The weekend after the Supreme Court released its Dobbs decision, I commented from the pulpit that it was a very good week for life. As I said that, I happened to catch the eyes of two young women visiting the church that morning. My statement obviously upset them, and I have not seen them since.
The Dobbs decision did at least two things at once. First, it overturned Roe v. Wade. This did not make abortion illegal but sent that decision to the states. Second, it thrust the issue of life in the womb back into the spotlight. And while this issue has always been contentious, it has been fought on the national level. As evidenced by those two young women in our church that morning, it is an issue between neighbors. We now vote and advocate for pro-life on the level of states, cities, and neighborhoods, making it even more personal.
If you have been following this issue, you know that each state has responded very differently. Some have gone as far as banning most if not all, abortion procedures. Others, like my home state of Colorado, have worked hard to make abortion as available as possible. Moreover, Colorado recently passed a law infringing on a pregnancy center’s ability to counteract a chemical abortion.
In writing about this topic ahead of the decision, the Daily Citizen wrote the following (the Colorado legislature has since passed the measure):
As soon as the bill passed, a federal judge granted a stay, allowing pregnancy centers to continue to operate as usual. The decision by Colorado to infringe on the activity of pregnancy centers, however, is destined to become a lengthy legal battle.
Pro-life decisions made by states deserve our support and encouragement. One of the roles of the church is to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13); as such, we openly support public structures and institutions that make good moral choices. Conversely, as pastors, we should condemn pro-abortion decisions made by states. We do not believe that one has the right to take the life of another human being, so we have laws against murder. The pre-born child is a life created in the image of God, so we similarly believe there is no blanket “right” to take that life, either. And pastors should say so.
How should you think about this issue in this new cultural and legal environment?
First, know upfront that this may divide the room. When I publicly supported the overturning of Roe v. Wade, some heard me and left the church I shepherd. Thankfully, it wasn’t many, but sometimes we find ourselves in a more contentious crowd, and many more may express their disapproval and leave. But the crowd does not determine what is true, or the value of defending the truth. It is also true that we should expect disagreement with the gospel of Christ, but we cannot let that disagreement determine what we say.
Second, we are watching the pro-choice movement grow more extreme. Now that state legislatures have this issue within their power, some choose to go as far as they can to support abortion and censure the pro-life movement. This can distress us, but it is also something foreseen in Scripture. We know that a commitment to sin darkens our hearts and minds and drives people further into darkness. Romans chapter 1 teaches us that those who “exchange the truth of God for a lie” are “filled with unrighteousness, evil,… [and] murder” (1:25, 29).
We can still make a difference
If pro-life political decisions are more local than they have been in the past, then the voice of the local pastor can carry more weight. While endorsing individual politicians may be complicated, being clear on the value of life should not be controversial for any of us. The culture around us is quickly losing its mooring from the worldview shaped by Christian theology, and thus it is abandoning the values that make every life important to us. The more that happens, the more we will see the culture devalue life from conception to death. The pastor is one of the public voices left that can stem that tide and proclaim the God-given value of every human being. For instance, we should not be afraid to encourage our congregations to vote in support of life in our local and state elections.
We must introduce younger generations and new believers to why we are pro-life. Too often, the narrative of “My body, my choice,” or “abortion as health care” has won their hearts and minds, making the biblical position the enemy. The irony of the falsehoods contained in those slogans is destroying lives. Pastors should be the voice of reason, even if it is becoming the minority report in your context. Our responsibility to disciple our congregations grows more critical all the time.
Support and platform your local pregnancy centers and pro-life organizations. Many people are looking for ways to advocate for these issues, and those organizations can provide avenues for Christians to express their values and love their neighbor. That way, if the state you live in tries to handcuff the pregnancy centers in your city, these centers will know there are local churches that still support them.
We cannot despair. Even when it seems things are working against us, we and our churches can become lighthouses of hope as we proclaim the goodness of the biblical ethic.
The Foundation of the Pro-Life Ethic
Biblical Cues Pastors Can Use to Build a Pro-Life Culture in 2023