I recently reviewed Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s The Trial of Phillis Wheatley (2003). In one part, I discussed Thomas Jefferson’s racist rejection of Phillis Wheatley as an African-American poet.
Gates’ book is an excellent analysis on Wheatley’s mission and legacy, but it misses the point. The root of Jefferson’s “blind spots” was not racism but the sin of unbelief. By rejecting the timeless truth of imago dei (Genesis 1:27), Jefferson refused to believe that all people – red, yellow, black, and white – are created equal in mind, body, and spirit. We all came from Adam and Eve, so we share the same blood (Genesis 2:7, 21-22; Acts 17:26). Since we’re all human beings, we have the same moral, emotional, and intellectual capacities. We don’t need to “prove” our humanity to anyone through what we say or do. Humanity is our God-given birthright. Each person who accepts these fixed truths will treat others equally regardless of class, ethnicity, religion, or gender. They won’t create a sliding cultural standard for people to achieve and then judge them for their failures.
The pro-life movement today also suffers from unbelievers’ “blind spots,” as seen in the German-language short film Crescendo (2011). The year is 1770 in Bonn (Holy Roman Empire) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) has yet to be born. His mother Maria is married to an abusive man and already has a child by him. Through a potion, she tries to get an abortion but fails. So Maria decides to “embrace the discordant note” and give birth to the great composer.
Although Crescendo is an excellent film, it implicitly argues that, through abortion, we might kill geniuses in various fields of knowledge. The internet is littered with ads and editorials that contain the same line of reasoning. Do we need the promise of a brilliant future so that we’ll be given a chance to live? No. We’re all human beings from the moment of conception, with an equal right to life. It doesn’t matter whether we become artists or arsonists, musicians or murderers, Mother Teresa or Adolf Hitler. Physical appearance is also irrelevant, so we shouldn’t abort Down syndrome or spina bifida babies, for example.
If pro-lifers want to win, then they must reject pro-choice arguments that deny both imago dei and Almighty God. He alone is the author of life, so we must surrender the choice to him.