The Peaceful Warrior is a Chinese story about an apprentice talking to his warrior master while walking through a garden. The apprentice asks his master if it wouldn’t be more peaceful to be a gardener and live among his plants and trees. The master responds, “Tending the garden is peaceful, but it doesn’t prepare us for the inevitable conflicts in life. It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.”
This story sheds some light on why I do what I do for a living. I dedicated the last ten years of my life to preparing others to engage discussions on some of the most contentious issues in the culture today, most prominently the issue of abortion, in a reasonable and impacting manner. Merely Human Ministries exists to equip people to argue well.
As a Christian, this may seem at odds with Paul’s admonition that as much as it is possible for me I am to be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:18) One of my first prayers as a Christian centered on this desire to be left alone and leave others alone. I was convinced from the point of view I held as a young pro-choice unbeliever that abortion divided by its nature. It wasn’t my first prayer, but it was probably in the first five times I bent my knees to God that I asked, “God, now that I believe you are there I will do whatever you want, become whatever you want. But if it is all the same to you I would like to live the rest of my life without ever talking about abortion again.” Like the apprentice in the Peaceful Warrior, I longed to walk in the garden in peace and know God.
What changed? How did I go from solely wanting to live unseen and unheard to building an organization to equip others to agitate our culture by asking tough questions about how we treat other human beings? Basically two things, (1) I grew to abhor violence against other human beings while (2) becoming convinced that the unborn rightfully belonged in the category of full members of the human family.
The first came during a several month research project on violence. In his book Christian Apologetics, Douglas Groothius shares the story of Philosopher Phillip Hallie writing a book on Nazi cruelty including experiments on children. The experience of studying that evil exacted a toll on Hallie. He entertained thoughts of suicide. My own project never led me to that extreme, but it did change me forever. Seeing how quickly whole societies of people went from seemingly normal to participating in unspeakable acts of violence, often times against their own neighbors, unnerved me. Prior to that, there seemed to me to be minor sins that were of a different nature than major sins. After months of reading first hand accounts of some of the most profoundly evil endeavors man has ever set his hands to, the sin of violence became one vast sea. It may be shallower at the shores, but those small acts of cruelty are of the same waters. Wading into them risks being carried away into something genuinely terrible.
At this time a new question introduced itself into my life. What is the unborn? The answer to that question is independent of my personal preferences or feelings. The question demands an objective answer.
Is the unborn a human being? What else could it be? It is biologically and genetically human from the moment of conception. It is the by-product of human reproduction. Human parents tend to reliably produce human kids as opposed to puppies or bunnies. It is an independent organism, not a body part or an organ functioning as a part of another organism. It is alive. It processes energy and grows in accordance with an internally coordinated human developmental pattern. The answer to the question, “What is the unborn?” appears to be it is a whole, distinct, and human life.
One thing I learned from my previous research, there are things that we can do to other human beings that are objectively wrong. There are things we should simply never to do to others. Sin, evil, and objective moral wrongs are real things, a fact that is glaringly obvious when they expose themselves in their most stomach turning manifestations. The answer to what abortion does to unborn human life belongs in the realm of uncontested and undeniable facts of medical procedures and statistics. As pro-choice feminist Camille Paglia once wrote,
“The violence intrinsic to abortion cannot be wished away by magical thinking…Abortion pits the stronger against the weaker, and only one survives.”
Which brings us back to Paul’s admonition about attempting to be at peace with all. Is it possible to be at peace with the destruction of human life on the scale seen through abortion? If the unborn are fully human, human in the same way that all who we uncontroversially accept as full members of the human family are, then the answer to that question is a clear and resounding no. It is not possible.
We don’t celebrate the legacies of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Sophie Scholl, the ten Boom family, and Martin Luther King Jr. because they lived in peace with their respective cultures. We revere them precisely because they identified injustice and paid the price to oppose it. We revere them because they saw with perfect clarity that any peace bought by treating other human beings as a mere means to our ends was a wicked lie. A culture that demands silence in the face of injustice invites quarrel with the morally tutored members of its citizenry. We are forever at war with indiscriminate selfish violence against our fellow man and the battle cannot be avoided. For the Christian, the highest ideal isn’t peace but to love God with all of our beings and love our neighbor as ourselves.
The scripture most often pointed to as the battle cry of the apologist is 1 Peter 3:15,
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”
This is why we must prepare to engage. The Christian living in the world today isn’t looking for a fight. The war is coming to them whether they want to avoid it or not. It is a war of ideas. Among the most important of those ideas are the questions “Who counts as members of the human family?” and “What are our obligations and duties to our fellow man?” With daily headlines concerning abortion, physician assisted suicide, human animal chimera research and seemingly endless other biotechnology breakthroughs, Christians must be prepared to intelligently speak into this culture recognizing all humanity as the image bearers of God and valuable by virtue of what they are.
We all want to walk in the garden in peace, but such peace is rarely the earthly destiny of those who love God, his law, and his justice. It is difficult to understand how we could simultaneously believe that all human beings ought to be treated with dignity and respect at every stage of development while saying nothing in the face of abortion. We don’t want unprepared gardeners thrust onto the battlefield. It is far better to train people to reasonably engage in a manner that will impact the lives of others. Warriors can both walk in the garden and make their stand when the occasion calls.
 Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press USA, 2011) Kindle copy, Chapter 15 The Moral Argument for God
Camille Paglia, “Feminist have abortion wrong, Trump and Hillary miscues highlight a frozen national debate,” Salon.com https://www.salon.com/2016/04/07/camille_paglia_feminists_have_abortion_wrong_trump_and_hillary_miscues_highlight_a_frozen_national_debate/