"Abortion Kills Children"
Another look at LifeChain
by Paul deParrie
For the last several years, hundreds of thousands of people have, on a late September or early October Sunday, stood along the highways and byways of America with a sign bearing the simple statement "Abortion Kills Children."
This is LifeChain. Billed as a way to bring more people into pro-life activism in a small, non-confrontational way, LifeChain has been activated primarily through churches -- especially timid churches. Usually, the lines of people take the form of a huge cross and are declared to be a "witness' to the community about both our faith and our abhorrence of abortion. Both are noble objectives, but, unfortunately, both objectives, I think, have failed.
Let me address each separately, though both will eventually come together.
First, let me say that I don't think that LifeChain has borne fruit in any increase of activism. I know there are exceptions, but when one considers the investment of time and money -- especially looking at the sheer numbers of participants -- not much has happened.
Our first LifeChain in Portland drew 18,000 people. Of those, there were, no doubt a few dozens who are always at pro-life activities from rescues to Life Advocate work parties. Like in any other city, these activists saw LifeChain as a regular, though somewhat innocuous part of their pro-life work. In Portland, one person -- that's right, one -- got briefly involved at Advocates for Life Ministries out of that. Similar "results" were reported by other pro-life groups.
One out of 18,000? If only one in ten agreed to do only one rescue per year, we would have had 150 rescuers per month for each year. But we didn't even draw one in a hundred to do anything at all!
Nor have I heard of any place in the country that has increased their numbers at the mills significantly as a result of LifeChain recruitment.
I realize that I am touching what has become (all too quickly) a sacred cow of pro-life, but it behooves us to take off the blinders. One of the very reasons it has become a sacred cow is that it is so easy to do and requires little commitment to the babies, that it is a convenient way for people who want to say they are pro-life to avoid their Christian responsibility to their unborn neighbors.
Think about it. We spend an hour or two, on a Sunday when no clinics are open, holding a sign with the least offensive statement of our belief that we could find (and for those more timid or "spiritual" there is the ever-present "Jesus Forgives and Heals") to show the passing world what we think about abortion. And we sacrifice to do this all once a year!
Does this seem like an adequate (or even marginally sane) response to over 4,000 children being suctioned or ripped apart every day of the year?
I don't think so. It may feel good to stand out there, but, without more, it doesn't do a thing.
But the LifeChain leadership must promote the event as though it were a rescue or had some significant impact on abortion. They must overemphasize the potential impact -- they have to if they expect mass participation. Listening to promos, one would think that doing the LifeChain was all one had to do to be a pro-life "activist" in any given year -- or maybe for a lifetime!
In fact, LifeChain goes out of its way to be as inoffensive as possible -- emphasizing the non-confrontational aspects of the chain. Those too tepid to even hold the somewhat bland "Abortion Kills Children" sign are given an evangelical alternative (If you don't want to say the "A" word, maybe you can try a gospel message.). The "challenge," as it were, is to do the minimum possible about the "abortion issue."
However, when has being "challenged" to do the least ever produced any saints? In my life, it has always been looking at those who did the most -- and challenged me to do likewise -- that drove me to further action. I would never have seen Corrie Ten Boom or Deitrich Bonhoeffer as an inspiration to rescue if all they had called me to do was hold a sign once a year (not to mention if that was all they themselves had done).
The rescue movement inspired many to become active even when they couldn't bring themselves to actually block doors. The sentiment was, "If those people can risk going to jail, the least I can do is (fill in the blank)." The entire pro-life movement benefited from this call to sacrifice.
But what power of inspiration does holding a sign once a year have?
This brings us to the second objective -- the "witness to the community." Allegedly, this is a witness of both our faith and the truth about abortion.
I think this is a somewhat flaccid faith that would find it meaningful to stand in a line forming a cross once a year and be unwilling to carry the smallest cross during the remainder of the year.
With our signs we tell our neighbors that "Abortion Kills Children" but it is obvious we do not believe it. Look at what we do the rest of the year. That tells the whole story.
If we believed that abortion kills children -- and suppose for an instant that they were our children -- holding a sign would not be our maximum response.
And what will our neighbors believe about our faith -- or for that matter, our claim that abortion kills children -- if LifeChain is all we do?
"Abortion -- or even killing -- cannot be all that bad, they must think. "All they do is hold a sign once a year."
I realize that this will get me uninvited to any future LifeChain rallies, but how about if we tell the people in our churches that they had better mean that abortion kills children when we hold the "Abortion Kills Children" sign. They should be dared to participate if they intend to vegetate the rest of the year.
It should be presented as hypocrisy of the highest order to say publicly that abortion kills children then to besmirch the name of our Lord by acting like the children's all-too-real plight doesn't exist the rest of the year.
Obviously, this challenge will reduce the sheer numbers of participants, but at least those then joining in would be honest ones.