Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

Pro-life nod sparks progressive fury

Life | Followers lash out at liberal Christian author for bringing up the sanctity of life
by Leah Hickman
Posted 10/26/20, 04:25 pm

Progressive Christian author and activist Shane Claiborne received unexpected backlash earlier this month when he mentioned in a tweet his plans to write a book about the sanctity of life. “Shane, I love you,” replied one of his Twitter followers, Shannon Dingle. “But I would rather get rid of all my books than buy another take on abortion from a man.”

A poll asking when his Twitter followers thought life began accompanied Claiborne’s Oct. 16 post. Though just more than 50 percent of respondents selected “at conception,” the majority of replies to the tweet expressed frustration that he even brought it up.

“Unless you have a uterus, we don’t want to hear what you or other men think about abortion,” user Anne Rein wrote.

“I wasn’t really expecting … that kind of response,” said Claiborne, who has written books promoting communal, monastic living and demanding an end to the death penalty. “I feel like folks that are familiar with my work know that I’ve focused on a holistic ethic of life.” He clarified his planned book will deal with an array of life issues, touching on abortion as a necessary element of that topic.

The scolding Claiborne received from his followers despite his well-known liberalism shows a growing intolerance for pro-life legal and political positions in progressive Christianity. The Democratic Party has all but banished pro-lifers. Will liberal Christianity do the same?

“My circles tend to be very divided on [abortion],” said Claiborne. He said some use the Bible to justify bodily autonomy and reproductive rights while others emphasize living out pro-life convictions by supporting women and children in need and by opposing violence of other forms, such as the death penalty.

In 2018, Pew Research reported that, while the majority of adults in evangelical Protestant denominations oppose abortion, the majority of adults in mainline Protestant denominations say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. A Twitter poll Claiborne conducted on Oct. 14 put his Twitter followers in the second category, with about 68 percent saying abortion should be “legal, safe, and rare,” and another 9 percent saying it should be legal with no restrictions.

Claiborne said he hoped Christians could unite together to end abortion by other means: “I think we could actually work together across parties and political ideologies to make abortion rarer and rarer. … There’s things that we know would reduce the number of abortions and make it more feasible for women to have healthy lives and healthy babies,” such as, he says, affordable healthcare and childcare.

But Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said prioritizing other solutions that preserve the sanctity of life shouldn’t mean waffling on the question of abortion’s immorality.

“The pro-life generation is not monolithic,” she said. Her organization’s staff members and students vary on the political spectrum from liberal to conservative, but they’re all united in their acknowledgment of abortion as a moral wrong that ends the life of a human being. She sees students facing pressure from their progressive peers to discard their pro-life values during elections. But she hopes they’ll stand up for unborn life anyway.

“It’s the courageous thing to do to choose life and to draw that line in the sand,” said Hawkins. “Certainly not everyone is going to like you for doing that. If every church in America and every Christian in America would act like abortion is the violence it really is, then we wouldn’t have abortion.”

Editor’s note: A earlier version of this report contained incorrect information about Claiborne’s college career. He attended Wheaton College for one year and graduated from Eastern University.

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Leah Hickman

Leah is a reporter for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @leahmhickman.

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  • Ann Marshall
    Posted: Mon, 10/26/2020 06:52 pm

    And too, when Christians stop confusing righteousness with respectability we'll be more credible in our witness to the sanctity of life. 

    Very good article, thank you

  • OldMike
    Posted: Mon, 10/26/2020 07:14 pm

    This article points out that "a majority of adults in evangelical Protestant denominations oppose abortion," but "the majority of adults in mainline Protestant denominations say abortion should be legal in all or most cases."


    My first question would be, "Are we talking about Christians here, or non-Christians?"  "Protestant" is not a term I would generally use when talking about myself or my evangelical church.  For that matter, "Christian" is not a term I would generally use when talking about mainline Protestant denominations. I know when I belonged to a mainline Protestant denomination, neither I nor anyone I knew in those churches ever expressed any understanding whatsoever about being born again.  

    Which brings me to my point:  I believe a genuinely born again person who does not see anything wrong with abortion will be prodded by the Holy Spirit to change his thinking. I think we are unlikely to see that in mainline Protestant denominations because I believe the vast majority of those people are not genuinely born again.  Therefore I believe referring to them as Christian, or even using the phrase "progressive Christianity," or equating the evangelicals and progressives under the umbrella "Christian," is a mistake, a blurring of important lines, and probably a deception that comes from Satan.  

    Yes, I believe a Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, etc. can be born again--and have met some that I believe are born again--but I think they are a tiny minority, and anomaly, in the mainline, i.e. liberal, denominations. 

    And I'll add I believe there are sound reasons even those who aren't Christian can oppose abortion.

  • not silent
    Posted: Tue, 10/27/2020 12:29 pm

    I hear what you are saying, Old Mike.  But I don't feel comfortable making judgments about whether or not someone is a Christian based on behavior or even views about abortion.  I think God is the ONLY one who knows the heart of each individual.  

