The religion of Christianity goes together with the Pro-Life conviction like Fred Astaire’s dancing naturally assists Bing Crosby’s voice. Like the artists, they harmoniously and sublimely accompany each other as worldviews. To be clear, the Pro-Life movement is not an inherently religious one. Atheists and secular agnostics work side-by-side with Muslims and Christians in the struggle for equal rights and dignity befitting the unborn and the dying. However, in the specifically Christian context, I am not sure the Pro-Life message has successfully dug into the thought of the Church, as it should have by now. When I say the Christian religion spurs Pro-Life affections naturally and abundantly, I mean it. But when it comes to the corporate conscience of the modern Church, many have abandoned the movement, either out of spite for the politicized agenda of a few too many fundamentalists, or by denying the theological foundations. Yet, the truth remains steadily on its two feet that the mission of Christ and the commands of holy scripture demand at least vocal pro-life action from the body of Christ.
Why should the Church care about abortion? Is it really that big of an issue? My personal feeling is that many, especially in younger circles, might view abortion as a political issue. Therefore, abortion is a matter of concern only for those inclined to political debate. Is this, however, the attitude endorsed in scripture by Jesus? Would Paul have been pro-life? Would the prophets?
Really, the question has to framed as though we were deciding whether or not to act. Being pro-life, as it turns, out is to act, to be vocal. So, in one sense, we could ask whether or not the Bible is of the opinion, but the Bible is often more aggressive and proactive when it comes to issues of injustice, oppression and violence. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” “True religion is caring for the widows and orphans.” These social justice issues demand some sort of response of action, not merely of opinion. So, if abortion be the ethical issue of our generation, then surely the Church must appropriately frame its response and not limit that response to a statement of faith, opinion or a column in its newsletter, but as a proactive plan to infect, persuade and change the culture’s mind.
The Pro-Life Mission of Christ
Tying Christian missions and pro-life activity can possibly be dangerous. Tying Christianity to anything that has political connotations has its inherent trappings. So, when I talk about abortion, or euthanasia, in the context of “Christ’s mission”, I should clarify what I’m talking about.
Firstly, when I talk about abortion, I talk about it as a moral issue, not a solely political one. While political issues were an area of concern for Jesus, the actions of his followers had to be anchored in a transcendent law, previously enumerated in the Law of Moses but ultimately fulfilled in the life of Christ. Christians do not follow any law of Man.
Secondly, when I talk about the Pro-Life movement, I’m not just talking about abortion. I’m also talking about euthanasia and assisted dying. I’m also speaking to a worldview that holds all human life as abundantly precious, intrinsically valuable, and inherently dignified, to such an extent as not to say that life’s value diminishes with painful or inconvenient circumstances.
Finally, when I talk about the mission of Christ, I’m talking about his role as savior, certainly, and his charge to us, Christians, to reach the world with the gospel. He died for us and rose from the grave. His Spirit was poured into the Church. And now his mission is carried on in the evangelistic outreach work of the saints. Christians are, in effect, the extension of his love to the nations. We are his tools. He is the Great Physician.
Now, the Bible is certainly pro-life. There’s no question. Quickly, here are five clear points toward that end:
- Human life bears the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27)
- Human life has more value than other created things. (Matthew 6, 10)
- Human life and person-hood exist from conception. (Psalm 51:5)
- Human life has meaning. (Psalm 139)
- We’re given the decalogical command not to kill. (Exodus 20:13)
It would be odd to suggest that pro-life outreach could be a form of evangelism. For the most part, I don’t think it should be considered evangelism. Evangelism is only that if the gospel is being shared and lives were being won for Christ. But may I suggest that by being pro-life and sharing this conviction with others, we may be sharing hints of gospel truth. So, as the gospel may be shared through the rescuing of girls and boys from the sex-trade, I think the gospel may be shared, and God be made glorious, through the rescue of unborn kids from the abortionist’s forceps. Here are three points to substantiate:
- What is the gospel except the historically verifiable act of one man (and one God) dying for the life of others? Abortion is precisely the opposite. Abortion is the sacrificing of others for our own sake and in the promotion of death we are silencing and compromising God’s message of life. We are sacrificing, in principle, the essence of the gospel which is self-sacrificial love. So, by continuously upholding human life, as bearing the image of God, we are also upholding, presenting and making attractive a fundamental facet of the Christian faith. Recall, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16) and “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).
- Jesus was genuinely, and particularly, concerned with the vulnerable and the oppressed. And he was fairly insistent upon his followers giving the less fortunate proper treatment, as we’ve all certainly heard from Matthew 25. James reiterates in his epistle, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27).
- God is glorified in us upholding justice. By treating, befriending and honoring the less fortunate and the oppressed, we, in essence, are doing such for God and this brings him glory. Moreover, by upholding the values of love, compassion and justice, we are upholding his law which further brings glory to his name. By being diligent and morally steadfast in issues of injustice and sin, we are being as “salt” and “light to the world” (Matthew 5:14). This applies to all areas of ethics.
What Does This Mean for the Church?
I think it’s safe to say the moral imperative for the Church is clear. At least, I think every Christian knows that the only fundamentally consistent position we’re left is the pro-life one. I think abortion is an urgent matter. If we’re consistent with our terms, we are in fact talking ending a genocide that has claimed many tens of millions of innocent human lives in the last six or seven decades who should’ve been protected. What may be of less clarity is how much attention is to be brought to this issue on Sunday morning, in small groups, on social media, and how frequently we should take to the streets in protest. I don’t have answers to these questions. Those are specific decisions to be made by the church pastorship.
Here are some thoughts from one Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the complexity and moral gravity of the issue to be faced by the Church:
Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And this is nothing but murder.
A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind; indeed in cases where it is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual. Precisely in this connection money may conceal many a wanton deed, while the poor man’s more reluctant lapse may far more easily be disclosed.
All these considerations must no doubt have a quite decisive influence on our personal and pastoral attitude towards the person concerned, but they cannot in any way alter the fact of murder. (Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas, p. 472)
What is certain, in addition to what’s been mentioned, is that for the Christian there is no possible means of consistently maintaining a nominal pro-life opinion without action. For the church to remain silent is to commit a grave sin for which we shall be held accountable. And if history repeats itself, future generations will look back rightfully in horror. But let us carry forward boldly and joyfully in the knowledge that while our world is deeply broken and depraved, God is good, faithful and will work all things for the good of those who love him.