Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Need for a Winsome Witness

Printed below is an answer to a question I recently received about our methods of protesting abortion, particularly the kinds of signs we use.

Dear L....

In our sidewalk counseling, we use signs that are upbeat and winsome because our immediate goal is to attract abortion clients to us for conversation. We want them to see us as friendly, positive and on their side. The abortionists (with the help of the media, educators, public officials, etc.) are doing everything they can to portray pro-lifers as mean-spirited, angry, indifferent to the concerns of others, even antagonistic. So we believe presenting ourselves as "contrary to stereotype" is extremely important in effectively promoting sanctity of life ethics to a desperately decadent world.

That's why we use the big, beautiful baby signs and the colorful banners with messages like "Every heartbeat is a gift from God," "Jesus loves you," and "Mom, we care about you and your baby." The truth of Christianity is thus connected with the beauty of Christianity. It's why I gently wave in acknowledgement of cars going by, why I seek to create positive contacts with pedestrians, workers in nearby businesses, even the security guards. The uneven playing field we've been given is terribly unfair but that's all we've got. There's no good in whining about it -- we must simply go the extra distance in being as calm and confident, as kindhearted and patient, and as charismatic as we can possibly be.

This doesn't mean compromise. Remember that our 30 years of pro-life activism have included peaceful protest, sidewalk counseling, public events and campaigns, radio, preaching, writing, conferences, starting a CPC and taking the pro-life message overseas in some 25 missions. We have been a part of shutting down abortion clinics, convincing hospitals to stop performing abortions, been arrested for peaceful pro-life protest more times than we can count, and successfully bringing suit against the city of Omaha in order to secure the means to prayerfully stand on city sidewalks to protest abortion businesses.

So, no. Being pleasant and positive doesn't mean compromise. Indeed, it means being the most effective in confronting the enemies of life, exposing them and overcoming them. (For a couple of examples, note these Vital Signs Blog posts describing, respectively, a conversation with a security guard -- an interview with a TV reporter -- and an encounter in which twin children were saved from abortion.)

Also to be considered is the effect of positive attitudes, messages and images on everybody else. This includes passersby and neighbors. We know that the Lord has used our signs and our approach to change many minds and bring those who were indifferent, even hostile, to our side. Even other pro-lifers feel the inherent power of a baby photo, an unfurled banner and a friendly spirit displayed intelligently, calmly to the watching world.

That's not to say that graphic abortion signs cannot convince people of the horror of abortion. They can. And that is why I do not go out of my way to denounce their use.

However, I believe that at this point in history, the wrongness of the abortion procedure is much better known to Americans (including those driving into an abortion mill) than is the love, grace and practical helpfulness of the pro-life community. This must be the foundation of our effort to save lives, save people from the awful choice of abortion and save our nation from the pit it has jumped into. That's why we will continue the way we have been going for three decades, presenting as winsome and affable a presence as we can.