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Pro-Life evangelism

Books | Pro-life activism: Deadly detour or high road to the gospel?

Issue: "Tipping the Scales," Oct. 5, 1996

A recent bestseller released by a prestigious evangelical publisher--Zondervan's Deadly Detours, by Bob Briner--derides the pro-life movement as a "deadly detour" from the "central task of proclaiming the gospel." The author unflatteringly describes the contemporary struggle for the unborn as the very antithesis of an authentic Christian witness in the world--it is, he says, loveless, judgmental, merciless, confrontational, angry, self-righteous, and dangerously prone to violence.

Has the movement either misrepresented or mishandled the gospel of grace and peace? Two other new books--one by a former abortionist and pro-abortion pioneer, the other by a prominent Democratic politician--provide an answer to that question.

The Hand of God is the autobiography of Bernard Nathanson. Once the nation's leading abortionist and one of the founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League, Dr. Nathanson gradually became convicted of the scientific and moral bankruptcy of the "culture of death." Though a "Jewish atheist," he became an eloquent spokesman for the pro-life cause. His film The Silent Scream created an international firestorm of controversy--graphically documenting the horrors of abortion procedures. For years, his main aim and ambition was to portray the case for life in the dispassionate and areligious context of objective science.

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But a funny thing happened to Dr. Nathanson along the way: His new-found co-belligerents in the pro-life movement loved him, prayed for him, befriended him, encouraged him, and witnessed to him. The pro-life movement became a very winsome manifestation of the "hand of God" in his life. It was hardly a "deadly detour." Instead, for him it was "the sweet savor of life."

Fighting for Life is the autobiography of Pennsylvania's former Democratic governor, Robert Casey. In it, the popular and respected politician recounts his long sojourn in public life, as well the concerns of faith and family that animated those years of service. He was by all counts a political maverick--a social and civic liberal who was simultaneously a pro-life and fiscal conservative. His struggle to bring consistency to his party's message of compassion and responsibility became one of the most colorful episodes in contemporary American politics.

The real drama of his story is not so much his passionate advocacy of justice and mercy in the public square, but his struggle for life in the private arena. Shortly after winning the greatest landslide election in Pennsylvania's history, Gov. Casey was diagnosed with amyloidosis--a rare degenerative disease for which there was no cure and no treatment.

Over the next year he was engaged in the greatest fight of his life. During those critical months, the governor discovered firsthand the sacrificial love, compassion, and tenderness of the men and women in the pro-life movement. He was engulfed in their care--a cadre of prayer warriors, supporters, and well-wishers surrounded him with their encouragement and concern. In 1993, their prayers were answered--following an experimental double transplant surgery, he made medical history, making a complete recovery and resuming his duties in the governor's office.

As he later admitted, "Never was faith more clearly portrayed."

If these two prominent testimonies teach us anything at all, we must admit that rather than being a "deadly detour," the pro-life movement may very well be among our most apropos evangelistic models.

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