And to your first point about my lack of concern for Israeli children, that is simply untrue. It is tragic that any child anywhere would be traumatized by violence, and of course I wouldn’t wish the fear of being bombed on anyone. That being said, no Israeli children have died in this most recent clash, so to say that the tragedy has been anywhere near equal (regarding children dying) is just factually incorrect. Yes, Israeli children and people have been killed in the past, and that is terrible.

    I do not excuse Hamas militants for firing rockets, nor absolve of any culpability in contributing to the culture of violence in that region. But, do not be so naiieve as to bless the gracious Israel for alerting people when they will be bombing them. Where are they to go? Gaza is one of the most population dense places on earth, thanks to Israel, so warning people doesn’t exactly amount to giving them any alternative, especially when hospitals and shelters are also being bombed.

    To your other points around Israeli policies: “and Jews understand today that the big mistake in the Holocaust was to rely on the nations for protection” –do you really think this is true? 1) Being Jewish and being Israeli are not the same thing. Criticizing Israeli policies is not the same thing as criticizing or suggesting that Jews as a whole are at fault. 2) Do you know that the U.S. funds Israel with $7 mil/day in military funds? How is that for not relying on “the nations?” Modern Israel was created by Western nations by taking land from Palestinians, and then more land was taken by the newly formed state. Most Jews in Israel were transplants from Europe, many of whom have no ancestral heritage to the land they claim. They were converts!

    “Israel” doesn’t even protect all the Jews living there. Ethiopian Jews are treated terribly. As far as others, take a chance to learn about the Bedouin, who are Israeli citizens. They’ve been treated just like Native Americans in the U.S., forced onto reservations and to change their way of life.

    You clearly have no idea about Israel’s value of life. Ask why children are arrested without cause and detained all over the West Bank. Ask mothers who have been prevented from reaching hospitals due to check points. Ask families whose olive trees are routinely burned down by settlers while the police watch. Palestinians cannot guard their homes with guns–they don’t have any–meanwhile, Israeli settlers intimidate and harass and beat others with impunity.

    Please do not think I’ve been deceived. I’ve at least taken the effort to visit the region for myself and draw conclusions from interactions from Israelis and Palestinians and observe what is actually happening. You make conjecture solely based on what you’ve heard from particular sources.

  3. luke · August 2, 2014

    Thanks for this post Brian. I agree with you, though I admit to not being nearly as informed as I could be. If I am ever blessed with the opportunity to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I would certainly include Gaza.

    I am disheartened by the lack of this voice, of this perspective among pro-life christians or even just among Americans in general. Thank you for offering your challenge in a knowledgeable and loving way. I hope somehow more people are able to hear and see truth in this terrible tragedy and stand up against it somehow.

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