Jumping and Joyful: On the Alignment of Dobbs and John the Baptist

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June 24th marks the anniversary of Dobbs v. Jackson, the Supreme Court decision which overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the era of unrestricted abortion. June 24th is also the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, who leaped in the womb at the presence of Christ. It’s a jumping and joyful providence.

Celebrating Dobbs

Anglicans celebrate Dobbs because we celebrate life.

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Released on June 24th, 2022, Dobbs v. Jackson overturned Roe v. Wadethe 1973 Supreme Court decision which launched an era of unrestricted abortion. In the 49 years from Roe to Dobbs, more than 60,000,000 babies were killed by legal abortion in America. Dobbs is, therefore, one of the most significant reversals in the history of the Supreme Court, alongside Brown v. Board, which overturned 58 years of racial segregation going back to Plessy v. Ferguson.

Christians have always recognized human life in the womb and opposed the practice of abortion. By killing an innocent human life, abortion is a violation of the 6th commandment, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Though in Christ we are not saved by the moral law, Jesus did instruct his followers to keep the law, including the prohibition of murder (see Luke 18:20).

And so we see the earliest Christians disciplining themselves to oppose abortion. The Didache, a manual for Christian life from the first century, instructs Christians to “not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born” (Didache, 2.2). Similarly, the Letter of Barnabas, a second-century text, instructs: “You shall not abort a child nor, again, commit infanticide” (Barnabas, 19.5). The Didache and Letter of Barnabas taught on these topics because abortion and infanticide were common in pagan Roman society.

Today abortion is common once again. And though Roe is overturned, abortion continues in more than half of our American states. The latest statistics show tens of thousands fewer abortions since Dobbs, but still hundreds of thousands of abortions around the country. Let us, therefore, celebrate Dobbs and continue to be Anglicans for Life because every human being is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 9:6).

Celebrating John

Anglicans celebrate John the Baptist because he pointed to Jesus Christ, even when both were in the womb.

June 24th is the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, the day we celebrate John’s birth. Also called Johnmas or the Summer Christmas, it occurs almost exactly six months before Christmas. The dating comes from Luke, where Gabriel tells Mary that Elizabeth “has conceived” and in her “sixth month” (Luke 1:36).

It also seems especially providential that Dobbs was handed down on June 24th because we have a story of John the Baptist’s activity in the womb. Luke recounts how, after conceiving Jesus, Mary went to visit her pregnant cousin Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, John the Baptist “leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41).

Those who promote abortion argue that babies in the womb have no right to life because their capacities are not as developed as adults. But as every biologist (and every mother) knows, babies are unique individuals from the moment of their conception, growing according to their unique genetic code and even kicking and leaping in the womb. In fact, all babies are like John the Baptist in that their lives point to Christ as the author of life. Christ is the Lord who “knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).

Most saints are celebrated on the day of their death, but John’s principal celebration is on the day of his birth. Therefore, The Nativity of John points especially to the value of life, birth, and the joy of life in Christ. Elizabeth described John this way, “the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44).

In the womb and before his birth, John the Baptist was already jumping and joyful.

Celebrating Pregnant Moms & Their Babies

How, then, can we Anglicans live out our pro-life convictions on June 24th? Here are some ideas for worship and contemplation:

  • We can read about the conception, joyful leaping, and birth of John. All these stories are in Luke 1.
  • We can sing psalms and hymns that celebrate the life of children, such as Psalms 8, 127, and 128.
  • We can pray for every pregnant mom and unborn child.

And here are some ideas for community life and public action:

  • We can celebrate the pregnant moms in our midst, together with the babies they carry. We can send them notes, buy them gifts, and share the joy of new life with them.
  • We can donate diapers, money, or time to a local pregnancy center. In addition to the material support, such gifts provide hope to pregnant moms at the crucial moment when they feel the temptation to have an abortion.
  • We can work with Anglicans for Life or other pro-life organizations, advocating for the life of babies.

When we do these things, openly living out our Biblical convictions and sharing the joy of life in Christ, it is not uncommon that we will receive some criticism, whether in open opposition or silent judgment. In these moments, Jesus offers us specific encouragement:

Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets (Luke 6:22-23).

Notice that Jesus uses the same language that described John the Baptist in the womb. Just as John “leaped for joy” as a witness to Christ, so do we “leap for joy” when we witness to Christ, even when we are reviled.

Cover image by Thiago Cerqueira on Unsplash.

Author

Peter Johnston

The Ven. Dr. Peter Johnston is the Ministry President of Anglican Compass. He is a priest and archdeacon in the Anglican Diocese of All Nations and the rector of Trinity Lafayette. He lives with his wife, Carla, and their seven children near Lafayette, Louisiana.

View more from Peter Johnston

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