Lazy Name-Calling Does Not Defeat the Pro-life Cause



Well that didn’t take long. As soon as news broke this week that Representative Mike Johnson was the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, social media was abuzz with comments by enraged Progressives. The reason? Speaker Johnson is an outspoken Conservative Christian who is very open about the way the Christian worldview impacts his political decision-making. He also happens to be someone who has benefited from the Life Training Institute, as shown in an interaction he had with a pro-abortion legislator in 2022.

The announcement invoked a flurry of responses, with the term “Christofascist” trending on Twitter within hours.

This is becoming a common trope to hear both online and in the streets. Because Christians(largely) oppose abortion as morally wrong, this apparently means to some folks that those who approach the issue from the perspective of a Christian worldview are morally on par with totalitarian governments such as Italy and Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. No evidence to establish this connection is ever given, it is just foolishly asserted. Never mind that totalitarian regimes of the 20th century were not exactly known for emphasizing the value of human life. Quite the opposite in fact. Comparing pro-life advocates to the mass-murdering despots of the 20th century because they want to restrict questionable behavior highlights a severe lack of emotional and intellectual maturity. 

When it comes to abortion, there are generally two types of individuals you will encounter: Those seeking answers, and those seeking excuses. 

Many people are genuinely seeking answers. In their minds, there is a contradiction between opposing abortion and caring for women in need. To them, the pro-life position seems absurd, as it means an abstract concept of humanity takes precedence over the real lives of people in the here and now. Because the unborn haven’t developed what we would consider humanness, there is no harm in killing the unborn, as there is no “human” to be killed in abortion. Pro-lifers who miss this distinction will do themselves a huge disservice in attempting to change minds. 

On the flip side, there are also those who are seeking excuses, ways to avoid dealing with the moral questions raised by abortion. 

The sorts of name-calling heard in response to pro-life advocates is one such example. Name-calling does not in any way serve as a refutation; instead, it serves as a dismissal. Calling someone a “fascist” or a bigot is just a way to shut someone up, rather than explain where their ideas go wrong. 

The late Dr. Mike Adams, in his book Letters to a Young Progressive, offered a practical tip for how to engage such bad-faith tactics. First, make your critic explain their definition of the term they just used. Then, ask them to explain how that term applies to what you just said. 

An example of this happened to me while I was in college. While doing outreach on my college campus with the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, a particularly irate student began screaming in my face that I was a bigot, lacing his rant with profanity. Calmly, I asked him what he thought a bigot was. Pointing his finger in my face, he unironically shouted “Someone who’s intolerant!” 

The crowd that had gathered to support the student missed the irony of his statement. Here was a man screaming obscenities in my face while at the same time condemning me for being “intolerant” of other people’s behaviors. 

If I’d had the opportunity, I could have asked the following: 

“Tell me, would someone watching us right now describe your behavior as tolerant or intolerant? If it’s intolerant, then why should I take your claims about my behavior seriously? And if it’s tolerant, would you want to be treated the same way you’re acting right now?” 

The irony of most accusations of bad behavior by pro-life people is that they are generally not well-thought out, and they can often be applied to the critic making the accusation. 

Moreover, lazy accusations tell us nothing about the morality of abortion. Let’s suppose it’s true: Pro-lifers are mean, insensitive, hard-hearted people who don’t give a rip about the feelings of other people. 

Could abortion still be the unjust killing of innocent human beings even if the people who oppose it are less than noble? 

The alleged bad behavior of pro-life advocates has nothing to do with the morality of abortion. Critics of the pro-life position still need to address whether or not the unborn may be intentionally killed. Otherwise, we’re left with a bizarre situation where a person can believe in treating most people with dignity and respect while simultaneously supporting the legalized intentional killing of an entire class of human beings. 

These sorts of contradictions in thinking need to be brought to light by pro-life advocates whenever opportunities present themselves.

Lastly, many pro-life advocates will feel the need to over-explain how they are not bad people to critics. This is right-hearted but wrong headed. Many outspoken critics simply don’t care. Instead, they are assuming that the only reason a person could possibly oppose abortion is if there is something wrong with them. 

Instead of granting your critic’s premise, challenge them to defend it. Suppose a critic calls you bigoted, intolerant, or any other name. 

Don’t get defensive. Instead, refer your critic back to the essential pro-life argument: It’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings. Elective abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. Therefore, elective abortion is wrong. 

Then, ask your critic to be honest with you: How exactly does viewing that argument as sound and valid mean a person is being bigoted or intolerant? The simple answer is that it doesn’t. Yet, your critic has assumed the burden of proving  opposition to abortion is intrinsically wrong. It’s not on the pro-life advocate to clear this up, it’s on the critic to defend it in the first place. 

Suppose we asked the following: “Tell me, how does my opposing abortion as the intentional killing of innocent human beings mean that I am a bigot? Can you explain your remark for me?” 

One last point, it may be necessary at times to leave a critic who insists on name-calling. Some people are not interested in truth, but in what can satisfy their selfish desires. For them, what is needed is not a change of mind but a change of heart. As Greg Koukl puts it, it’s not on us to “seal the deal” with everyone(that’s ultimately God’s job) but instead leave them with something to think about. And sometimes it is something said calmly and respectfully in response to a moment of passionate anger that can help start the process of a heart change.