Some have argued that churches need to get out of the abortion debate. It is too divisive and involves too personal of a decision. However, new polling data from the Barna Group shows that churchgoers want more conversations about abortion -- as well as marriage and family issues -- not less. Pastors and members cite these areas as some of the most important issues facing the United States.
Let me explain why this matters… a lot.
The pro-life movement has always found its most passionate voices from within the church. Barna’s research indicates that there is an opportunity for a more holistic approach to abortion: One that does not ignore family issues, but addresses the relationship between marriage, fatherhood, families, and abortion.
And Christians are not the only ones calling for a change in the abortion conversation. A dramatic shift in pro-choice rhetoric is already taking place. After years of ignoring science and logic, leading voices of the pro-choice movement have started referring to the unborn child as a life. In 2013, Salon magazine published an article where its reporter argued that abortion takes a life, but that it is “a life worth sacrificing.” In NARAL’s most recent video, a comedian says she wants an abortion because, “My body is doing a thing that is not incubating a person and I would like to continue doing that thing. It’s my choice, ok?”
Even the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton said in March that, “the unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.”
This shift in pro-choice rhetoric is also chilling. For the first time, public figures of the movement are openly and casually arguing that some lives matter more than others. They are no longer dehumanizing the fetus, denying it’s a life, person, or child, but are now arguing that it is all of those things, but with no rights and no value.
This shift in pro-choice rhetoric and Barna’s research of churchgoers offers an opportunity to pro-life people to craft a more effective message than the one we’ve primarily relied on for decades.
For years, pro-life people have passionately argued that the fetus is a life and that abortion kills that life. Various, powerful arguments have been used in debates to show that there is no logical distinction between the child in the womb and the one outside; both are clearly living human persons.
Our arguments were predicated on the hope that by just getting people to realize that a life was being killed, they would become pro-life. What we forgot was that history is filled with examples of the powerful preying on the weak, fully knowing that their victims were alive.
Whether it was the slave owner in the Antebellum South or the Nazi prison guard in World War II, few believed that the slave on the auction block or the prisoner on their way to the gas chamber was not a person.
They were persons worth selling and sacrificing. They were alive, but only partly human.
Accordingly, it is time that we recognize that being pro-life is simply not enough.
If we are ever to see the hearts and minds of our culture change on the issue of abortion, we must advocate for more than just the recognition that the unborn is a life. We must begin to address the surrounding worldview that led to the unplanned pregnancy in the first place - that caused that woman and her partner to feel that the only way forward was to sacrifice the life in her womb.
We must recognize that the decisions that lead to broken wombs start in broken hearts.
This is why we must become “pro-abundant life” people. This represents more than a shift in rhetoric, but a fundamental shift in our approach to abortion. This shift requires focusing on four key areas.
Marriage. It is one thing to save a baby; it is another thing to raise one. When Christ was born, God did not see fit to have Him raised in a single-parent home. He chose Mary and Joseph to lead and parent His son. While the numbers of children raised in single-parent homes has skyrocketed over the past 50 years, our response to this brokenness should not be to simply accept it. We should preach, teach, and model the value of raising children in the environment most conducive to abundant life. This requires embracing loving marriages between mothers and fathers in our homes, churches, and communities.
Fatherhood. Just as women do not get pregnant alone, abortion decisions do not happen in a vacuum. According to our research, over 60% of women cite the father of the baby as the most influential person in their decision to have an abortion. If we want to see abortion numbers decrease, we need to stop pretending this issue is decided by a woman and her doctor and start addressing the most important influence in her decision: the father.
Men need to see that fatherhood is more than keeping the baby - it is providing for it and its mother and being involved in its life. Involved fathers provide children with the best chance to thrive.
Christ. True and lasting transformation is not found in clever analogies (as powerful as those can be), nor will it come from simply choosing to keep a baby. It is found in the person of Jesus Christ. As we proclaim the message of abundant life, we must point people to the source of such life, for He is the only one that can transform their hearts.
Overturn Roe v Wade in our hearts. If people did not desire abortion, then it would not matter what the law said about the procedure. There would be little demand. If we are serious about the issue of life, then we must do more than put pro-life license plates on our cars. Barna shows our churches need more than that. I do not believe Christ will tell us, “Well done,” if we convinced a woman to keep her child and did nothing to help her face the circumstances that caused her to consider abortion in the first place. We must come alongside her with the material, emotional, financial, and spiritual support she desperately needs.
We must recognize that women who attend church regularly account for more than 36% of abortions. This means that these women and men believed that Planned Parenthood would be a better cure for their brokenness than our churches. It is time that our churches were made up of life disciples – men and women empowered with the gospel to meet the material and spiritual needs of their neighbors
The pro-choice movement has decided to accept our argument that the fetus is a life. Rather than simply draw attention to the callousness of this position, it is time we respond with the message so powerful that it took Christ Himself to deliver it:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."