Why We Fight the Way We Fight

One of the questions pro-life activists are asked often is, “Why don’t you use Christian arguments to make the case against abortion? Isn’t the case against abortion inseparably rooted in the fact that human beings are created in God’s image?”

Well, yes. And also, no. Let me explain.

First of all, the example we would usually give is that of a firefighter. A firefighter wouldn’t cease in his task of saving lives, of pulling endangered human beings from a burning building, to talk about God with people inside the burning building. The immediacy of the circumstances demands that he work first to rescue those being “drawn unto death.” However, we would point out that a firefighter honors God by fighting against imminent and dire circumstances to preserve God’s gift of life. The firefighter’s actions illustrate the underlying truth behind them: That life is precious. Parallel examples (resistance workers pulling Jews off death camp trains, humanitarian workers hiding fleeing refugees from genocidal forces) could also be used to illustrate this point. Just as the actions of these human rights defenders honor God by fighting for those created in His image, so too does the actions of those seeking to defend the lives of those in imminent danger of abortion.

I would argue that to a large degree, the whole pro-life position presupposes the existence of God. After all, why is it wrong to kill human beings? It’s wrong because human beings are valuable. And why are they valuable? Because they are made in the image of God. He Who gave them life is the only One with the right to take it. Abortion, like the intentional destruction of any human life, not only violates human rights but also violates the sovereignty of God.

There is another point to be made here, one made by pro-life apologist Scott Klusendorf: I would categorically reject the premise that there is God’s truth, then, man’s truth. Truth is truth, and if reasonable arguments can be made for the pro-life view, those are God’s reasons.” Thus, to try to draw a differentiation between using explicitly Christian arguments versus, say, an appeal to the pre-born child’s humanity and the inhumanity of abortion, is simply a false dichotomy.

Unfortunately, bringing God into the discussion at universities and (especially) secular high schools, especially in the context of street-level outreach, generally causes you to lose the discussion (and by that I mean, lose the attention and the growing interest of the students approaching us.) It would seem logical to assume that those who have been undervalued, devalued or abused would be open to hearing about Who gave them value. Unfortunately, in our culture today, the reverse is often the case.

(I would note, as an aside, that this is not by any means new. In spite of William Wilberforce’s moral appeals in his anti-Slave Trade speeches to Parliament, the abolitionists generally avoided infusing their official case with biblical rationale. In his seminal work on the abolitionists, Bury the Chains, historian Adam Hochschild notes that such rationale is remarkably absent from abolitionist Thomas Clarkson’s enormous expose of the Slave Trade: “What also makes the Abstract feel surprisingly contemporary is what it does not contain. At a time in history when a large portion of all books and pamphlets were theological tracts and sermons, and in a book that quoted several clergymen as witnesses, the Abstract had no references to the Bible. Clarkson and his comrades somehow sensed that they could better evoke sympathy if they stood back and let the evidence speak for itself, supported by the damning quotations from West Indian laws and newspapers.” Human beings can still generally recognize barbarism when they see it, even if they are hostile to the moral truths that define it as such.)

In a hurting culture, starting with the Big Truth while trying to impart one of the small truths is often counter-productive. Talking to someone who has been abused (emotionally, physically, or sexually) and explaining to them that they were created in the image of an all-powerful God will often result in a simple, hard to debate response: “Well, where was He was all of this was happening to me?”

The question of evil and why God permits it is always the most difficult apologetic question to answer–not in the purely logical, rational sense (that’s pretty easy, especially in the university setting) but in the sense that you’re combating people’s feelings and emotions rather than an objective question such as “Can a God Who is Love permit evil things to happen?”

