photo cred: www.gonola.com
If you wind your way through New Orleans and across the bridge to what the locals call the West Bank, you come to Algiers. This neighborhood, which is 89.4% African American, is one of the oldest in America. It is also one of the poorest, with over one-third of its residents living below the poverty line. Today it’s the location of many of the krewe ‘dens’ – warehouses where the Mardi Gras floats are built and stored.
Algiers is also the spot where my Grandma, Skippy, raised five kids in a little cement-block house at the end of the road. The only thing separating the neat, white house from the river was a stretch of muddy ground called the batture and a levee that would one day stand up to a bully named Katrina and win.
My grandfather, Woody, went to Vietnam as an civil engineer. When the war ended, he came back to the U.S., bringing his Vietnamese mistress with him, and they settled in another state. Some time later, Skippy found out and went and brought him back home. From that point on, the family’s life was dominated by his drinking. Grandma knew he had gone and dragged his own, drunk father out of Tujague’s many nights when he was just a boy, so maybe she felt compassion for him. Maybe she was just glad she wasn’t alone any more.
My uncle told me stories of the rafts he and his two brothers built as boys, launching them into the powerful current of the river, and having to walk back home several miles. The childhood memories Dixie shared with us weren’t quite as idyllic. She recalled the family drinking and smoking pot together. Sometimes her father and brothers got into fistfights. Decades later, Dixie revealed to her mother that, as a girl, she had been sexually molested by a member of the family. When Grandma told me this story she admitted that Dixie’s account was just too detailed not to believe.
As soon as she could, Dixie left home. She supported herself by singing in a band that played in some of the French Quarter bars. Early in the summer of 1968, she had a one-night stand with a guitar player named Sam and ended up pregnant, which was still a big deal in the Deep South, even in the late sixties, and even in a family like theirs. Grandma sent Dixie across the state line to avoid bringing shame to the family. She would finish out her pregnancy under the care of the Mississippi Children’s Home Society in the capital city of Jackson. Dixie spent that whole, long, dreary winter all alone in a one-room apartment. She recalls very few memories of those months, other than passing the time creating an elaborate, winter wonderland tablescape out of found objects and trash.
Contrary to what they would later print on my birth certificate, I was born at the University Medical Center in February of 1969, almost three years before Roe vs. Wade would have given Dixie the choice not to go through all of this. I’m very grateful the law still protected unborn babies then, but Dixie decidedly wasn’t. She would spend the next four decades as a passionate advocate for abortion rights. She wanted to make sure no other woman had to endure the pain and isolation and trauma she had endured, which you have to admit, is a logical response from her perspective.
I would say, however, that Dixie’s problem was a lot bigger than me. And she needed a solution that was a lot bigger than an abortion. When she was at her most vulnerable, she didn’t have anyone to offer her protection and support. No one took her into their home, or told her there was hope, and a God who had a plan for her life and for her child’s life.
Christians, the burden of responsibility for the scourge of abortion doesn’t lie solely on the shoulders of the United States Supreme Court. Millions of lives have been lost because the church has failed in our duty to generations of babies, girls, and women. To turn this tide of blood-guilt, God’s people are going to have to take the initiative to seek them out and share a big hope:
- If you think your reputation is ruined, God can redeem it.
- If you think your future is at stake, God can redeem it.
- If you think your chance at college is at risk, God can redeem it.
- If your family has turned their backs on you, God can redeem it.
- If you are a victim of abuse, God can redeem it.
- If you’re a victim of rape, God can redeem it.
- If you’re a victim of incest, God can redeem it.
- If you think your child would be better off dead, God can redeem it.
God can bring beauty from the ashes of your situation. He loves you and your child. He has a good plan for your life, to give you a future and to be your Hope.
He can redeem you.