The Holy Spectre haunting the movement

Published: Saturday, October 17, 2020, 8:54 pm |   Author: Josie Luetke

Shortly after I became involved in the pro-life movement, I became cognizant of the push by mostly younger members to secularize its branding, even though we were all Christian. Green as I was and enamored with the clarity of the science of when life begins and the simplicity of the philosophical arguments against abortion, I was sympathetic.

Pro-life could be hip. If our movement didn’t seem religious and exclusive, more people would be attracted to it, or at least listen long enough to be relieved of their ignorance; implicitly, we saw that as the greatest obstacle to our success — not evil.

For a while now, I’ve appreciated that was the wrong thinking, but interestingly, seemingly so have many former proponents of dechristianizing our image. Consciously or not, I know quite a few people who have been renewing an emphasis on prayer in pro-life work. I guess we’ve realized that to spend any length of time in this battle you unavoidably need to surrender to God. Who would have thought?

During the last of CLC Youth’s Virtual Pro-Life Club meetings over the summer, our club members indulged in imagining what a pro-life future would look like, post-criminalization of abortion. The emerging consensus was not just that Christianization entails building a Culture of Life, but that a pro-life world is necessarily a Christian one. Only Jesus offers the compassion, radical mercy, and hope for redeeming suffering that those in a crisis pregnancy or the hundreds of millions who would be healing from abortion would require.

That said, while the prerequisite Christian evangelism can be overt or explicit (as it is with 40 Days for Life and Life Chain), it need not always be. After all, by simply loving our neighbour, we’re helping to introduce them to God (for God is Love).

When conducting pro-life activism, the message, “Every human being is deserving of human rights” will reach an audience that “Every human being is made in the image and likeness of God” won’t. The latter is the reason for the former, but understanding that relationship is not essential for believing that abortion is wrong, as nonreligious people can hold human rights as a first principle. (Though, admittedly, without referencing an absolute moral authority, they would not be able to rebut a moral relativist who rejects human rights. Thankfully, committed moral relativists are still rare today.)

Moreover, this relationship between the inherent value of every human and our Maker does quickly become apparent to an individual when immersed in the pro-life movement; significant numbers of formerly pro-choice atheists have become Christians as a result of realizing the fuller Truth of the sanctity of human life. Such progression is natural — to move deeper and explore the reasons for one’s beliefs — and, of course, to consider more seriously the faith of allies one is coming to also befriend.

Basically, the pro-life movement is your gateway drug to Christianity.

In any case, even if some settings or contexts demand nuance and prudence (e.g. not broaching the topic of religion in a conversation with a pro-choicer unless they do so first), our identities and consequent aim to evangelize should not be hidden. (Obscuring an intent to evangelize contradicts evangelism.)

Concerned about the handful of people who might take offense, I recall (alongside others) questioning the place of prayer at the National March for Life, which is so silly in hindsight. Virtually every pro-life group centers prayer in their ministry – why wouldn’t we pray when once a year we all gather together in Canada’s capital, lamenting the lives lost since 1969?

Avoiding collective prayer—our lifeblood—is hiding.

While we happily welcome and should make efforts to include atheists, agnostics, and those of other faith backgrounds in our pro-life circles, they shouldn’t be bothered by the Christian character of our movement, though they might disagree.

So as your right-to-life group undergoes a youthful rebranding, perhaps moves offices, don’t feel the need to strip it of religious symbolism and sanitize it of religious slogans. Don’t stow away the crucifixes. Keep on employing the trusty closing salutation of “God bless.”

If you were oblivious to there ever being a debate on how interconnected the pro-life movement and the Christian Church should seem, please carry on. I apologize for what must strike you as a painfully obvious and unnecessary column. But if you were ever or are apprehensive that the rosary-clutching caricature of a pro-lifer is hindering our effectiveness, have a little faith. It’s not going to be an overreliance on God which costs us our victory.

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