Whenever there’s a news headline about something like children being separated from parents at the border or children being killed in school shootings, it’s not uncommon to see people post something like, “If only they were this concerned about all the unborn children being killed.” And let’s be clear: abortion is bad. According to statistics from the World Health Organization, there are over 3,000 abortions per day in the US, and 125,000 per day worldwide. And let’s also be clear: there are a couple of orders of magnitude separating that number from the number of children separated from parents at the border. According to this Vox article (https://bit.ly/2MGVSTl), the number was about 65 children per day during some of the peak enforcement of that policy (and the children are not killed, but only physically removed from their parents). And based on Wikipedia’s count of deaths from school shootings as of 7/2/18, there have been just under 300 fatalities including and since the Columbine shooting in 1999 (often cited as the watershed event for school shootings). At just over 7,000 days since that shooting, we get an average rate of 0.043… per day (or one every 23 1/3 days).
So let’s be clear, and let’s be fair. If our goal is to value life, abortion is a much more serious problem than either of the other two issues by leaps and bounds, in terms of raw numbers. But do those statistics mean that children separated from parents at the border or school shootings are unimportant? I am reminded of what Jesus said in His rebuke of the Pharisees. In Matthew 23.23–24, He said,
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
It’s easy for those of us who are anti-abortion to say that those who are protesting over immigration and school shootings (but who will also protest in favor of a woman’s right to have an abortion) are neglecting the weightier matters. They are the ones who strain gnats and swallow camels. On raw statistics, we can console ourselves that we have remembered the weightier matters. But let’s not forget what lies in the middle of those thoughts:
These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
In the original context, Jesus was not saying that the Pharisees were wrong for tithing mint and dill and cumin. They were wrong for not observing justice and mercy and faithfulness. Both were needed. Today, it shouldn’t be about whether abortion is a weightier matter than immigration or school shootings. If someone is devaluing life, it’s a problem. We can’t hide behind advocacy against abortion and wave off any responsibility for the others.
Someone who stands against abortion but has no problem with treating other people like things instead of people is just as wrong as someone who believes that people need to be treated with dignity once they are born but has no issues with a mother choosing to terminate her pregnancy because she doesn’t want the “inconvenience” of bearing or raising a child. Consider more of Jesus’ words, this time from the Sermon on the Mount:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
As I’ve said elsewhere in other posts, the common thread running through murder, anger, insults, and calling people fools is valuing someone else less than God values them. If we have that going on in our hearts, the only difference might be the scale of physical harm done as a result of that heart condition; the spiritual implications are the same.
The real question is, what can I do? That’s what God expects me to do. If I’m in a position to move the needle on abortion, then that’s what He expects of me. And I’m not (just) talking about voting based on who is a “pro-life” candidate. Frankly, history says that’s of questionable value. A majority of the justices who decided Planned Parenthood v. Casey were appointed by explicitly anti-abortion Presidents; the only Democrat appointee was one of the dissenters in Roe v. Wade and dissented here as well.
What can I do in my local community to promote life and to persuade people to choose life? Whether that’s choosing not to have an abortion, choosing not to take another’s life, or choosing to value the life they or someone else already has. What can I do to value life myself? All life is important, whether it’s the life of the unborn, the life of the foreigner, the life of a helpless child, the life of the aging, or the life of someone who believes differently from me. If I am not an advocate for all life to the best of my ability, I’ve not done enough.
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.