Throwing the Prolife Baby Out with the Rhetorical Bathwater – A Response to Rachel Held Evans

I read with interest the semi-biographical piece written by Rachel Held Evans posted on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog. Like Evans, I’ve grown up in the evangelical Christian subculture and have experienced its excesses. Like Evans, I’m a thirty-something Christian communicator who probably sees the world a bit different than previous generations. Like Evans, I’ve been disenchanted with the too-cozy relationship between church and state. Not necessarily because I think it hurts the state. But because I think it has hurt the church, as we’ve tacked on Republican talking points to our set of orthodox doctrines, essentially watering doing our Great Commission mission.

But I’m not ready to paint with such overly broad strokes as Evans has. For one thing, I do believe in creation, mainly because Genesis says it, but also because I do believe there are mountains of scientific evidence to support it. I’ve seen the so-called facts for evolution and have come away less than impressed.

But putting aside the origins debate, what troubled me most about Evans was her dismissal of the prolife movement as a power-hungry extremist faction of Christianity. Sure, we’ve had our nuts and goofballs. We’ve had our excesses. But largely the prolife movement has been a successful one, having moved the needle of American opinion solidly in our favor. To be prolife now is not necessarily an extremist position anymore. Witness the debate over the last health care bill. It was held up by prolife Democrats.

Evans also raises a false dichotomy between prolife political activism on on-the-ground compassion. The truth is that many, who work in elections and campaign on behalf of candidates, also volunteer in crisis pregnancy centers, work hard on adoption, give to missions who feed the homeless and speak out on human trafficking.

What often frustrates me about my generation is that we’ve decided certain causes are chic and others are signs of narrowmindness. To speak out on behalf of the millions of innocent babies who are sent to their death—that’s labeled extremism. But to speak out on behalf of victims of sex trafficking—that’s noble.

The truth is that both causes are just and should be part of the portfolio of Christian activism.

I think Rachel Evans and I would agree that this portfolio should be expanded beyond the hot-button cultural touch points of the religious right. I would also second her angst at the rhetorical meanness of the last generation of religious right activism. And like Evans, I would tend to say that Christians have too often seen the world through the lens of the conservative movement rather than viewing the world through the lens of our faith.

But the presence of some inconsistencies in a previous generation of Christianity shouldn’t tempt us to throw the entire set of beliefs out the window.

After all, I don’t think we change the world by producing more of what the world already has, but by holding fast to true beliefs, tossing out other causes that are unimportant, and engaging the other side in respectful, friendly dialogue.

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6 Comments

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Daniel Darling, Daniel Darling. Daniel Darling said: Here's my response to @rachelheldevans piece in @onfaith: http://ow.ly/2mXMN […]

  2. MainlineMom says:

    This is a great post, couldn't have said it better. (with the exception of believing in 6 day creationism…I'm a scientist and I haven't seen enough evidence on either side.) I am tired of people claiming that pro-life activists are all words and no action. I am tired of people ignoring the work of crisis pregnancy centers and the tsunami of Christians adopting these days. Being passionately pro-life is not the same thing as "legislating morality" in such instances as banning gay marriage.

    I think Rachel is great, but the idea that Christians should help the poor but not the unborn doesn't sit well with me.

  3. I too disagree with your position on evolution, Daniel, but I think you made a fair point about abortion. So I wrote a post about it today: http://rachelheldevans.com/pro-life

    Thank you so much for the civil dialog. It's a rare thing on the blogosphere these days! :-)

  4. RawFaith says:

    Part 1 Hi Daniel… I came over from Rachel's blog. I appreciate your blog post too. As a 51 year old woman who was around doing media and actually had to work with the moral majority, I've been very troubled by my generation's approach to the melding of faith and politics… it tends to be extremist and culturally biased. I understand your generation of evangelicals wanting to distance yourselves from that. But I do agree that we need to be careful not to pick and choose our "causes" and the the things we do or don't support based on a knee jerk reaction against something that has been poorly executed in the past or on what's currently culturally trendy. With the abortion issue I think somewhere between what the generations have gravitated towards would probably be better than either extreme. … see pt 2

  5. RawFaith says:

    Part 2…. I think one of the things we can do well as the church is to provide good, compassionate alternatives to abortion. For example, I have friends who started picketing abortion clinics, and praying for the staff and the owners, to starting a crisis pregnancy center to creating a home for unwed mothers so they had other options. They not only created a place for them to stay during their pregnancys, but also gave them a chance to go to school at the same time and also set up an apartment building so that the mothers who wanted to keep their babies could stay there while they were getting on their feet and preparing to be able to support themselves. Other's I know provided child care for when they went back to work. They also worked to help create an open adoption environment for the mothers who wanted to give their children up too. Saying something is wrong is one thing… and important. Helping people understand why and offering them alternatives ultimately will probably do more. As believers we need to be salt and light. We might not be able to completely stop abortion, but we can make a big difference in many individuals lives by helping them see a more excellent way.

  6. Daniel_Darling says:

    Hey, good to hear from you. I completely agree and for the most part, I believe churches and Christian organizations are doing this. Many selfless prolife people around the world are caring for young mothers and orphans. And adoption is a huge emerging ministry in the evangelical church.