Remember Highlights magazine? When I was a kid, I liked challenging my brain with the “Spot the Difference” page.
It can be hard to spot differences even when they’re right in front of you. For example, what difference has legalized abortion made on American culture? It’s nearly impossible to fathom. We know the number of abortions — almost 60 million since 1973 — but we can’t quite get our heads around a statistic that large.1
Can we break that number down somehow? Because I haven’t been involved in abortion and no one close to me has had an abortion, it’s hard for me to imagine the ways abortion has affected my daily life.
Then I began thinking about it in terms of dwindling church attendance. Much has been written and debated recently about that topic, particularly among the Millennial generation, so I won’t rehash it here. While the two things may not be directly related, I believe abortion and church attendance are connected.
According to Pew Research Center, a little over half of Americans say they attend church once or twice a month, while 23% say they attend regularly.2 What would church attendance look like if all those aborted babies had lived? Twenty-three percent of 60 million is almost 14 million!
Think of what that means: 14 million people are missing from today’s churches because they were aborted! There could be 14 million more people in church services across the country. But that’s still a very large number. What’s that look like on an average Sunday morning?
A study by Simon G. Brauer for The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion identified 384,000 congregations in America.3 If we divide that number into 14 million missing from abortion, we arrive at the sobering figure of 36 people. On average, 36 people are missing from each American church.
Some churches are larger than others. By population, larger churches would have more people missing than smaller ones. But let’s say each church has lost the same number. Thirty-six missing people looms larger in smaller churches. When you consider that, according to a Duke University study, half of the churches in America are attended by 75 or fewer people any given Sunday, the number explodes in significance.
Here’s another way to put it: For every three people in a congregation, one is missing from abortion.
Would your church like to have 36 more people in attendance on a Sunday morning? Could you use more children in Sunday school, more teachers and choir members, more deacons and givers?
Back when I was a kid, I’d use the “Spot the Difference” section of Highlights magazine to distract myself from the whine of the dentist’s drill as I waited my turn. “Drilling down” into abortion data can be just as unpleasant.
For every one of those 60 million missing aborted children, there’s a woman who’s had an abortion, perhaps several. She could be sitting in your congregation, or not. Perhaps the mothers of those aborted babies have left your congregation, along with the fathers.
Where did they go? Did we notice when they left? Did we seek to draw them back? Would we be loving, caring, and welcoming if they returned … if they confessed to having had an abortion?
One last grim thought: Abortion has been legal in this country long enough that many of those 60 million aborted babies would now have been old enough to have children of their own. Entire generations are gone. The number of the missing, the value of the missing, and the consequences of losing them are incalculable.
Free download: Who's Missing? PowerPoint slides
1. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2014, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/ss/ss6624a1.htm?s_cid=ss6624a1_w; Guttmacher Institute Induced Abortion in the United States, October 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states.
2. "Choosing a New Church or House of Worship," Pew Research Center, Religion & Public Life, Aug. 23, 2016, http://www.pewforum.org/2016/08/23/choosing-a-new-church-or-house-of-worship/. See also "Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients in 2014 and Changes Since 2008," Guttmacher Institute, May 2016, https://www.guttmacher.org/report/characteristics-us-abortion-patients-2014; "Study of Women who have had an Abortion and Their Views on Church," LifeWay Research, http://lifewayresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Care-Net-Final-Presentation-Report-Revised.pdf .
3. Brauer, Simon G. “How Many Congregations Are There? Updating a Survey-Based Estimate.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, vol. 56, no. 2, 2017, pp. 438–448., doi:10.1111/jssr.12330.