Even if all the other objections to the use of non-violent, direct action to stop abortion are answerable, it still remains the case that the cost of carrying out such actions is simply too high to justify going down that path.
The cost is too high for the individuals involved; too high for their families; too high for the Christian community; and too high even for the wider society in general.
Jesus warned us to count the cost before committing ourselves to a task or else, if we fail to complete the task, we will become the subject of ridicule. (Luke 14: 25-35) Nobody can reasonably be expected to pay the price that these actions will eventually demand, therefore it is better to recognise this before commencing and so not even start.
It is certainly correct that these actions will be very costly for anyone who repeatedly engages in them. This must be clearly recognised without any pretending that it might be otherwise and the costs should be identified as fully as possible.
If someone should be involved in just two or three sit-ins they may be penalised with only fines or community service orders, but if they persist they will inevitably be sentenced to time in jail. Money lost to fines or time given to do community service can be significant enough drains on someone’s resources, but going to prison is something far more demanding still.
There are some obvious costs of going to prison which immediately spring to mind:
- The separation from loved ones – seeing family members or friends for only a couple of hours a week during visits can be very painful for all involved.
- The loss of personal autonomy – being locked in a prison cell for many hours daily and then being confined behind razor-wire can be an enormous shock for those used to near complete freedom of movement and behaviour.
- The risk of harm from other prisoners – although probably more imagined than actual, nevertheless the potential for it to happen does always exist.
And with a little reflection it is not hard to think of a number of other personal costs that may be of even greater or of lesser concern:
- Loss of employment – if a person is repeatedly going to prison then it can be very difficult to get work between prison stints unless a person has a very benevolent, understanding employer. With some careers a criminal record may make it very difficult, even impossible, to work in that field again.
- Loss of income – since a prisoner’s income is virtually nothing that can make it difficult to provide for any dependants and/or to make payments such as for mortgages, etc.
- Wasted time/life – while in prison there are severe limitations on the contributions a person can make to life in general and to the pro-life movement in particular (see the article “Being in prison – isn’t it a waste of time?”).
- Damage to reputation – those who have spent time in prison can be regarded with a low opinion by some.
Then, beyond the price the individuals involved may pay, if all or part of the Christian community should fully and openly support the taking of direct action to stop abortion, that could not be done without significant cost to the church.
For one thing, the wider community would almost certainly turn on those Christian leaders and churches which endorsed and supported these actions. Many churches have worked hard to gain acceptance by society but this good favour would quickly be lost if such a strong stand were taken. Secondly, there would be dissension and conflict within the churches themselves as it would be highly unlikely that all, or even most, churchgoers would endorse such ‘radical’ actions.
Thus, to the extent that considerable numbers of Christians should participate in the non-violent sit-ins, there would be a corresponding degree of serious conflict directed at the church from without but also emanating from within the church community itself.
For society in general there would be costs also. Should many people decide to engage in such civil disobedience it would create a significant fracture in our society. Pro-abortionists – and it does seem that most people do want to retain a situation where abortion is at least relatively easy to access – would not tamely back off should access to abortion be put under threat.
Considerable unpleasant confrontation would occur at the abortion death-house sites themselves and depending on how strongly supported and frequently held the actions were, the relatively peaceful good order of our society would be disturbed and perhaps even threatened. More broadly, if large numbers of pro-lifers should be prepared to go to jail for trying to save the lives of preborn children that would put an already crowded prison system under considerable strain. Public funds may have to be spent just to ‘accommodate’ pro-lifers.
The foregoing picture is grim and very unappealing – and unfortunately all too plausible (especially given what actually did happen in the USA during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s). In view of this it must be asked, how could such a course of action even be possibly contemplated?
There are two things that must be taken into consideration when making a response to that question. Firstly: when we try to calculate the costs that may be involved in taking such actions, we must also try to calculate the costs involved in not taking such action.
Australia, it would be reasonable to say, appears to enjoy, overall, a peaceful, orderly society. Generally speaking that is a good and desirable way for things to be. However, should that state of affairs be regarded as being an absolute good? – one that must be preserved at all costs? If, for example, a situation should arise where peace and order for the majority are being bought at a very high cost for a minority, may it not be necessary that, for a time at least, the peace and order of the majority may have to be put at risk of being disrupted as part of the price of helping the very seriously persecuted minority? (It must be emphasised again that we advocate only non-violent action.)
Further, we must be prepared to squarely face the reality of the situation in Australia. The fact is, the apparent peace and order of our society is actually just that – an appearance only. It is a veneer. If one has the nerve to scrape the surface it can readily be seen that one group at least in our community is paying the highest possible price – their very lives – for the perceived benefit of others.
Rivers of life-blood have flown and continue to flow with about 90 – 100 000 abortions presently being done each year in Australia. A total of between 1.5 and 2 million young human lives have been deliberately and quite openly destroyed over the last 30 years in this country.
Such numbers can seem dry and impersonal making it hard to grasp the enormity of these figures. To help put them somewhat in perspective consider the following comparisons: the road toll horrifies us but for every person killed in a traffic accident in Australia, 50 young lives are intentionally taken by abortion; each year more preborn babies are deliberately killed by abortion than the total number of Australians killed in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.
