Worth a Read: Chris Currie on Cooperation in the Prolife Movement

This comment by Chris Currie was pasted in the comments on my thread on cooperation below. I thought it deserved more prominence. Im not a moderate on the issue of abortion. (Despite my beliefs in the legitimacy of compromise in the pursuit of a long-term goal and in a consistent ethic of life that informs my positions on a number of other issues.) I fervently hope, pray and work for a day when abortion will be both rare and illegal.However, Ive had many opportunities (such as today) to engage with thoughtful individuals who do consider themselves moderate in their approach to this issue.In my experience, a pro-life moderate means different things to different people. While I appreciate Matts point about needing to know the specific platform of pro-life moderates before the absolutist wing of the movement can consider joining them in common actions, it seems even from the discussion above that this is not definable.Some moderates are such because they see aspects of the issue as gray areas; others because the issue doesnt have the pre-eminent importance attached to it by more extreme pro-lifers; still others because of competing concerns that are sometimes hard to reconcile with pro-life advocacy that is often seen as part of a larger (or narrower) right-wing agenda.

Depending on what primarily motivates one as a pro-life moderate, ones platform and even ones tactics are likely to be different than even those of other moderates.But, and this is really the point I want to make, I dont think that really matters in terms of the efficacy of the pro-life movement(s).When I was in my mid-20s, I was for one year the executive director of a state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee. As a still-impressionable young adult, I was dealing on a daily basis with a wide spectrum of different people and organizations on both sides of the abortion struggle.That experience taught me some permanent lessons:1. People with different gifts, personality types, worldviews and life experiences tend to gravitate toward different kinds and levels of pro-life activity. Whole organizations and even entire wings of the movement attract disproportionately people with certain personal profiles (think citizen lobbyist, preacher, clinic blockader, legal-defense counsel, sidewalk pray-er, pregnancy counselor, etc.).2. To be truly comprehensive to address all of the needs of an effective pro-life movement you *need* to have this diversity of roles, and even of opinions. I remember hearing the venerable Molly Kelly describe us as a perfect movement in the sense that, somewhat analogous to the Body of Christ, all of the parts are there that are necessary to accomplish the divine plan.3. The movements greatest weakness is not the lack (or presence) of this or that strategy or belief or outreach or group, but the difficulty that the people associated with our movement have in working *with* and not *against* each other. The pro-choice groups also have a multiplicity of organizations and tactics, but I found that they almost never sniped at or undermined each others efforts like the pro-lifers did (and still do). Our intolerance of our diversity and sometimes active attempts to undermine each others efforts have limited our effectiveness more than anything else.I came to perceive the great spiritual warfare being waged on the battlefield of abortion as not just between those who accepted and rejected the sanctity of unborn human life, but as between those of us in our own Godly pro-life movement. The battlefield, indeed, was within each of our own hearts.Satan, I believe, strikes us where we are weakest and where he can most effectively accomplish his objectives in ourselves and in the wider human landscape. For those in the organized pro-choice movement, it obviously doesnt serve his purpose to try to inflame their malice towards each other.On the other hand, for those of us who find it easier to affirm the duty to protect the life of unborn child, he so often uses the most universal of human defects pride to turn our just and good principles to his own ends, resulting in the crippling of our efforts on behalf of Gods children. Its a shameful spectacle the way we fight among our selves, sometimes saving our greatest venom for other pro-lifers (whether moderates or extremists or just not the right kind of either).If not pride, then other peccadilloes undo us, too. (Have any of us shied away from expressing our pro-life convictions to a colleague or a pregnant woman in need because of concern about damage to our standing in that persons or groups eyes? I know I have.)The flip side of that is that seldom in my life have I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit at work in women and men as when among those motivated by their pro-life convictions. To be among people who are sacrificing often so much without the possibility of any personal gain or benefit is truly inspiring. It is so transcendent of our natural proclivities that it is a witness to the truth and power of our Faith.I often felt, when navigating between some of the warring factions in my little corner of the pro-life movement, if they could only see the love and holiness radiating from some, usually many, of the members in the opposing groups, that it would be possible for them to better discern their own spirits and focus more intensively in the tasks that they were called to do in their own part of the movement.If we all realize it is less about us and our knowledge, our righteousness, our plan, and much more about Gods plan to use us to save His precious children (and to save us in so doing), then I think we will see the day that we are not only more united in spirit, but also much closer to the goal that we seek.

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.

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