It's in Our Nature

I remember seeing news stories about “The Miraculous Journey,” a massive 14-piece sculpture by Damien Hirst, when it was unveiled in 2013 in Doha, Qatar. I was amazed at the scale of this public dialogue tool, chronicling the development of the unborn from fertilization to birth. (I thought, “I wish everyone could see this. It would be sure to get people talking.” Indeed, you can use this link to Penny Yi Wang’s photos of the sculpture to get people talking!) Shortly after its unveiling, the sculpture was covered, and it mysteriously remained covered for about five years.

Just last month, though, the sculpture was “born again” and is now back on public display. It illustrates the nature of the early human being at work. His human nature moves him from comfortable dependence on his mother’s womb out into the harsh realities of a foreign world, and his human nature enables him to confront those challenges.

At this time of Christmas, we’re reminded of how the Son of God, possessing the divine nature as the second person of the Trinity, took on that same human nature and “lived in it” with perfection, as human life was meant to be lived. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, our human nature has been made new by faith:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Cor. 5:17-21)

The Son of God took on a second nature to save us, and now a new set of activities can become “second nature” for us. Just as the nature of the early human enables him to accomplish all of his activities, our new nature enables us to bring the word of reconciliation as Christ’s ambassadors to lost people operating in an old nature based on old things.

As we celebrate Jesus this Christmas and come into the harsh realities of a new year, with all of its challenges to the smallest humans on earth and to women distressed by unintended pregnancy, this is our prayer for ourselves and for you:

“Loving Father, through Your Son Jesus you gave us a new nature to love and serve you. We trust you will strengthen us to live according to this new nature, as we seek to bring the word of reconciliation to every human being involved in unintended pregnancies.”

Thank you for partnering with us to help Christians discover the abilities of this new God-given nature through practical dialogue training. It is a joy to see them extend the word of reconciliation to those who so desperately need it.

Damien Hirst Sculptures Back on Display in Doha

Pray with JFA (November)

Pray for Recent and Upcoming Events (Partial List):

JFA Intern Kaitlyn Donihue (pink) creates conversation at OU. The signs to her right show content from our new “Invitation to Dialogue” brochure, which is our featured resource as well as our featured conversation starter this month.

Our team has been busy in Oklahoma and Texas these past few weeks, and we just wrapped up events in New Mexico and Maryland. Please pray for the many conversations we’ve had and the Christians we’ve been training for a lifetime of service.

  • Oct. 29-30 (Norman, OK): Outreach Event — University of Oklahoma (OU)

  • Nov. 11 (Denton, TX): Interactive Workshop — Denton Bible Church

  • Nov. 12 (Denton, TX): Interactive Workshop — University of North Texas (UNT)

  • Nov. 13-15 (Denton, TX): Kiosk Outreach Events — University of North Texas (UNT)

  • Nov. 27 (Albuquerque, NM): Interactive Workshop — University of New Mexico (UNM)

  • Nov. 27 (Austin, TX): Panel Discussion — Jeremy Gorr — Texas Students for Life Event

  • Nov. 28 (Wichita, KS): Interactive Workshop — Tammy Cook — SEAS Catholic Church

  • Nov. 28-29 (Albuquerque, NM): Kiosk Outreach Event — University of New Mexico (UNM)

  • Dec. 1 (Pomfret, MD): Keynote & Panel — Steve Wagner — Charles County Right to Life

  • Dec. 5 (Arkansas City, KS): Interactive Workshop — Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Featured Resource for November - New "Invitation to Dialogue" Brochure

Learn to use JFA’s new “Invitation to Dialogue” Brochure in the third section of JFA’s updated “Learn at Home” Program. It features a short script you can use to start a conversation with a friend using the brochure. It also includes a longer script that helps you dig deeper into all of the resources referenced in the brochure. The entire “Learn at Home” Program takes just one hour to complete (followed by a conversation you start with a friend), and this portion of the program takes only 15 minutes!

Featured Conversation Starter for November - New "Invitation to Dialogue" Brochure

Use JFA’s new “Invitation to Dialogue” Brochure to start a conversation with a friend in a natural way. (Click here to download the brochure to your phone or request a paper version.) The brochure begins with an invitation to understand and show concern for women experiencing unintended pregnancy: “Unintended pregnancy is not simple, and it’s not easy.” Then it invites the viewer to consider the question, “Is the unborn a human being with equal rights?” After being warned, the viewer can lift a page to view accurate, graphic images of early abortions, and the brochure asks if the pictures depict a medical procedure or the killing of a human being. Finally, the brochure invites the viewer to explore solutions for unintended pregnancies.

