By Bob Allen
The pastor of a historic New York City church with Baptist ties says much of the recent brouhaha over abortion rights has to do with the fact that Planned Parenthood caters exclusively to women.
“I think it’s unfortunately a big part,” Donna Schaper, senior minister at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, said July 25 on State of Belief radio with Welton Gaddy. “We are getting closer by the minute when women will be understood as full moral agents, when women will be understood as full human beings, as opposed to people complying just to our reproductive role.”
Schaper told Gaddy, pastor of Alliance of Baptists-affiliated Northminster Church in Monroe, La., that she thinks people on the Religious Right “are having a hard time dealing with women as moral agents and as adults.”
She said it is inconsistent for the Religious Right to label abortion murder while at the same time opposing limits on gun ownership.
“When I find the awful pain that the freedom to have guns has caused — Sandy Hook, Charleston, I could go on — I wonder why we aren’t joining together to say let’s regulate guns and not women’s reproductive systems,” she said. “Guns do violence. Guns do murder.”
Schaper said she believes religious hypocrisy is biggest barrier to people’s spiritual lives.
“They just don’t want to be part of religious hypocrisy,” she said. “Battling abortion using these stealth methods? Go after the National Rifle Association that way if you want to do something that’s good that will save lives.”
Schaper said she believes that “God created science and technology so that we could not just have to populate and populate, that we are biological lives plus.” She often talks about abortion rights in terms of Just War Theory, a tradition of military ethics that war is always terrible but not always the worst option.
“We do imagine that there can be such a thing as just violence,” she said. “So even if you thought abortion was a form of violence — which I do not, I think it’s a moral elective choice some people make some of the time for good reasons — but even if you thought it was violence, the idea that women can’t make decisions about hard things, things that are very, very hard, the fact that women are beneath that kind of decision-making, is just a sneaky way to put us down.”
Named after Adoniram Judson, the first American Baptist missionary to Burma, Schaper’s church today is affiliated with both the United Church of Christ and American Baptist Churches USA. It is also a sustaining partner church of the Alliance of Baptists.
Founded in 1888 with backing from prominent Baptists including John D. Rockefeller, Judson Memorial Church is long known for progressive views on social justice issues including LGBT and women’s reproductive rights.
Gaddy, who retired in December as president of the Interfaith Alliance but continues to host its weekly radio program, told listeners he invited Schaper after reading her July 20 Religion Dispatches commentary, “Religion, Lies, and Videotape: Planned Parenthood and the Latest Fake Sting.”
Schaper told State of Belief she takes the recent secretly taped interview making the charge that Planned Parenthood profits from selling fetal organs personally, because as a former member of the organization’s board, “I just don’t like it when people I know are doing good get smeared for it.”
Since serving on the Planned Parenthood board 15 years ago in Philadelphia, Schaper said has not been formally associated with the organization since “except by way of people who were in trouble who got help from them.”
She described tactics used by the anti-abortion group that released the damaging Planned Parenthood video as “sneakiness, deceit and distortion” and said it is damaging for religion to engage in such dishonesty.
“Religious people have a real stake in getting as close to the truth as possible, because so many people have done so much harm in the name of religion,” she said. “Religion is about kindness and love and something like truth. We believe kindness and love and compassion are the truth. So when we have a situation of sneakiness, deceit and distortion, it just brings us right back to our roots.”
Schaper said the reason Christians love Jesus is “because he was the one who refused to have an enemy, even those who persecuted him.”
“So my spiritual quest right now in this particular dustup around the right to choose an abortion has to do with how I can be both loving and clear toward those who are using journalistic distortion,” she said.
“I’m not perfect here either,” she said. “I don’t want to go into hate or anger. I want learn how to practice lovingkindness, and I’m having a hard time, because I think sneaky people need to reined in and stopped, in the very name of the love that Jesus shows us.”