From Hate to Love: Why “40 Days of Prayer” is Under Attack by the Christian Right


Below is a an interview with Reverend Rebecca Turner of Faith Aloud, conducted by Carole Joffe. Faith Aloud is a pro-choice religious organization which seeks to eliminate the stigma associated with abortion and sexuality, and to provide support to both women and providers.

“Today we pray for women for whom pregnancy is not good news, that they know they have choices.”

“Today we pray for the men in our lives, that they may offer their loving kindness and support for women’s difficult decisions.”

“Today we pray for Christians everywhere to embrace the loving model of Jesus in the way he refused to shame women.”

Above are some of the individual components of the “40 Days of Prayer,”  a series composed by the Rev. Rebecca Turner, a United Church of Christ minister, and the head of Faith Aloud, a pro-choice religious organization based in St. Louis, Missouri. Turner originally wrote these prayers to counter religious-based protests against women’s rights to choose abortion.  For some years, the “40 Days of Prayer” were used in various ways by clinics but ignored by the anti-choice movement. However, recently when a clinic in northern California reprinted the prayers in a brochure,  the movement took notice, and Turner’s prayers—and by extension, the concept of a religiously-based prochoice group—drew much attention from the religious right, including interviews by Fox News and Focus on the Family, and follow up stories in various anti-choice publications.

Below is an interview I conducted with Rev. Turner about her organization, the 40 Days of Prayer, and the reactions of opponents of abortion when news of her activities went viral.

What is Faith Aloud?

Faith Aloud is an interfaith nonprofit organization with a history of 30 years of pro-choice activism. Our mission is to eliminate the religious stigma of abortion and sexuality. We train clergy to talk to women about their pregnancy choices and we receive calls from women all over the country as well as internationally. We also provide spiritual resources for abortion clinics to use to help their religious patients.

Most women in the US identify as religious, and those seeking abortion are no different.  Our resources, created by clergy of several faith groups, offer support to women during times of distress.

Why did you write the 40 Days of Prayer?   

I wrote some prayers and offered them to abortion providers to use whenever and however they wanted to. We’ve since made a full poster of the prayers that is on the walls in many clinics across the country. We were angered by the swarms of protesters that regularly took siege of abortion clinics and would hurl hateful remarks at the women arriving. As a Christian minister, I was especially angered that most of these protesters who were so hateful and judgmental actually call themselves Christian. I wanted women to know that many Christians are compassionate and supportive, and to help them find strength in their religious faith instead of condemnation.

I also wanted to give spiritual support to the other people [affected] by the daily barrage of hate — the clinic staff and escorts. Few people know what they go through every day because of their dedication to women. And few people understand that many of them-doctors, counselors, administrators-are deeply religious people themselves who have often felt rejected by their faith communities. This is wrong. I feel that I am a pastor to many of the abortion providers who use our services. Religious faith should give us strength and confidence, not guilt and shame. I have never understood why anyone would support a religion that shames and judges and ridicules its own members.  That is abusive behavior and should not be tolerated in any setting.

Tell more about your mindset as you wrote the prayers.

I wrote all of the prayers in one day.  I thought about women’s reproductive lives, the difficulties of being female, the choices we make, the relationships we have, the various people who work with pregnant women, and I prayed for them all. Many websites are claiming that we’re praying for more abortions, which is silly. They can read the prayers and see that isn’t the case. Most of the prayers are really all about women and their reproductive lives. We pray for gender discrimination to cease. We pray for women who are abused. We pray for women who are infertile. We pray for women to have confidence. How can they be upset by this? Really I think the only objection to these prayers comes from a deep misogyny that refuses to acknowledge women as autonomous beings with their own spiritual lives. 

How would you characterize the main reactions you have received since this flurry of publicity?  

The media to date has been from anti-choice groups, so most of the people calling and writing to us are their constituents. They are quite hostile, usually rambling, callers are often screaming. They accuse us of pretending to be ministers or Christians. They accuse us of baby-murdering. Emails quote a lot of scripture and tell us we’re going to burn in hell.  We have had some new supporters find us through this, though. And we’ve begun a campaign called “Hate-into-Love” which allows our supporters to pledge donations for each hostile contact we receive. 

Why do you think the 40 Days of Prayer has hit such a nerve with the Right, once they became aware of it?  

They claim they think it’s a mockery of the 40 days for Life campaign, but I don’t think there is any mockery in it. The prayers are quite sincere. Apparently the religious right does not believe that anyone is allowed to pray except those who believe as they do.  This is not a biblical idea; it is pure arrogance. The Christian scriptures say “Judge not, lest you be judged” and yet these people want to judge us as “fake” or “delusional” or even “possessed.” One person who called us after the news broke asked “Are you planning to get groups of people to rally at abortion clinics to pray your prayers?” My answer was “The people inside the clinics are praying every day.”  Prayer does not belong to one group of people. But this seems to be the source of the outrage, that we dare to pray. It is apparently a very scary proposition to them that women might hear a compassionate religious voice and feel strengthened instead of weakened.

