Editor’s Note: Pastor Cathy Ammlung is a pastor in the North American Lutheran Church and serves as Secretary of the Board of Lutheran CORE. She has earned a master’s degree in Chemistry and two master’s degrees in Theology.
I normally don’t share stuff about my political or religious views, aside from occasionally posting one of my sermons. That’s because I don’t usually like reading other people’s stuff on those topics. I confess, I generally click “hide this post.” Keeps my relationships with many folks more cordial because I’m not tempted to get in a war of words that would probably not change anyone’s mind but undoubtedly would harden someone’s heart.
I don’t want to inflict my views on other people, and would rather talk one on one about such topics. But I’m breaking my own rules today. I promise to not get judgy. Still, if you want to unfriend me because I was at the March for Life, go ahead. I get it.
This was the first time I’ve ever been in any march. I hate crowds! But this was a remarkably peaceful, polite, joyous crowd. White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Mideastern. Many religious groups. Bikers in badass leather. Guys in dreadlocks. A fellow dressed in a weird Uncle Sam outfit, riding a sort of skateboard with a big center wheel, waving a “Shred for Life” banner. Don’t ask!! Knights of Columbus with thunderous drummers, and a group of Evangelicals with bagpipes, trumpets, and fifes. An astonishing number of young people, and scads of young nuns, young priests, young monks. Folks in wheelchairs, on crutches, with canes, in casts. Me, I was part of the North American Lutheran Church contingent. It was an uplifting and thought provoking experience.
What really got to me, and I suppose why I decided to post something, were a few of the very personal posters and comments. A young man with a photo of himself as a very premature baby in a NICU, with the words, “This is what ‘late term’ looks like.” Someone who said, “The doctor urged an abortion when my mom was pregnant, saying I wouldn’t live 24 hours. She chose life.” Women who deeply regretted having an abortion, standing quietly in front of the Supreme Court – next to women quietly holding up “keep abortion legal” posters. Men mourning the death of children they would have loved, but whose partners aborted the child. One of those men openly weeping when some prayers for the sanctity of life that I’d written were read in his church, grateful that someone offered a word of compassion for him and his girlfriend.
And it struck me: if I’d been conceived in 1973 instead of 1953, I might have been a statistic instead of a participant. My birth parents were married when I was born. Can you imagine the gossip if a *married* couple back then, obviously expecting a child, gave up that child – and not to a sympathetic relative but to an agency? How much less awkward, inconvenient, even shameful, if they’d surreptitiously had an abortion and claimed a miscarriage. Seeing those profoundly personal signs, hearing multitudes of personal stories, thinking about my own existence, drove home a point.
This isn’t an agenda or slogan. It’s not a political stunt or legal diktat. This is about real human beings, yes maybe even including me, who would not have even existed except they were not aborted. It’s about real people in the midst of scary, difficult, even tragic circumstances, heroically or maybe even inadvertently being truly “pro-choice.” They chose an innocent child’s right to life above their right to assert their own legitimate desires, hopes, and fears. It’s about committing our lives, time, and efforts into supporting, encouraging, and aiding women and men to make that brave, hard choice even when the culture shouts and celebrates the opposite.
Enough. Here is the prayer that I wrote.
Gracious Father, through you all parenthood is blessed. You were pleased to incarnate your Son through the consent and the flesh of a woman, the Virgin Mary. You entrusted the care of the holy Child to his foster father, St. Joseph. Bless, protect, guide, and strengthen all parents – biological, adoptive, and foster. Especially when parenting is difficult, give them joy and satisfaction in their holy task. Grant them a double portion of your Spirit, so that their children may flourish in faith toward you, in honor toward their parents, and in love for all your children.
We pray for those who struggle to have children and cannot. We pray for those who have lost a child they deeply loved.
We pray for those who struggle to love their children even when that is desperately difficult. We pray for those who do not want the child they have conceived or borne. Have mercy on them all. They face such terrible demons of grief, shame, regret, fear, and anger. Often, we can only stand and weep with them, and pray for them. Help us to do those things, and to walk with them through their dark valleys. Help us to share our confidence that you will lead them safely through.
Have mercy on women who seek, or who have endured, an abortion – and upon the father of their unborn child. As you visited Joseph in a dream, touch their spirits with your presence. Help them understand your love for them, and their unborn child. Where forgiveness is needed, grant it freely and lavishly. Help them to turn to you. Give them the strength to choose life, not death, if they are pregnant. Give them the grace to repent, to forgive themselves and each other, and to be healed in body and soul, if they have already had an abortion.
There are so many “disposable people,” dear Lord! They range from the unborn, to the handicapped, to refugees and immigrants, to the frail elderly, to our personal and corporate foes, to people whose lives seem so “out of bounds” that we can’t really comprehend, much less respond to them helpfully or graciously. Loving, respecting, and caring for “disposable people” is so hard! We can feel overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, cheated, or hopeless. And we’re ashamed even to admit that sometimes even we wish they’d just go away. Forgive us, dear Lord. Give us grace to see them through Jesus’ eyes: as people he loves so much that he gave his life for them. Give us grace to see his presence in them. Give us grace to share even a cup of cold water with them, for Christ has claimed them as his sisters and brothers.
We pray for everyone who cares for the most vulnerable people in our midst. Their work is often hard and usually under-appreciated. Thank you for their goodness and dedication. Deepen their compassion, integrity, and wisdom. Protect and strengthen them when others want them to act against their faith, their principles, and their dedication to cherish life and promote genuine well-being.
Father, there are many who think that humanity is a matter of achievement. If someone isn’t smart enough, healthy enough, independent enough, or even wanted enough, they don’t “deserve” to be treated as fully human persons. Don’t let us fall into that horrible mindset. Give us the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and fear of the Lord, and joy in your presence – not just for our own good, but so that we are equipped to combat those sinful and death-filled notions. Help us to share, in word and by example, what you have always revealed: that we are persons because you have made us in your divine image. No matter how distorted or disabled or debased that image has become through accident, malice or the cussedness of the universe, help us all to see, acknowledge, and pray for that image to be perfectly restored in Christ Jesus our Savior.