In conversations with our culture, it’s often about taking baby steps. We’re trying to impart the idea that they as humans have value, in order to build a bridge to the realization that all humans have value. In many street-level debates, not all passersby go the desirable, “I was pro-choice, you talked to me, now I’m pro-life” route –often, we have to lay a foundation. Bringing up the Divine is the opposite of baby steps–suddenly, instead of feeding them ideas in little, bite-sized chunks, we’re trying to ram an entire belief system down their throat. In a culture that does not know God, even the mention of His Name brings up a million questions. Who is God? Which religion is right about Him? Does He love me? Why did He allow these things to happen to me? What does His existence imply for my life and how I live it? Keep in mind—we’re trying to protect innocent children from imminent death, and thus often do not have a lot of time to convince someone not to kill their child. No one has ever suggested that those hiding humans fleeing genocide should have first attempted to convert them to Christianity before taking them under protection and into hiding—the imminent danger of the situation demands immediate action. The Good Samaritan did not first take the wounded man to church or the synagogue, but to get healed from his wounds.

Having an internally consistent Christian worldview often makes it extremely difficult when talking to a borderline illiterate, over-sexed, visually driven culture, as you’re constantly wanting to show people the results of their own beliefs, or logical extensions (presuppositions or inevitable conclusions) of those beliefs. Unfortunately, in order to fully engage with our specific mission–which is to turn a culture against abortion and solidify the growing belief that it violates human rights–we have to have a laser-focus. Those who fight for everything often end up fighting nothing. We can’t take on the entire forces of Darkness, even though we can rob Satan of many of his victims. And we do. Every day.

That being said, I firmly believe that turning someone pro-life is often the first step towards introducing them to greater Truth. We see time and time again that in order for today’s culture to recognize that Truth exists at all; they have to be convinced of some part of it. They often begin to ask what else is true, what else they have accepted that may be a lie. We see often that for people to remember they have a conscience, it needs to be pricked, awakened. Our projects, which graphically expose the reality of abortion, unequivocally do that. Much of our opposition is the startled cries of pain of consciences that have not seen the light in far too long (and don’t our eyes always hurt when the light is suddenly switched on?) We are the first point of contact in a heavily secularized culture to introduce these young people to inherently Christian concepts that are totally foreign to them–concepts like self-sacrifice, forgiveness, human dignity, human value, truth, and right and wrong. We are directly undermining the suicidal but prevalent concept of moral relativism every day. In our specific role as anti-abortion activists, we might not be able to take down the whole rotting house. But we can take a jackhammer to the foundation.

The pro-life movement is but one segment of a broader Culture of Life that is at war with a broader, secularized Culture of Death. We have been tasked with defending one small part of a much greater Truth. The first point of contact doesn’t win the war or even the battle, but it does establish a bridgehead. Concepts such as those I mentioned above are, I think, a bridgehead in a culture that is rejecting so much of what is right and beautiful. Often in discussion people go from “abortion is wrong” to “I should not have sex before marriage” without us even bringing it up–the premises we are teaching them lead to other, almost inevitable conclusions. The newest generation of young people has experienced the full brunt of the fallout of the Sexual Revolution, from broken families, the disappearance of true, self-sacrificing love, a quarter of their generation butchered by abortion, rampant STD’s, and a nihilistic lack of truth. We as anti-abortion activists are trying to help them reject a large part of that legacy.

Others, we hope, will help us with the rest.”

My Encounter with an Abortionist

Every day, at the crack of dawn, our sons Jonah and Elliot climb into our bed to snuggle together and sleep for a little longer. Today was different. While the house was quiet and the sun still hid behind the horizon, I laid awake thinking about last night’s debate. It became clear that my opponent, Dr. Fraser Fellows, had no coherent argument for abortion, nor did he rebut the pro-life case against abortion—more about this in a post on CCBR’s blog later. But an event like this also warrants personal reflection.

It is one thing to fight abortion on a daily basis; it is something entirely different to meet a man—a husband, father, and grandfather, pleasant to speak to in person—who has literally crushed the skulls of thousands of little children over the years. And so this morning, struggling to comprehend the depth and close proximity of this evil, I picked up “Real Christianity” by William Wilberforce, the British politician who tirelessly fought and ended the slave trade. Very fittingly, he writes the following:

“We need to see our true state as God sees it. Because of His perfect purity and His ability to know us better than we know ourselves, it is likely that He sees problems and failures we are barely conscious of—if we recognize them at all. God always operates in the now. Over time, our defense systems have the ability to dull the conviction of the acts and attitudes that violate God’s holiness. Remorse can turn to faint recognition. But God still knows those actions in the now.

