Pro-life persuasion, challenges and opportunities
Pro-life persuasion is not about scoring debate points, but engaging people who think fundamentally differently than we do, but are reachable if we just give them something to think about.
An Interview with John Ensor, President of PassionLife Ministries. Visit PassionLife.org for more information about the great work they’re doing!
Welcome back everybody. I’m glad to be back with my friend and colleague, John Ensor, president of PassionLife. As I mentioned earlier, John has recently been featured in this book, A Legacy of Life that honors 50 of the greatest pro-life leaders. And John is mentioned in there as he is well deserved to be.
John, good to have you back. Uh, thank you, Scott. It’s good to be back. I also re recognize that your name is also in that book as well, so congratulations for that. Well, thank you brother. I heard a rumor to that effect, but, uh, yeah, I want to talk that’s about, I want to talk briefly about the state of the pro-life movement as you see it.
And what are some challenges we have in light of Roe v. Wade in in Planned Parenthood versus Casey being overturned? I mean, on one sense. In one sense, it’s great news. We got rid of a huge legal obstacle. On the other hand, I think it’s abundantly clear now. That the American public is not with us. We are.
Oh, for eight. Since ROE has been overturned, every time the abortion issue has been put to the public for a vote. That’s right. And it’s my contention that you could pick the deepest red state in the country and if you put abortion to a vote, we’re gonna lose that vote even in that, that red state. I agree.
And that means we have worldview challenges in front of us. But what are some of the things you’re seeing post ro. That either encourage or trouble you? Well, let me give some, uh, some historical perspective first. Uh, the end of Roe v. Wade is a huge thing. And, uh, historically in the other parallel battle that America has fought over slavery, uh, there are lessons to be learned there.
About what’s going to happen, how people react today. Uh, with the, with the overthrow of Roe, it really shocked a lot of people, including the pro-life movement, but also, uh, abortion advocates and defenders, and that has produced a backlash that may last for a while. So, uh, I. I anticipated in my own mind as soon as Roe v Wade was over, that there were going to be a number, uh, a series of pushbacks, and now we’re seeing them.
And, uh, I grieve that, that a lot of, uh, organizations have not been perceptive that this victory needs a chance to, to settle before we start, try to take another, uh, huge step. The, the historical parallel is that whenever there was a. A, a step forward in exposing the inhumanity of slavery. There was also a big pushback, uh, at that time, states were being added.
Kansas in particularly, was a state in which as it as statehood. Came toward the ballot, both sides of the of, of, of, uh, the slave issue began to mobilize and it became an organizational challenge as to who was going to win. In fact, there were people that were defending, uh, slavery that were. Calling for people to move to Kansas so they’d have more votes and be able to vote Kansas in as a slave state.
And in response, there were people that were moving to Kansas in order to make sure that Kansas entered in as a free state, and there were pitched riots and there were battles, and there were people that were murdered. Uh, in Kansas over this battle. That’s how deep the emotions run. And I think there are parallels to this today that, that we are up against an evil in abortion that people have linked themselves to, uh, that we need to be prepared for a season of, of.
Potential violence and attack and uh, uh, I just think that’s the period that we’re in right now is a, a great victory often leads to a counterpoint pushback. And so I think that from my perspective, we ought to be putting a lot more effort into the worldview battle and training people and equipping them.
And, uh, and making the case for life. I mean, if there was ever a season of fullness for the work that you’ve been doing for decades, this is that season. Yeah. Is to help people be ready to defend their views, because now we’re right back at it, making abortion as the key political motivation, especially for advocates of abortion.
Yeah, I actually think it’s an honor that you and I get to serve God in this moment and that for such a time as this, he placed us here and others who are fighting the good fight to make a difference. I don’t get profoundly discouraged about the ebb and flow of the political landscape, but I know a lot of pro-lifers right now are feeling quite discouraged.
I’ve had Christian leaders say to me, We probably should have just hoped Roe v Wade wasn’t overturned, but I think they’re missing the point that you made, that there’s going to be pushback on every single victory. There always is, and you can’t just assume that you get a, a Supreme Court decision and okay, we’re home free.
No, we gotta fight this battle out. Israel had the job of not only taking possession of the promised land, but driving out the inhabitants who were evil. We’ve got work in front of us to do at the worldview level. Yeah. What are some of the big worldview things you’re noticing in your talk that are obstacles to people being pro-life, that pro-lifers and our movement needs to address?
Well, it may not surprise you that my first answer is more spiritual than pragmatic, but I do believe, uh, That the more secularized our culture becomes, uh, the more anti-Christian worldview that we see spreading from our government institutions to our civic community, uh, Uh, we’re just gonna live out the inevitable impact of a world that turns itself against the Lord Almighty and starts and stops to see the word of God As a moral teacher, I.
