By Alex Schadenberg
In the recent article, “Successor to Alliance for Life Canada in the works” (Dec. 1999), I was quoted as being opposed to a new national educational pro-life organization. This is not entirely accurate. What I am convinced is necessary for the pro-life movement to be successful in the 21st century is that we develop a unified vision and leadership. Since I believe that unity is essential for our success, therefore I consider the formation of a new national educational pro-life group to be a counter-productive development which is likely to create more harm than good.
As a pro-life leader, as a past president of the Canadian Youth Pro-Life Organization (CYPLO), as a past president of London and Area Right to Life, as a former member of the Alliance for Life Ontario provincial board, as the former director of the Diocese of London Pro-Life Office, and as the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Ontario, I have been forced to re-think the organizational structure of the pro-life movement based on the needs of the pro-life movement and the hope of real pro-life success in the future.
Canadian society and most of Western culture has undergone a massive paradigm shift over the past 30 years that has resulted in abortion on demand, high divorce rates, the rejection of religious authority, etc., and the advancement of personal autonomy and secular humanism. Under this new cultural paradigm the pro-life movement represents a counter-cultural presence. The existence of our philosophy is completely opposite to the philosophy of choice and personal self-gratification.
The role of pro-life people in our present culture, a culture of death, is to build a culture of life, a culture which will not only represent the views of pro-lifers but will be capable of competing for their hearts and minds of society. This culture of life can only be built by a people of life who are for something, not by a people who are opposed to something. Therefore it is necessary for pro-life people to work together and build a new vision, a unified vision with unified leadership capable of influencing many people.
We need a new vision in order to establish the necessary direction to build a culture of life, we need leadership to direct us toward that vision, and we need unity to effectively carry out our vision. When we lack unity and vision we undermine our capacity to build a culture of life, because we lack the necessary ingredients in being proactive and we become incapable of inspiring the people who will carry out this vision in every community.
The culture of death has marginalized pro-lifers. Our support, our influence, and our membership has dwindled, and our human resources (our volunteers and local contacts) have been reduced. This is not a hard luck story, but the reality of the culture of death. Many supporters, volunteers, donors, members, and pro-lifers have lost heart in the battle. Most of these people continue to be pro-life but are now involved in other important areas. We need to be united in order to be part of building a culture of life, but also because we need to make better use of our human, financial and spiritual resources. It’s important that we get in the same boat to row together, to work together, to raise money together, to pray together.
I recognize that there are many organizational models that can produce a unified vision and leadership in the pro-life movement. But I will only support organizational models that are actually unified. Historically, pro-life groups such as Alliance for Life Canada, Human Life International Canada, and Campaign Life Coalition Canada claimed to be working together, but in fact were at best just telling each other what they were up to. There was no real unity. Each group had their own leadership, their own ideas, their own priorities, their own direction, and active pro-lifers were caught in the middle. There was rarely an opportunity to row together and make some headway up the river, and there was no real effective vision. We must learn from our mistakes, forgive each other for the wrongs we have done, and create a truly unified pro-life movement. The child in the womb, the disabled, the ill, and all vulnerable people depend on us to get our act together and finally establish an effective, unified vision and leadership to bring us into the 21st century.
I am convinced that the most likely structure for a unified vision and leadership is through unity and diversity. This means that pro-life groups become unified in our essential vision and leadership and remain diverse in non-essential activities. This allows for the activities that pro-life groups identify themselves by to continue and yet it assures pro-life people that our central vision is united.
I am in favour of unity, vision, and leadership more than I am opposed to anything. If the new national educational pro-life group is essentially united to Campaign Life Coalition either by structure, vision, or leadership, then I would support their efforts. This means that either both groups are united by one umbrella group or both groups share the same essential unified vision and leadership. Since history has proven, however, that building new walls creates more dissent and division, and less unity vision and leadership, at the moment I say ‘no’ to the new national educational pro-life group.
My prayer is that we may allow ourselves to be God’s instruments and stop allowing our human pride and empire building to be our master. Let us re-think our structure and move into the 21st century, with unified goals, direction, and leadership to enable us to build a culture of life.Alex Schadenberg is executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Ontario.