My wife and I were watching Citizen King, a documentary about Martin Luther King , Jr, on public television the other night. Early in the program they were chronicling the Birmingham demonstrations of 1963, a specific moment struck me as telling on this discussion. The demonstrations are not going well. The black citizens of Birmingham are not rallying to the cause and the faithful few are dwindling. The city had just delivered an injunction that all those who march will be arrested. A strategy session with the leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is called to discuss how to proceed. Many of these men are ministers and pastors, and with Easter coming and the demonstrations going poorly a growing sentiment is expressed. It is time to go home and tend to our flocks for the Easter service. Even Martin Luther King Sr. is telling Martin Jr. to go home to Ebenezer Baptist Church and lead his congregation in the holiday service.
The next thing that happened as described by those in attendance was this. Dr. King stood up and went into his room. A few moments later he emerged from the room wearing blue jeans. Everyone in the room understood what the choice in pants meant. Dr. King intended to go out and march. More importantly, he intended to defy an unjust law knowing that he was going to be arrested and spend some time in jail. So he wore the jeans instead of his suit. The declaration of purpose by Dr. King was clear to everyone in the room. There may be other things that I can be doing. They may even be important things, as a pastor clearly takes shepherding his flock as vital to his calling. But there is no job that I can be doing more important than this job right here right now. There were good reasons to turn away and go home. There was a better reason to stay. Our job is not done, and only injustice will be served by going elsewhere. Other important things must wait while we attend to this evil today.
There are two things highlighted by this anecdote. The first point is that the answer to slow progress is not always to take a step back. The problem is not that we have tried electing pro-life officials and it has failed. My estimation of the problem is that after electing the officials we have not been vigilant enough to make certain that they are fulfilling their pro-life promises. We are not suffering from a job tried and failed. We are suffering the results of a job half tried at best. We give them support and then let them off of the hook. Our pro-life elected officials need to see that WE care about the issue of life outside of election cycles. They need to hear from US that their current efforts are not sufficient, if they are not, and that we have higher expectations for them than to be ready to vote accordingly when someone else has the courage to propose legislation.
The second point is that this and the Frederick Douglas example in part 1 demonstrate a tragedy. In the past when a group of people in our nation were categorized as either less than human or not worth the full protection of human rights under the Constitution of the United States, a polarizing and articulate member of that oppressed group has arisen to defy the caricatures. How can anyone read My Bondage and My Freedom and still assert that Frederick Douglass by virtue of being black is less a man than any other? When I saw the film of Dr. King walking out of the strategy meeting into the streets and being arrested, it was impossible to take seriously the wild and hateful accusations of his detractors that he did not deserve the full rights of citizenry. Susan B. Anthony asked in the court of law in 1873, "Are women persons?" As one group tried to dehumanize another, there has always been a member of the oppressed group that stood as a living counter argument to the lies that were used to justify injustice. Sadly, there is no such hero of the unborn coming. Those who look to minimize others have found in the unborn the perfect victim. We are left with images and argument to fill the silence from those whom by virtue of their age and development can not argue for themselves.
I am a one-issue voter, if by that you mean I will not vote for any man or woman who believes that it is a basic right of American citizens to take the life of an innocent human being for elective reasons. I confess that the lives of the unborn are important to me because I believe that they are important to God. I further assert that those who believe that the unborn are human beings have an obligation to speak out on their behalf. There is no hero coming this time. It is left to us to defend them with all of the passion and resources we have available. We are the only voice they have.