For a better experience, check out our new website,

Focus on the Family Broadcast

Be the Pro-Life Church (Part 2 of 2)

Be the Pro-Life Church (Part 2 of 2)

Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America, discusses the recent arrests of students in Washington, D.C. for writing "Black Pre-born Lives Matter" in chalk on a sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood. Then, Emily Colson challenges cultural assumptions that special needs kids aren't valuable and encourages churches to help special needs families in their communities. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: August 14, 2020

Jim Daly: This is Focus on the Family. I’m Jim Daly and, in a moment, we’ll be hearing from Emily Colson and a special story about her son, Max, really to highlight the value of all human life. But first, I want to draw attention to something important that happened last week in our nation’s capital. On the phone with me is the president of Students for Life, Kristan Hawkins. Kristan, thanks for joining me on Focus on the Family.

Mrs. Kristan Hawkins: Thanks for having me today.

Jim: All right. A couple of weeks ago, two young people from Students for Life of America were arrested for writing a message in chalk – which my kids have done many times, by the way…

Kristan: (Laughs).

Jim: …On sidewalks. But they did it in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic. What was their message and what happened?

Kristan: Sure. We went out to write “Black Pre-born Lives Matter” in front of the Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood. We felt like at this point in our nation’s history when we are having this very important conversation, we really need to start talking about Planned Parenthood’s past, but also present racism. And we wrote the city a letter. We informed the mayor that we were planning on going out there to paint “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” on the street because she had opened up the streets for free expression by writing “Black Lives Matter” and then also allowing protesters to add “Defund the Police” without a permit and in permanent paint. We got a permit to assemble. We promised to stay six feet apart. Um, and we went out there. We never really heard from the mayor’s office. The police department called us and asked us to bring temporary paint, which we did. But when we got there at 4:00 a.m., there were six squad cars waiting for us and threatened arrest if we attempted to paint. And then when we started sidewalk chalking, something that happens every Saturday on the public sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood, our – that was our backup plan to chalk our message, that’s when our students were arrested.

Jim: I mean, to me, it’s so ridiculous. And I’m grateful to African-American leaders in the Christian community – people like Benjamin Watson, Alveda King and others…

Kristan: Mm-hmm.

Jim: …Who are making this proclamation. Yes, black pre-born babies matter. And it’s such a right thing to say in the culture right now and here your people getting threatened by the police. What was the encounter about? The police showed up. They were there to meet you, obviously…

Kristan: Mm-hmm.

Jim: …By the mayor’s decree, I would think. What did they say?

Kristan: The police were very respectful. I want to make this very clear. We were glad the police were there. We knew the police would protect us. They’ve protected us many times in the past. And we went up to the officers and we said, “What is this about? You know, we’ve spoken to the special events team. They told us to bring the temporary paint. We’ve done that.” And, you know, we asked them who they were reporting to? And the officer at the scene in charge said directly he was reporting right to the mayor. Um, and so, when our students began to chalk, they threatened arrest. We said, “This is unbelievable.” I mean, clearly what’s happening here is viewpoint discrimination. It’s unconstitutional. But this is crazy. I mean, five-year-olds chalk on sidewalks all over Washington, D.C.. Um, and so, they threatened arrest and our students continued to chalk and two of them were arrested and taken to jail.

Jim: What’s the plan as you move forward? Again, I hope people will pray for you and, you know, stay close to this story…

Kristan: Yeah.

Jim: …Because it’s so important to our freedoms. But what’s the plan? Are you going to take up a loss here?

Kristan: Sure. Yeah, we’re working with a good friend, the Alliance Defending Freedom. They help us a lot on college campuses. We’re a big client there, as you can imagine, on college campuses…

Jim: Right.

Kristan: …The First Amendment cases. They’re helping us identify criminal defense attorneys for the two students who, you know, were cited with misdemeanors for public destruction of public or private property for sidewalk chalk.

