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What is Happening Here?

Yesterday, the March for Life descended on my neighborhood. Living just blocks from the Capitol Building, we see a lot of protestsRoman Catholic demonstrators with image of Mary come through, and we generally do not pay much attention to any of them. However, I did take notice of the March for Life. It is a Roman Catholic youth rally that takes place every year around this time, which buses in thousands of children – mostly high school and middle school aged – to protest the continued legality of abortion in the United States. The stated goal of this rally is to end all access to abortion, regardless of circumstances. The March for Life defines human life as beginning at fertilization of the egg by sperm.

I remembered that last year’s march had been quite a spectacle, with high schoolers running amok and Roman Catholic priests and monks clogging the streets, temporarily turning the capitol grounds into a carnival of Roman religiosity. I have been getting into photography lately, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a few photographs. So, with the motivation of capturing some interesting moments on film, I spent an hour and a half observing the 2010 March for Life.

The epicenter of the demonstration was in front of the Supreme Court, where in 1973 the Roe vs Wade decision greatly easedDemonstrators Kneeling restrictions on abortions in the United States. There, Roman Catholic youth and clergy gathered, chanting prayers, lifting up images of Mary, and a variety of anti-abortion placards. While I was present, there were only a few hundred anti-abortion protesters stationed there. The rest of the many thousands of Roman Catholic youth were still rallying on the Mall, on the opposite side of the Capitol Building. Soon, they would march en masse to the Supreme Court.

In the face of the overwhelming numbers of Roman Catholic youth and clergy, a few dozen counter-protesters also gathered in front of the seat of the nation’s highest judicial authority. Most of them seemed to be college-age, some of them holding iconic NOW “Keep Abortion Legal” signs, others holding hand-made signs identifying themselves as political radicals.

For my part, I was just there to capture images, not wade into the intense feelings of the demonstrators. This was naïve on my part.Protesters Talking Despite my task-oriented mindset, I could not help but be affected by what I witnessed through the viewfinder of my camera. More important than what I saw was what I felt: The air was charged with conflict, energy, youthful enthusiasm and braggadocio. I myself did not know how to feel. Several times I prayed, asking the Lord, “What is happening here?” What did all this mean?

I still do not fully understand what I experienced yesterday – watching hyped-up young people chant slogans and prayers, with little distinction made between the two. I felt the shock of hearing the name of my Lord and Savior being used by so many people as a battle cry, as a talisman to be brandished at those on the other side of a contentious public policy issue. I saw thousands upon thousands of those who claim to be serving the One whom I serve relating in a way that felt so alien to the self-sacrificial way of Jesus.

Protests are often like this. I myself have participated in a numberDemonstrators Arguing of demonstrations during my lifetime that have been possessed of a self-righteous spirit – an assurance that we were right, and “they” were deluded and evil. I am no longer convinced that these types of events, and the spiritual condition that they flow out of, are grounded in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Granted that abortion is a symptom of the sin and self-destructive brokenness of our age, how are we called to address the groaning creation that cries out for redemption? How are we as disciples of the Lord Jesus to live out our call to be salt and light in the world, bringing healing to the nations? How can we be a source of comfort to a world that is suffering in slavery to sin? How can we cooperate with the Holy Spirit as it reveals our fallen condition and calls us to more radiant and abundant life in Christ?

As we consider these questions, it is important to remember that one of the most ancient names for Satan is the Accuser. One of theChildren with anti-abortion placards primary traits of the forces of darkness is that they seek to condemn us in our sin, rather than liberating us from it. We must take care to recognize the insidious spirit of the Accuser when it emerges: It is the voice of judgment and condemnation, damning others in their sins, rather than loving them and seeking their redemption in Christ. When we stand as witnesses for righteousness, I pray that we might speak and act under the guidance of the cleansing and liberating Spirit of Jesus.

  • The March for Life is not a Roman Catholic youth rally (albeit there are large numbers of Catholic youth who attend). There is a large mass before the rally and march, but the witness itself is non-sectarian.

    I am neither a Roman Catholic nor a youth, but I was there. The nonprofit I serve as President, Consistent Life, witnesses at the March for Life every year for the consistent life ethic. This year, we had a post-March gathering at William Penn House. Our officers cover a faith gamut – Quaker, Episcopalian, Catholic and nondenominational.

    You can see some photos from our witness during the March for Life.

  • Hi Bill!

    You’ll have to forgive my mistake in thinking that March for Life was a Roman Catholic deal: Everyone I saw had a sign or sticker that said, “Diocese of Detroit” or “St. Mary’s of Springfield.” Not to mention all the priests and monks leading Roman liturgy on the streets. Also, the Washington Post this morning reported that the March was sponsored by the Diocese of Washington.

    I wish I had known you were at the house! It would have been nice to finally meet you.

