Dear White Christian Pro-Life Friends (1 – 4 compiled)

PART 1: My Story

Dear White Christian Pro-Life Friends,

If you from time to time have second thoughts about what the pro-life movement is doing to our country, our faith, and your own soul, this four-part series is for you. I only ask that you read it prayerfully and thoughtfully, with an open mind and heart. 

I’m a family-oriented person, the father of four wonderful adult children in their thirties and the grandfather of five amazing grandkids aged ten and younger. I’ve been married to my college sweetheart, Grace, for 41 years. Grace was raised Roman Catholic, and she went to Catholic schools from birth through college. We met through a campus ministry.

I grew up in a loving Evangelical Christian family in the Plymouth Brethren tradition. My parents were of Scot, Irish, English, and Dutch descent. For me, childhood was enriched by memorizing Bible verses, going to Bible camp in the summer, attending Bible studies, and having a daily quiet time with Bible reading. My whole life has been shaped by Scripture and the rich resources of the Christian tradition, and I am deeply grateful for my heritage.

In my teens, I became part of the Jesus Movement and the charismatic movement. For twenty-four years, I was an Evangelical church planter and pastor, and now I work as an author, speaker, teacher, and activist. I am especially dedicated, because of my faith, to working for the poor, the planet, and peace.

Grace and I were part of the pro-life movement near its founding, and I have many good friends active in the pro-life movement today — both Evangelical and Catholic, and I hope you will graciously give me the chance to share my story with you.

Because I was born near the peak of the baby boom (1956), I am old enough to remember when conservative Evangelicals didn’t intentionally involve themselves in politics. Back then, we saw involvement in politics as a “worldly” distraction from our only real work in the world before the Rapture: saving souls bound for hell.

I’m also old enough to remember the early 1970’s, when Evangelicals widely supported abortion rights, including well-known Southern Baptists like W. A. Criswell, who believed that Genesis 2:7 definitively answered the question of when human life begins: at the first breath. (Even the Lausanne Covenant of 1974 never mentions abortion. Fifteen years later, the Lausanne movement included it in Article 4 of the Manila Manifesto – where it was mentioned, not to the exclusion of other issues, but as one among many.)

Back then, most Protestants considered abortion a “Catholic issue.” Abortion certainly wasn’t a litmus test for Evangelical orthodoxy.

The first time I heard of abortion wasn’t even in church: it was in my senior year of public high school, in a philosophy class. I was assigned “legalizing abortion” as a topic for a research paper on ethics. I don’t remember which side I took, or even if I took a side, but I do remember that I felt the issue was complicated, with good points on both sides.

When I became part of the Jesus Movement in the early 70’s, and then was involved with the Charismatic Movement in the mid 70’s, I don’t ever remember abortion being mentioned. Not once.

Then I remember how quickly that changed in the late 70’s and early 80’s. For me, it was Francis Schaeffer’s and Ron Sider’s writings that won me over to the pro-life cause.

For several years, I attended the annual March for Life with a sign in my hand, my wife by my side, our baby in a backpack, and a toddler or two in a stroller. I felt politically awakened.

I was taking a public stand for something for the first time in my life! Ironically, this didn’t make me feel conservative, because, as I said, all the religious conservatives I knew stayed away from any “secular” or “political” issues.

Marching and carrying signs and attending rallies for a cause I believed in made me feel dangerously liberal!

In the 1980’s, as a young father and the pastor of a nondenominational church, I was concerned about the sexualization of children by advertisers and entertainers. I was concerned about the breakdown of healthy families and the prevalence of “latchkey kids.” I was concerned about cavalier attitudes that cheapened sex and empowered predatory men. I was concerned about the startling rise in pornography addiction (even before the internet – remember video shops?). I was concerned about a general loss of reverence and respect, a rising tide of sleaze.

Pro-family, pro-life Christians, I knew, cared about these things as well, so I was glad to be counted among them.

But I gradually began to realize that I was being inducted into something bigger and more complex than I had expected.

I hit a “come to Jesus moment” one Sunday morning at the church I co-led. An unmarried woman in our church got pregnant and had an abortion. In our tradition, we followed a process of “church discipline” that was outlined in Mathew 18, and in the end, we removed her from membership. An older woman in our fellowship came up and handed me a folded over piece of paper. She didn’t say anything; she just smiled, gave it to me, and walked away. On it she had written these words from another chapter in Matthew (23):

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees … tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.”

