Mission Lab 2018

The issue of our day, still

January 5th, 2017 / By: Gary Ledbetter | Editor in Chief / comments

Biblical Christians disagreed on several issues during the 2016 presidential election. Some of these disagreements were widely aired; others were too awkward to speak of publicly. I thought at times we disagreed on the priority of life—the scandal of legal, even publicly funded, abortion. I maintain it is still the most important moral tragedy of our culture, and one for which a solution is imaginable. Do not hear me say that any Bible-believing Southern Baptists are pro-abortion. I do think, for this election, the target-rich environment of outrageous political behavior pushed sympathy for unborn life into the background at times.

This side of heaven, I cannot imagine the end of poverty or sexism or xenophobia or any number of other ubiquitous problems. The poor we will have with us always because the poor are sinners, because the rich are sinners, because those who dispense justice and make laws are sinners—and they will be sinners until the end of the age. That doesn’t relieve us of responsibility to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but our work will be palliative not curative. 

It is similar with other problems common to the hearts of sinful men and women. Our efforts to address them seem like the desperate work of a man who pulls planks off the front of his sinking boat to fix leaks in the back. Everything we do seems to spawn as many difficulties as it solves. 

Abortion is not merely one point along the scale of “life” issues.”

But I remember a time when abortion was not legal, not blessed by presidential candidates or praised by Supreme Court justices, and not funded involuntarily by taxpayers who very much object to the expenditure. I can thus imagine a day when even sinners will repudiate the blithe destruction of innocent human life. It’s the worst thing our country willfully and legally does. Until we stop doing it or until we come up with something more monstrous, it will be the issue. 

I reject the notion that pro-life people care little for those who are already born. A significant percentage of children being cared for in our foster care system and child placement agencies are being cared for by pro-life institutions and families with a gospel motivation for what they do. I’ve not yet seen a pregnancy resource center that does not try to help with baby formula, maternity clothes, baby clothes and other services far beyond pregnancy tests and sonograms. Some provide life skills training or help with job training. All those I know are quick to share the gospel and bring adults and children into a caring fellowship of believers. But until the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly says that one adult person has a legal right to kill another person after birth, and be paid for the act with taxpayer money; until a presidential candidate praises publicly funded institutions who commit this horrible deed, abortion is not merely one point along the scale of “life” issues. 

I’ve read the arguments that say that we must work just as hard against everything from climate change to nuclear proliferation to the death penalty if we are to be truly “pro-life.” Each of these things has a moral payload, as do poverty, injustice and corruption. But use different terms rather than make “pro-life” mean everything. These causes have their advocates and even broad coalitions of advocates, so let them stay under their own rubrics. I believe some who conflate all compassion issues into the one term do so cynically. They are sometimes pro-choice and would willingly dissipate the impact of the pro-life movement. This has definitely been the response of those who believe the right of unborn children to be born is a “complex” issue—another euphemism for “I don’t believe it’s very important.” 

My plea is that we not rest on any front of this battle. The fight for life takes place in the legislature and in the courts, to be sure. But we advocate just as certainly at the local pregnancy resource center. Your church should support the nearest PRC. Support it financially and support it with volunteer help and encouragement. Baptists fight for the lives of the innocent through foster care and through children’s homes. The helpless and needy also occupy the other end of the timeline. Elderly people, homebound people and those who occupy retirement homes are people made in the image of God, and who are affected when a nation discounts the holiness of life created in the image of God. 

This does not take away from our call to feed the hungry or advocate for justice for all people. But, as I said, elective abortion is the worst, the most unjust thing our nation praises, encourages and funds. Until that changes, pro-life American Christians must not blink, whether our friends understand us or not.