Is the guilt-seeking-resolution theory ultimately untrue? Is it too eagerly embraced by ethicists who appeal to natural-law theory and psychologists who idolize the notion of the psyche seeking integration? Or is conscience as much the product of nurture as nature, a cultivated awareness that augments the innate sense of right and wrong? Is a well-developed conscience necessarily informed by a morally enlightened culture? If the culture is not morally enlightened, will most individual consciences also be dark and underdeveloped?
This seems to have been the case throughout America’s period of slavery. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington notwithstanding, there are comparatively few accounts of slave owners existentially riven by their participation in the constant and visible evil of persons reduced to property. While it’s true that Washington and Jefferson were both in their ways singularly great Americans, the founding generation as a whole were also great. At the time of the founding and throughout the fragile first 100 years, Americans were arguably the best, the most literate, and the most principled people in the world—and yet many of them owned slaves, and thus had to live with, amid, and through the most glaring moral blindness.
And then it changed. Not all of a sudden, of course, but it changed. A hundred and fifty years later, no one is morally indifferent to, let alone in favor of, slavery. That 600,000 were killed in the Civil War many believe to have been the necessary price for the overcoming of slavery.
In his “House Divided” speech of June 1858, Abraham Lincoln set forth the framework for overcoming slavery:
If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it. . . . We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.
In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
These are stunning words, and they are rightly famous. It is the sort of smart, clear-eyed assessment few would have had the insight to make and fewer still would have had the courage to express. Lincoln has often been likened to an Old Testament prophet. But given the fate that awaited the prophets—and Lincoln—most would rather admire than emulate them.
A seldom spoken but ever-present fear among pro-lifers is that a similar analysis applies to abortion and that for us too, a crisis will be necessary for an end to and resolution of abortion. Many pro-lifers are doubly plagued: tormented by the evil of abortion in our midst, but also fearful of the crisis that may be necessary for its resolution. We must begin by asking ourselves the same questions Lincoln asked. We must know where we are and where we are tending so that we might best judge what to do and how to do it. Are the political circumstances ripe to animate and reap the whirlwind of latent, unresolved abortion guilt? Is the pro-life movement willing to respond to opportunity’s call, and provoke a sufficiently intolerable cognitive dissonance to precipitate that crisis which will ultimately bring a resolution?
Much has been written about the flatfooted responses of the Catholic and Protestant churches in the late Sixties and Seventies. It can also be argued that, since then, the pro-life movement has on-again off-again sought redemption on the cheap, trying to bypass the crisis necessary for resolution.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s film The Silent Scream is even now the single most powerful film I have ever seen. It showed a child within the womb in a way few had seen before, and it showed that same child being killed by abortion. And yet, it did not close the deal. The movie had a fundamental flaw: It tried to avert any sense of a personal or collective responsibility for the sin of abortion, by presenting the child within the womb as a victim about whom, until then, we hadn’t known, and for whom we were therefore not responsible.
Early in The Silent Scream, Nathanson says that when he was in medical school, fetology was not yet a distinct area of study and that it was an article of faith as to whether the fetus was a human being. Later, while describing ultrasound, he continued: “These technologies have convinced us that the unborn child is a person indistinguishable from any other.” The unmistakable message of The Silent Scream was that we did not know before that abortion killed a baby. With that, there was implicit absolution for all abortions that had been performed up until that point. After all, Nathanson himself had personally aborted thousands of babies, but had only been convinced of the wrongness of abortion after seeing ultrasound images of the child within the womb. If he hadn’t known, how could we have known?
But there was much that was disingenuous about this argument. Pro-lifers had known and presented evidence, from the very beginning, that it was a child. Abortionists were trained physicians, fully knowledgeable about fetal development. The 2,500-year-old Hippocratic Oath explicitly proscribed abortion for the obvious reason that it killed the child in the womb. Further, it was necessary for the abortionist to reassemble the body parts of babies aborted using the dilation-and-curettage method. The general public also knew full well that it was a baby that was killed by abortion. It was obvious and had always been known. The folk description of the state of pregnancy was to be “with child.” Everyone had felt or seen a mother’s belly move with the kicking of her unborn baby. Everyone had seen or heard of the advanced development of stillborn babies.
And yet the pro-life movement embraced The Silent Scream’s revisionist history of abortion in the hopes of resolution on the cheap. It was the perfect win-win. Abortion had just been the result of a misunderstanding. No guilt for those who had aborted and no resentment towards the accusers.
