40 Days for Life - The Opposition

40 Days for Life is coming, no doubt to a location near you. Have you heard about it? From their website: "40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life campaign with a vision to access
God’s power through prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil to end abortion
in America." Clearly, this is a noble, well-intentioned effort to help reduce the number of abortions - and hopefully eliminate them.

Last year where I live, we saw a pretty major problem with the 40 Days campaign. Things were thrown together at the last minute, there weren't clear expectations we could share with others that participated, and it ended up getting ugly in front of the abortion clinics. There were church members that were involved in intimidation and just had the completely wrong idea.

Whenever I hear of something that takes a stand for life, I immediately look at the impact it will have on unbelievers and/or pregnant women. When I heard of this campaign last year, I envisioned people praying outside of the abortion clinic and women going into the clinic. Most of them probably would have the typical view of anyone "crazy" enough to stand outside the clinic. They probably think that we're judging them, condemning them, and being angry with them. Then when this was what actually happened last year, it probably did a lot of damage to the women and men going into the clinic.

I think we need to be very mindful and very careful of the "face" we show to those heading into the clinic. If they see us being angry, intimidating, looking down our noses, and even if they see a group praying, they either aren't going to understand and/or they are going to feel upset about it. Instead of seeing open arms, they're going to think we are not accepting of them now and won't accept them after. I doubt that any one of them would feel comfortable walking over for help or prayer – I know I wouldn't in that situation.

That being said, prayer is SO vitally important to this issue. It's the only thing that will change anything – from the mindset of the women to the laws of our country. So I do not want to discourage prayer from taking place. I just don't understand why in front of the clinic? If it is to combat spiritual powers, couldn't anyone do that from home? At a church? Anywhere else? What good comes from being across the street from an abortion clinic? Does God hear our prayers better there? When I consider the negatives that could come from being there, I don't think that taking a step of faith or being salt and light at that place outweighs the image of being Christ to the women and men making that awful journey.

There are also other concerns that are minor, but important. The 40 Days campaign originated with ALL (the American Life League). This is a Catholic organization that is very political and very condemning in their attitude. They are of the opinion that birth control pills cause murder and they have no problem sharing that opinion in a sanctimonious way. They started 40 Days as a way to draw attention to Planned Parenthood centers and stand in opposition to them. There was no mention of outreach to women or prayers before God until later.

This year, in my area I hear that around 40 Catholic churches and only 4 Protestant churches (to this point) are signed up for 40 Days. Major Christian organizations (for instance Dr Dobson with Focus on the Family) do not encourage 40 Days participation… They're silent on it. Why?

I would think that a better way to do this would be to encourage prayer at a certain time  daily, weekly, monthly, etc.  It could be on a constant basis - maybe 1 hour of the day, maybe 1 hour during the week every week, etc. There are numerous ways to do this, but peaceful protest, as 40 Days puts it, really does not do anyone any good in my opinion.

All that being said, please just pray about it, think about it, and if you are feeling strongly led that this is a good thing for the body of Christ as represented at your church to step into, the only suggestion I could have would be to really educate the people you send out there. Educate them about the mindset of those going into the clinic and how we need to appear like Jesus would to them. Last year, I heard a few times that people would be "unable to keep my mouth shut" or "I might have to physically restrain someone" and other things when I called people to get involved. Yikes!

What are your thoughts? I couldn't find a single thing out there that spoke against the idea of 40 Days for Life. Am I the only one?


Anonymous said...

A couple of quick clarifications about 40 Days for Life:

1.) 40 Days for Life did not originate at American Life League. It originated at a small pro-life organization in College Station, Texas in the fall of 2004, and when the decision was made to conduct nationally coordinated campaigns, 40 Days for Life was incorporated as a new non-profit organization. Many national organizations, including American Life League have endorsed and promoted 40 Days for Life, but the campaign is -- and has always been -- an independent pro-life effort. Read more at: http://www.40daysforlife.com/about.cfm?selected=history

2.) There has been broad support of 40 Days for Life across denominational lines in many communities, the organization's board of directors is made up of both Evangelical and Catholic Christians, and the list of endorsers includes many well-known leaders and organizations from diverse faith traditions. See: http://www.40daysforlife.com/about.cfm?selected=endorsements

3.) 40 Days for Life has not yet been able to get in contact with Dr. Dobson personally (keep in mind that we are still a fledgling new organization) but Focus on the Family has actually spread the word about 40 Days for Life through its CitizenLink publication and its daily "Family News in Focus" radio show (where I have been a guest on multiple occasions.)