What have reactions to this campaign been in the pro-choice community?

A few pro-choice [organizations] have helped to pass along the information about our “Hate-into-Love” campaign and have re-posted the stories. We’re getting pledges from around the country. We’ve been gaining a lot of new Facebook friends [who] learned about us through the negative media.   

Do you think this community is more open now than in the past to a religious presence, such as that offered by Faith Aloud? 

The independent abortion provider community has always been very welcoming of spirituality, seeing it as an important part of a woman’s life and her decisions. But there is an element of the pro-choice community that is less supportive, seeing religion as the problem rather than a part of the solution, and really I can’t blame them for feeling that way. They’ve been threatened and attacked and shamed by religious zealots. But, as I mentioned, most of the women in the United States call themselves religious or spiritual, and so we need to help them use their faith for strength during difficulty. It shouldn’t be about we need, but what women need making difficult decisions.

In the several days that news of the “40 Days of Prayer” has gone viral, you have received much hate mail. Have you received anything from any anti-choice individual or group that suggests some common ground? 

No.  The hate mail tends to fall into these camps “You have no right to call yourself a Christian or pray” or “I’m praying for God’s vengeance on you.” We’re getting some love mail, too, with people finding us for the first time and saying thank you for being a religious voice of compassion and reason.

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  • yor-bro-ken

    Suggested prayer for Reverend Rebecca Turner of Faith Aloud and her followers:

    Matt 27:25     And all the people answered, Let this blood be on us and on our children! [Deut 21:6-9; Ps 26:6.]   AMP

    And this will be the prayer of the righteous:

    Deut 21:7-9   7 And they shall testify, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.

    8 Forgive, O Lord, Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed, and do not allow the shedding of innocent blood to be charged to Your people Israel. And the guilt of blood shall be forgiven them.

    9 So shall you purge the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord.  AMP

  • jennifer-starr

    I don’t see how that prayer fits the situation at all, quite frankly.

  • yor-bro-ken

    Most women would not suspect they were pregnant until after they had missed their first mense and by the time they had missed their second mense the human embryo/fetus would be about 6 weeks in gestation.

     

    At that stage of development there would be a beating heart that was pumping blood thru the human embryo/fetus’ circulatory system.

     

    [I wonder if Ms Turner shares these 'facts' with women she councils who are comtemplating an elecive abortion or does she just say, 'Whatever you do, do quickly and sin no more.']

     

    The vast majority of elective abortions are performed after the 7th week of gestation.

     

    There are no ‘bloodless’ abortions.

     

    There is an ever present ‘reality’ of ‘bloodguiltiness’ associated with committing a premeditated homicide.

     

    Only a sociopath would not feel guilt and shame after killing her/his own child.

     

    I do not accept Rebecca Turner’s accusation that 3rd parties are the source of post abortive womens guilt/shame or her guilt and shame for being an accomplice after the fact.

     

    If Ms Turner believes that Jesus is neutral about the killing of pre-natal children and HE would never use harsh words or violence to communicate HIS displeasure, then she must believe HE used a feather duster and soothing language when he cleansed the temple

     

    or

     

    HE was just having a bad hair day and caugth up in the passion of the moment, when HE called the religious leaders of HIS day a ‘brood of vipers’, ‘ravenous wolves, ‘a devil’, murderers, thieves, liars, and sons of the devil.

     

  • cc

    The above poster, “Yor Bro Ken,” posts on Stanek’s blog as “Ken the Birther” which tells you almost all you need to know right there. But there is more. His hatred of Obama is couched in racist terms. His hatred of Planned Parenthood is revealed in incendiary and misogynist rhetoric which uses words like “whores” and “whore houses” to describe Planned Parenthood workers and Planned Parenthood clinics. He doesn’t seem to have a problem with the assassination of abortion doctors and workers whom he views as the real murderers. He is a radical Christian who combines his anti-abortion zealotry with biblical quotes as seen above. (Heavy on the Old Testament smiting god kind of thing). He was arrested, in the 90′s, during a rash of anti-abortion vandalism in the Pacific Northwest but claims to have been acquitted because he convinced his jury of the evils of abortion. (We could be talking serious personality disorder here, if not outright psychosis.)  The threatening nature of his commentary is barely disguised. 

     

    He appears to live in or near Arlington Texas and once threatened to do a Lila Rose sting, using his daughter, on the Arlington Planned Parenthood clinic. What is really creepy is that he once took pride in how his daughter will be a virgin on her wedding day. Hopefully the FBI is monitoring him as he strikes me as somebody who is very dangerous. But Stanek just loves him because he’s a devout Christian anti-choice radical as she is! 