Think of the implications of this observation for the person who has not had an authentic encounter with Jesus Christ or embraced His finished work on the cross as payment for all sin. What if this person had to appear before Christ at this very moment with the full impact and offensive nature of every sin he or she has ever committed revealed in His presence? When I imagine such a scene, it helps me come to grips with the true state of my spiritual life. It is always sobering.”

I shudder as I imagine Dr. Fellows appearing before the Judgment Seat, with the blood of thousands of God’s creatures dripping from his fingers. As much as I hate the “work” he does, I fervently hope that our encounter may serve to break his resolve to provide abortion, currently causing a bloody trail of destruction in our culture and his own soul. With this hope, I gifted Dr. Fellows the autobiography of John Newton—the slave trader who helped to bring over 20,000 African men, women, and children into slavery with his ship before being rescued by amazing grace.

However, with all the interest in a debate like yesterday’s, let us not forget ourselves. How will I stand before God? What will that day be like for each of us? As William Wilberforce aptly points out, that’s a sobering thought. If not covered by the blood of the Lamb, God’s eternal wrath will rest on me as it will on an unrepentant abortionist—though the Bible is clear that those who knew better will be punished all the more. Yet, the remedy for all sinners, from abortionists to outwardly moral people who miss the heart of the matter, can still be found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who laid down His life for enemies.

In that, He provided the perfect example of what it means to love. True love means wanting the other’s good. It requires sacrifice. And it is manifested through our actions for those around us. Aside from His own life, the Lord Jesus illustrates that in many different stories and examples, perhaps most powerfully in the parable of the sheep and the goats.

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:31-33).

The following verses make it very clear that, when weighing the lives and actions of those on the right and the left, Jesus counts service to the least as service to Himself. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (vs. 40). Whatever you did for the least of these, you have done it for me. The Saviour personally identifies with the hungry, thirsty, naked, marginalized, and oppressed. Would it be far-fetched to say pre-born children fit that description?

In his book “Love the Least (a Lot)”, Michael Spielman writes, “The God of the universe humbled himself not just to become a man, but to become a child, an infant, a fetus, and an embryo! To those on his left, to those cursed with eternal fire, Jesus says, ‘I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not (vs. 42, 43).’ Is it really such of a stretch to imagine him also saying, I was in the womb and you gave me no care, I was threatened by abortion and you did not intervene, I was an embryo and you said I didn’t matter, a fetus and you said there were more important things to do? The measuring stick of Christian love is not what we do for our friends. It’s not what we do for the healthy and put together. It’s what we do for the ‘least of these.'”

While the Bible is clear that good works will not merit us salvation but are rather to be done in obedience and thankfulness to God, this parable powerfully illustrates that our actions will be weighed in the balance. As Spielman notes, “We would do well to feel the weight of Christ’s warning to the goats.”

This is also true in light of my debate with Dr. Fellows. When confronted with those who willingly advocate and carry out a worldview that literally leaves little children in the trash, it is fitting to take inventory of our own lives. What matters at the end of the day is whether we are reconciled with God, but let’s not think that’s a spiritual question without practical implications. The Great Commission is to love the Lord above all and our neighbour as ourselves. And love, the Lord Jesus shows us, is a verb.

When God’s creatures are destroyed in our culture, loving Him and our neighbour—both born and pre-born—can mean nothing else than taking action. So march on we must, being a voice for the voiceless in the place we’ve been given in this life, but with the disposition of my 3-year old who remarked this morning,

“Let’s pray for that Doctor and for all the babies. Because the Lord can do everything.”

The Sexual Revolution and Pro-Life Men

The Sexual Revolution sparked a fifty-year “gender war” that has cost us millions of pre-born lives–and in no small part due to the decline of biblical masculinity. In a workshop for men at the Rescue Summit in Ottawa on March 1, Jonathon Van Maren examines how men have become victimizers, how men have become victims, and how we are called to reject both of those paradigms and stand up for those in our society who need it most.