I am sad to say that I was defensive at first, but later, her gentle confrontation broke through and I saw myself in her words. I thought of the Gospel story of the woman caught in adultery (in John 8:1-11), where a woman was publicly shamed by religious leaders while a man got off scot free. I had played the role of the judgmental religious leader, and I felt truly, legitimately ashamed.

My desire to do the right thing had led me to do something that I felt ashamed of.

But I kept marching, reading pro-life literature, and supporting the cause as I was able, even as my misgivings grew. I’ll describe those misgivings in more detail in Part 2.*


* Thanks for reading Part 1. I know how difficult it is to read things that don’t fit in with our existing commitments and convictions. Let me just say that I’m grateful to you for reading this far, and I will only be more grateful if you stay with me through all four parts. Again, thank you.


PART 2: My Misgivings

Dear White Christian Pro-Life Friends,

As I explained in Part 1, back in the early and mid-80’s, I was attracted to the pro-life movement because it invited me to use my voice for those without a voice and to take a public stand for compassion and decency. Those values took hold in me and still guide me today. In fact, my life of public activism began in the pro-life movement.

But even as I marched and carried my sign for the cause, I began having vague but persistent misgivings about the movement at large. There seemed to be another agenda at work, and I wasn’t sure what it was.

I could only make sense of my misgivings many years later when I encountered two books that gave some historical background to the movement.

First, I read Randall Balmer’s Thy Kingdom Come (Basic Books, 2006). It helped me understand the movement’s backstory.

In short, in the 1950’s and 60’s, reacting to school desegregation and civil rights legislation, large numbers of white Protestants and Catholics in both the South and the North transferred their children from integrated public schools to all-white private church-based schools. (These schools are often referred to as “segregation academies.”) During Jimmy Carter’s administration (1977-1981), a rumor spread that the government would soon remove tax exempt status from these segregated schools. Protestant and Catholic leaders came together in a series of conference calls to strategize how to defend their tax exempt status while remaining racially segregated.

This created an opportunity that a fundraiser and conservative activist, Paul Weyrich, seized. A conservative Christian coalition couldn’t be based on overt segregation and the white supremacy that fueled it, he knew, so Weyrich convinced Protestants to rally with Catholics under the banner of opposing abortion to protect their tax exempt status. Francis Schaeffer was welcomed into this growing movement, although he himself would surely have abhorred its racist underpinnings if he knew about them.  (The central thesis of Balmer’s book is summarized in this Politico article, “The Real Origins of the Religious Right”:

Kevin Kruse’s book One Nation Under God (Basic Books, 2015) sets the stage for the pro-life movement in the context of a larger conservative Christian movement that began in the 1930’s. (You can read an excellent review of Kruse’s book here, and an interview with him here.) This movement began as a reaction against the Social Gospel, which drew from the theological work of Baptist pastor Walter Rauschenbusch, and which was important to Dr. King’s spiritual formation. The Social Gospel sought to apply the teachings of Jesus to public life today, so that, as the Lord’s prayer said, God’s will could be done on earth — in politics, in culture, in economics — as in heaven. I heard many sermons against the Social Gospel as a boy. They confused me, because I thought the world would be a better place if people lived by Jesus’s teaching and example. Why would we be against the Golden Rule and the Great Commandment? I once asked my mother about this, and she said, “It could lead to socialism.”

That’s what trusted preachers told her, and that’s what powerful industrialists thought too.

They saw the Social Gospel message as a threat to their form of capitalism. They joined forces with James Fifield, a seminary-trained Congregationalist who was liberal in his theology but a conservative libertarian in his politics. The life and teachings of Jesus were irrelevant to contemporary life, Fifield said, because “the salvation of the individual” soul was all that mattered. Billy Graham became an ally in this message, as did Abram Vereide, founder of The Fellowship — a.k.a. The Family, with which I became quite involved in my twenties, and which was more recently described in the book and Netflix series by Jeff Sharlet, both called The Family.

Balmer and Kruse helped me see that hidden beneath the surface, two of America’s most deeply-embedded motivations — racism and greed — had joined forces to use the pro-life movement as a cover for their own agenda, which wasn’t pro-life: it was extreme right-wing and white nationalist.

