December 14, 2019

How are you going to fight that fight?

Trevin Wax and many, many other blogs have reported the story of the death of a baby born alive during an abortion procedure in Florida.

Trevin calls this the pinnacle of wickedness, and no rational, morally sensitive person would disagree. But we don’t live in a rational or morally coherent age.

In the very same week, the President said, at the National Prayer Breakfast, that no one believes in a God who approves of the death of the innocent. Plenty of commentators have pointed out the irony of that statement as well.

But I’m increasingly frustrated by my fellow Christians on this issue. Let me tell you why.

1) There are massive amounts of talk. Constant, never ending talk on radio, blogs and television. But it’s not persuasive talk. It’s the speech of moral outrage, and that is appropriate at times. But it is not the talk of cultural change, mind-changing or policy change. It is the kind of talk that convinces the already convinced, but which makes the unconvinced feel cornered and yelled at.

2) There is an increasing undertone of of “anything goes” in the rhetoric of many Christians. Certainly, this issue will bring about a lot of emotion and strong feelings. But does “anything go?” Can you say anything and do anything without regard for boundaries and restraint? What’s our ethical responsibility when we respond?

3) The endless escalation of this issue will result in violence, either verbal or physical. Unstable people, angered by outrageous acts that inflame their emotions over their reason, will perpetuate a cycle of violence. Christians bear responsibility, in my view, to find a way to focus without creating the beginnings of a cycle of vengeance and revenge in the minds of those for whom violence is justified in this cause.

4) The civil rights struggle should be a great teacher for Christians who are pro-life, but I see little evidence of it. Dr. King and others had a sophisticated response to a deeply ingrained culture of hate: they out-loved, out-risked, and out-suffered them. Yes, there was rhetoric. Yes, there were speeches. But the civil rights struggle was a personal struggle won by people putting themselves on the line and saying “we will quietly, stubbornly, lovingly, sacrificially defeat this evil.” I don’t see leaders emulating or imitating this model. It’s just more and more and more outrage, and little conversion.

5) The Amish school tragedy has haunted many Christians. Are we prepared to respond to moral outrage and violence with greater love and greater forgiveness? Do we even have it in us? If such an act had happened in Christian schools, would there have been angry mobs outside the jails demanding a violent revenge? The lessons in the pro-life struggle are obvious: can we love those who perpetuate this evil? I can take you to blogs right now that will say we should not love them and that we have no responsibility to love them. Our response, according to these discernabloggers, should be hate and retaliation in the name of protecting the innocent.

6) Do we want a fight, or do we want to save lives? Do we want a fight, or do we want to persuade? Do we want a fight, or do we want to humble ourselves as a Christian community and admit how many of those abortions are our daughters? How many are of women living within shouting distance of our churches?

7) Is there a consistent pro-life response among American Christians? Are we outraged by children starving in Africa? Are we outraged by the innocents suffering in war? Are we outraged by child soldiers and the trafficking in sex slaves? Are we outraged by child abuse, sexual abuse and preventable disease? Are we willing to think in terms beyond the clear, outrageously evil stories such as the throw-a-way baby in Florida to see the pro-life issues all around us?

8] Is there a response to the pro-life cause that pays the bills? Writes legislation that makes slow, compromising progress? Is there a response that creates alternatives for women likely to seek abortion? Is there a willingness to risk family embarrassment to deal with our daughters’ pregnancies in ways other than a quick procedure? Can Christians, pastors, churches and ministries make a response that is practical, on the ground and real world, or is the main appeal here the opportunity to be outraged, angry and to keep on shouting?

My students and fellow adult Christians are almost universally pro-life. Some may have marched or answered phones in a crisis pregnancy clinic. I don’t know. Most of what I see is a lot of anger. Shocking pictures. An almost visceral, emotional ranting to release frustration, but little actual engagement or even understanding of the issue beyond what they emotionally hate.

I want to see more. I want a deeper, more effective response. I don’t want to just be angry. I want to see the problem addressed, minds changed, dialogue happen, truth told and people loved. I want to see progress by slow compromise if that is all we can get for now. I want to see Christians consistently applying the pro-life position to all of life.

The scripture says that the anger of man doesn’t create the righteousness of God. The way of love is far more difficult, but it is not optional for the follower of Jesus.