Jim: Think of that, everybody. That’s crazy. Given the environment we’re in.

Kristan: (Laughter) It’s nuts. It’s absolutely crazy. We’re going to go further. We’re going to launch a federal First Amendment lawsuit as well. We’re working with our friends at the Frederick Douglass Foundation, led by the Reverend Dean Nelson, because they were co-sponsors of our event. Because what happened was the city chilled everyone’s speech. Everyone who was there that day was told that the mayor was practicing viewpoint discrimination, that she’s a good friend of Planned Parenthood – she’s been an honored guest of theirs many times – and that she was choosing to allow certain groups to paint certain messages on streets, but not others.

Jim: Well, and it gets down to this, Kristan, when you look at it, the mayor has her brute squad doing her bidding.

Kristan: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And I think that’s not the country we want to live in. We want to be a country of law and order.

Kristan: Right.

Jim: And you just can’t call up the police to go get your political enemies.

Kristan: Right.

Jim: That’s not the country we have or should have. Kristan, we wish you the very best as you assert your First Amendment rights. We’ll certainly ask people to pray for you. Thank you for highlighting the story for us and please keep us informed.

Kristan: Thanks for having me.

Jim: Let me truly encourage you to pray for Students for Life of America. And we want to also ask that you stand up for the pre-born child by joining Focus on the Family in our online event on September 26th. It’s called See Life 2020. And we’ll have special speakers and music and we’ll feature a 4D ultrasound of a baby in that third trimester so we can show the world what the baby in the womb looks like and counter people who want to take that precious life. Also, you can sign our pro-life pledge and get all the details about See Life 2020 at our website,

John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, we’re returning to a powerful conversation with Emily Colson. She’s the mother of Max and he has severe autism.

Ms. Emily Colson: I cannot tell you what an extraordinary journey this has been. I mean, the highest highs – you know it, John – and the lowest lows. But I would not trade this for anything, and I’ve never actually met a family that would trade it. Now, we want to erase a couple of days. Anybody feel that way about life? We would just like that bigger eraser and let’s just forget about that part.

Jim: Right.

Emily: But what God has given me – the beauty that He’s given me I think is so much brighter because it’s been so difficult.

John: Well, we have more, as I said, from Emily Colson today. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.

Jim: John, we shared last time how Emily Colson is not only a wonderful mother to Max, she’s also a pro-life advocate. She’s challenging our culture today to not ignore or devalue people who don’t look like you or me, who may have mental or physical limitations, and they might not even be born yet. But they’ve been created in the image of God and that’s what we need to remember. That’s why Emily joined us in Tampa, Florida, for a pro-life event last fall, with a large crowd of Focus fans and friends. We had a great time together as we reminded everyone about the sacred value of human life.

If you missed our program last time, download it, get a copy, or get our broadcast app so you can listen on the go. It was inspiring and challenging for all of us in the Christian community about how to live out our pro-life convictions every day

John: We have the entire conversation in case you missed part one of the discussion with Emily, including what we’re going to share today, along with her book, Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free. Just call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by to find out more. And last time we shared how Emily has been a single mom to Max for more than 26 years. And she has a very familiar last name for some folks. Um, here’s part two of the conversation with Emily Colson on Focus on the Family.

Jim: Many of you, if not all of you, remember Chuck Colson. He worked in the Nixon administration. He was one of the attorneys in there. But I – what was his official role?

Emily: Special counsel to President Nixon.

Jim: Yeah, there you go.

Emily: Yes.

Jim: And, uh – so hard charger. He was a Marine.

Emily: Yep. He was a Marine.

Jim: I mean. Yeah.

Emily: You never stop being a Marine. This I know!


Jim: And in that context, you wrote in your book about how much he – at the beginning, how your dad struggled to connect with Max. Describe that. And that really is gonna help many of us men.

Emily: Right. And he was so transparent about it when he wrote about it, uh, when we came together to be on the program that was so special.

Jim: That was.

