All Hands on Deck
I recently observed some disagreement among different pro-life groups regarding the chastising of pro-life individuals who spent a lot of time advocating for life via email/social media/blogs/etc rather than performing street activism or sidewalk counseling in front of abortion clinics. Those against the focus of such activities referred to those individuals as “keyboard warriors.” The term is meant to be derogatory, insinuating that the courage and bravery of certain pro-life activists exists only behind the keyboard and not in the real world.
I took a reasonably decent amount of time to think over this and determine how I felt about it. After consideration, it occurred to me that both groups of individuals – those who are active on the streets working to promote life as well as those active in digital space to promote life – are equally and unequivocally necessary to restore a culture that values and respects the sanctity of all human life.
If we aren’t engaging people where they are at in their daily lives, presenting them with the truth of the Gospel, and educating them on why all life is sacred and how they can work to protect it, then we really aren’t doing our jobs. This is sort of the baseline requirement in our role as emissaries of Jesus Christ and as pro-life activists. That being the case, the distinction of one method to reach people over another is based upon the foundational assumption that 1) all people can be reached equally using the same method and, 2) people can only truly be educated or made aware by one particular method.
1. Unless every street corner is covered by an activist handing out flyers, and drop cards find their way into the cubicles of government high rises, this is fundamentally improbable. I’ll try to give you a good example of why.
Previous to my position with Georgia Right to Life, I worked for a state government agency. My office was located on the 29th floor of a high rise in downtown Atlanta. Every day, I would wake up in my home an hour outside of the city and drive through traffic all the way to the underground parking area for this high rise. From there, I would enter through a security checkpoint and take an elevator straight up to my floor where I needed keycard access to get past the elevator corridor. I ate my packed lunch in my office, worked until 5pm, and then repeated the process in reverse. This lifestyle, which is not foreign to the working college student or young married couple, doesn’t have much room to engage the city or be engaged by activists in the city with drop cards or flyers.
There are some individuals who have no computer or car and walk through the city to work every. This lifestyle also isn’t uncommon among the metro areas of our major cities and doesn’t give much room to either benefit from blogs and graphics or create their own digital pleas for the sanctity of life.
2. People learn from digital interactions every single day just like they learn from newspapers, journals, magazines, and conversations. In fact, the only major differences between a blog/Facebook status and a book are the amount of content and the method of delivery.
If I were to hand someone a leaflet that said, “There have been 55,772,015 abortions in the United States since 1973; something must change – stop the killing,” is that really any different than the same person walking into their office and logging into Facebook to find a friend’s status that reads “There have been 55,772,015 abortions in the United States since 1973; something must change – stop the killing” as well? This example runs both ways, but the point is that if the content is the same then the method of delivery ought not to matter as long as the public is actually receiving the message.
Above and beyond that, I can attest to experiences with individuals who comment regularly on social media content because they are shocked to learn what was posted (birth control’s abortafacient effects, connections between Komen/Girl Scouts/Starbucks/etc and Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms, etc).
Now, some will probably argue that this distinction can be made between people who write about saving babies and people who stand in front of abortion clinics to say the same things. In my academic studies, I have focused on analyzing behaviors in order to create preventative interventions that remove the need for those behaviors in the future. I think we all can agree that there are two basic crises occurring when someone decides to have an abortion: 1. They need a redemptive and repentant encounter with Jesus and 2. They need better education regarding what their real options are, since abortion is never a real option. If we can reach people – whether on the streets, in front of the abortion clinics, or in front of their computer screens – and engage them with a message that reconciles both of those basic crises, then we are working to change the culture and save lives.
And, isn’t that the point? This isn’t a popularity contest, right? It’s a loving, gracious, Gospel-centric race against time to bring a powerful and relevant message to our culture: Jesus loves you, and we want to help you. By the grace of God, we should search for MORE ways to do that.
So, all of that to say: thank you, everyone who leaves drop cards and flyers at gas stations and in capitol buildings. Thank you, everyone who stands on a college campus all day in front of an 18-foot tall display presenting the ethical and biological reasons why life is precious. And thank you, everyone who even takes the time to make just one Tweet appealing for those who are pregnant and considering abortion to call the pregnancy resource hotline. Each and every one of you is playing an integral role in the fight for life in a desperate culture hungry for hope to engage them wherever they are in their daily life.
By Joshua Edmonds, Director of Education & Technology