Injustices suffocate when God-fearing men and woman breathe the truth of the Gospel into their society’s lungs. When William Wilberforce began his political and cultural campaign to end evils of slavery and its trade, he relied not only upon the upon his riveting oration and canny wit, but on the grace of God whom planted such an ambitious project within his tender heart.
In his work Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, author Eric Metaxas uncovers Wilberforce’s fuel for such an undertaking; Wilberforce admitted, “If it pleases God to honor me so far, may I be the instrument of stopping such a course of wickedness and cruelty as never before disgraced a Christian country” (Metaxas 162). It stands clear that Wilberforce considered God as his authoritative source on matters of abolition. Comparatively, as Martin Luther King Jr. uttered the words of Amos 5:24 during his “I Have a Dream” Speech─ “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”— his advocacy to bring down the reprobate theology of gradualism and the Mark 3:25 nature of segregation was exposed as Biblically rooted.
Each man fought the good fight respectively, with Wilberforce against the institution of slavery and King in opposition of segregation and Jim Crow laws. More importantly, the wars were won. After two decades of investigations and speeches, Wilberforce saw both the slave trade and slavery abolished; King lived long enough to see America make good on its promissory note and write a check from the bank of justice, putting an end to Jim Crow laws and fulfilling African-Americans’ constitutional rights as citizens. Thus, the question becomes, “What shall our next battle be?” Wilberforce endeavored “to make goodness fashionable again” and King sought “to make the crooked places straight.”
I contend the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling to legalize abortion determined the next societal battlefield (as it has for many pro-life advocates since then). Therefore, the Church’s inheritance from Wilberforce and King is to make the dignity of unborn life viable again and to make straight the crooked path from the abortion clinic to the crisis pregnancy center once more. The objective is to exchange the RU-486 pill for ultrasounds and the suction-aspiration method of abortion for dad cutting the umbilical cord at the hospital.
Roe v. Wade was a coup d’état of compromise that supplanted the dignity of life with the faculties of a hangman. By “faculties of a hangman,” I mean that preceding Roe v. Wade, the protections for unborn lives were taken for granted. Life was once seen as sacred, and the counterculture movement of the 1960s bartered the sacred for “sexual liberation.” The Supreme Court decision awarded a choice, and though it may have seemed as something harmless, this compromise permitted the destruction of life. As the hangman pulls the trapdoor, so does a mother now determine whether her unborn child is permitted an existence outside the womb.
During Wilberforce’s prime years, slaves were not valued as humans, and consequently, the brutal treatment they received was permissible. Today, unborn children are not seen as humans, and as a result, millions of them are unjustifiably killed every year. Abortion advocates cloak the mass genocide as a “women’s rights” issue. No longer can this be, for the “right to choose” is a screen for selective homicide; similarly, “states’ rights” was a screen for slavery during the American Civil War. Just as slave owners in Wilberforce’s day had no right to take other humans as property, neither do would-be mothers possess the right to arbitrarily liquidate their unborn children’s lives due to external circumstances.
Pro-choice activists have the legal leverage of Roe v. Wade, and it is the realization of the political left’s cultural vision: legislate their worldview through judicial activism and construct a “safe space” behind abortion’s legalization without having to consider the ethical implications, the cultural effects, or constitutionality of their position. In Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. cited the work of St. Augustine when commentating on Jim Crow laws: “An unjust law is no law at all…A just law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or the law of God” (King 382). As beneficiaries of Dr. King’s legacy, the body of Christ must stand in the gaps against abortion, for the abominable practice usurps God-ordained truths, causing cultural confusion and chaos in regards to our moral bearings.
Accordingly, when an injustice like abortion is codified, a fresh type of iconoclasm ensues. However, this iconoclasm has nothing to do with art; rather, since man was created in God’s image, his mutilation in the womb represents an iconoclasm that has flesh and blood consequences. Accordingly, our Heavenly Father hates hands that shed innocent blood (Proverbs 6:17) and so should any man or woman who values human life, because when has taking an innocent life ever been considered a long-term, morally viable solution? The American Public cannot unleash selective righteous indignation against Boko Haram massacres while marching with Planned Parenthood at “Pink Out” marches. Some claim that abortion is permissible “under the right circumstances.”
