If I could I would, but I can’t so I don’t
Mitch: Okay Jack, I’m with you 100% that the ending of the lives of preborn children by abortion is wrong and should be stopped now. And I’ve heard the arguments for taking non-violent direct action to try and prevent abortions taking place, but as much as they seem to be making sense to me, there remains one big problem.
Jack: What is that?
Mitch: Look, even if I really believe that it is right to be prepared to put my own freedom at risk over this, and even if I am actually willing to spend time in jail as part of trying to save lives, the practical reality is that I just could not do it.
Jack: I think I know what you are going to say, but tell me anyway.
Mitch: The obvious things for a start then: I have a wife and kids who are dependent on me for an income; I’ve got a mortgage on our house that has to be paid or we will be out on the street; and my boss would sack me if I was off work for maybe months at a time while I was in jail. How about that to begin with?
Jack: Yep, I recognise that all makes it very tough.
Mitch: Tough? It’s much more than tough Jack, it is impossible! It is not just the money side of it either that worries me. I wouldn’t want to be away from Jeannie for extended periods and have to leave her to look after the kids on her own. And the kids need their dad and I wouldn’t want to miss seeing them growing up either.
Jack: I know it is not much, but as you know you can have visitors while you are in jail and nowadays prisoners can make telephone calls to their families and other people every day.
Mitch: “Not much”, you said it. Seeing my wife and kids for a couple of hours a week in a prison visiting area doesn’t sound like a great way to maintain a marriage or to be a good parent. I wasn’t aware that prisoners could use the phone like that though, so that would be something, but it couldn’t be enough.
Jack: Nobody said it would be easy Mitch. By the way, what are Jeannie’s feelings about all this?
Mitch: Well, as you know Jeannie is dead against abortion – she was the one who opened my eyes to how terribly wrong it all is in the first place. She is also tired of just saying that abortion is the killing of children; she keeps pointing out that our actions ought to be matching our words.
Jack: So have you ever talked with her about being involved in the non-violent direct actions at the abortion “clinics”?
Mitch: Yeah, sure we have talked about it ... lots of times.
Mitch: Well, in principle she is in favour of it, but she does not like the prospect of me, or even perhaps her one day, going to jail, any more than I do.
Jack: That is a healthy attitude – no one in their right mind wants to go to prison.
Mitch: She says she would be concerned for me being amongst all those real crims and that she would not find it easy to cope without me being around. But she doesn’t say a straight-out no to the idea either.
Jack: Have you spoken with the children about it?
Mitch: Well of course Martine and Andrew are too young to understand, but Matthew and especially Emily are completely against abortion. They have heard Jeannie and me talking about these things and while they say they wouldn’t want me to go to jail they reckon they understand the importance of it all and why it could happen.
Jack: I would say that for a family, both the wife and the husband – and the children as far as possible – would have to be in full agreement that taking direct action, and wearing the subsequent penalties, is the right thing to do. Otherwise, when things get really hard, too much pressure would be put on the family relationships.
Mitch: That is for sure. And I would have to say that as far as our family goes with this, all things considered, we’re generally in agreement. Certainly, with Jeannie and me, things have never been better. All the same though, how can you tell in advance that you would all be able to cope with the great demands?
Jack: You can’t know for sure; nobody can provide any guarantees that difficulties won’t arise that won’t seem overwhelming. It really depends on where your trust lies.
Mitch: To be honest Jack , that doesn’t seem all that reassuring, but I know you are right. It is easy to say that you trust God when everything seems under control and the future looks safe and predictable. But it is another thing altogether when it seems like you are giving up all control and the future is uncertain and risky ... Yeah, yeah, I know, if there is no risk there is no faith, but ...
Jack: Such challenges as these are certainly not unique to our day or to this issue. Plenty of times throughout history people have had to face up to the social evil of their day and decide whether they were willing to pay a high price to try and see things change for the better. We’re grateful now for those that made the decision to do so, but the fact is that it cost many of them everything. Should we expect, or require, that it be any less demanding for us today?
Mitch: I take your point. But even if my family should be prepared to go through major disruption and separation, there still remain the other very real practical difficulties I mentioned before – the loss of income, a mortgage that needs paying, and the difficulty of keeping a job. These things can’t simply be ignored!
Jack: That’s right of course and as much as we may like there to be, there are no quick and easy solutions to such dilemmas. In order to try and meaningfully address them we really need to step back and reassess how we view life and what it is all about.
In the world, and it seems all too often amongst Christians as well, individualism, possessing and being secure are often given a much higher priority than community, generosity and faith. If however we are going to meet the great challenges that will inevitably come should we directly and uncompromisingly confront abortion, we will have to practice the latter rather than the former.
Mitch: So how do you see that working in practice?
Jack: Well, what do you think of the example set by the newly-formed Christian church in the first century? In Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-35 it says that when some believers were in need, others voluntarily acted to help meet those needs. If the Christian community today were to have the same sort of attitude then that could help free up people to make the strong and costly stand that is needed to see abortion stopped.
Mitch: Yes, well, it sounds very good and impressive when you read about that happening in the New Testament, but to think of something like that actually being practiced today in our materialistic 21st century, that is something else. For one thing it would mean that Christians would have to be prepared to adopt a simpler lifestyle. You’re expecting a lot, Jack. I don’t know if people would be willing to do it.
Jack: You’re right it would likely be very costly but we must never lose sight of what is being done to tens of thousands of preborn children around the country every year.
Mitch: But if I went to jail for trying to stop abortion, I reckon that far from helping me out, some Christians would say that I had just got what I deserved for breaking the law!
Jack: Perhaps, but others may be convicted by your stand to face up to the reality of abortion and may then recognise that they could at least be playing a part by providing practical support.
Mitch: Hmm. Are you saying that it would be right to go ahead and be involved with the direct actions and risk ending up in jail without even any promise of support from the Christian community? That sounds awfully risky to me.
Jack: Ideally it would be better if there were a commitment of support – both spiritual and practical – but if you make your involvement in the actions completely dependent on such support being guaranteed, then it is likely you will never start.
Mitch: Yeah, but –
“Visiting time is up everyone. Could all visitors please make their good-byes and start moving to the exit door now.”
Mitch: So, ... I’ll be getting going then Jack. It’s good to see you looking well and in good spirits, despite everything. Stay out of fights! Hopefully I’ll be able to come for another visit next month.
Jack: I’ll try, and that would be good.
Mitch: Oh, and I told Angie that I would drop in and mow your yard for you this week and take the boys to the footy.
Jack: Thanks Mitch, they’ll all appreciate that.