Chartres 2006
Photo Story

Remnant Tours

Click Here to visit
THE REMNANT Scrapbook!


See Remnant


From 'Nice' Pro-Lifers:

Libera Nos, Domine

Hilary White POSTED: 2/16/11

(  I was recently invited to Dublin to give a talk to about 200 representatives of the new breed of young pro-lifer that seems to be taking over the whole pro-life world, even in Europe. If you’ve been to the March for Life in Washington, you’ve seen them in their glorious thousands, chanting, clapping, waving flags, grinning and laughing, impervious to the January-in-DC cold.

Youth Defence, Ireland’s largest, loudest and most fighty pro-life group invited me over to the mysterious green land to talk about the joys and wonders of life as a pro-life journalist stationed in Rome. It was my first time in the ancestral homeland and I was surprised to find just how natural and “normal” Ireland felt to me. I was faced with genetic realities when I saw just how much the Irish looked and sounded like me, and my mother, and her mother…there is such a thing as race after all, it seems.

And the Irish are a fighting race. I have been told so many times that I have the Irish national temperament, but I never really understood that until I went there and was faced with a whole country of people who all looked and sounded vaguely familiar. And fightiness is most evident in Youth Defence.

They had asked me to talk about pro-life journalism, which is a field more or less invented by, the non-profit news source I have been writing for these last six or so years. But instead, I wanted to talk some straight talk about pro-liferism, if I dare to coin a term.

It seems that many, not all, but many who are active in the pro-life movement are often also Trads and this rule was evident among much of the leadership of Youth Defence. They will often, as they did that weekend, pack up their posters and placards and head off to the nearest traditional Mass after their vigils outside the Dublin Marie Stopes “referral” clinic. So I had no doubt of their emotional enthusiasm, their idealism or even their willingness to sacrifice and suffer for what they believed, but I wanted to warn them of some pitfalls that I have observed over the last ten years in the pro-life world.

I spoke to them about the two things that the pro-life movement around the world as a whole is lacking: knowledge and fearlessness.

I have been around a bit now; I’ve been to Washington and Ottawa, organised conferences and pickets and written briefs for parliamentarians. I have given talks to kids and clergy and led Pro-Life 101 apologetics training seminars, and in that time, I have identified two places where the sincere, warm-hearted and well-intentioned are often failing.

Pro-life people are often focused on their warm feelings about children and mothers. But because they have neglected to learn how to make a reasoned case for their position, they are often left only with their feelings, and unable to answer, when confronted by the abortion movement’s favourite slogans.

I asked the assembled glossy-maned young people in Dublin to imagine for a moment a pro-lifer who doesn’t like children. Who is cranky and misanthropic and who has no personal interest in babies, has no idea what to do when handed one, does not consider them cute and has no warm feelings in particular for motherhood. Can such a  creature exist? Isn’t being pro-life all about liking babies?

I’m going to let you in on a personal secret: I didn’t become a pro-life activist because I like babies. Even when I was one, I wasn’t that keen on hanging out with the other kids. I am an only child, raised by my single mother and grandparents. I have spent my whole life around adults. I like adult company, adult occupations, adult conversation, adult pastimes.

My ancestors are Irish, although my branch of the family left in the 1830s, and being passionate is something of a genetic predisposition. I do not lack passion for the pro-life cause. But I wanted to caution the happy young Irish pro-lifers: we may feel passionately about what we are doing, but we make a mistake when we lead with those feelings. We absolutely need to learn to lead with our heads. With our knowledge.

This, I told them, is the key to the whole movement; we are not in the pro-life movement because of our feelings, no matter how warm and friendly they may be. We are not in the pro-life movement because we like children. We are not pro-life because babies are “cute”.

We are in the movement for one reason alone: it is wrong to kill an innocent human being.

American pro-life educator Scott Klusendorf, who spends his time flying around North America teaching young activists how to make a reasonable case for the pro-life position, has put it as a syllogism:

Proposition 1: It is wrong to kill innocent human beings.

Proposition 2: An innocent human being is killed by abortion.

Conclusion: Therefore abortion is wrong.

I have summed it up in a single sentence: “You can’t kill people to solve your problems.” But this simple thing, that we all take for granted, is something that almost no one out there in the general run of secular life ever hears.

Pro-life people need to know, to be experts in making this case reasonably, and defending it based on facts, not their feelings or their religious beliefs. Unless we can do this, and do it steadfastly and forthrightly in the face of often angry, sometimes violent opposition, we are going to lose. And more children are going to lose their lives and more women are going to lose their souls.

Many of us think that it is enough to hold the position, to be on the side of the angels. But I have seen that with a few exceptions, we really don’t give enough thought to learning how to convey that position reasonably to others in a way they can understand and accept. We don’t know how to make converts.

There are a lot of women out there, particularly those raised during or after the Sexual Revolution, who don’t like babies and don’t want to have children. In our times, appealing to sentiment about the cuteness of babies is not going to work. Particularly with the abortion-minded woman who has been taught to see motherhood as a form of slavery and a child as a mortal enemy.

For similar reasons, exclusively relying on religious arguments and language is also not going to work. When you tell a modern secularized feminist woman that abortion is opposed to the law of God, you have already lost the argument on the opening bid.

It is of the first importance that we learn to put our feelings, our sentiments and our religious language aside and make a clear case that can be understood by the people around us.

My second point was about fearlessness. It is imperative in whatever work we do that we give up any desire to be liked. Some may still be familiar with the concept of “human respect,” a fault that spiritual writers used to warn people against. It means worrying so much about whether other people like you, that you would do anything, including compromise what you believe.