I possess not an iota of the late Antonin Scalia’s legal sagacity, yet like any American child, I stumbled upon quite a prudent text sometime in grade school:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Curiously, the word inalienable clung to my tongue. Like any English major with a stable pulse, I consulted the Oxford English Dictionary, and it defined inalienable as “ [rights] unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor.” These rights happen to be life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Bestowed upon us by God, they are intended to be maintained by government, which stands as a “janitor of justice”—ensuring that our laws’ plumbing runs smoothly and the lights stay on to the kind of thinking that established the law from its inception.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade contradicts the very essence of inalienable rights, for surely an unborn life cannot give its own life. With that line of logic intact, a mother certainly should not have the authority to take her child’s life away! Tragically, the Supreme Court posits otherwise, despite the definition of inalienable (“unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor”). Ironically, the Declaration of Independence’s draftees put life before liberty and the pursuit of happiness, duly noting that one needs the right to life before the other two can be clasped. In such a fashion, the absence of life leaves liberty and the pursuit of happiness a hollow victory, for it is the catalyst of liberty’s birth and happiness’s cultivation. Hence, when has liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ever been found in taking innocent life?
The Founding Fathers give me the impression that they thought that for creation to exist, there must be a capital-c Creator to distribute these rights. As to the identity of such a Creator, I cannot comment on the Founding Father’s conclusions, but that is no matter—the God of the Bible demonstrates all the familiar symptoms of a guilty party: creating man in His image, inscribing Ten Commandments with His finger, making covenants with His creation, and providing legal amnesty—a pardon by His Son’s blood—that secured our right to be adopted into His kingdom.
The irresistible question then posed to pro-life activists by abortionists is, “When does life begin?” Let’s consider the Biblical account of man and women’s creation. God declared in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” Here, the conception of man was imprinted in God’s decree, but the conception was subsequently put into action when God took the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into Adam so he could become a living being (Genesis 2:7).
In a similar process, when a husband and wife decide to have a child and act upon that decision, a life begins when the male sperm meets the female egg. Landrum B. Shettles, M.D., P.h.D was the first scientist to succeed at in-vitro fertilization, and he declared in his book Rites of Life: The Scientific Evidence for Life Before Birth, “The zygote is human life….there is one fact that no one can deny; Human beings begin at conception” (“41 Quotes…”). With these facts established, I am quite anxious to ask our Supreme Court if men and women are created equal from conception, or does the connotation of the word creation somehow mean that it begins outside the birth canal? Frighteningly, abortion evades this logic, claiming the glove doesn’t fit in regards to its perception of human life.
Nonetheless, the pro-life activists, who have slogged against Roe v. Wade longer than I have been alive, desperately desire an end to the spilling of blood. At such a time as this, both the church and pro-life movement must peer over their shoulders to William Wilberforce, a man amenable to God’s commands. Eric Metaxas writes in Amazing Grace about Wilberforce’s foresight in confronting the slave trade:
“Wilberforce saw much of what the rest of the world could not, including the grotesque injustices of one man treating another as property. He seems to rise up out of nowhere and with the voice of unborn billions—with your voice and mine—shriek to his contemporaries that they are sleepwalking through hell, that they must wake up and must see what he saw and know what he knew—and what you and I know today— that the widespread and institutionalized and unthinkably cruel mistreatment of millions of human beings is evil and must be stopped soon as conceivably possible—no matter the cost” (Metaxas xiv-xv).
Abortion is the 21st century of the “widespread and institutionalized and unthinkably cruel mistreatment of millions of human beings”; except in this case, unborn lives bear the brunt of injustice rather than the backs of African-American slaves. To such a degree, abolition remains in the form of fighting human trafficking, but also, its perpetuity extends to absolving abortion, which cuts to the chase—except in cases where Planned Parenthood decides to pawn aborted baby limbs and organs—and ends life before it can be trafficked. Wilberforce’s ability to see past the cash flow of slavery caused him to glimpse the barbarous, bloodthirsty nature of slavery.
