My work has never been about radically changing the pro-life movement. Instead I’ve merely wanted to help us tweak the way we communicate, in order to help us connect better and ultimately persuade the pro-choice people we talk to.
While I spoke at the Students for Life Conference following the West Coast Walk for Life, I didn’t make it to the walk itself this year. However a good friend of mine named Jen Serban did go, and she had a concern about some of the signs and chants that were being used by the pro-lifers. I’m going to post those thoughts below with Jen’s permission, and then I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on whether any change would be good. I’m always impressed with the thoughtful people who read this blog, and I think an amazing discussion could be had on this subject.
What a great event the Walk for Life is! Especially having people from all backgrounds, representing different faiths or no faith at all! It is wonderful to see such a large group of diverse people standing in the gap for the unborn and their families.
There was one thing, however, that bothered me during the walk. It began when we walked past a big group of pro-choice protesters. They were on the sides yelling their standard slogans at the people participating in the walk. Of course, their rallying cry’s were of varying accuracy and vulgarity, but some of their signs were actually quite compelling and deserving of pause and consideration.
However, the group that I happened to be walking with took a different approach. They began chanting, “Pro-life! Pro-life! Pro-life!”
At first I thought about how great unity is. Then it really started to bother me.
I understand and fully accept that there are things about abortion that pro-life and pro-choice people are going to find difficulty agreeing on. I also see that if we are truly representing Christ in our defense of the sanctity of life, we will face persecution. Let’s just come to terms with that now. Understanding that we are ambassadors of Christ, we should do everything in our power to represent Him well, particularly in how we treat people who disagree with us. We should be working to draw them closer and affirm their intrinsic value as well.
I’m not at all saying that the pro-life “walkers” mistreated anyone. I’m just proposing that there may be a different way to engage them than to proclaim “what” we are, while they proclaim “what” they are. It all had a very, “We know we are right and you are not, since we are pro-life and you are not” feel. I didn’t sense any love or concern.
The chanting was actually sort of disturbing to me. Maybe that’s just me over-feeling things again, but I think there is something to it. I walked along trying to think of what we could say that could not only portray how we feel about the unborn, but also how we feel about those who disagree with us. As cheesy as it is, all I could think of was Toby Mac’s song “Speak Life.” It is not necessarily a pro-life song, but it speaks about how our words have power. My favorite part says, “Speak hope, speak love, speak life.” That could be a mantra for the pro life movement.
I think it could be beneficial if the organizers or groups participating in the walk started preparing their signs ahead of time and maybe even a helpful tagline to give people to chant, should they feel compelled. What would it look like if the walkers made signs that actually acknowledged the concerns the pro-choice group have? I imagine a sign concerning rape. “Rape” at the top and then under it some word that describes it: abhorrent, horrible, vile. Then something to the effect of, “Protect the victims AND their children.” I’m not sure how this would actually play out, but geez, we should be engaging real arguments and stop “ad homineming” all over the place.
I would just really love for the people of the pro-life movement to be represented as what they hopefully are, caring and thoughtful. I don’t think that is necessarily what is being seen now.