Colin Jost: “It seems like you really do want to talk about your abortion.”
Cecily Strong: “Well, actually I really don’t, but people keep bringing it up, so I gotta keep talkin’ about freakin’ abortion!”
This weekend, SNL’s Weekend Update segment featured guest clown Goober (Cecily Strong) and an uncomfortable mix of gags and thinly-veiled commentary about the Texas abortion legislation being debated in the Supreme Court.
The segment wasn’t funny.
Which was the point.
Dressed in a bright red nose, wacky checkers, stripes, and polka dots, Strong was trying to make a statement about the way clowns–à la women–are treated in the abortion discussion. The conservative response to the Goober the Clown skit proved her point. I saw several repost the video with comments to this effect: “They forgot about the unborn child” or “Abortion isn’t a laughing matter.”
It’s this very “meme-ification” of abortion that illustrates how we turn individual women who have actually had abortions into a punchline. A joke. A clown.
For most of us, when the topic of abortion comes up in the news, in the courts, in the voting booth, we offer up the party line–whether pro-life or pro-choice–and we move on. When a segment like the one from SNL pops onto the timeline, we share it tagged with our predictable support or disapproval, perhaps a sarcastic comment, and forget about it minutes later. Meanwhile, real women–women like Cecily Strong–are hearing everything that you and I mindlessly share and say. I can imagine how they might begin to realize, “The world thinks my life, my pain, my fear, my experience is one big joke.”
“Who’s Cecily? I’m Goober. And I wish I didn’t have to do this because the abortion I had at 23 is my personal clown business. But that’s all some people in this country want to discuss all the time…”
I wonder, do you know who the Cecily is in your life? Did you know 1 in 3 women have had an abortion? Strong says, “You don’t because they don’t tell you.” She’s not wrong. Which means, whenever you wax eloquent at the Thanksgiving table this year about your pro-life views, when you get heated in the church small group about the evils of abortion, when you share that latest political meme, there’s a Cecily within earshot. Do you care? Or is she just some Goober whose story doesn’t matter?
In his first epistle, John makes a point about our love. We are fools–clowns–if we think we love an unseen God when we don’t even love our seen brothers and sisters (1 John 4:20). But the same logic follows when it comes to abortion: “He who does not love [Cecily] whom he has seen cannot love [the baby] whom he has not seen.”
Can we love Cecily enough not to treat her like a clown? Can we care less about crafting just the right punchline to stick it to the other side and more about cultivating compassion for sinners? Can we learn to love the Cecilys we see everyday–but do not realize are Cecilys?
It’s a trite accusation against pro-lifers that we only care about unborn babies. But words are powerful things. The way we speak, think, and share about abortion in the abstract communicates to those who have had abortions how we will love, care, and extend forgiveness to them if we ever were to find out.
On the one hand, Goober the Clown may inspire many to “shout their abortion,” but I wonder whether it can spur churches on toward becoming places where women like Cecily can confess the truth–and find unconditional forgiveness. The local church ought to be a place where we eat and drink with the Son of Man, “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” And Cecilys--like you and me.