1: Before Your Club Starts Choosing Pro-Life Activities
At JFA, we talk a lot about our twin passions: creating conversations that change hearts and minds and equipping pro-life advocates to create those conversations. To accomplish these goals, we focus on creating large-format outreach events that within a two-day or three-day period cause hundreds and sometimes thousands of pro-choice (and pro-life!) advocates to stop so that our staff and volunteers can engage them in meaningful conversation about abortion. In this guide you’ll see these passions coming through. The questions we suggest you ask of any pro-life activity you’re considering are the questions we ask when we decide what events are worth trying to accomplish with our limited time and money. As a pro-life student organization, we know it’s likely you have the same constraints of time and money that we experience, and probably to a greater degree. Before you start asking questions of your activity ideas, though, we suggest defining your mission.
What Is Your Mission?
How would you describe the purpose of your club? Is it to stop abortion on your campus? Is it to make an impact beyond your campus on whether abortion is legal? Is it to help women in one of the most difficult times of their lives, when they find themselves pregnant but don’t want to be? Defining your mission will help you evaluate which activities are worth doing – those that accomplish your mission best. Should you host a speaker? Should you create a conference? Should you hold a bake sale? Should you protest a pro-abortion philosopher on campus? Should you invite an organization to bring an outreach event? It depends…on your mission.
Consider JFA’s Mission Statement
Before you settle on a mission statement, though, we suggest you consider for a moment adopting some or all of the components of JFA’s mission statement: “training thousands to make abortion unthinkable for millions, one person at a time.”
…Make Abortion Unthinkable for Millions…
Let me elaborate for a moment on that middle phrase. We are aiming to “make abortion unthinkable for millions,” meaning, “for a strong majority in the United States.” That means, roughly, that we’re attempting to make abortion just as unthinkable as slavery. Why unthinkable? Ultimately, we want to see the unborn treated as the equal human beings they are, intrinsically valuable ends in themselves. For something so central as protecting humans from violence, it makes sense that the law should outlaw abortion. Yet abortion is one of the most firmly entrenched rights in American law…right now. To see public policy change, then, it’s going to be necessary first to cause public opinion to change. We are seeking to change how people think and feel about abortion to make it possible that the unborn could ultimately be protected in law and loved as equals.
…One Person at a Time
JFA focuses squarely (and with all of our energy) on changing public opinion – changing how people feel and think about abortion. We believe that many activities might contribute to this, but dialogue makes a more lasting impact on public opinion than any other activity. By dialogue, we mean a conversation that’s filled with listening to understand, asking questions with an open heart, and finding common ground. It’s also a conversation in which the facts about the unborn and abortion, including the visual facts, are fully present and accounted for. We’ve seen over and over that when we go find pro-choice advocates in their world, rather than expecting them to come to ours, and when we treat them respectfully, in many cases they allow us to challenge their views. In many cases, they are open to changing their minds, especially when we show a similar openness to being mistaken about some of our beliefs. This is why “one person at a time” is important to us. We believe we can create a strong majority of people who see abortion as an evil similar to slavery, not primarily through mass media or social media campaigns, but primarily through conversations that give people space to rethink, free of the pressure to defend their turf or their honor. That’s the value of dialogue – when done right, it values both the truth about the unborn’s humanity and the truth about the humanity of the person with whom we’re speaking.
If what we’ve said above is true, dialogue with pro-choice advocates, and dialogue with a whole lot of them, is necessary for bringing justice to unborn children. So how can we make the most of our limited time and money to bring about the most conversations with pro-choice advocates? That’s the question that we at JFA have wrestled with for years. It’s what led us to emphasize the “train thousands” part of our mission statement. We know that if thousands and thousands of pro-life advocates are creating conversations about abortion every week or every month, together we can change millions. So, we’ve now come full circle to JFA’s mission statement (training thousands to make abortion unthinkable for millions, one person at a time) and the twin passions that explain our mission (creating a different kind of conversation with millions of pro-choice advocates by training thousands of pro-life advocates to have those conversations).
So, the question is before you: Are you wanting to change the way people feel and think about abortion in order to see public opinion change – on your campus and beyond? Are you wanting to equip pro-life advocates in your community to create the conversations that help people change? If you see these goals as part of your mission, then we invite you to consider the following questions whenever you’re planning your pro-life events or deciding which events to do.
This article is one of a series entitled, Conversations Change Campuses. To view the entire series, see below or click here.