  • cc

    “When your momma was pregnant with you, what specie of embryo/fetus was present in her uterus?”

    This is Ken’s trademark “gotcha” question. As if species has anything to do with it. Dude is so lame. 


    “I always use the term ‘whore‘ in a non-gender specific manner,  like in the bible.”

     Oh, right. The Bible. No bronze age misogyny here… Dude is so lame. 

  • yor-bro-ken

    ms ogyny, [aka 'cc']

     

    Please explain how the ‘profound question’ is ‘gotcha’.

     

    And thank you for copying and pasting the ‘profound question’ so that it will no longer be hidden and all may read and consider answering it for themselves.

     

  • yor-bro-ken

    “The threatening nature of his commentary is barely disguised.  (We could be talking serious personality disorder here, if not outright psychosis.)” 

     

    If the the ‘truth’ disturbs you then I suggest you implement the ‘Duck and Cover’ tactic we were taught as children.

     

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RHj15wVXec

     

    No need to unecessarily jeopardize the bliss of your igonorance.

  • jennifer-starr

    “When your momma was pregnant with you, what specie of embryo/fetus was present in her uterus?”


    While I can’t be absolutely sure, I think the species was Gallifreyan.  


    Yes, I am being facetious. You know, the funniest thing about this question is that every person who asks something like this imagines that they’re the first to come up with it and that it is uniquely profound. It isn’t. It’s like the creationist people who trot out the ‘If man evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?’  for the 10 zillionth time. It’s lame.

  • crowepps

    “Well, it’s *human* isn’t it?  That means it’s a *person*, doesn’t it?”

    Actually, no.  A person’s cancerous tumor is also human and has unique DNA, so that proves nothing.

  • goatini

    We will no longer let prayer be used by twisted minds that seek to enslave women as breeding containers under Church-approved male ownership.  We profess our belief and our faith in a God who sees us as fully whole, fully human, with full dignity, full autonomy, and full ownership of our own hearts, minds, souls and bodies.  We reject any vicious lies of those who despise and hate women and who attempt to hate us in the name of “God”.  

    We know the Christ loved and respected women as equal to men, for he chose a woman to be the Apostle To The Apostles.  He socialized with women and treated them with dignity and equality, unlike the men of his time who treated women as less than human.  

    We will no more be silent when vicious attacks on us, like the post I am replying to above, use Scripture to bludgeon us and to attempt to shut us up and away.  We will speak our truth in our prayers, for us, for our sisters, and for our families and friends who love and respect us, and we will find our courage to say ENOUGH!  God bless Reverend Rebecca Turner and her good works of the Spirit for womankind and those who love women.  

  • goatini

    How dare you use the Christ, of whom you know nothing, to attack innocent women?

    And how dare you harass women, attacking them with vicious lies when they are innocent?  They have committed NO crime.  They have committed NO sin. They are innocent and blameless.  How dare you harass patients who sought appropriate legal medical care?  Their medical care is of NO interest to you or to anyone else except them, and their families.  

    Only weak, wicked cowards attack people for going to the doctor.  Only weak, wicked cowards think that coercing women into gestational enslavement against their will is something that some insane, hateful “God” wants.  The reality is that the weak, wicked cowards get personal pleasure of a dark and sordid kind from making women suffer, if those women are not silent, obedient and submissive property of a Church-approved male.  

    We thank you, Jesus, for the charism of the Holy Spirit that Reverend Turner brings to us and to all who love women as the Christ loved and respected women.  

  • freetobe

    Sounds like you are speaking for yourself yor bro ken. Sounds a bit like you are the sociopath and control freak. Feeling like there is something in your life that you cannot control? Well go see a shrink and leave us sane people alone.

    And to answer your question of course it is a human. I have known that for years. What took the pro-fetus group so long?

    No one is denying that it is human DNA but you are denying the fact that it takes a woman to grow a fetus and God to determine if said fetus is to survive or not. You are also denying that the woman who is forced by nature to to carry and grow the fetus may not want to. I do not see any of the pro-fetus group stepping up to take these said fetus’s and raise them after they are born. Not that any woman in her right mind would want any of you too. People with control issues should not adopt and most of the pro-fetus group has serious issues. Sorry if the truth hurts.

    If womens lives are not your concern than certainly “her” fetus is none of your damn buisiness either!

  • yor-bro-ken

    I would be glad to discuss what I ‘know’ of and about Jesus the CHRIST, but let us delve into a more elementary matter.

     

    I have had tonsils and teeth removed.

     

    Both involved some blood loss.

     

    Neither resulted in guilt or shame on my part.

