This essay is super niche and will be strange to folks unfamiliar with AHA. But if you’re caught up in the movement – one way or another – I’ve tried to be fair and offer something to do the most good. I realize those who do Church Repent will disagree and at times I’m sure I painted with too broad a brush. If you are part of Church Repent, please read it all the way through. These are simply my suggestions to make the most good out of a situation that won’t change anytime soon.
Part of the movement/ideology that is Abolish Human Abortion is the Church Repent project. Its aim is to exhort true Christian churches (as opposed to liberal Christian churches which they would not regard as being in the fold in the first place) to cease being apathetic about abortion. They believe that the reason abortion is legal in the land is because the church has not done enough to end it. While this project is relatively limited to a few cities and states, it may very well grow as AHA grows. I have talked with folks involved with Church Repent both on my radio show and online and while I do not claim to have studied all of the underlying theology (which as I understand it is Theonomist, Dominionist and Post-Millennialism in some or most cases), I feel I can offer a way to help bear fruit or expose the differences with relevant clarity.
I begin with things commonly and instinctively said by church members when they realize their church has been chosen by Church Repent. I base this on a number of videos posted of these exchanges. Other things have been said, of course, but these seem to be the most common and most “knee jerk” responses to Church Repent’s presence.
1. “We agree with you and we work to end abortion. We are pro-life.” Saying the words “pro-life” will be fingernails to a chalkboard to a Church Repent participant. They have long since given up on the pro-life movement and view it (in many cases) as guilty of abortion as a “pro choicer”. They believe the pro-life movement exists, at best, to regulate abortion and that the participants in the pro-life movement will continue to raise funds so long as abortion continues…so they don’t mind it continuing. Pro-life legislative “victories” are seen as failures by abolitionists because they never abolish abortion, but simply regulate it. Even if you protest at abortion mills, unless you are as committed to them for abolitionism, and perhaps through Church Repent and AHA, your work to end abortion will fall short of their standard. It will not be worth your time to recite what you have done to discourage abortion as a “pro-lifer.” Best not to even say those words.
2. “We support crisis pregnancy centers.” This will not help your cause. They may encourage you for supporting CPCs but will say that it won’t solve the problem of abortion. The better strategy is to work to abolish abortion, not care for women and babies after a pregnancy has occurred when abortion is still a viable option to the mother. In essence, supporting CPCs will not be enough as it doesn’t abolish abortion and this is the best good worth working for.
3. “Who are your elders?” Some believe they can get the Church Repent folks in a biblical quandary by putting them on the defensive and asking who their elders are. In essence, the argument is that AHA/Church Repent is not of value because they are not organized in a way most churches are: with elders, deacons, pastors, etc. Members of AHA may be accountable to each other, but many are not in “traditional” churches, especially not a 501(c)(3). They do not recognize elders as absolute necessities in church life and you may technically concede that elders are not absolutely necessary in all circumstances. They will just hear you as arguing for the status quo: organized churches who are comfortable and not acting to abolish abortion.
You might try to engage with 1 Corinthians 14 regarding orderly worship. Those who disrupted the worship service were condemned by Paul. This will not change their mind as they can just as easily lift up the biblical model of Jeremiah standing outside the Temple preaching to wicked men there. Which biblical example is the right one?
4. Do not have a mindset of, “What can I do to get these guys to leave?” They will only leave when they are done with you and feel it is time to move on. They have the legal right to be there and they will outlast you. There are no magic words to get them to leave.
5. “Why don’t you protest liberal churches?” In short, they don’t view the liberal churches, i.e. the churches that actually and actively support abortion, as worth their time. Liberal churches have their minds made up and they will not and perhaps cannot repent. They will tell you that they are interested in getting committed Christians to work together and to in essence, pull real Christians out of 501(c)(3) corporations to rebuild a more pure Church. They assume that such real Christians won’t be found in liberal congregations. You might actually agree with them on that.
6. Do not debate politics. Debating Republicans v. Democrats will not impress those who think both parties have sold their souls, perhaps even literally, to the devil. Folks who are as committed to the cause as Church Repent folks are are not going to be impressed by conventional political parties or answers, least of all someone like President Trump.
Those are the most common things that seem to be said to them in confrontations. Here is what I might suggest as more fertile ground to converse on.
