None Dare Call it Murder
Critics of Gospel street preachers often attack a straw man. They say that harsh confrontation at abortion centers is unloving – or that those who preach repentance from the sin of child murder using strident tones are hateful.
It is difficult for me to criticize Students for Life because they are solid on many issues. They oppose abortion in cases of rape and put out good material to answer the hard questions about the abortion “exceptions.” Their Planned Parenthood awareness campaign is top notch. I have used their resources and graphics, which are excellent. They also hold to the truth that life begins at conception/fertilization.
The above, although not a Students For Life graphic, appears at their website. They readily contend that women who have died due to complications from abortion at Planned Parenthood were “killed” in the “hood” and are not afraid to bring the issue of race into exposing abortion as a form of genocide.
This shows they are not afraid to frame abortion as a “moral issue.” Hooray for Truth!
Then they inexplicably come up with the following nonsense.
Bad pro-life sign slogans are ones that reinforce negative stereotypes about the pro-life movement. These sign slogans are often preachy, condemnatory, and hard to understand. These types of signs are ultimately counterproductive and a waste of time. For example, if you are on an abortion clinic sidewalk, signs that scream, Abortion is murder!, Thou Shalt Not KILL, or God hates murder are not going to receive a positive, constructive response from your audience. Please, please, please avoid using this type of messaging and language (Bad Pro-life Sign Slogans).
What is unclear here is whether Students for Life opposes calling abortion “murder” because they do not really believe it is murder, or if they merely oppose standing for Truth because it will not be well received. Does Students for Life deny the Truth? Are they ashamed of the Truth? Do they really believe that Truth is “counterproductive”? Either way, this stance is one of theological and moral schizophrenia.
Gualberto Garcia-Jones of the National Personhood Alliance has written of this exchange of Truth for political expediency that is plaguing a wide swath of the pro-life movement.
Truth is the only thing that will win this battle, for if Americans are only exposed to middling incremental pro-life arguments, how will their hearts and minds ever be truly changed to accept, even demand, the protection of each human life? (Prudence and Moral Clarity).
So where does the aversion to call abortion “murder” or “child killing” come from? It is one thing to oppose abortion and have bad theology. It becomes even more problematic to stand for life when the Gospel is jettisoned altogether. On various Students for Life websites you will not find the name of God mentioned one time. You will not find the Word of God even once. Simply, their error is a preoccupation with promoting a natural law view of “human rights” over and above the Word of God.
Abortion is not a women’s rights or reproductive rights issue. It is a human rights issue. This issue challenges our society to determine the values and rights of the most vulnerable among us. When we recognize abortion as a social justice issue, the discussion boils down to one question: Does a pre-born human being have the right to be born or not? (Why Should You Care About Abortion?)
Well, what if I say, “No”? What if I say that a woman’s right to choose outweighs the right of a preborn child prior to its ability to feel pain. Then what?
Then it’s feeling against feeling.
There are Christians who say that we cannot deal with the abortion issue based upon the Law of God. Some are PR reasons: “It makes us look bad. It makes us look narrow.” Some are ideological reasons: “Well, these people don’t believe in the law of God so we can’t quote it to them.” The language of Scripture is the language of God. God spoke to us in His Word. If we think we can improve upon the Law of God, if we think we can be more clever and get people to go along with us, then this is just a surrender of the Christian religion to the enemy. We cannot surrender the premise of there being a God who is Sovereign, the Rule-maker, and the Law-giver and then expect to prevail on the field of battle. He who frames the question wins the debate. If we don’t believe in moral absolutes and then we get into a cultural-political debate, how are we going to win? It’s who can be the most clever, who can take the best poll. My feelings aren’t really that relevant. God’s Law is (God’s Law and Society).
In a nutshell, this is the error of Students for Life and many pro-life groups. They have jettisoned the authority of the Word of God in favor of an impotent weapon. Instead they have donned the humanistic equivalent of Saul’s armor. They have exchanged the solid rock of God’s Word for a campaign of “public relations,” “focus groups,” “relevance” and popular rhetoric such as, “justice,” “human rights” and “values.” Even though many of the Students for Life members believe the Bible, they are taught within their ranks to have no faith in its authority and power to win hearts and minds in the public arena. They would do well to remember what the Word testifies about itself.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
There is something to be said for knowing our audience and using wisdom in our approach. There are many Proverbs that show us that it is right to use wisdom in a case-by-case basis. Proverbs 15:1 tells us
A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
But then a few verses later, in Proverbs 15:31,32, we are also told that
The ear that hears the rebukes of life
Will abide among the wise.
He who disdains instruction despises his own soul,
But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.
Ironically, critics of what they perceive as “hellfire” preaching can become just as shrill toward those Gospel preachers they attack. In many cases, they have never actually stood with the evangelists who have bravely assaulted the gates of hell with the preaching of the Word. There are many who have used this method of biblical preaching for years who have had great success in saving babies and convincing workers to quit the child killing business.
