There’s a post making the social media rounds in which a liberal pastor takes pro-life people to task, essentially calling the religious ones fake Christians. In so many words, he states that pro-lifers advocate for unborn humans out of convenience and hatred.
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes.
Barnhart’s post says:
“The unborn” are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It’s almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.
Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.
Let’s be clear: this is a baseless attack on all pro-life Christians. Dave Barnhart’s argument is fundamentally that because we don’t abandon unborn children to support his pet political agenda, we’re fake Christians. He implies that pro-life people don’t love “people who breathe” and, because Christians must love other people in order to love Jesus, we’re just claiming to love Jesus and lying to ourselves and others. Unfortunately, many people seem to think this hot take is a profound take-down of the pro-life movement.
Normally at ERI, we promote relational dialogue and give people the benefit of the doubt even when it isn’t merited. In this case, a public figure has called into question the ethics and sincerity of an entire class of people. I’m not in a dialogue with him. My job is to refute his empty rhetoric, and I’m taking the gloves off to do it.
Being Pro-Life Isn’t Convenient
Maybe this would be a surprise to Barnhart, whose political beliefs seem pegged to whatever the majority likes, but it’s not particularly popular or convenient to advocate for unborn humans. He falsely claims that we don’t love the brother we have seen (using 1 John 4:20 for moral high ground, as I’m sure the author intended), but he thinks it’s some trivial thing to get others to love people we can’t see.
Pro-life people spend time and money trying to save lives and teach others the truth about the human nature we share with even the earliest zygote. Pro-life people have been murdered, they’ve gone to jail, they’ve been assaulted, they’ve been vandalized, they’ve been ridiculed—and, not that it bears mentioning in the same sentence, we deal with people like Barnhart gaslighting us about our faith by implying that we’re just fake Christians who don’t truly follow Christ.
And that’s without mentioning the efforts to build relationships with women and families in need, to connect women considering abortion to resources that can make them feel like they have other options, and giving families resources to ease the burden of raising children after they’re born. In 2019 alone, Care Net affiliates provided 786,785 clients with free services valued at over $84 million. Barnhart conveniently ignores the actions which demonstrate our care for children and women, both before and after birth. Perhaps he’s concerned that they speak louder than his words?
The “Fake Christian” Conspiracy Theory
Of course, he doesn’t think we really care about unborn humans. In his mind, pro-life “Christians” (air quotes, because we’re fake Christians, after all) all got together and decided that the easiest way to earn neighbor points to fool Jesus into letting us into Heaven was to pretend to care about unborn people, then drop them as soon as they’re born. After all, we fake Christians don’t like “people who breathe”—a fact Barnhart inferred simply from our opposition to abortion!
This is practically on par with the NARAL conspiracy theory Josh talked about in a recent podcast. How can this (enlightened, I’m sure) individual proclaim the intentions and motivations of an entire group of people? I’m going out on a very short limb and guessing he has no understanding of the pro-life mind, so I won’t put much stock in his tinfoil-hat armchair psychology.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: if someone claims to know the thoughts of an entire group of people to whom they’re opposed, they’re either wrong or lying. I’ll let Barnhart take his pick. [Tweet that!] Odds are, at least some of the Christians who say they care about women and children actually do. If even one such person can be found, then his claim is false.
It’s probably easier for Barnhart to drink his own Kool-Aid because he defines away our ability to show care to “people who breathe.” He interprets “advocating for the unborn” as strictly as possible, as if those who support “the unborn” were logically unable to do anything for children once they’re born. The claim that unborn humans don’t need “money, education, or childcare” is so bogus he should be ashamed. I guess he thinks prenatal medical costs are paid with Monopoly money and maternal self-care (like prenatal vitamins) and prenatal education are just for middle-class white people like him.
What Do Fake Christians Need to Care About?
Since protecting children before birth is off the table—real Christians only care about children after birth and other “people who breathe”—Barnhart gives us a long list of acceptable causes for which to advocate. (In a particularly cute middle finger to basic Bible interpretation, he excludes children scheduled to be killed from being “orphans.”) Essentially, it’s Christian to advocate for progressive goals in acceptably leftist ways (Heaven forbid we approach any common ground from a different angle!). Not only that, he deigns to tell us what we should do if we really cared about unborn humans (whom he essentializes as “the unborn” so he can ignore them as a concept instead of care for them as people):
Let’s not kid ourselves, this is someone who supports the right to abortion telling us we don’t really care about “the unborn.” So, he’s chill with killing children (he refers to the unborn as “people” twice in his post) as long as we give the survivors a healthier environment. It’s really hard to take seriously any ethics he supports if that’s his priority.
Not that his meme really illustrates a complete system of ethics; it’s just a collection of white liberal platitudes about America which ignores serious moral issues elsewhere. Abortion doesn’t make it onto his stunted moral list; do you think human trafficking or Chinese labor camps fare any better? It’s hard to tell. Maybe it’s literally only the fetus to whom he is blind; perhaps he just has inverse Fetus Tunnel Vision. And yes, it’s bad if pro-lifers only care about abortion or present as if they only care about abortion, but it’s also not a requirement of the pro-life position. Shockingly enough, most pro-lifers care about a variety of issues; we’re just not willing to kill human persons to get ahead in other political areas. (Yes, I’m aware that a minority of pro-lifers don’t seem to care about other things; while they reflect poorly on the majority of pro-lifers, they don’t make Barnhart’s slander true of the rest of us.)
