4 Priorities for Building a Pro-Life Community
By Daryl Crouch
News articles, white papers, policy debates, political campaigns, legislation, and even court rulings often feel like distant debates among strangers.
That changes, however, when an abortion provider decides to open next door. Suddenly, the call to love our neighbors as ourselves becomes more than a personal prerogative or a coffee cup slogan.
That’s exactly what happened when a Planned Parenthood funded clinic announced it would open in our community. As a popular suburb east of Nashville, Tennessee, our city experiences routine growing pains, but the prospect of a clinic that preys on young women and children caused residents to take notice.
Within a few hours, concerned citizens rallied to oppose the abortion clinic, a network of local pastors penned a statement, and city leaders quickly passed zoning ordinances restricting the clinic’s ability to provide surgical abortions.
The results aren’t final, but good steps were taken to limit abortion services in our community.
Seeing the community rise to action to protect our most vulnerable neighbors should encourage us all, but what is our way forward?
We may assume it’s by electing the right policy makers, or by picketing in the streets, or by taking to social media. All of that is important, but if we want to cultivate a pro-life culture in our churches and communities, let’s consider these four priorities:
1. A high regard for every human being
Human dignity, ironically enough, has been dehumanized and turned into a political plank in a party’s platform rather than a commitment to value every human being.
Political activism is essential. We must advocate for righteous lawmakers and judges. Yet political strategies have yet to build an unadulterated pro-life ethic in our nation.
Further, the issue of life has been largely considered an issue that singularly affects the unborn. Therefore, a “woman’s right to choose” has been the line in the sand where the battle cries are heard the loudest. But we know the sanctity of life is not just relevant to the unborn.
The young and the old, the black, white, and brown, the able and the disabled, the believer and the atheist, the rich and the poor, the gay and the straight, the native and the immigrant, and every other category of human being possesses inherent value and is worthy of protection.
Unfortunately, many people on either side of the debate would never make that claim without massive qualifiers. “What about illegals?” “What about LBGTQ people?” “What about religious hypocrites?” “What about (fill in the blank)?”
Human dignity doesn’t mean every person gets to do whatever he or she wants to do, but it does mean every human gets a more than reasonable chance at human life and the respect due to every person created in the image of God.
2. An unobstructed path to the common ground
There are devoted “pro-lifers” who defend the rights of the unborn yet refuse to treat immigrants, for example, with the dignity they deserve. And there are staunch “pro-choicers” who champion abortion rights and yet invest their lives fighting against poverty, violence, and other injustices.
In the public square, there is great diversity on issues related to human dignity, but that diversity surrounds a very small, but significant, piece of common ground. And that common ground is the value of a human being.
The welfare of human beings, therefore, is not a liberal or conservative issue. It’s a human issue. So the value of a human being is more significant than a person’s fear. It’s more significant than a person’s preferences. It’s more significant than a person’s rights. It’s more significant than a person’s politics. And, yes, it’s more significant than a person’s choice.
If we’re going to develop a culture of life in our communities, we must build consensus around the fact that while human rights are essential, no right is more important than another person’s right to life. That small piece of common ground is big enough for all of us stand on.
3. A sacrificial personal commitment to abundant life
To support their position, abortion advocates are quick to point out how many children are already waiting for foster care or adoptive parents.
And they’re correct.
It’s also true that many children go to bed hungry each night, and that many families are ravaged by alcohol and drug addiction. Another reality is how many non-violent offenders lose their future in a prison system designed to profit on high recidivism rates.
Jesus’ ministry in first century Palestine was marked by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and freeing the demon possessed. He came to free us from sin, but he cares about us so much that he said he came to give us life and life to the fullest.
He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
That’s not a prosperity gospel promising health and wealth. That’s an essential gospel that opposes harm and death to individuals, and instead shows life-giving compassion for the whole person.
So being pro-life means caring about the things Jesus cares about, and like Jesus, considering others more important than ourselves. To be pro-life, then, is to be pro-abundant life, which means we make personal sacrifices so that others can live the life God intended for them to live.
We don’t limit our care to the survival of babies, but we give our lives for the flourishing of every one of our neighbors regardless of their age or lot in life.
4. An energized unity built on Kingdom relationships
Pursuing the good of the community is too big of a task for one person or even one church. In our community, faith leaders intentionally engage leaders from every domain like commerce, education, and government to build meaningful friendships.
Those existing friendships then provide a platform for a unified voice and public action that mobilize our residents to pursue the peace of our community.
In the case of an abortion clinic opening, the relationships we had forged and the mutual trust that had already been built among leaders from every corner of our community helped us respond with clarity, conviction, and compassion.
While the news media often feeds on controversy, real progress is made when the people of God live out the life of a Jesus follower in the every day rhythms of life in their community. The time to prepare for an abortion clinic opening is long before it ever happens because the relationships we build while pursuing peace strengthen our resolve when it’s time to protect it.
The abortion clinic is now open. Although it cannot perform surgical abortions at this time, its presence in our city is a tragic threat to men, women, and children. But the opening of a Planned Parenthood facility isn’t a call to arms for the pro-life community; it’s a call to open our arms.
We should let our voices be heard, but our greatest call is to live out a consistent pro-life ethic that promotes abundant life for every single person in our community.
That involves opening our lives to children who need a home. It means giving our time and money to support Pregnancy Care Centers.
It means welcoming new neighbors.
And it means loving rather than shaming women and men facing crisis pregnancy decisions.
Daryl is senior pastor of Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.