Just a few days after our nation remembered Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for his work for civil rights, thousands gathered in the below-zero wind-chill on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to advocate for the rights of the unborn at the annual March for Life. I was honored to represent Church of the Resurrection there with my daughter. The crowds were astounding, particularly for the young demographic they represented. Youth groups from across the country in matching hats and scarves held signs proclaiming they were the “Pro-Life Generation”. Other young people handed out stickers saying, “I’m Worth the Wait” with the message ending abortion starts with choosing chastity.
Additionally, people from every corner of Christendom were represented. I was moved by a prayer by the Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, who was joined on stage by many leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Pope Francis tweeted his support and popular Evangelical musician, Matt Maher, opened the rally with worship songs. In an age when our differences tend to polarize us and teenagers are increasingly apathetic, I was encouraged to see the youth and diversity of Christians united under this common cause.
As Compassion Pastor, Matt Woodley, and I joined with Bishop Stewart, Madeleine and the Anglicans for Life group led by nearly all of the ACNA bishops marching in their purple cassocks, I was felt proud and honored to be a part of something so big, important and life-changing. But as we shuffled up Constitution Avenue in the biting wind and I started to seriously worry about my 7-month-old’s well-being, I thought, maybe it wasn’t worth it. What were we really accomplishing? What is the point of marching and who is it helping?
Church of the Resurrection is profoundly committed to defending the sanctity of life. Our view of the sanctity of life is not defined by a political agenda or a partisan leaning, but deeply rooted in a theology of life that is lived out in the day to day ministries of our members. Our church members pray regularly in front of the local abortion clinic. When a Rez member sent out a message on Christmas Eve about a neighbor with a newborn in need, a dozen Rez moms show up with food, clothing and support. Our church members regularly walk alongside women in crisis pregnancies, throwing baby showers, making meals to ensure this life is cared for in and outside the womb.
In addition to opposing abortion, our church members believe in defending the sanctity of life extending far beyond the womb and infancy. We offer women trapped in human-trafficking a way out, we care for the family of undocumented immigrants facing deportation, we teach the newly arrived refugees unsure of how to start in this country, and we take in the forgotten children in the foster care system. We are a church that consistently invests our time, money, and actions in serving the most vulnerable in society.
At a certain point, as we build relationships and hear the stories of the women in a crisis pregnancy or the woman escaping trafficking or the immigrant without documentation or the child shuffled from one foster home to another, lending a helping hand doesn’t seem to be enough. Martin Luther King Jr. captures this sentiment in a speech he gave at Riverside Church April 4, 1967:
“On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
That quote reflects why I marched for life. While our church is beautifully mobilized at the local level, I believe we also need to ask ourselves what “edifice needs restructuring.” In other words, we also need to ask how we can mobilize at the national level. That is why I stood outside in the freezing cold with my little baby. I’m convinced that evangelism, ministry and service, must be combined with advocacy to address root issues. I hope and pray that the people who represent us saw the massive and diverse support from their constituencies and are moved to take action on the national level. Until then, we continue to faithfully serve the vulnerable in the day to day while we also look for opportunities to advocate for them at the national level.