- The Problem of Activism
Whenever one thinks about the options we have in resisting abortion, the likeliest image is carrying a sign and yelling outside an abortion clinic. In my area of the country, protest groups meet frequently outside of one of the country’s largest malls with loud speakers, sound systems, and giant graphic pictures of aborted children which they hold up for all to see. Concerned with human life (rightfully so), they give no thought to the purity of children’s eyes. Offended with death, they violate the imaginations of everyone passing by.
While I agree with their disgust over abortion, find it hard to agree with their methodology and I am by no means alone. I grant the horror of child murder, but does that horror not require respect for the dead bodies of those precious children? Does not plastering them on posters degrade them as well? “If this is the only recourse in resisting abortion,” some think, “then I’m out.”
We have substituted activism for action and the two are vastly different, as different as being social is different from adhering to socialism, and the end result is that the pro-life movement has rapidly increased the rate at which we are marginalized and little to no actual progress is being made.
What are the actions, then, in which we should be engaged? In the fourth century, the practice of abortion in the Roman Empire was much like our own day – abortion through medicines, surgical procedures, and exposure (some cases of which have been reported in America). In addition, the Romans followed the practice of pater familius, which meant that a child was not considered human or part of the family until the father accepted him or her as such. But child murder in all its forms was outlawed by Theodosius the Great in 374 A.D. Why?
St. Basil, pastor of the church in Caesarea, preached regularly about the sanctity of human life and openly spoke against the Roman disregard for it. He worked tirelessly to open hospitals and is credited with establishing the first hospital in Cappadocia. His congregation labored with him to provide for and protect orphans (particularly the abandoned and exposed infants outside the city walls – a practice dating back at least to ancient Greece) and care for unwed mothers. Through what Francis Schaeffer would call the “persistence of compassion” they changed a culture, one believer at a time, one mother at a time, and one child at a time.
In other words, they did not turn the tide of the massive Roman Empire by angry and questionable protests or merely by petitions. They turned the tide through compassion, mercy, kindness, and selflessness. The activism of the modern church has taken the place of these needful things, by and large, leaving the real heavy lifting of protecting life to para-church groups (Christian organizations outside the Church) which are generally underfunded, understaffed, and ignored by the Church.
Ideally, such organizations would be unnecessary (the work being done by the Church herself), but we are in far from ideal shape. So, given their current necessity and given the sheer number of churches in America, why is it that most local Crisis Pregnancy Centers struggle to keep their doors open? Why is it that church after church spends thousands of dollars on new digital church signs but soup kitchens, orphanages, and unwed mothers homes have trouble stocking shelves and finding help?
The Church has created a vicious cycle for herself. We have abdicated our duties and left it to outside organizations, not even bothering to fund or serve them. When they fail or fall behind the demand (due mainly to our lack of concern and involvement) the duties are given over to the State and we are shamefully “horrified” at how they deal with the problem of “inconvenient” children. We have the gall to strike back with protests, shocked that our secularist government would dare violate the same biblical truths that we ignored long before them. What is needed is a return to the compassion and mercy that rid the Roman Empire of its assault upon children.
To be continued…