When The Silent Scream first came out I was an undergraduate. Our pro-life group showed the film to a packed room at the university. Through the film, the profile of the issue increased dramatically; but this did not result in a widespread rejection of abortion. It did not provoke a sense of crisis and did not lead to a resolution of the abortion struggle. Ironically, it may have been the film’s rhetorical sleight of hand—claiming the baby in the womb was a newly discovered victim—that undermined the purgative value of truth.
The ultrasound images of the baby swimming in the amniotic fluid, kicking, moving its head and arms, were transfixing. A hundred and fifty university students were silently captivated as they watched, and then horror-struck when the baby was attacked and torn apart by the abortionist’s suction tube. After the meeting a few joined our pro-life group, but only a few, not twenty or even ten. True, to join a pro-life group was a huge step, placing oneself outside of the enlightened self-interest of the promiscuous university. But perhaps part of the reason The Silent Scream did not transform large numbers was that Nathanson’s self-serving and manipulative ignorance plea was so transparent. Why should they take the leap and change their lives if this Jeremiah was not even willing to name the sin for what it was?
Perhaps he should have identified himself as a murderer, albeit one who murdered within the boundaries of the law. Perhaps he should have sentenced himself to the equivalent of what a just court would apply to such a crime. Perhaps he should have called for the arrest of other doctors who perform abortions. Perhaps he should have called for the arrest of mothers and fathers who abort their babies, and grandparents who help them do so. To pass abortion off as an act of ignorance rather than malice was a gross deception. But it was a deception each of us—Nathanson, the pro-life movement, and the general public—left unnamed and participated in for our own reasons. It sullied and weakened the pro-life movement. We lacked the clear-eyed moral seriousness to earn and deserve victory.
A few years later, Operation Rescue, ironically a mostly evangelical initiative, stepped closer to the very Catholic understanding of the economy of purgation and redemption through a sort of proxy sacrifice. Thousands of pro-lifers were arrested for passive resistance in front of abortion clinics and hundreds spent long stints in jail. Randall Terry, the group’s chief organizer, spoke with refreshing impatience and urgency. He said that if abortion is murder we must act like it. It was the great unspoken truth of the pro-life movement. It had been broadly intuited without being articulated and it carried great resonance. It was not enough merely to say that abortion was wrong. Sin incurred debt which demanded payment.
From the very beginning the pro-life movement had operated within the individualistic-rights framework of liberalism, adopting its ideas and language even to the point of naming itself the “right-to-life movement.” The main argument of the pro-life movement had been that in the hierarchy of rights, the baby’s right to life was greater than the mother’s right to do as she wished with her body, if the mother’s actions were to result in the death of the baby. It was a liberal justice argument that depended on the state’s correctly identifying and protecting the hierarchy of rights. But, as time passed and the state did not reverse its liberalization of abortion, the inefficacy of appeals to rights moved many pro-lifers to begin to think more in terms of the communalism of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Old and New Testaments speak repeatedly of nations and peoples. Nations and peoples are blessed and cursed according to their love of God and righteousness. Among the pro-life movement there was a growing sense of our shared, collective responsibility as a nation and a people for abortion. As we moved from calling for the civil rights of the unborn to a communal sharing in responsibility for abortion there was a heightened sense of urgency among pro-lifers.
Rescues received huge media coverage as they provided great street theater. Protestant and Catholic clergy, and mostly the sort of lay people who attend Mass or church services, were carried into paddy wagons. In Toronto, at least, it was surprisingly easy: The police were not brutal and the misdemeanor charges of trespass or failure to obey were usually dropped without court appearances or fines. As well, the psychological payoff was high. Pro-life work had mostly been a rearguard action much like William F. Buckley Jr.’s description of conservatism, standing athwart history yelling “stop.” Direct action was pro-active. It emboldened and self-perpetuated. It was a heady experience, much like poking a big sleeping dog with a stick, and though the abortion interest was strong and well-entrenched, they seemed surprisingly disoriented and reactive. We had re-branded ourselves as the disenfranchised outsiders. We had turned the tables on the media and pro-abortion activists who had reflexively identified themselves as the virtuous outsiders fighting the corrupt, oppressive system. Now they were the status quo and we were the advocates of change.
