Opinion

Only 30% of churchgoers say their pastor or clergy discuss abortion

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With a legally-sanctioned death toll of almost sixty million innocent children, abortion is easily the single greatest American moral crisis of our lifetimes—both from secular and religious perspectives. Conscientious men and women of every faith —and no faith —should all be shouting from the rooftops, in one voice, to end the bloodshed.

But on Monday, Pew Research Center released the disturbing results of a survey (hat tip to Life News) suggesting that the majority of churchgoers haven’t even heard about abortion in their churches:

Roughly three-in-ten say their clergy talked about abortion […] Recent churchgoers also have heard a more conservative perspective on abortion; 22% say they have heard religious leaders speak out against abortion and just 3% have heard clergy argue primarily in support of abortion rights […]

White evangelicals and Catholics are more likely than white mainline and black Protestants to have recently heard clergy speak out against abortion. For both groups, the message is consistently conservative. A third of white evangelical churchgoers and roughly three-in-ten Catholics who have attended Mass recently say they have heard religious leaders argue against abortion, while very few (1% and 2%, respectively) have heard clergy speak in support of abortion rights.

A third? At most?

Those who twist the Bible to support violating God’s commandment against murder are bad enough, and even 1% is scandalously too many; but while they deserve to be called out, too (as Adam Peters, Kristen Hatten, and I have done in the past), at least 3% bad apples are to be expected in any sufficiently-large group.

More shameful and more harmful is the silence of the far greater percentage of clergy who do know better, yet for whatever reason (cowardice? Indifference? Misplaced priorities?) choose to stay silent.

Yes, Christianity is about much more than abortion. Yes, there are many other spiritual, personal, and societal messages that preachers rightly spread. Yes, churches do other good works of tremendous value. But how can anyone possibly justify not making the literal killing of children—a violation of God’s commandment against murder, an act “detestable to” the Lord, the cruel destruction of what He formed and knew in the womb—a major, recurring priority in sermons, clearly identifying it as an intrinsic evil every Christian has a moral obligation to understand and oppose?

We have been seeing the result of this negligence for years. Fortunately, Gallup, Marist (2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016), CNN, and other polls show that the country is more pro-life than not; but surveys breaking down abortion opinions by religious affiliation show that by and large, religious Americans aren’t consistently more pro-life than the general public:

  • Pew: 48% of Catholics, 33% of Evangelical Protestants, 52% of Historically Black Protestants, 60% of Mainline Protestants, 53% of Orthodox Christians, and 27% of Mormons should be legal in “all or most” cases.
  • Gallup: 38% of Catholics, 33% of Protestants, and 18% of Mormons call abortion “morally acceptable.”
  • Public Religion Research Institute: 51% of white Catholic millennials, 61% of black mainline Protestant millennials, and 63% of white mainline Protestant millennials say abortion should be legal in all or most cases (55% of Hispanic Catholic millennials, 61% of Hispanic Protestant millennials, and 80% of white evangelical Protestant millennials are pro-life).

There will always be a certain percentage of any faith that ignores or rejects its tenets. But for it to ever get even close to half, let alone surpass it, is downright scandalous.

A couple years ago, I wrote about my own difficulties getting fellow Christians interested in the pro-life cause in high school. Now we have another piece of the puzzle for why that was.

There are no doubt multiple reasons for why so few churches impress upon their congregations the importance of ending abortion, but one of them is surely fear that talking about an issue from the pulpit would be misconstrued as illegal political advocacy. Technically this fear is misplaced, as the law makes a distinction between discussing candidates and discussing issues, but it’s certainly understandable given abortion advocates’ utter lack of restraint in rigging the political process to their advantage and coercing pro-life speech into oblivion.

There’s a chance that could change in the next few years, as both Donald Trump and the 2016 Republican platform call for repealing the Johnson Amendment, forcing churches to choose between their tax status and participating in anything that could be construed as campaigning.

But with so much silence, this welcome change isn’t likely to completely solve the problem. Only serious soul-searching and self-reflection can fully explain and reverse the deafening silence surrounding the 21st century’s most horrific affront to God’s children.

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