Every working day of the year, year after year after year, hundreds and hundreds of innocent young lives continue to be taken. For everyone, but especially for those of us who sincerely believe that every human life has been made in the image of God and is therefore of inestimable value, this is, if we dare to allow ourselves to stop and think about it, a tragedy of the greatest proportions and significance.
Yet the sham that this is actually a peaceful and orderly society manages to be kept in place. It is maintained in part because those who are the primary victims of abortion are hidden from view and it is impossible for them to speak and act in their own defence. But the sham also remains in place because those who could defend the little ones remain largely silent and frozen into inaction.
There is no denying, as spelt out above, that to intervene directly to try and save the lives of the preborn will be very costly. But how high has the cost been in terms of the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of lives of fellow human beings that have been taken because direct intervention to stop the killing has not been attempted? (Added also to that awful toll must be the untold physical and emotional misery that many mothers/parents and others suffer following an abortion.)
Yes, we have been able to hold onto our personal freedom, our incomes, our possessions, our church properties, but . . . .
The thought of paying a very high price to try and stop abortion is a very sobering, if not an appalling, prospect. To stand, and to keep on standing, directly in the path of the life-destroying abortion monster has, as we have seen, the potential to strip away from anyone who does so everything which we would associate with a ‘normal’ and ‘reasonable’ life.
But while such a prospect may be sobering or even appalling, it should hardly be surprising for anyone who is seeking to follow Jesus. Yes, as noted earlier, it is true that Jesus did say that we are to count the cost. And in that passage in Luke 14 he indicates what some of those costs will be. All who follow Jesus must recognise that they will inevitably come into serious conflict with those who do not follow him and such people may likely include close members of one’s own family (vv.25-26, see also Matthew 10: 34-37).
Jesus also spells out that an essential aspect of following him involves the carrying of a cross (v.27). This taking up of a cross, the instrument by which Christ himself died, means the making of a total commitment, even to the point of being absolutely ready to give up one’s own life. In view of that it is hardly surprising then that Jesus says that to be his disciple is to give up everything that one has (v.33).
These are undeniably weighty matters. But it was not Jesus’ desire that in helping us to realise how much it will cost, that we should then conclude that it is all too much and so turn away. Not at all. Jesus does want everyone to follow him, but he wants us to be well and truly aware just what following him entails so that when the tough and challenging times come, as come they do, we are not taken by surprise and left feeling that we have been deceived or that something has gone terribly wrong.
For Christians in the West it can be very tempting to think that a comfortable, relatively hassle-free, middle-class (at the minimum) lifestyle is what we should expect as our lot in life. After all that is what we see so many others around us enjoying and it can scarcely be denied that having ‘the good things’ in life can be very pleasant; very pleasant indeed.
When it comes to squaring these expectations though with such things as those which Jesus said above, how can that be done? There seem to be several options: these teachings of Jesus can be overlooked or ignored; the teachings can be thought to apply to people in other places or times, but not to us (it’s unfortunate for those Christians elsewhere who experience suffering and/or persecution, but maybe we are just more fortunate or even more blessed than they); Jesus simply must have made a mistake – it is possible to hold onto things, to seek the best for one’s own life, and still to follow him. And maybe all these options are wrong.
Herein lies the enormous challenge. The killing of the innocent continues to go on around us. To intervene directly to try and stop the killing will be very costly. Could it be that we are unwilling to intervene directly because we do not want to pay the cost? Do we think that it could not be possible that Jesus would expect us to pay such great costs in order to stand against this monstrous evil? Do we think that the evil should be challenged but only to the extent that our own interests remain relatively untouched?
Hard and confronting questions – but questions that we must not be afraid to ask of ourselves.
We in Protect Life believe that it will almost certainly take a truly radical revolution in the thinking and behaviour of Christians, both individually and as a community, before the killing of preborn children becomes regarded by the whole of our society with the horror that it deserves. Most, if not all, Christians must be genuinely prepared to give up everything, even our very lives, to see the killing of the innocent stopped. Some (many? most?) of us will actually have to do so. And those that do and their loved ones will need the support and care of the rest of the Christian community if they are not to be left broken and abandoned in the conflict.
No one though should tell another individual what their particular response should be.
In the end we simply must ask ourselves, are human lives – in particular in this instance the tiny, helpless, unknown, preborn human beings hidden in the womb – worth enormous cost? For those who follow Jesus, we can be thankful that he thought that humanity was worth everything. And even if we lose everything else by following him in this way, we will nevertheless retain the incomparable blessing of walking with him.
So, if we are correct about the claim that each preborn child has the same moral worth as all other human beings then abortion is uniquely dreadful. It involves the targeting of innocent children for destruction by the children’s own mothers/parents. And this destruction takes place by the hundreds each day with the sanction and protection of our society in openly operating specialist killing centres located in our cities and suburbs.
Can we expect that such a great wrong will be stopped without a great price being paid?