Everyone has a natural desire to be liked, to be approved and accepted, but when that desire becomes the leading principle, pro-life work becomes impossible. In fact, the fear of disapproval can lead a perfectly emotionally sincere pro-life person to go all the way over to the other side and start asserting, as I heard one do to my face, that “a woman does indeed have a right to choose,” a phenomenon I have nicknamed “pro-lifer Stockholm Syndrome”.

I have been told by pro-life groups that it is wrong to try to make abortion illegal. This, they said, is “confrontational,” and an attempt to impose our ideas on others. I have been told that the use of horrible graphic images of aborted babies is wrong, they upset people: “People who see those pictures every day forget just how horrible they really are.” But if we never see the pictures, it is only too easy to forget how horrible abortion is.

But as one American pro-life activist says, “Which is worse, to become upset at pictures of abortion, or to be aborted?” The pictures are horrible because they are truthful depictions of abortion. Object to the abortion, not to the pictures, which are, after all, only the facts presented in full colour.

The desire to be liked will cripple our work. When I am focused on whether a person will like me or approve of me, I am thinking not about the matter at hand, not about the lives or souls I want to save from the horrible disaster of abortion. If I am thinking about whether I am liked, if I am motivated, even unconsciously by that, I am thinking about myself. And that generates fear.

I have met a lot of pro-life people who hold the position but fear upsetting people with it. Who are unwilling out of this fear to confront forthrightly the abortion ideology, its lies and slogans and emotional manipulation. No one likes to be shouted at and called ‘fascist’ or ‘Nazi’.

When I was first getting involved in the movement, I attended the national pro-life conference in Toronto at which one of the speakers was Greg Cunningham, the man who founded the Genocide Awareness Project, the GAP.

GAPpers are people who are forced to confront their fears, and to learn to make the case in the face of people screaming at them. The GAP is one of the most unpopular pro-life efforts out there, especially among the warm-hearted, deeply feeling pro-lifers.

The GAP is the one where you stand in front of huge full colour photo posters of aborted children, juxtaposed with pictures of other human rights atrocities like the Holocaust and the lynching of black men in the American South. The volunteers, who are extensively trained in pro-life apologetics, stand in front of these pictures and talk to passers-by in places like downtown Toronto, New York and Chicago, about why abortion is wrong. It’s a tad in-your-face, and not for the faint of heart.

Greg had a job selling his idea to the nice, warm, friendly, non-confrontational Canadian pro-lifers. If you have met many Canadians, you will know that we have a well-deserved reputation for being “nice”. We don’t argue, we don’t contradict, we don’t insist on our points. We give way, we compromise, we cultivate a self-deprecating sense of humour, we like to be liked.

At that lecture Greg said something I will never forget: “Canadians are too nice. They’re too quick to give way. Canadians will not argue against abortion with pro-aborts. They will not tell someone, ‘No, I’m sorry, you’re wrong about that’.”

 “We need more rude Canadians.”

At that moment, I think I discovered my inner Irishman because I had the overwhelming urge to shoot up my hand and say, “Ooo! Pick me! I’m rude. Ask anyone!”

Since then I have taken Scott Klusendorf’s pro-life apologetics training and I have learned that it is actually quite simple to construct perfectly calm, and not very rude, answers to the abortion slogans.

In a blog commbox some time ago I was accused, by someone who claimed to be pro-life, of giving “clever answers” to the more common pro-abortion arguments. The person objected, I think, to how easily I dismissed the deeply felt feelings of the deeply feeling people who felt that women need abortion because otherwise their feelings would be hurt. I was supposed to feel guilty and shut up, as, he said, he had politely done.

The person was objecting to my assertion that abortion slogans just fall to dust when they are examined with what I like to call the Laws of Rational Thought. They nearly all refute themselves right out of existence. Particularly the ones that are meant to embarrass us and make us hang our heads in shame at our belief that we can't kill people to solve our problems.

These slogans work to shut us up because most pro-life people, including me, got our intellectual training from Saturday Morning Cartoons. It is quite astonishing how much anti-intellectualism can be found in the pro-life movement. But a lot of pro-life activists are converts, and to get to this stage we have been forced to use our heads.

We have read and thought our way to a position that is totally at odds with that of the rest of the world. A great many, I would say a majority, of people my age have undergone a massive, all-encompassing change in the way they see the world and life in it. It is possible to convert, but only if we are presented with the facts and a reasoned argument.

I told the assembled fighting Irish pro-life young people that we need the passion, we must love children and older people, to want passionately to defend them, and to defend Christian moral standards in society. But the passion is not going to be any use to us, or to them, if we don’t have the knowledge and the courage to present the arguments clearly.

I told them from my own experience that courage grows as you learn. The more you know, the easier it is to be brave. If you know your stuff, you can’t be goaded into an emotional response. You stay calm in every discussion, often when your opponent is getting emotional.

I have seen pro-life people trying to talk to pro-abortion people who don’t know how to make the case. Who don’t know the facts and have them at their fingertips. Who can say only how they feel, not what is true. This is deadly. It does nothing more than demonstrate that there isn’t anything of substance to our position. It’s just one set of personal feelings and preferences against another.

I gave them my sage, grey-haired advice: know your material. Take the time to learn it, to become fluent in pro-life apologetics.

And forget about being liked. If you have a stand and know your stuff, and how to present it, you’ll be respected, even by our opponents. Which is better than being liked.

  HOME    |    PRINT SUBSCRIBE    |    E-EDITION    |    ADVERTISE    |    NEWS    |    ARTICLES   |    RESOURCES    |    ABOUT    |    CONTACT
Web Format and Content   ©  1996-2010 Remnant Press