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May 30, 2008

Comments

"even a bad Christian example is a good dialogue tool."

I agree Steve. Once when I was a student at Arizona State University I came across a crowd of 40 students listening and heckling an obnoxious "street preacher." I decided to try some evangelization and simply walked up to people listening and asked a question frequently asked at our Justice for All exhibit, "So what do you think of this guy?" Many good conversations were had (at the expense of studying for my Civil War final unfortunately)

I hope Christians can see that any pro-life event leads to great evangelism opporunties. They naturally force people to ask questions like:

Why are human beings special and deserve rights when animals (who sometimes function better than human beings) don't?

Why is being "human" such a valuable trait?

Are there some acts that are wrong regardless of what anyone thinks about them? What makes those acts wrong if a majority thinks they are right?

What happens after you die?

Who goes to Heaven? Good people? Do bad people go to Hell? Are people who have had abortions good people? Is ANY sinner a good person? Does God forgive all sins and love all people?

Before people can hear the Good News, they need to hear the Bad News, and in our culture there is no worse news than the reality of abortion.

One of the saddest things I've noticed in my lifetime is how little the churches around me care about the pro-life issue.
Many pastors are worried about keeping people in the pews. They don't want to rock the boat by talking about something as controversial as abortion, despite the fact that right to life issues touch every other aspect of society.
With 1.5 million abortions performed every year in the United States, we would be foolish to think that the only women having abortions are non-Christians. I've seen instances in Sunday school where one pro-choice person had the power to silence a whole discussion on abortion just by threatening to get emotional and argumentative.
I delivered a pro-life message once to my home church during a January Right to Life commemoration. As I surveyed the crowd, I saw the unhappy faces of several people who wished I would talk about anything other than protecting the unborn.
If we don't learn to stand for truth corporately as a church, we at least need to raise up some brave individuals who will speak for the babies who have no voices.

I've recently been on a leadership team for a Christian campus group, and I sympathize with their decision on this one, mainly because often attendance is interpreted as endorsement, especially for a Christian group attending something like that. If the debate had gone sour, you'd expect a lot of people to walk out assuming that the Christian group agreed with whatever the Christian debater had said. By distancing themselves from it, they safeguarded themselves from that. It sounds, though, like they probably should have gone, because the debate didn't go sour, and so now it looks like they're disinterested in the abortion topic (perhaps they are, I don't know), instead of distancing themselves from a crazy man.
Steve makes good suggestions as to how to use even a bad example as a good outreach opportunity. It would have been better for them to engage this debate more, at least in order to know what to expect from the speaker and to act accordingly. It's also important for them to make it clear to the campus what their stance on the debate was after the fact- whether they supported what was said or not. That might involve another paper article, or whatever other resources they have. The thing is that stuff like this has the potential to destroy their credibility on campus, making it impossible for them to carry out any effective outreach later on.

Dennis,
Every debate has the potential to go sour, meaning that, according to your reasoning, Christian groups should never show up for any debate.

The message we're sending to lay people is "Don'e engage the culture, because you might lose!"

Sad.

Good point, Scott.
The word apologetics is derived from the word "apologia," which means to give a word of defense. We Christians are supposed to give a reason for the hope we have. I would think that our mandate includes the basis for why we value human life. If we can't or won't say why we believe life begins at conception, and why unborn babies deserve protection, then why bother believing?
Just because someone we choose to debate behaves badly doesn't mean we must sink to their level. Sometimes we shine brightest when we keep our cool and offer answers while the other side throws tantrums.

No one will see this, but whatever.

I can see how you got that from what I said, Scott, but it's not true at all. It disregards the context of our culture completely.

Abortion debates are extremely divisive, and generally incredibly unproductive. In fact, they're often counter-productive, because they don't engage the culture, they just rail against it. That makes it more difficult for us to engage people, because it increases their automatic resistance to Christians.

We should engage the abortion issue, but only in fruitful ways, and we should avoid self-destructive ways. My point was that this was a debate which they would have no control over, and they might not have any control over how their attendance would affect their standing in the community (a major factor in their effectiveness in the community). If they were in fact able to make sure that their views would be accurately represented as theirs, either during or after the debate, then they should attend. But if all attending would do is destroy their good name (which is, I think, is what they thought), then attending would simply be foolish. It would be squandering a resource God had given them.

Engaging the culture is what we should do- but only if you actually get to do it, which wasn't necessarily the case here. Showing up to a debate doesn't mean you engaged anything- maybe you "engaged the culture", but unless you engaged some actual PEOPLE in a fruitful (not destructive) way, then you haven't actually done anything.

Dennis,

It seems from my armchair that the group's concern was far too timid. The concern that attending an abortion debate would automatically lump all Christians into full agreement with everything the pro-life debater says and does on stage strikes me as somewhat neurotic. We who believe and adhere to the Bible need not stay in our rooms while everyone else goes about debating the major moral issues.

I do not see how participating in public events, debates, politics, movies, media, et al. reflects negatively on our reputation as believers. There is no fear in love; if we are hindered by so slight a threat as guilt by association, how will we stand when they insult us, persecute us and falsely say all kinds of evil against us because of our glorious Lord?

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

He ate and drank with sinners without fear of tainting his reputation, affirming that "wisdom is proved by her actions" - we can surely do likewise. (Matt 11:19)

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