It was also an attitudinal thing. As many commentators have observed, in post-modern culture earnestness had replaced objective truth as the basis for respectability, and Operation Rescue was nothing if not earnest. But among rescuers on the ground there was a growing consciousness of Rescue as a posture and Rescue as theatre. There was no demanding hierarchy. We were validated by ourselves and one another for having gone above and beyond, just by showing up. For some of us, as we became more circumspect about the meaning of and prospects for Rescue, Randall Terry’s dictum “if abortion is murder we must act like it” went from being literal and spiritual to demonstrative and theatrical.
So when the courts began to apply racketeering and organized-crime legislation against pro-lifers, misdemeanors became felonies and the honeymoon was over. In his essay “Why History Matters,” Ted Byfield, commenting on Sixties radicalism, makes some broader observations about the limits of grassroots political protests:
The exhibitionist manifestations of the revolution came to an abrupt end on a fixed date. On May 4, 1970, during a protest rally at Kent State University, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a student crowd. Four were killed and nine wounded. There was, of course, universal outrage, but it’s notable that thereafter protest marches and rallies rapidly declined and soon disappeared. It was no longer fun. It was dangerous.
Byfield continues in a footnote:
Thomas Carlyle in his history of the French Revolution tells how the Paris mobs, uncontrollable for years, were sharply and permanently subdued by a young French officer who turned the cannon on them and gave them what he called “a whiff of grapeshot.” The whole revolution, says Carlyle, was at that instant “blown into space by it, and become a thing that was!” The Kent State incident had the same effect. The young officer’s name was Napoleon Bonaparte.
I would guess that all of us who were in Rescue have felt guilty for having stopped, for not following through. Throughout history men have fought and died for causes less clear, less noble, and yet the most ardent pro-lifers quietly stopped rescuing as soon as there were criminal sanctions. The reason, I think, was lack of authority. One of the conditions of Catholic Just War Theory is that war be waged by a legitimate authority. I have always understood this requirement in terms of the need to replace the orderliness of the regime being displaced, but in light of the failed resolve of Rescue, it’s clear that legitimate authority is also necessary to command obedience, perseverance, and sacrifice. Throughout history, most soldiers marched into battle because, once committed, they had no choice. Rescue faded and then collapsed because there was no authority to command participants to carry on when the going got tough, and to punish them if they failed to do so.
Unlike Sixties student protesters who knew they were moving in the same direction as the broad sweep of history and were certain of their vindication, Rescuers from the beginning knew that the indulgence of the state and the media would not last; they were on borrowed time. Student protesters in the Sixties quit because it had become dangerous and serious, and besides, the fight was largely won before they began. Rescue withered away because our protest had no end game. It seemed morally justifiable to break trespass laws to call attention to the higher moral laws broken by the killing of the innocent preborn; but to continue on an escalating trajectory of disobedience, as the same act went from misdemeanor to felony, was in a way to move from protest to a declaration that the state had lost its legitimacy. This could mean only that one was either an anarchist or a member of the heavenly kingdom. It was the territory of the reckless or the saintly.
The Lambs of Christ, founded by Fr. Norman Weslin—who had retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel—carried Rescue to its logical conclusion, staging sit-ins where the prosecution was the most aggressive and the penalties the most severe, embracing persecution and imprisonment out of solidarity with the aborted child. Weslin was no wild-eyed anarchist. He described the spiritual posture of The Lambs as “weak, humble, docile, silent, obedient. We pray for those persecuting us.” In Toronto, as of this writing, pro-lifer Linda Gibbons sits in jail silent and defenseless, like the unborn child.
The pro-life movement has always been a grassroots movement, and just as the Church is often moved by the sensus fidelium, the radicalism that had begun on the streets in front of abortion clinics made its way up to the pages of the leading political/religious journal First Things, with the November 1996 Symposium titled “The End of Democracy? The Judicial Usurpation of Politics.” The editor’s introduction was like a beam of light:
The question here explored, in full awareness of its far-reaching consequences, is whether we have reached or are reaching the point where conscientious citizens can no longer give moral assent to the existing regime. . . . Some of our authors examine possible responses to laws that cannot be obeyed by conscientious citizens—ranging from non-compliance to resistance to civil disobedience to morally justified revolution.
This was not sophomoric radicalism. The editorial quotes Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: “A Christian should not support a government that suppresses the faith or one that sanctions the taking of innocent life.” It continues:
The Archbishop of Denver [writes] in a pastoral letter on recent court rulings: “The direction of the modern state is against the dignity of the human life. These decisions harbinger a dramatic intensifying of the conflict between the Catholic Church and governing civil authorities.” Professor Russell Hittinger observed that the present system “has made what used to be the most loyal citizens—religious believers—enemies of the common good whenever their convictions touch upon public things.”
