As Christians around the world gather to honor a century-long tradition of prayer for visible unity among us (Jan. 18-25), we also are marking the 40th year since Roe vs. Wade canonized the anti-sacrament of abortion, which is still thought by some to be the pinnacle of liberation for women. In the name of what is called “privacy,” the very act is, if you only allow the imagination a moment or two, a diabolic, surgical abnegation of the most sacramentally human and intimate of actions, when celebrated with mutual love.
Over these four decades, despite significant advances in professional, economic and socio-cultural opportunities for many women, it is by no means clear that what was once called “the sexual revolution” has raised the level of honor and personal respect for women in our society or that the proliferation of abortion and contraceptives have fostered their happiness, dignity and vocations in life.
The statistics are sobering. Even as violent crime has generally decreased, crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking still devastate the lives of so many women. One in every four women has experienced severe physical violence by a current or former spouse or “boyfriend.”
While the reasons remain a perennial subject of debate, the so-called “feminization of poverty” in recent decades – the dramatic rise in the percentage of the poverty population embracing female-headed households – raises many questions about the economic consequences of an increasingly contraceptive, anti-life culture. Married couples with children have an average income of $80,000, compared with $24,000 for single mothers. If anything, the liberation – from slavery to responsibility at least – seems mostly to have favored men.
As the role of male responsibility diminishes, another tragedy that has become almost epidemic is the corruption and even dismantling of fatherhood itself. Never mind academic fascination over the arguably tyrannical history of some patriarchies, we are precipitating into a black hole of virtually fatherless families as fathers disappear from households across America. What is more, the decline further exacerbates the country’s persistent race-related divisions. Among blacks, nearly five million children, or 54 percent, live only with their mother. Twelve percent of black families below the poverty line have two parents present, compared with 41 percent of impoverished Hispanic families and 32 percent of poor white families.
We are in the midst of a national mud-bath contest over the politics of gun control, largely in response to some dramatically shocking recent incidents of murderous violence against innocents by some atypical and obviously disturbed individuals. But guns are not the only or even the most prevalent means by which violence against children is executed. The institutionalized and state-sanctioned destruction of lives of pre-born children continues at a relentless pace – well over 50 million since 1973, or virtually one every 20 seconds!
If our common Christian faith means anything, this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity should be more than just a nice occasion for the ecumenical sharing of cake and coffee, psalmody and fellowship. Today, as never before, we need the witness of Christians unafraid to profess the faith handed down to us by a Savior unashamed to address God as Father, who died for those who “inconvenienced” His life in place of destroying them and taught His followers that the only measure by which they would be judged is the love in which they would live for other human beings, especially the poor and those whom nobody wants. May our prayer for unity be authenticated by our total commitment to the Lord of life and the humanity He loves.