While the great majority of pro-life activists in North America are Christians, is it true that only a faithful Christian can understand that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death? Obviously not.
For years, Nat Hentoff, a prominent civil libertarian and occasional columnist for The Village Voice in New York City, has emblazoned himself as a Jewish atheist for life. For him, it is self-evident on the basis of reason alone that abortion is an evil that can never be justified.
Granted, Hentoff is an exception. Almost all atheists and agnostics betray little or no concern about abortion.
And the same, alas, is true of most liberal Christians. Typically, those who reside in Canada are not at all scandalized that this country is the only democracy in the world that has no law to protect the life of even a perfectly healthy baby in the womb at any time during a pregnancy right up to the last second before birth.
Why is that? Why are so many otherwise benevolent people so indifferent to the mass slaughter of babies in the womb?
The answer relates to the corruptibility of reason. Atheists, agnostics and liberal Christians rely on their unaided reason to distinguish between what is right and wrong. And that’s why they have little conception of the evils attending such contemporary calamities as abortion on demand, rampant sexual intercourse outside of marriage and the breakdown of the natural family.
In contrast, theologically conservative Christians, Catholic and Protestant, understand that human reason is prone to corruption. Consequently, they also look to divine revelation as a guide to moral truth.
This is not to suggest that there is any necessary conflict between reason and revelation. To the contrary, they can reinforce each other. In the words of Pope John Paul the Great: “Reason and revelation are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”
Thus, the earliest Christians understood by reason that the biblical commandment “Thou shalt not kill” specifically forbids the killing of any innocent human being, including babies in the womb. Consequently, the Didache, the first catechism of the Christian church issued in the first century AD, specifically enjoined: “Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.”
Until about 40 years ago, that was the universal and constant teaching of all Christians. While there used to be some confusion over the precise moment when human life begins, that issue has been settled: it is now scientifically indisputable that life begins at conception.
Nonetheless, in response to a shift of elite opinion in the 1960s, liberal theologians began to speculate that abortion might sometimes be justifiable. In conformity with this new thinking, the Anglican Church of Canada resolved in 1980: “That this General Synod, in proclaiming a Gospel of life and hope and compassion for all of God’s people, rejects the principle of ‘abortion on demand’ or for the reasons of convenience or economic or social hardship.”
By that standard, at least 95 per cent of the close to three million abortions perpetrated in Canada over the past 40 years have been illegitimate. Yet, there has been hardly a peep of protest from the Anglican Church of Canada, the United Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada or any of the other once mainline Protestant churches.
That’s shameful. That’s what happens when liberal Christians conform their thinking to the current pattern of the world, rather than strive to uphold what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God revealed in sacred Scripture and traditionally understood by reason.
Meanwhile, faithful Christians continue to uphold the sanctity of all human life. They have profound sympathy for women who are suffering from the guilt of abortion. And they are determined to do whatever they can to spare other young women from making the same grievous mistake.
Above all, pro-life Christians never despair. Unlike misguided intellectuals who are wise in their own conceit, Christians who uphold sacred Scripture as the ultimate authority on all questions of faith and morality understand that the world can never overcome the truth of God that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death.