"Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrew 10:24-25
That is my vision of what a pro-life rally should look like: love, encouragement, unity, and a healthy dose of "spurring" one another on to do what is impossible to do alone. I rejoice that on Tuesday night, I walked away from the Seattle 40 Days for Life Rally, feeling all those things in abundance.
Shortly before 7pm on September 22nd, a steady stream of attendees began to file in the doors of the Newman Center, the beautiful brick chapel across from the University of Washington. Attendance numbered between 100 and 150 people and represented those from every age group and background.
In a moving and joy-filled speech, Camille Pauley of Healing the Culture emphasized the person, not simply the baby, that abortion claims. Even those lives that are aborted have an eternal meaning and significance. At a funeral, we not only mourn and "protest" the loss of a loved one, but we also honor and rejoice in the unique person they were. In the same way, our job in standing vigil is not simply to oppose the act of abortion, but also to honor the person that is taken from us.
Pauley urged us to consider both the "before" and "after" of abortion. As believers, we have hope, even after abortion. We hope in the healing and forgiveness of Christ: for the mother, father, family, abortion workers and nation, and hope for the soul of the unborn, as it is ushered from this world to the next. Pauley drew upon recent experiences, including her current pregnancy and the loss of family members as she spoke with conviction about the value of each life, adding new depth and meaning to the way I think about abortion.
Following Pauley's thoughtful reflections came the fiery orations of Russell Johnson. As the Director of Governmental Affairs for the Family Policy Institute of Washington, Johnson approached the issue of abortion from a less personal, more historical perpsective. With the zeal of a traveling preacher, and the precision of a policy wonk, Johnson delivered this message to the crowd: real hope and change are coming to America.
He detailed recent successes that resulted from everyday people taking a stand: the blocking of Planned Parenthood in Pasco, the 1,561 lives saved during past 40 Days campaigns, the 18 abortion workers who have walked away from the industry, and many more. For a normally subdued crowd, the energy was palpable, drawing a number of cheers, "amens" and hearty applause. Johnson punctuated the end of his address with "I'm Russell Johnson, and I approved this message." (I'm sure I am not the first to say this: Johnson 2012...anybody?)
To close out the meeting, campaign leaders Monica Oberlin and Amy Tribble covered the basic housekeeping rules of the vigil and invited all of us to sign up for specific hours of prayer. Lines quickly formed as people eagerly went to the back of the room to register.
In the city of Seattle, it is easy for the pro-lifer to feel estranged. The hostility we experience should not surprise us, for Jesus warned that those who believe His truth would be hated by the world. But on Tuesday night, I felt the grace of God in a special way, as I found myself surrounded by advocates of life in a city of death. I was reminded of the ultimate foundation of our hope: Christ's victory over death in the resurrection, and the free gift of life He offers to all those who believe.