So I had some fun yesterday, and in case you missed it or in case you saw it but didn’t have the time or energy to peer into the party, don’t worry, I’m here to help you with a little synopsis of the doings. Consider this a FAQ page for Toby’s skirmish with the abortion abolitionists last Tuesday.
All of the fun started when I posted the following:
“The pro-life movement needs to be scrappy, joyful, & persistent. We should run all of the plays from 20 week bans & born-alive protections to heartbeat bills & complete abolition bills. Let’s run all the plays, not satisfied until human life is protected from conception.”
For some of you, this might sound extreme (complete abolition bills? — is that wise?), and for some of you this sounds like me going wobbly (20 week bans? — isn’t that sanctioning the murder of unborn babies through 19 weeks?). And a bunch of you thought the whole thing was just wonderful and grand and cheered. But interestingly, as the comments began coming in, the pushback was entirely from those who want to run only one play: complete abolition bills and nothing else.
Now, let me preface the following with a sincere word of thanks to my interlocutors yesterday on FB. I’ve seen Facebook comments sections that turn into real cesspools of vitriol, and there was really nothing like that in my comments yesterday. Perhaps a comment or two veered towards being a bit snippy, but for Facebook standards, the whole thing was a jolly good time (at least for me!). So I want to be clear that while I’m being playful and a bit jocular here and throughout, I’m really grateful for the whole exchange and while abolitionists often seem to have only one volume setting (“screech”), there wasn’t any of that in the comments that I noticed yesterday. The following is an amalgamation of a number of the questions I tried to address, but I do not intend to poke anyone in particular, just having fun with the whole thing.
FAQs on Toby’s Skirmish with the Abolitionists
Why in the world would you post something like that on Facebook? It was Tuesday.
No, seriously, why would you do that to yourself? Seriously, it was Tuesday and I had a sermon to write, but why not?
Ok, so really, why did you post that on Facebook when you knew good and well you were likely kicking an abolitionist hornet’s nest? Well, I believe firmly that good fences make good neighbors. I’m happy to have friends who differ with me, and I’m happy to work alongside people who disagree with me, but I think clarity about where we stand is helpful as we work together to end abortion in our land. And it was Tuesday.
So don’t you understand that 20 week bans and heartbeat bills are just “regulating” immorality? Since when is it OK for Christians to just regulate evil instead of wholesale banning it? Well, actually Moses regulated divorce because of the hardness of people’s hearts and God hates divorce, and while all idolatry was/is sinful, the Bible records that some kings were faithful to God even though they didn’t remove the high places (1 Kgs. 15:14, 2 Kgs. 12:2-3, 14:3-4, etc.). But I also reject the term “regulating” when the goal is systematic dismantling. If I show up every year to steal another piece off an idolatrous shrine, I deny that I’m “regulating” idolatry. I prefer to call it a slow motion nuke.
So if you support a 20 week ban, you’re saying that it’s OK to kill babies at 19 weeks, right? No.
But seriously, can’t you see that if you support a heartbeat bill with exceptions for rape and incest, you’re saying it’s OK to kill babies before they have a detectable heartbeat or if they were conceived by rape or incest? No, I don’t see that at all. Murder is always wrong. Period. Full stop. And exceptions for rape and incest are illogical and immoral. So if we pass the bill with exceptions this time around, next year we push to get the exceptions repealed.
So how can you defend legislation that merely regulates or limits the murder of babies? Because every rock I can throw at the idol of abortion is worth throwing. Every limit I can place on the murder of the unborn is a step toward the complete end of abortion.
So you’re against bills that would completely abolish abortion? No, I fully support them.
But you don’t think we should completely abolish abortion? No, I do think we should completely abolish abortion.
But you really don’t like people who want to completely abolish abortion? No. I have good friends who are abolitionists. I just think that some in the abolitionist camp need to ease up on their rhetoric and cultivate more gratitude for brothers who fight differently than they do. But I’m generally appreciative of abolitionist energy brought to the fight.
But how can you support abolition bills and heartbeat bills at the same time? Watch me. I’m doing it right now.
Yes, but you’re not doing it very well. Thanks.
But seriously, it’s not possible to support both. Um, yes it is.
No, you can’t. Yes, you can!
But if you offer the same politicians the option of a 20 week ban and complete abolition, they will take the 20 week ban every time. Great, and then next week we offer them a 15 week ban and abolition. And the week after that, we offer them a heartbeat bill and total abolition, and so on, until we get total abolition. The liberals have been playing this smashmouth incrementalist game for decades. There’s no reason we can’t play it.
How can you consider it any kind of victory to pass a 20 week ban? Well, it depends which state was considering it. I would oppose such a thing in Alabama right now, since they just passed their virtual abortion ban. But if we could get a 20 week ban to the floor of the NY legislature for debate, I would consider that a big step forward. And part of the step forward would be the opportunity to explain how abortions are performed on 20 week old babies, show them ultrasounds, show them thousands of 20 week old babies that have survived premature delivery, and of course, most importantly preach the gospel.
