We are now at the half-way point of Lent. It is also the half-way point of an international movement: the 40 Days for Life Campaign which consists of three elements: 1) prayer and fasting, 2) constant vigil, and 3) community outreach in response to the killing of the youngest of our kind through abortion. On Sunday in Vancouver we marked the middle of this campaign with a rally outside Vancouver’s largest abortion clinic.
At that gathering I gave a speech about 4 principles we need to take to heart as we follow the call to be salt and light, and those lessons are extracted from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words in his Letter from Birmingham Jail:
“There was a time when the church was very powerful -- in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being ‘disturbers of the peace’ and ‘outside agitators.’ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were ‘a colony of heaven,’ called to obey Gad rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be ‘astronomically intimidated.’ By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.”
Just as the early Church, through God’s grace, brought an end to historical evils, we too can help bring an end to present-day evils by seeking Dr. King’s advice to
1) Be thermostats,
2) Enter a town,
3) Press on, and
4) Obey God
If you consider a thermostat in contrast to a thermometer, the latter merely records the temperature—it tells us something, whereas the former actually adjusts the temperature. A thermostat is the controller which turns heat or cool air on or off to ensure an environment is at the proper temperature. Likewise, we must step back and say what is the ideal “temperature” for our culture—how ought things be? And when we identify what should be the way (i.e., respect all human life) then we must work to bring our culture up to that level.
One 40 Days for Life volunteer in Wisconsin did just that. Standing alone on a cold day, praying outside an abortion clinic, he saw a couple whose hearts were cold as they walked into that clinic to kill their child. But the volunteer adjusted the temperature—he conveyed warmth by lovingly looking at them and saying, “God bless you two. No, wait—God bless all three of you!” That’s all it took—a witness, a kind gesture, a correction of words for greater accuracy and the couple was changed. They left the clinic and months later a baby boy was born.
Not only must we be thermostats, we must “enter a town”—in other words, in order to change the culture we must engage the culture. The early Christians reached many because they took their message directly to the people. We all ought to do an inventory of who we know, or who has been placed in our path, and how we can reach out to them.
Not only should we create opportunities to engage those we know, but we should seize opportunities that arise. Unfortunately I didn’t do that a couple days ago, and hope others can learn from my mistake: I was at my cousin’s house alone when the doorbell rang. A Liberal party candidate was canvassing the neighborhood and I simply said, “The homeowners aren’t here” so she gave me a flyer for them and that was it. As I took the flyer to the kitchen I realized I had just missed an important opportunity—knowing that that candidate’s leader Justin Trudeau’s abortion-supporting views are so extreme he said he will force MPs in his caucus to vote against any legislation restricting abortion, I should have engaged the candidate in a discussion about that.
Thankfully pro-life students at UBC did seize a similar opportunity just last week when they decided to throw together a protest in response to Justin Trudeau speaking on their campus. When I joined them at this demonstration, I spoke with a student who initially thought abortion was okay, but when he looked at an image of an abortion victim and when I took him through basic pro-life reasoning about human rights, he admitted that that made sense and thanked me. That exchange wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t engaged the culture—so let’s re-capture the spirit of the early church and do just that.
Of course, we also need to press on—and that can be difficult when an injustice seems never-ending and when we don’t always see the results. Several years ago a friend of mine told me that even though she was raised in a pro-life home and was taught and believed that abortion was wrong, when she got pregnant in her twenties everything changed—she told her doctor she wanted an abortion and was given a number to a clinic where she was going to get it done. But one day when she was driving to work she noticed a mini-van in front of her with a bumper sticker which displayed a quote by Mother Teresa: “It is a poverty to decide a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” Her heart softened, she rejected abortion, and several months later gave birth to a baby boy.
The people in the blue mini-van have no idea that their pro-life proclamation saved a baby—but it did. That is proof that we may never see the fruits but our job is to press on, and trust that God will use our efforts to bring about great good.
Finally, in all things we need to obey God, remembering that all His commands are summed into one: Love. We are called to love God and love neighbor, and love is wanting the other’s good. That’s what drives pro-lifers to stand and pray and reach out and circulate the pro-life message—it is willing the good of the pre-born as well as the born. Of course, it is love which drove Jesus to the cross. And so, at this mid-way point of this 40-day journey, let us remember to take up our cross and follow Christ, just as the early church martyrs did.