Miley Cyrus blew up social media with a picture of her licking a cake with “Abortion is Healthcare” written in icing. It’s exactly the kind of vulgar over the top provocations that are so popular with celebrities and social media warriors these days. Jim Carrey recently posted a drawing of a fetal Alabama Governor Kay Ivey as the impending victim of a suction abortion. Twitter feeds are full of profane rants and silly analogies as abortion supporters lose their minds in the face of a growing willingness by state legislatures to pass new laws taking on our permissive abortion culture. We can only assume they think their vulgarity bothers pro-lifers, in some manner or another assaulting our natural prudishness while making a blunt point through gross assertion.
Here are two quick counter points. First, the people who support laws restricting abortion do so because we believe the best arguments demonstrate the basic humanity of unborn human beings. The science of embryology tells us a whole, distinct, and living human organism comes into existence at conception and philosophy tells us that the best explanation for our shared sense of equal human dignity, our common intuition that it is wrong to kill each other, is that human beings are valuable by virtue of what we are. The unborn are merely human, and that is all they need to be to require me to treat them with dignity and respect.
Taking bad arguments and assertions that have already failed to convince us of the pro-choice position and adding obscenity and vulgarity doesn’t accomplish anything. I don’t hear conviction and strength when people cuss at me. Actually, I am reminded of when friends of mine and I used to come home from elementary school and our parents were still at work. We would scream cuss words and laugh. Why? We were silly kids and thought it was funny. Ramping up vulgarity and obscenity isn’t convincing. It screams immaturity.
My second point is actually an appeal to my fellow Christians to evaluate these displays through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. I teach every audience I speak to that we can’t take a message that all human life has value and ought to be treated with dignity and respect to the world while hating the people who disagree with us. This is true even when they disagree with childish vulgarity. We don’t merely want to win arguments. We want to win people to our side with good arguments helping to build a culture more respectful to all human life by helping others escape error.
Perhaps I’m sensitive to this because I was like them when I was younger. I never had anywhere near the influence people like Miley Cyrus, Jim Carrey, or Alyssa Milano have, but I was every bit as prone to making my points with a healthy dose of cuss words and provocation. I was every bit as mocking in my defense of the pro-choice position. I was every bit as provocative in my efforts to irritate those who disagreed with me. I credit one particular Christian who weathered the storm of my personality and met all of my vitriol and obscenity by returning grace and mercy for setting the stage for God to reach me and change my life. I want the same for others.
Let me end with a quick story. Years ago, a friend of mine and I were walking through a local mall. We noticed a young man who stood near us wearing a t-shirt that read, “Jesus Christ is a…” and that was followed with a nasty obscenity. My friend understandably became angry. She then became slightly irritated with me because it didn’t make me equally as angry. She finally demanded to know why it didn’t bother me. I told her, “It does bother me. But one of two things will happen with that young man. The first possibility is that he will one day see Jesus as you and I do. If and when that day comes I promise you that t-shirt will hurt him far more than it bothers you right now. I can assure you from experience, that t-shirt will haunt him for the rest of his life this side of heaven. The second possibility is that he won’t ever realize how wrong that shirt is. If Jesus is Lord, then the latter is far worse in the end.”
We must answer error with the truth. We must confront anger with love. And we must confront those raging in obscenity and vulgarity with strength and resolve but also grace and mercy. They are profoundly wrong, but they are also the image bearers of God. The person God used to help transform me from the man that I was to the man I am today believed to her core that both the unborn and Jay Watts were worth fighting for. In gratitude to her and God, I hope I never fail to follow her example.