Engraving of John Wesley preaching outside a church. Wesley was a key figure in a true spiritual revival that occurred in England in the 18th century, resulting in massive societal change in spirituality and theology, morals, and laws. [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license]
The New Pro-Life Movement (NPLM) is not particularly new at all. It’s simply a revival of the old “seamless garment” approach to pro-life (basically, or broadly speaking, a politically liberal pro-life standpoint). Be that as it may, one of the things that NPLM emphasizes is the notion that overturning Roe v. Wade is neither the be-all and end-all of pro-life goals, nor the end to abortion. NPLM folks seem to think that the bulk of pro-lifers approach the cause in terms of “legal-only” solutions.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers alone would prove that that contention is untrue; but as a proud member of the “old” pro-life movement (as old as the Bible itself) since 1982, I have written about non-legal solutions to abortion for years. In fact, I believe that I get right down to the root of the problem: spirituality itself and failure to abide by the pro-child, anti-contraceptive viewpoints of the Catholic Church. These aspects go far beyond and much deeper than merely legal analyses and tactics (whether from the political left or right): which are only on the surface of things.
The following articles of mine, about non-legal solutions to legal abortion, were written in 2007 and 2009, and are presently abridged, edited somewhat, and combined:
Reflections on Why Legal Abortion Continues and How Only a Huge Spiritual Revival Will Stop It (1-23-07)
Legal abortion will only be overcome by a massive revival. It’ll take a miracle. We may change a few minds by various means, but I don’t think it’ll be any major shift until actual revival hits. It may be another 20-30 years or more. I expect to be an old man by the time I see major cultural changes take place.
My mentor, Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J. always thought that the 21st century would be one of great revival, because in history, terrible centuries were always followed by ones with revival and renewal. It’s still a young century: not much indication of that yet, but God is at work bringing that about in ways we can’t comprehend.
Abortion is not simply an intellectual matter. It’s a spiritual battle with the forces of evil. The battle will only be won, therefore, when there is a huge revival in the Church and Christians wake up. The abortion industry is here today because Christians fell asleep in the 60s and eventually caved in to many of the tenets of the sexual revolution. Poll after poll shows that Christians are not that far behind the general public in things like divorce, cohabitation, pornography, contraception, number of children, etc. Abortion is here because the Christian community is so compromised and in bed with the world, that even something this horrible will not wake it up. Fr. Hardon, as always, got right to the root of the problem:
Abortion follows contraception like the law of gravity. This is obvious. As people come to equate sexual pleasure with the self-gratification, there is no limit to their lustful pride. Contraception has taught them to have their own way. They will stop at nothing to have their way, not even murder of their unborn offspring.
Respect for human life requires selfless love of human beings. As a nation is nurtured on contraceptive self-indulgence, it becomes a nation that kills innocent children – if they are an obstacle to the self-gratification of those who brought them into existence. (“Contraception: Fatal to the Faith and to Eternal Life”)
Why are there not marches in the streets every day? Where are the boycotts? In the Civil Rights era, many thousands of people were organized and people marched and did sit-ins. That was about inequality and equal rights. Pro-life is about the right to live at all and to not be butchered. So why the massive civil rights movement compared to Christians allowing abortion to continue without a huge social upheaval?
Well, it’s rather simple, I think: civil rights involved the people who were marching. They themselves had been discriminated against and they themselves were to benefit by their own civil disobedience activities.
But with abortion, the people who protest are not personally involved. We have nothing personally to gain. That’s why it is allowed to continue, because people are so me-centered, that it never sinks in that 4000 babies are being slaughtered every day. After all, we don’t see the slaughter. It’s all hidden behind antiseptic hospital and abortuary doors. We never even see the baby who is slaughtered. He or she is hidden behind mothers’ bellies.
We allow all this to happen, while we look down our noses at the Germans in the 1940s, who went about their business with the smoke of Auschwitz or Treblinka or other concentration camps ascending to the sky all around them. What’s the difference? I say we are far worse than they were, because we were a more Christian nation, and because we could have learned from their example. We also have all the advances in ultrasound, photography, medical technology, etc., so that we know full well what we are doing. We know we are slaughtering human beings (whereas, many Germans actually were unaware of the death camps).
