Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Book Review - UnPlanned by Abby Johnson
I had this book on the shelf for several months now. To be honest, I sort of avoided it because I suspected the sorts of things it would contain - dark & dreadful things. I had read & heard a lot about abortion methods, the anguish of the child, the harm caused to women, the botched procedures, etc. But I was certainly not ready to deal with the level of grief going on in the mind & soul of a woman who spent almost a decade on the “other side of the fence.” Because Abby begins with the pivotal moment of her career as an abortion clinic director, I admit my throat had a lump in it & I was ready to weep just a few pages in. But I just couldn’t stop reading. It was getting late, but just one more page… Soon, I had covered over 200 pages & it was almost one in the morning, so I headed off to bed. Curiously, I slept like a baby.
Several things strike me about her account that I feel compelled to share…
- The complexity of the human being. It is all too easy to paint people with whom you disagree as one-dimensional beings. All of us are complex knots of conflicts & contrasts. We easily compartmentalize our lives, & so easily dupe ourselves or allow others to do so. I do it. You do it. Abby points that all the while she worked at P.P., she thought she was doing good for women. We should be very humble before the mystery & complexity of the human person, especially in their fallen state.
- The complexity of human relations. In light of the above, when approaching others to convince them of the evil of abortion, we need to approach them with great, great care. If, as pro-lifers, our motivation, message, or means is anything other than the love of human beings, we will fail. Abby was loved by her parents & husband, though they strongly disagreed with her. She was openly loved by many on the other side of the fence. Yet those to whom she was loyal within P.P. turned viciously against her the second her intention to leave was discovered. In all human relations, with friend or foe, cultivate love.
- The complexity of man before God. It is a colossal scandal before the world that some Christian denominations are either neutral on the matter of abortion, & God please forbid, even pro-abortion. Abby was raised in a Christian home, never considered herself anything but a seeker of God, & was very conflicted when she was asked to leave her evangelical church because she worked for P.P., & saddened again when she was encouraged to leave her Episcopalian church because she left them. All the while she was searching God’s will in her life. And yet she still worked where she did. As mentioned, we can convince ourselves of nearly anything. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, we don’t need the Church to be right when we are right, but rather when we’re wrong.
- Good triumphs over evil. This is only true if there is something that really is good & something that really is evil. I am pro-choice when picking pizza toppings - this is a matter or pure preference of little moral concern. But if we are talking life issues, a choice is always between things more or less morally right & good. Part of speaking the Gospel of Jesus Christ is simply convincing people that there is a right & a wrong, a good & an evil, completely independent of how we feel about it or the circumstances. When facing such a horrible thing as abortion & the many other violations of human dignity, we should foremost know that the pro-life cause is a godly cause. God is pro-life because life is good; therefore, in faith we can be assured of victory.
What conclusions might we draw from Abby’s story? What can we do to end this tragedy in our day?
- Be loving & kind to everyone you meet. You never know how God will one day use a kind look or smile or word as a point of grace to change someone’s heart. We all remember something in our past who brought us unexpected grace.
- Never write off anyone. This is a corollary to the above. Some of the greatest sinners have become the greatest saints. Faith & conversion are mysterious happenings. Some people are born with faith, others are converted in a flash, but many people take time to work it all out. Every human being that ever existed was & is called to union with God; never cease to hope for this.
- Persevere. Babies take time to develop & people’s minds & hearts take time to change. The continuous, patient, loving presence of pro-life people through all days, seasons, & years must be a part of the landscape. It is easy to give up hope in the glacial pace of legislative change. We may lose ground any given day, but we certainly lose all if we retreat from the field of battle. The good news is that great numbers of young people are embracing the life message. The tide may be turning. Fortitude.
- Pray & fast. Though practical action is required, ultimately, this is a spiritual battle. Rather than trusting in our own abilities & righteousness, this mission will only be successful to the degree that we turn it over to God & trust the task of saving life to Him who created it.
- Stay informed. Thing happen really fast these days. You need to know if P.P. is planning to open a clinic in your town. You need to know about legislation being introduced into state or federal legislatures. Access to good information is key. Your local Right to Life chapter or your parish’s pro-life committee can be a clearing houses for what’s going on locally. The web can connect you to things going on nationally.
- Don’t assume others are taking care of it. Your church has people that take care of the flowers in the sanctuary. You don’t have to worry about it; it just happens. Your church also has people that pray outside of the abortion clinics & distribute information. You don’t have to worry about that, someone is taking care of it, right? Dead wrong. We do not have the luxury of assuming other people are going to do this work for us. If every Christian participated, this horror would already be over.
- Get involved & take action. Participate in the pro-life events in your area, whether through your church, the local Right to Life office, or 40 Days event. Learn enough to offer others compelling arguments about why abortion is wrong & not a personal matter for the mother alone. Know your state & federal representative’s positions on life issues. Write them (respectfully!) to let them know your pro-life views & that you expect them to do their part to uphold human life, which is rightly placed first among the self-evident truths declared in the Declaration of Independence.
Abby Johnson’s story is a great one that should be widely known, a story of hope. Read it & recommend it others. Donate a copy to your parish library. I can’t imagine myself being willing to systematically examine my own history, thoughts, & beliefs in the way Abby had done, let alone share it with the world. This was a monumental work of courage that she attributes solely to the power of God. It will change hearts & save lives. A million thanks, Abby, for telling your story.