April 1st, 2031 A.D.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the San Francisco Revival of the 2020s was an end to the politicization of abortion, in a way that seemed unimaginable to those who lived through the culture wars that peaked during the Trump presidency. While extremists on both sides still refuse to make peace, the public debate has largely moved on.
The turning point was when two courageous women made a conscious choice to reject the dichotomy between honoring women and honoring the unborn, thus defusing the righteous indignation that had fueled both sides.
And it all began with a yoga class…
Jen and Martha each joined the San Jose YMCA on January 2nd, 2021 as part of their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. They ended up in a beginner’s yoga class together, and soon discovered they had a lot in common. They were both professional women in their late forties, and had just started regaining personal time as their kids entered high school and autonomous vehicles became safe enough to eliminate the endless rounds of chauffeur duties. They would chat during class, and sometimes afterwards, commiserating about the frustrations of teenagers, the cluelessness of their husbands, and the sadism of their yoga instructor!
The one thing they never talked about was their jobs. Surprisingly, neither ever asked the other where they worked, or volunteered any information about what they did for a living. This blissful ignorance continued until Jen mentioned that her car was in the shop. Martha volunteered to drop her off somewhere, but Jen waved away the offer saying that she could just walk to work.
This innocent statement struck a chill down Martha’s spine. Martha tried her best to control her suspicion, and her expression, though she could see Jen looking at her curiously. She excused herself to use the ladies room, then guiltily snuck back to spy on where her new friend went. Sure enough, her worst fears were confirmed.
Jen walked across the street from the YMCA and entered the building of the largest employer in the neighborhood: Planned Parenthood. Just down the street from Martha’s employer, the local crisis pregnancy center.
After a long week involving many sleepless nights, Martha invited Jen to coffee after class at the nearby Starbucks, confessed to spying on her, and disclosed her own affiliation.
Jen stared at her in shock. “Why are you telling me this?”
Martha blurted out, “Because I still want to be your friend. And I don’t know how.” And burst out crying.
Neither of them remembers what exactly they said after that. But next week after class, they somehow ended up going out for coffee again. And again. And again, and again, and again…
What surprised Jen most was how much Martha loved the young women who visited her clinic, even those who chose to have an abortion. In turn, Martha was amazed to discover that Jen hated doing abortions, but saw it as the only way to free women to live out their dreams.
Gradually they realized that they actually had much more in common with each other than with many of their so-called allies, who seemed much more concerned with scoring political points than actually honoring and helping women.
One day, Jen showed up for coffee with a brand new pad of yellow legal paper. She took a deep breath. “Martha, do you trust me?”
Martha stared at her friend. She knew where this was going. All of her training and her ideology screamed that this person was the enemy. One wrong step, and she could lose her job, her church, possibly even her marriage.
“Yes,” she said, and smiled.
Jen beamed, then burst into giggles. “Then let’s do this. Let’s write down all the things we can agree on. As well as the things we don’t. And then?” she looked up, her heart in her eyes.
“And then we tell our bosses,” finished Martha.
And so they did.
The document was called Balancing Personhood: What Would Jesus Protest?
They cleverly framed it as a modern retelling of John 8, with Jesus showing up at the Lincoln Memorial, during a confrontation between pro-life and pro-choice protesters that threatens to spiral into violence. Shockingly, he does not condemn either side, but praises individuals from both camps — by name! — for sacrificial acts of kindness each showed to the poor and forgotten. Time would later say it “humanized both the necessity and horror of abortion, through the heartbreaking eyes of women on the front lines.”
Then Jesus kneels down and begins to write on the 87 steps. His nail-scarred hands carve statistics into the stone. Child abuse. Poverty. Domestic violence. Malnutrition. Fatherlessness. Foster children. Incarceration rates. Pornography. Human trafficking. Homelessness. Honor killings. Racial disparities. Gender disparities. Hate crimes. Income mobility. Religious persecution. The costs of various wars. Names of outspoken critics and proponents of abortion found guilty of sexual harassment. The number of children killed by abortion in the United States since Roe vs. Wade. And the number of women killed before that by illegal abortions, and for the crime of infanticide.
He turns and calls sternly out to the crowd. “Is there anyone here who dares to condemn you?”
The crowd is silent, except for many who are weeping.
Then suddenly he smiles. “Then neither do I condemn you. Stop condemning each other, and go do the work I have called you to do.” And with a nod to the enormous statue towering over him, he disappears into the wings.
Martha didn’t lose her job – or her marriage. Her husband Joe did lose his job, though. He was the pastor who shared her essay at a Truth and Reconciliation Summit between conservative and liberal churches, which republished it as part of what is now known as the San Jose Declaration.
His Board of Elders were freaked out by the resulting media firestorm that descended on their church, and demanded he either apologize or resign. After a long night of prayer with Martha, he chose the latter. He now works as a chaplain at a Christian video game company promoting responsible male sexuality, and is a leading voice in the emerging “pro-personhood” movement.
Joe and Martha also lead a church that meets on Sunday mornings at Planned Parenthood, where Jen and her daughter Grace were the first converts to be baptized. They continue to pray for Jen’s husband Bill, who walked out on them when Jen defended Grace’s decision to keep her baby.