And well-meaning Christians like Grace and me, who simply wanted to do the right thing, were being swept into it, completely unaware of the backstory and hidden agenda.

My misgivings grew through the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s. That’s when my fellow Evangelicals were creating something called “Purity Culture,” which was intended to reduce pre-marital sex. Later research proved that these efforts were ineffective in reducing premarital sex, but beyond that, they had unintended negative consequences both psychologically and spiritually. (Several of my friends have written important books on this topic, including Pure by Linda Kay Klein, Sex, God, and the Conservative Church by Tina Sellers, and Jesus and John Wayne by Kristen Du Mez.)

All this talk of sexual purity took place while a list of scandals grew, involving pedophile priests, sleazy televangelists, respected conservative pastors, and other Christian leaders. I remember thinking that we Christians were good at pointing out the sexual splinter in the eyes of others, but not so good at addressing the sexual beams in our own eyes. (Recent headlines only reinforce this observation.)

Something clearly wasn’t working in the conservative Christianity I inherited.

I started listening to friends who were progressive Christians. They told me they were pro-choice but they were not pro-abortion. Instead of dismissing them as “baby-killers” as my more extreme friends in the pro-life movement would do, I started asking them questions and listening to their answers.

They explained that being pro-choice does not mean being pro-abortion. You can be personally against abortion because you believe it is immoral, but you can simultaneously be for choice politically, because you do not believe the government should have the power to impose your moral judgment on everyone. Years later (in 2016), my friend Rachel Held Evans made this same point in a widely-read blog post.

My pro-choice friends also explained that criminalizing abortion is not, in fact, the best way to reduce it — not by a long shot. A number of studies have shown that the best way to reduce abortion is to provide quality health care (including contraception), quality education (including sex education), and economic help to needy people. (That’s one major reason why abortion declined so significantly under President Obama – to the lowest level since before Roe v. Wade. See

My pro-choice Christian friends also explained how they saw the pro-life movement as an arm of patriarchy, which puts female sexuality and female lives and bodies under male control. (This reminded me of the “come to Jesus” moment I recounted in Part 1.) Patriarchy, for example, minimizes the consequences of rape or abuse for men and maximizes consequences for women. The pro-choice movement was for empowering women, so that powerful men would not be able to control women’s lives, moral agency, and bodies. The fact that the Republicans in Congress were overwhelmingly male, together with the fact that both Evangelical and Catholic clergy were exclusively male, struck me as evidence for this concern about patriarchy.

My friends also explained that many Christians don’t automatically see abortion as a sin, nor do members of several other religions, including most branches of Judaism. For conservative Christians to impose their views on their fellow citizens of other religious faiths (and no religious faith), they said, would violate religious freedom and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Of course conservative Christians are free to use their freedom of speech to persuade others not to have abortions. But when conservative Christians try to use the government to impose their religious beliefs on others by legislation … that is not fair, my progressive friends said. And I saw their point.

Meanwhile, several times in my twenty-four years as a pastor, members of my congregation faced medical circumstances that my pro-life friends told me never happened. The easy answers the pro-life movement had given me rang hollow in hospital rooms where would-be parents agonized in tears over heartbreaking moral/medical choices involving abortion — to save the life of the mother, for example, or in the aftermath of rape.

Along the way, members of my congregation and my fellow Christian leaders entrusted me with their private stories relating to abortion, and I took time to listen, really listen. The more I listened, the more the rhetoric of religious right leaders, including their use of the abortion issue, rang not just hollow, but deceptive.

I do not for one second believe that grass-roots pro-life people — people like you, for example — are being intentionally deceptive in your commitment to the cause. Not at all! I know how sincere you are because I marched and prayed beside you for many years. But I must make this confession: I believe the pro-life cause has been misled and corrupted, first by racism and greed, and also by power — and specifically partisan political power.

I’ll share the choice these misgivings led me to make in Part 3.

Again, knowing how sincere you are, my white pro-life Christian friends, I thank you for sticking with me as I share information and ideas that likely feel deeply disturbing and even offensive to you. I hope you will consider reading Parts 3 and 4 too, but if not, I thank you for your attention thus far.

