This is a week of celebration, commemoration, and rumination.
Barack Obama was inaugurated before a watching nation. Celebrities sang, the cultural elites waxed joyous, and a President and his First Lady danced.
With the celebration came a commemoration: The 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized unrestricted access to abortion on demand. Now, 55 million unborn children stare back at us as through a dark glass, asking how many more will join them.
To suggest that one issue surmounts all others in terms of moral gravity is to invite not only controversy but to provoke serious theological consideration.
Yet, what is more final than death? My friend Ryan Bomberger has asked if, in the 1860s, any moral issue would have been more important than slavery. Good question, the answer to which is, of course, none.
Human slavery in our time is real, and widespread. Coercive abortion in China and female gendercide in the developing world are epidemic. The 15 million or so AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa grow up with little hope. Professing Christians are persecuted, oppressed, imprisoned, and even murdered in many parts of the globe. These and other critical issues should impassion and burden believing Christians everywhere.
For American Christians, though, the continued legalized destruction of persons not yet born should retain its position as the most urgent moral and political crisis in our country. Other issues – same-sex “marriage,” threats to religious liberty, collapsing family structures, and related ills – are grave and momentous. They demand our loving, thoughtful, and even intrepid responses.
But none of them are so ultimate, so conclusive as abortion. When a woman leaves a clinic or hospital having had her unborn child surgically removed from her body, there is no going back, no way of undoing what has been done. The life has been taken.The woman’s body has been violated, and her spirit scarred. Indelibly.
Of course, in Christ there is new life, forgiveness, the promise of reunion with the little one when, in Paul’s words, “we will know as we are known.” Yet the reality of a life lost cannot but fail to haunt in the still darkness of a sleepless night, in the sight of a vacant swing, in the pursuing, vexing, unanswerable question, “What would she look like?”
Jesus is not one-dimensional. He is gracious but firm; compassionate but, as to truth, uncompromising; accepting but not undemanding; gentle but strong. These are the very qualities Christians should bring to their efforts to defend the unborn and aid their mothers. None should be omitted from our portfolio of Christian character.
How do we go forward? Adoption clearly is essential. So are public education efforts and legislative initiatives at every level of government. The more than 2,000 pregnancy care centers around the country offer practical hope to countless women who feel trapped in a pregnancy they do not want. Shelters and clothing orchards and ultrasounds and medical care and stay-in-school programs and being taken-in by caring Christian families: these and all things related to them should be advanced by believers in Christ with energy and love.
When, today, hundreds of thousands of us march on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., we will be doing so not with poll-inspired bluster or a numerically-inflated sense of confidence. Like all flesh, these things are but grass.
We will march in grief for those lost, unborn children and women, both. We will march in hope, believing that the Author of life might yet turn our country’s heart toward a renewed commitment to the sacredness of human life. We will march in peace, knowing no innocent life, born or unborn, is lost to God.
We will keep marching, year after year. And praying, and voting, and legislating, and informing, until from conception to natural death, every image-bearer of the living God is protected by law and welcomed into the human family.
The apostle Peter called Jesus “the Prince of Life” (Acts 3:15). Is each of us serving that Prince as He, and those He creates, deserve?
Rob Schwarzwalder is senior vice president at the Family Research Council.