For the average pro-lifer, watching ostensibly moderate pro-choicers repeatedly adopt a more obviously barbaric stance on abortion is equal parts heartbreaking and confusing.
When more radical voices disavowed the suggestion that abortion was something tragic and proclaimed that abortion is an empowering experience that should be available on demand and without exceptions, the “legal, safe, and rare” moderates in public office embraced this evil. Likewise, when candidates have defended a woman’s right to end the life of her nearly full-term child by sucking the brains out of his skull, the two-thirds of self-identified pro-choice Americans who oppose third-trimester abortions appear to have abandoned their opposition at the ballot box. Why weren’t these things abhorrent enough for reluctant abortion advocates to experience a road-to-Damascus conversion and embrace the pro-life cause?
Likewise, as Democrat governors Andrew Cuomo and Ralph Northam now embrace infanticide as the next frontier to conquer in defense of “women’s reproductive rights,” it appears Democrats are once again poised to follow the extremists in their party. Why aren’t they disavowing them?
To answer these questions, permit me to share with you an illustration I like to call the Parable of the Burning Building.
The Parable of the Burning Building
Once upon a time, a man attended a party on the first floor of a skyscraper. Shortly after the party began, another man burst in and told everyone a fire had just started in the next room and the only way to escape was by taking a five-foot drop out the window.
But the smell of the smoke wasn’t very strong, and the partygoer didn’t want to roll an ankle in the jump, so he convinced himself that the fire wasn’t real. Instead of escaping, he and his friends took the party up to the second floor, far away from the buzz-killy ramblings of crazy Captain Fire Crier.
A few minutes later, however, Captain Fire Crier told them the fire had spread to the second floor and once again urged everyone to jump out the window, which was now about a 15-foot drop—maybe not enough to kill a person, but definitely enough to break your legs. Even though the partygoer could now smell the smoke and feel the heat, he feared the jump more than the fire, so he ran up to the third floor.
Once again, the fire found him, and once again, Captain Fire Crier begged him to jump out the window. But because the drop seemed even more terrifying, the partygoer ran up to the fourth floor. Then the fifth, then the sixth, and so on until he found himself at the top of the building, surrounded by the raging flames that he kept pretending weren’t real because he couldn’t bear to make the jump that stopped being survivable 50 stories earlier.
How This Applies to Abortion
To apply this parable to the abortion issue, let’s say that you show up to the “reproductive rights” party as a tepid supporter of legalized abortion. You personally oppose abortion, but you don’t want to impose your beliefs on someone else. Likewise, you think the procedure should be limited to the first trimester and shouldn’t be publicly funded.
But then your conscience starts accusing you, saying, “Abortion takes an innocent life and the fire of God’s judgment burns against those who won’t defend innocent life, so if you want to escape that judgment, stop supporting abortion and jump out the window of repentance.”
However, if you admit that you were wrong, God might not let you escape the guilt of having supported something immoral. So, in an effort to avoid that risky jump out the window, you try to convince yourself that you don’t need to take it. You insist abortion isn’t immoral. You run up to the second floor and join the rest of the defiant partygoers who are saying “There’s no reason to personally oppose abortion because what we’re dealing with in the first trimester isn’t a human life. It’s just a glob of cells.”
But then your conscience pipes up again. “That ‘glob of cells’ has its own human DNA from the moment of conception. It’s not the mother’s body. It’s a unique human life that deserves to be protected. Look at the sonogram. Listen to the heartbeat. Stop defending this barbarity. Repent.”
Now you’re starting to feel the heat of God’s wrath on your neck. But because you doubled down on your sin, the jump-out repentance widow is now twice as high and twice as hard, which makes you twice as quick to join the unyielding abortion supporters on the third floor, where you shout, “Fine, it’s a living human organism. But it’s not a person and therefore doesn’t have the right to life.”
In response, your conscience screams that “It’s a human but not a person” is the same fallacious distinction used to justify slavery and the Holocaust, so to escape such bad company, you make a philosophical pivot on the fourth floor, saying, “Person or not, a woman’s right to bodily autonomy is greater than some 12-week-old fetus’s right to be born.”
“Stop it,” your conscience snarls in response. “Stop defending yourself with perverse logic that also justifies second- and third-trimester abortions.” But that’s exactly what you do on floors five and six. Then you climb even higher by arguing that abortion at any point in pregnancy isn’t just acceptable. It’s merciful.