Faithful in the Field

November 2018

This Impact Report features pictures of recent outreach events. We’ve been testing a new smaller type of sign as well as content from our new dialogue brochure.

To complement the pictures, I’ve asked each of our trainers to select the names of a couple of people you have helped us reach in the past few months. Let’s give thanks to God for each of these and many more we’ve had the opportunity to serve.

We are privileged to stand with you each month training Christians to create conversations that make a difference in how people think and feel about abortion. Our aim is always to stay faithful in the field, trusting God to bring change through our efforts, in spite of our weaknesses. Please consider continuing to stand with us through prayers and a generous year-end gift.

- Steve Wagner, Executive Director

Rebecca Hotovy (sitting) interacts with a student at KU. Volunteer Pauline listens.

“Thank you for helping me share with ‘Ben’ how valuable he is. He felt children with cleft pallet should be aborted because he had a cleft pallet and knew how society had treated him. He was very lonely. Thanks also for helping me mentor Ashley, pro-life club president at the University of Kansas (KU), during her third outreach with JFA!” – Rebecca Hotovy

Pauline volunteered again at OU. Here Tammy Cook and Pauline interact with a student near the Free Speech Board.

“One of the standout students that I mentored this fall was Nate. He said, ‘Loved this training today. It felt like I gained so much more knowledge. Definitely changed what I thought was supposed to be having a debate with someone, to genuinely caring and kind and having a conversation.’ A chain reaction has begun as Nate uses what he learned to make an impact for God’s kingdom. I’m also thankful for a student named Sarah at the University of Oklahoma (OU). Through her personal experience with losing a child, I was reminded to lean into the Holy Spirit in tough conversations, especially when discussing the topic of losing a child, whether to abortion or miscarriage. Thank you for your sacrifices that make our work possible.” – Tammy Cook

Steve Wagner (center) interacts at GMU.

“I thank God for the chance to interact with ‘Andrew’ at George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Virginia. He really wrestled with what explains equal rights and whether the unborn should be included. I also talked in depth with a young woman at GMU who claimed to be a Christian but who believed women can get abortions because they have a right to their bodies. I had the privilege of mentoring and encouraging Sarah, a high-school student who courageously shared her faith and her pro-life view with students at OU for two days. Our team was also encouraged to see other volunteers, including Pauline, Lauren, Jasmin, Ian, Mark Bryant, and Mark Wood, join our team for multiple days of outreach this fall!” – Steve Wagner

At OU, we filled a large expanse of lawn with conversations sparked by content from our Art of Life Exhibit, our Stop and Think Exhibit, and our new Invitation to Dialogue Brochure.

Grace Fontenot (red sweater) interacts with students at UNT. Note the new poll question JFA trainers have been testing.

“This past October during JFA’s outreach at OU, I was able to mentor a high school student named Haven. Haven is only 15, but her passion for defending the smallest humans on earth is incredible. Thank you for making it possible for me to encourage and assist in honing her skills as an advocate. Thank you, also, for the gift of making it possible for me to meet Katie in Georgia. Our conversation began with her feeling discouraged and angry and ended with her feeling listened to as we discussed whether or not the unborn is human, what we can do to help women in difficult situations so that they don’t feel that they have to choose abortion, and whether or not Jesus Christ is God. These women are very different from one another, but what they have in common is that they were both impacted by Justice For All, so thank you for making it possible for us to pour into people like Haven and Katie.” – Grace Fontenot

“I am thankful for Howa who is passionate about her pro-life beliefs. I was thrilled to be able to tag-team conversation with her on campus. I am also thankful for the opportunity I had to share the truth about abortion and my faith with Abdul, a Muslim student at the University of North Texas (UNT).” – Kaitlyn Donihue

Kaitlyn Donihue (pink) creates conversation at OU. Note how the juxtaposed imagery of mother and child makes it clearer that we care about both.

Jon Wagner debriefs with Christian Heritage Academy students after outreach at OU.

“Thank you for helping me equip Haley last week in Denton, Texas. She was extremely thankful to learn how to take the abortion controversy from contentious debate to healthy dialogue. You helped me reach out to Eva at our UNT outreach event. Although she didn’t shift her view 100%, Eva was challenged by our pro-life perspective. She was thankful that I acknowledged the complexity of foster care. She admitted that abortion doesn’t fix the challenges related to foster care.” – Jon Wagner

Paul Kulas interacts with a student at UMN. New signs enhance JFA’s poll table outreach.

