by Clinton Wilcox of Life Training Institute
It is an honor to be able to contribute to Jill’s frankly devastating critique of T. Russell Hunter’s performance in his “Immediatist vs Incrementalist debate against Gregg Cunningham.
Late in the debate (timestamps 1:05:10 to 1:07:04), Hunter made the following claim: Christians are not practicing activism at abortion clinics because they don’t trust in the power of God, they trust in incremental legislation.
During cross-examination (timestamps 1:41:32 to 1:44:56), Hunter made the same accusation, adding pastors and churches, and asked if Cunningham agreed.
Cunningham rebutted that while he agreed churches aren’t doing enough to combat abortion, it is not the fault of incremental legislation. Incremental legislation is a good thing.
Rather, Cunningham observed:
- Pastors are not being trained properly in pro-life apologetics, and they are not speaking about abortion to their parishioners.
- Pastors can be afraid of losing members, so they don’t want to engage in any sort of “offensive” speech from the pulpit.
- Christians, by and large, are not leaving the pews to engage in pro-life activism.
Not to be outdone, Hunter wrote the following as a comment on Jill’s post:
As for specific bills and laws, we do believe that cultural change is necessary to their passage and are focused on doing what we can to “get the votes,” as our anti-abolitionist pro-life opponents always tell us “are not there.” But do look for specific practical actionable bills of abolition to start appearing in 2016.
In other words, legislation is actually fine, as long as it’s AHA’s brand of legislation. And somehow Hunter’s brand will not lull Christians into complacency?
The bigger problem, though, as has been pointed out before, is all bills are necessarily incremental, as would be any bill AHA proposes. If, for instance, you pass a personhood amendment in Texas, all you have to do is go to New Mexico, “…and then you can kill the baby.”
Hunter had an answer for that in another comment on Jill’s blog:
Do I need to explain the difference? Do you see that the statewide abolition bill that bans abortion because it is the murder of human beings is different than a state Not banning abortion and not bringing humans under the protection of law but hexing a certain procedure in which they could be killed?
Of course people would drive to another state to get an abortion but that is because in their state abortion had been abolished as murder.
However, AHA opposes incremental legislation to close abortion clinics because “Shutting down clinics doesn’t halt abortion; it just makes people who choose to sacrifice their children drive further.”
Overt contradictions aside, Hunter is nevertheless playing semantics. If we must oppose all bills that could end with “…and then you can kill the baby,” we must, of necessity, oppose any personhood amendment that doesn’t abolish abortion in the United States as a whole.
Hunter’s brand of “immediatism” should be rejected because one cannot consistently live as an immediatist as Hunter understands it. All bills we can logically support are incremental in nature; personhood bills are simply the only kind Hunter is happy with.
During the debate Hunter knocked Christian involvement in legislative endeavors as distractive from real work to stop abortion.
So, should Christians be involved in the political process?
Absolutely, if we believe in effecting change for the better. In fact, as brilliant theologian Wayne Grudem pointed out, there have been many times in Jewish history when they gave counsel to ungodly rulers, such as when Daniel counseled King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4, and when Joseph advised Pharaoh in Genesis. Please read the linked article for a more in-depth discussion of Christians being involved in the political process.
It’s true many Christians can use the political process as an excuse not to engage in activism, but this isn’t a problem with the legislative process. This is a problem with education in our churches, and apathy among church-goers.
We should continue to support incremental legislation because that’s the only way we’ll affect change in our current political atmosphere.
Pro-life people want the immediate end to abortion. Incremental legislation is our strategic method for getting there. Planned Parenthood knows this. Pro-choice writers like Katha Pollitt know this (it plays a major theme in her recent book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights). The only people who don’t seem to get that are the self-proclaimed “abolitionists.”
Clinton Wilcox is a staff apologist for Life Training Institute. He specializes in training pro-life people to make the pro-life case more effectively and persuasively. He is also a certified speaker and mentor for Justice for All. He keeps a personal blog, and you can also follow him on Twitter.
Read previous posts:
Part I: Let babies die today, we can save the rest later
Part II: There’s only one way to cut down a tree?
Part III: Social justice history vs TR Hunter
Part IV: Straw men and the Bible
Part V: Sacrificing children to the idol of abolitionism
Scott Klusendorf: Debate between Gregg Cunningham and T. Russell Hunter
Jonathan Van Maren: Four observations from the Cunningham vs. Hunter debate