Now, the church (in the context of pro-life activism) must become society’s lens-crafters, causing society’s moral vision to be focused and narrowed toward the dignity of life rather than a fallacious contention for choice. Metaxas opines about Wilberforce’s capacity to revive Britain’s social conscience:
“He [Wilberforce] destroyed an entire way of seeing the world, one that held sway from the beginning of history, and he replaced it with another way of seeing the world. Included in the old way of seeing things was the idea that the evil of slavery was good. Wilberforce murdered that old way of seeing things, and so the idea that slavery was good died along with it” (Metaxas xv).
Similarly, abortion cannot be seen as a post-modern development of liberty, but the perpetuation of ancient human sacrifice and infanticide. Applying his faith to politics and daily life, Wilberforce and his friends at the Clapham Circle went for the slavery’s main artery. However, they understood that when they went for the head of the snake, he’ll surely be spitting some venom their way. Along these lines, when faced with counterattacks and smear campaigns, the church must do as Wilberforce did when he faced the pro-slavery elements of Parliament: “Instead, he coolly countered each if these false accounts with facts and facts and more facts. Not much more than the facts were needed” (Metaxas 134).
Wilberforce spoke of the slave trade’ character with equal disdain, contending, “A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the price be what it might—let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had [secured] its abolition” (Metaxas 133). The Church must not rest in the matter of abortion either, for like Wilberforce, the body of Christ must be our culture’s conscience when the secular realms seek to descend in hedonism and lawlessness. Identifying Wilberforce’s capacity to capture Britain’s conscience, Metaxas noted:
“Wilberforce years later came to be thought of as the “conscience” of the nation. A conscience reminds us of what we already know to be right. Wilberforce realized that Britain was a nation that had effectively lost its conscience or grown deaf to it, that claimed every outward way to be a Christian nation, but that acted upon principles fundamentally at odds with the Christian view of human beings as immortal beings, created in the image of God” (Metaxas 163).
It is the church’s position in society to use its influence to fight for life, for if we concern ourselves with eternal life, then it would be judicious to contend for the lives at risk today. We can never be sure of God’s plans for the millions of aborted lives, so in removing the death sentence of abortion, we can unleash a population of children who can be fed the Gospel and respond to its call. Every life, no matter its conception, can be used by God to display His glory. In Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King demonstrated, “Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively…Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of the men willing to be co-workers with God” (386). The church can either use its authority to call for an end to this slaughter or become a building of DINOS—Disciples In Name Only. The choice, as it was with Wilberforce, has been placed in the lap of our own consciences. Shall we respond in the same way?
There is yet a form of inalienable life for all involved in this discussion: eternal life. Salvation through Jesus Christ cannot be bamboozled from you by any executive order or political power play. Christ’s blood blotted out every stain that sin could author, including abortion. The ferocity in my defense of unborn life finds its propulsion at the resurrection, because a Son was sent by His Father to be the final innocent sacrifice necessary for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Except, the “life” now includes eternal life, the “liberty” is independence from the wages of sin, and the “pursuit of happiness” is the joy provided by the resurrection. Dr. King’s great hope was this: “We [African-Americans] will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands” (391). Freedom’s succession now stands ready to liberate unborn lives, for the sacred heritage of our nation, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, put life as the premier right. Additionally, the eternal will of God has been planted within the Gospel, and the Church is its gardener. Like Wilberforce, the we can cast down the vain imagination of human maltreatment in form of abortion and cultivate a culture captivated with the will of the Lord toward His creation.
Kevin Cochrane is a nineteen year old writer with the distinct purpose of radically restoring everyone with exposed ears to the original testimony of Jesus Christ. The great pursuit of his life is to live by the words he writes—which is currently an ongoing project. For updates on his latest blog posts, you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email.
King Jr., Martin Luther . “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” World of Ideas: Essential
Readings for College Writers. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 9th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s,
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Metaxas, Eric. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery.
HarperCollins Publishers, 2007. Print.
Terzo, Sarah. “41 Quotes From Medical Textbooks Prove Human Life Begins at
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“The Declaration of Independence.” National Archives. The U.S. National Archives and
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