Should Pro-Lifers Use Shocking Images to Fight Abortion?

John Stonestreet | BreakPoint | Thursday, January 30, 2014

Should Pro-Lifers Use Shocking Images to Fight Abortion?


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There are pro-life picketers who choose to carry gruesome signs outside abortion clinics that show the bloody aftermath of abortion. Most of the pro-life community chooses not to use graphic images, but the pictures are, of course, true to what actually happens.

The arguments against using these pictures include that they’re in poor taste, they’re manipulative, inappropriate for children, or perhaps that it’s just better to appeal to someone’s reason instead of their emotions. The goal is to persuade, not to shock.

I understand. For most of my life, I doubted the wisdom of using these images at any time for any reason. I seriously questioned whether it was ever a good idea to use shocking abortion pictures.

Well, the interaction I’ve had with pro-life speaker Scott Klusendorf has mostly changed my mind. First, images have been powerfully used throughout history to stop evil and change the way people think. Think of the campaign to abolish the British slave trade, when William Wilberforce asked Josiah Wedgewood to create a seal with the image of an African in chains with the words, “Am I not a man and a brother?” And who can forget the scene in “Amazing Grace,” where Wilberforce took a pleasure boat by a slave ship in the bay so that the affluent, unconcerned passengers could smell the human degradation and see their own responsibility. That scene reflected the sort of persuasion that Wilberforce used.

The image of the little Vietnamese girl with her clothes burned off by napalm was one of the catalysts for ending the Vietnam War. And Rosa Parks decided not to move to the back of the bus because she saw a newspaper photo of the corpse of Emmett Till, who had been murdered by white supremacists in Mississippi. Till’s mother and the editors of Jet magazine courageously forced America to see the true face of homicidal racism.

Evil flourishes when hidden. Images expose.

In a new Youtube video, “Stand for Life 2014,” pastor and author John Piper points out, "It's the pictures from Dachau that revealed the horrors of [the Holocaust]." Indeed. We put pictures of starving children in Africa on TV, asking people to help. We use images to even fight animal cruelty. So why wouldn’t we use images, at least sometimes, to change hearts and minds about abortion? Perhaps it’s time.

Now let me be clear: I am completely against blindsiding people with images of aborted babies. It’s not only unfair; it can be a visual form of assault. But this evil must be brought to light.

For example, academic settings are fair game. Invited to speak to students across America, Scott Klusendorf and the Life Training Institute team begin by telling the story of Emmett Till, and they then inform the audience a video showing the aftermath of abortion will be shown, inviting them to look away. There’s no narration, no sound,no manipulative music; It’s just images. Scott and his team have seen thousands of high-school students, adults, parents, teachers, everyday Americans change their minds.

In the same video with John Piper, Francis Chan says he shows abortion images in his church. Though it upsets some, Chan says he has a responsibility to preach the full counsel of God. "I'm praying," Chan says, "that this is a generation that just rises up and says, 'I'm not going to sit quietly. I'm going to do it in love and humility, but I'm not going to be a coward.'" Amen.

Recently, Eric Metaxas suggested that we show our fellow citizens the facts about abortion. Humbly sharing the true pictures of this grisly industry of death in appropriate ways at appropriate times is one way to do it.

And I think another way is to show the beauty of the unborn. Technology, after all, allows us to look into the womb. Remember that famous picture of a baby reaching out to hold his surgeon’s finger?

My old college basketball coach once told me that love does two things. Sometimes love covers; sometimes it exposes. God give us the wisdom to know when to do which.

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication date: January 30, 2014

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