Despite his charming nod to French tenderness (and its $2600 Saint Laurent price tag), he forgot to extend his “I love you” to all people — only to those who are already born.
When host Joy Behar asked Lentz if it was a sin in his church to have an abortion, Lentz hedged.
“Um,” he started. “That’s the kind of conversation we would have, finding out your story, where you’re from, what you believe. Yeah, I mean, God’s the judge.”
On Tuesday, after backlash over his non-answer had percolated for more than a week, Lentz retreated via Twitter, writing, “I do believe abortion is sinful.” But this reaction came a little late. Abortion is not an “um” issue.
Instead of explaining the values of his faith, the megachurch pastor dodged the question at the moment when he had a chance to reach an audience beyond the 7,000 attendees of his New York City church.
Worse, moments before, Lentz complained to the show’s hosts that people think disagreement with each other means the end of a conversation. He must agree, however, because instead of risking the ire of Behar, he refused to take a stance on an issue where he should’ve expressed clear principles.
“People have to live to their own convictions,” he added.
If I believed that, I’d spend my weekends shopping for thousand-dollar jackets, not wresting myself from a sleep-deprived stupor to attend church on Sunday morning. Last year, I spent the summer attending Lentz’s church in New York City. But, as I realized by August, going to church felt more like fitting in than embracing uncomfortable, but essential, truths.
When Behar asked the talking Saint Laurent jacket whether abortion was an issue with two distinct sides, Lentz was quick to paint himself as a judgement-free safe space — and offend all pro-life Christians in the process.
“Some people would say it is,” he said. “I think to me I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first, find out their story. Before I start picking and choosing what is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”
So those who say abortion is immoral — aloud, and not just on Twitter — cannot also explain who Jesus is, listen to others’ stories without judgement, and learn and speak their names? Nope. We’re those Christians, you know, not the cool ones — the ones who have convictions and don’t shop at Saint Laurent.
Having a conversation with someone about her background, determining the best way to explain truth to her, is acceptable. Scrapping moral standards altogether is not.
Lentz may not have read this in “Always Only Dodging the Question” or whatever he keeps on his nightstand, but learning who Jesus is includes learning what he teaches. And he teaches reverence for all human life.
As Advent and the Christmas season approach, many Christians will hear a particular story from the gospel of Luke read in church: Mary, carrying Christ in her womb, visits her cousin Elizabeth, who knows without words the miracle Mary bears within her. How does the Holy Spirit choose to share this spiritual wisdom with Elizabeth? Through her own unborn child, the infant John the Baptist, who senses the presence of God’s son and leaps within her womb.
“In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’” (Luke 1:42-45).
At this, Mary praises the Lord in a beautiful prayer, the Magnificat, repeated in churches today.
But not Hillsong, probably. Scripture reading is limited to whatever passages strike the pastor as suitable for his sermon. Plus, the pro-life undertones might offend somebody.
Lentz may hope to draw in more believers by sidestepping doctrine, but I’m sorry I ever attended his church. Next time he has the opportunity to witness to non-Christians, maybe instead of spending almost $3000 on a jacket, he could buy himself a few books on theology.
Madeline Fry is a senior studying French.