    Thanks for sharing the photos.

    In Christ’s love,


  • Thanks for writing this, Micah. It is so easy for me to judge others for not living up to what a “true Christian” would believe/do. You paint a much better picture of walking in love.

  • John Rock

    Why so revoltingly neutral, Micah?

    Yes, God has been used to justify some horrible things and people use the name of Christ as a bludgeon, but why do you not do what is right and fight the blasphemy? Observing the nature of the status quo does nothing. Does not Christ call us to obey our conscience?

  • I would like to point out that abortion is nothing new. It could be assumed you think that when you state that it is a symptom of our present age, or something to that effect. I do not know if that is what you meant to imply.

    Anyway, abortion has been around since women could ask someone to puch them in the stomach or take poisonous substances in quantaties that were not lethal to them, just the fetus. The only thing that is relatively new is abortions safe for the mother that are not as likely to hurt the mother as abort the child.

  • @John – Revoltingly neutral, huh? Nice to meet you, too!

    The best way I know to answer your questions is to say that I seek to wait on Christ to show me what I am to do. From what I have experienced thus far, I feel called to demonstrate the love and mercy of Jesus Christ to those I encounter in my life.

    @Skeptigirl You’re right that abortion is a very ancient practice, probably as old as humankind. I do feel that any form of self-destruction – such as war, violence, substance abuse or abortion – are signs of our own alientation from God. Alientation is certainly a very ancient phenomenon.

    Let me be clear, because I think that folks are reading into my response a position that I did not state:

    I believe that abortion is a very complicated issue, and while I do believe that abortion is wrong as a general rule, I do not feel comfortable having the government criminalize it. I believe that, precisely because abortion is such a complicated medical issue, that families and their doctors should be left to make the decision of how to respond to pregnancies in crisis. I feel that my role, as a Christian, is providing loving counsel and support in the name of Jesus Christ, encouraging the most loving, faithful response from those under my care. I feel that this problem is so nuanced and complex – in both medical and moral terms – that it eludes the heavy-handed solutions that governments provide.

    I hope this clarifies where I am coming from. I am open to correction, but I hope that we can engage each other in a spirit of love.

  • Andrew

    Micah, if this were facebook (though I cringe to imagine this conversation there) your last comment/response would warrant a “like.”

    It is inspiring not in its “revolting neutrality” but its awareness of complexity, of situation and choice.

    On a lighter note, did you take all the pictures on this post? The second one down reminds me of the composition New York Times can always manage to strike. It says a lot.

  • @Andrew – Thanks for the encouragement, Andrew! Yes, I did take all of these photos. I’m glad you liked them. I agree that the second one did come out quite well.


  • Dear Micah,

    Thank you for your post. This is a complicated issue for sure, but I feel moved to speak to it from my own experience and what I see in the world.

    My personal opinions on abortion (whether “right” or “wrong”) come from being in a place where I can make an informed choice. An actual choice based on not just a willingness, but an ability to care for a child, or at least maintain a pregnancy with a level of health for myself and the unborn until adoption might be an option.

    My heart breaks when I see this reduced to one simple wrong act of choice. For so many, long before an unwanted pregnancy is a reality, the daily struggles of poverty have exacted an incredible toll. I speak having taught in both urban and rural public school settings. In those places, like everywhere, mothers do not love their children any less. These people, our brothers and sisters, do not need food or shelter or health care or God’s love any less.

    I have no issue with anyone who is led to bear witness against abortion as an act that might be more easily stopped with more education and prayer, and respectful consideration from a place of love. But what would happen if we showed up not just holding signs in these same places of protest, but demanding Christ’s love be made manifest right now, to change our witness not just to put an end to the abortions, but to start to care for those children, their parents, and their communities both before and after they are born? Perhaps the hands that hold those signs could be building community housing, or feeding those in need.

    And of course, my own hands and feet never move fast or far enough. I pray that we are able to listen and respond when we are asked, and hold not just signs but each other, in Love as we work to make Christ’s kingdom a reality for us all. Thank you for continuing to name what you see, and continuing the conversation.


  • “The March for Life defines human life as beginning at fertilization of the egg by sperm.”

    Man, the thought of miscarriage after the fertilized egg sticks to the uterine wall must haunt these guys. The thought that as many as one in seven fertilized eggs just pass through unnoticed must REALLY have them at grips.

    “As we consider these questions, it is important to remember that one of the most ancient names for Satan is the Accuser. One of the primary traits of the forces of darkness is that they seek to condemn us in our sin, rather than liberating us from it.”

    If there were to be a new book written into the canon of the Bible, I’m sure that would be in the first paragraph. Don’t know if you worded that on your own or borrowed it from someone else, but it rings hot like an iron brand destined to etch itself into the minds that read it. Thank you.

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