“Thank you for allowing me to train Kyra, a high-school student who joined JFA for outreach at OU. As I mentored her on campus, she was able to see firsthand how the training prepared her for real-life conversations with those of differing views on abortion. I am thankful for meeting Camden, a freshman pro-life student at OU, whom I was able to encourage and challenge to become active in the pro-life movement.” – Paul Kulas

Jeremy Gorr (right) interacts with students near our poll table at Kennesaw State University (KSU).

“Thank you for allowing me to train Max at Christian Heritage Academy who came to the University of Oklahoma (OU) with us and did a great job at outreach. Thank you for allowing me to talk to Matthew at the University of Minnesota (UMN) during outreach, which opened up an ongoing dialogue about abortion, God, and Christianity.” – Jeremy Gorr

Pray with JFA (October)

Pray for Recent and Upcoming Events (Partial List):

JFA Executive Director, Steve Wagner, talks with students at George Mason University (Oct. 17, 2018).

Our team has been busy in GA, KS, MN, VA, and TX recently, and we’re preparing for upcoming events in OK, MO, CO, and TX. Please pray for the many conversations we’re creating, including the one described in Jeremy Gorr’s letter, “My Mom Wanted to Abort Me.” We thank God for the change Jeremy was able to see take place in Amin’s life.

  • Oct. 7-9 (Minneapolis, MN): Workshop and Kiosk Outreach — University of Minnesota

  • Oct. 17 (Fairfax, VA): Poll Table Outreach — George Mason University

  • Oct. 21 (San Antonio, TX): Workshop — Students for the Right to Life at UTSA

  • Oct. 25 (Del City, OK): Interactive Seminar — Christian Heritage Academy

  • Oct. 28 (St. Louis, MO): Workshops — Respect Life Conference

  • Oct. 28 (Norman, OK): Interactive Seminar — Trinity Baptist Church

  • Oct. 29-30 (Norman, OK): Outreach Event — University of Oklahoma

  • Nov. 11 (Denton, TX): Interactive Workshop — Denton Bible Church

  • Nov. 12 (Denton, TX): Interactive Workshop — University of North Texas

  • TBD (Denton, TX): Outreach Events — TBD

Featured Resource for October - Story: “My Mom Wanted to Abort Me."

In “My Mom Wanted to Abort Me,” Jeremy Gorr shares a story from our recent outreach event at Kennesaw State University. In the conversation, he saw first-hand how a personal story can help open a person’s mind and heart to change. Take note of Jeremy’s approach to the conversation, asking questions and gently challenging Amin to consider a more optimistic perspective. Note also how God caused Ima to be present at precisely the right time with the courage to speak. We’re reminded that we can train Christians in good conversation skills and good arguments, but ultimately we depend completely on God and his work behind the scenes to change hearts and minds.

Featured Conversation Starter for October - "Opposite Poles?"

Use Joanna Bai’s recent post, “Opposite Poles?” to start a conversation in a natural way. This post refers to a recent article by Conor Friedersdorf in which he argues that many people are more similar in their beliefs than at first they appear to be. You can start a conversation with a friend or acquaintance by retweeting or posting to Facebook and asking, “Do you think this writer is correct that many people are not as far apart as the media many times portrays them? I’m interested in seeing if we can agree and work together on some solutions to unintended pregnancy in order to help women and children.”

Opposite Poles?

We think Conor Friedersdorf is right (see below). People aren't as different on abortion as they sometimes appear. One idea: Don't let labels like "pro-choice" and "pro-life" be walls preventing genuine dialogue. Asking questions about abortion in specific circumstances and stages of pregnancy can help a lot.

Pray with JFA (September)

Outreach at The University of Kansas (KU) - September 2018

Outreach at The University of Kansas (KU) - September 2018

Pray for Recent and Upcoming Events (Partial List): 

Pray for wisdom for the team members who plan JFA’s event schedule. Pray for the health of our trainers that they might keep active in the field. Pray for each person we train and each person with whom we converse at outreach, that God will kindle new affection in their hearts for women in distress and for the smallest humans on earth.

