“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
Christians are pro-life, at least the vast majority of them are. Some more liberal traditions may have a mix, but for the most part if you meet a Christian, they are very likely to be pro-life. Some may think this is a recent development. Maybe it was in the early 1970's when the abortion debate was raging and various states had different laws. Twenty states had legalized abortion in one way or another prior to Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. A few states had almost no restrictions on abortion. Since 1973 many Christians have protested, prayed, and lobbied in an attempt to limit abortion or make it outright illegal. But, was that the beginning of the pro-life movement? The short answer is, "not even close."
The reality is that the pro-life position of Christians goes back to the beginning of Christianity. That is to say it goes back almost 2000 years. It could be argued that the origin of a pro-life perspective predates Christianity, indeed, it does. But that is not the purpose of this post.
Hilarion was migrant worker in the first century and he wrote a letter to his wife in 1 BC expressing his love for her. Included in the letter were instructions on what to do with his wife's unborn child,
"If-may you have good luck!-you should give birth; if it is a boy, keep it; if it is a girl, throw it out." (Jeremiah Johnston, Unimaginale, 26).
Wow, that is harsh, not to mention sexist. It certainly offends our modern sensibilities, but at the time it was common practice. It wasn't that long ago that such a practice was common in Communist China. The Romans of the first century didn't value women, but boys could provide for the family in ways that women couldn't at that time. Further, girls were expensive. It was more than economics, it was cultural too. Nevertheless, the practice would leave baby girls exposed to the elements and to nature in general. Wild animals would often come at night to devour babies who had just been born. This practice of exposure was common enough and it was not frowned upon. In addition to the practice of exposure, there were very dangerous methods of abortion as well. Often the mother would be left severely damaged or even dead. Sharp objects and poison were common abortion methods (Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity).
Many babies were "thrown out," exposed in the first century, and most of them were girls. First century Christians rightly found this practice appalling. It would be nice to say this is no longer an issue, but this kind of thing has been practiced throughout the centuries and we are but a breath away from this being allowed in the United States today. Not only are their laws in some states that allow abortion on demand up until the point of birth, there are people like Peter Singer who have been promoting the legal disposal of babies who have been born for many years. He isn't that much of an exception. Governor Northam of Virginia (a pediatrician) has promoted something similar. That's it though right? No, former president Obama voted for a bill that allowed survivors of abortion to be left to die when he was still in Chicago. There are more, many more!
Christians, from the inception of the church have been concerned about the life of children. Jesus set the tone when he welcomed children so he could bless them (Mark 10:13-15). Christians were known early on for going around and saving children from exposure, from wild dogs and animals who would kill and eat the children that were thrown away in the first century. While Christians don't always get it right, over the centuries they have been known for running towards the sick, the lame, and dying.
Christians are and have been pro-life because that is the example that Jesus set, because all humans are made in the image of God, and because they are called to be a voice for the voiceless. This is not a rejection of a person's general autonomy or rights, in face one might argue those are the very reasons they are pro-life.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.