4.) Being present at the abortion facility, though challenging, actually DOES bear tremendous fruit. We have confirmed reports of 514 babies spared from abortion due to the 40 Days for Life prayer presence, 5 abortion clinic workers have left their jobs in the abortion industry while thanking the prayer volunteers outside during 40 Days for Life campaigns, and two abortion facilities have shut down following 40 Days for Life campaigns -- one in Dallas, Texas, and one in Rockland County, New York.

5.) Outreach and prayer have always been a vital component of 40 Days for Life since the very first campaign in College Station, Texas, in 2004. There were numerous news stories that appeared in that town during the first campaign due to these "unique" approaches to addressing the crisis of abortion, and since that time over 300 news stories have appeared around the nation to detail the positive approach and community impact of 40 Days for Life. To see a few of these stories, visit: http://www.40daysforlife.com/news.cfm

6.) I would heartily agree with your suggestion that people need to be properly educated before participating in 40 Days for Life. Our national team actually conducts dozens of hours of in-depth training by conference call with the leaders of local campaigns, to ensure that they -- and their volunteers -- are properly educated and equipped to show the love of Christ in all that they say and do. We realize that some individuals choose to not participate in the training and will not approach the issue the way we teach, but we have seen more than 150,000 people involved around the nation with very few examples of the kind of disorganization and lack of compassion you describe. We will continue to do all we can -- just as you are, for which we are thankful -- to encourage people to use love and prayer to combat the terrible injustice of abortion.

Thank you so much for sharing your honest and frank opinions, and I hope these answers help to clarify things a bit.

For more information or if anyone has additional questions, please visit: http://www.40daysforlife.com or e-mail me directly at: david@40daysforlife.com

Together we are making a life-saving impact!

In Christ,

David Bereit
National Campaign Director
40 Days for Life

Rose said...

Hello David,

Thank you for being so gracious in your response to my post. I really appreciate the time it took for you to answer some of my concerns. I have a few followup thoughts.

1.) I understand that the 40 Days campaign did begin physically at College Station, Texas, but the Houston Coalition for Life (which you founded) seems to be an ALL Affiliate. I understand that they operate entirely separately from ALL, but at the same time, you were the Executive Director of ALL at one point and are currently the the STOPP International (an ALL political branch) Director, correct? Perhaps ALL did not begin 40 Days, but the two are tied pretty tightly.

2.) You're right that Citizen Link has written up 2 articles (from what I could find) on 40 Days. As far as I know, that isn't considered an endorsement, but I'll give you that point. ;)

3.) I think you misunderstand my concern about standing outside as fear about it being "challenging." I'm not intimidated or challenged by going there. I used to sidewalk counsel before I had children and a hectic schedule.

My concern isn't about pro-lifers being challenged. It's about the abortive women being challenged. I shudder at the picture the Houston Coalition for Life has on their homepage of people just staring in silence as people go in. http://www.houstoncoalition.com/ Why stand there? To be a witness to whom? The babies? They can't see. God? He can see and hear us anywhere. Why stand outside and appear intimidating? Why risk it?

I mean...even if your people are completely trained (which you admit doesn't happen all the time) and they do just stand silently still and pray...can you put yourselves in the shoes of the women going in? What does she feel? Embarrassed? Ashamed? Uncomfortable? What good does that do?

From HCFL's site, "When Christians consistently pray at its facilities (PP), customers realize that they will not be able to receive confidential services there." "...the public soon realizes that something bad is going on inside those facilities." "...will increase the dissatisfaction rate among its clientele making it difficult to maintain customers." Granted - this is NOT about 40 Days but about a very similar program that began at the same location 40 Days began. This seems to speak more of intimidation than love - not outreach and prayer.

Honestly, David, I love the idea of praying for 40 days around the clock....LOVE it! The ONLY problem I have is with your idea of a peaceful vigil. Jesus himself said in Matthew 6:

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven...And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

That tells me that my praying needs to be done in private - not where someone else could be influenced negatively by it.

When Paul was communicating to the new believers in Romans 14, they were wondering what to do about meat sacrificed to idols. Is it okay to eat? Or not? Paul says:

If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

That says to me that if someone is upset and is turned away from God by what I am doing, I better not do it.

Similar to this is the issue I have with the "truth trucks." I wrote about that here: http://theprowomanprolifer.blogspot.com/2005/08/truth-or-intimidation.html

I'm not saying the methods are the same, but I share concerns with both. They too can say that some children have been saved from abortion.

Again, I must stress that I don't doubt you have the right heart, motives, intentions, etc. My problem isn't with you, David. I've heard you speak. I understand your heart. My problem is with the public face we show - intentionally or unintentionally. I just would rather not take the risk.

Thank you for your time and your efforts to help women and their families. I'll continue to pray for your efforts, and I look forward to a response if you have the time. You're quite busy I realize! :)


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