“We’re saving diseased children with little chance of survival from suffering.” Seventh floor.
“We’re sparing children with deformities a lifetime of rejection and bigotry.” Eighth floor.
“We’re protecting the children of low-income mothers from poverty and hunger.” Ninth floor.
“Every child a wanted child.” Tenth floor.
Do You Really Want to Keep Climbing?
Likewise, the higher you climb, the more the crowd of pro-lifers outside amplifies your conscience as they beg you to join them, which only makes the judgment of God burn hotter. So you climb another flight of stairs every time you try to dismiss the moral superiority of the pro-life cause by demonizing those who support it.
“You’re just trying to control women’s bodies.” Eleventh floor.
Likewise, when your opponents are undeterred by your ad hominem attacks, you climb another flight every time you seek to punish them for their insolence. When they continue decrying the wickedness of abortion, you make them pay for it with their tax dollars.
When they open crisis pregnancy centers aimed at helping women who have chosen life, you force them to advertise abortion clinics. When they try to speak about their cause on college campuses, you ban them. When they try to advertise on social media platforms, you deny them. When they get writing gigs at prestigious publications, you get them fired. Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen.
And so on and so on, until you find yourself at the top of that skyscraper. Not long ago, you thought abortion was a necessary evil that needed to be permitted but limited to the time before the fetus could feel pain. Now you’re insisting that abortion is a positive good that should be celebrated and available up until birth—or after, if ever a child targeted for termination has the audacity to escape the birth canal alive. Now you can’t oppose the brazen monstrosity of infanticide because you are too terrified to take the plunge that you’re certain stopped being survivable 50 stories earlier.
This Parable Applies to All Sorts of Scenarios
Of course, the Parable of the Burning Building doesn’t apply only to supporters of abortion. The vicious cycle it describes is one that all of us are wont to embrace, regardless of our preferred sins or political affiliations. By the grace of God, however, many of us in the pro-life movement found our way out of the flames on this issue. And if we want our pro-choice neighbors to escape their own version of the burning building, the best way to help them do so is by pointing them to another parable—a divinely inspired one that Jesus gave us in Luke 15.
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, a young man despises his father by asking for his inheritance early, only to squander his fortune on prostitutes and reckless living. Unable to stand another day of destitution, however, the young man decides to go home and rehearses the speech he hopes will earn him an occasional crumb from his father’s table. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,” he says. “I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”
But when he returns home and when his father runs out to greet him, the young man never gets to the second half of his speech. Immediately after he speaks the words of repentance, his father welcomes him back as a son, clothes him in the honor he threw away, and treats his sins as though they never happened.
In other words, when that young man jumped out the window of repentance 50 stories up, he fully expected his father to let him break into a thousand pieces on the ground. But he didn’t break a bone because his father caught him. His father was always going to catch him, always going to forgive him, always going to restore him.
There’s Someone Underneath the Window With a Net
The point of Christ’s parable, of course, is that this father’s love for his son is identical to God’s love for us. God doesn’t want us to be consumed by the fire of his wrath. He wants us to escape it, which is why he sent Jesus to rescue us from the sins that lit that fire.
Because of this, when sinners jump out the window of repentance, God isn’t going to withhold his mercy from those who didn’t jump early enough. He’s not going to let those who climbed to the top of the skyscraper shatter into pieces at his feet. He’s going to catch them, cradle them in his hands, and rejoice that the child who once was lost is now found through the blood of Christ.
As our pro-choice neighbors flirt with infanticide, this is what they need to know. More than anything, they need to hear us tell them, “I had my own sins, my own defiance, my own 50-story burning skyscraper. But I got out. So can you.
“So, yes, voters, you should have stopped voting for pro-choice candidates a long time ago. Yes, politicians, from day one you should have feared the wrath of God more than the wrath of NARAL. But it’s not too late to do that now. It’s not too late to escape condemnation and find peace with the God who has already written out of existence every sin you committed against your most innocent and defenseless neighbors.
“So don’t be afraid to take the plunge out the window. Don’t be afraid to jump. Don’t think that your father in heaven wants to watch you splatter on the sidewalk. He doesn’t. He wants to watch you land safely in the hands that have been waiting to catch you from before the foundation of the world. And don’t worry that you’ve doubled down on your sin one too many times. Don’t worry that you’ve climbed too high to survive the fall. Jump and see that the gravity of guilt is no match for the grace of God.”