Randy Greenwald

Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

Ineffective Shouting

No topic stirs emotion, and emotional rhetoric, like abortion. I understand the emotion. I have three children given life by three courageous women who suffered greatly in order to give life when the world around them, including their friends, was telling them to end their pregnancy.

I know the emotion.

I am, however, saddened, and at times angered, by the rhetoric that such emotion generates.

Justin Taylor’s blog Between Two Worlds is one of the most respected sources of insightful Christian reflection on the internet. He consistently points to good resources and interacts thoughtfully with contemporary issues. He cares deeply about the abortion issue, and I could learn something from his passion.

And yet in a recent post, he draws attention to some comments made on the subject of abortion by author Randy Alcorn. He quotes, I assume favorably, from a larger article written by Mr. Alcorn, which I subsequently tried to read. The article is a severe and uncharitable indictment leveled against Christians who differ with Mr. Alcorn on several points. I found it to be the kind of rhetoric that causes those who already agree to cheer, but changes the mind and heart of no one. He shouts at us, and most of us turn off shouting pretty quickly.

Its only impact is to cause one group within the church to mistrust, if not hate and despise, another group within the church. And that is wrong.

Several quotes will capture the essence of Alcorn’s charges against those whom he should consider his brothers and sisters in Christ:

“I think that every Christian who keeps voting for ‘prochoice’ candidates and who opposes showing the photos of dead babies, while defending what kills the babies in the photos, should question their faith (is it biblical, or does it merely mirror the current drift of our culture?).”

If I read this correctly, he is saying this:

If I find that there are compelling reasons for thinking that one candidate, who will do more for creating a just land, a peaceful future, and a society which cares deeply for the weak, but who is deluded or confused or just wrong about abortion, and I vote for him instead of the avowed pro-life candidate who has no political skills, no knowledge of how government works, and no possibility of doing anything positive in office, but simply is a puppet or tool of a conservative political agenda, then I am not a Christian?

Wow. Question my judgment. But don’t question my salvation.

Or, this:

“I think every church member who is against the observance of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (this weekend in many churches) and thinks the church shouldn’t talk about abortion—and every pastor who refuses to speak about it from the pulpit—needs to be taken on a virtual tour of that Pennsylvania clinic and come to terms with what abortion really is.”

That is, if I conclude that the church should in its public worship only mark the redemptive events in the life of Christ, and should avoid marking political events (the Fourth of July), the anniversary dates of certain political persons (Martin Luther King), or particularly impact-laden judicial decisions (Roe v. Wade), then a confrontation with what I already know to be a horrific practice and a moral evil is supposed to change my fundamental view of the nature of Christian worship and how the church interfaces with the world?

Again, my judgment may be wrong. But it is judgment that needs to be argued on logic, not emotion.

Or:

“If you lack the conviction or the courage to stand up and say to your church, who you are accountable to lead, “It is wrong to kill unborn babies, God hates it and God will judge it,” then you should not be a pastor. If you don’t have the guts to say “These are children—we must stop killing them” then you need to do something that doesn’t even pretend to take on a biblical and prophetic mantle.”

That is, if I refuse to take a confrontational and judgmental and angry tone from the pulpit on this particular moral issue, then I am gutless pretender to the gospel ministry?

There are many reasons why I think myself unfit for ministry, but this is not one of them. My heart condemns me daily for presuming to step into the pulpit on any given Sunday. But don’t question my courage or my conviction or my fitness for ministry simply because I refuse to take the tack or tone that you think I must.

Believe me, I struggle with how to address this issue, and how to address it as a church in a way that is truly effective in broadening the base of those who share the conviction that abortion is wrong. I am constantly evaluating how to include this in my preaching.

But to be told that one needs to be removed from the pulpit and/or to be shown the door of the church because one’s methodology is judged wrong reveals a spirit that I think is poisonous to the church and poisonous to the worthy goal which, I think, Mr. Alcorn and I both desire to pursue. His words arise from an understandable frustration, and yet they are irresponsible nonetheless.

Mr. Alcorn, shouting at me, or to the world about me, will never change me.

But perhaps changing me is not really what this is all about.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the post. I do like Justin Taylor, but certainly am not a fan of everything he puts up. Some stuff I can predict what it will say without even reading it. This would definitely fall under that same category, though even the excerpts surprised me a bit.

    Sanctity of life Sunday. Hmmm….Our professor Al Mawhinney said, “I’ve heard the same sanctity of life sermon for the past 20 years!” He was right.
    I don’t think those sermons do much of anything other than make the preacher and congregation feel good about themselves.

    It is definitely tough to figure out the best way to address these issues, but we definitely can’t blast others for trying to be faithful.

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