It is a dichotomy born of Twitter. For all the benefits of social media, one of the pitfalls of the technology is that it has the capacity to infect public consciousness with extraordinary stupidity. Thoughtful conversations are replaced by sound bites, thorough arguments are neutered in favor of 280-character headlines. As we shift between apps and scroll through timelines we sample and dabble, and we are slowly catechized by the spirit of our age. Twisted narratives, half-truths, and false dichotomies permeate the atmosphere. We find intellectual betters who resonate, and we join their tribe. Careful listening, critical thinking, and challenging ideological assumptions become unnecessary because things smell fine.

As we shift between apps and scroll through timelines we sample and dabble, and we are slowly catechized by the spirit of our age. Click To Tweet

The Abortion Issue

The issue of abortion has been one of the leading fronts of the so-called culture war in America for nearly 50 years. The heat of the battle rises and falls through elections seasons and judicial nominations, and in recent years through legislation on the state level. Since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in early 1973, there has never been a ceasefire on this front. This week the Court will hear one of the most substantive challenges[1] to Roe in decades. The current makeup of the Court is leading many, both left[2] and right,[3] to either fear or hope that the Court will scale back Roe on a federal level, triggering state legislatures to do the work of governing abortion access in their locales.

I’m not a politician or pundit. I’m a pastor. My job is to equip the church to be the church, living out the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ where the Lord has planted us. I’m writing this piece today with that intent. As the abortion temperature rises in our culture in the coming weeks and months, Christians need to pray fervently, think rightly, and speak clearly.

There is a false dichotomy that I have seen populate the timelines of Christians in recent days, and I’m writing to address it. Admittedly, you are going to find this concept trumpeted by more progressive and left-leaning types, but it’s the parroting I’m concerned with, not the trumpeting. I’m not going to change the minds of those making money off their profile as Progressive-Christian-Thought-Leaders. What I am concerned with is those who parrot these talking points either because it sounds good and compassionate, or they have just gone nose blind to the scent of rot.

The Dichotomy at Issue: Pro-Life vs. Pro-Birth

Here’s how the dialogue goes:

Person A: “I am Pro-Life. We need to end abortion!”
Person B: “You only claim to be Pro-Life. You are only Pro-Birth. You care about saving babies from abortion, but you don’t care about child poverty, orphan care, or anything like that!”

This is a simplistic reenactment for the sake of clarity. The basic idea from Person A is that abortion is the killing of a human life, which is true. The basic idea from Person B is that Person A is not really compassionate, because their single-issue political focus on eliminating abortion is seemingly uncoupled from a concern for the welfare of children after they are born.

Do you see what is going on here? Person A is making a basic moral argument about abortion. Person B is muddying the water by attacking Person A’s perceived character or presumed policy platform. This is a debate made by social media and for social media. People don’t actually talk this way face to face. Person B’s argument is not an argument, it’s an insult. It is the perfect blend of keyboard courage and intellectual vacuity. Let’s look it in the eye.

Person B’s actual argument is: “To be Pro-Birth is not enough for you to claim the mantle of Pro-Life. You need to care what happens after a child is born.” Setting aside the implicit character assassination, and the explicit self-righteousness, Person B is not lying. Person A does need to care about children after they are born. We all do. But let’s get back to the false dichotomy: Pro-Life vs. Pro-Birth. If you are not Pro-Birth, not only are you not Pro-Life, but you are also Pro-Death. This is not hard. If you are not Pro-Birth, you are Pro-Insert-A-Tool-Into-A-Mother’s-Womb-To-Crush-The-Head-Of-Her-Baby-So-That-The-Baby’s-Life-Less-Body-Can-Be-Vacuumed-Out-Of-Her-Uterus. I want to throw up after typing that last sentence. You should too. Don’t give me your mindless platitudes about Pro-Life vs. Pro-Birth. If you don’t see what is going on as the political football labeled “abortion” is tossed around our country, then you are either buying something or selling something.