Emily: And he was very transparent about that early struggle and not really understanding, “What do I do?” Here’s this super Type A guy, and in comes super Type A autism grandchild, right?

Jim: (Laughter).

Emily: Like, they’re both have – I’m telling you, they both have the same level of energy. It’s just that my dad went in a straight line. Max is a little more zigzagged.


Emily: They both have the same energy. But I think in the early – very early years, my dad kept trying to teach Max. I think he thought that was his opportunity was to impart his great wisdom.

Jim: Yeah.

Emily: And, you know, who wouldn’t want one-on-one teaching time with Chuck Colson? Well, Max.


Emily: Max did not want one-on-one teaching time with Chuck Colson. And it wasn’t until my dad got sick. He had the flu. We were down there visiting. And all he could really do was sit on the couch and – and observe. And in that, it really changed his perspective and his understanding. I remember we went back to the airport after that visit, and we had this wonderful deep talk about Max, and why would God bring this child into our lives? And I remember it was the first time my dad realized this was an opportunity for him to learn about sacrificial love and the sanctity of human life in a deeper way. What I – I love a lot about my dad, but one of the things I love is that when he had one of those aha moments, he didn’t just write it in his journal and move on. He changed his behavior. He changed the way he lived when he had one of those aha moments. And so, he ended up – every time we’d come down to Florida for a visit, he would clear his schedule. And we came down to visit a lot. And we would just do everything Max loved to do. And my dad was just present with Max. Instead of trying to pull Max into his world…

Jim: Yeah.

Emily: …He entered in with Max. They became the best of friends. And I – I think – I think now how often my dad would say that Max influenced him more than anyone else in his life…

Jim: Wow. Think of that.

Emily: …More than someone in the halls of power in the White House, more than the great theologians that he rubbed elbows with – but his grandson with autism who struggled to speak. How remarkable of God to send such a mentor for my dad in the second half of his ministry years.

Jim: Think of that. Think of that. But the point of that is for him to understand the humility of God…

Emily: Absolutely.

Jim: …That Max had the greatest influence on him – that is profound, knowing him.

Emily: Knowing him, you know…

Jim: Wow.

Emily: …The intensity of my dad and all he had on his list to accomplish. And he always had 3-by-5 cards in his wallet that he’d pull out, and that was his to-do list and people he was praying for. He was the most organized, efficient person who was so mindful of every minute. And he knew that the most important thing he could do was to be present with his grandson with autism.

Jim: Yeah. And looking over those eight years, how has Max handled his homecoming to heaven? How does Max, uh, think of your dad, as far as you can see?

Emily: Well, he asks about grandpa. He’ll say sometimes, “Is Grandpa still in heaven?” He still, uh, to this day, sleeps with – with his grandfather’s picture under his pillow.

Jim: Oh, that’s so sweet.

Emily: He loves him very, very much. I think about the impact my dad had on Max. And, uh, probably, the most profound impact is that, when Max was 13, he gave his life to Christ.


Jim: That’s good.

Emily: I know. One of the most beautiful moments of my life is – was watching my dad baptize Max in the little swimming pool beside my dad’s house. I remember how moved Max was. He was so – he was so quiet and pensive. And as that moment happened, I thought, “Of all the things the world says my son cannot do. He can give his life to Christ.”

John: Christ, yeah.


Emily: Nothing more important.

Jim: That’s it.


Emily: God’s – God’s goal for Max is not that he become more like other young men. God’s goal for Max is that he become more like Jesus.

John: Mm

Audience: Amen.

Emily: Very, very different goal.

Jim: And that’s truly the goal for all of us, right?

Emily: The same goal for all of us. And what I love is that, for the past 16 years since Max was baptized, every time he gets in the water, whether it’s a hot tub or the ocean or a pool, he reenacts his baptism!


Emily: He puts his hand up like my dad had his. He puts his hand on his cheek. And he says, “Because you love Jesus, I baptize you in the name…”

Jim: (Laughter).

