The greatness of Hank Aaron and the sanctity of life: A way through the conflicts of our culture

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The greatness of Hank Aaron and the sanctity of life: A way through the conflicts of our culture

January 27, 2021 -

Atlanta Braves' Hank Aaron watches the flight of his long ball to left field during a night game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Atlanta, Ga., Wednesday, Sept. 26, 1973. (AP Photo)

Atlanta Braves' Hank Aaron watches the flight of his long ball to left field during a night game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Atlanta, Ga., Wednesday, Sept. 26, 1973. (AP Photo)

Atlanta Braves' Hank Aaron watches the flight of his long ball to left field during a night game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Atlanta, Ga., Wednesday, Sept. 26, 1973. (AP Photo)

Hank Aaron died last Friday at the age of eighty-six. He was the greatest baseball player I ever saw and one of the greatest men the sport has ever produced.

Aaron told reporters in 1994 that when he neared Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record twenty years earlier, “My kids had to live like they were in prison because of kidnap threats, and I had to live like a pig in a slaughter camp. I had to duck. I had to go out the back door of the ballparks. I had to have a police escort with me all the time. I was getting threatening letters every single day.” But he persevered despite such horrific racism and will always be one of the icons of sport. 

The horror I hope you feel at the way Hank Aaron was denigrated is the horror I hope you feel at the way preborn children are denigrated by many in American culture today. 

I have been responding this week to the Biden administration’s plans to advance abortion in our country. As I write today, I am aware that some reading this article have had an abortion in the past; I do not want to cause greater pain than they have already experienced. I also know that some abortions are unavoidable when the life of the mother is at risk and acknowledge that abortion in cases of rape and incest is a hotly contested issue. However, these circumstances together comprise only 7 percent of abortions in America. 

The 93 percent which are elective are the focus of a massive conflict in our culture, one that I believe has exacerbated the depth of our present divisions. Is there a way forward? 

Twenty-three pairs of chromosomes 

In my view, grounded both in Scripture and in science, life begins at conception. This means that a fetus in its mother’s womb is as much a human being as a baby after it is born. To end that life for the reasons that prompt elective abortions today is morally abhorrent and should be illegal. 

When a baby is born and thus protected by our laws, it has merely moved location from inside the womb to outside the womb. Nothing else has changed about its biological status. The embryo is completely distinguishable from all other living organisms. It possesses all twenty-three pairs of human chromosomes and is able to develop only into a human being. Nothing new will be added except the growth and development of what it already is. 

In short, it is just as human prior to birth as after birth. To claim otherwise is simply wrong on biological and scientific grounds. 

In the view of many pro-choice advocates, however, my position constitutes a “war on women.” They believe (counter to science) that we cannot know when life begins, or they claim that the mother should be able to decide what to do with her own body. They see my position as an intrusive injustice against her personal right to privacy. Even if they are personally opposed to abortion, they are convinced that such a personal issue should be decided by the mother, not the government. (The fact that many call her the “mother” points to the fact that the fetus is in fact a child.) 

A zero-sum equation 

This rift constitutes a cultural divide unlike any we have seen since the Civil War. This is not like debating the size of a stimulus package during a pandemic or whether a private citizen who was once president of the United States can still be impeached. This debate goes to the sacredness of life itself, whether focused on the preborn baby or the mother. 

If a political leader or party supported the mother’s right to kill her newborn infant, we would all be outraged. Pro-life supporters believe that the right to kill a preborn baby is just as wrong. 

We therefore believe that it is immoral for our tax dollars to be used to support a procedure we find so abhorrent. We support the Mexico City policy prohibiting the investment of US funds in overseas organizations to promote abortion. And we support the Hyde Amendment that prohibits the use of taxpayer funds to fund most abortions. 

The Biden administration, however, has already signaled that it intends to reverse the Mexico City policy. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden reversed his position on the Hyde Amendment as well. If he acts on this commitment, my tax dollars will be used to fund abortions both in the US and overseas. 

This is a zero-sum equation. Either tax funds from pro-life supporters will support abortion, violating our deepest convictions, or they will not.

It is difficult to imagine a more fundamental issue in American society. This debate transcends electoral politics and is dividing Americans from Americans on a dangerous level. 

“Human life is never a burden” 

How should pro-life Christians discuss this issue in ways that will not deepen our cultural fissures? 

Recent research shows that political and cultural conflicts are made worse by three behaviors: “othering” (labeling the other side as almost incomprehensibly different from us), “aversion” (they’re not just different but dislikable), and “moralization” (they’re morally bankrupt). 

By contrast, the conviction that life is sacred from conception is a spiritual truth grounded on biblical fact. However, “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). This is a spiritual battle (2 Corinthians 4:4) that must be fought with spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6:10–18). 

To that end, here’s my proposal: When you see people acting against the sanctity of the preborn, pray for them. 

  • Pray for the Spirit to open their eyes to biblical truth. 
  • Pray for words that will draw them closer to the One who has loved them from the moment of their conception (Matthew 10:20). 
  • Pray for God to show you how you can help those facing unexpected pregnancies. 
  • Pray for those who offer such ministry and pray about ways you can support them. 

Once you have prayed, act on what God reveals to you, serving as his hands and feet to both the preborn and their parents.

Pope Francis was right: “Human life is never a burden. It demands we make space for it, not cast it off.” 

Will you pray about ways you can make space for life in your life and our culture today?

For more help on addressing this difficult topic, see my “Six vital questions about abortion.”

NOTE: In my new book, To Follow in His Footsteps: A Daily Walk with Jesus through the Holy Land, you will experience Jesus at dozens of sites where he made his indelible and eternal mark on the world. And you’ll be immersed in Israel through present-day, full-color photos of each site. 

Culminating with retracing Jesus’ journey to the cross, you will follow him through his last days on earth before the glory that was Easter morning. You will feel his sorrow, experience his pain, and know his immense love for you. And you will come away with a new appreciation for all God has done and continues to do in our world. Please request your copy of our new Easter devotional today.

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