New Leadership for the Pro-Life Movement

I recently read this outstanding article written by Gracy Olmstead at The Gospel Coalition. She argues that the pro-life movement in America needs more Wilberforce-like figures to lead and champion its cause. I strongly agree with this idea and appreciate her putting into words something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while.

If you aren’t familiar with Wilberforce, I would commend to you Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End SlaveryThis bestselling biography of Wilberforce details his work to abolish slavery in the UK, as well as the other social and cultural reforms he worked towards during his lifetime.

In Olmstead’s article, she argues:

Wilberforce and his allies didn’t content themselves with advancing a political agenda. They focused on the cultural, social, and ideological mores that allowed slavery to exist in the first place.

During my lifetime, I’ve witnessed so much political capital expended on overturning Roe v. Wade, outlawing abortion via “heartbeat laws” in states, etc… While I can celebrate these aims towards reducing the number of abortions, and thus the number of innocent lives taken before they even have the chance to take their first breath, I wonder if we might be putting the cart before the horse, in a way. Taking a page from Wilberforce’s playbook, why wouldn’t we instead work toward addressing the many social and cultural pressures that are often the cause of a woman’s decision to have an abortion in the first place.

As Olmstead details in her piece:

Almost half of the women who procure abortions are living under the federal poverty line—and many cite financial scarcity as their primary reason for getting an abortion. Understanding this strain, and helping address it, should be an integral part of the pro-life cause—not just on a political level, but on a cultural and grassroots level. It should be a natural extension of the pro-life cause, which is determined to fight for the most vulnerable among us. 

This is the strategy Wilberforce utilized when working toward the abolition of slavery. He started a more grassroots movement that eventually won over the “hearts and minds of the British people,” as Olmstead writes. What would that look like in America in 2021? I can’t fathom saying it any more clearly than Olmstead does in the conclusion to her piece:

we’re going to need tender culture warriors and humanitarians, winsome orators and artists. Because pro-lifers won’t be able to win votes unless and until they win over hearts and minds

Partisan politics is not the answer to saving lives from abortion, or from any other cause that falls under the pro-life umbrella (which as an aside I strongly support more than just anti-abortion. I believe God calls us to respect life in all of its forms from birth to natural death). Instead, we need leaders to speak up about these things outside of Washington and call for reform at all levels of society so that we can address the root causes and not just enact more legislation that may or may not actually have the intended effect.

As I’ve written elsewhere, we also need to learn how to disagree well with those who may have different ideas or moral compasses than our own. We can vehemently disagree without demonizing their position or even their existence as a human. It’s only with differing viewpoints and ideas that we can work towards solutions and solve the problems present in our society.

Let’s have compassion on those around us, not jump to judgment of someone’s choice when it may feel like the only choice they have. Let’s work to impact our culture so that it values life in all stages. Let’s encourage our representatives at all levels of government to address poverty, homelessness, child welfare, and all of the underlying social ills that often lead to an abortion. And most of all, let’s look to God in prayer, for the lives not yet born and for those already born. Once we reorient ourselves in this way, we can start to make a real difference for life in our country.

How do we process major events?

When I published my previous article, I never expected the timing would be so relevant with the events that unfolded later that day at the US Capitol. While I have many thoughts on the things that took place that afternoon and evening, I’m not going to focus on that particular event so much as I would like to try and develop an argument or thesis for how we should process these events as individuals whenever something major like this occurs. I’m thinking more broadly about things like the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 election, and other similarly historic events in recent history. It can be overwhelming, but I believe there are practices we can put into place to help mitigate the overwhelming nature and instead allow us to focus on what’s really at stake and live our lives accordingly.

First, as a Christian, I process these types of events in light of Scripture.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

2 Timothy 1:7

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

We see examples throughout Scripture similar to these two above that point to God being in control over all things with no need to fear. But how much do we really believe this? I see “warnings” often of the coming downfall of our country because one political party or another is now in control of government. That depending on how an upcoming election turns out, kiss our freedoms goodbye. These types of hyperbole are not helpful for one, but don’t stand up to the test of Scripture, second. If God is truly in control, and we believe the Scripture as we say we do, then take comfort in 2 Timothy 1:7 and Isaiah 41:10. Should you be involved civically in voting and advocating for things you believe in? Absolutely. But those things aren’t ultimate.

Second, approach these types of events with a charitable attitude, not seeking or expecting the worst possible outcome or worst understanding of someone’s words. Instead, approach every situation with hope and the knowledge that what we just considered above is true. The recent events we’ve seen unfold are hard to watch and read about, and it’s easy to jump to conclusions based on your own biases. I’m as guilty as anyone in this regard. Don’t rush to post your opinion or hot take. That most often leads to misinformation and regret later after all the facts are made available.

