In this little book of just 120 pages, James Hanlon and David Forsyth make a powerful case for physically impeding access to abortuaries in order to save the unborn. They say, “Abortion has been legal in our country for twenty years now because we, as Christian churches, have not sacrificed to try and save our pre-born neighbors.” Given that failure, and the apparent failure of other measures such as education, political pressure, crisis pregnancy counseling, and the like, Christians must intervene physically to save the pre-born and sacrificially suffer the legal consequences. Such action is necessary because we are faced with what the authors term an “emergency” and there is no other option.
To those who claim they have other pressing responsibilities, such as a spouse and children, Forsyth and Hanlon (who is himself married) counsel that every Christian, without exception, has this calling to sacrifice his comfort for the benefit of his neighbor being led to his death. Those who are uncomfortable with civil disobedience are treated to good Biblical reasons why such action is not only tolerated but enjoined. When man’s law interferes with God’s law, then the latter must take precedence. Civil disobedience does not seek to overthrow the established order, an order created by God; it merely refuses to obey immoral laws.
There is no doubt that David Forsyth and James Hanlon are committed to their chosen course. Both have suffered the severest legal penalty for their actions – imprisonment. But they are not boastful of what they have done; they know their own failings. They are well grounded Biblically, giving clearly reasoned arguments for what they do. And they are gentle in their treatment of others who labour differently in the pro-life movement. These are all considerable achievements.
But there is a sense in which they seem to be saying “Here’s the definition of the Christian life in these times under these circumstances.” I would rather have heard them say, “Here’s what we think we’re doing and why. We think it’s a convincing path to take. Come join us.” The former is prescriptive, the latter descriptive, and there’s a whole lot of difference between the two.
I’m not opposed to rescuing, but I think the authors must not make the mistake of implying that this is the one, the true, and the only action for a Christian. They try not to say this but don’t succeed. Rescuing does not face the difficult spiritual and intellectual barriers that people have erected in order for them to feel comfortable in their support for abortion. Rescuing is therefore a partial answer, not the final one the authors think it is. Rescuing may in fact polarize and harden positions on both the Christian and non-Christian sides of the issue.
The Heart of Rescuing, in sum, is still well worth reading and contemplating. It challenges our faith. It encourages us to think of what we are doing now and assesses whether we are sacrificing enough. This is, perhaps, the most beneficial influence of rescuing. It forces us to examine ourselves and encourages us to push our obedience farther.