A Missional Way for the Pro-Life Passion
Let me lay my cards on the table:
1) If you put overturning Roe v. Wade to a popular vote, I’m in line early ready to vote in favor of protecting the approximately one million unborn babies killed each year, and if you’re a politician, the best way to lose my vote is to align with the pro-choice agenda.
2) Nevertheless, I don’t believe laws — or the protests and petitions and politicking that seek to achieve them — are how we are going to eradicate abortion. Overturning Roe v. Wade is a win — and it’s a win we should work for — but in my way of thinking, it is not the win.
The emancipation of the slaves was necessary. But it didn’t end racism.
I am not proposing an either/or. What I’m proposing is that evangelicals take the harder route, adopt the harder cause, that we aim for Spiritual change of hearts more than we aim for legal stay of hands.
Here are some thoughts on how we may do this:
1. Gospel-centered preaching. Here’s the thing: Pastors who preach culture war receive Amens from the already convinced and almost nothing from everybody else. At its worst a steady dose of this creates an unhealthy “us vs. them” mentality that has us thinking of our enemies in ways the Sermon on the Mount strictly forbids. But pastors who proclaim the freedom from sin and abundant life in Christ lay groundwork for zeal for life, not just for winning political battles. A gospel-driven pro-life agenda means hating abortion because we love women and we love the unborn. That sounds like a no-brainer but so many of our evangelical countrymen just sound like they hate abortion. And preaching isn’t just for pastors. In general, more evangelicals need to talk Jesus more than they talk politics, or else we unintentionally communicate that our greatest treasure is “getting our country back” and that our chief message is political. We are great with the good news of the kingdom of the founding fathers. Let’s return to the good news of the kingdom of God.
2. Reframing the abortion discussion. Lots of others have said this better than I can, but I think we’ve dropped the ball on how we frame the abortion issue. It is a matter of human rights, of civil rights, which is a perspective I first heard from my deeply pro-life friend who voted for Barack Obama. (I know, figure that one out.) But this is how we will best win in the political arena, I think. In many cases, this involves merely shifting from arguing against selfish moms (or whatever) and arguing for an appropriate definition of when life begins and becoming advocates for the voiceless unborn, exploited and commoditized. We can steer the discussion into the same rhetoric of the abolitionist and civil rights movements and end up stirring more hearts, I think.
3. Creating cultures of adoption and rescue. Human trafficking is the emerging danger. It’s been going for a long time, but the Church is recently (and awesomely) stepping up efforts to combat it, even here in America. My friend Justin Holcomb and his wife lead efforts of Mars Hill Church in Seattle to rescue sex workers, sex abuse victims, and runaways in their city. Others are working hard to rescue young girls from the sex trade. On the other front, the Church is exponentially embracing the beauty of adoption. It has become a bona fide movement, thank God. The reactive culture of rhetoric and protests must give way to these proactive missionary movements. We will begin changing hearts and minds on these matters of life and death as we create cultures of adoption and rescue. But only communities can create cultures, so churches have to buy in corporately. More families adopting, more families serving and taking in pregnant teens, more churches helping families do those things, more churches loving families and kids, more churches finding ways to minister to the exploited and marginalized and to support missions and organizations that already are . . . these are the pro-active, missional steps to creating truly pro-life cultures.
4. Prophets, not pundits. I don’t know how else to put this. We need an MLK for the pro-life movement, a unifying and prophetic voice. We need intellectually strong but charming, powerful, winsome statesmen. We need people who aren’t just jockeying for time on FoxNews. I don’t even know if this is possible today, given the nature of media exposure and the divide between political parties — whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans marched with King; I wonder if we haven’t so aligned the pro-life cause with conservative Republicanism that that kind of unity would be impossible for our cause — but we need a peacemaker with a powerful voice. The only guy I can think of who has access to black, white, right, left, Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, Christian and non, U.S., European, and everywhere else — and has the respect and listening ear of them all — is Bono. And I think he’s probably pro-choice.
5. Technology, technology, technology. Do you know why the abortion rate is going down? I think it’s the increasing advances in technology, particularly ultrasound technology. Women are seeing their babies. Technology is catching up with abortion. Smart churches will support their local crisis pregnancy centers, which are often frontlines on the struggle for the unborn, and help them get ultrasound equipment. No, they’re not cheap. But life isn’t either.
6. Love. I’m coming full circle, here, but if we were to outlaw abortion tomorrow, we’d still have 500,000 women a year who didn’t want their babies. You have probably already had unwed teenage girls get pregnant in your church, and if you haven’t you probably will at some point, and besides all that, there are plenty in your community and city. Before and in addition to removing abortion as a legal option for them, we have to love them, welcome them, teach them, serve them. Only the love of God can change hearts. Let that be the ammunition of our war.