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger,

James 1:19

Finally, process these things in community. It’s not helpful to silo yourself and keep your thoughts, feelings, and questions about major events to yourself. Surround yourself with a community of people who you know you can turn to that will uplift and encourage you. Even if they may disagree with you on some things, if charitableness and love are the foundations of your relationships, using those relationships to help you process major, confusing events can be the most helpful.

As an aside here, community isn’t likely found on Facebook or Twitter. What I’m talking about here is real, thick community that is found face to face. The faux community that social media has cultivated only leads to more division and provides echo chambers for like-minded individuals rather than challenging us to be in relationship with those with whom we might disagree. That is real community.

Being Civil in a Time of Incivility

After reading two books recently that focus on civility in our public discourse, I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about and looking for examples of civility and incivility in various interactions online. What is civility? What causes incivility? What is the cost, if any, of being uncivil towards others in our public discourse? Where do we go from here?

What is civility?

I very much appreciate the way Justin Giboney and Michael Wear define this in their book, Compassion & Conviction.

Civility is mercy and forgiveness. It is a form of public grace.

Civility means giving others the benefit of the doubt, and remembering that those we interact with are also humans, not just a collection of pixels on a screen.

What causes incivility?

There are, of course, many things we could point to that may cause us or others online to act or speak in an uncivil way. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s easy to see that there are large groups of people on different sides of the many pressing issues of our day. From abortion to COVID-19 to election fraud, there’s no shortage of issues and opinions facing our nation, and more broadly, the world today.

At the root of all of this, the rise of tribalism among our political discourse stands out to me as a major factor in the incivility we see today. David Brooks defines tribalism well in his book The Second Mountain.

Tribalism is the dark twin of community.

Community is connection based on mutual affection. Tribalism is connection based on mutual hatred.

Real, authentic community seems to be lacking in our internet and social media augmented world, and tribalism has filled that void. Society has coalesced around political or ideological tribes which act as echo chambers, reinforcing the beliefs already in place. I would argue that the lack of community among differently minded individuals is leading to this incivility between opposing tribes instead.

These tribes, whether they be Republicans vs. Democrats or more broadly Conservatives vs. Liberals, tend to view the “other” as less than or not as enlightened about the topics of the day. Media often plays into this dehumanization of the “other” as well, further perpetuating the echo chamber of one’s own tribe.

What is the cost, if any, of being uncivil towards others in our public discourse?

This dehumanization or at the very least disgust that seems to dominate today only furthers the divides between opposing tribes, and is totally antithetical to the original plan for our democracy. Disagreement and discussion are good things when handled properly with civility, but our tribes have become so divided and closed-minded that we aren’t even able to disagree well anymore.

This plays out practically in the stalemates and inability to compromise we see in government today. Congress seems unable to legislate in many cases because neither side seems willing to compromise. Instead, the party in control of the Executive branch ends up legislating via Executive Order, which is no way to run a democracy that’s supposed to equitably represent its constituents.

Where do we go from here?

This is the question of the day, isn’t it? It’s easy to say that we should learn to disagree without dehumanizing, love your neighbor as yourself (even if they hold staunchly opposed views to your own), etc… But how do we put this into practice?

One easy way to start is to get more comfortable getting outside our comfort zones and echo chambers. Read a newspaper or website that you wouldn’t normally read. Turn the channel to one you wouldn’t normally watch. Have a meaningful conversation with that neighbor down the street or that family member that you’ve blocked on Facebook because of their annoying posts.

I think you’ll find that you have far more in common than you would like to think. You’re each dealing with the same struggles, sins, and worries. So go out of your way to be human and put aside the tribal differences of opinion. Love one another.

Book Review: Deep Work

After a recommendation, I decided to pick this book up. Something I’ve been focused on a lot recently is trying to think above just my day to day tasks and actions and focus more on higher-level thinking and decisions that can have a larger impact outside my immediate sphere of influence. This book offers several case studies for “deep work” as the author defines it, as well as tips and tricks for spending more time in a focused, uninterrupted state.

What is deep work?

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.

The key here as I see it is finding the best ways to set yourself up for success to have those long, uninterrupted periods of time that you can use to accomplish “deep work.” Sometimes this means saying no to more meetings or demands on your schedule. Other times it means being intentional with the time you do have control over and using it to its fullest extent.

There’s also the constant pull and distraction of technology (social media, email, etc…) that is just an unlock away on our phones. Being intentional about getting time away from those devices during these deep work states is essential.

I highly recommend taking a look at Deep Work, even if you don’t plan on implementing all of the methods mentioned, I imagine there will be at least something useful you can apply to your personal or professional life.

Greenville friends! If you’re not busy on May 5th, make sure to come check this out. We’ll have lots of great craft vendors, great tacos, and lots of fun for the kids as well. If you’re interested in being a vendor, I can put you in touch with the right folks as well. . . . #greenville #yeahthatgreenville #crafts #missiontrip

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