Comments

  1. “But that is the Biblical stand. If you reject the Bible, it’s not going to make any sense… The Bible even predicts this”

    So if one takes what you say there to be true… how exactly then does a pro-life person hope to accomplish anything by arguing from the Bible with people who reject its authority?

    This is a prime example of talking past somebody.

  2. Re. abortion is murder:
    Of course it is. But we don’t treat all murders the same. There are extenuating circumstances (temporary insanity, ignorance, coercion). Also, you are fooling yourselves if you think laws are logical. They probably should be, but ultimately, laws serve us.

  3. Re. life begins at conception:
    Fertility clinics are a thread unto themselves!

    Suffice to say, before conception you have two sex cells (half chromosome) from the adults.

    After, you have a new set of DNA.

    After that there is only development (unless you believe some miracle happens which magically transforms a blob of tissue into a human being).

    From that point of view, any birth control which can prevent implantation must be abstained from (as a consistent pro-lifer). Similarly, people should not be made in labs, unless you are sure you are going to bring them to term. And certainly not to be dissected for medical experiments!

  4. I think the acorn analogy is wrong. Acorn does not equal embryo. Acorn equals egg or sperm, depending on whether the oak is male or female. This may not be good botany, but it is good logic. Maybe pollen equals sperm.

  5. Nedbrek-

    The “miracle” is that a woman has her entire biology hijacked to support this embroyo, that turns it into a human. Seriously, what do you guys think pregnancy IS?

    Bob-
    An acorn is a fertilized nubbin. The fertilization has already taken place (pollen is essential sperm). If there is no fertilization, there will be no acorn.

    You’re botany is bad.

  6. Antigone, perhaps we have a different understanding of what it means to be human.

    I believe a human is what it is because of how it is made (“intrinsic value”), its DNA (and the like, mitochondrial DNA, etc.)

    It sounds like you may be supporting an “extrinsic” value – that our value comes from what have done, or can do, or reasons other people value us.

    Would you agree?

  7. Nope. I’m going with how it’s made, I just put the line at sentience. I also don’t consider what a woman to do as passive to the creation of life.

  8. nedbrek:
    I believe a human is what it is because of how it is made (”intrinsic value”), its DNA (and the like, mitochondrial DNA, etc.)

    I believe a human is what it is because we have a soul. Life doesn’t exist without a soul. You can discuss DNA, however, much of the human genome occurs in other species. What distinguishes humans is that we have the ability to reason. If you want to argue the point that life begins at conception, for humans you also have to state that it is at conception that we are given a soul, our personhood.

  9. Steved, I don’t know what a soul is. As a Christian, I believe God created us “body and soul/spirit”, but I don’t know how to measure that. To destroy human bodies, based on our assumptions of what a soul is and when it is given cannot be justified.

    To non-Christians, soul is a meaningless term. Even the Greek and Hebrew terms may be referring to “the whole person” rather than some other created aspect of Man.

  10. I’m a Christian, and I am pro-choice. I have been a social worker in prisons, in domestic violence, in child abuse – and I couldn’t come to any other conclusion but that some of these kids AND their parents would be better off if they hadn’t been born.

    Here’s a thought to consider – which I’m sure some of you won’t – but you cannot put a baby up for adoption without the consent of the father. So, a woman (maybe she has kids already and maybe she doesn’t) who is fleeing a domestic violence situation. On top of it all, she’s pregnant. She would like to put this new baby up for adoption, but she can’t because “daddy” won’t sign the papers. If she has that baby – she will in some way be tethered to that man for the rest of her life. Not to mention all the nasty mind games the child will be subjected to or the abuse he/she will witness as “daddy” uses the kid as a pawn to try and control mom. Now, eventually, social services MIGHT intervene and forcibly remove the child, but probably not before they’re severely messed up for life. This isn’t a hypothetical case. I run into it three or four times a year. I won’t even start about the family that social services wouldn’t remove the kids because the kids were so emotionally/mentally traumatized from all the abuse they’d witnessed that no foster family would touch them.

    How about the life long alcoholic, dying of cirrhosis at the ripe ol’ age of 36 whose *daddy* used to poor wine on his breakfast cereal when they didn’t have milk? He used to say he was a poster child for abortion.

    The 18 year old in prison for the rest of his life who committed murder while trying to get drug money – he got high for the first time WITH HIS MOTHER AT THE AGE OF SEVEN.