Among the five contributors to the symposium was Robert H. Bork, the judge whose nomination to the Supreme Court was thwarted by liberals because he did not pass their pro-Roe v. Wade litmus test. Bork’s rough treatment has become emblematic of the politicization of the Court. Bork described the court as rule by oligarchy. Law professor Russell Hittinger was more careful, more hypothetical, but ultimately even more forceful than Bork. Hittinger wrote:
The issue of legitimacy can be examined from another point of view. Citizens have a duty not to obey a law if it seriously injures the common good. And were such laws propounded as essential features of the constitutional order itself—which is to say, propounded as laws governing the making of other laws—then we could reasonably ask about the legitimacy of that regime. . . . Issues like abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage should not be treated as isolated from the broader constitutional crisis. Those who would try to play within the game imposed by the Court, in the hope of incrementally improving the situation issue-by-issue, actually deepen rather than mitigate the authority of the new order. Indeed, it tends to confirm the suspicion that citizens who hold conservative opinions about morals and religion lurch from issue to issue, trying to use the public order merely to win a point, if not to punish those who believe otherwise. Particular issues therefore need to be advanced for the purpose of prompting a constitutional crisis; and prompting the constitutional crisis is the responsible thing to do.
The blowback in the January 1997 issue as well as in other conservative and mainstream media was withering. Midge Decter, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Peter Berger, and others resigned from the editorial board or dissociated themselves from the magazine. They condemned comparisons of America to Nazi Germany as disproportionate, rash, and provocative. They said aloof references to “the current regime” were implicitly disloyal. Midge Decter wrote:
Could you not see, in the 20th of all centuries, how profoundly offensive it is to speak that way when even the truly morally justified revolutions of our time—against Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and their acolytes and imitators—never, alas, took place? In your Introduction you warn us of the “growing alienation of millions of Americans from a government they do not recognize as theirs.” Such a warning smacks of nothing so much as the kind of careless radicalism you and I not all that long ago prayed to have put behind it.
In the Editorial Reply that appeared alongside these criticisms in the January issue, there is regret at friendships lost, there is even a sense of anxiety at this crossing of the Rubicon, but the hand put to the plow remains. “The question of legitimate and illegitimate government, and what it means for the governance of this country should be a subject of contention. It has been since the founding of this republic, and will be so as long as it endures.” The editors emphasize that their purpose is to give voice to what had been and what must once again be: a constant questioning about whether America is remaining true to its founding principles. This vital questioning had fallen silent, but simmered beneath as an unarticulated disquiet. Their purpose was to reinitiate the discussion, to reassert the rights of the people as represented and governed by their elected representatives.
They were aware of the dangers: “Yes there is a danger that the very discussion of these matters could be exploited by the violent who do not share our devotion to the constitutional order and the rule of law.” But their protest was rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition which remains the basis for the views of the person which are the foundation of democracy.
The Judicial Usurpation of Politics Symposium may well have achieved, at least in part, what it set out to do. It pointed out that a great nation, like an individual, can die by the inch or die by the sword. The best part of America, the conscience of America, could die a slow, coward’s death, decrying the symptoms but never the sickness, or it could keep faith with the founders and their self-evident truths. Since the thwarted Bork confirmation and the First Things Symposium, the idea that the courts, and the Supreme Court in particular, are activist agents of change and subverters of principles and traditions has fully entered the broad political debate. The types of court appointments likely to be made by a presidential candidate figure large in the profile of a candidate. But the Symposium did not galvanize the pro-life effort or elevate it to the necessary level of crisis.
On the cultural front, Women Exploited By Abortion, Project Rachel, and Silent No More have emphasized that abortion is a crime with two victims, both the child and the mother. Mothers who have aborted their babies, and a few fathers, have been speaking up and reaching out to others who have had abortions. But it seems that their stories have more resonance as a caution against abortion among the young than as a call to healing for those who have had abortions. Angelina Steenstra, a representative of Silent No More, recently spoke at Catholic high schools in my area. Many students said that it was the most powerful talk they had ever heard. However, when she gave the talk at a parish hall in the evening, the event—despite its having been advertised as a call to all those silently hurting from an abortion—was attended by only 26 people, most of whom were pro-lifers from the parish.
