Dear Senator Cruz,
It’s all over the news that you recently sent 100,000 letters to ministers encouraging them to preach the scripted anti-abortion sermon generated by the infamous American Renewal Project. I notice you did not send me a letter, but that’s all right. If you have read any of my previous letters, you know I would never preach such a sermon. But I did find a copy.
Let’s talk about the theology of that sermon.
The primary text comes from the book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Scriptures:
There are six thing which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to do evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers. (Proverbs 6: 17-16-19)
(I have maintained your emphasis here.)
Several things to note: I could easily preach a sermon completely faithful to this text based on the six other things “the Lord hates.” It could be a sermon naming the sham of faith exhibited by too many of our political leaders. It could be a sermon challenging the divisiveness of our current culture and how too many public leaders contribute to an ungodly strife “among brothers.” It could be a sermon about how too many people of power and influence use their tongues to say one thing when they mean another. It could be a sermon about the hubris of the plutocrats as they plunder the people of this good nation.
The fact that you chose this scripture to single out “hands that shed innocent blood” as your primary argument against abortion demonstrates your disregard for the larger picture of the biblical message articulated here and throughout the text. In a sermon on this topic, the argument must be made theologically rather than biblically. You know as well as I do that there is no definitive word for or against abortion in the Bible. Faithful people of faith who read the same Scriptures do – and always will – interpret this issue (and many others) differently.
My intense study of the whole message of Scripture is what changed my mind on what it means to truly value life. It is the undergirding and overarching call to love that now shapes my understanding of what it means to honor and support the life of my neighbor. Now I am firmly pro-life and pro-choice. (I blogged about this very topic not too long ago; that essay could be helpful to you.)
I understand your passion against abortion; I really do. I used to make the same arguments. But one huge difference between you and me is that I do not wield the power and influence of the United States government whenever I voice my personal opinions. Even though I concede that your letter to 100,000 pastors is legal, I would argue it is irresponsible and even foolish.
As Senator representing the people of Texas and America, your job should be to try and represent all of us even with all our different opinions. Yes, you are against abortion; I get that. Nevertheless it is a legal medical procedure that ought to be available to women whenever they need it. Your personal opinion should not be a factor in restricting a woman’s legal option to make her own personal health decisions. Your cause would be much better served by other more reasonable approaches: expanding the availability of birth control, increasing educational programs and making it easier for women to acquire jobs that pay well enough for them to support their families.
An interesting aside and one other thing to note about the above verses from Proverbs: it is telling that homosexuality is not on this list. People who bandy about verses from Leviticus claiming homosexuality is an “abomination” need to read Proverbs, don’t you think? It looks to me like same sex marriage is not even on the list of “things the Lord hates.” (You might refer back to an earlier letter I wrote to you in order to better understand my position on marriage equality.)
When the rest of us hear some Christians talk as if current law assuring marriage equality is the worst thing that has ever happened to America we see clearly the absurdity of that claim. I would argue (from your list) that it is the hubris, greed, deceit and divisiveness currently infecting our nation “that is disastrous on a personal and a national level” (from your sermon).
Another biblical passage that figures prominently in your sermon comes from the book of Exodus:
You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry. (Exodus 22:21)
If one interprets the Bible literally, as I understand you do, then literal widows and orphans across America surely are crying out against your efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. If one takes the Bible seriously without taking it literally as I do, then the figural speech of “widows and orphans” describes the most vulnerable people within our society. Either way, your use of this Scripture text is wrong headed.
A FactCheck website states that:
“In 2013, Planned Parenthood affiliated clinics provided nearly 10.6 million services to 2.7 million women and men…
“Services its clinics provided to women and men in 2013 included:
Only 3% of these services are for abortions. And we all know that Federal money cannot be used for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.
An ObamaCareFacts website (privately owned resource page) states that:
“We still need Planned Parenthood. Its services aren’t replaced by Obamacare; they go hand-in-hand with it. Many states have opted out of expanding Medicaid, and many people have yet to get covered under the law. There are about 30 million Americans without insurance, who have nowhere affordable to turn for the services Planned Parenthood provides.
“Those that do have insurance (and sometimes those without) can get many of the same services they can get at Planned Parenthood from another source, such as a family doctor or public or private clinic. However…Planned Parenthood has a lot of benefits as they are a nationwide health center, with over 70 years of experience in providing sexual and reproductive health services.”
Because our own state of Texas and other red states refuse to expand Medicaid, millions of our fellow citizens go without insurance and access to affordable health care. That is one reason is it critical for millions of Americans to continue to be able to receive medical care through Planned Parenthood.
Prenatal care. Breast exams.
Pap tests. Pregnancy tests.
Contraception. Treatment for STD’s.
Do you really want to be responsible for the theft of vital medical services to our most vulnerable citizens? Do you really want this on your conscience? Looking at the facts, I can’t fathom how can you justify your efforts to defund this organization and thus take away critical health care from the “widows and orphans” of our nation.
If you insist on continuing your current effort to jeopardize the health care of millions of Americans under the guise of protecting the innocent then you, Senator Cruz, are a wolf in sheep’s clothing plundering the flock that has been given into your care.
In your letter to the 100,000 pastors you said: “The battle we face is not political. It is spiritual.”
No, it is both.
The purpose of our politics should be to negotiate and collaborate about how we live together in this society. Spiritual values such as justice, equity and respect must inform our political conversations. Whether or not America should allow for abortions is a political question that has been settled. Whether or not America should provide social safety nets for our most vulnerable citizens evidently has not been settled – to our shame. That is, in part, because many of our spiritual values are skewed. And not in the way you use that term.
If you are going to continue to appeal to pastors and Evangelical Christians through scripted sermons, alarmist letters and revival style campaign rallies no one can stop you. But we can stand against you. Millions of us Americans, people of all kinds of faith – religious and humanist – are motivated by spiritual values of care for the neighbor and compassion for our vulnerable fellow citizens. I urge you to align your own Christian values with these core spiritual values. Otherwise we will continue to stand together to thwart your misguided efforts to destroy Planned Parenthood.
Rev. Charlotte Vaughan Coyle
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She frequently shares her thoughts with Coffee Party USA as a regular volunteer.