presented by j:
“Our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility. For Jesus refuses to reckon with such a possibility.” -Deitrich Bonhoeffer
today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. just yesterday i saw a news report about how Planned Parenthood is filing complaints about how the Center for Medical Progress’ undercover investigation into their operations has led to loss of finances for the organization and potentially endangered their employees and patients. among other things.
and true to some degree, the CMP’s undercover videos released last year has produced a number of damaging results already: outrage, shock, backlash, and the ever-so-rare Congressional action. but being a pro-lifer myself, PP’s complaints make me sick to my stomach and churn up a righteous anger in me. but if i’m honest enough, these feelings can grow into hatred.
is there such a thing as righteous hatred? ay, there’s the rub…
whether from a philosophical or scientific standpoint, i personally have never found a compelling argument for the broad legality of abortion. yes, rape and incest happen and these are tragedies, but abortion doesn’t negate those tragedies. and at worst, abortion has at times provided a cover for sexual abusers, especially in sex trafficking and child abuse.
but to point back to the opening Bonhoeffer quote, the believer is put into a perplexing situation in the abortion debate, and yet it is not a new situation for believers: how do we love those whom we are at enmity with?
Bonhoeffer’s point is simple: the Gospel does not allow room for the Christian to consider any person – or even organization – as his/her enemy. and he’s in good company with this point:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” -St. Paul of Tarsus (Eph. 6:12)
if Paul, who faced persecution at the hands of the ancient nihilistic reign of Nero, or Bonhoeffer, who faced the more modern nihilistic reign of Hitler, can say such things, then are we to contradict them in the pro-life movement?
after all, Jesus also faced murderous institutions in his time – the regime of Herod that slaughtered the children of Bethlehem, the Roman empire’s iron-fisted rule of Judea. throughout the Roman world, it was not an uncommon practice for the poor to abandon their children to die:
“Infanticide was universal in ancient Greece and Rome. Babies would often be rejected if they were illegitimate, unhealthy or deformed, the wrong sex (female for example), or too great a burden on the family. Female infants were particularly vulnerable.” -Joanie Gruber, MSW (“Orphan Care in the Early Church – a Heritage to Recapture”, italics mine)
it was the early Christians who intervened in these abandoned lives and showed value where society had justified these infants as non-persons. and this is certainly a heritage the Church must continue today, because regarding life as sacred doesn’t just mean protecting the life of a fetus, but loving the fatherless, helping unwed mothers, grieving with the victims of abuse, and offering forgiveness to those who have made past mistakes as we believe our mistakes have been forgiven.
this all should get an easy “amen” from my brothers and sisters in the faith. so what then do we do with an organization like Planned Parenthood that stands in the way of this sacred heritage? what do we do with the boiling hatred that is so easy to succumb to when we read the heartbreaking, staggering statistics of the unborn?
here is the conundrum: Jesus himself characterizes hatred as tantamount to murder (Matt. 5:21-22), so then how can we justify hating an entity like Planned Parenthood and at the same time call them murderers? abortion is murder. hatred is murder. who wants to cast the first stone? not me.
to love Planned Parenthood doesn’t mean supporting abortion or giving financially to the organization. but it does mean having compassion for the women who walk through its doors every day, many for different reasons. it means having compassion even for the doctor performing an abortion – is this what he/she dreamed for themselves when starting medical school? how devastating to have to numb and deaden your ethical senses in order to make a living. it means praying for the souls of people like Cecile Richards, PP’s CEO, and that she would turn away from the lies the organization perpetuates in our culture.
so what do we do then? if political action and screaming and shouting and sign-holding and social-media-ranting won’t work, what is left?
first, we pray. we pray for the souls of the unborn. we pray for the women facing crisis. we pray even for the doctors performing the procedure, we pray for policy-makers and our leaders. when we take any action without first praying, we are prone to misstep.
second, we listen. always, always we listen (James 1:19). we don’t have to agree with what we hear, but hearing goes a long way in earning the trust and respect of even those with whom we disagree. too often we close the door for meaningful dialogue when we don’t first lend our ears. and that applies equally in much less-controversial conversations too.
third, we give. there are a growing number of clinics who are supporting women’s health and providing women with realistic options and resources in the midst of their crisis. some in our area include:
–Hope Women’s Center (Collin County)
–Thrive Women’s Clinic (Dallas County)
–Fort Worth Pregnancy Center (Tarrant County)
–Pregnancy Help 4 You (Tarrant/Denton County)
–Woman2Woman (Denton County)
fourth, we teach. we stand for life, but in an informed and reasonable way. we stand upon scientific fact and testimonials from those who have been there when we have not. as a man who never will face this situation, i have been moved personally by the stories of women who have been through an abortion, and those who were conceived from rape or incest.
finally, we dare to show love to those who are ardently pro-choice, Planned Parenthood, and other clinics like them. we dare to see them as people with souls and not just as faceless opponents. we show them kindness – both online and in person – because that is the way of Christ. even when they do not return the kindness, we do not count them as enemies. it is not weakness to do so, but rather takes an inordinate amount of strength.
i’m not saying to not share the Center for Medical Progress’ videos or not to protest or not to write Senators/Congresspersons. but these actions must be done in love and never from a position of attack. when we attack, we only validate the Planned Parenthood PR team and give credence to the pro-choice argument.
let this also be clear: i support the defunding of Planned Parenthood. abortion denies the nation of future taxpayers and the money that goes to PP could easily be re-distributed to health centers that aren’t controversial or even into domestic abuse and foster care systems – needs that have only grown since Roe v. Wade. but at the same time, let’s not get too fixated on the dollars and cents of it or how else are we different than those bartering for fetal tissue? let us pro-lifers remember that we ultimately care more about life than we do money. there is a chance that creating pro-life support and health services in place of PP would actually be more expensive. so be it. life has no dollar sign on it. it is priceless.
furthermore, we who are pro-life must actively open our arms to those who have been through an abortion. we should offer to them nothing but free grace and understanding because of the unimaginable situation they have gone through. the Church in general has not proved the safest place for women who have been through an abortion, out of fear of judgment or even outright hostility. let us not grieve and love these women any less than the unborn child.
for myself, may these words not be the end of what i do or they will just be a clanging of gongs and cymbals. may i make the choice to love Planned Parenthood as i continue to love the unborn. that will not be an easy thing for me to do. but i know it is necessary.