My first assignment as an intern at Faith Aloud was to participate in a peaceful presence demonstration at a women's health clinic in Granite City that performs abortions. Our purpose is to show the women that come for abortions that there is an alternative voice to the Christians that are shouting that God hates them.
As a part of the demonstration, we are instructed to remain silent. The idea of this concept is that we can get our point across without needing to scream at others. Instead we hold signs that express our thoughts. The sign I chose said, “Jesus did not shame women.”
When I arrived, I was nervous because I had no idea what to expect. Abortion is a very heated topic for many people and can even lead to violence. About an hour into our demonstration a man from the protesters side came right up to the building and confronted me about my sign. Following the rules, I chose not to respond to him. When one of the clinic employees noticed what was happening, she came over and informed the man that he had to leave clinic property. He did leave but not quietly. The entire time, he was shouting back at me “are you proud of this?!”
The rest of the morning went by without incident until we started to leave. The same man decided to follow us to our cars. He shouted, “Are you proud of what you have done here today and how can you call yourself a Christian?” Although, it was hard, I decided to ignore his comments-- getting into a confrontation would not show my idea of who God is to anyone. My understanding of God as loving and forgiving does not need words to convey. Silence sometimes speaks louder than words, and I believe that simply being present can be just as powerful for the people I am supporting.
The “shouting man” (as I will call him) and I have a very different view of God. The “shouting man” sees God as Judge and feels the need to convince the women that if they have an abortion they will receive God’s judgment. He feels that his job is to “lead” the women away from “sin.” As frightening as it seems, the “shouting man” believes that he is doing the will of God.
I believe that we both see these women as neighbors in need, but the heart of the matter as I see it is that I want to embrace the woman entirely as she is and the “shouting man” wants to change her, and make her conform to his personal ideals.
The women that come to this clinic have had to make a difficult decision that will change their lives, and they need to be nurtured and cared for emotionally and physically. They have the right to be loved and valued unconditionally. My greatest fear is that the women who come to this clinic will see people like the “shouting man” as the only representative of the church; my fear is that these women would see the “shouting man” as the only church that there is. My need is to communicate to the women having the abortion that they are not being condemned by this decision and that God loves them completely. I want them to know that the God of judgment that the “shouting man” represents is not the only voice for God that Christianity has to offer.
To me, Christianity is about unconditional love, and true acceptance of people means going to wherever they are on their journey.