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.