In an article published by Time Magazine this month titled, “The Surprising Role of Clergy in the Abortion Fight Before Roe v. Wade“, author Gillian Frank points to activism by pro-abortion clergymen as evidence that abortion may not be such a cut and dried moral issue as Evangelical Christians would have us believe.
The article recounts the work of Presbyterian Reverend Charles Landreth, who both advocated for abortion from the pulpit and lobbied against abortion restrictions. Along with fellow minister Leo Sandon, Landreth worked with the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (CCS), an international group of more than 2,000 ministers who helped women obtain illegal abortions.
To put that more plainly, Landreth, Sandon, and thousands of others who claimed the name of Christ, formed a network to help women murder their own sons and daughters. In the Time article, Frank writes:
As trusted members of their communities to whom congregants turned for counseling, clergy witnessed a medical crisis unfolding because of restrictive abortion laws. In the 1950s and 1960s, prohibitions against abortion drove anywhere between 200,000 and 1.2 million women to obtain illegal abortions. By the end of 1972, the CCS had helped between a quarter and half a million women obtain safe legal and illegal abortions from physicians.
The piece goes on to quote various ministers and clergy members bravely speaking up for the destruction of the most defenseless members of society, demanding that “as a matter of human right, each woman be given the control of her own body and procreative function,” and claiming “that she has the moral responsibility and obligation for the just and sober stewardship thereof.”1
These ministers even went so far as to defy the government by openly providing abortion referrals under the ironic pretense that they had to obey “higher laws and moral obligations transcending legal codes.”2
Frank goes on make the case that anti-abortion efforts were primarily state-led and clergy-opposed. He lauds the dubious accomplishments of these men of the cloth who served as accomplices to murder and helped usher the culture into the blood-soaked era of legal abortion on demand without apology.
Fifty years ago, the CCS offered public moral and practical support to women who wanted abortions and to the doctors who performed them. After Roe, many branches of the CCS disbanded while others merged with local Planned Parenthoods or formed new reproductive health organizations. The CCS, in other words, shaped many of the institutions that continue to help women control their reproductive lives.
He concludes the piece by reminding us all that abortion opponents do not have the market cornered on morality, assuring us that “the contemporary demands for reproductive rights and abortion access, far from being secular or immoral, had and continue to have deep moral and religious roots.”
Other than a passing reference to everyone’s favorite “throwing stones” passage, the article is devoid of Scriptural arguments. The ministers represented, like many professing Christians today, relied instead on platitudes and anecdotes to support their position. Landreth, for example, is quoted in a 1971 sermon at First Presbytarian Church in Tallahassee, Fla., appealing to the oft-cited case of rape, and the quandary of a teenage girl who might be “scared literally to death to tell her staunch Catholic parents and therefore very tempted to run to a quack.”
Note that then, as today, the worst possible scenario is that a woman desperate to kill her baby is forced to hire an inept assassin with devastating consequences to her health. The taking of the baby’s life is not even part of the equation.
“Whenever we try to make conditions for each other more human, we are engaged in a religious pursuit,” Landreth is quoted as saying. “Christians and the Christian church simply cannot turn their backs on the problem of abortion and the dilemmas which it creates.”
Frank, who is working on a book titled, Making Choice Sacred: Liberal Religion and Reproductive Politics in the United States Before Roe v. Wade, is certainly not the first to try to Christianize the practice of tearing tiny humans to shreds inside their mother’s wombs. Just last month, The Liberator noted the mainstream media’s efforts to help mass murderer Willie Parker put a Christian spin on modern child sacrifice.
Groups such as The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice make it their mission to bring “the moral force of religion to protect and advance reproductive health, choice, rights and justice through education, prophetic witness, pastoral presence, and advocacy.”
Why Try to Christianize Abortion?
There can be little doubt that in a culture war, rhetoric is a weapon of immense power. There’s a reason that the AP Style guide instructs journalists to use the term “anti-abortion” instead of “pro-life” and “abortion rights” instead of “pro-abortion”. Because if newspapers print quotes from a “pro-life” and a “pro-abortion” perspective, it’s subtly implied that one side supports life and the other opposes it. But if you write the exact same article and quote an “anti-abortion” person and an “abortion rights” person, suddenly you’ve reversed roles—now you’ve got a person who supports rights and person who wants to take rights away.
Likewise, there is a reason abolitionists insist on referring to themselves as abolitionists and pro-life publications refuse to refer to them as such. Abolitionists are communicating a goal and an ideology in the word—they seek to abolish abortion—and they intentionally draw a distinction between themselves and those who seek to regulate it. There’s a reason we are strident about calling abortion murder, even when that makes people cringe. Words matter. Ideas matter. How ideas are communicated matters.
Abortion advocates see a divide between the anti-abortion position which is inherently Christian, and the pro-abortion position, which can only coherently exist in a world in which there is no God and humans are not created in His image.3
The problem with this paradigm is that it (rightly) implies that the anti-abortion position is the “moral” one and the pro-abortion position is the immoral one. And who wants to be the guy openly arguing for the immoral position?
The divide can’t be erased, but it can be rhetorically reconstructed. The pro-abortion lobby seeks to create a narrative in which the divide is not between the moral and the immoral, but the sane and the insane. In this new paradigm, Christians are not pitted against atheists; rather, the rational person is pitted against the extremist, and the compassionate against the zealot.