     

    I have never read of a physician or dentist who has experienced guilt or shame as a result of performing a tonsilectomy or tooth extraction.

     

    Only a physician or dentist who mamed of killed her/his patient in the process would experience guilt or shame.

     

    Therefore I conclude that the guilt and shame experienced by women who elect to terminate their pre-natal child, and the medical personel who assist them, is not the result of words in a book or images on a placard or opinions freely expressed by others.

     

    The guilt and shame results from doing something wrong, whether or not they knew it to be wrong, at the time they did it.

     

    Being human carries with it what may be viewed by some as inconvienences.

     

    Pain informs you that you are injured or sick and is the first step in the process of healing.

     

    Guilt and shame are spiritual and emotional ‘pain’ which are indications of injury and infirmative in our spirit and our soul.

     

    Denying the pain and/or the injury only delays the healing or accelerates death.

  • yor-bro-ken

    You did not answer the question.

  • yor-bro-ken

    ‘control’

     

    I am married and have four daughters. I was long ago dis-abused of the delusion that I can control any woman or much of anything else for that matter.

     

    cc imagines herself some sort of psuedo psycho woman in black who must monitor the world wide web for those who are emotionally unstable.

     

    cc’s definition of emotionally unstable would be anyone who disgrees with her on the subject of prenatal homicide.

     

    Thank you answering ‘the question’.

     

    Please be so kind as to attach ‘human’ to the embryo/fetus whenever you are advocating for their destruction.

     

    I have never disputed the fact that it takes a female human to gestate a human fetus.

     

    I suppose it is within the realm of possilbility that some day humans could fashion an artificial uterus.

     

    I DO deny that ‘nature’ has forced women to gestate.

     

    I do not view ‘nature’ as the equivalent of GOD.

     

    The house is not equal with the architect.

     

    I have discovered that the ‘truth’ is often painful, but not always.

     

    Tho you may have intended your ‘truth’ to be painful to me it did not cause me pain.

     

    Some of your ‘truth’ is just factually proveably wrong.

  • yor-bro-ken

    Do you live in Afghanistan or did your time machine just arrive from the 1st century?

     

    Today, the only women I know of who live under male ‘ownship’ in majority christian countries are prostitutes.

     

    Please tell us more of this ‘apostola’ to the ‘apostolos’.

     

    Is it from the godspell according to Lady Gaga?

     

    I do recall one apostol who said the old way had been replace by the new way and in Jesus we all have equal access to GOD. [Gal 3:28]

     

    There is an account of one apostol confronting another apostol about his double standard of behavior when his Jewish brethren were around, but I find no where Jesus, or the ‘apostola’ to whom you refer, encouraging or admonishing the brethren for their ‘misogynistic’ ways. [Gal 2:11-15]

     

    “Woman, thou art loosed.”

     

    Please speak your version of the ‘truth’….in LOVE.

     

  • jennifer-starr

    Well, I did answer :) 

  • yor-bro-ken

    “Let this blood be on us and on our children!”

     

    This was the prayer of the people who were clammoring for Jesus the Christ to be executed because they wrongly believed HE was quilty of a capital crime and thereby had forefeited HIS ‘right to life’.

     

    If you are as equally assured in your own arrogance that GOD has no regard  for the ‘blood of the innocent’ pre-natal child, then do quickly what is in your heart to do and dare HIM to hold their blood against you and your household.

     

    Matt 23:35   So that upon your heads may come all the blood of the righteous ( those who correspond to the divine standard of right) shed on earth, from the blood of the righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar [of burnt offering]. [Gen 4:8; 2 Chron 24:21.]  AMP (Luke 11:50-51)

    Gen 4:10-11     And [the Lord] said, What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.   And now you are cursed by reason of the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s [shed] blood from your hand.  AMP

    Your ‘crime’ is worse than Jesus’ accusers because you have no such false accusation against the pre-natal child and whether you are demanding it or not the blood of the innocent is held against those who are accomplices in the homicide, before and after the fact.

     

    Num 35:33   So you shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood shed in it, but by the blood of him who shed it.  AMP

     

    Deut 27:24-25   24 Cursed is he who slays his neighbor secretly. All the people shall say, Amen.

    25 Cursed is he who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person. All the people shall say, Amen.  AMP

     

    Deut 30:19    I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live  AMP

     

    But while you are at it you should also plea for the ‘blood of Jesus’ to be on your head because it is the only acceptible substitute to GOD for your own blood. (Hebrews  10:19:25)

     

    1 John 1:1, 6-7     1[WE ARE writing] about the Word of Life [in] Him Who existed from the beginning, Whom we have heard, Whom we have seen with our [own] eyes, Whom we have gazed upon [for ourselves] and have touched with our [own] hands.

     

    6[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents].

     

    7 But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].  AMP