More on a Madonna of Choice
I’ve been thinking more and more this semester about the connection between pro-choice activism and christian faith. Obviously, some of the most vocal opponents of reproductive choice are christians, and therefore, many people assume that all christians are anti-choice.
I’m a devout christian and a fervent pro-choice advocate. I believe that these ideas complement each other- it’s not that I’m “christian but pro-choice,” it’s that I’m “christian and pro-choice.” I know many people- mostly other women- who follow a similar line.
My choice of religion is supported by stories and my own imagination, and one of my favorite stories is that of the Annunciation- when an angel appeared to the Madonna and told her that she’d be the mother of Christ. Institutions like the Roman Catholic Church, as well as many Protestant denominations, have perpetrated and image of a virginal*, docile, obedient Mary, who accepted the angel’s words meekly. Her own words, as the story goes, were, “Let it be as you have said.” But what human teenager, upon hearing that they would bear a child who would grow up to be brutally murdered as a symbol of his love for humankind, would accept that as a blessing? I reject the idea of a docile Madonna. This stuff is not easy for anyone, not now and not a couple thousand years ago. Last year, I was asked to make some drawings for a nativity pageant at my home church, and among them was the below sketch of a panicked girl struggling with an unthinkable decision. This year, I reinvented the sketch as a painting- as an alternative icon.
If “Let it be as you have said” were the Madonna’s words to the angel, they were the words of choice. She don’t say “If you say so,” she didn’t say, “I guess I have no other choice-” those were words of affirmation. About thirty-three years later, her baby was crucified. As someone who had learned the scriptures, she knew when she made the choice to be his mother that this would happen, and in that moment she sacrificed him for the good of the world. Women who chose abortion likewise make a sacrifice for the good of the world- for the good of their child, for the good of their family, for the good of themselves, as children of God, children of love, in their own right. I believe that I’ve previously on this blog quoted the words of Alice Walker: “Abortion, for many women, is more than an experience of suffering beyond anything most men will ever know; it is an act of mercy, and an act of self-defense.”
I believe that the Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, loves reproductive justice because She knows the true complexity of maternal choice. I’ve never had an abortion, so I know I can’t fully understand it. But I trust women who have made that choice, and I trust the Madonna. I worship a God who loves free will; I pray to a Madonna of choice.
*note: I believe that the concept of the Madonna as a virgin is farcical absolutely irrelevant.