We are even much more brutal than the Nazis in how we kill. I’d much rather be shot in the head or gassed, than torn limb from limb, burned head to toe, sucked into a vacuum cleaner, or having scissors put into my neck and having my brain sucked out, a minute before I was about to be born. Our numbers put theirs to shame: some 50 million or so legal murders since 1973, compared to six million. We have them beat by a factor of more than eight.
But back to the immediate topic: the battle won’t be won with intellectual arguments. For this diabolical evil of institutionalized abortion to end, the entire ethos of the country will have to change, and that requires supernatural revival. We need several generations of Christians who will start having children again (stop contracepting and learn to love children so much that they produce many more of them), at a rate far above the “maintenance” level of 1.9 per family. In fact, if Christians (especially Catholics) had simply continued having children the way they used to, and had not quickly caved into the contraceptive mentality, so that the numbers of children of Christians are scarcely any different, then abortion would already have been a thing of the past.
One-half of all these additional children that would have been born (since, say, 1967) would have now been of voting age. If they had been raised properly, as disciples of Jesus, they would then vote the pro-abort politicians out of office and we could quite possibly overturn abortion by constitutional amendment. That could have happened by now, if only Christians had been Christians, and had lived out a biblical worldview rather than a two-thirds (or more) secular worldview where we are scarcely distinguishable from the secular world.
All the Christians had to do was have children and raise them as radical disciples of Jesus. But we chose not to. Christians continue to vote for Democrats, who (by and large, and overwhelmingly on a national congressional and Senatorial level) favor the murder of children. I always think of the example of good ole John Glenn, the astronaut, the American hero. This guy (a Senator from Ohio now) voted to keep partial-birth abortion legal.
Cultures are transformed on the natural level by Christians having lots of children and raising them in the faith, and they then go out and change the society. We clearly see this among Muslims, in many countries now. Look what is happening in Europe. That is because Muslims still have lots of children. They have a more biblical view of family size than most Christians today.
But revival is still required, even given that scenario, because so many souls will be lost to the surrounding secular culture. It takes spiritual and personal revival to remain in the faith, and to remain on-fire with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and progression in the spiritual life. It takes prayer, it takes penance, it takes the Mass, and the Eucharist, and confession, and constant seeking of advancing in the spiritual life; good works, charitable acts, etc. It’s a spiritual battle. We don’t convince pro-aborts by intellectual argument. We convince them (if at all, and it is rare) by love and a radical willingness to reach out to them.
Now (don’t get me wrong), all pro-life groups are certainly good and needed, and there are multiple ways to go about strictly educational, intellectual approaches to persuasion (it’s an ongoing argument in the pro-life movement of how best to go about persuasion and political action). All I’m saying is that the battle ultimately will not be won in that way. Abortion is too deeply entrenched in the culture. It’s too diabolical and evil. It’s now part of the fabric of our culture, sad to say. It’s like trying to reverse the scrambling of an egg. How do you do it? Sometimes whole generations have to simply die out, and God works on the next one that isn’t, perhaps, so brainwashed from the outset that it is hardened to spiritual and moral reality.
Our culture immersed in self-centered sexuality and sexual “freedom”, that is used to being able to have sex without any consequences. Abortion is tied into personal expedience and the feminist myth of “the free woman” who can be just like a man in just about every way except physiology. My definition of radical feminism is: “the hatred of men along with the simultaneous desire and goal of being as much like them in every way as possible.” Identifying with the oppressor. Since men don’t and can’t have children, it was crucial to radical feminism (in its overall unisexist philosophy and mentality, trying to obliterate any gender differentiation) to create a situation where any woman could be child-free as well, so as to not be beholden to men and female biology. And so it happened.
Some Catholic observers today (I believe Fr. Hardon was among them) believe that nothing short of flat-out persecution will wake the Church (i.e., us laymen, along with compromised bishops) out of its stupor. Fr. Hardon was fond of stating: “Unless we recover the zeal of the early Christians, the days of America are numbered.” It will probably, sadly, take much blood and suffering. That has always brought about revival in the past and it will again. We can only pray at this point that it is not too late to require martyrdom for our unimaginably great sins of omission. Perhaps a revival alone without persecution can accomplish the paramount goal of a culture that again respects life. I suspect not. There is a reckoning and a judgment for 50 million unjustly murdered dead that will take place, one way or another.
