On January 22, my social media feed blew up with sonograms, pregnant bellies, and cherub-like baby faces. When I read the accompanying posts, I was disturbed by the incongruity of such sweet images paired with words conveying fury, spite and vitriol.
The passage of New York’s Reproductive Health Act on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade this year lit a tinderbox of moral outrage online. Pro-life supporters listened in horror as legislators in the New York State Senate applauded the expansion of abortion rights, including the allowance for abortions after 24 weeks of gestation. We were appalled a week later when Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran acknowledged that a bill she was sponsoring would’ve allowed a woman who was in labor to have an abortion.
Proposed infanticide was the straw that broke the back of any lingering passivity within the pro-life ranks. Silence wasn’t an option; pro-life advocates reacted using the quickest means possible – by unleashing their wrath on social media.
As I scrolled through the litany of rants, feeling my emotions seethe with righteous indignation, it occurred to me that something was missing. In the midst of these impassioned social media declarations, I saw few messages conveying compassion toward women and encouraging them to carry their babies to term.
Post after post condemned abortion and reprimanded anyone for considering it. Where were the posts praising the value of choosing life?
Recognizing and Caring for imago Dei
I can sympathize with the fervor of the pro-life backlash on social media. Scripture stresses the value of human life being knit together in the womb (Psalm 139:13) and charges us to defend the helpless who can’t speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8). Believers of Christ therefore must denounce abortion as grievous sin and advocate to preserve image bearers in utero.
Christians likewise have a responsibility to care for image bearers who are bearing life. Just as the babies growing in their wombs, many of these mothers are in vulnerable positions. Some are poor or disadvantaged. Some don’t have a spouse or family members to help carry the load of parenting. In cases of pregnancy out of wedlock, women face shame and social ostracization because they bear a physical representation of a mistake they made.
As much as faith in Christ compels us to protect the unborn, it also exhorts us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), rescue the weak and needy (Psalm 82:4), and bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). We don’t just love and serve unborn babies; we love and serve the women who carry them.
Where’s the Good News?
Many Christians would agree that we should care for both infant and mother in situations where childbearing presents difficulties. But by and large, that’s not what people communicate online.
Runaway emotions and lack of a filter for circumspection corrupt our speech on social media, especially regarding sensitive topics such as abortion. Adversarial language creates an “us versus them” mentality that lacks compassion and shuts down the possibility for further conversation.
As Christians, we need to acknowledge evil and oppose it, fighting the sin in our lives and standing against the injustices in the world. We also must recognize the need for God’s grace. Through the atoning sacrifice of his perfect Son, who died on the cross and rose victorious over the grave, those who confess their sin and believe in him are saved (Romans 10:9).
This good news is rarely woven into the words Christians post online about abortion. We rightly declare the destruction of human life as sin, yet forget to emphasize the redemption available through our Savior. We hate what is evil, but neglect to show others the goodness of our God.
Friends, remember the glory of our salvation involves not only what we’re saved from (the penalty of sin), but also what we’re saved to (life through the indwelling Spirit, per Romans 8:11). We don’t merely preach death; we speak life as ambassadors of hope entrusted with the living Word of God.
Channeling fervor into a letter to a representative is more likely to change the state of abortion in our country than a scathing Facebook rant.
Using a Filter
To apply the hope of the gospel to the abortion debate, Christians need to reexamine the statements we post on social media, especially regarding women who are facing unintended pregnancies. The guidance of Colossians 4:6 should filter our messages: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Be quick to listen.
Christians filled with a holy fire of justice can fall into the trap of assuming moral superiority. We need to beware the temptation to self-righteously assert our opinions and perspectives, recognizing that the anger of man doesn’t accomplish the will of God (James 1:20).
Instead of logging on social media for the sole purpose of raging against abortion, we can pause to read what others are saying – even those who are pro-choice. Listening doesn’t force us to agree with a position or belief. Instead, it demonstrates humility, bridges the way for compassion, and helps identify areas of need or inquiry that the body of Christ might be able to address.
Persuade with love.
Though public tirades might increase awareness or motivate activism, they rarely change minds. We need to tailor social media posts with a firm yet gracious tone.
Addressing women in a condescending manner or trivializing their circumstances won’t help them see truth. When we instead acknowledge the fear, frustration and sorrow of women facing unintended pregnancies, we demonstrate our care and concern for them, not only about the crusade against abortion. As we refer to or address women in these circumstances, we should drape our words with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, as is befitting God’s holy and beloved people (Colossians 3:12).
Save the vehemence for appropriate contexts.
Leverage your passion for protecting the unborn in constructive ways. As Christians living in America, we can take advantage of the freedom to influence our government and advocate pro-life legislation and policies at the local, state, and federal levels.
This effort requires us to educate ourselves about current legislation and proposed initiatives, then take the time to contact our local legislators to communicate our concerns. We can state what we believe with zeal and emotion while still maintaining a professional tone. Channeling fervor into a letter to a representative is more likely to change the state of abortion in our country than would a scathing Facebook rant.
Highlight positive stories.
Of the millions of women who get pregnant unexpectedly and then consider abortion, how many choose to carry and parent their babies? How many choose to place their babies for adoption? We regularly hear estimates on the number of induced abortions in our country (upwards of 600,000 reported for 2015). These numbers are staggering and grievous. But for some reason, information and stories about women who choose life don’t get nearly as much airtime.
This needs to change. Giving voice to the voiceless unborn must entail sharing about women who face difficult pregnancy situations and decide to parent or place their child for adoption. If we know someone who had an unplanned pregnancy, or who works closely with adoption or parenting services, let’s ask if they’d be willing to share their story publicly. The compelling testimony of their personal experience has the weight to influence others’ opinions about abortion far more than any meme or rambling post.
We can’t merely shout at the world to stop abortion; we need to do the hard work of helping women carry and care for their children.
Back up words with deeds.
Christians know faith plays out in our lives through good deeds. Without them, faith is dead (James 2:17). Doing what’s good and right doesn’t save us; it shows we’re saved by Christ and growing to become more like him. The fruit bears witness to the word of God implanted in our hearts.
If we repeatedly post about abortion on social media without tangibly supporting the pro-life effort, we risk treading into hypocritical waters. We can’t merely shout at the world to stop abortion; we need to do the hard work of helping women carry and care for their children. This could involve petitioning the government and advocating policies that protect unborn babies and assist families in crisis; volunteering for or donating to a pregnancy counseling center; educating others about adoption and parenting services; or sheltering a woman who’s pregnant, without family assistance, and doesn’t know what to do.
Speaking Words of Life
The message of the pro-life movement echoes the message of the gospel. Life isn’t perfect for those who didn’t intend to get pregnant, but it can be redeemed. Our words on social media or any public forum should reflect the truth we believe.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Fellow pro-life Christians, we can keep posting appeals on social media to end abortion and save babies. But let’s try to articulate our words with the grace provided by the Word of Life.