You’d think in this atmosphere thick with division and the tendency to head to our respective corners of extremism, that we’d have no issues with clarity – with being upfront with our values and convictions.
You’d be wrong.
The pro-life movement recently celebrated a win in a Supreme Court case contesting a California law which would, in part, require pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to post signs stating that the state provides free or low-cost access to birth control and abortion services. Pro-life centers argued that this violated their free speech rights.
I agree. I don’t think pro-life crisis pregnancy centers should be required to in any way advertise the availability of abortion.
But I do believe they should be clear about who they are and what they do provide – that was the purported aim of the law. Clinics that do not offer licensed medical care had to say so, and clinics that offered licensed reproductive care only within the restrictions of their anti-abortion convictions had to say where a full range of services could be found.
You’d think that Christians who are adamant and proud of their pro-life convictions would have no issue with most of that, but you’d be wrong.
While all may not use the tactic, pro-life crisis pregnancy centers and hotlines are notoriously deceptive in their signage and advertising. They hope that vulnerable women who are pregnant and frightened will seek them out so they will have the opportunity to steer those women away from seeking an abortion. They believe that the longer they can delay a potential abortion, the less likely it will happen, so they rarely hesitate to use a kind of “bait and switch” strategy with these women.
That kind of deceit is deeply disrespectful of women and the pro-life cause.
While I’m sympathetic to the pro-life argument that they should not be compelled to disseminate information about the availability of abortion services, I have no sympathy with the deceptive practices. Pro-life clinics should proudly post signs stating they are just that: pro-life. “We are a pro-life clinic. We will do everything in our power to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy, support and good options as you choose whether to keep your baby or give it up for adoption with a loving family.”
Clarity. Honesty. Respecting all lives, including those of frightened, vulnerable pregnant women.
For people who follow the one they call “The Way, the Truth, and the Light,” that should be a given. But it’s not the only area Christians have a hard time being clear in.
If you are an LGBTQ Christian with a same-sex partner (or the hope for one) who is looking for a church, you’ll have a hard time figuring out where might find a spiritual home.
When you’re looking at an evangelical church’s website in particular, it will usually be difficult to ascertain whether you will be fully welcome and free to share your gifts with the church. A Master of Divinity degree and a lifetime of navigating the in and outs of evangelical positions and affiliations may help, but even with those you’ll have some guess work to do.
Hint: the vast majority of evangelical churches will not perform or affirm a same-sex marriage.
But how would a visitor know that?
Many churches don’t want to make a straightforward declaration of their policy. Some pastors don’t want to clarify something they know members have differing assumptions about. Others want to “contextualize” their position and explain it on a more individual basis – they want the. Hence to make their case and explain themselves. Some just want to avoid controversy. Still others insist they can take a “take-no-position” position and are in denial about the tenuous place that puts their LGBTQ+ attendees.
Whatever the reason, they resist clarity.
Clarity is the beginning of trust, and what kind of a church will you have without trust?
Even affirming and inclusive mainline churches can struggle with this. Church leaders confused by the array of orientations and gender identities want to “just welcome everyone” without realizing that those who find themselves rejected in most places need to know that means them, too, in their particulars.
A generic “everybody is welcome” means nothing to them. Thee are assumptions embedded in our “everybody,” and they are used to being excluded where “everybody is welcome.” It takes something different to truly welcome some people, whether that’s accessible facilities or gender-neutral bathrooms.
Whatever the position, clarity is vital.
(Churchclarity.org works to encourage churches to be clear about their policies regarding women and LGBTQ+ folks on the primary websites. They don’t rate churches based on what their policies are, rather they rate them based on their clarity about those policies. It’s only reasonable, and you can submit a church for scoring at https://www.churchclarity.org/crowdsource.)