On Friday, the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, thousands gathered in Washington D.C. to march for life. The march is one of the nation’s largest demonstrations each year, but typically receives little media coverage. This year was different. The President attended and spoke at the rally drawing attention to the momentum of the pro-life movement and the role abortion legislation and judicial appointments will play in 2020. Trump is the first sitting U.S. President to attend or speak at the rally. Last year, Mike Pence spoke and marched alongside Senators, Representatives, and other government officials, along with leaders and activists from different religious backgrounds, industries, and political perspectives.
The theme this year was “Life Empowers” and more pointedly, “Pro-Life Is Pro-Woman.” This addresses one of the most prevalent objections to the pro-life movement head on. Abortion advocates argue that abortion is both a women’s rights issue and a women’s health issue. During the rally, Bernie Sanders tweeted, “Abortion is healthcare.” This is the standard line. Planned Parenthood and other activists argue that a woman should have the right to do what she wants with her own body and that abortion centers provide necessary medical care and social services. Sanders’ tweet got half a million likes.
Not everybody on the pro-life side appreciated Trump’s appearance at the march. Some argued that Trump sullies the pro-life cause, or that he isn’t actually pro-life. Others were hesitant about the negative publicity the President would bring to the rally. Some simply resist being associated with the President on any issue. Jake Meador wrote an article at Mere Orthodoxy titled, “The Mystique of the Pro-Life Movement: On Trump and the March for Life.” In it he argues that Trump may help win the abortion battle but his appearance lose the pro-life war. He draws a distinction between being pro-life politically and being pro-life ethically. Christians, he asserts, want more than the overturning of Roe; “Justice is not appeased simply through the changing of civil law; it is appeased when we render to each what they are due. It is achieved, in other words, through repentance, through the acknowledging that we do not render to each what they are due and through a resolution to amend our ways so that we would do that.”
Trump’s adultery, his associations with people like Jeffrey Epstein, and his political agenda make him an opponent of this vision. In sum, he writes, Trump “diminishes the goals of the pro-life movement, reducing them from the lofty and inspiring ideal of creating a society hospitable to life down to simply overturning a badly argued Supreme Court ruling.”
This would be what’s called “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” Simply overturning a badly argued Supreme Court ruling? You mean the Supreme Court ruling that has led to over 50 million abortions? Let’s be clear about what we’re after. We want to stop abortions. And we don’t care who gets the credit. If other known evil-doers want to join the pro-life cause, we’ll take them and we’ll discuss their evil deeds after the march is over.
Meador represents the very worst of Christian elitism on this topic. It’s hard not to read this as a more sophisticated version of disavowing your favorite indie band because they finally made it big. Certainly, Christians have a bigger vision than just overturning Roe. We also have a bigger vision for life after death, but that doesn’t stop us from advocating against murder of any other kind. Overturning laws that allow doctors to kill children in the womb is a good in itself, even if it isn’t the greatest good. Why let self-righteousness and credit-hogging stand in the way of life?
It’s also indicative of another trend among certain evangelical groups. The lengths to which people go to denounce their enemies in the name of moral purity - and in doing so undermining their own moral causes - is staggering. This is similar to the 2016 phenomenon of fringe evangelicals arguing that a vote for Hillary Clinton would do more for the pro-Life cause than a vote for Trump because she was less morally corrupt. No need to outthink the room - Trump has been good for the pro-Life movement. Hillary Clinton would not have been. The 2020 candidates have made it clear that they will do everything in their power to extend abortion rights through the third trimester and for some candidates after birth, to silence the pro-life cause, to shut down Christian foster care organizations, and appoint judges who will role in favor of continuing the reign of infanticide in our country.
Sometimes evangelicals need to be reminded of the value of coalitions - even co-belligerents in some cases. It’s not selling out to pragmatism or watering things down to team up with other groups over a shared interest. If everyone believes the exact same things, then it is no longer a coalition. It’s possible to remember that Trump is not an evangelical Christian and also work together with him to stop abortion.
Meador’s article, and others like it, highlight one of the major reasons Christians are making so little progress in the culture wars. It’s true, our most potent avenues for social change are sharing the gospel and discipling the nations. But those are not our only avenues. Politics and legislation, coalition building, and joining forces with like-minded groups will not sully the movement, it will super charge it. Ending abortion isn’t the gospel. That means we can overlook major theological differences without sacrificing any of our moral purity to fight for it.
When it comes to the church, the teachings of Scripture, preaching the gospel, and other foundational doctrines there are times Christians will have to stand alone. But when it comes to the common good, we’ll take every ally we can get.
Cole Feix is the founder and president of So We Speak. Follow him on Twitter, @cfeix7.