They’ve set out to convince the world that murdering tiny defenseless people is not only the kind, compassionate thing to do, it’s the moral thing. It’s the thing Jesus Himself commands us to do! They aren’t the ones arguing for the right to kill defenseless people, they’re the ones fighting for justice for the oppressed (mothers who want to kill their children). Only the loonies, the fanatics, and the clinic bombers who hate women and want to control them would ever say otherwise.
This tactic has already worked spectacularly well with the homosexual agenda (and before that, divorce, which was probably an even easier sell because a lot of Christians wanted to do it themselves). Before that, it worked in Nazi Germany when the German church all too happily removed any references to Judaism from its hymns and sermons.
In fact, those who love friendship with the world can always be convinced to be ashamed of Christ and His words in favor of what the world finds acceptable. Though scripture promises us that the world will “think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you,”4 many Christians prefer the approbation of the world and reject the reproach of the cross.
Thousands upon thousands of years after the garden, the voice of the serpent still whispers, “Did God really say…?” and “Surely He didn’t mean…”
But is Morality Subjective?
In all these articles and campaigns designed to let us know, “Hey, lots of Christians are actually totally cool with abortion!”, few if any writers make any arguments based on the Word of God or the Christian worldview.
They rely heavily on anecdotes by people who sound like pretty nice guys and say they’re Christians, expressing vague opinions on human compassion. And from this we’re supposed to derive the conclusion that one can be a Christian and simultaneously hold just about any view.
The authors of magazine articles and books are content to tell us that a bunch of professing Christians did this or that thing, without bothering to make an argument for why they should do this or that thing, or whether this or that thing is consistent with their profession of faith. They assume it is consistent because the nice guys said it was, and what more do you need to know?
Well for starters, you need to know what the Bible actually says. Because any position, opinion, or idea that conflicts with Biblical truth is not a Christian one and it really doesn’t matter if you have your cross hanging from the rear view mirror when you pull into the abortion clinic. It doesn’t matter whether you call yourself a Christian.
If you do not believe and obey the things Christ said, you are not following Christ. While there are plenty of disagreements on various doctrines, there are nonetheless foundational and indisputable truths laid out in Scripture that one cannot reject and still be a follower of Christ. This is no more subjective than the question of whether one is underwater or on a boat. It is either one or the other, but it’s certainly not both, and it’s certainly not subjective.
What Does the Bible Actually Say About Abortion?
Once we abandon slogans and trite feel-good-isms wrapped in Christianity and look to Scripture, the answers are simple.
Scripture tells us that humans are created in the Image of God.5 It is this and this alone that separates us from the rest of creation, and it is only upon this foundation that human rights exist.
God’s Word reveals that He is actively involved in the creation of each individual, and knits us together when we were in our mother’s wombs.9
Further, God has commanded His people in Scripture to love their neighbors as themselves,10 to do justice and love mercy,11 and to care for the fatherless, the orphan, and the widow.12 Christ has told us that whatever we do not do for the least of these, we did not do for Him.13
The world has created a false dichotomy wherein one must either love the child or his mother, and must sacrifice compassion for one on the altar of compassion for the other. But this is simply not the case. In fact, the least loving, least compassionate thing a Christian could do for a woman in need is help her murder her own innocent and defenseless child.
To those in whom the Spirit of the living God dwells, all these efforts to sanitize child sacrifice will be readily transparent. But we must combat them nonetheless, for the sake of the watching world, for the sake of the Gospel and the name of our Savior, and for the sake of our little neighbors—the millions of children who will be crushed, poisoned and dismembered by their own parents, and on whom the entire world has turned its back.
Even if many with itching ears are persuaded by the soothing words of today’s prophets of peace, no insistence that God condones the oppression of the weak and the trampling of the fatherless will make it true. Nothing can justify the blasphemous attack on the Image of God that is the intentional murder of more than 60 million image bearers. And no amount of quoting apostate ministers and self-proclaimed “men of God” will spare us His judgment for the blood spilled in our midst.
- Reverend Carl Bielby, leader of Michigan CCS, at a public hearing on Michigan abortion laws.
- Of course abolitionists agree that if the law of the land contradicts the law of God, one must obey God rather than man. But we do tend to think this obedience to higher law should actual actually reflect the higher law as it is revealed in Scripture. We do not think God changes His mind about right and wrong in accordance with the shifting sands of cultural ideals.
- I realize that many will take issue with this statement, as there are many atheist pro-lifers. But the atheist pro-lifer’s position is no different than that of the “Christian” pro-abort. It’s inconsistent and emotionally driven, born of a desire to be compassionate combined with an unwillingness or inability to examine one’s own worldview. The two positions stated here are the only two internally consistent positions that exist (although on second thought the atheist pro-abortion position still isn’t internally consistent, since they usually do argue that humans have rights and that some humans cannot be killed, an idea which has no basis in a godless worldview. If you can kill children, you can kill anyone.)
- 1 Peter 4:4
- Gen. 1:36
- Prov. 6:17
- Ex. 20:13
- Deut. 27:25
- Psalm 139:13; Jer. 1:5
- Matt. 22:38-29
- Micah 6:8
- James 1:27; Job 29:12; Psalm 82:3; Jer. 7:6
- Matt. 25:40