PART 3: My Choice

Dear White Christian Pro-Life Friends,

If you from time to time have second thoughts about what the pro-life movement is doing to our country, our faith, and your own soul, this four-part series is for you. I only ask that you read it prayerfully and thoughtfully, with an open mind and heart. I hope you will feel that I show you and your sincere involvement in the pro-life cause the respect you deserve, and if nothing else, I hope this series will help you participate in the movement more wisely and lovingly going forward.

When I carried my sign in the March for Life in the early 1980’s, I didn’t know that the pro-life movement was a wing of a larger movement, a larger movement with a hidden history that I outlined in Part 2. This movement used opposition to abortion as a rallying cry to bring Evangelical and Catholic pro-life Christians together to support the Republican Party with their votes and donations.

Through this marriage with the Republican Party, both political and religious leaders could vastly expand their power, influence, and income. With money came power, power to advertise, power to support and oppose candidates, power to create massive direct-mail and, later, email mailing lists. The donations of millions of sincere and well-meaning pro-life Christians joined the money of huge corporations, political think tanks, and political action groups to create a massive war chest to fund the culture war.

And every single dollar benefitted the Republican Party.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a Republican, of course. My dad was a loyal Republican, a good and generous Christian man, and I have voted for a few Republican candidates in my life as well, largely because of my involvement in the pro-life movement. But even my dad, in his last years of life, cast his last presidential vote for Barack Obama because he didn’t like where the Republican Party was headed.

My dad saw in his last years exactly what I was seeing: the Republican Party adopts policies that hurt people of color, that hurt the planet, and that hurt the poor, and they can count on pro-life Christians to support these policies because of abortion. Meanwhile, Republicans oppose the very policies that have proven most effective in reducing abortion, and to make matters worse, their Christian pro-life voters rarely if ever stand up for the poor, the planet, and people of color, because the abortion issue trumps everything else.

When I saw this, when I really faced it and let it sink in, I reached this conclusion: a group of political, economic, and religious powerhouses have combined efforts to use the unborn to win over sincere Christians (and others) to support their multi-faceted agenda, first incidentally, and then intentionally. With unlimited lobbying and marketing power at their disposal, they attracted people to the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, but gradually required them to support everything hidden beneath the surface.

From the 1980’s until today, the Republican promise to outlaw abortion has been the shiny moral issue Republicans present to the Christian world. But under the surface, they have bundled together a much larger set of commitments, which means that when you vote pro-life, you vote Republican, and when you vote Republican, you vote for all of the following:

Make abortion illegal through criminalization.

Assure that contraception not be covered by health insurance.

Separate families at the border, put children in cages apart from their parents, and instill the fear that family members may simply be “disappeared” by the U.S. government when they cross the border.

Increase access to guns of all kinds and do nothing about mass shootings, adopting the NRA’s policy of “the more guns, and the more destructive guns, the better.”

Deny people with pre-existing conditions access to affordable health care, and maintain quality health care as a privilege for the rich.

Deny climate change, oppose renewable energy, and support fossil fuels, gas guzzling cars, and the de-protection of public wilderness and indigenous lands through a “drill, baby, drill” philosophy.

Be unconcerned about facts unless they back up your political agenda, and create “alternative facts” whenever necessary.

Make it harder for minorities to vote by alarming white people about voter fraud, an infinitesimal problem which Republicans exaggerate, while simultaneously supporting voter suppression.

Oppose equal rights for LGBTQ  citizens, and protect the right of straight religious people to discriminate as desired against LGBTQ citizens.

Provide advantages for Christians and Jews, and disadvantages for Muslims and other religious minorities.

Promise to reduce the national debt while actually increasing it through massive tax breaks for the super-rich, and through massive military spending and military intervention.

Reduce social services needed by the poorest among us, including public transportation, public health services, childcare support, parental leave, etc., putting poor and vulnerable people in ever-greater risk, so tax breaks may be given to the rich.

Oppose sex education in schools.

Support the death penalty.

Support militarization and a new nuclear weapons race.

Minimize the value of higher education, keep it as expensive as necessary so that only the privileged can access it easily, and do as little as possible about student loan debt.

Support mass incarceration, the “war on drugs,” privatization of prisons, and other policies that discriminate against people of color.

Increase corporate profits for the rich by weakening labor unions, putting workers in a position of increasing insecurity.

