In my twenty-five years of ministry I have often been challenged about my pro-choice theological position. It happens during the Advent season especially, when those who oppose my position exclaim in loud and sometimes threatening tones, “What would have happened if Mary had had an abortion!”
I am always stunned by such a remark, of course. How did that person get from the Advent story of the Annunciation to abortion?
The Annunciation story, and for that matter, the remarkable story of God becoming human, says nothing about abortion. But it does say something about choice, and perhaps that is why it is a lightning rod text for those who seek to deny women the right to choose a safe and legal abortion.
The season of Advent is, for Christians worldwide, the time of preparation for the birth of Jesus. The Annunciation story is found in the Christian New Testament’s Gospel according to Luke. One of the two gospels to tell the birth narrative of Jesus, Luke’s Gospel includes the story of two women facing unplanned pregnancies. The story of the Annunciation begins with the angel Gabriel and a young girl whose name is Mary.
Mary is seen in her room, reading Torah perhaps, or a book of prayers, when suddenly an angel of God appears before her. We like to imagine Mary this way because we see in her the ideal candidate for the role she is about to play.
The angel is in dazzling clothes, a sight to behold. “Greetings, favored one,” we hear Gabriel announce. Mary, not surprisingly, is perplexed by his words and wonders what might be happening.
“Don’t be afraid,” the angel continues. “You have found favor with God.” But what kind of favor is in store for Mary? The story goes on to tell us that the angel pronounces that Mary will conceive and bear a son, who will be named Jesus.
A pro-choice reading makes one thing very clear. Mary, the young woman who has just received a visit from an angel, is blessed by God with the ability to make a choice. Mary is a young woman charged by the holy with her own moral agency, a woman able to reflect on her life and on the world around her. Read the rest of this entry →