Abortion is not a major sermon topic in most American churches, but when it is discussed, most pastors teach that unborn babies are valuable human beings who deserve to be protected, according to a new Pew Research Center report.
The research group reviewed nearly 50,000 sermons posted online by about 6,000 churches over an eight-week period in 2019 and found that just 4% discussed abortion.
The percentage may seem small, but the researchers pointed out: “The findings suggest that roughly one-in-five congregations in the evangelical Protestant, historically black Protestant and Catholic traditions heard at least one message that touched on abortion during the study period. Meanwhile, only one-in-ten mainline Protestant congregations heard about abortion during the same period.”
Crux Now reports evangelical Protestant and Catholic pastors were the ones most likely to bring up abortion. Pew researchers found that 22 percent of evangelical pastors and 19 percent of Catholic priests gave at least one sermon that mentioned abortion during the eight-week period.
The researchers also looked at word choices in those sermons. According to Crux: “Among evangelicals, the most commonly used phrases were words such as ‘womb,’ ‘heartbeat’ and ‘pornography.’ Among Catholics, the most commonly used phrases were ‘pro-life,’ ‘good Catholic’ and ‘church teaching.’”
Pew noted that pastors who did preach on abortion were “nearly unanimous” in their opposition to it. In other words, many pro-life pastors are speaking to their congregations about the sanctity of human life.
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“When researchers individually examined 60 sermons that discussed abortion, only four seemed to support access to abortion services,” according to the Pew study. “As a result, sermons that express a positive view of abortion rights were too rare to identify across the whole database.”
Past studies have found similar results. Pastors sometimes feel hesitant to address the controversial topic out of concern for people in their congregations who may be hurting from past abortions. Others may think the topic is too political.
Pro-life individuals and organizations are reaching out to pastors and encouraging them to speak about the sanctity of human life. Post-abortion ministries also encourage pastors to preach about forgiveness and healing even as they condemn the killing of unborn babies. It seems pastors, in at least some Christian traditions, are listening and using their voices to speak up about the value of every human life.