Reduce public protections from mega-corporate misconduct, especially environmental protections, disproportionately hurting the poor and people of color as well as the planet.

Provide huge tax breaks for the richest of the rich, claiming that their increased wealth will “trickle down,” even though it doesn’t.

Shift funding from public schools to private schools, especially conservative Christian ones, again hurting poor and minority families the most.

Underpay teachers, first responders, health care workers, and childcare workers, and oppose all efforts to address the minimum wage.

Refuse to address systemic racism, or even admit it exists, and be more concerned about Colin Kaepernick kneeling as an act of peaceful protest during the national anthem than a police officer kneeling on a black man’s neck or shooting a black man in the back seven times.

Assist Israel in dispossessing Palestinians, and discount the civil and human rights of Palestinians, calling any critique of the nation of Israel an act of anti-Semitism.

Create widespread fear of immigrants, especially Mexican and Muslim immigrants, and actively or tacitly support acts of racist hate against minorities.

Stop accepting refugees.

See federal government (except the military) as the problem, and reduce government to a size where it can do little beyond fighting wars, leaving us vulnerable to pandemics, foreign interference in our democracy, and other dangers.

Accept that among white supremacists and neo-nazis there are “many fine people,” and refuse to consider the harm done by erecting and protecting Confederate monuments.

Hold sexually predatory men accountable — but only if they are Democrats.

Threaten NATO, the United Nations, and other international alliances, and coddle Vladimir Putin and other corrupt dictators.

Claim that moral character doesn’t count in political leaders, as long as they oppose abortion.

Accept 20,000+ lies from a president as inconsequential.

Support Donald Trump no matter what he says or does, giving him a free pass to indulge in every incompetence and every urge toward authoritarianism, etc.

I never would have joined my first Right to Life March if I had been required to accept any single one of these policies. But since 2016, it has become clear that millions of my fellow Christians have come to accept every single one because they are bundled together with opposing abortion.

I encourage you to go over that list again before proceeding and ask yourself how many of these commitments you would support if they weren’t bundled with the term pro-life.*

To put it bluntly, maybe early pro-life leaders thought that Republicans were the horse (or elephant) to pull the pro-life cart. But it is now abundantly clear that the pro-life movement has become the horse to pull the Republican cart and all its baggage, including baggage that hurts people God loves.

These and other misgivings explain why I now believe that the whole pro-life framing has been corrupted, and it has become harmful to the cause of life.

*Of course, if you  sincerely support the bundle of  policies I listed above and if you are unwilling to do give any of these matters a second thought, then you will vote for Donald Trump in November with great enthusiasm and complete confidence. And of course you won’t be interested in the request I would like to make of you in Part 4. So no need to read further. Thanks for reading this far.

If you are having misgivings of your own about some of these policies that your involvement in the pro-life movement actively supports, I hope you’ll read  Part 4 with an open heart and mind.


PART 4: My Plea

Dear White Christian Pro-Life Friends,

For reasons I explained Part 1Part 2, and Part 3, my misgivings about the pro-life movement have grown since my days marching for the cause. I’ve seen how sincere Christians like me — and like you, people who just want to follow Jesus and do the right thing, have been conscripted into a culture war with an agenda that seems harder and harder to square with the teaching and example of Christ, especially in the era of Donald Trump.

That’s why my Catholic brother Patrick Carolan and I wrote a recent article advocating that we reframe the issue entirely. We wrote: “In our combined 120-plus years of life experience, neither of us has ever met a single supporter of abortion rights who hates babies, supports infanticide, or who has a the more the better’ attitude toward abortion. Nor have we ever met an abortion opponent who hates women and wants to throw mothers in jail for seeking an abortion. No doubt, such extremists may exist, but we have yet to meet any, and we can no longer let the debate be framed and fought from the extremes.”

The pro-life movement’s political marriage to Donald Trump over the last four years has changed conservative American Christianity profoundly, and not for the better. The sad story of Jerry Falwell, Jr. serves as a mirror for the movement as a whole. Through Falwell’s association with Trump, Trump did not become more Christ-like; Falwell became more Trump-like. The same has happened to so many of my Christian friends. A world full of mini-Trumps is not a world I would wish on my grandchildren or their grandchildren, and Christianity remade in Trump’s image is not a religion I could ever be part of.