1. “I agree abortion should be abolished.” If you are a member of a conservative congregation that is already “pro-life”, then consider if you might also support abolitionism. Study it and ask yourself if the abolition of abortion doesn’t make the most moral and legal sense. Ask why pro-life organizations do not demand abolition when they could just as easily do that as demand, say, the regulation of abortion clinics. Give sincere thought to abolitionism as a good legal goal and try to find common ground there.
You and I might differ from AHA in that we don’t tend to be as, well, skeptical of the pro-life movement. Perhaps you agree with the philosophy that it is best to get the most done that you can and pro-lifers are not inherently wrong for adopting that point-of-view. Still, first try to find out if abolition is something you are against in principle, and why. That is what they are promoting, so understand it.
2. Try to figure out exactly what kinds of action your congregation ought to be doing – from their point-of-view. Assuming that teaching and preaching against abortion isn’t “enough”, try to find out what legislative action is taking place that you can support. Find out who are the congressmen in your state that are working for abolition. Find out what “pro-life” politicians in your state are doing to end abortion.
3. Ask questions to understand better the theology driving their action. If you hear them say, “We are Dominionists,” for example, ask what that is. Familiarize yourself with Theonomy and don’t have a negative view of it from the start. You might end up agreeing with many of its principles. Or if you don’t, you can at least have an informed conversation about the theology behind the project. They will respect you for that much more than just being a “get off my lawn” kind of guy (which will be your first and most prevalent instinct.)
4. Take their literature. They paid for it and they want you to take it. It will be an offense to them to argue with them without giving them a fair hearing. So just take it already. (I believe, by the way, that some people do not like their literature because in depicting the evil of abortion, the graphic illustrations they use often look demonic themselves. I’m not talking about the pictures of abortion victims here but the graphic typefaces, artwork, etc. AHA clearly has an aesthetic that portrays anything but a fluffy, harmless Christianity. They want to depict the reality that they are at war with abortion. I believe that stark graphic design is, well, a little scary to many people. I think AHA wants to wake folks up, so they don’t much care.)
5. Argue that Christians gathering and receiving what God gives (in Lutheran parlance, Word and Sacrament are God’s means of grace for us) is an intrinsic good. It is not wrong that Christians gather together in buildings they do not pay taxes on. There is no scriptural teaching against that. And argue that Christians receive from God as well as act in His service. Sunday is their time to receive.
6. Recommend designated times when real, less-charged conversations can take place between them and your church’s leadership. If they don’t take you up on it, well, it might help you in evaluating if they really want to change your mind or make a show of it.
A thought on something that may catch you off guard…
When a congregation is attacked for being a 501(c)(3), know that there is a whole lot behind that statement. Some of which you may agree with. You might ask that if the 501(c)(3) is gotten rid of by the congregation, what kind of incorporation they would recommend? You might ask what kind of church governance they endorse? In short, the issues go beyond abortion. Arguing about abortion won’t be enough. You will ultimately be asked to “be the Church” in a completely different way. And you might as well learn something from the encounter because you are highly unlikely to change their mind.
Am I defending the Church Repent project in this post? No. I will defend in principle the idea that congregations need to repent of their apathy towards abortion and ought to do more in its horrible wake. On that point, abolitionists have much to teach the church.
1. I do not agree with the underlying theology of the Church Repent project;
2. I believe only changed hearts and minds will change the world and bring about more social justice, and this may very well harden them;
3. I regard Sunday worship as ordained by God and therefore good and worthy of respect (I know it may be a stretch to call what goes on in some congregations “worship”);
4. I disagree that this methodology is as effective as patient teaching and listening as brothers and sisters in Christ, even if that will be a frustrating and time-consuming venture;
5. I do not believe the Church can be blamed for the evil of abortion, or any other evil as evil is a free choice that man makes in accordance with God’s will;
6. I (sadly) believe that the true Church is so small that it could not overwhelm the powers of darkness in this nation if it wanted to;
7. I share their frustration that evangelical churches often embrace superficial, attractive working theologies;
8. I believe that, among some, what is revealed is not a call toward the Church to repent, but a hatred of the Church itself. This represents a divided house, which will not stand.
So what I am trying to do in this post is serve as a way forward for the good of church repentance and to help those who find their congregation being targeted by Church Repent. I offer it for what it is worth.