Tuesday, January 22, 2008

March For Life (& Unity!)

[Please continue to pray for Christian Unity, as we draw toward the latter part of our Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.]

Today's March for Life, conducted on the occasion of the 35th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court handing down Roe v. Wade, was a joyfully sad occasion. The weather was cold, but the spirit was definitely warm. I sensed an optimism, that victory is plausible.

This is what it takes to get Charismatics and Catholics, Evangelicals and Episcopals to march side-by-side and act as Children of the Messiah (exception: one particularly irate brother who felt he had been cut in line by two other brethren in the subway). Our unity was impressive, and for that I felt joyful. However, while there was fraternal love between the Christian sects, the non-Catholic side of the house was woefully underrepresented. My limited impression, based on hats, shirts, and signs, is that 70-80% of those present were Roman Catholic (and plenty of the remainder were Eastern Orthodox).

I have two theories on why we lack a proportionate number of "Evangelicals" in the Pro-Life movement. 1) Apathy. I think some trace of moral relativism lingers to create an attitude of "well, fetus a life?, the Bible's not that clear, so maybe its a matter of conscience?" Many Evangelicals (I theorize) feel just enough of this attitude to overcome any momentum they might otherwise have to participate in a pro-Life activity. Remedy: PROGRAMS! Our churches are program-based by nature, so why not have "Pro-Life Activities Coordinators"? Education could shore up moral truth, and coordination of trips and events could create or strengthen momentum to act! [Theory 1.5 is fear of seemingly "political" topics, and the proper role of morality in the public square, being discussed in the church house. I have no remedy for this.]

2) Catholic Heebie-jeebies. Faithful "Evangelicals" are understandably pretty freaked out or at least made uncomfortable by the overwhelming presence of Catholics (and their concomitant Catholicism) at Pro-Life events. After all, when the line of people outside an abortion clinic are praying "Hail, Mary", what's the Evangelical supposed to do with himself? And what to do with singing "Ave Maria" and processing a statue of the Madonna at marches? I think most Protestants would prefer to do something that's more of their own kind. Pro-Life activities feel Catholic. Remedy: PROGRAMS (see above) to lessen the overwhelming disparity; and ask Catholics to consider that at these events, standing on common ground and having a wider base of Christian voters present may be worth the sacrifice of practicing some Catholic particulars.


Gil Garza said...

This would be a great question to ask Evangelicals. Perhaps some might chime in. I don't think that asking Catholics to be less Catholic is the answer here. To the contrary, each tradition should strive to be an authentic witness.

Thos said...


(Perhaps technically speaking,) I'm still an Evangelical. So my views represent at least one of us. I too would like to hear some others chime in.

I, of course, wouldn't say that I was asking Catholics to be "less Catholic", but to consider what the practice of some of their (your) particularities may do to encourage or drive out a broader base of Life advocates.

If you had Protestant friends over for dinner and fellowship, would you pray the Hail, Mary before your meal? My wife and I have been to a Couple-to-Couple League meeting with a Catholic couple (re: NFP), and they only prayed the Our Father with us before we began. It would have been weird (and perhaps even inconsiderate) for them to pray something that would have made us (or at least my wife) very uncomfortable. This is all I mean about Pro-Life events. This couple was able to be an "authentic witness" to us about NFP even in refraining from an important Catholic distinctive. Their witness would be confused by throwing in distinctives we're not ready for.

I know my recommendation in this post is incomplete -- not fully thought-out, especially in the application end. I don't believe Catholics should stop praying the rosary outside abortion clinics, but wonder if they could do something different if they were to call for a more ecumenical rally. And what should WE do (or not do) to get Orthodox Jewish and Pro-Life Muslim participation? Maybe at some events we should be careful to stick to common ground.

But certainly, even if we recognize the most understandable Catholic heebie-jeebies imaginable, it's time for Evangelicals to start pulling our weight! I appreciate your thoughts and reaction.

Pray for Unity!

Canadian said...

I think that rallies are activities in the public square so I agree we should encourage a broad based turn out of all pro-life supporters, Christian or not.
One thing struck me though when you mentioned activities surrounding Mary. What greater testimony to the church's belief that conception is the beginning of life than to publicly confess the essential truth of the Mother of God! If Jesus was fully God and fully human at conception, then every child is fully human at conception. As my interest is primarily Orthodoxy, I hear repeatedly in the services:
"Calling to remembrance our allholy, immaculate, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, with all the Saints, let us commend ourselves and each other, and all our life unto Christ our God."
How and when to "call her to remembrance" before the unbeliever or Protestant is something that the Spirit would have to help with.

Thos said...

Canadian (Darrin),

You raise the excellent point that it's particularly apropos for Catholics and Orthodox (and indeed all Christians) to highlight Mary's incarnational role in the discussion on child birth. I noted one big sign yesterday (and I'm pretty sure it was Protestant) that said something like "I'm glad Mary didn't choose abortion". Though, for the Reformed predestinarian/Calvinist, such a view makes little sense, but that may be my problem.]

Thanks for including the line from Orthodox worship. I've been on an unusual upshot of Orthodox interest of late (for an ironic, perhaps conflicted reason of Marian angst), so it's good to hear from you. I used to write more of interest to Protestants considering conversion to Apostolic Christianity generally. Maybe I'll try to head back to that for at least a bit.

Peace in Christ,

Theo said...

You might be surprised to discover how many Catholics are not aware that these are issues of discomfort--especially among life-long Catholics who wouldn't know Luther from Wesley from Calvin.

Many see these practices as merely a part of every-day Christianity; and for them they are. Some of us might be far too ignorant of non-Catholic Christian theology to realize just how uncomfortable our practices are to some others. This shouldn't surprise anyone given that some Christians are far too ignorant of their own theology, whatever it might be.

Your bro,

Canadian said...

Another thing comes to mind. Jesus Christ was a Divine Person who took on flesh right from conception (although the 2nd Person of the Trinity is eternal). So a fetus should not be thought of as merely the seed of human NATURE and not yet a PERSON, but in fact PERSON-hood begins at conception.
It seems that the Father's were right to use the Incarnation to expose nearly every falsehood they faced.

Thos said...


Thanks for that. It raises a point about which I should be aware. And new group that splinters and announces that teaching or practice X is offensive to it shouldn't automatically be entitled to have X avoided in their presence. Complex.


You're right about the incarnation informing our views on abortion. I think this is where some conservative "moralistic" justices have gone wrong when deciding the contraception and abortion cases. Even now that legal view is that the fetus is fully human (because it's not some other creature), but not a legal "person" or full "life". I think it was in Roe itself where Justice Blackmun says that even the finest theologians don't know when "life" begins for the already-in-existence human, so he was in no position to decide. I think it's common in India to believe that life begins at the first breath. It's possibilities like this that give the Justices the wiggle room to believe that you can terminate a human without ending a life.

And, as you note, an understanding of the incarnation, and also of the Catholic view of the person (Theology of the Body) would correct all of this. Christ was fully man and fully God at His incarnation. What WE are, the "we", is spirit AND body. We can't be one without the other on earth, and we will be both for eternity (once reunited with our bodies). So we couldn't obtain our soul later than at our conception.


Pray for Unity!