So I know that’s a big answer, a spiritual answer, but I do believe that in many cases the Lord hands us over to our own darkness. And the more we choose darkness, the more the more dark things become. And we are in the United States just in a very different place. And I’m not talking about whether Christian, where or the US was a Christian country.
I don’t, I don’t. Not talking about that. Okay. Recognize that, right. Many of the founders were deists and all of that. Okay? But a biblical worldview was still in place and there was a commonality of agreement on what was right and what was wrong, and the nature of freedom, uh, versus the protection and the necessity of, of laws to protect human life.
There was a wide agreement among all of those things with the, the moral blind spot of a slavery being the, the. The blind, the moral blind spot. Uh, so, so much of that is gone. And, uh, I do believe that part of what God is doing in our generation now is preparing us, uh, to stand alone, uh, to stand in opposition and to stand and suffer for being a witness to the truth.
Even if the, the, the political victories or even, you know, just the growth of our movement, prolife movement is stunted for a season that’s still gonna be required for us to Yep. Break out. Well, I think of the prophet Jeremiah. God told him to go testify against child sacrifice and basically told him, no one’s gonna listen to you, not even one person.
Our job description isn’t that dire, right? So we’ve gotta be faithful in spite of this. I think so, and I, and again, I think that most people, uh, who are defenders of abortion are still uncomfortable with their view. I mean, I just see it all the time. We have an entry point in the human conscience to help people recognize what it is that they’re defending.
And when you see what it is you’re defending, it creates more and more ambivalence. And the ambivalence of abortion is deep and widespread, and I think again, is the green light for us as Christians to go ahead and recognize abortion. As a entry point for understanding, uh, not just the gospel, but understanding human life and human value, and human rights and, and, and laws that protect human.
Rights. So it’s not like we don’t have entry points. Even the opposition is winnable. Have you found that Christians are con confused about the nature of human rights? For example, I will talk about a right to life, and they’ll say things like, well, the government doesn’t recognize that, and they tend to reduce rights to what government says.
When our founders who had that biblical worldview had a very different view of our fundamental rights, our fundamental intrinsic rights do not come from government. They’re pre political, and this has helped me with some clergy who think the abortion issue is all political. I say, no, actually, it’s pre political.
We’re arguing that the unborn have a natural right to life, and here’s what we mean by that. They have a right to life that government doesn’t create. It doesn’t administrate its job is to recognize and protect that natural right that exists in virtue of your humanity, not your political proclamations.
For example, I do not have a right to vote in the next UK election for the simple reason I’m not a British citizen, but I do have a natural right not to be gunned down in the middle of Trafalgar Square every time I visit London. And that natural right not to be killed unjustly is a right that flows from my humanity.
It’s prepo political and that’s what our founders understood about the right to life among others. It’s prepo political, and a lot of Christians I think don’t understand what we mean by the nature of rights. And they don’t understand that when we say a right to life, we’re talking about something that’s not a government edict.
It’s a, it’s something that springs from our nature as a human being. And it gets to the first point you make in the four questions. What does the Bible say about human value? Well, our value and dignity springs from our nature as a human being made in the image of God, not government declaring us to have rights.
That’s right. I agree completely. And of course, uh, The Constitution declares the same thing. Uh, uh, the Declaration of Independence declares the same thing that we are endowed with, with human rights. Correct? Uh, the government does not create human rights in, in that sense. If they do, then they can take them or they can give them, and we’re at the mercy of whatever government you have at that point.
But the whole point of our constitution and our declaration was that we have rights that are endowed. Not from the government, but from God himself. That goes back to the fact that that requires an understanding of God and a commonality about who God is and, and, and his role. So we’re, we’re, we’re back to the spiritual nature, so to speak, of our government, of our country.
In my view, the Dobbs decision really didn’t go far enough. Uh, it really said, I’m gonna hand this back over to the people to decide. In our democracy, that was not a bad step, but the protection of human life is in the Constitution. That, that in the 14th Amendment, you can make a very clear case that the unborn, and once you establish that they are human, have those same rights as a two year old or a 20 year old or, or someone like myself, who’s 67.
But nonetheless, that’s the battle that we’re in today. And, uh, it really is the moral battle of our time is to get in there. And in the same way that, again, slavery was always the moral blind spot to America’s ideal. And God eventually used the ideal to overcome, uh, slavery in our view of, uh, of it. This is our, our particular battle, and now it’s gonna have to be fought at the state level.
And for that to happen, it means that we’re going to have to equip and make disciples of the gospel of life from neighborhood to neighborhood and state to state to help people understand the word of God and the most basic pro-life apologetic that you have. Uh, Spent the last 30 years of your life. In fact, to that end, I would like to make sure people understand this tool that John and I co-authored called Stand for Life will give you the basics for making that case in your church, in your neighborhood, and with people you interact with daily, and you can equip yourself to make quite a difference.
