Relational apologetics is the art of cultivating friendships with people who are different from you, where you can have many conversations about a controversial topic about abortion. This can often be more effective than single conversations on a college campus because you can build rapport and trust with the person, and have more time to discuss the hurdles that are blocking someone from changing their mind about an issue like abortion.
Josh responds to three pro-choice people who pushed back against our recent video about the Responsibility Objection, one of the pro-life counter-arguments to Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous violinist thought experiment. Is this pro-life argument a red herring? Did we strawman Thomson?
The abortion-choice lobby has moved on from just dehumanizing unborn persons. They’ve now shifted their primary focus to dehumanizing pro-life people.
It sounds ridiculous for me to say that pro-choice leaders are less concerned about arguing that the unborn aren’t valuable persons. Here’s the thing: unborn humans aren’t visible, and planting doubt or apathy is quite often enough to get pro-choice people to empathize with the visible woman rather than the invisible child. If someone doesn’t seem to be present, if they can’t or don’t speak up for themselves, it is no major challenge to ignore them.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Why We Must Be Openly Pro-Life
Pro-life people have a pesky tendency to be visible and audible. The most effective way to counter this “problem” is to render pro-life people as something other than persons. If pro-choice leaders are successfully able to “other” pro-life people, then the public can ignore us because we are made into something noxious, detestable, beneath consideration. In short, pro-choice leaders are attacking the character and credibility of the pro-life movement in order to force pro-life people into hiding.
This is why pro-life people are so frequently painted as religious crazies or terrorists. Take the recent AKA Jane Roe documentary: a clinic worker refers to pro-life people as “terrorists” because they yell at people and block clinic entrances (things which…aren’t terroristic), but this claim is made out to be respectable because the director displays a clip of actual anti-abortion violence—a person bombing an abortion facility. People don’t listen to what a terrorist has to say because a terrorist’s message is automatically considered violent and evil. If to be pro-life is to be an “anti-choice terrorist”, to use the term my colleague Rachel heard used during women’s studies classes, then it doesn’t matter if we say that pro-choice people are supporting a massive human-rights violation, because good people should avoid being contaminated even by hearing us.
If this strategy succeeds, the pro-life position will be a thought crime. Pro-life people will become political untouchables. We can’t convince people who won’t listen to us; even though we have better arguments, pro-choice leaders won’t have to give an answer if they can silence those who question their position.
In my first article on this subject, I explained that political discussions with extended family are some of the most complicated dialogue situations to navigate due largely to the power dynamics. I also discussed several reasons why the holiday dinner table is not an ideal time or place for persuading people to change their mind about abortion.
But what if your pro-choice aunt does bring up abortion or another political topic at the dinner table and tries to pull you into a debate with her? Here are seven tips for making the best of that situation:
Author’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on being an effective pro-life advocate over the holidays.
Estimated reading time: 14 minutes.
I’ve been speaking about relational apologetics more often lately, a phrase that I define as “cultivating relationships with people who have different beliefs, for the sake of genuine friendship and for discovering truth together.” One of the most frequent questions I get asked after discussing this topic is how to handle potentially volatile political discussions with family members, such as in the context of a big family dinner at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Even Saturday Night Live has made light of how politically charged Thanksgiving dinners can become:
As my colleague Rachel Crawford noted during a discussion of relational apologetics that we recorded for the Equipped for Life Course Podcast:
I think that a large part of long-term apologetics is going to be coming from what sort of relationship you have with the other person. . . . Having relational apologetics with a family member, especially if they are your mother or your grandmother and they are not a peer, that is going to be especially difficult. . . . that poses an extra challenge.
Family members present several challenges that may make engaging in discourse with them particularly difficult if you want to be persuasive. I’d like to explain why that is and offer several practical tips for optimizing your chances of changing people’s minds in this context.
Here are six things to keep in mind before you arrive at a big family gathering this holiday season:
Do you want to discuss abortion with your pro-choice friends, but can’t figure out where to start? Abortion is an uncomfortable subject, so most people are reluctant to initiate a conversation about it. If you want to have a productive dialogue, then you don’t want to bring up abortion in a way that either feels unnecessarily confrontational or awkwardly puts your friends on the spot.
If you’ve never talked about abortion with your pro-choice friends before, then your goal for that first conversation should be modest—you simply want to build some rapport and lay the groundwork for future conversations. People are much more likely to change their minds slowly over time than all at once in one epic conversation.[Tweet that!] When you have pro-choice friends, you have the unique opportunity to give them the time to process your arguments and work through the details with you. The first conversation about abortion is the foundation of everything that is to follow. It is like a first impression, even if you have been friends for a decade. Viewing it as one piece of a much bigger picture will help you set realistic expectations.
Here are six ways to bring up abortion with your friends: