The New York Times last Wednesday ran a story, lauding Theresa Rebeck for her play “O Beautiful”, for which she was paid $50K by the University of Delaware English and Theater Department from a private fund. In it she unabashedly takes the opportunity to preach to her audience about many issues, including abortion, and portrays Jesus (from what I can tell from the NYT article) as a Big Gulp drinking, compliant, sentimental guy who accompanies a young woman (Alice) across state lines to obtain an abortion.
I have heard before the argument that “Jesus never spoke about abortion. It’s not in the Gospels.” It is true; He never explicitly speaks about this issue in the Gospels. Rather, the whole Gospel message encompasses this issue, Life.
Ms. Rebeck is correct that Jesus is and was a compassionate man. He certainly did not condone or participate in the philosophies, attitudes, or actions that would leave a woman in a crisis pregnancy to begin with. However, she is failing to present that, besides being compassionate, He IS truth. He doesn’t just tell the truth, He IS truth. To imagine that He would tell a young woman that he has “no issue” with her ending the life of an unborn child in her womb is unfathomable. Ms. Rebeck professes her great admiration for Jesus, but I lament that her work does not reflect the true Christ. With her play, she has created a “Jesus” in her own image. Rather than conforming her opinions, beliefs, and ideas to Gospel values, she is re-writing her own gospel in “O Beautiful.” (And for quite a profit!)
There is some truth to what she is saying: Jesus would certainly not abandon, condemn, or judge Alice (“judging” being one of the few grave sins recognized by those of liberal persuasion), as He never did to someone that came open and truly seeking Him, or even just seeking His gifts. He would rather try to gently but adamantly lead her to understand the truth about abortion and the truth about God’s immense love for each human life—starting with her own! He would attempt to open her beautiful eyes to the truth of who she was—a precious child of God, of boundless dignity and value, and that therefore, this is also true of her unborn child. If she would not receive this message, and if she still obtained an abortion, then her own choices and actions would later condemn her (sadly), not Jesus. When we reject human life, we reject Him (God). When we open ourselves and accept others (including the unborn others), we accept Him. What do pro-choice Christians think He meant when He said, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me”? You did it to me. Not accepting life, is not accepting Christ. What do they propose is signified by depictions in Christian literature and art of the Annunciation, the moment when Gabriel announced that God had plans for Mary to be the Mother of God?! What does it mean, if not that this is precisely how Christ comes to us, unseen, helpless, voiceless, as a child which must be accepted, nurtured, loved and allowed to grow in wisdom and grace! We as Christians need to take this and live it at every level of our being—in our spirits and in our bodies, as individuals and in society.
What Ms. Rebeck presents is the love of Christ without His truth. This is a perfect example of what Pope Benedict XVI wisely expresses in his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth). Yes, Jesus gives us love, but always in truth. Truth without compassion is harsh, and compassion without truth is meaningless sentimentality. And, I would add, just plain dangerous (especially these days for the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly).