A look at the writings of Francis J. Beckwith, and the need for pro-life leadership within our churches.
I recently became aware of Francis J. Beckwith’s brilliant book, Defending Life. The subtitle is, “A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice.” As has been stated by others, this book is arguably the most comprehensive defense of the pro-life position on abortion. Beckwith argues his case from a moral, legal, and political perspective. The book itself does not argue for a pro-life position from a biblical perspective but tries to make the case for the defence of the unborn in such a way that would engage people across a wide perspective. Although the book is set within the context of the American Experience, it makes excellent reading for anyone who is concerned about this overwhelming tragedy.
Beckwith begins by stating that he has participated in a number of debates, dialogues, and public discussions about abortions. He says, “Inevitably, either my opponent or a member of the audience will make the assertion, ‘Don’t like abortion, don’t have one.’” This, he says, is followed by rousing applause from those in the audience that are of the same opinion. Beckwith goes on to say that the culprit is moral relativism and deep confusion about what it is to say that something is morally wrong.
At the heart of Beckwith’s argument is that killing a member of the human community is prima facie morally wrong. He does leave room for killing in warfare and in self-defence. He also argues that there are tragedies in which one might even need to kill the child in order to protect his or her mother. Others might argue for capital punishment as a moral killing. But who can make the case for the killing of an entirely innocent victim whose only crime is that the immediate members of his or her family find him or her unwanted?
For Beckwith, those who hold to moral relativism must also argue that some members of the human community simply don’t count, and are not subject to protection under the law. Moral relativists argue there is no difference between stating that they prefer moral ice cream, to stating they prefer to kill unborn children. This, in itself, should raise alarm bells for all of us. But Beckwith is also interested in showing us what so many simply don’t want to know. That is, Beckwith wants us to know what actually happens during an abortion.
As I write these lines, I am keenly aware that the horrifying matter of abortions has completely fallen out of all political discussions in Canada. Moral relativism has won. But what is far more troubling, is that the matter of abortion is hardly ever mentioned in church. Many churches, realizing the nature of the times, do speak about how to respond to the issues of gender, and to the issues of climate. But we have become strangely quiet while some 300 Canadians die in our abortuaries every single day.
Historically, it was always the church that fought for the value of human life. Is it not time to revive our concern once again? If we don’t lead, who will? If we don’t lead, what will we say when we stand before the bema seat of Christ?
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