The Pro-Life Battle is Primarily Spiritual and Demographic, Not Political (1-16-09)
My two older sons (17, 15) are on their way to Washington to attend the March for Life. I’m so proud of them. Hopefully there will be a huge turnout this year, to send a clear message to the new President: “we will never give up this fight.” Like the abolitionists of old, or the civil rights folks, or Native American grievances, and other just causes, ours, too will one day be victorious. History shows us this.
All our side has to do is have lots of kids and raise them as true disciples of Jesus (and for that matter, to stop voting for pro-abortion politicians). It’s all up to us. We have the numbers and the power, if we would only get smart and use them. That would end legal abortion in a generation (or two at the most: after the young pro-lifers attain to voting age), but of course Christians aren’t doing that. Our birth rates are about the same as the general public. Thus we see again how contraception directly enables legal abortion to continue for now over 35 years with no end in sight in the near future. It also did so philosophically and legally in the days before Roe, because contraception laws were used as a precedent for the notorious “right to privacy.”
I’d like to reiterate my firm contention and conviction that the pro-life battle will not be won by any tactics whatsoever, or efforts to reach out: CPCs, etc. (which I fully support). Politically and legally, the landscape is very bleak. A constitutional amendment has no chance of passing anytime in the foreseeable future. We have failed in our task of changing public opinion through education and protests.
We can be perfect saints in our attitudes and behavior towards post-abortive women or unwed pregnant teens or pro-abortion people who just don’t get it and are often rationalizing their own sin (sexual sins always being prevalent in any list of widespread sins). We should seek righteousness and saintliness; of course! But people are very flawed, so (let’s be realistic) we never will have perfect attitudes towards others. None of that will end legal abortion, anyway, because it is too entrenched in our culture, with its wholesale adoption of sexual revolution ethics and lifestyle. What will end it is two things:
1) true spiritual revival,
and (closely related):
2) Catholics and other Christians profoundly embracing the culture of life by having lots of children: the way we used to, and raising them as disciples of Christ and pro-lifers.
The second will only follow from the first, because that is a longstanding trend as well in our society: hostility to the notion of children, as shown by the few children most couples choose to have. Christians have bought into that, wholesale.
This will end legal abortion in a generation; two at the most, because demographics is destiny. If we don’t have the numbers to prevail, then all we have to do is be Christians like they were in former times, and have lots of children, and raise them in the faith. Proponents of the pro-death culture will kill off their Huge Death Machine (or its influence) by continuing to murder children or having few children even when they choose to do so (those children being the fortunate benefactors of their benevolence, and allowed to live, unlike their unfortunate siblings who were in the wrong place at the wrong time).
Then we’ll dominate in numbers; the Baby Boomers will eventually die off (like the disobedient Hebrews in the wilderness with Moses) and our society can get back to rudimentary ethical sanity. It’s as simple as that. But this has clearly gone way beyond CPCs and marches and rescues and philosophical approaches and political tactics.
Actually, a third thing should be mentioned, that has been known to bring about revival: serious persecution. History shows that most revivals don’t and won’t begin (due to human rebelliousness) until things get very dark and bleak. That is probably (almost certainly) the case today. Revival itself is supernatural and spiritual in origin, not just a change of opinion and behavior. We will have to experience some profound suffering in this nation in order to wake up and enter into (by God’s grace) spiritual revival. And once revival starts, maybe Christians will start having children again like we used to (throwing away our contraceptive devices and pills), and then abortion will be destined for oblivion, as it used to be in civilized societies until our country decided in the 1960s to reject traditional Christian sexual morality once and for all.
Clarifying End-Note (since the above has already been misunderstood by at least one reader):
Of course we need to make abortion illegal. I’ve fought for that for 34 years. I’m totally in favor of it (reversing Roe and achieving each and every state legal restriction possible under present law) and nothing I wrote above implies otherwise. I am contending here that it never will in fact be made illegal again unless and until we experience a huge spiritual revival in this nation.
Much more of my writing on pro-life issues can be found on my Life Issues web page.