    I know some local lawyers who have a fantasy of being able to offer $5000 for people who willingly get sterilized. I keep pointing out to them that the people who will take advantage of that won’t be the people who really SHOULD get sterilized. It’ll be more or less responsible people – like me – who weren’t going to have any more kids anyway, but could do with an extra five grand.

  11. Now, I’m REALLY against coercing sterilization. That has a really nasty history of being racist and classist, particularly in the United States.

  12. Aliasmoi, your work sounds very stressful, and I am glad you do it. But, I’m curious as to what you think the purpose and value of life is, that you could say what you say.

  13. I really wanted to call bullcrap on the Florida Catholic story, but I just got off the phone with the Hiliah, FL police department, and it really happened just like the Florida Catholic says it did. They’re trying to bring criminal charges against the clinic owners – as of last week. I’m waiting for a phone call from the Dade County Clerk of Court. What can I say? It’s been a slow day here. I thought I’d do a little fact checking.

    Why haven’t we read about this in a credible news source? I realize that this originally happened in 2006, but a Google search turned up no news articles from 2006. Plus, like I said – the case is ongoing. The only *news* sources I can get on this is various pro-life publications.

  14. That Other Jean says

    Nedbrek: “To non-Christians, soul is a meaningless term.”

    Say what? Religions that believe in an afterlife or re-incarnation all believe in some non-material part of a person that survives death, which generally gets what’s coming to it after death based on what happened in this life. By definition, that’s a soul, and it’s pretty important to a lot of non-Christians.

  15. I think life is very precious – which is why I don’t think a precious immortal soul should be brought into this world to live through the horrors that I have seen these kids (some now adults) subjected to.

    Like I said, the life long alcoholic – dying of cirhosis at the age of 36 – said he was a poster child for abortion. Not just because of how sad and tragic his own life, but because of the devestation he caused in the lives of others.

    The kid who started getting high with his mom at the ripe old age of seven went on to extinquish another precious light. That wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been born.

    The kids that social services straight up said they wouldn’t remove because of how messed up they were – one of them ripped an earring out of my ear. Now, that individual is still a fairly young/small child. Imagine the kind of damage he/she will be able to cause when they’re big enough?

  16. Aliasmoi, you witness first hand the “overwhelming sinfulness of sin”. The solution is not to kill sinners, the solution is to give them the Gospel.

  17. It seems to me the concept of the soul is both immortal and amaterial- if I read you right, Aliasmoi, the souls of the people you mention (the guy who calls himself a poster child for abortion?) would be better served if they continued to exist in the pre-material/non-body state? Am I understanding you right?

  18. Sarah I’m not sure I believe something the size of a grain of salt that hasn’t even got a heart beat yet has a soul, but yes…. If some of these parents had chosen to terminate in the early stages of pregnancy, then at best they’d be safe in the arms of heaven.

  19. Since plenty of “sin” has been done by people spreading the gospel, I call into question your prescription, nedbrek.

  20. James T Kirk says

    Great points, I-monk.

    MLK and the Southern CHRISTIAN Leadership Council won by changing the hearts and minds FIRST, the laws came later!

    We Christians (necessarily pro-life, abortion is thoroughly antichrist) need to go the extra effort to win hearts and minds, not just point fingers and blame at the Clintons and O’Donnells of our nation.

  21. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Why haven’t we read about this in a credible news source? — Aliasmoi

    Not news.
    doubleplusungood refs doubleplusunevents.
    doubleplusungood refs doubleplusunpersons.
    memhole.
    — Our Betters the Media

  22. Antigone,
    You make an excellent point! I will be the first to announce that I am a sinner! It was this realization which made me look for a savior. It is only when we acknowledge that we are sinners (liars, thieves, adulterers) that we can come, broken and desperate, to the cross of Jesus.

    A Christian is still a sinner, just forgiven.

  23. Then what good is Christianity in the here-and-now? If it does not result in people being more moral, or treating people better, then what good is being Christian?

    If I saw some sign that Christians as a group were better than any individual person; or heck, that after a conversion, that all the people who converted were more moral, then I’d be willing to call it a prescription for social ills. But as it does not, I don’t see how advocating for it is going to fix any problem at all.

    I don’t wish to be forgiven for anything I’ve done, until I’ve actually redeemed myself in the eyes of who I’ve hurt, and hopefully have learned not to do that again. A third-party cannot grant me that.

