Over the pasts several weeks I have read and reread Stephanie Gray’s book Love Unleashes Life (LifeCycle Books). At the same time, I also had the privilege of attending the U.S. March for Life, which had a very similar theme of “love saves lives.” I was particularly excited by this book because Stephanie Gray has long been a pro-life heroine of mine, and my Christian faith “clicked” for me once I truly appreciated that God is love. So just through first impressions alone, this book was already speaking my language, and I was not disappointed when reading it. Gray first describes how to approach a conversation on abortion, and subsequently provides both “head” and “heart” arguments (i.e. how to respond to both intellectual and emotional objections to the pro-life position). Though she writes with a Christian reader in mind, I would recommend the book to everyone.
Gray’s concise but thorough overview of pro-life apologetics is one of the best I have encountered, and I strongly believe that every pro-lifer should have at least a modest knowledge of pro-life apologetics. The personal benefit is that understanding the reasons to oppose abortion – why you should be pro-life – makes you feel a lot more secure in your position. Not only are you defying societal expectations to remain true to your conscience/religious convictions, but you’re also on the side of justice, fighting the greatest human rights abuse of all time.
The benefit to others is the possibility of them learning from you. Even if you don’t plan on debating people about abortion, you never know if you will be put in a situation where you are the only one capable of saving an unborn child’s life and a mother from a lifetime of regret. Your words could very well be the difference between whether a friend, family member, or mere acquaintance gets an abortion or chooses the good, but narrow path of continuing her pregnancy. I don’t know about you, but I would like to be prepared for such a situation.
Don’t worry: I’m not just pitching the book in this column. There are three important takeaways I want to note.
Firstly, the subtitle of Love Unleashes Life is “Abortion and the Art of Communicating Truth.” It could be any truth. The conversational model Gray portrays could be applied to any issue, any encounter with a stranger so desperately needing connection, and indeed, I use this model whenever I respond to others who open up to me about a painful experience or with whom I disagree. When detailing the disposition of a good communicator, Gray calls us to virtue and shows us the path to sainthood. She is not just teaching us how to have a conversation about abortion; she is teaching us how to love. It’s no happy coincidence that “whom you would change, you must first love,” as Martin Luther King Jr. wisely instructed. The culture of life is a culture of love. Life is meaningless without love.
Secondly, what Gray is asking of us – to love authentically, to encounter each individual as a child of God – is really, really hard. She quotes the prayer often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; To be understood, as to understand; To be loved, as to love.” This is a beautiful, world-shaking sentiment, but it asks so much of us. It asks us to listen to a person saying abhorrent things – about how it is okay to kill a tiny human for convenience – and to not shrink back in absolute disgust, as the natural reaction may be, but, of all things, to empathize. In pro-life dialogue, we repeatedly reach past the ignorance and the brokenness to grab hold of the souls inside all of us that persist in hope, in search for meaning. We hear stories that break our hearts, and yet, we allow our hearts to be broken over and over again out of this desire to transform the world. We let ourselves be vulnerable, and still, some people walk away declaring that they’re still “pro-choice,” and we’re left with the maddening thought: “If only I loved more perfectly.”
Thirdly, though adopting a genuine Christ-like love may be near impossible, it is the only thing worth aspiring to. I may not change this world, but at the end of my life, I sure as heck want to say I tried. So try, even though you will certainly fail and fail again, as God knows I have many times. Love, because that is how to live.