Thursday, December 7, 2017

Pro-life outreach to fellow Christians

At a recent pro-life event that I participated in, the question was asked the panel how to convince a pastor that one’s church should support the pro-life cause, notwithstanding pro-choice congregation members. An answer was offered by a panelist that talked well of standard texts of Scripture that have bearing on the humanity of the fetus.

A day after the event, one of the audience members told me that there was too much focus on the status of the fetus, because even if students are convinced that human life starts at conception, they still think that because of conflict between the rights of the fetus and the rights of the mother, abortion is permissible.

In light of this, it seems to me that a crucial part of pro-life outreach to fellow Christians—including but not just pastors—is to focus on more general texts about our duties towards the vulnerable and needy. While a major part of the debate over abortion is indeed focused on the moral status of the fetus, both motivationally and intellectually it seems really important to focus on a deep underlying assumption that we do not have much in the way of onerous duties towards others, unless we have voluntarily undertaken those duties. Yet the Gospel teaches that we do have such duties, duties binding under pain of eternal damnation. Thus in addition to a reliance on texts about the status of the unborn, one needs motivationally powerful texts like:

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:41-46).

These texts make it clear that we have highly onerous duties towards others, duties we may have done nothing to acquire. It is very difficult to defend disconnection from the violinist while thinking about such texts.

But of course if we use such texts then we had better be sure that we live so that they do not condemn us, too. For they are indeed terrifying texts on many fronts. May God have mercy on all our souls!


Nathaniel Metz said...

Very well said! Amen!

Tom said...

I think this is correct, but some people believe there are extremely strong obligations to help those in need (e.g. effective altruists) while still thinking that there is no obligation to remain plugged in to the violinist. Maybe the only explanation for this is a baffling blindspot on their part, but it's worth noting.

Sam Harper said...

If not for the grace of God, none of us would make it.

I don't think one has to remained plugged into the violinist to have a duty to keep the baby. One could appeal to passages like 1 Timothy 5:8 to show that a mother has duties and obligations to her own offspring that she wouldn't have for a stranger who is a violinist.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

I have had some frustrating arguements with fellow Catholics who no matter how much I argued for the humanity of the fetus were constantly countering my arguments with th "beauty of choice" or who maintained that abortion should be legal. No matter what argument I made for the humanity of the fetus or that this had always been a teaching of the Church.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Just came across this:

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

It is odd and strange. Many pro-choice people love animals and would never hurt them. Theybmaintain that hunting is cruel because of the pain inflicted on sentient beings, but totally fail to see an unborn child ripped appart in an abortion or dispatched shortly afterward the same way. Yet oddly these same pro-choice people are so "kind-hearted" otherwise. They are so for the rights of animals to life including fish, but have a blind spot where the unborn child is concerned. They are so for equal rights for everyone except the unborn child. It is a strange blindness and pro-choice people twist logic into pretzels to maintain it.