Teach or Talk...or Do Both

I am pro-life, and I have marched in Washington D.C. with the pro-life march the past two years. I enjoyed the experience so much, but [I] never knew how to communicate with others. Thank YOU for teaching me how to talk about pro-life to people who are pro-choice.
— High School Student

JFA’s mission is to train thousands to make abortion unthinkable, one person at a time.  We have two simple ways to show that we are making progress on that mission.  We must teach others to talk to pro‐choice people about abortion, or we ourselves need to talk to pro‐choice people about abortion.  Sometimes our speaking events end up accomplishing both of these goals.  Below is a sample of reflections from high school and college students who attended a presentation, workshop, or seminar this fall.  Some of these students felt prepared to have conversations on their own.  For others, the content of our presentations made abortion unthinkable in their minds.

The video showed today really sealed the deal in my head that abortion is 100% murder.  It’s not that I wasn’t pro‐life, I just believed it [be]cause I was told to.  This video helped me form a complete opinion...that abortion is never the answer—very good presentation!

- High School Student, Presentation, St. Cecilia’s Catholic High School

To see five more student quotes and more commentary from Paul, continue reading The Kulas Kronicle, November 2016.

The letter also includes a picture collage of Paul's conversations in 2016.  See those pictures above or click here for the gallery.

Small Decisions and Big Results

Grace Fontenot and Clare Lavergne, two young women from Louisiana, had only been interns with JFA for two months, but they had already been inspired by JFA’s emphasis on creating conversations about abortion every week.  The goal?  Help those who are pro-choice come to their own settled conclusion that abortion is unthinkable, and help those who are pro-life become active advocates for unborn children.

How did Zachary (second from right) get here?  Click here to read the story.

Seeing that there was one week in their internship with no outreach event scheduled, Grace and Clare grabbed a survey clipboard and headed to Wichita State University to start conversations.  Clare described what happened next:

“After a few surveys that resulted in one lengthy conversation about abortion, we asked a few more students to take our survey, but they declined.  So we decided to ask one final person before leaving campus.  The student whom we happened upon was Zachary Lee-Watts.  

Continue reading the story in our short November 2016 Impact Report to see what happened next for Zachary, Clare, and Grace.

Is There a More Important Question than the Voting Question?

If I had five minutes to discuss the election with you around my kitchen table, I’d spend it proposing that there’s one question we can’t afford to neglect as we go to the ballot box.  Which question?

Understandably, Christians all over the United States are pondering and discussing many questions about the presidential election:

  • For whom should I vote?  Is there a right answer? 
  • Should I vote for one candidate in order to make sure another candidate loses? 
  • Should I “vote my conscience” or should I be shrewdly pragmatic?  Are those the same thing? 
  • If we avoid the ballot box due to the presidential election, won’t this harm the other elections? 
  • Which issues are most important?  Which candidate will protect religious freedom, which will help the cause of the unborn, and which will nominate good justices to the Supreme Court?
  • Is there a candidate whose character is fit for the presidency? 

All of these questions are worthy of consideration, of course.  I’d like to suggest, though, that a different question is more important than any of these.  Take a short rabbit trail with me to New Hope Christian Church in Monsey, New York, where I preached a sermon on October 2.  My sermon wasn’t about the election.  It was about Jesus and his approach to focusing on the right question.  As we’ll see, though, his method can help us focus on what’s most important as the election approaches.   

Jesus Transforms the Lawyer’s Question

During my sermon, we looked at a familiar passage – perhaps so familiar that we are apt to miss the point.  In Luke 10:25-37, a lawyer asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus responded by asking the lawyer to expound on his area of expertise: “What is written in the law?  How does it read to you?”

The lawyer summarized the law: we are called to love God with all of our being and love our neighbor as ourselves.  Jesus mysteriously replied, “Do this, and you will live.”

Predictably, the lawyer was not satisfied with this answer to his question.  The text says that “wishing to justify himself,” he asked, “and who is my neighbor?”  It’s as if the lawyer was saying, “How?  Tell me what to do…specifically!”  This sounded noble and innocent enough.  But as Jesus responded with the story of the Good Samaritan, it became clear that the lawyer’s question was not so innocent after all: 

Jesus flipped the lawyer’s question,  Who is my neighbor?, on its head: Who proved to be a neighbor?  (Image: The Good Samaritan by Jacopo Bassano, ca. 1562, The National Gallery, London; Image downloaded from Google Cultural Institute via WikiMedia Commons)

As a priest and a Levite walked on the road to Jericho one day, each saw the man left for dead by robbers, and each passed by.  As Scott Klusendorf pointed out to me many years ago, we can imagine that these two passersby felt pity, but they did not actually take pity on the man.  Only the third passerby on the road that day, the Samaritan, stopped to help the man.  The Samaritan allowed himself to be completely put out by the project of meeting the needs of the person in front of him. 