  24. Aliasmoi-

    If you google it, you find that the story does show up in a few Florida papers. Otherwise, I’d imagine it didn’t show up because it doesn’t sell papers.

    Some days I wish news was required to be non-profit: then maybe they’d actually do their jobs as the 4th Estate.

  25. Internet Elias says

    The Christian who believes the Bible is the Word of God will generally argue that giving and taking of life should be left to God. The intent of Roe vs Wade..in its beginning…was for the woman in CRISIS to, along with her doctor, pastor, and whomever’s advice she seeks….to make a decision she can tolerate. The perfect situation for pregnancy is that it be within the confines of a love relationship. Procreation, as intended by God, would result in the ‘one flesh’ offspring of the parents. But modern times seemingly considers sexual relationships as sport more than for procreation and turns to abortion for unwanted pregnancies. Personally, as a Christian, I believe life begins at conception. I taught severly disabled students for eighteen years. Many of my students were premature…weighing 1 to 2 pounds. They developed into beautiful people who made the world better for their being in it. I believe there are many personal reasons women have abortions. Whether those reasons are justified…rape…incest..and so forth…only God knows. As a Christian who is a democrat, I take a lot of chomping over abortion. In my view, only one person is accountable in an abortion….the woman who chose it. I’m not outraged over abortion because I have given my outrage to God. I’ll probably get screeched at by some commentors…..but I believe, from the standpoint of scripture, that the unborn child goes from death to life….as do we all. I’m bothered by the ‘dead murdered baby’ talk, paintings showing Jesus holding a limp incomplete aborted baby, and references to the defenseless unborn. If there is a God. If scripture is His voice. If there is an after-life…then we focus wrongly on abortion. In an abortion, my concern if for the woman….not the child. The child immediately goes to perfect LIFE…..in my belief. I know not everyone believes that. But I do. The woman who is desparate, has an abortion, and suffers over that loss is my concern. I believe abortion is sinful. But abortion is no different to adultery, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, child abuse, knowing children are starving around the world and doing nothing to help, divorce caused by infidelity with no repentance, and the poverty and struggle in which many with intellectual deficits find themselves. Where’s the outcry for the kids in these situations? An aborted unborn goes to God. These others are left here in this death to suffer. Where’s the outcry? And I know there are many compassionate people to do care and who do help with these other situations….but…mostly due to political rhetoric…the fists are aimed at abortion for political reasons mostly. Wisdom requires that all things be kept in perspective. Abortion is only one of the many, many sad realities of our time.

  26. Antigone, (“Then what good is Christianity in the here-and-now?”):

    The good of Christianity is that it is true.

    That said, there should be some improvement in the behavior of Christians (a lot of people who say they are Christians, aren’t).

    “I don’t wish to be forgiven for anything I’ve done, until I’ve actually redeemed myself in the eyes of who I’ve hurt”

    There is a horizontal (man-to-man) component of sin. But there is also a vertical (man-to-God) component. This is because God created man. Bad analogy:
    If you hurt someone’s dog, you are sorry to the dog – but you also apologize to the owner. How much more, if the owner made the dog from nothing!

    And people are much more valuable than dogs. This makes the hurt to God much greater.

    It is redemption from God that we all need need most.

  27. Nedbrek-

    I disagree, but suggest we take this back to my blog.

  28. TO: Internet Elias

    praise the lord..i have finally found a poster who shares my beliefs. i am not sure why people grasp at abortions and homosexuality-in the eyes of god all sin is equal. god hates sin…any sin…i think abortion should be left to the doctor and the mother…and in my beleif they will answer to god. as others have said, if a woman has an abortion and isnt a christian then she isnt gonna even consider that as a detriment to having the abortion in the first place. im sure lots of non christian women dont have abortions, just as lots of christian women do have them. in the end god will be the one who decides the fate. thats what i beleive. do christians forget that cheating on your taxes, calling in to work sick when you arent, cheating on your spouse…all of those are just a great a sin as the other.

    i know this wasnt in the thread but i am excited to hear someone voice this opinion, i dont hear that very often. i often wonder why people dont get as upset over adultery or lying or stealing as they do over abortion or homosexuality–they are all a sin in gods eyes-none less or more..just a plain and simple sin.

    god bless you all