Now, Then — Where Was I?

Computer problems, tax time, and a huge editing project all have kept me from blogging last week, but I’m back, laptop fixed, tax information reasonably organized, and . . . a huge editing project still undone.

Nonetheless, I promised in my former post to comment on a particularly vile bit o’ spewage from Republican Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall. This is the sort of thing for which the Christian Right is tragically becoming known, to the shame of Christ Jesus and the Gospel, not to mention reasonable civic dialogue. Marshall needs to be confronted by those in the Church who recognize that calculated viciousness is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit and ought not be an entry onto the wider stage of Christian political engagement.

Remember that while I am not a fan of Planned Parenthood’s abortion engagement, although I do appreciate their significant contribution to women’s health. Those of us who believe abortion is the taking of human life ought to rise up and condemn this sort of ugliness, insisting that Marshall and others like him not be allowed to speak for the pro-life movement.

So we have the putatively Christ-following Marshall speaking at a press conference against state funding for Planned Parenthood. He blasted the organization for supporting a woman’s right to choose abortion, saying that God punishes women who have had abortions by giving them disabled children:

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment, Christians would suggest.”

Let me be clear. Marshall knows not of what he preaches. This kind of thing, frankly, makes me wonder if he knows the Christ he represents as smiter of infants. That’s not the Christ I know.

There is a tragedy that emerges from abortion, I believe, and its first manifestation is the death of the unborn baby. The woman suffers, too. While I have doubts about the prevalence of “Post-Abortion Syndrome” in women who have terminated pregnancies, I do think that abortion represents a failure in society — a web of broken promises, failed dreams, abandonment, isolation, and oppression that can cause a mother to see abortion as the last, best choice she can make. If subsequent births bring babies with disabilities, that’s not because of nature wreaking vengeance on her. It’s ignorant to suggest that it is, and it’s injurious to the cause of Christ to hurt women by doing so.

I might well be the only Christian woman you know who’s been kicked out of a Bible study. And Jeff and I have left a few churches, and have done so for pretty significant reasons. More on that later . . . but one church experience stands out from this discussion, and I think it’s a good way to end.

When we were in Monroe, Washington, the church we went to had a wonderful, kind, intelligent pastor, whose departure left the congregation reeling. In the vacuum came a married couple we still refer to as The Crazy Demon-Obsessed People, and they were able, astonishingly, to assume positions of real influence in the congregation. She believed herself to be a teacher, based not on any particular study of the Scriptures, but solely on her experiences with “inner healing.” By visualizing Jesus in her past memories, she claimed to have been delivered from crippling depression, agoraphobia, and social anxiety disorder.

That may well have been, but it inculcated in her an obsession with seeing Satan under every bush, behind every door, around every corner, and in the uteruses of women who miscarried. She taught, both in women’s Bible studies and from the pulpit, that miscarriage or birth disabilities resulted from a woman’s, perhaps unintentional, inviting of Satan to curse her womb and her baby — either because she was ambivalent about the pregnancy, or because she subconsciously hated the gender of the unborn baby. The cure was envisioning Jesus battling Satan in the womb, and the rest is history, as was the presence of the Emerine-Mixes in that congregation.

I was astonished at a theology that was so Satan-dependent for its legitimacy, and furious at the ease with which reasonable women and men — or so I thought — welcomed the dangerous absurdity of bad theology and twisted obstetrics. But I also knew a few women in the church who had lost pregnancies, and some of them were young Christians who were damaged and hurt by the idea that they had contributed in some way to their miscarriages. Around this time, I was in a women’s Bible study, something I’m fundamentally opposed to in most cases, with two other women. One had a profoundly disabled, non-verbal, autistic son; the other had a charming little dude with Down’s Syndrome. I had two kids, had miscarried between their pregnancies, and thought I’d enjoy the time with other neighborhood moms.

The study was intolerable. The first woman had — gee, how to put it? — a theology that reeked of the ineffably bizarre. The mother of the boy with Down’s was a new believer, and I’d been a Christian for about a decade. I’m an easygoing type of gal. I want to nurture other believers and help others learn the Bible. But I can’t now, and couldn’t then, tolerate hearing the first woman “confess” that she had “produced” her very ill son after having given Satan dominion over her uterus, and she was, having repented, now waiting for his complete physical healing of autism, tachycardia, epilepsy, profound intellectual deficit, and deafness. It would come, she said, just as the complete physical “healing” — in her mind, the reversal and elimination of any sign of Down’s Syndrome in the six-year-old boy — would come, on this side of eternity, once the young mom “repented” of having turned the workings of her uterus, ovaries, and vagina over to the Devil. Little Michael’s mom broke down sobbing, and I went prophetically angry. It may have even looked ballistic. Either way, it resulted in my being asked to never come to the study again.

This sort of hideous ignorance, masquerading as theology, is too common in the Church, the one place where loving God with both mind and heart ought to result in mercy, forgiveness, new starts, and a healthy grasp of reality. I doubt that the Crazy Demon-Obsessed People have much influence beyond whatever congregation they’ve floated into now, and the last I heard of my former neighbor is that her marriage collapsed, her son is still institutionalized, and she drifts from church to church. But the teaching leaves its impact on real women, real hearts, and real emotions. The Church would do well to model Christ and focus a whole lot less on women’s uteruses and more on their hearts, minds, and souls.

Ushering people like Marshall off the media pulpit would be an excellent start.

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