“So it’s not a sin in your church to have an abortion?”
One would think this question would elicit a “yes” or “no” answer, but when host of The View, Joy Behar, asked Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong NYC if abortion was a sin, his answer was about as vague as can be.
“That’s the kind of conversation we would have, finding out your story, where you’re from, what you believe… I mean, God’s the judge. People have to live with their own convictions… Before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”
I’ve heard this logic before, but in the past it’s been chanted at women’s marches to the tune of “my body, my choice,” not from the mouth of a mega church pastor.
But it’s not that Lentz just chooses not to comment on political issues. Fast forward literally two seconds. Lentz is asked about how he separates politics and religion. His answer is pretty confusing considering he basically just said he wouldn’t speak about abortion from the pulpit.
He said, “I feel like Jesus came to destroy the political norm of the day. So since I’m a Christian I believe we are still supposed to speak directly to politics and things that affect people, they should be talked about in our church. So I’m just going to preach what is right… We have an issue and some of that stuff needs to be said up front out loud, no matter what you believe, no matter what your background.”
So if he refuses to speak about issues like abortion, what’s he talking about?
Well, he spends a lot of time talking about racial injustice, homelessness, and human trafficking. Put simply, he talks about the easy issues, the ones that are nearly indisputable, and the ones that will help him maintain popularity.
These issues are incredibly important, but with a mostly millennial audience he is, in a sense, preaching to the choir. But is that his role as a pastor—to confirm their already strongly-held beliefs and convictions? Or is it his job to guide them through the more murky waters surrounding the issues that have us scratching our heads a little?
His young New York City audience likely already knows that racism and human trafficking are horrible and helping the homeless is necessary. But here are some questions they likely don’t have the answers to:
What do I do when faced with an unplanned pregnancy?
Is a fetus a human, loved and valued by God?
Am I the only woman in the church who regrets my abortion?
You see, abortion is an issue. It’s in issue outside the church and inside the church. And it’s an issue in Lentz’s church, whether he engages with it or not.
Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” When pastors like Lentz choose not to speak about abortion they are unintentionally choosing to say yes to evil.
The question of whether abortion is a sin or not is a simple question to answer. The answer is “yes,” and should have been given without pause.
But I can understand why Lentz was shaking in his boots–abortion is a messy issue and it would truly take thought and practice for a pastor to actually lead well on this issue. Francis Chan covers this well here –— he’s thoughtful, he’s brave, he dives in, and he risks being disliked by our popular culture. This is leadership. This is ministry.
The answer Lentz gave was a concoction of ambiguity, moral relativism, and a whole lot of not wanting to lose Instagram followers.
I’ve been to his church. I’ve heard him preach several times. I even have close friends who work for him. I know he genuinely wants people to become Christians, but I think he has also let culture dilute his message—spending too much time trying not to offend and too little time preparing to answer the hard questions.
He’s let culture influence his message, rather than allowing his message to influence culture.
His platform is one that could transform culture, but only if he chooses to tackle the hard questions and do and say the unpopular things—things like “Abortion hurts women” and “Life in the womb has value.” With half a million followers on Instagram and a book that’s flying off shelves, his platform could literally save lives and transform the way women see unplanned pregnancies, instead he chooses the “to each his own” mentality.
Lentz said that before he starts talking about sin, he wants to “know your name.” Unfortunately, it sounds like he’s just in the wrong job. As a pastor of a mega church, he’s never been called to know everyone’s name, but he has been called to lead his people and guide them towards being more like Christ. And I can tell you one thing, Christ would have stood against abortion, no matter how unpopular that stance is.