  • Sept. 23 (Fort Collins, CO): Interactive Seminar — Colorado State University (CSU)

  • Sept. 23 (Lawrence, KS): Interactive Workshop — University of Kansas (KU)

  • Sept. 24-25 (Fort Collins, CO): Kiosk Outreach — Colorado State University (CSU)

  • Sept. 24-25 (Lawrence, KS): Kiosk Outreach — University of Kansas (KU)

  • Oct. 7 (Minneapolis, MN): Interactive Workshop — University of Minnesota (UMN)

  • Oct. 8-9 (Minneapolis, MN): Kiosk Outreach — University of Minnesota (UMN)

  • Oct. 25 (Del City, OK): Interactive Seminar — Christian Heritage Academy

  • Oct. 28 (Norman, OK): Interactive Seminar — Trinity Baptist Church

  • Oct. 29-30 (Norman, OK): Outreach Event — University of Oklahoma (OU)

Featured Resource for September - “What Is the Unborn?” and “What Is Abortion?” Web Pages

Our “What Is the Unborn?” web page features the most important information you can share in conversations to demonstrate that the unborn is a living human being. Our “What Is Abortion?” web page helps viewers wrestle with accurate videos, images, and descriptions of what abortion does to unborn children. Both of these pages is written with the pro-choice reader in mind so you can pass the pages on to start a conversation. Both pages have been recently updated to include new links and information. Take a look!

Featured Conversation Starter for September

Use the recent post, “Liz Harman’s Interview: A Lesson I Didn’t Expect to Learn” to start a conversation about unintended pregnancy and abortion in a natural way. This post features a reflection from JFA Trainer Joanna Bai after a video of a pro-choice philosopher defending abortion was mocked by many viewers when it was posted last year. Note Joanna’s
willingness to say she learned something through the process. Note also the questions she poses at the end of the post to get a conversation started. You can share her experience with a friend to help your friend see that you are interested in different viewpoints and aim to be intellectually honest.

Interns in Action

Susanna interacts with “Rachel” at OSU. See “Of Men and of Angels” below for the story.

Having driven from Virginia to Kansas to begin a JFA internship on September 1, 2017, Susanna found herself four days later in Indiana at Purdue University creating conversations. Sensing that conversation was a passion of the JFA team, she jumped in with both feet. By the time her internship ended in June 2018, she had logged over 100 conversations with students on college campuses. In one of those conversations, she talked with “Rachel” (pictured, right) at Oklahoma State University (OSU) and shared the story in her reflection, “Of Men and of Angels” (below).

Kaitlyn interacts with students at WSU in the first week of her internship with Justice For All.

These conversations didn’t happen by chance. JFA’s training team (supported by hundreds of monthly and annual supporters) worked hard to arrange all of the logistical details so that these events could take place.

Throughout her internship, Susanna also jumped with both feet into another JFA passion: training advocates. She learned to deliver the speaking for whole sections of JFA’s workshops and seminars. And she did it like a pro.

Susanna didn’t stop there. She went on to teach JFA material to 30 members of an outreach-oriented mission team at Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, New Jersey in July 2018 during three workshops she organized by herself. She’s now a student at George Mason University and one of the inaugural class of fellows in the new JFA Fellowship program. She’s working to partner with JFA as she creates outreach events on her campus.

More conversations. More advocates. Two passions. Susanna explored and exemplified both. That’s also our aim for Kaitlyn, the intern we just welcomed to Wichita a few weeks ago. In fact, during the first two days of her internship, Kaitlyn was with the JFA team on the Wichita State University (WSU) campus creating conversations with students. Now she’s preparing to teach sections of a JFA workshop on October 7 in Minnesota. Like Susanna, Kaitlyn has jumped with both feet into both of JFA’s passions!

Please pray with us for both Susanna and Kaitlyn. We thank God for their dedication to the JFA Internship program, to creating conversations, and to training advocates on into the future. We also thank God for your partnership that makes it possible for our interns to learn to change hearts and minds for a lifetime.

“Of Men and of Angels” by Susanna Buckley (March 2018)

Out of the corner of my eye by Oklahoma State University’s Chi-O Clock, I recognized her. Just moments before, she had walked past me. I had smiled and she had smiled back, but then she kept walking. Now, she was returning in my direction, slowly. I turned and smiled again, “Would you like to sign our poll table?” As if noticing it for the first time, “Rachel” agreed. (See a picture of this conversation on the reverse.) After she finished writing on the “Yes” side of the “Should Abortion Remain Legal?” poll, she waited around to talk to me about her view.