Sadly, the whole Republican Party, including its most religious wing, has been remade in Trump’s image, as I’ve explained elsewhere. The more Evangelicals and Catholics align themselves with the Republican Party as it now stands, the more they will present themselves as a group of angry, older Trump-like white people who think they know more than they actually do, who don’t understand or care much about young people and people of color, who are guided more by self-interest than the common good, and who present to the world a twisted version of Jesus, as if Jesus were

anti-Black, anti-poor, anti-environment, anti-science, anti-neighbor, anti-gay, anti-refugee, anti-Mexican, anti-Chinese, anti-Muslim, anti-semitic, anti-kindness, pro-war, pro-gun, pro-winning-by-any-means, and pro-violence.

That isn’t just my observation: lots of research points in the same direction, as churches shrink and wrinkle and drive their young people away. (See and and for starters.)

I’m worried, my sincere white pro-life Christian friends, that right now, Evangelical and Catholic leaders are mobilizing you to vote once again for a billionaire playboy who has spent his life embodying the seven deadly sins rather than the seven cardinal virtues. He almost perfectly epitomizes values that are the very opposite of those we learn in the Gospels.

His manifold faults are irrelevant, pro-life leaders tell you, because he is “with us on abortion.”

As a result, I’m worried that your vote in November will once again throw your neighbors of color under yet another bus, despite the fact that most of them are your fellow Christians. I’m worried that your vote will hurt our Muslim, Mexican, and other minority neighbors while emboldening anti-Semitic neo-Nazis like the ones I saw in Charlottesville in 2017 and like the pro-Trump white supremacist shown in a recent video, who lives not far from me.

I’m worried that your vote, cast because of your sincere pro-life commitment, will result in still more school children being bullied and threatened by classmates who are repeating what they hear their parents saying, inspired by Donald Trump.

I’m worried that your pro-life/pro-Republican/pro-Trump vote will further destabilize needed national institutions and international relationships, will again empower someone who seems to have little actual knowledge of or respect for the Constitution, inflicting further harm upon God’s creation through his specific anti-environment policies and his general denial of climate change.

In short, I’m worried that because of your pro-life commitment, which I believe you hold with utter sincerity, you will vote for a man with all the characteristics of malignant narcissism, with over 20,000 verified lies to his credit, who back in February said COVID-19 would be gone in a few days (even though he knew that wasn’t true), who considers his efforts to combat it a great success even as the death toll rises toward 200,000, who sought back channels with the Russians to subvert his own intelligence community, who celebrates violence at his rallies and uses lines from Stalin to vilify the media, who bragged about his genital size and ability to “move on” married women and grab their genitals while kissing them because “they let you do anything when you’re a star.” I’m worried you will vote for a man who has surrounded himself with indicted and convicted criminals, who hires and uses them and then says he hardly knew them when they get caught in wrongdoing, and who has shown himself in these and other ways to be an authoritarian leader, the very quality that our Constitution was designed to protect us from.

And even though your vote will support all these harmful effects, you will not feel any responsibility for the harm unleashed by your vote because your pro-life commitment confers upon you an absolute innocence.

It’s especially ironic: Joe Biden, like Barack Obama, is actually a dedicated church-going Christian, a sincere Roman Catholic believer, a kind and empathetic man who is devoted to the honest family values I’ve sought to live by for my whole life. Of course he isn’t perfect, and no doubt, “opposition research” will uncover any number of additional imperfections, real or fabricated. But my sense is that for many of you, perhaps most of you, my pro-life friends, none of Biden’s good qualities will matter, because no matter how good a Democrat is, no matter how genuine their character, no matter how smart and good their policies, no matter how genuine their faith, even if their policies reduce the number of abortions, you will feel obligated to minimize that goodness and maximize their faults.

And no matter how bad a Republican is, I’m worried you will feel obligated to minimize their badness and maximize their goodness.

Again, I know that virtually all of you, my white Christian pro-life friends, are completely sincere in your desire to see human life treated as sacred and abortion rates reduced. And I am not asking you to change that desire!

I only wish you would consider the possibility that your moral sincerity is being politically manipulated, leading to unintended and highly dangerous consequences.

