Washington DC hosted two significant marches last month. Each of the causes drew thousands of protesters to the streets. Protesters flooded the National Mall for the March for Life. The next day the Mall was full once again for the Women’s March. These men and women were protesting a myriad of issues, the foremost being “reproductive rights.”
It’s no coincidence that these two marches occur the same weekend. Cecil Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, was a leading speaker at the Women’s March in Las Vegas. As her presence signals, the unifying issue for most of these protesters is abortion. They are a counter-movement to the pro-life march.
So, the two marches are about a single question, whose life and dignity is worth protection? The current political climate has become polarized on this question. You can either defend the unborn or women.
I see a problem with the current conversation, but I also see a solution within the Christian worldview.
The Problem with the Conversation
The options appear very limited. You can side with the pro-life cause, or you can side with the progressive counter-movement. The two sides are usually embodied by the terms “conservative” and “progressive.”
Conservatives are pro-life. They protest, lobby, and run for office on pro-life platforms. It’s hard to conceive of a Republican candidate running a successful campaign without making a hard stance against abortion. In fact, many conservatives are single-issue activists. Abortion is the issue, to the detriment of other problems.
Progressives are pro-choice. They build their platforms on policies that protect legal abortion and other progressive values. According to a 2017 study, 23 percent of Democrats identify as pro-life. Yet, DNC chairman Tom Perez demanded that “every Democrat” support abortion. Progressives highlight the need for protecting the dignity of women and minority groups.
Neither single-issue conservatives nor progressives can safeguard the dignity of every human life. Progressives defend minority groups, but they cannot protect the sanctity of an unborn child. Their defense of women is often not a demand for general welfare or equity, rather it is for the “reproductive rights,”“right to choose,” or “control over one’s own body.” So, they argue for the dignity of women’s lives at the cost of unborn children’s lives.
Single-issue conservatives are active on the issue of abortion. They are often as quick to defend the dignity of women, immigrants, or minorities. These “progressive” issues are untouchables for single-issue conservatives. Pro-lifers have been confronted with this inconsistency. It’s a legitimate criticism.
By and large, neither conservatives nor liberals are defending the dignity of all human life. The current conversation is reactionary. Either you’re a conservative, which means you’re pro-life and leery of any talk about the rights of women, minorities, and immigrants. Or you’re a progressive, so you’re going to defend abortion since conservatives are trying to control women’s bodies.
Here’s the problem: if you cannot defend the dignity of all human life, then someone’s life will eventually be expendable. For the progressive, the dignity of the woman makes the unborn child’s life expendable. For the single-issue conservative, ending abortion overrides the importance of other vital issues. Neither of these approaches can successfully protect human dignity. In the end, you defend the dignity of every human life, or you will be unable to protect anyone’s life.
We need a better option. One that allows us to value, honor, and uphold the dignity of the unborn child and woman, the immigrant and the native, the rich and the poor. The Christian Worldview has the best foundation to offer another way.
The Better Way
The Christian Worldview opens with the chapter of Creation. Genesis 1–2 tells the story of God creating and forming the world to be his sanctuary. He makes every living creature, but he’s not done until he has created man. Humanity is God’s unique design.
Right before God creates man, there is a divine conference among the Trinity. Unlike anything else in the world, God resolved to make man “in his own image” (Gen. 1:26–27). Theologians have called this the imago Dei, the image of God in man.
Far from abstract theology, God’s creation of man in his image is the cornerstone of human dignity. The imago Dei means that every person — regardless of race, religion, culture, or background — has inherent dignity and worth. Every human life is worth protecting. Every person is deserving respect. Every individual is endowed with this unique, mysterious, immensely valuable thing called the image of God.
Imagine that you are speaking to a young British woman. She’s charming and eloquent. Suddenly, the royal crest peaks out from her sweater. Her blouse has the emblem of kingship stitched into it. She’s a princess. That adds a weightiness and reverence to your posture, tone, and conversation.
Christians who understand the imago Dei know that it’s like that crest hidden by the sweater. When you realize it’s there, then you know you’re face-to-face with royalty. No one is exempt.
Many people take the concept of human rights for granted. They don’t realize that it hasn’t always been this way. The French atheistic philosopher Luc Ferry explained that the Greco-Roman world was aristocratic. They saw the universe as a hierarchy where those most gifted, beautiful, and wealthy were at the top. Those who weren’t so fortunate were considered inferior.
Christianity changed the world. According to Ferry, Christianity introduced the idea that “humanity was fundamentally identical, that men were equal in dignity.” He attributed our entire modern concept of human rights and dignity to the Christian Worldview.
Christianity’s doctrine of human dignity can change the current conversation. It provides a solid basis for defending the dignity and worth of everyone — the woman and child, citizen and immigrant, black and white. The imago Dei means that you don’t have to choose between the polarizing sides of conservatism or progressivism.
Does this mean that Christians live somewhere in a mushy middle? Matt Walsh wrote that you could either choose a side or “you can jump into the canyon between them and float aimlessly in the middle.” Someone could want to float in the middle, but that’s not the Christian way.
The Christian way is a better option. It’s a new, more stable ground to stand upon. The Christian way means that you refuse to reduce the dignity of any human life for the sake of another. No one is expendable. The Christian alternative was expressed well by Christy Britton. She wrote, “Being pro-life is certainly being anti-abortion, and it’s also much more. It means valuing life from the womb to the tomb. And it boldly contradicts the value system of the world by championing the vulnerable.”
So, in our cultural battles, we cannot sacrifice defending the dignity of one group for another. As Christians, we must stand on the foundation of the imago Dei and advocate for the welfare of every individual. Scripture tells us to speak for the voiceless and to defend the rights of everyone (Prov. 31:8–9). We are required to do so whether born or unborn, man or woman, American or foreign.