We introduced ourselves, and she said abortion should be legal because of the many difficulties that people discover along the way in pregnancy. I agreed that there are many possible complications and difficulties involved in pregnancy. Rachel then cautiously voiced her belief that the unborn isn’t human. She asked me what I thought about abortion.

Gently, I said, “Before I tell you what I think, can I ask you more questions?” She happily agreed.

“You said you don’t think the unborn is human. Do you mean that in a biological sense or a philosophical sense [i.e. that the unborn doesn’t share our intrinsic value or basic right to life]?”

She grinned. “I just came from a human development class, and I failed philosophy; so let’s talk about biology!”

Carefully and respectfully, she and I went back and forth for a few minutes while I clarified the specifics of her position. Through the answers to five questions, I discovered that she believes the unborn is just a mass of cells in the first two weeks of pregnancy. According to her professor, “You can technically get in there and find human DNA, but it’s not a human yet.”* We discussed this and ended up agreeing that the unborn is biologically human from conception. It was her understanding, however, that the unborn was not significant in value until the third week of development when the new heart and brain are in communication, and he or she starts to look more human in appearance.

I felt that we were getting into the territory of philosophy, so I transitioned us. “Rachel, you asked me what I think about abortion. I think we should value human life in all stages of development, even those humans in life stages to which I am not personally attracted. I cannot relate much to the unborn from conception to three weeks of age, but it is still important to treat it like the human that it is and respect life all the way through development, even to old age. That includes the two-week embryo, all these students around us, and you.”

She paused and stared at me for a moment. When she spoke, she said, “Let me just say, that is the most sensible pro-life view I’ve ever heard. Every other time I’ve had this conversation, the pro-life person just screamed expletives at me and derided me for being a ‘liberal.’”

I expressed sadness at the way she had been treated in the past, and I thanked her for sharing her experience. She went on to say how nice it was to disagree in a free way with me. She had grown up in a liberal environment, I had a conservative upbringing, and we were looking for truth together.

Thinking back on this exchange, I Corinthians 13 has new context for me. Even if I could speak with the tongues of men and of angels, having the most knowledge and scientific facts at my disposal, but I do not love the person I’m talking to, it’s more than worthless – it is that obnoxious sound that hurts, and you wish would just stop. For Rachel, I was the first person with whom she disagreed who had allowed her to express her opinion without attacking her. I hope I’m not the last.

Thank you so much for your support which enables me to create a different kind of conversation about abortion with students like Rachel on college campuses all around the United States.

* Explore biological evidence for the humanity of the unborn at JFA’s “What Is the Unborn?” page, and learn why this professor’s statement was problematic on two counts. (Biologically, it’s false. Also, “human” is ambiguous.)

Liz Harman's Interview: A Lesson I Didn't Expect to Learn

Back in August 2017, my Facebook newsfeed was peppered throughout with mocking criticisms of Elizabeth (Liz) Harman's appearance on Philosophy Time, a series of philosophy-themed interviews featuring actor James Franco and his co-host Eliot Michaelson (see video embedded in this post).  Harman's ideas came under such scrutiny partly because of her position at Princeton University as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values.  I'll admit, after viewing her interview, I was also unimpressed and mystified that someone so distinguished could represent what seemed to me to be to be a totally incoherent position.

Recently, I read a response written by Sherif Girgis, a graduate of Yale Law School and PhD candidate in Philosophy at Princeton.  Girgis disagrees with Harman's argument, which makes the title of his article all the more intriguing: "In Defense of Elizabeth Harman: Taking Pro-Choice Philosophers Seriously."  As a former student of Harman's during his undergraduate years at Princeton, Girgis starts his article with a stinging critique, not for Harman, but for the pro-life advocates who have ridiculed her and her arguments since the release of the video on July 25th.

Reading Girgis' article was a humbling, poignant reminder to me of the importance of listening to understand, even when the ideas a person represents seem completely ridiculous.  All of us, pro-life and pro-choice alike, can learn from this.  I think we can also learn from Girgis's excellent critique of Harman's position - a position which he represents much more fairly than I've yet seen it represented from any other pro-life advocate since the release of Harman's Philosophy Time interview. 

Questions to Consider

  • Have you felt misrepresented in a discussion of abortion? Have you misrepresented someone else's view in pursuit of refuting it?

  • Do you agree with the point of this post that no matter what our view on abortion is, we need more "listening to understand" in discussions about abortion?

Further Reading