Emily: “…Of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”


Emily: Pushes himself down, and he comes up, and he yells, “I got baptized!”


Jim: All right. I want to, um, explain this challenge that you have, uh, for today’s churches. We’ve got to get to some practical things that we can do in the culture today. And we have probably about 10 minutes to get this done. Um, will the church be able to defend life if we’re not willing to sit beside that same life that is challenged in the ways that you’ve described Max, um, for an hour on Sunday?

Emily: Right.

Jim: I mean, that’s one of the – one of the most difficult things. And you’ve had some horrific experiences – I’m sorry to say this – but in churches where Max has been a little disruptive. And what are some of the things that people have said to you?

Emily: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Well, I have to say Max absolutely loves church. But he also comes with a lot of unbridled enthusiasm…


Jim: He’s excited about the Lord.

Emily: …Which is a great thing. He is. His faith is so big and just squirts out. It’s unmistakable and it’s contagious. But there are people who have this sense that church is designed for those with the spiritual gifting of sitting still and being quiet.

Jim: Right.


Emily: We do not have those spiritual gifts.

Jim: You know – and, you know, there’s a place for that. I get that.

Emily: There is. Absolutely. There is a time…

Jim: I want to defend that person, too.


Emily: Yes. There is a time and a place for it, absolutely. But, uh, there was one particular church that we visited, and Max’s joy was coming out.

Jim: (Laughter).

Emily: And he’s yelling in anticipation. Uh, “We’re going to sing God’s praises!”

Jim: (Laughter).

Emily: And a woman came over and whispered to my friend in front, who was with us. She said, “He doesn’t belong.”

Audience members: Aw.

Jim: Isn’t that something? “He doesn’t belong.” It strikes me as, how little they know…

Emily: Mm-hmm.

Jim: …Really…

Emily: Oh, yeah.

Jim: …Especially given what we just talked about…

Emily: Oh, yeah.

Jim: …With your dad.

Emily: Oh, yeah.

Jim: “He doesn’t belong.”

Emily: “He doesn’t belong.”

Jim: They’re missing the opportunity to learn.

Emily: Such a vast statement, “He doesn’t belong.”

Jim: Yeah.

Emily: My friend, thankfully, defended Max and simply said, “All are welcome. All are welcome.” And we stayed in that church. Uh, we stayed in that church, and we worshipped in a way that I’m not sure that church has ever experienced before!


Emily: It was aerobic – I will say that – but glorious. But there are so many families who have that very same experience with church, where they’re – they’re either asked to leave, they’re told, “We’re sorry, we don’t have a place for you here.” Um, they are shushed out of the sanctuary, or, for the most part, our families just never dare cross the threshold.

John: You know, that’s a tragic reality for so many special needs families and we in the church need to open our arms and, uh, make sure they know all are welcome into God’s family. Today on Focus on the Family Emily Colson is challenging us to live out our pro-life beliefs in very practical ways. And she’s written a beautiful book about her experiences in raising a son with autism. It’s called Dancing with Max and we have copies available at Here’s the conclusion now of our conversation with Emily Colson on Focus on the Family.

Jim: Yeah, let me ask you. Cause I understand that balance. My brother’s a pastor. We’re sitting here in Mission Hills Baptist Church in Tampa.


Jim: (Laughter) Pastor Paul Purvis is right in front here. He’s the head pastor.


Jim: It’s a tough job. I mean, he’s got to maintain some decorum in the assembly.

Emily: Definitely.

Jim: And we’re talking about the Word of God. So, don’t want to be too harsh.

Emily: Definitely.

Jim: But what are some things that churches could think about to help the plight – thinking of a single mom with an autistic child like you.

Emily: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Jim: What are some practical things that would help you?

Emily: I think what families need to know is that churches will work with us to try to find some creative solutions so that the body is whole in the church. Uh, a friend of mine said, “If…”

Jim: That’s good.


Emily: Yeah, thank you.

