Late last month, I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the 2011 March for Life. It was a powerful experience. Freezing temperatures did not prevent a strong turn-out – hundreds of thousands of people braved the cold to show their support for the most vulnerable members of our society. From what I could see, the vast majority of marchers were prayerful and peaceful, a touching witness to the dignity of every human life.
There was, however, one thing that bothered me. At the end of the march route, we came across perhaps two dozen abortion advocates holding signs in support of a woman’s “right to choose” abortion. Several of the pro-life marchers approached these protestors and tried to start a dialogue with them. Others simply stood by, quietly praying for them. A few, however, started yelling insulting things at them. I found this very disturbing.
I’m sure that these people were simply frustrated with the abortion supporters, and rightly so. Abortion is an abomination that should evoke justifiable anger within us. But that is not an excuse for yelling hateful things. Our message is one of love. Shouting insults at people is not going to lead them to conversion. We should seek a peaceful dialogue with those who disagree with us. Attacking them by yelling mocking insults only drives them away from the truth and gives a bad reputation to the pro-life movement.
I have recently spent time looking at “pro-choice” forums and online discussions to try to gain a better understanding of why women turn to abortion clinics rather than pro-life crisis pregnancy centers. In doing so, I have seen several comments by women who felt judged by the people in the pro-life centers. They reported that the staff members were harsh, forceful and judgmental, while those at Planned Parenthood were friendly, welcoming and reassuring. Now, I realize that this is not always the case. Many pro-life workers are kind and compassionate, while those who work at abortion clinics are often manipulative and forceful. But it is problematic when this is how the pro-life movement is viewed. We should be the ones who are known for showing love.
As Christians, we turn to Christ as our model. The Gospel stories of the woman caught in adultery (Jn. 8) and the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn. 4) are just two examples of how Christ demonstrated love and compassion towards those he encountered. He did not back away from proclaiming the truth, but he was not harsh or hateful in the way that he presented it. We should imitate Christ. We should not compromise on the truth, but at the same time, we should remember that lashing out in hatred accomplishes nothing and betrays our Christian identity.
In our dialogue with abortion advocates, we should witness to the truth and allow God to work through us to touch the hearts of those around us. God is the one who ultimately brings about conversions. We should allow ourselves to be the instruments through which God can spread His message. But God’s message is one of love, not hate. We have the truth on our side, but we must present it with love.