Are you there God? It’s me, Suzbob

As I headed home for spring break last week, I thought I would return with an impeccable junior paper, a rested body, and settled summer plans. Needless to say, none of these things happened. I spent time with my parents and dog, enjoyed the outdoors, and found great nostalgic treasures in my childhood room. But whenever I opened my computer I was dismayed to read a seemingly endless string of reports detailing the increasing threats to  resources for women’s health, access to contraception, and protection against violence. I scrolled through each article in disbelief that these discussions could happen in 2012. 

Here are some articles that that caught my eye over the past week: 

To be honest, I’m still processing my thoughts on how to respond to all of these issues. It seems like those who attack contraception, abortion, etc. base their claims on the belief that such practices threaten the church and the American family. This confuses me. I’ve attended church pretty consistently since I was eight (first, a Lutheran church in Maryland–now at Memorial Church here in Harvard Yard). I received my first communion, was confirmed as a voting member of my church, and was heavily involved in our youth group. I’ve learned both implicitly and explicitly that individuals and their decisions deserve respect, that people of all genders can be excellent leaders, and people with different political and religious beliefs can still form a supportive community. For example, many of my childhood church leaders were women who either ran my confirmation class, conducted the church choir, or served the congregation as associate pastors. I’ve stood by them during service trips, chili cook-offs, and making sure that our church was prepared for the Jewish reform community that on Saturdays shared our sanctuary. They have shown me how a Christian community could be inclusive and positive. Admittedly, I’ve never had a conversation with any of my pastors about sex, abortion, or birth control. Instead, I’ve had countless discussions regarding the power of tolerance, compassion, respect, and most importantly love. I consider these lessons (as well as the ones that my parents have instilled) to be the basis of the moral and ethical code that I frequently employ in my gender equity work. My church and my family (composed of liberals, conservatives, and apathetics) have taught me to accept rather than to reject.

Today, my ability to accept dissent is challenged by hateful words and alarming actions. Usually I am a really positive person. Not quite skipping-in-ameadowwithsingingbirds positive but I’m pretty high on the upbeat scale. Reading these reports, however, has really challenged my belief that differences can be tolerated with grace in the 21st century. 

But after this initial reflection, I think it’s safe to say that I believe that women should have access to safe abortions, that all genders should be safe from domestic violence, and that taking the Pill is not a reflection of the moral standing of any individual. I accept that women have the ability to make judgments regarding their own bodies and I respect their decisions. I have compassion for those who face violence in their own homes and am in awe of their strength to endure. I acknowledge that sex should not be a concept that we fear and loathe, but a tool that brings people together in powerfully intimate ways. 

I believe that these conclusions are not in conflict with my experience in the Christian church. Instead, my beliefs surrounding women’s reproductive health are immersed in the same lessons that I was taught as a child—tolerance, compassion, respect, love. If policy surrounding women’s health must be dominated by Christian themes, I wish that it would return to these first Sunday School lessons. Differences will always exist, but hopefully we can reinstate a common commitment to positive and respectful progress.


4 thoughts on “Are you there God? It’s me, Suzbob

  1. Anonymous

    Suzy – I want to respond more fully to this, but I think you will be glad to know that in youth group this month we have talked about homosexuality, abortion and sex. We asked the youth what they wanted to know. Based on their feedback we felt it was important to be explicit in discussing these issues in youth group: a safe group of people with vastly different opinions who are bound by what you so lovingly call “the power of tolerance, compassion, respect, and most importantly love.” Today, we looked a bit at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s social statement on abortion. I think it’s a gem. I’d be curious to know your thoughts (maybe over coffee when you are next home?). I’m proud of you for writing this and I’m proud of PoP for being the church that would raise someone like you 🙂
    -Pastor Sarah
    PS – Addie is doing well 🙂

  2. bradleyhcwc

    VIolence is so ubiquitous and we are all complicit in perpetuating some form of structured ignorance. The practice of tolerance and compassion continue to be radical acts even today. Thanks, Suzanna, for a great post!

  3. Many of my friends with strong religious faith wrestle with issues like this every day, as they try to live their lives in a way that lines up with their moral and religious beliefs. Thanks, Suzanna, for sharing your own complicated thoughts! You’re right: we could probably all agree that compassion and respect are starting points for all sound policy and all sound moral systems.

  4. lindiwerennert

    I greatly appreciate you bringing this issue, so relevant in todays political circuit, to the foreground here. The “war on women”, as Rachel Maddow, Hilary Clinton, (see a pattern…)and myself like to call it, that predominantly Christian conservatives are currently waging is… worrisome to say the least. Why on Earth should Mitt Romney have even an iota of say in the decisions I choose to make with my body? Short answer, he shouldn’t. And fortunately, I believe that there are enough sane people left in this country (fingers crossed) to ensure that he never really does.
    I wish, Suzbob, that Romney, and the hundreds of thousand who agree with him on many women’s issues, had gotten a similar take-away from his Sunday School lessons as you did. You know what they say, a teaspoon of tolerance makes the medicine go down…

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