Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hate Shouldn't Stoke Pro-Life Debate

 
America's pro-life battle isn't waged simply between political factions.  Sometimes, it's waged within evangelical Christianity itself.

On one side, ardent pro-life advocates simmer with contempt not only for abortion, but also for those who support it.  On the other side, still within evangelicalism, are those who desire to pursue a more gracious tack in aid of abortion's victims - victims who include those very people who have been deluded into supporting it.

Although we've yet to know for sure, last week's shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic that left three people dead appears to have been perpetrated by a radical pro-life gunman, representing the extremist element of the hard-right religious/political spectrum.  Meanwhile, in the wake of that shooting, an article appeared in Christianity Today calling for "Loving Our Pro-Choice Neighbors in Word and Deed."

And many within evangelicalism are now howling.

The piece was written by an English professor, Karen Swallow Prior, for CT's Her-Meneutics blog, which is geared to women.  "Calling abortion what it is will bring good," writes Prior.  "Doing so without the temperance of love will bring harm."

Which, of course, is true, isn't it?  Yet Prior takes the odd position that "calling legal abortion 'murder' when it isn’t... is to say what isn’t true."

Yes, read it again.  I had to!  Prior is saying abortion isn't murder.

I think I understand what she's trying to say when she writes that abortion isn't "murder."  I suspect that, summoning her credibility as an English professor aghast at the misuse of our language, and charged by her professorship with guarding how we use words, she's probably trying to be a vocabulary purist.  In other words, since abortion is legal, Prior means it's technically not legally murder, since murder is illegal.  See?  She's attempting to expose a linguistic fallacy.

But the fallacy doesn't exist, does it?  Whether murder is legal or not, it's still murder, right?  Why should she harbor a linguistic pet peeve over describing abortion as murder, when it is, even if the law allows it?  After all, we don't need a law telling us that the sky is blue, do we?

Prior's over-arching point appears to be that North America's pro-life narrative has become infused with sinful vitriol, and considering the tone many evangelicals take when addressing anybody who doesn't believe with them, she's correct.  But why does that make it wrong to classify abortion as murder?  Is there another word in the English language I don't know about that means "unilaterally taking somebody else's life from them"?

Not that Prior isn't pro-life herself.  She says she's volunteered at crisis pregnancy centers for 17 years, and has counseled women outside of abortion clinics for ten.  Indeed, she also affirms that "abortion ends a precious human life."  She simply doesn't like calling it murder.

Unfortunately, by taking this unusual stance, Prior only confuses her readership, and ultimately fails to make a convincing argument for loving our enemies.

After all, judging by the feedback being posted on CT's website and in social media, plenty of self-proclaimed pro-lifers are outraged by Prior's article.  Many pro-lifers are appalled that she dares to write such blasphemy, and others contend her article, approved as it was by the editors at CT for their webzine, points to the sinful decay of Billy Graham's once-great periodical.

Part of the problem, obviously, is that reading comprehension by people surfing the Internet has become abysmally low.  Few people today - no matter their political or religious persuasion - invest the amount of time and mental energy necessary to interpret and digest intellectual arguments.  And Prior's take on the "murder" language certainly qualifies as an academic - albeit sloppy - argument that probably would be more at home in an English department's staff lounge than the World Wide Web.

Still, it's also obvious that many evangelicals get far too virulent when they criticize other people.  We're all about grace when it comes to drinking alcohol, or gambling, or overeating, or gossip, but when it comes to our hallowed political causes, we can get downright nasty.

But should we?   

Sure, although pro-choicers advocate for murder, we're still supposed to love our enemies, right?  And pray for them.  God still allows the sun to rise and set on both the evil and the good (Matthew 5:45).  We are to be discerning, but we don't know who or when God might save, even if they advocate for abortion.  Remember, we shouldn't want to see unbelievers destroyed; we should want to see them saved.  And then there's Proverbs 25:21:  If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you.

And then there's this:  Can the world around us - including abortionists - recognize that we're children of God's by the love that we have for those of us already included in Christ's redeemed congregation of believers?  Can abortionists recognize that the love we profess for unborn children represents an extension of the love Christ wants us to have even for them, the people who advocate for pre-birth death?  This is a counter-cultural approach that we often - myself included - forget to embrace when it comes to recognizing the eternal element in our battle against sin and the flesh.

Disagree with Prior if you want - and I do disagree with her.  But I don't hate her.

And by all means, advocate for life in opposition to those who advocate for the cessation of life; but should we hate them because of the lies Satan has told them?

Isn't hate what's causing abortion to exist in the first place?


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