The Pro-Life Kobayashi Maru
You are the Captain of an intergalactic spacecraft. As you are venturing on to your next peace-keeping mission, you receive a distress signal from a civilian freighter ship, which is carrying hundreds of innocent families on board. The civilian craft says that it has struck a mine and is rapidly losing power. In their tragic mishap, their vessel drifted beyond an armistice line created by a violent and terrifying alien race.
You now must make a difficult decision. If you attempt a rescue of the civilian craft, the alien race will see your breach of the armistice line as an act of war, act aggressively against your ship, and possibly plunge the galaxy into war – but you may still take the risk in order to save the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians. If you leave the civilian freighter, you avoid the potential loss of your own crew and all-out war with the alien race – but all the people aboard the civilian freighter will certainly die once the ship’s power fails and life support systems shut down.
Now, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with being pro-life.
This scenario is a recreation of the famous Kobayashi Maru Test from Star Trek. In the film lore, this test is assessed to Starfleet cadets to gauge how they handle themselves in high-risk, stressful situations when in command of a space vessel. The test is actually programmed to lead only to one of two results: either the cadet attempts a rescue of the Kobayashi Maru and is met by a devastating attack by the Klingons, ultimately resulting in the destruction of their ship and the death of all their crewmembers; or they leave the Kobayashi Maru and all of the civilians to die. It is a no-win scenario designed to make a potential Captain face the reality of a no-win scenario, potentially their own death, and respond to their circumstance with courage, honor, and duty.
I was sitting in the office of a dear friend earlier this year lamenting the lack of bravery among pro-lifers; especially certain elected officials and organizations who caved and supported exceptions to federal anti-abortion legislation. It genuinely was breaking my heart that good men and women were so quick to give in to pro-abortion pressure when the stakes were so high. I finished my tear-filled tirade to my trusted friend and counselor with an exasperated, “Are we ever going to win?”
She paused, contemplative, and leaned forward in her chair. She looked me right in the eyes and answered with profound wisdom: “I don’t think that’s important.”
I knew instantly what she was saying, and my heart broke again because I knew I had fallen in the same trap as the “leaders” I was lamenting over. I was desperate for a win when I should have been focused on holding the standard.
You see, the pro-life movement is a lot like the Kobayashi Maru. We live in a culture and a political climate where, sometimes - many times, we face a political no-win scenario. But the calling that God has placed on the pro-life movement is not to win at all costs, it’s to uphold the standard at all costs.
The reality is that you lose more in life than you win. The trick is finding what’s worth losing for. As another friend likes to tell me often, “There’s lots of hills and not many lives. Which ones are worth dying on?”
Ultimately, not all losing is losing. Jesus had a message to preach to the world, and that message was hugely unpopular to the political bodies in place. When they arrested Him and asked Him to account for Himself, He stood on the truth of His message even though He knew it would result in His crucifixion. But through that “loss” was the greatest win humankind has ever known. When we lose for the right cause, we ultimately win – maybe not in the moment, maybe not as the world counts it, but God honors faithfulness for His glory in the end.
When we approach pro-life education, legislation, and political action that seemingly can’t win, we should approach it like a faithful Starfleet Cadet: Accept that there may be no way to achieve the desired ultimate outcome.
Rather than compromising your mission in desperation, make decisions that uphold the values and convictions of your mission, and lead those around you by example and with courage. Because, like Jesus showed, it’s better to seem to lose when standing on principle and win in the end than to win according to the world by compromising the standard.
I challenge you to boldly go where too few pro-lifers have gone before: hold the standard of life-at-conception without exceptions regardless of the political climate, even when it means what others call losing.
Until, one day, we find a way to beat the pro-life Kobayashi Maru like a young Cadet named James Kirk did: by changing the terms of engagement. Educate communities, elect pro-life legislators who refuse to make exceptions, and refuse to compromise on legislation.
Hold the standard because all innocent human life, from earliest biological beginning to natural death, deserves to live long and prosper.
Joshua Edmonds is the Director of Education & Technology for Georgia Right to Life, an instructor for the Pillars of Personhood training seminar, and a published clinical/social psychology researcher.