I have a story to share about my childhood. I don’t know how it fits in exactly with the current debates and legal changes to the abortion laws, but think and feel that it is an important story to share.
Throughout my adulthood, I’ve thought of this afternoon off and on, never knowing exactly what to make of it. I now know, with certainty, that it was about politics. And even back then I knew it was an important thing to remember. So maybe I will make sense of it one day.
When I was about 10 years old, one afternoon, when church service was over all the men filed out of the auditorium, the women and adolescent girls were asked to stay. Or, as I remember it, were told to stay.
The church I went to from the time I was 7 until I was 14 was a white-steepled small town church. We had stained glass windows, but no air conditioning in the west Texas Church of Christ. This particular church is very likely still going strong. And I suspect has probably not changed much in the past 30-ish years.
Cardboard fans printed with pictures of the Last Supper poked out of the pew-back trays that held extra Bibles and song books. We sweated with our preacher who preached in front of purple velvet curtains. Behind the curtains lay our salvation, a five-foot (or so) dunk tank, or as they liked to call it, a baptismal.
I was baptized there when I was 11, but at the time of this story, I was saved only from the burning hell fires under the exemption of being-too-young-to-sin. Apparently, I had not yet reached the age of enlightenment where I was responsible for my sins. As far as I could tell, there was no specified age in our church’s rule books on that. But my mother assured me that I would know when I was ready to be baptized and that would mean I reached the hell-burning age if I didn’t just go ahead and request a dip in the salvation waters.
But back to the afternoon in question, why I was asked to stay for this presentation remained a mystery to me until recently when it occurred to me that a stage was being set. Not just for me, but for all the women-folk in my church, including my mother and sister. I imagine that we were not the only church-women being shown this video, as it was a presentation from an outside source.
Some people, whom I vaguely remember to be men, but I could be remembering wrong, set up a film for us to watch.
The entirety of the video is long gone from my mind, but flashes still haunt me to this day. It did not have the desired effect. Instead of leaving the impression of murderous mothers in my head, it just left a bad taste in my mouth for The Church.
The video was about abortion and how it was wrong. Throughout the video, blood-red, dismembered babies were splashed across the screen.
A cartoon image of a baby inside a uterus wondered sadly why its mother was killing it. And then the salt water bath burned its skin and it was suctioned out, ripping the limbs from the body while the baby screamed.
We left, with the firm belief that abortion was wrong. It hurts babies. Abortion = murder. Simple.
Simple is the right word. But not for this complex argument. Simple is what those people presenting images to small town women and adolescent girls believed us to be.
Whether we were simple or not is irrelevant though. I think it is a destructive approach, vilifying women who fear pregnancy and motherhood enough to make such a difficult decision.
It is never that simple. And to portray it that way dehumanizes all of us, the women who are having abortions, and the people who choose to view them without compassion.
This film and the perpetrators of the film, were (are?) horrible people distributing a political agenda to small-town folks. I know that for sure. I wish I could remember more about it. I wish I knew who they were and how they came to be in our church.
It is a sad story. And one I don’t know what to do with. But I wanted to share it.
As laws continue to be passed in our this country, turning women into murderers and victims at the same time, I can’t help but feel betrayal and anger as we march forward in time, but march backwards away from feminism and equality.