Few things annoy pro-lifers more than being told by supporters of the practice of killing unborn children in their mothers’ wombs that they need to be more “civil.” “How about you stop ripping fully formed unborn babies apart limb from limb, and then we’ll consider being ‘nice’!” they’re tempted to say.
But what if a diehard pro-life advocate who works fulltime as an editor for a pro-life news website (i.e. me) said that pro-lifers could stand to be more “civil”?
Not all pro-lifers, of course. Or even most of them. Heck, there are people involved in this cause who I believe meet the criteria for bona fide saintliness: people who are consumed by love, willing to sacrifice everything they have for the good of others, without a selfish or malicious bone in their body. You don’t find that every day, and that’s why I consider it a true privilege to be involved in the pro-life movement.
But sadly, most of us aren’t like that. We’re fallen creatures, constantly struggling with our own egos, passions, and sins. And sometimes, well, we’re just not as charitable (“civil” if you will) as we probably should be. I wish being pro-life were an instant ticket to sainthood. But after spending a few years moderating our Facebook pages and comments on our site, I can assure you, it ain’t.
Consider this post from the Abortion Gang blog. Recently a story was circulating around about how one of their bloggers was encouraging readers to donate $10 to a pro-abortion organization every time Tim Tebow scored a touchdown during next Sunday’s game.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a pretty low blow.” Well, it is. But, is it low enough to merit this?
Get a life, and if you love abortions so much why dont you go f-ck yourself and jam a wire hanger up your snatch.
Or how about this:
You guys are like abortion addicts. I bet for every one girl participating in this blog there are 7 terminated pregnancies. Nasty ass ho’s. NASTY.
Or for the more spiritually minded:
You folks are truely deranged. Does Jesus save? You’ll know for certain a microsecond or so after you cross over from this life into the next. God luck.
To the shame of the writers of those words, those are quotes from letters received by the Abortion Gang blog in response to their post on Tebow. And they claim there are more like that.
You might say that it’s unfair to smear the entire pro-life movement with the hateful comments of a few whackjobs, especially when so many abortion supporters have been known to use equally, and even more hateful and disgusting language. And you would have a point.
But that just doesn’t cut it for me. In the first place, we should be dissatisfied that anyone calling himself pro-life is writing such letters. And, in the second place, just because we’re not guilty of such egregious faults against charity doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. The Abortion Gang post might well be a wake up call for us to examine our own actions, and make some adjustments where necessary.
After all, what’s the point of commenting on stories or writing e-mails to our opponents in the first place? Is it to gratify our sense of superiority at our rightness and their wrongness? Is it for the sense of relief we get when we let off some steam? Or is it to prompt those we disagree with to reconsider their position and to accept the truth?
The answer is pretty obvious when I put it that way, but it isn’t always clear to us in the moment. We get mad, and in the heat of our righteous indignation we shoot off an e-mail telling someone or other just how wrong they are and exactly what we think of them. It makes us feel good for a minute or two, but usually we feel pretty wretched afterwards. Why? Because in our heart of hearts we know that what we did wasn’t ultimately motivated by love.
To my mind, the absolute worst category of “pro-life” commenter (and I think he deserves the scare quotes) is the commenter who expresses a wish that his opponent ends up in hell. I wish I could say I had never seen this, but I have. It honestly gives me the chills. To me, nothing could be worse than that. I think to honestly wish damnation on another person is one of the worst sins a man can commit, even worse than abortion. It is hatred, pure and simple.
The most basic theology tells us that God would never wish anyone to be in hell. Why? Because love doesn’t wish harm on another. According to Christian teaching, those who end up in hell do so in spite of the love of God, because they have chosen it, not because God wished it on them. Jesus called us to love our enemies. That wasn’t just high-sounding rhetoric. He meant it. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Remember, he was hanging on a cross, with nails through his hands and feet, and a crown of thorns on his head, when he said that.
But for most of us our sins against charity aren’t nearly as bad as the hell-wishers, or as bad as the examples found in the letters quoted by the Abortion Gang. I don’t want to make the situation out to be worse than it is, or make the same mistake as Abortion Gang in thinking that those letters are even remotely representative of the pro-life movement. Even on our site the vast majority of comments are great.
For a lot of us our slip-ups may simply be that we have written letters or made comments that weren’t actually helpful, rather than being positively harmful. In that case, we probably would have been a lot better off forgoing writing that e-mail, and offering up a prayer for our enemies – praying for their conversions, that they might discover the peace and the joy that comes from living in and for the truth. If, after offering such a prayer, we still feel motivated to write an e-mail or make a comment, then we can do so in a more peaceful and objective frame of mind.
If, on the other hand, you have written something along the lines of the letters quoted above (or even if you were one of the authors of the letters above), then I urge you to write a letter of apology immediately. To do so doesn’t mean that you’re compromising on your position, or affirming abortion supporters in theirs. It just means you recognize that acting uncharitably towards anyone, even someone who defends the great evil of abortion, is wrong.
In short: pro-lifers, don’t be evil.