Jim: Cut it loose.

Emily: We don’t want to be leaving out a body part from the church because our churches are – will then be disabled. We need the whole body in the church.

Jim: Wow.

Emily: Now, Max does not sit through the service. He doesn’t really want to sit through our pastor speaking. He’s not offended by it (laughter) so…

Jim: Now, unfortunately, I don’t want to offend any pastors, but there’s some able-bodied people that have that same perspective.

Emily: That feel the same way.


Emily: That’s exactly it.

Jim: Max is ahead of the curve.


Emily: He really is (laughter). But we need creative ways so that families, first of all, know they’re remembered, they’re thought of. When we’re driving to church, I guarantee you, we are passing by homes where families are staying home on Sunday morning like we did for five years because I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I just couldn’t figure out how my wiggly, loud child would be in a church. And we are passing by those homes where those families are looking out the windows saying, “I wish I could go to church. I wish the church knew I was there.” So, I think it’s first looking at our congregations. Who is in the church? Who do we have there? How can we better serve them? It starts with asking, right? It’s this really complicated thing. You ask, “How can we be there for you? How can we make this work for you? What might work for your child?” For Max, he comes and he serves. So, he’s not coming to church to be taken care of. He comes to church to serve, which is glorious.

Jim: Yes.

Emily: I mean, it’s just made this huge difference.

John: It’s messy, too, though.

Emily: It’s messy. Oh, it’s very messy.


John: That’s good.

Jim: Well, in fact, you, um, had an observation with Max where the – what you called the “grunt crew” or the cleaning crew. They were busy stacking chairs and vacuuming. And you noticed one of the guys said to Max, “Hey, why don’t you help us?”

Emily: Oh, yeah.

Jim: And he loved it, right?

Emily: Oh, that was the best moment. So, we’d been home for five years from church, couldn’t figure out how to get back. Max had been baptized. I thought, “I can’t not have Max in church. He can’t be home. He’s given his life to Christ.” So, I thought, “We’ve got to go back to the one thing Max loved about church when he was young.” And he loved it to be over.


Emily: So, we went when church was over. And one of the men asked Max to help stack chairs, invited him as we’re leaving, put his hand on his shoulder as if he were knighting him and said, “Max, we could use you on the grunt crew.” That was the cleanup crew. That one invitation and one minute out of this man’s life…

Jim: Oh.

Emily: …To invite Max and say, “Max, you’re indispensable. You’re needed” radically changed our lives. We came for six years to what we called backwards church. We showed up for the worship at the end and – so that Max could serve on the cleanup crew.

Jim: Aw, that is great.


Emily: Isn’t that great?

Jim: Yeah. That’s great.


Emily: That shifted into Max then becoming a greeter a few years back and serving at the welcome center.

Jim: (Laughter).

Emily: And I want to tell you, I wish you could come to our church and be greeted by Max…

Jim: Yeah.

Emily: …Because he’s leaping and dancing. And I watch people come to the door of our church, and they’re carrying all their burdens and the weight of the week. And I watch them meet Max’s joy, and it’s as if all their armor just drops right off, and they’re ready for worship.

Jim: That’s beautiful.

Emily: It’s glorious.

Jim: Yeah.

John: That’s a real gift, isn’t it?

Emily: It’s an extraordinary gift.

John: It doesn’t take anything except a little space.

Emily: That’s exactly it. I think what I’ve seen with our church with Max is that, with each step he takes, they just breathe a little deeper and make room for everybody, make room for him. And people are genuinely on the edges of their seat. I’m usually on the edge of my seat….

John: (Laughter) What’s next?

Emily: …Knowing I might needs to chase or grab or do something quickly.

John: (Laughter) Yes.

Emily: But they’re on the edges of their seats waiting, “What is Max going to say? How is he going to delight us?”

Jim: That is so good!

Emily: It’s glorious.

Jim: No, that is so good. Emily, you have said it and said it so well. Thank you for being with us.