“We’re all hurting, we’re all victims” is the pro-life manifestation of the broader cultural phenomenon of identity through victimhood. In The Minimal Self, cultural historian Christopher Lasch described how industrial and post-industrial mass culture has been psychologically overwhelming. Pre-Enlightenment artisan man was created in the image and likeness of God; but this sense of grandeur was diminished by, among other things, Enlightenment specialization and the depersonalization of mass production. The latter is best illustrated by a simple example: In modern industrial culture a chair, of the kind that had once been made by a particular chair maker and was comprehended and mastered as such, was replaced by one of thousands of identical mass-produced chairs. This fact changed our status in relation to things. We were reduced to consumers of copies of types of things, produced in ways beyond our comprehension, in quantities which were daunting and depersonalizing. In response, we retreated from our grandeur as kings created in the image and likeness of God, to become quiet, private men. According to Lasch, this diminishment of the self and retreat into the private ultimately resulted in our political natures’ reasserting themselves in a very strange way. We ended up asserting our distinctness through our maladjustment. This caused the rise of “identity through victimhood.” Jerry Springer, Oprah, and Dr. Phil trade on people eager to uncover their pathologies as a way of finding or, more precisely, creating their identities.
The philosophy at the heart of Women Exploited By Abortion, Project Rachel, and Silent No More is ultimately as disingenuous as the argument central to the Nathanson films (“The Silent Scream” and also “Eclipse of Reason”). Yes, many women who abort their babies were not supported in their crisis pregnancies or were even pressured to abort. As such they too were victims. But in the hierarchy of goods lost by abortion their suffering does not rank next to the death of the baby. Angelina Steenstra and others like her are not themselves escapists or excuse-makers. Angelina has dedicated her life to reliving her abortion again and again as a purgatory on earth and a cautionary tale. Though she talks about victimhood she lives out the responsibility for her abortion. It is a good and worthy mission at a pastoral level, as a first step; but at a broader cultural level, the victim argument does not provide the indictment necessary to awaken consciences to abortion as a crisis begging for resolution. The mother as co-victim should not be the primary message of the pro-life movement.
The straightforward approach of calling abortion what it is—murder—and calling for prison sentences for all involved clears away conscience-darkening deceptions and creates the crisis necessary for a resolute overcoming of abortion. It also dramatically repositions the abortion debate in politics and the media. To date, the fight against abortion is unique among social causes in that the pro-life movement, out of fear of the crisis necessary for resolution, has consistently understated its case. This has been a tone-deaf political stance and it has failed. American democratic politics has its own longstanding dialectic, built on bold battle, compromise, and each side settling for half a loaf. Everybody knows this going in, and so it is understood that each side extends its case as far as credibility will endure, knowing that they will not get all they ask for. But amazingly, the pro-life movement has not done this. In fact, the pro-life movement has done the opposite of this, playing down the simple fact that abortion murders a preborn baby.
Over the years most of us have had soft-touch bumper stickers with slogans like “vote pro-life,” “I’m pro life,” “abortion is mean,” “abortion hurts women,” and “abortion stops a beating heart.” From the beginning of the pro-life cause, pro-lifers—including President Reagan, in his 1983 essay “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation”—have frequently invoked the weakest, most abstract argument against abortion, namely, the argument that even if we don’t know whether there’s a living baby in the womb, we should give life the benefit of the doubt. This makes no rhetorical or political sense and actually plays into the hands of our opponents, who have no substantive arguments of their own and remain credible only by raising doubt on pro-life arguments.
The pro-life movement must boldly call abortion murder and call for the imprisonment of abortionists and parents who abort their babies, because this will create a new starting point for the abortion debate in the media and among politicians. It is a starting point that has the ring of truth for individual consciences, and this is a huge step towards overcoming abortion. It moves the pro-life movement from defense to offense, which is exactly where good people should be when bad people have been killing babies and continue to kill babies. The defenders of abortion will be forced to address a new set of arguments. The defenders of abortion will now have to answer the unenviable charge that they are murderers.
This line of argument will no doubt face a media blackout, but when even the president and the Vatican have set up their own YouTube channels this is a receding problem. Through savvy, courage, and persistence the case will be brought to the public, and the media and politicians will have no choice but to catch up. When the reframed abortion debate does emerge center stage, the most immediate effect will be that the pro-abortion camp will suddenly find itself quiet and empty. Who will want to be the public face of the pro-abortion movement, when it is clearly and unambiguously identified as murderous? Up until this point the strongest slogan used by the pro-life movement has been “abortion kills children.” When the primary message becomes “abortion is murder” and “abortionists are murderers” and “supporters of abortion are accessories to murder,” being a public spokesperson of the pro-abortion movement goes from no cost to a very high cost.
