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Pro-life Issues: Direct Action vs. Indirect Action

Which is more effective?

Political activist and journalist Lawrence E. Alba wrote this morning to opine on the most recent installment of The Abortion Matrix. I am always amazed when liberals tell us to “change the law!” in response to our pro-life street activism. This is a response I’ve heard for over 20 years. Of course, when laws are about to be enacted in response to the abortion epidemic, we hear: “Keep your laws off my body!” I have always argued for the importance for cultural change followed by political action. Christian social reform must be from the bottom-up, not the top-down. I also find it interesting that Alba, if he is being honest here and not merely patronizing, is an example of the rare life-long liberal and Obama supporter who sees abortion as a “social plague.”

Although I appreciate your commitment to the elimination of this enigmatic modern social plague, I don’t share your sense of off-putting militancy. The problem is that the culture of “choice” did not come about through aggressive hectoring and militancy, but through the courts … one test case at a time. I battle it there and find I’m making more effective progress. – Lawrence E. Alba

My Response:

Dear Lawrence,

Thank you for your reply. Which is more effective in bringing social change — direct action or indirect action? It’s an interesting controversy to say the least.

I would never state that we should not use the courts or political solutions and concentrate only on evangelism, sidewalk counseling and other forms of direct action at abortion clinics — or what you call “militancy.” Both are used, and we have used both effectively in the pro-life movement.

We need to beware of the either-or fallacy here. If we study history, we will find that it is a combination of direct action and indirect political and judicial action that accomplishes social change. However, most often it is direct action that begins the process and is most effective in changing cultural attitudes. Many years later we see the laws changed.

By way of example, the underground railroad and civil disobedience over slavery resulted in the negative outcome of the Dred Scott decision. But that set off a chain of events that finally resulted in the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. Slavery was not eliminated through the federal courts. Quite to the contrary, it took the direct action of those who defied the law and brought social conflict. It was the so-called “militancy” of the anti-slavery and abolitionist movement – that drove the work of great figures such as the Beecher family, William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglas.

Ironically, what is often called pro-life “militancy” is a peaceful campaign for public awareness. In contrast, the “effective progress” of many years of trying to overturn Roe v. Wade might never end abortion simply because abortion laws would revert to the states and cultural local attitudes would influence laws at the state and local level. Thus local direct action is needed whether Roe remains in place or not.

In the civil rights movement, we see the same principle at work. A world-changing essay everyone should read at least once is Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail. I read this letter with my classes every year as a comparison to the direct action parable-drama Antigone, by the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles. In both examples, the question is asked: How do good people respond when man’s law violates God’s law? In “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” King outlines the steps that must precede direct action. He also proposes the axiom that “politicians don’t see the light until they feel the heat.”

Although one might criticize the unorthodox theological positions of some of the above figures, I find the idea of direct action is soundly based on biblical principle. King argued that the Apostles did not lobby to change the law before they preached the Gospel, but they immediately resolved to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Ultimately when the Gospel spread over several centuries, the laws were changed.

It’s also untrue that the “pro-choice” side did not use militant direct action. This position shows an ignorance of the tactics Margaret Sanger employed. Sanger used direct activism in being arrested at least eight times for defying birth control laws. Her direct action finally resulted in the change in public attitude toward the so-called “right to privacy,” which many decades later resulted in Griswold vs. Connecticut, which in turn resulted a decade later in Roe v. Wade.

A wonderful book, which shows how abortion has been defeated several times in the annals of Christian history, is George Grant’s The Third Time Around. Grant chronicles how both direct and indirect action working together brought the reforms – when abortion and child sacrifice proliferated in the time of Basil of Caesarea in the fourth century and then again in the Middle Ages. Now we are fighting abortion the “third time around.” We can expect the same reforms if we follow the tried and true biblical model.

In my personal experience, we saw in Brevard County Florida the number of abortions fall over a nine year period (1988 to 1997) by 52 percent, while the state average of abortions went up. Finally, the last remaining abortion clinic in Brevard county closed and one has not since returned.

Florida Today, our local liberal newspaper, in a front page, above-the fold headline, interviewed central Florida abortion clinic owners and our local direct activists. They asked the question: What legislation caused the number of abortions to drop? What court cases were the cause of eliminating Brevard county’s only blood mill?

None we could see.

In the final analysis, all observers agreed that although a variety of factors contributed to this, the presence of street evangelists and sidewalk counselors creating awareness through direct action based on the principles of God’s Word was the primary cause of that trend.

See: Why is the Brevard County abortion rate 52% less than the Florida average?

Comments

Your comments are welcome!

The discussion above reflects my own experiences in trying to stop the scourge of our land. For over 20 years I have protested, counseled and utilized political action, never truly knowing which “action” was the most effective. I believe the answer is as Mr. Rogers has stated: both methods and EVERY method must be utilized. Prayer must precede our movement in order to discern correct motivation and methodology, but we must act. Thank you for putting the very difficult question out there for examination and discussion.
Jana Carpenter

Posted by Jana Carpenter on 01/17/2012 07:09 AM #

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Freedom: The Model of Christian Liberty (DVD)

“Give me liberty or give me death!”

Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.

The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

Welcome to the Second American Revolution!

This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.

$14.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


The Beast of Revelation IdentifiedThe Beast of Revelation: Identified (DVD)

Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?

Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!

Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.

Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)

Running Time: 145 minutes

$17.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.

Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!

Running Time: 130 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

Download the Free Study Guide!

God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.

Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!

Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:

1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?

Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.

Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!

Running Time: 240 minutes

Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981

Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House. More recently, it was by catching just a glimpse of what this film reveals that Planned Parenthood director and abortion advocate Abby Johnson turned and became a strong advocate for the pre-born.

The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.

“…a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine

Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese

Running Time: 28 minutes

$17.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information

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