Biblical Law vs. Natural Law
Biblical law must always be regarded as superior to natural law. This is the framework of the conflict within the pro-life street activist movement.
What then is “natural law”?
Inherent in all human beings the sense of good and evil. We all know deep down that murder is wrong, theft is wrong, adultery is wrong. According to Romans 1:18-21, natural revelation testifies of the nature of God, His power and the nature of His creative acts. Man recognizes the existence of the power of God and His creative acts even without knowledge of the Bible.
Obviously, natural revelation teaches us that abortion is wrong. So there is some truth in natural law theory. But this knowledge will not alleviate the evil of abortion. In many cases, knowing that abortion is murder will only sear the consciences of the unconverted. Such is the depravity of man. This is why extravagant forms of activism designed to grab media attention are actually counter-productive in the long run unless the Gospel is the center of the message. Even graphic images of aborted babies divorced from the message of the Gospel can eventually become an acceptable consequence of “pro-choice” freedom in the eyes of the unregenerate. We would do well to remember that the natural man is not basically good. He is intrinsically evil.
My first foray into pro-life direct action was in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1988. I understood that the purpose was threefold — repentance, spiritual warfare, evangelism. Operation Rescue was a way of waking the heart of a sleeping church and gaining media exposure. Before long, people would see that abortion was murder because here were Christians who were finally acting like it was murder. Or so I thought.
Over the next few years, I noticed that there was a wide difference in what some pro-life leaders were saying. On either side, there are two extremes.
On one side there are the biblical evangelists. They preach the Gospel in the open air in the places where sin is prevalent. They passionately and courageously call people to Christ by exposing the sin of abortion as well as many other sins plaguing our nation. Their main message is repentance. The Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus and the Apostles declared in the open air, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20).
On the other side, there are the pro-life activists. They appear at abortion clinics and other public places with slogans and signs. They seek to educate students and people of all ages about the reality of abortion. Their purpose is to bring the force of science, consensus and propaganda in the public square to convince people that abortion is the killing of a human person. They use natural law arguments to achieve the purpose of pro-life activism.
Now it’s true that in a godly or predominantly godly culture, people will understand natural law in a way that mimics or comes close to biblical law. We see that in pro-life organizations with no religious affiliation in which Christians are doing the work. However, natural law can also be co-opted by corrupt, humanistic worldviews. Natural law can be interpreted from many different angles. In so doing, morality becomes relativistic. We see that in National Right to Life, Students for Life, Feminists for Life, the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and so on.
Grounded as it is in natural law theory, the pro-life position appeals to a supposed objective neutrality among humanity that, if it sees the issue aright, would logically oppose abortion. It does not take the depravity of mankind and the harmful effects of that depravity on man’s moral views seriously. Christians who support the pro-life position must recognize that in giving the unregenerate individual the opportunity to adjudicate on the issue of abortion on the basis of natural law, they are compromising the message of Scripture which depicts the unconverted as spiritually dead and unable to so adjudicate. And this is only the tip of the iceberg (Andrew Sandlin, The Sanctity of Life Versus the Sanctity of Law).
A simple way of illustrating the wisdom of each side is to look at slogans.
A biblical preacher will make use of Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Luke 1:15 describes how John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (v. 31) and goes on to say that Jesus also was conceived in the womb as the Son of God and was even recognized as such by John the Baptist when both infants were still in utero. “And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb” (v. 41).
A natural law pro-life advocate will make use of Dr. Seuss’, “A person’s a person, no matter how small” from the children’s book, Horton Hears a Who. What they may not know is that Theodor Seuss Geisel (pen named Dr. Seuss) and his wife were longtime supporters of Planned Parenthood. At one point, Geisel even threatened to sue a pro-life organization for its use of the slogan.
Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with using children’s literature. In fact, the Horton Hears a Who analogy is biblical. It matches the teaching of Scripture that a human being is made in the image of God from conception. We can use natural law to persuade people that a fully formed child in the womb is a legal person deserving of the right to life. However, it is a lot more difficult to persuade someone that a poor woman undergoing cancer treatment who conceives after being raped is making the wrong moral choice if she uses the morning after pill. Natural revelation alone does not answer these so-called “hard cases.” Only specific revelation, in the form of the inspired Word of God, is applicable in these cases. This is why it is difficult to take the concept of natural revelation and build a natural law theory that will prevail in the cultural arena.
It’s hard to fathom how even some professing Christians see this “Horton Hears a Who” approach as superior to the eternal, unchanging and inerrant Word of God. The irony is that many pro-life advocates down in Whoville preach that signs using biblical commandments will “reinforce negative stereotypes about the pro-life movement.” Further, they are supposedly “preachy, condemnatory, and hard to understand … ultimately counterproductive and a waste of time.”
The greatest error the pro-life movement made early on is that it was not based on biblical ethics. That is, we did not stop and teach among ourselves that abortion is not simply wrong, abortion is murder, a violation of God’s commandment. If we believe abortionists as well as the fathers and mothers who kill their little girls and boys in the womb are murderers, then we must not be afraid to portray them as murderers.