“And so, to actually describe the course of a real human journey – – which is partly logic, partly will, partly heart and so on – – is more logical because it is the description of reality, rather than those whose arguments are purely logic in a narrow sense. And very few human beings live on pure logic alone, even philosophers.” — Author Os Guinness
By Dave Andrusko
My schedule is so busy nowadays that I don’t give as many talks as I used to. That is a real loss for me because whenever I do have the chance to chat with grassroots pro-lifers, not only am I inspired by their faithfulness, inevitably they will share “conversion” stories with me. If there is a common denominator, it is that there is an incredibly variety of ways someone is brought over to the side of life.
Should that come as a surprise? Of course not. People process/integrate/assimilate information – – especially the kind that is at odds with their worldview – – differently, depending on a raft of factors.
For instance, let’s start with me and the obvious. I am by no means the man I was nearly 36 years ago this month when I got married. While in many ways I have not changed, in many more ways I could not be more different than the shallow kid who walked up to the altar.
The way I respond to most everything is fundamentally different, based on all that has happened. And there are countless other reasons besides life experiences that shape the way me or anyone else will respond to our entreaties.
Which is only to state the obvious: what bowls one individual over – – knocking aside every objection – – can be (to extend the metaphor) a gutter ball for the next person. (Or the some individual at different points in his or her life!)
Given all this variety can there be a constant when making the case for unborn babies? Yes. To be persuasive we must engage the listener’s heart and mind.
The heart often acts, if you will, as the mediator, the go-between between our more analytic side and the decision of our will to act. The subject matter of an article written years ago by Gary M. Burge that I recently re-read is not abortion. But the truths he reminds us of are directly applicable to pro-life education.
First (apropos Guinness), Burge insists that our hearts and our minds must work cooperatively. We can articulate what (to us) seems to be compelling arguments, so airtight that people ought to rush to get in line to sign up.
On some occasions our message will carry the day on its own: it is wrong to kill defenseless unborn children. It’s so powerful our job will be to just get out of the way.
But in many, many instances, for that appeal to the head to succeed it must be complemented by an understanding on the listener’s part that our passionate empathy for the little one extends to his/her mother as well.
Remember, courtesy of our “friends” in the “mainstream media,” we are often portrayed in a cartoon-like fashion. The individual we are trying to win over must first be shown that we are human beings just like they are, not the caricatures we are portrayed as.
They must come to see that we do not believe in either/or but in both/and. We always, always, always are looking for a win-win solution.
So as we teach the facts of the story (which are second nature to us), we know that this “curriculum of life” must be leavened with a transparent love of, and for, women facing crisis pregnancies.
If the “facts of [unborn] life” are to become part of what Burge calls the “mental furniture of our lives,” this will only take place if they are taught in a manner that shows that our concern for the little ones goes hand-in-hand with a passionate concern for her mother. They are intertwined, interrelated, interconnected.
Think about it this way. You and I can list a thousand reasons why it is unjust to take the lives of innocent unborn babies. They are helpless, for one.
Because these little ones did not create themselves, those who did bring them into existence have implicitly assumed–willingly or not–a moral obligation to care for these most vulnerable human beings.
We can show that abortion shatters the most fundamental bond in human culture, the one which connects a mother with her unborn child. Properly conveyed, it is relatively easy to show that this example of human interdependence and mutuality is the paradigm for all human relationships.
We can also make a wonderfully compelling case that the womb must remain a sanctuary. You and I can demonstrate that when abortion violates what ought to be an inviolable safe haven it acts like a universal acid that gradually dissolves post-natal bonds.
And because the lives of so many people have been touched by abortion, we can persuasively demonstrate that abortion frequently damages a woman’s psyche, destroys relationships, upends families, alienates parents from grandparents, enshrines death-dealing as the “solution” to difficult situations, and subverts the fundamental principles of justice and equality that are the foundations of our great country.
Burge’s admonition is “never fail to re-plow familiar ground.” And we will. But we cannot assume that it would be enough even were the images and stories that formerly were found in the storehouse of our common culture once again shared by a significant proportion of our society. As powerful as these “givens” may be, they are still “head knowledge.”
To move the heart in order to change the will, it is essential that we remind people of the moral sentiments that undergird respect for innocent human life. These truly are written on our hearts. But how is this accomplished?
Consider Guinness’s observation: “Evil hardens the heart to the point of fearlessness and it takes goodness to crack the heart open.”
Acts of kindness can be random, but not when a desperate woman is struggling with the decision whether to extinguish the life of her child. Kindness in these instances must be systematic and available–a habit of our minds and our hearts.
A renewed appreciation of our interdependency would provide the fertile soil in which to plant the seeds of a respect for life.
It is up to you and I to do the spadework that will make possible a great harvest.