The hole in the whole-life argument

Just when we need unity in the pro-life movement, here and also around the world, we are starting to see more and more signs of division. One of these is the growing debates among the whole life perspective and the pro-life perspective. The whole life perspective basically says that to be consistently and morally pro-life, we need to bring an equivalent moral concern to the whole range of social injustices and not limit ourselves just to the unborn. Advocating for life, as one person said, at all stages, regardless of race, age, and level of ability is the way they seek to reshape the meaning of pro-life. Being pro-life does not mean championing life for the unborn alone, but advocating for life at all stages. Everybody agrees with this statement at one level or another, but at a practical level it doesn’t work. It overburdens our time, our resources, and it criticizes the pro-life effort in an unfair way.

In my view, the basic problem is that it takes all the social injustices and puts them on a moral equivalency plane. Treating all issues as if they are the same in kind is incorrect I think. One Evangelical leader has written that the issue of pro-life is incredibly divisive, but it cannot be boiled down to the lives of the unborn when the lives of those who have been born are just as much at stake. No, they are just as much at stake. That is the point unless you are talking about lynching, not just racial discrimination, or you are talking about the shooting of kindergartners, not just unequal education, then you would have a moral equivalency argument. The problem with this kind of thinking is that it’s not real nor is it biblical. In the Bible, there is a kind of a prioritizing process involved. You can prioritize what demands your most urgent effort according to principles.

The first principle is the closer you are to an injustice, the more responsible you are to address it as best as you can. This is the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself. The closer you are, the more responsible you are. The second prioritizing principle is the more a person is in danger, the higher priority they become for your care. Both of these come together. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan here is a man who is about to die unjustly being beaten and left to die unless there is some direct intervention. The first two guys pass by and they put distance between them and the wounded man so they feel less responsible. But the Good Samaritan draws near because as he sees this man dying, he feels a responsibility to intervene. And that is how the Bible helps us prioritize things. I think that is a good priority system.

Imagine in Israel people saying, “Well now when it comes down to the cutting and burning of little babies in child sacrifice, it is complex, but there are other matters that are just as important.” No, that is foolish thinking! In biblical language that represents the most preeminent moral crisis in Israel. It represents a hardness of heart, a rejection of God, a rejection of the value of human life. It reflects a rejection of God’s moral standard. Never do this. “I removed those nations from the land for this very reason that they were committing child sacrifice and I will treat you the same as I treated them” (Leviticus 20:2-5, Isaiah 30:33, Jeremiah 19:12). They are not morally equivalent when you have the intentional killing of innocent children, and that kind of argument does not follow anywhere else in the world.

I travel all over the world and this argument would never fly. You go to Cuba, for example. Here is a country in which the people suffer greatly. Every kind of social injustice is piled one on top of another especially when it comes to freedom of speech, economic opportunity, or the repression or downright oppression of the church. People are suffering there at every level of their life. My friend, who is a doctor there, gets paid $20 a month for being a doctor. Yet when we went to Cuba and we started working with the church, we began to see that they immediately understood the need to start rescuing the unborn children in their country. Cuba is number one in the world in terms of abortion rates, and they immediately prioritize saving the unborn. They focus their energy on that mission.

Today, we are seeing more and more Christians in Cuba start to stand for life and start to help mothers with unplanned pregnancies. They are prioritizing this in SI bonnet, Cuba. I got these pictures over the weekend. Just a handful of women going out and bringing mothers into their church, providing them some ultrasound, baby goods, and leading them to trust in the Lord. Why? Because abortion, the intentional shedding of innocent blood, is a moral priority as seen in the Bible. “Rescue those who are being intentionally led to the slaughter” (Proverbs 24:10-11). This movement to rescue the innocent, helping mothers to save their babies, leading them to Christ, all of this has been sparked because of the pastors in Cuba who are beginning to ask four very simple, life-changing questions. Here they are: 1) What does the Bible say about human life, including life in the womb? Here we realize the sanctity of human life. 2) What does the Bible say about the shedding of innocent blood, including life in the womb? This is where we get the prioritizing principle. They are human and are being targeted for slaughter. Therefore, we need to come to the point of rescuing them. 3) How do we bring the grace of the gospel to the guilt and the grief of abortion? Everyone in Cuba, as it is in our own country more and more, has been touched by abortion. We need to know the forgiveness of God that is available to us through Jesus Christ and through faith in the work of the cross. 4) What has God called us to do to stop the shedding of innocent blood? Stopping the shedding of innocent blood is a moral priority for God and that is the call for us to rescue the innocent, to be an army of good Samaritans, and to make that a priority in our community. God-willing the pastors in Cuba, and hopefully more and more of the pastors in the US, will be rallying us all to make sure that the pro-life cause is our cause.

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