Christian Schools and Pregnancy

The New York Times published an article over the weekend titled “Pregnant at 18. Hailed by Abortion Foes. Punished by Christian School.” The author of the piece tells the story of Maddi Runkles, an 18-year-old high school senior who was banned from participating in her school’s graduation ceremony and removed from the student council after becoming pregnant earlier this year.  The article juxtaposes the professed pro-life beliefs of evangelicals with the way that Christian schools often respond to student pregnancy.  At the end of the article there is a quote from Maddi, who says, “Honestly, that makes me feel like maybe the abortion would have been better. Then they would have just forgiven me, rather than deal with this visible consequence.”

While many pro-choice activists accuse pro-life Christians of caring about babies only while they are in the womb, the myriad of Christian crisis pregnancy centers, relief organizations, and other faith-based charities give the lie to this caricature. However, Christian schools face the hard task of fairly upholding the standards of behavior that they expect from their students, while also displaying a consistently pro-life ethic and supporting students who choose life for their babies.

Maddi’s situation demonstrates the importance of Christian schools having well-designed and consistently-applied policies regarding out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Dr. Kimberly Thornbury was part of developing such a policy while she was Dean of Students at Union University, a Christian university in Tennessee.  Union’s campus newspaper reports on what such a policy looks like here.   In contrast, policies that appear arbitrary or vindictive are antithetical to a pro-life witness.

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Trevor Stammers
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Trevor Stammers

Sadly Christian institutions are not immune to the temptation of being more concerned with public image rather than showing compassion and mercy. It’s a double whammy though and they end up, as in this case, looking heartless to both the one to whom compassion was withheld and to a watching world ever-eager to show how hypocritical Christians are.