Emily: My pleasure.

Jim: Thank you for being such a great witness.

Emily: Thank you. Thank you.


Jim: Yeah. Yeah.

Emily: We need to be present as the church. We need to be bold. We need to be stepping in with families with disabilities. We need to be stepping into hospice. We need to be going into nursing homes. We need to be present as the body of Christ. This is our privilege. This is our honor.

Jim: Yes, and you model it so well. Tampa, let’s thank Emily Colson.


Jim: John, it’s my prayer that Emily’s witness for life has inspired all of our listeners. I know it’s inspired me. We want you to stand with us in this battle to transform hearts and minds across North America and literally around the globe. On Saturday, September 26th, we will declare this pro-life message – that abortion is a terrible evil that must end, because every heartbeat is of great value to our Heavenly Father. That’s why we’re urging you to sign our pledge, #loveeveryheartbeat. By signing that, you agree to pray for a reawakening in our culture today that we human beings are created in the image of God. And that you’ll support men and women facing an unplanned pregnancy. And rescue babies who are at risk of abortion. And then help us spread the word to our churches, communities, and our national leaders, sharing your pro-life beliefs and encouraging others to embrace them as well.

John: It’s all part of our See Life 2020 online event that’s coming up on September 26th. And we’ve got details when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or visit

Jim: The Christian community cannot afford to ignore this issue of life. We have an obligation to protect and advocate for those who are the “least of these” in today’s society. See Life 2020 will help you do that. And I hope you’ll join us in about 6 weeks for this powerful online event. And please sign the pledge. It’s important. We want the whole world to see that every human life is precious in God’s eyes.

John: And when you get in touch with us, let me also recommend that you check out Emily’s book, Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free. I really appreciate the book and we can provide a copy to you when you make a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family today. That’d be our way of saying thank you for joining the support team and helping us protect and advocate for life. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or you can donate online and get that book at Well, we hope you have a great weekend with your family, and with your church family as well. And then on Monday plan to join us for some insights about prayer from Elisa Morgan.


Mrs. Elisa Morgan: So, I find myself kind of tug-of-warred between, “This is what I want, God” – an honest kind of a prayer – and “But what do you want, God?” – a more yielded, abandoned kind of prayer.

Today's Guests

Dancing With Max

Dancing With Max

Receive Emily Colson's book Dancing With Max for your donation of any amount!

Recent Episodes

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Hope and Encouragement for Military Families

Jessica Manfre describes the unique challenges military spouses and families face. Long separation, constant moves, and work-related trauma can devastate a marriage. The good news is — God is always there. Faith, friendship, and service can build a strong foundation for facing life’s challenges.

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Honoring the Fallen on Memorial Day

Focus President Jim Daly and John Fuller share listener-submitted stories of friends and family members who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we enjoy today as Americans.

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Gaining a New Perspective on Life

Who is in control of your life? British evangelist J.John challenges believers to live up to our tremendous God-given potential by letting Jesus into the driver’s seat of our lives. With humorous stories of his many years in ministry, J.John explains that the essence of Christianity is to know Christ, and make Him known to others.

You May Also Like

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

A Legacy of Music and Trusting the Lord

Larnelle Harris shares stories about how God redeemed the dysfunctional past of his parents, the many African-American teachers who sacrificed their time and energy to give young men like himself a better future, and how his faithfulness to godly principles gave him greater opportunities and career success than anything else.

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Abortion Survivors Tell Their Stories (Part 1 of 2)

Our guests share their dramatic stories of surviving the attempts to end their lives while in their mother’s womb, providing a stark and undeniable counter argument to pro-abortionists who argue that a fetus is not a living human being. (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Abortion Survivors Tell Their Stories (Part 2 of 2)

Our guests share their dramatic stories of surviving the attempts to end their lives while in their mother’s womb, providing a stark and undeniable counter argument to pro-abortionists who argue that a fetus is not a living human being. (Part 2 of 2)