The Power of Pro-Life Witness
Originally posted at: https://anglicansforlife.org/2019/08/19/the-power-of-pro-life-witness/
every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with
knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with
steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,and godliness with
brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these
qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or
unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).
January we get a window into two worlds—the pro-life movement during the March
for Life, and the pro-abortion movement during the Women’s March. The differences are striking. The March for Life consists of people of all
ages, who make clear by their signs, their songs, and their dispositions that
they are for unborn children and
women. Their message is generally
positive—they do not hold signs or sing songs that demean or belittle
pro-abortion activists. On the other
hand, the pro-abortion movement is generally shrill, their signs and slogans
vulgar, and often demeaning to those with whom they disagree. Unsurprisingly, few children
participate. Google pictures from both
marches—you’ll see the difference immediately.
difference is powerful. I suspect that
one reason, perhaps the main reason, that reporting of March for Life is so
scanty is that the basic goodness of the movement is evident—and therefore
dangerous to those committed to abortion on demand. If pro-life activists were vulgar or
mean-spirited, I suspect we’d see plenty of media coverage, as we do in the
rare instances of violence among protesters at abortion clinics. And while the pro-life movement isn’t
uniform, with a few descending to sloganeering and strident rhetoric, as a
whole it is basically good. Therein lies
its power. For example, Abby Johnson, a
former Planned Parenthood director who has become one of the most recognizable
voices in the pro-life movement, testifies that the kindness and warmth of
pro-life people she knew played a significant part in opening her eyes and
drawing her out of the world of abortion.
It is no surprise, then, that the March for Life receives so little
pro-life movement must strike an unlikely balance. It must be, and generally is, hard-nosed and good-natured. It must speak the truth in love. So, the question becomes, how can the
pro-life movement maintain its good-natured character? In the words of the Scripture quoted above,
how can the movement continue to reflect faith, virtue, knowledge,
steadfastness, self-control, affection, and love?
answer is profound, surprisingly simple, and answered in the very next verse: For whoever lacks these qualities is so
nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his
former sins (2 Peter 1:9). Our
ability to walk in basic goodness depends upon knowing that God is good, and
that He has been good to us in Christ.
The ability to extend grace depends upon knowing that we need grace, and
that we have been granted grace. In
other words, the key to effective pro-life witness is humility.
The Christian gospel is very good news—that in Christ one can be
both forgiven and cleansed from sin. The
sins I commit, either by what I have done or by what I have left undone, may be
different than yours, but we all need God to forgive us and to cleanse us. I may or may not have had an abortion or
directly participated in one, but there are plenty of ways I have preferred
myself at my neighbor’s expense. And
therefore I need God to do what I am unable to do—to forgive me and to cleanse
me. And, as He does, He teaches me to
love. We learn to love by being
loved. This accounts for the gladness
and the generosity of the pro-life movement, and its humility. Self-righteousness can’t exist in a heart
that has received grace. It is
impossible to look down upon another if one abides in the low place.
character of pro-life witness is not incidental to the cause of defending
children and serving their mothers and fathers.
Rather, it is the power behind that witness. Abortion won’t be eradicated though laws or
courts, as important as it is to engage on those fronts. As many have said in various ways, real
progress will be made when abortion becomes not illegal but unthinkable. And that will happen through a glad and
humble people that love their neighbors—the unborn and their parents, as well
as those who oppose them by holding signs and chanting slogans and passing laws
intended to silence their gracious witness.
Written by the Rev. Dr. W. Ross Blackburn. Rev. Blackburn is the Rector of Christ the King, an Anglican Fellowship in Boone, NC and an Anglicans for Life’s Board Member.