Trigger Warning: The next two sections contain restrained descriptions of abortion and child sacrifice.
Dave Barnhart Doesn’t Comprehend Abortion
Now, I don’t really think Barnhart considers unborn humans to be persons. If he did, it would be a revolting inversion of his own ethics that he supports killing people in need while complaining that we don’t help other people in need. I imagine he’d make some cockamamie argument that the Bible supports abortion, which is unimaginable, but I don’t even need to start quoting chapter and verse at him. The Equal Rights Argument makes it pretty clear that if you care about equality (which he supposedly does), equal rights have to extend to unborn humans.
Okay, I said I was taking the gloves off, but I can’t shake off my ERI training so quickly; I just have to give him the benefit of the doubt at least once. Surely he just doesn’t know what happens in abortion? That must be it. Maybe he thinks it’s just “unplugging” from the embryo. Maybe he’s unaware that unborn humans are suffocated, burned, stabbed, shredded, poisoned, and dismembered. That would explain his callousness.
I’m the person at ERI least supportive of using graphic images, but Barnhart needs to see one. If he’s going to support abortion and condemn those who oppose him, he needs to know what he’s talking about.
The Bible Seems to Side With the Fake Christians
The Bible doesn’t mention abortion directly. (“Haha, in your face, stupid pro-birth fake Christian!”) Sure, the earliest teaching of the apostles outside the Bible, the Didache, explicitly condemns abortion, but it’s not in the Bible, so many protestants would say it doesn’t count.
However, one of the capital crimes for which God judged Israel and Judah in the Old Testament was sacrificing their children to the pagan god Molech. Offerings to Molech involved placing children onto a superheated metal statue until they boiled or burned to death. This act of “religion” was referred to euphemistically as “passing through the fire,” and it’s one of the reasons God brought about the destruction of His people (e.g., Deuteronomy 18:10, Jeremiah 32:35, Ezekiel 16:21, Ezekiel 23:37).
Do you think the main problem with Molech-worship was the fact that it used born children? Well, then this is just a personhood question, and the pro-life side has the better arguments. Either way, God doesn’t seem to look kindly on religious people promoting violence against children, so a pastor like Barnhart should take care that he has a good reason why that’s not what he’s doing.
Christianity can no more approve of burning children with saline solution and killing them with medical implements than burning and killing children on a superheated idol. Christ said not to “despise one of these little ones” (Matthew 18:10) and not to hinder them from coming to Him (Matthew 19:14). Just for a moment, take seriously the pro-life argument that the embryo in the womb is a valuable person with rights, a child loved by God. If “Jesus loves the little children,” how can we defend brutally killing them?
And this is the crux of the issue: if I’m right, and unborn humans are people, then advocating for the right to kill them is unbiblical. Barnhart is not a blogger sitting in a pew, but one who styles himself a pastor and a teacher. As a teacher, he faces a much higher standard of judgment because he is responsible for those listening to him.
Barnhart uses the word “people” for unborn humans; if they are in fact people, then his teaching “does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:3). Barnhart, accordingly, is a false teacher, and his teachings must be resisted insofar as they depart from Scripture.
I don’t know exactly what Barnhart believes about the Bible, so this last point may not apply to him specifically. There are many on the so-called “evangelical left” who dismiss the ethical teachings of the Bible as culture-bound and reject its books as written by patriarchal proto-orthodox men—then proclaim that their favorite sayings of Jesus (recorded in that Bible, by those men) are the key to true ethics. This is ridiculous. If you reject large swaths of the Bible for various reasons, you have no grounds for claiming that certain parts of Jesus’ recorded teaching are transcendentally true. You don’t get to use the red letters if you erase the black letters.
No, Pro-Lifers Aren’t Fake Christians
I hope I’ve made it clear that Barnhart’s diatribe is a baseless ad hominem against a group of people he seems to personally despise. Pro-life Christians are not fake Christians. We’re imperfect Christians, not always logically consistent, sinning by what we have done and what we have left undone. But our position is one of love and inclusion for our fellow human beings, specifically those who are dehumanized and killed in staggering numbers.
Pro-life Christians should always strive to improve. But the pro-life position, at base, is the biblical one. I don’t worry that being pro-life makes me a fake Christian, or unable to support fair-trade production, or unable to oppose modern-day slavery, and so on. Unlike Barnhart, I won’t presume to judge the salvation of my adversaries; I’m too busy trying to help children.
If you want to see how we would respond to more pro-choice memes like this, read our article “Refuting Pro-Choice Memes: Responding to Snark With a Winning Argument.”
Please tweet this article!
- Tweet: Are Pro-Life People Fake Christians?
- Tweet: Here’s a good rule of thumb: if someone claims to know the thoughts of an entire group of people to whom they’re opposed, they’re either wrong or lying. I’ll let Barnhart take his pick.
- Tweet: In this case, a public figure has called into question the ethics and sincerity of an entire class of people. My job is to refute his empty rhetoric, and I’m taking the gloves off to do it.
The post Are Pro-Life People Fake Christians? originally appeared at the Equal Rights Institute blog. Subscribe to our email list with the form below and get a FREE gift. Click here to learn more about our pro-life apologetics course, “Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations About Abortion.”