Abortion, Freedom, and the American Dream

This sermon was preached for Pro-Life Mississippi as a part of their 40 Days of Church campaign, outside of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, MS.

Sermon Text: Romans 6:16-23

It is a privilege to speak to you on this solemn but important occasion. I am saddened by the need for demonstrations like this, but as long as there is evil to be fought and lives to be defended, then we must be unapologetic in answering the call. So while I am saddened by the need to speak out against abortion, I am not sorry for doing so.

I should also say that I realize I am speaking to people who are advanced well beyond me in age and experience. Most of you have been involved in Pro-Life activities since before I was even engaged with the basic categories of the debate. And so I would not want to pretend to have any expertise beyond those of you here. But I have spent the last several years studying the issue of abortion closely, mostly at its philosophical foundations. And as an ordained minister of the gospel, I am also a student of the Scriptures. I have wrestled with God through His word for many years now, and I have not always liked what He has had to say. But I do believe that, by His grace and through the help of teachers and pastors, I have received something of an education in this regard. And so today I am sharing that with you, not my own personal opinions or expertise, but rather the antithesis between the philosophy of abortion, which is the basic philosophy of the flesh, and the philosophy of the Word of God.

Abortion is Freedom through Death

The first thing we must understand is that the argument for abortion is an argument for freedom. You can see this in its self-description: pro-choice. While some defenders of abortion attempt to portray it as a health issue or an unfortunate safety net in the protection of endangered pregnancies, most pro-choice advocates will tell you that abortion is, at its most basic level, a defense of personal liberty. It is also a necessary tool for the preservation of a certain distorted notion of equality. And that is why we are told that abortion is a “women’s issue” and that this clinic is a “women’s clinic.” The abortion argument is that women’s equality and absolute liberty are dependent upon the right to terminate weaker life.

This is not rhetorical hyperbole on my part. No, this is a fairly straightforward presentation of the arguments made by some of the most high-profile defenders of abortion. New York abortion pioneer Merle Hoffman puts it this way, “The act of abortion positions women at their most powerful, and that’s why it is so strongly opposed by so many in society.”

In Ms. Hoffman’s book Intimate Wars, she explains that her patients knew that abortion ended life, but they were willing to make that sacrifice in pursuit of their higher goals:

They knew it, but my patients who made the choice to have an abortion also knew they were making the right one, a decision so vital it was worth stopping that heart. Sometimes they felt a great sense of loss of possibility. In the majority of cases, they felt a great sense of relief and the power that comes from taking responsibility for one’s own life. (Intimate Wars 108)

Because of the high number of women having abortions and because of abortion’s commitment to individual liberty and personal autonomy, no matter the cost, Ms. Hoffman concludes that, “Abortion is as American as Apple Pie.”

Another defender of abortion recently argued that “all life is not equal.” Following in the long and sordid tradition of eugenics, sterilization, and euthanasia, Mary Elizabeth Williams supports abortion as a tool for preserving the best life by eliminating other life that would place limits or restrictions on the individual’s freedom. Ms. Williams writes:

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always. …[Abortion] saves lives not just in the most medically literal way, but in the roads that women who have choice then get to go down, in the possibilities for them and for their families. And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

So there you have it. To save her own life, understood to mean a life with the full range of individual liberty, Ms. Williams must sacrifice the life of another. She must have freedom through death.

And then finally there is our president, Barack Obama. Two years ago, commenting on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, he said this, “And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.”

In these three witnesses, we see a consistent message. Abortion is founded on the right to fulfill your dreams. But this dream-fulfillment, as all such pursuits invariably do, requires sacrifice. Only, it does not require the sacrifice of self. No, that’s precisely the hated philosophy which abortion stands against. No, this desire to fulfill one’s dreams requires the sacrifice of others, particularly the most weak and vulnerable. Abortion is founded on radical individualism, massive exploitation, and a fundamental commitment to the will to power. In fact, abortion is consumerism. It’s founded on a non-productive view of human sexuality. It is then further propped up with a dedication to absolute freedom and equality, each sustained by violence and carried out through the domination a weaker life. And those things have played a part in our history, I suppose. They tell you a lot about the nature of The American Dream. Perhaps abortion is as American as apple pie after all.

Abortion is freedom through death, and unfortunately this is the sort of freedom that too many Americans believe in. Worst of all, it is sometimes the very view of freedom that many otherwise pro-life advocates hold, though they do not consider its implications. Every time we place our own desires and the demand for personal freedom and personal equality ahead of the needs of others and the call to righteousness, we participate in the culture of death and we continue to give strength to the abortion sentiment. To properly speak out against abortion, we must reject this false notion of freedom and individualism. We must cast away our own idols and confess our sins. And then we must find true freedom.

There is Another Freedom and Another Death

The Bible teaches us that true freedom does indeed come through death. It does not come from killing other people, however, but rather from putting our selves to death. He who loves his life shall lose it. We must die to the flesh, to our selfish desires, and to our self-centered wills. And do not forget, God Himself made the first sacrifice. He sacrificed His son, His own heart, the second Person of the Godhead who was one with Himself, for the sake of others. Through death, Christ Jesus overcame death. He put death to death, overcoming even the grave. And now we must all die to ourselves by dying in Christ Jesus. Only then can we be free.

If we wish to oppose abortion with any success, we have to die to self. We have to get the pro-life message out, the message of life over choice. But we cannot stop here. We have to cast another dream. We must proclaim that there are things that are more important than our desires. There are things that are owed more than what is owed to our personal free will. Indeed, there are things bigger than ourselves. Life is bigger. Righteousness is bigger. Goodness, truth, and beauty are bigger.

This means that we have to put others first. The needs of others and the well-being of life has to be more important to us than our supposed freedom. Life is more important than luxury. Loving service has to come before opportunities for success. If we love life, then we must love others.

What fruit can abortion show? Does it give true freedom? No. It can only show a freedom to lawlessness which is actually slavery to sin. The Apostle tells us that “the end of those things is death” (Rom. 6:21) This too is the tragedy of abortion. It does not provide what it promises. It sets no one free. It produces nothing. It is, most literally, impotent. And such a freedom can only end in death.

Friends, there is a better dream, a better way. There is love. Not the love of our own lives, but the love of God, the love of others, and the love of life itself. Perhaps paradoxically, this too is seen in death, the death of self-sacrifice. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). This is the better way. We do not kill others in order to save our own life, but we sacrifice our life to save others, just as God did for us.

We must die to ourselves. We must die in Christ. We do this by presenting ourselves to Him, to obey His law, which is the law of perfect freedom. After all, He died to set men free. This is our dream of freedom, that we find it in loving others and serving Him. The good news is that in being slaves to righteousness there is freedom from sin and death.

Let us then renounce the works of darkness. Let us put aside our love of self and our false freedom through violence. Instead, let us die to self, giving up our claims to freedom and equality, sacrificing them to God. Let us love others and serve them, and let us love God and serve His son. In this you will find life, and in this you shall be free indeed.

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