My friend Robb Ryerse, an Evangelical pastor and a Republican who ran for Congress in Arkansas, summed it up powerfully in a TIME op-ed (

My desire is for there to be as few abortions as possible in our country. However, I’ve come to believe that the best means of reducing abortion rates is not through restrictions and criminalization. I’m also not convinced that reversing Roe v. Wade would reduce abortion rates. Abortion rates are now lower than they were before the Supreme Court’s decision to make abortion legal nationally.

The best means of reducing abortion is expanding health coverage so that every woman can consult with her doctor about her medical needs. We also need effective, comprehensive sexual education and greater access to other methods of birth control.

More troubling than my critics’ misunderstanding of my position on the abortion issue is the vitriol they have directed at me personally. Their voicemails, emails and direct messages have been full of name-calling and insults like I have never before experienced.

Like millions of other Americans, I grew up in the evangelical Christian subculture. We were taught that if we took a stand for what we believe, we would face opposition. Our pastors and leaders told us that nonbelievers in the world would mistreat us, insult us and even persecute us. Never would I have thought that what they warned us about wouldn’t actually be coming from the outside but from within.

Here is just a sampling of the messages I’ve received:

Daniel wrote, “Get struck down by God, you pile of sh*t.”

A man from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., did not leave his name but left a voicemail in which, after extolling the virtues of President Trump, he told me, “Enjoy hell, b*tch.”

Sarah Jane repeatedly called me a “dumb f***.” She said I am a “demon rat,” a “worker of iniquity” and an “instrument of Satan” who wants to “destroy America.”

Many of those who lambasted me emailed my church calling for me to be fired. The phrase “wolf in sheep’s clothing” has been used dozens of times. My church’s rating on Facebook fell from five stars to three and half because of all the negative reviews written by Trump supporters who have never visited one of our worship gatherings.

… That people disagree with me is not my concern. My concern is for an evangelical church in America that has normalized hatred in defense of President Trump.

I don’t understand how Christians can justify the name-calling, the insults and plain meanness. I don’t understand how they can so freely bear false witness against others. I don’t understand why they think following President Trump and loyalty to the Republican Party is of greater value than following Jesus and loyalty to his ethic of love.

The question I am left with is a paraphrase of Jesus, “What good is it if we gain the whole Supreme Court but lose our souls?”

I hope you can see that I am working under the assumption that you are just as sincere and well meaning as I was when I was in my twenties and marching for life in Washington DC every January. I hope you know I haven’t written this letter to attack you, or even to ask you to change your beliefs.

I’m just asking you to reconsider supporting Donald Trump based on your sincere opposition to abortion.

I have some sense of how uncomfortable it would be to think of breaking with the 81% of white Evangelicals and 60% of white Catholics who supported Trump in 2016. You and I both know how they talk about people who “go liberal” and vote for Democrats, and you hate to think of them saying similar things about you. (You might find some comfort knowing that growing numbers of kind and honest Evangelicals and Catholics are moving away from Trump and toward Biden, so you won’t be alone.)

I can imagine how hard it must be to wake up to what you have helped unleash through your political marriage to Donald Trump, especially because you only voted for him because people you trust told you it was the right, Christian, and pro-life thing to do, even though you found him personally repulsive.

I can imagine how intertwined Republican economic and political ideology has become with your theology and spirituality, so that you wonder how you can stay Christian without staying Republican.

Knowing these difficulties, I can only remind you the reason you originally joined the pro-life cause: because you wanted to do the right thing, just as I did.

If you become convinced that it is the right thing to change your vote this November, people like me won’t shame you for what you’ve been part of in the past.  Many of us, including me, have been there. You’ll be celebrated for having the courage and humility to change your mind, because we know how hard and costly that can be.

You won’t be seen with suspicion, or pressured to swing to the opposite extreme of where you may be now. You’ll be welcomed with grace and invited to rethink things as you are ready.

If you’re looking for help in rethinking your vote this November, here are some websites I recommend because I know the people behind them:

Thank you, my white, Christian, pro-life friends, for sticking with me through this four-part letter. 

I hope that you feel, regardless of your agreement or disagreement, that I have spoken from my heart and with genuine love for you, for all our neighbors, and for our beautiful, fragile, troubled country and world. 

If nothing else, you have shown the decency and civility to read with an open mind and heart the thoughts of someone with whom you differ. These days, that is no small thing. God bless you.

Warmly and with prayers for justice, peace, and joy for all,

Brian D. McLaren