I would argue that the reluctance—the fear—of the pro-life movement to precipitate a crisis to bring about an end of abortion is understandable. This concern must be especially acute with the election of the most pro-abortion president in history. But the resolution of abortion is not likely to take the bloody trajectory of the resolution of slavery. There are essential differences.
First, slavery was regional—it was concentrated in the South—while abortion is legal and practiced throughout the U.S., Canada, and almost everywhere in the world. Support for and opposition to slavery naturally coalesced around where it was and wasn’t allowed, resulting in the Confederacy vs. the Union, the South vs. the North. Though rural areas tend to be more socially conservative than urban centers, and the East Coast and West Coast more liberal than middle America, these divisions are not resounding and definitive.
Second, slavery was a constant, highly visible, and ever-present evil. Abortion is a greater evil, but each abortion is committed as a single act performed behind closed doors. Those who abort their babies hire the abortionist to commit the act, and then get as far away from it as possible both physically and psychologically. Psychologically the act is isolated, compartmentalized, and buried. It is only abortionists who participate in abortion as constantly, as deliberately, and as obviously as the entire culture surrounding slavery was forced to participate in slavery.
Third, the promiscuous culture which both caused and was further fueled by the liberalization of abortion laws is quickly imploding upon itself. Abortion is integrally linked to promiscuity, at the levels of both practice and ideas. In practice, promiscuity among teens has been steadily dropping. This is an astounding fact given the complete debasement of popular entertainment and the ubiquity of pornography. At the level of ideas, promiscuity has lost its cachet of liberation. A huge proportion of teenagers grow up amid the wreckage of their parents’ failed serial relationships. They are often denied the innocence of childhood and forced into confidant roles as mixed-up parents gestalt their ways through their tragic mistakes. Promiscuity is just sad and wearying. Without the championing of promiscuity abortion lacks even the basest self-interested justification.
There are intrinsic reasons why the days of abortion will soon end as swiftly and dramatically as did the Berlin Wall. But for all the intrinsic structural decay which set the stage for the collapse of Soviet Communism, the bold leadership of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II was indispensable. Reagan’s abandonment of détente in favour of deterrence, and his bold declaration that the Soviet Union was an “Evil Empire”; Thatcher’s modernization of the British fleet with nuclear submarines, and the placement of 160 nuclear weapons on British soil; and John Paul II’s flesh and blood courage, emboldening Poland’s Solidarity movement to rise up from within—all these combined to create a crisis.
In like manner, abortion will end, and it will end sooner and more suddenly than we expect, if we are willing to be bold.
The pro-life movement has been made up almost entirely of church-attending Catholics, Evangelicals, Christian Reformed, Lutherans, Baptists, and other Christians. Pro-lifers have been fueled by their church-fed faith to go forth into the world. Their efforts have not succeeded because they have not been properly ordered. Rather than proceeding from the churches, we should direct more of our efforts toward the churches—so that the churches wholeheartedly and unqualifiedly lead in challenging the culture on abortion. While pro-lifers are frightened by the Obama presidency and all that it will mean in the U.S. and around the world, Obama’s aggressive promotion of abortion may be what is necessary to galvanize the churches and pro-lifers to a new level of sacrifice and commitment.
The central symbol of Christianity is the cross. At its roots Christianity has been unflinching in facing the bloody sacrifice Christ made for us, a sacrifice we are each called to emulate. But in its branches we have become complacent and comfortable. We must reawaken the sense of crisis which must exist within ourselves, as well as between a sinful world and a holy church.
Through a concerted and well-articulated sensus fidelium, the pro-life movement must call our churches forward. Our churches must provide the Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul II who will bring about the end of abortion. But our churches are built from the ground up, we must lift them up and call them forward. In front of our churches and cathedrals we must show our bishops, priests, and pastors the bodies of those who should be sitting in the pews. We must hold up pictures of aborted babies and signs which read: “This is your flock,” “Where is our Bishop?” and “Lead us.”
If our church leaders join us, if our church leaders make it a duty for all of us, for millions of us, to hold up pictures of aborted babies, if we call abortion murder and those who abort, murderers, there will be a sufficient crisis and abortion will soon end.
Joe Bissonnette, father of seven children, is a teacher, farmer, and freelance writer.