Jesus then asked, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”  Jesus’s response brought into focus the much more sinister meaning of the lawyer’s question.  Ironically, although the lawyer appeared to be asking “Whom should I love?” he was actually asking the opposite question: “Whom can I not love?  Whom can I safely ignore?”

This was the wrong question, of course, and Jesus flipped it on its head.  From Jesus’s perspective, we should not ask, “Whom can I exclude?” but rather, “How can I become the sort of person who is a neighbor to anyone in need?  Who should I become?”

Moving then to a point of application in my sermon, I shared some of the ways that the people in our JFA community have sought to “prove to be a neighbor” to two groups of people who have been forgotten and left for dead, literally and figuratively, on today’s “road to Jericho”: unborn children and their parents.

Transforming the Election Question

During this election time, many Christians are asking the question that seems most pressing: “For whom should I vote?”  I wonder, though, if a more important question is, “What sort of person should I be?”  This cuts to the heart of the election, bringing it into focus:

  • Whoever becomes President of the United States, how can I become the sort of person who helps unborn children myself rather than relying on politicians to do the entire job for me? 
  • How can I become the respectful, humble sort of person who stands for the right of those who disagree with me to speak freely, trusting God to change hearts and minds? 
  • How can I become the sort of person who speaks up for those who can’t speak for themselves, even with family and friends, even when my own social comfort is on the line?
  • How can I become a courageous person who joyfully endures persecution for my beliefs?
  • How can I habitually pray that God helps me to become the person he meant for me to be?

I suggest then that as you consider “For whom you should vote?” that you take care not to allow that important question to mask a deeper, more insidious question: “What can I leave to my elected leaders to handle for me?”  Instead, let’s become the sort of people who actively meet the needs of unborn children and their parents by creating conversations that change hearts and save lives.  It’s only by the hard work of thousands of us seeking to become people who change minds ourselves that we can make abortion unthinkable for millions and help to bring about justice for all. 

Want to become that person?  Our events and online resources can help.  Want to help us train thousands to become advocates in the coming months and years?  Your gifts to JFA make this possible.

P.S. As the election approaches, would you consider taking one hour of time that you would have spent discussing the candidates for president and spend it instead on becoming an advocate for unborn children?  Our “Learn at Home” Program can help.

Late-Term Abortion? ... Our Open Mic Archives Help You Prepare for the Dialogue

Did you know that you can watch real JFA open mic conversations at our  "Explore Resources" page?  We've even created some questions to help you practice having similar conversations.

VIDEO CLIP: Late-term abortion has been in the news recently.  Here's a dialogue excerpt from the JFA archives to help you prepare for conversations with your friends. *(See parental advisory below.)

  • Step 1: Listen to the first thoughts from this student at ASU. Stop the video.
  • Step 2: Think of a question you can ask to build common ground with the speaker. Write your ideas in the comments section.
  • Step 3: Now listen to the remainder of the video. Did Steve's attempt at common ground succeed?

*Warning: Parental Advisory. 
The audio/video clips of JFA's Open Mic sessions contain unedited free speech audio and portions include profanity and frank discussion of sexuality.  If you are under the age of 18, please invite your parents to preview this material and approve it for your listening.  Once they've reviewed it, you might invite them to listen along with you!  These clips provide great opportunities for discussing what you think about life before birth, pregnancy, and abortion.

My Presentation at Yale on October 1

I'll be speaking at Yale this coming weekend on the topic "Mastering Dialogue to Make Abortion Unthinkable" as part of the "Vita et Veritas" Conference hosted by Choose Life at Yale (CLAY).  Here's a description of what I'll share in that presentation: 

The pro-life movement is full of good intentions, but without a focus on changing public opinion, we can’t hope that the unborn will ever be protected in law the way other human beings are.  Contrary to popular perception, however, public opinion is not fixed, and it’s not easy to pin down.  It's all over the map, with many people uncertain of their positions.  Many others are certainly against most abortions, but they lack the courage or confidence to argue publicly that abortion is wrong or that the unborn should be protected in law.  While there is value in many pro-life activities, the pro-life movement must at the very least “get back to the basics” of mastering the skills of dialogue that makes abortion just as unthinkable as other human rights violations.  Dialogue cannot be merely a buzzword, however, and its substance must be permeated with genuine love for every human being, including the pro-choice advocate and the women and men personally wrestling with unplanned pregnancy and abortion.  In “Mastering Dialogue to Make Abortion Unthinkable,” Steve Wagner draws upon thirteen years of outreach experience and hundreds of conversations with pro-choice advocates to give the audience a road map for becoming skilled at the sort of dialogue that helps pro-choice advocates change.  Steve outlines the key principles of dialogue, but also gives practical tools pro-life advocates can begin using to change hearts and minds immediately.