It’s strange when headline news happens in your hometown. I live about ten minutes away from the Black Friday’s Planned Parenthood shooting. Not only did this tragic event happen in my city, but it also involved one of the issues I am passionate about.
I’ve been involved in the pro-life movement since I was a 19. For two summers, I worked at a local crisis pregnancy center, counseled young women, spoke at church events, and conducted an undercover research project. As a college student, I posed as a 16-year-old in a crisis pregnancy and visited ten abortion clinics, Planned Parenthoods, and Christian pregnancy centers in Florida. I documented each visit and used what I learned to train crisis pregnancy counselors to be more empathic and effective in their ministry.
Now, 25 years later, I run an organization on the front lines of the sexual issues women face, including abortion and crisis pregnancy. Here’s what I’ve observed related to addressing these explosive cultural issues. While the moral principles related to sexuality may represent good and evil, the people involved on either side are far more complicated.
What happened last Friday is a glaring example of what happens when we simplify complicated social issues with a good vs. evil lens.
Beyond Cartoons and Straw Men
One of the most prominent qualities of children’s entertainment is the clear delineation between “good guys” and “bad guys.” Cartoons and other children’s shows have superheroes and evil villains because a child’s brain is incapable of processing the complexities of real-life characters. Most stories, books, and media geared toward pre-adolescents stay with distinct categories of good and bad.
In real life, there may be good and evil related to morality, but there are no purely good or purely evil people. We all have some aspects of compassion and empathy; we also all have a dark side. We all can be angry, selfish, and hateful.
Planned Parenthood and abortion advocates want to use the senseless violence of a crazy man to stereotype all those who are against abortion. For decades when I watch how the media portrays pro-lifers, I’ve wanted to scream, “They don’t represent me!”
I’ve also learned that the other side feels the same way. While there may be some hardhearted, money-driven people pushing the abortion agenda, there are also men and women who truly believe they are doing good by giving women alternatives.
From a biblical perspective, the issues we argue about are pretty black and white, but the people involved are much more complicated. There is great evil represented by some who claim to be pro-life, and there can be genuine goodness within some of the evilest places.
The great apostle Paul certainly found himself on the wrong side of the battle when he persecuted Christ-followers. While his actions were evil and sinful, he actually thought that he was serving God with his zeal to snuff out the first Christians. When he later wrote to Timothy about how to address those doing evil, he spoke with compassion and sensitivity:
Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people's hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil's trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.
Paul was once in the evil trap of the devil, taken captive to do his will, all the while believing that he was serving God.
Those who oppose our biblical stand on life or the sanctity of marriage are not automatically evil people bent on destroying lives. Their motives, like ours, can be complicated; their hearts, like ours, can be deceived. In fact, some of them may demonstrate more mercy and compassion than those on our side of these issues.
What Are We Really Fighting For?
While abortion is a terrible tragedy, our ultimate goal should not be to stop it at all costs. Opposing abortion has to be an outgrowth of our greater commission: to go throughout the world, preach the gospel, and make disciples of all nations. Zeal for even the greatest causes will become dangerous if it is not rooted in Christ’s love and redemption. Paul said as much in 1 Corinthians 13. Without love, we become a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. Unfortunately, this is what much of the church has become. A noisy mob with strong conviction but no love or power to impact the lives of hurting people.
Should we stand for righteousness and justice? Should we fight for the oppressed and unborn? Absolutely! But the power of the fight comes not in our anger, nor through our savvy arguments. The power to change lives and culture comes only through absolute surrender to Jesus Christ. Without him, we can do nothing. His Spirit not only dictates the cause we fight for, but it also gives us the love and mercy with which we fight.
Whatever his motives may have been, the actions of the Black Friday shooter have done irreparable harm to the cause of stopping abortion. Let’s remember that we don’t have to wield a gun to be hateful and cruel. Our words and attitudes, even while standing for a righteous cause, can be a terrible affront to the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Wherever we fall on issues like abortion and gay marriage, how we act in the battle may even be more important than the stand we take.