I’ve been thinking a lot about the pro-life movement for the past two weeks. It started the night before George Tiller was shot, when I ran across a documentary on Netflix entitled Unborn in the USA. If you forced me to give a two word review of the movie, I’d say ‘painfully accurate’. That’s not to say that the filmmakers tried to press one side of the abortion debate or the other – only that as I watched it, I recognized some attitudes in people who I may have agreed with on the issues but would never want my photograph taken with.
For the past 30 years, pro-life activists have carried signs, marched, shouted, cheered, sang, lobbied and complained. I am confident that in some cases, these tactics have seen limited gains. A recent Gallup poll indicated that for the first time in years, a majority of Americans identify themselves as pro-life.
You may argue that ‘identify themselves as pro-life’ indicates nothing…and though I can’t totally dismiss this reversal in self-identification, I tend to agree that people calling themselves pro-life doesn’t mean as much as people being willing to do something on behalf of a cause. In other words, now that our nation’s majority is pro-life…will it still be business as usual five years from now?
The American pro-life movement finds itself in a unique place. For the first time in years – perhaps ever – it has a greater number of people willing to identify with its cause and a smaller number of people willing to go so far as to take action. Pro life rallies are smaller, pro life issues go without debate in the public arena, and pro life groups struggle to maintain their existing programs. We are a nation of people giving mental assent to pro life thoughts and avoiding pro life activism.
How did we become a group of people collectively professing one thing while denying it with our behavior? I think it is because we’ve grown past traditional pro life approaches to activism. We have our convictions, but we’re probably not the sign carrying sort. We’re angry about the issue of abortion, but we’re not angry at people. We’re dead serious about ending abortion, but we’re not the shootin’-people kind. We’re too convinced to stop voicing our disagreements, but we’re too intellectually honest to do so without providing some proactive response of our own.
If the pro-life movement doesn’t start providing it’s new-found constituency with some proactive responses to abortion, it will squander it’s toe-hold on the wall of debate. We may be a few points up on the Gallup Poll, but if we try and convince our new slim majority to join us in the same old song and dance, we will have squandered what could only be considered divine momentum.
We spent most of 2005 working with what I now understand to be a vanguard of the much-needed New Life movement.
Bound4Life had began a few months earlier as a prayer meeting in front of the Supreme Court and has continued as such. It’s so counterintuitive to normal rational that both pro-life and pro-abortion types have a tendency to misunderstand it. This movement of prayer meetings – not protests – has spread across the nation via hundreds of chapters in nearly every state in the union. Their ‘Think Fast’ campaign challenges high school kids to skip lunch on Fridays to fast and pray for the ending of abortion. Through this movement and other prayer movements, the American church is discovering how proactive prayer really can be.
The New Life Movement must go even further – to answer the legitimate challenges of our critics.
Our recent endeavor, The Zoe Foundation, is another example of the sort of movement that is necessary to engage these newcomers to the Life Tribe. Pledging to adopt children who might otherwise be aborted is a step towards providing an answer to the legitimate question ‘what about unwanted kids?’.
Until the church can pledge to be pro-child, it’s really not pro-life. We’re not challenging people to adopt so they can fill their soccer team out or find another child that completes their set. We want people to adopt as a prophetic declaration to God, Satan, and all those who serve either side that there will be no unwanted children on our watch.
I’m elated that we’ve managed to develop a slim majority in one of the most visceral discussions of our time. I only hope we can turn the tide of newly converted pro-lifers to a life of pro-activism that goes far beyond signs and shouting. This may be our only chance.
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