Clanging Cymbals

The Supreme Court has issued a ruling striking down Massachusetts’s thirty-five-foot ‘buffer zone’ around reproductive health clinics. The ban was put in place to protect patients from people who harass and assault clinic patients.
Many people have already pointed out that the Supreme Court itself enjoys a one-hundred-foot buffer zone. But I’m not here to talk about that, or the myriad other legal precedents for reasonable limitations on uses of public property.

I want to talk about clinic attackers, for a minute. Most of them claim that their actions–which include grabbing, spitting on, throwing things at, threatening, non-consensually photographing, libeling, slandering, vandalizing the property of, and otherwise committing crimes against clinic patients and staff–are rooted in Christian faith.

Y’all know how I feel about people who try to use Christianity to justify bad behavior.

We’re going to go ahead and side-step the question of whether there’s any biblical basis for opposition to abortion. If people have a sincerely-held religious belief that abortion is against God’s will, then trying to explain their religion to them is not going to do you or them any good. I can respect that some people believe that abortion is murder, even if I don’t agree.

But if you are shaming, abusing, and assaulting vulnerable people in Christ’s name, you are doing Christianity wrong. If you are going out ‘in Christ’s name’ to spread hatred, you are doing Christianity wrong.

I refer you to 1 Corinthians 13:1-7:

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but I have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but I have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body to be abused so that I can boast, but I have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

If you go to a clinic that’s under attack, you’re going to see a whole lot of boasting, arrogance, and rudeness. You’re going to see people insisting on their own way. A lot of irritability and resentment. You’re going to see clinic attackers rejoicing in wrongdoing.

What you’re not going to see from clinic attackers?


You’re not going to see them recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of all of all people, including clinic patients. You’re not going to see them meeting clinic patients with the radical love that Paul calls all Christians to in scripture.

The sincerity of their beliefs is not the problem. The problem is that–no matter how sincerely they believe–if they have not love, they are nothing but clanging cymbals.

The pain and suffering their violence inflicts serves only themselves, and not God.

1 Corinthians 13:13:

Abide these three together: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.

My prayers today are with clinic staffers, who bear all things, hope all things, endure all things, and risk their very lives to ensure that their patients have access to medical care.

1 thought on “Clanging Cymbals”

  1. And just to be clear: Love goes hand-in-hand with respect. So no, standing outside clinics and loudly praying at people, thrusting literature at them, or engaging in any other form of street harassment is not okay, either.
    Trying to get people to justify their medical decisions to you when they’re on the way to visit their doctor is cruel, ugly, and hateful, no matter how you dress it up.


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