Don’t heartbeat bills wrongly communicate that life only begins at the detection of a heartbeat? Nope. God is the author of life. Life begins at conception. Heartbeat bills are victories because it forces everyone in the country to talk about the fact that 6 week old babies have heartbeats. Keep saying it CNN! Thank you, Slate!
But aren’t you still allowing some people to think that life only begins when you can hear a heartbeat? No, because the very next question is: why do 6 week old babies have heartbeats? When do they become human beings? And what does God say? And what does science also confirm?
But you know that heartbeat bills are virtually worthless because the abortion doctors have to self-report and there are no sanctions for abortionists who don’t comply. Yeah, I hear you, but I still think having everyone talk about 6 week old babies having heartbeats is a huge step forward — clump of cells, what? But it’s also a legislative start. Next move would be to test it. Urge godly magistrates to enforce it. Maybe it becomes clear that it needs more teeth. Meanwhile, somebody else is running the full ban, right on its heels. The goal is to keep the opposition completely off balance, confused, and in disarray.
Don’t you know that the pro-life movement is full of compromisers and cowards? No, I don’t know that. I suspect that there is a bottleneck in certain places, with a number of career pro-life management types that are trying to control the movement according to their lights, with millions of Christians below doing honest, sacrificial work trying to end abortion. We need to figure out how to distinguish obstructionists from good hearted pro-lifers who may sometimes be misguided. Friendly fire really can be a problem here. Abolitionists also need to learn how to communicate deep gratitude for the pro-life movement of the last 40 years — even if they want to make strategic course corrections. The line that says they’ve only given us 60 million dead babies is a slander and lie. Many of those who have stood on the front lines of pro-life ministry over the last 40 years are old enough to be your parents and grandparents. And the fifth commandment applies here. I have no doubt that when the smoke clears and the dust settles on the atrocity of American abortion, millions of faithful pro-life saints will be rewarded by Jesus for their labors (and a few will be sent the other way for their cowardice and complicity). But I believe it will be shown that the faithful labors of many simple saints carved out the space and held a hard fought line that made it possible for future waves of believers to step up and finish the job they began. We are the Pro-Life Generation. The tide is turning.
But aren’t pro-life politicians frequently the people holding up good abolition legislation? Yes, and that should be addressed as it arises. And so-called pro-life politicians need to be asked more regularly “What will you do to help us end abortion in our state/nation?” But I also think we need to recognize the good work of pro-life politicians in Alabama, Georgia, etc.
Isn’t it a problem that so many of these current bills are solely aimed at trying to get Roe v. Wade repealed? Yes, it is a problem, but not the sort of problem that we should be terribly bothered by. And this is because we underestimate the power of momentum. The first few states to stand up might say they are only looking for a SCOTUS ruling, but what happens when 25 or 35 states have done the same? I pray the further this goes along, the more bold we will become. And I’ve said elsewhere, what we ought to be praying for is the courage for our leaders to stand up to SCOTUS and the feds regardless of their rulings on abortion. The original ruling was illegal and immoral and unjust, and such rulings are not morally or judicially binding. Christians need to embrace a holy non-compliance on any decree from Caesar that we must abort babies, recognize homosexual unions are “marriages,” or consider a man wearing a dress a “woman.” God, give us courage.
Gideon had too many men and David only needed one smooth stone, isn’t running the abolition play the best and cleanest play, why complicate things by allowing for other bills? Two things here: first, this is how God usually works. God loves cliffhangers, stories that seem unlikely and impossible, because God loves resurrection and God loves to magnify His grace and wisdom. So I think we should run all the plays, driving hard and cheerfully toward the complete banning of abortion in our land because we should be open to God working through all of these plays to keep the opposition guessing, off-balance, and flustered. It’s like air war, ground war, psychological war, chemical war, and various flanking maneuvers. This is just basic military tactics. But second, we should not lose sight of the fact that abortion is only one small part of the giant we’re up against. The giant we are fighting is all of the systems of unbelief in our world. Abortion is like this giant’s ugly big toe. We really only need one small, smooth stone, and that stone is the gospel of Jesus, His free grace for ruined sinners, His pardon for all the felons, His death for all our sins, including the sin of abortion. And that single, smooth stone will bring down the giant of unbelief because Jesus has purchased the whole world with His blood. And in the meantime, “running all the plays” means stomping on the giant’s big ugly toe in every way we know how.
So you were pretty disappointed with how the discussion went with all the angry abolitionists? Disappointed? Ha! Not a bit. I thought it went fabulous. I made my points, they made theirs, and I didn’t see anybody lose their temper. I still don’t agree with the abolition-is-the-only-way line, but I hope they know that I’d happily support their bills and join them in calling out obstructionists, but I hope they’ll ease up a bit on attacking the rank and file pro-lifer, even if they’re running a “regulation” play instead of an abolition play. I had a great day yesterday.
So are you planning to kick the abolitionist wasp nest again today? Nah, it’s Wednesday, bro. Maybe next Tuesday.