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We Are Called To Be The Church Even When We Disagree

Mallory Smyth

Last year my husband and I went on a marriage retreat. During one of the sessions, the retreat leaders performed an illustration. They asked a couple to go up to the front of the room and stand back to back. One leader asked each partner to describe what they saw. The wife said she saw windows, a snack table, and an audience. The husband said he saw a white board. The leader looked at us and said, “Two people can be standing in the same place and see completely different things. It is your job to seek understanding so that you can move forward in unity.” 

It was a great illustration, but I found myself with questions: What if the couple cannot come to an understanding? What if both are convinced the other is wrong? Can they still choose to be unified in action? The answer, for the most part, is yes. The couple standing back to back can still move together in unison—for example, doing a jumping jack. It is possible to have different perspectives, or even vehemently disagree, and still commit to working together. 

This brings me to the biggest Supreme Court decision of my lifetime. 

A little over a week ago, the Supreme Court caused an earthquake when it released the Dobbs vs. Jackson decision which overturned Roe vs. Wade. I know that you, like me, have seen the public response, heard the sound bites and seen the memes, and are processing your own strong feelings about this decision. 

Walking with Purpose reaches 50,000 women a year. Each is made uniquely in God’s image and is irreplaceably different from the other. Each is a work in progress―an imperfect woman who God is patiently leading into deeper holiness. The women who read our blogs, order our devotionals, and dive into our Bible studies are at different places in their faith journey and search for God. And much of the time, they stand in similar places and see totally different things.

The Catholic Church clearly states, “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”[1] 

Many committed Catholic women know the Church’s stance on abortion and disagree. My reason for writing is not to attempt to argue for the Church’s position. I am very happy to do that but not in this post. My reason for writing is to explore how women of goodwill, who have come to different conclusions regarding this matter, can still act together in Christian unity to uphold the sacredness of life in society. Can it be done? I declare that it must be done! So where do we start?

One of the more productive internet conversations concerning a post-Roe world has revolved around how the government can better support families. Some are calling for legislation requiring fathers to become financially responsible for their children during the mother’s pregnancy by paying for a portion of the medical bills and child support. I have seen others advocating for better policies around paid family leave. Still others say that if we are going to support working mothers better, the government should provide universal pre-k. 

These are the beginnings of great discussions that will hopefully lead to government policy that better supports marriage and family. But the love of Christ compels us to not wait for the government’s permission. We are His hands and feet, and it is time to lean into Christ’s mission with our entire beings. We have been given an opportunity to use our money, our time, and our energy to support mothers at every stage of life, and to create local communities that make it easier for families to thrive. It is here that I believe that women with good intentions, who desire to live for God, can come together no matter how they feel about the Supreme Court’s decision.  

So here are five things you can do right now that can help families in your local community: 

Examine the way you speak about motherhood and family
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”[2] Marriage and family is most spoken about in a negative manner. Not only is it discouraging to those who are trying to raise children, it convinces others that marriage and parenthood are not worth the hardship.

We are called to speak about marriage and family as the blessing that it is. Does that mean we shouldn't be honest? Of course not. But take a moment to examine how you speak about marriage and family. How can you speak with joy about these gifts and start to change the societal tone? 

Invest in your own marriage and children
The Catholic Church calls the family the domestic church. “It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament.”[3] Many people, however, did not experience family the way that it should be experienced. Let it be different with your family. Take time to invest in your marriage. Work to create a family culture of love and security where each member can experience love, joy, and security while being challenged to grow in maturity.

Offer to help the families in your church and your neighborhood
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”[4] 

If you do not have children or your children are out of the house, I invite you to think of a family that you might be able to help. Perhaps you could help with errands, meal planning, or babysit for a few hours a week so a mom can get a bit of space without having to pay a ton of money for childcare. Motherhood is an incredible gift. It can also be unspeakably hard. You might be able to lighten the load for a mother in your church or neighborhood. 

Donate and volunteer at your local pregnancy center
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”[5]

For many women, a positive pregnancy test leaves them in despair. They aren’t married and feel they don’t have the resources to raise a child. There are many nonprofits that exist to help these women. Most need donations and volunteers. Jesus calls us to care for these women and offer them hope in their despair. Let us answer that call and give our help where it is needed. 

Pray about foster care or adoption
I recently heard about a church in Florida whose congregants emptied the foster care rolls in their county. Can you even believe that? That is radical love, and it comes with a high cost. As Christians, we are called to embrace that cost if the Lord is calling us to this kind of love. Some of us are being called to step up and consider adoption or foster care. I invite you to pray about it and answer that call if it is you! 

I know many of us might disagree passionately, but we are still the Church—broken and beautiful. These are only a few suggestions. Go to God and ask Him how He wants you to be His light to the world. Then, go and be that light. 

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258.
[2] Colossians 4:6
[3] CCC 2204
[4] Galatians 6:2
[5] James 1:27

 

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