Driving down the highway recently, I noticed a prominent, very large billboard that featured the ultrasound photo of an embryonic baby and the Bible verse: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
I cringed. Not because the verse isn’t beautiful or evocative, but I cringed at what a waste of space and money the sign was. A sign that could’ve had a much stronger impact by using non-religious words. How many more people would have paused to think? Christians: we might be sabotaging our own movement.
By continuing to inject religion in every component and in every venue of pro-life activism, we push away an increasingly secular culture. We have to face the very real fact that we live in a post-Christian society. Holding up signs at Planned Parenthood that say “God is pro-life” will not only fall on hardened hearts… it will damage the entire perception of what it means to be pro-life. Using the Bible or religious arguments to appeal to people who are either completely anti-religion or casually relativist at best, is a sure way to lose credibility. I have been in many debates over abortion and the minute people find out that I’m a Christian, my message suddenly becomes offensive. They think I’m just preaching to them and refuse to consider anything else I have to say. Is it right? No. Is it unfair? Yes. But it is the reality that we have to deal with. I don’t hide my faith when I discuss abortion nowadays, I am just very careful to omit that information before the time is right. You can’t pluck a fruit before it is ripe and expect goodness to follow…
I’m going to say this once and I hope it serves as a wake-up call: Abortion is not a faith issue. If you believe it is, I encourage you to expand your reading on the matter and take a quick course on biology or ethics.
Abortion is a human rights issue. While it’s fine and wonderful that so many theists are Pro-Life, we must not exclusively marry our faith with the logic in this particular context because we are unwittingly losing millions of allies in the battle for human lives. So long as people think that being “pro-life” is synonymous with being “pro-Bible” they will continue to look away, disregard our message and allow babies to die… all the while believing they have the moral high ground against us closed-minded Christians.
Old tricks won’t work on the new dog of “secular progress.” We have to reach people where they are. Bible verses just aren’t going to cut it and frankly do more harm than good, in my opinion. So what will work in this battle? The answer is that it has to be something that will shake people out of their old way of thinking. I think some of the most thought-provoking stuff being put out right now is by the website secularprolife.org. They have a store that sells gear with really fantastic messages such as “Call me an extremist but I think dismemberment is wrong.” Other avenues where I think the pro-life cause is making great gains is through really interesting movies that weren’t designed to be vehicles for pro-life movement (those movies are often cringe-worthy, B-rate acted, thinly veiled preaching that couldn’t spark a fire if given a liter of gasoline and a match, but I digress…) but are simply great works of art, appealing to the cultural masses with a subtle nod toward the dignity of human life. Two off the top of my head are Juno and Waitress. Such movies aren’t Christian so their appeal is much broader and I’m convinced they’ve done more to soften the hardened hearts of abortionists than any public prayer has ever done.
Don’t get me wrong. I think prayer, fasting, and an unashamed witness with faith is essential in the abortion battle. The power of fervently praying Christians is probably the only thing staying the vicious hand of evil that threatens to take over our entire world. Keep at it! But in the public square, we have to reclaim the scientific ground that is rightfully ours. We have to become savvy in pro-life apologia by appealing to reason, logic, ethics and science… not to emotion or faith. This is what is going to help our culture turn around. This is the task we have in front of us. It’s not easy, but nothing worth doing ever was. Let us begin.