If you are actually having a non-social-media dialogue on this subject and your friend or family member presents you with this false dichotomy, you simply need to own being Pro-Birth. Yes, and amen. When an egg and sperm come together and a new life is formed, I am 100% committed to the human rights of that life. I am Pro-Birth. Because you cannot be Pro-Life if you are not Pro-Birth. At this point, potentially, the dialogue will continue. Let’s get further into it.

If you don’t see what is going on as the political football labeled “abortion” is tossed around our country, then you are either buying something or selling something. Click To Tweet

Let’s give Person B the benefit of the doubt for a minute. Let’s imagine that they are on the ground in communities where abortion is pervasive. They have also seen babies born into poverty, and the cycle of abuse and neglect that produces lifelong and generational pain. They want this to stop. They want better policies, more social safety nets, and a way to end the suffering of the vulnerable. Person B is tired of Person A’s single-issue political focus, where they claim the moral high ground by saying “End Abortion!” but they don’t really do anything about all these other issues. They think: If only Person A realized how their “Pro-Birth” stance was producing so much death and suffering as babies are born into horrendous circumstances.

I share Person B’s concerns. For the sake of argument, let’s imagine Person A does as well. These are real issues. Babies don’t choose what circumstances they are born into, and sadly, millions every year are born into very hard situations. Person A and Person B should work toward solutions. So should their churches. So should their political leaders. I happen to know many Person A’s and Person B’s who adopt, foster, volunteer, or spend their vocational lives in these spaces. Christians across the world and throughout the ages have started agencies, founded hospitals, built orphanages, and taken in orphans, widows, and strangers. We should continue this work.

While we can admire and emulate Person B’s empathy, we also need to shine a light on it. What is more just: a baby being born into poverty, or a baby being killed in the womb so that they are not born into poverty? When Person B argues that Person A is only Pro-Birth, is the idea that you can be Pro-Life and somehow fall short of being Pro-Birth? That doesn’t pass the smell test, does it? If you are struggling to answer the above question about killing a child in the womb vs. seeing a child born into poverty, then you are bowing down to a first-world idol called prosperity. It’s one thing for Job in his trials to cry out, “I wish I had never been born,” but it’s a whole different thing for you to say to someone in their suffering, “I wish you had never been born.”

Here is where we need to cut through this dialogue and see one final point. The reason this false dichotomy exists on social media is because someone started it. I don’t know who it was, but I do know that this continues to be a thing because there are several people selling it. Their motives are not pure. Their sloganeering is meant to distract from the real issue at play, and to divert attention into an idiotic sideshow. And the volume will only be turned up louder in the next number of months.

In the original dialogue Person B distracted from the issue by pointing out another problem. Yes, that’s a problem that needs solutions. Person B, can you help us out?

If you listen to Person B’s solutions, you’re going to find out that the best way to be super compassionate as it relates to these issues is to grow the size and scope of government in the lives of the citizenry. The real solution is more government money to subsidize single-parent households, healthcare, expansion of the social safety net, and the welfare state. The argument is that if you don’t agree with these solutions, you are Pro-Birth, not Pro-Life. Truly being Pro-Life means adopting these specific policies, not simply trying to ban abortion. This is the other one I’ve seen floating around lately. “Banning” abortion is what heartless state legislatures do when they pass laws to limit abortion in the locales they serve. Person B would say, “You are not interested in ending abortion, only banning it.” Meaning, “You are only worried about laws, but don’t truly care about lives.”

Are we still talking about abortion?

Are we still talking about abortion? No, we’re not. You thought this was a discussion about abortion, and instead you’ve received a self-righteous lecture about how killing babies isn’t really the primary issue we should be talking about. Here is the truth: Person B will not be satisfied with Person A’s Pro-Life bona fides until Person A adopts Person B’s policy proposals. I think Person B should answer a couple of questions: Why is it more pro-life to be more pro-government than pro-citizen? Is human flourishing more dependent on individual responsibility or government control? The reality is that more government empowerment brings about more personal disempowerment. That’s not Pro-Life, that’s pro-government. To be Pro-Life, you must be Pro-Birth, but you don’t have to be pro-bureaucracy.

To be Pro-Life, you must be Pro-Birth, but you don’t have to be pro-bureaucracy. Click To Tweet