A lot of people, John, think they’ve gotta be. PhD’s in philosophy, or they have to have a rocket science degree to defend a biblical worldview, and that’s simply not true. Sometimes just giving them something to think about can make a world of difference. I. It’s very true. And in fact in my life I’ve had an opportunity to sit down with abortion doctors directly and have dinners with them.
And, uh, so not only are you talking to someone who obviously advocates for the legal defense of abortion, but is actually in the practice and in the business and earning their income from it. And even there, I find, That there are chinks in the armor. There are entry points in the conscience. There are ways to talk to people that are winsome, but truthful and honest that, that, that alter the, the, their view of things and, and as they say in apologetics, inserts the little stone into their shoe.
Yeah. I remember one example I had in, in, uh, Romania. Where I had a chance to sit down for three hours with a doctor who does abortions. And he came in and he was talking, talking, talking. And he wouldn’t stop. And I figured out that he was afraid to stop ’cause we, he thought I was gonna attack him. Uh, one of the ladies that was with me leaned over and she said, well, he hasn’t changed his mind yet.
We’ve been talking to him for about an hour and a half, two hours. At this point. I have a three hour meeting and I leaned over back to her and I said, listen, you can’t plant seeds in the morning and have a salad for supper. That’s a very good line. I’m gonna steal that and give you no credit. That’s okay.
That’s okay. But the point was that’s a great line. What you’re. What you’re making, uh, the argument that you are making that, that, that ideas take time, like seeds. They have to be, they have to have the time to develop. And I think it’s because also it’s not just here alone in our head that we make changes and we recognize the truth.
The real problem of humanity is in the heart, and so there’s always. That pride and that resistance to having to acknowledge that you were wrong. And it’s always at work. That’s the the part, the larger part of the resistance is in the heart. And so it’s a great insight to teach with patience as the Bible says, because it just means that you acknowledge that whatever truth you have given that person to think on.
It needs time to develop its own roots and to be able to push out some of the older ideas, and that’s why you can. Speak the truth and love to people today. See them resist it with all their energy. And by the end of our conversation, he was saying, listen, I’d like to help any women who doesn’t really want an abortion, but feels driven or stuck.
I’d like her to send, send her to you and the people that you’re working with. So I thought, well, there’s a, there’s the first step towards seeing this man transform and becoming another, uh, trophy in the kingdom of God. This is a key point you’ve just made. I think as Christians and even as pro-lifers, we sometimes think if the person doesn’t change their mind right on the spot, we’ve failed.
And that is simply not how persuasion works. It doesn’t work in our marriages. That way when you’re having a spout with your, or a a, a little bit of a flare up with your spouse, And you know she’s right. She knows she’s right. The Lord knows she’s right. Do we just slap ourselves on the thigh and say, honey, I’m so glad Jesus put you in my life to straighten out my twisted thinking, no.
Right. That’s not how it works. We sometimes internally have to process this. Yes, we may even initially resent it, but even the great debater, William Rusher in his book, how to Win Arguments more often than Not states that arguments are seldom won on the spot. They’re usually one a few weeks later when the person is alone with his or her thoughts and the person admits to themselves, you know what’s, I was on the short end of that arguments and their mental furniture is rearranged.
Maybe it’s when they’re in the quiet of their own thought in the drive through at McDonald’s or Starbucks that they admit this and that’s when the argument is one. And that should give all of us courage to know that sometimes just helping people think about something can be a, a real step forward, giving them something to think about.
That aligns with a biblical worldview. Yeah, can be very helpful. John, I so appreciate you and what you do. Tell us where we can get in contact with you and anything else you wanna say in conclusion. Well, you can always reach me through our website, passion life.org. Or if you’re a Spanish speaker, pa vida org.
Uh, we do a lot of work in Spanish now, uh, but I can be reached there. A lot of our resources that we use around the world in, in missions, we’re working in 27 countries right now and in 21 different languages. Uh, so people can find out, uh, some of our resources, how we train particularly, uh, Christian pastors and ministry leaders around the world by just going to Passion Life.
Uh, do org. I’ve had a chance to write some books along this, this line, and including one on. Crisis counseling. So you’re moving there from more of the apologetic debate to helping women or couples in crisis. And we have a book there called Pregnancy Crisis Intervention, uh, what to Do and Say When It Matters Most That We Like To That Use.
And we, we, we basically take that book and we train it overseas. Everything that we do. In a book form. We reduced to three or four pages when we go overseas so that people can hear it, obey it, and share it immediately. But some good resources email@example.com. Thank you brother. Appreciate what you do worldwide and hear domestically in the states as well, everybody.
We’re done. We’ll see you next time and thanks for tuning in. Remember to join firstname.lastname@example.org. Or at the case for life, uh, social media sites. Look forward to seeing you next time.