No balm in Gilead

You’ve probably seen them. They’re hard to miss. Ever-present at pro-life rallies, the red gowns and white bonnet hats of The Handmaids. Abortion activists take inspiration for their uniforms from Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale. In it, Atwood envisions a brutal, dystopian future where any woman who is fertile must bear children for wealthy men and their wives. 

Atwood’s fictional Republic of Gilead is run as a fundamentalist Christian theocracy and today’s abortion activists seem to believe the threat of such a thing happening to be clear and present. They see in the main character a woman enslaved to a system which would have her carry a baby against her will. To the culture of death, pro-life laws are “forced birth”. 

Well, here’s a bit of real news that sounds more likely to take place in Gilead than the Bible Belt. The lengthy piece from The Guardian was recently making the rounds on Twitter. And rightly so. Jenny Kleemans’s report on surrogacy is quite a stunning reminder of where we are as a culture. 

Kleeman follows the story of a gay male couple from New York who have filed a lawsuit against one’s former employer, the City of New York, for discrimination. They argue that if heterosexual and lesbians couples are eligible for benefits that cover fertility services, gay men should be too. They don’t want to force someone to carry a baby for them, but rather they want money to pay for a willing womb. 

The article includes opinions from a few detractors. Feminists are upset at the idea of women being exploited as “wombs for hire”, which is a criticism often levelled at the surrogacy industry. One professor interviewed for the piece says the men are treating “being born male as a disability or as a protected category”. Why can’t they adopt a child, she asks? One gay dad provides the blunt answer: “We consider adoption [to be] a form of volunteering. It is not a way to become parents”. He says that shutting gay men out from surrogacy services is a scheme to make sure they don’t have children. “We’re expected to be OK with not having children”. 

Human history has seen conflict based on the lust of men, and revolutions following the tenets of communism or fascism, but it seems we are caught in a slow and quiet war – one driven by the dogmas of the Sexual Revolution. Though “autonomy” and “consent” are doctrines in the church of white noise, the “love is love” mantra and the re-branding of fornication as “sex positivity”, leaves women and children caught in the cross-hairs. This happens every time mankind trades the truth of God for a lie. Men worship themselves and the vulnerable are discarded. 

Gilead may be run by Bible-quoting zealots, but they are not those who want to build families and protect life. As much as the sexual revolution promised equality, this is the logical end of trying to make men and women interchangeable – children are commodities and women are the factories. But at the heart of all this is a child, purposefully commissioned to live life separated from one of his parents. 

So this is the absurd and tragic hour we are living in. If people will not learn the lessons written into creation, they may not listen to God’s truth either.  Nevertheless, we need to keep speaking it. The prophet Jeremiah lamented that there was no balm in Gilead which could cover Israel’s idolatry, and turn away God’s anger. But there is a balm in the church – Christ himself, the forgiveness he gives, is the healing which is needed for the sake of our neighbors, even the smallest ones. 

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