    I am strongly pro life-in fact, I previously volunteered for one of the largest pro life groups in the US.  The group actually sponsored a support group for post abortion stress.  I have also been in Christian and secular support groups where women felt safe enough to discuss past abortions.  What a lot of people may not realize is that THOUSANDS of women in this country have had abortions, and a substantial number are believers. There are also MILLIONS of people who were somehow involved with one or more abortions (i.e., as a mother, father, friend, boyfriend, sister, etc).  In our current society, women who had an abortion in the past and considered the experience difficult and/or traumatic basically have NO VOICE AT ALL. They can't speak up in pro life settings lest someone judge them for choosing abortion and either question whether they are actually believers or literally call them a murderer.  They can't speak up in pro choice settings either because no one in those settings will admit that ABORTION HURTS WOMEN. 

    To be fair, there may be women who feel no emotional pain after having an abortion; but I'VE NEVER MET ONE.  Every woman I have ever met who discussed a past abortion, whether pro life or pro choice-and whether the setting was Christian or secular-described the experience as traumatic.  However, the vast majority also said they believed it was their only choice at the time (including the Christians). For myself, when someone hammers me with bad choices I've made (particularly if those choices caused me pain), it is more likely to make me feel defensive and angry than to cause me to fall on my knees and repent. And I think that's part of what is happening with abortion in the US. Imagine how hard it would be to say to yourself and to God that you made a choice to kill your baby or that you encouraged/coerced/etc someone else to kill a baby.     

    I actually studied fetal development in college (at a liberal, secular university), and it convinced me more than anything else that a fetus is human life. Abortion certainly takes a life, but I think we will have limited effectiveness in stopping abortion unless we acknowledge the very real pain it causes to women and even to men who are involved.  I also think we will have limited effectiveness unless we are willing to do more to help women who are in vulnerable positions that lead them to choose abortion.  

    Posted: Tue, 11/03/2020 03:56 pm

    not silent: "THOUSANDS of women in this country have had abortions" -- try millions
    In January 2020, reported that almost 62 million babies had been aborted since Roe v Wade in 1973.

  • Kingdomnetworker
    Posted: Mon, 10/26/2020 08:19 pm

    The fundamental point of departure for "progressive Christianity" is their view of the Bible.  Their source of authority does not come from the Bible, but from liberal theologians, liberal pastors, philosophers, politicians, etc.  On the issue of abortion or bodily autonomy, they don't even consult the medical science.  A prolifer would not convice a "progressive Christian" to oppose abortion using the Bible because they will dismiss it. Perhaps, one could convince them that abortion takes an innocent life via the arguments presented by Scott Klusendorf comparing the unborn to a toddler. Hooray for Shane Claiborne's attempt.  May he weather the storm.

  • RC
    Posted: Tue, 10/27/2020 09:32 am

    I am very happy that Mr. Claiborne is going to write a pro-life book. Who is the “we” with Ms. Rein’s is referring to?  She obviously does not represent Ms. Hawkins and every pro-life female out there. If she wants to press the gender issue further, she needs to be reminded that about half the pre-born children who are murdered (aborted) are male.  Then there is the fact that this is a issue of murder, and that surpasses any gender considerations.

    Hey Ms. Hickman. great article!     

  • MR
    Posted: Tue, 10/27/2020 12:22 pm

    "Claiborne said he hoped Christians could unite together to end abortion by other means." 

    I find this statement ironic coming from  Shane Claiborne who heads up The Red Letter Christians, a growing, re-branding, pride-filled, pharasical sect who claim to follow Christ's words (red letters), yet seem to disregard Christ's prayer in John 17. 

    According to a Guttmacher Institute study, "having a baby would dramatically change my life" was one of the most commonly given reasons women gave for desiring an abortion.  The end of abortion requires changed hearts.  I am not certain Shane Claiborne's "progressive" gospel will produce the changed hearts it will require.  

    “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don't like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”           ~St. Augustine


  • Allen Johnson
    Posted: Tue, 10/27/2020 12:39 pm

    My sense is that Shane Claiborne's book will offend more than simply pro-choice people. He is likely to continue to speak out against the death penalty, and no doubt will speak strongly against war and preparation for war including nuclear armaments. And likely poverty and pollution that also contribute to deaths and illness.
    I look forward to his book.

  • FC
    Posted: Tue, 10/27/2020 03:45 pm

    Why do you continue to call Pro-Birthers Pro-Life?   I have made my argument in previous posts, but here is one that may be more succinct:

    I believe [it] is wrong in saying Trump is pro-life. Trump's cruelty at the border is not pro-life; restarting the death penalty is not pro-life; threatening "fire and fury" on another nation is not pro-life; opposing strict gun control measures on civilians is not pro-life; failing to provide strong support for new mothers—medical care, aid for dependent children—is not pro-life; failing to protect the environment for future generations is not pro-life; imprisoning the addicted rather than providing rehabilitation is not pro-life; treating some fellow citizens as less than human is not pro-life; failing to care for the mentally ill is not pro-life. The list could go on.

    Marvin Olasky, update your style book.

    Posted: Tue, 10/27/2020 06:24 pm

    FC, how do you interpret the following from God's "style book" -- the Pentateuch?

    Genesis 9:6 -- Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.
    Exodus 21:12 -- Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death.
    Leviticus 24:17 -- If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death.
    Numbers 35:16 -- If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.
    Deuteronomy 19:11-13 -- But if a man hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him, assaults and kills him, and then flees to one of these cities of refuge, the elders of his town shall send for him, bring him back from the city, and hand him over to the avenger of blood to die. Show him no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you.