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See You at the Abortion Clinic?  The Culture of Death Targets the Church Youth Group

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With the onset of autumn, churches across the nation are filling their youth ministry calendars with lock-in retreats, weekend discipleship conferences, after-school Bible studies, “See You at the Pole” rallies, and…abortion-rights essay contests?  They will if one national “pro-choice” advocacy group gets its way.

Abortion rights groups are scared; and they have reason to be.  After all, public opinion polls show today’s teenagers remarkably more pro-life than their baby-boomer parents and grandparents.  One of the more notorious abortion rights advocacy groups, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) seeks to stem this tide by encouraging churches to preach the gospel of “choice” in their church youth groups.  To this end, they are calling congregations to participate in the “Dear Sarah” essay contest.  Church youth groups win a prize with the best essay submission to Roe v. Wade attorney Sarah Weddington “telling her what her courageous fight for reproductive freedom means to you.”  The winners—in three age categories—will receive $250 apiece.

The appeal for youth group participation is going out—circulated, among other places, on the email bulletin board of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s young leaders’ network.

If this strikes you as unusually perverse, then you probably haven’t seen the RCRC in action before.  The RCRC is an advocacy group supported by denominations such as the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, and the Unitarian-Universalist Association. With a long history of fighting even the most minimal restrictions on the abortion industry, the RCRC is perhaps most brazen in its theological defense of abortion—using biblical texts to try to deny the personhood of the fetus and to ground unfettered legal abortion in religious liberty.  The RCRC has also staked a revisionist claim to the Baptist heritage through the writings of former Southern Seminary ethicist Paul Simmons, perhaps the most notorious “pro-choice” activist among Baptists in the South.

There is little doubt that the RCRC will receive scores of entries from the affluent “progressive” teenagers who fill the youth groups in their constituencies.  One can almost write the winning essay now—filled as it will be with politically correct warnings about “back alley abortions” and attempts to spiritualize a liberal view of human autonomy.  But, what is really tragic, however, are the kinds of testimonies the Coalition probably won’t receive.

The contest probably will not hear from teenage girls in evangelical churches all over the country suffering with the lifelong scars of abortion. Many of these young women exercised their “freedom of choice” thanks to the pressure of an emotionally abusive boyfriend or seemingly respectable parents who believed a college-educated daughter was more important than their grandchild. For the rest of their lives, they will never see a diaper commercial or attend a baby shower without thinking of the one whose name they never knew. And yet untold numbers of these young women have found themselves in the pews of obscure congregations across the heartland, churches that loved them enough to see them—not as poster children for “choice”—but as hurting women for whom Jesus died.  Numbers of these women—and their husbands and boyfriends and parents—have found solace for their consciences, not in the apologists for the abortion industry that exploited them, but in the blood atonement of the Christ who came to seek and to save sinners like them, and like us.

These testimonies would not thank Sarah Weddington for her “courage” in setting loose an abortion culture that robbed their babies of life—and robbed their lives of their babies.  But they might tell Sarah Weddington something she so desperately needs to hear.  That life is about more than “choice.” Life is about, well, life—and that more abundantly through the Spirit of a resurrected Christ.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice will probably never hear their stories. But they should.

We live in a fearful and cowardly time. The crisis we face is not a crisis of clarity but a crisis of courage.

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About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Public Theologian at Christianity Today and Director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project.

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