Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Why is it wrong?"

That was the question posed in February by a high school student after hearing one of the world’s best pro-life presentations. How does that happen?!

Like this:

> Back-to-back presentations (JFA and Silent No More respectively) totaling 60 minutes at a Christian, college preparatory high school assembly of more than 1,100 students, most of whom live with pro-life parents in a conservative city in a very conservative state, taught 5 days a week by pro-life faculty and at least several times a week by pro-life clergy.

> The JFA speaker gave our time-tested Facing Abortion presentation + SLED (an acronym for Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Independence) which we use to illustrate that it is not location, form or function that gives humans their value (a concept from Steven D. Schwartz's, The Moral Question of Abortion (Loyola University Press, 1990).

> During the Q&A following the JFA portion of the assembly one student rashly stated that he would be more likely to consider our message if he heard from someone who had an abortion. Enter stage right the Silent No More speaker (Brenda) who proceeded to tell him and the other 1099 students her gut-wrenching abortion story.

To recap, these religiously educated and conservative freshman through senior high school students saw both Psalm 139 pictures AND hellish abortion images AND heard from a quite believable soul who had been there, done that.

After the assembly, Brenda, the Silent No More speaker, and I approached a table full of girls (8 or 9 of them) to ask, “What do you think of what you just heard?”

After their genuine affirmation and “thank you very much” all around the table, one of the girls blurted out, “But why is it wrong?” (her emphasis)

“Excuse me?” I asked. “Do you mean, ‘Why is abortion wrong?’”

“Yea, I mean, you know…I believe it’s wrong…but why is it wrong?” (her emphasis) The girls ‘round the table all joined in, “Yea, why is it wrong?!” (their emphasis)

“Wow,” I said. “Great question. Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘I personally believe abortion is wrong, but…women should have a choice.’”

“YEA, EVERYONE says that!” they all answered back.

“I hear you,” I said sympathetically, “but what if the mother of a one-year old wants the same choice? I mean she wants to get rid of her born child? She wants to abort her one-year old kid? Should she have the same legal right to kill her one-year old if she feels the kid’s going to be too great a burden on her?”

“No!” the girls shot back, almost in unison.

I directed my next question squarely at the girl who had first asked “Why is it wrong?”

“Why not?” I asked her.

She quickly shot back, “Because that would be wrong!”

“But why would that be wrong?” I probed.

With only slight hesitation she answered, “Because it’s a living human!” Then in less than two seconds she exclaimed, almost under her breath, “OMG…they’re both living humans! That’s why it’s wrong!” (her emphasis)

Then, almost as if on queue, the end-of-break bell rang, the girls chorused their goodbye’s and thank you’s and departed for their next class.

Brenda and I sat at the table first pondering, then discussing our conversation with the students.

Had we failed to convey adequately “Why abortion is wrong?” No presentation is perfect. Perhaps at least JFA’s presentation is in serious need of repair? How about the girls didn’t pay close enough attention during the assembly?

While all of these may be in part why the girls didn’t come away with an understanding of why abortion is wrong, another possibility is that good or even great presentations by themselves may not be sufficient to overcome the cultural acceptance of abortion as the lesser evil compared to carrying an unwanted unborn child to birth.

Given that all these explanations may have some basis in fact, I conclude that:

> Believing abortion to be wrong does not necessarily mean the person holding said belief understands “why” abortion is wrong.
> Neither the individual nor combined current influence of Christian family, church or education may sufficiently form and inform students of the moral injustice of abortion.
> Though someone may believe it’s wrong to abort unwanted unborn children, without an adequate moral foundation to this belief, they remain vulnerable to abortion.

Even more insidious than the lie about what abortion is and does is the a priori lie that a child’s value before birth should be subservient to the personal preferences and/or needs of his or her parents.

And that lie has permeated even the safe harbor of private Christian education in America.

It’s my opinion that neither neutering Planned Parenthood nor immunizing the World Health Organization is going to reverse this lie. Nor will passing a Personhood Amendment undo the damage already done to America's individual and collective psyche.

And while abortion images and abortion experience stories may help convince students that abortion is wrong, they don’t lay the foundation for “Why” it’s wrong.

The “Why” approach I took with the Christian high school girls is comparative in nature. If unborn humans are extended the same worth as born humans, would it not be just as immoral to kill an unborn child as it is a born child?

Yet from whom or where does human value of both the born and the unborn human derive?

1 comment:

  1. Great post, David. I would add only this: the key for this student processing the truth the two good presenters shared that day was DIALOGUE. They needed someone they could trust to come alongside (you had to be the one to walk up and ask them a question first), build rapport (ask their opinion), and ponder the issue together (as you did with your series of questions).