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Shake up or shake down?

National | Pro-life activist Gregg Cunningham considers taking his message to mega-churches

Issue: "Lord of the box office," Jan. 11, 2003

Pro-life activist Gregg Cunningham, who has made a name for himself by confronting Americans with large, grisly images of abortion on major campuses, on trucks, and even on airplane-towed banners, wants to take his message elsewhere: He's considering erecting some of his giant billboards right at the entrances to a few carefully selected megachurches-and leaving them there until the pastors and leaders of those churches agree to raise their voices more vigorously in the fight against abortion: "A lot of these churches think nothing of spending $50,000 to $100,000 for new sound systems-but they won't give a fraction of that to pro-life activity."

Mr. Cunningham is blunt in his strategy. Most of these churches, he believes, are filled with nominal hangers-on-folks who will be quickly offended by the images his signs portray. That offense, he believes, will prompt such people to fall by the wayside-and in short order threaten the big churches with decreased attendance and budget crises. Mr. Cunningham says it's the only way left to get the attention of what he calls a complacent (and sometimes complicit) evangelical church in America.

The tough threat has prompted even the board of directors of Mr. Cunningham's Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) to stroke their chins, a bit perplexed over the prospect of switching their focus from antagonists on the issue to take on people who at least nominally agree that abortion is wrong. "We'd better make sure our motives are right," cautions CBR board chairman Russ Neal, who in his business markets financing packages for buildings and other capital needs to big churches. Asked whether he hoped the first church he confronts caves in and negotiates, on the one hand, or, on the other hand, stonewalls and watches its support base crumble, Mr. Cunningham said more good for more unborn babies might come with the second scenario. If one congregation takes a hard hit, he muses, it might serve as a warning to other churches to get involved.

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Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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