It is an all too common malady of modern man.
So much so, in fact, there is a saying (which I have come to abhor, having heard it too many times to count) that springs from the malady of assumption.
The saying is a play on the word "assume" as in "I assume..." Using the first three letters of the word, the saying warns the speaker that to assume is to make an ass out of you and me. I cringe to hear it spoken aloud.
That being said, the phrase has validity. Perhaps nowhere more so than in the ongoing moral debates of our day, whether the subject is homosexuality, divorce and marriage, or abortion.
It is all too easy to dehumanize those of one viewpoint, to assume that they are working from some narrow-minded, fundamentalist mindset, brainwashed from birth, quoting talking points that have been repeated so often they become white noise in the ears of the one speaking.
Interestingly enough, those holding the opposing viewpoint are thought to be incapable of critical thinking, believe that every problem can be solved if enough (of someone else's) money is thrown at it and are able to quote talking points that have been repeated so often they become white noise in the ears of the one speaking.
Wait a minute. Where have I heard that before?
The battle lines were drawn in 1973, though skirmishes occurred in various state courts with some regularity in the years leading up to the landmark Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion in the United States of America.
Many celebrated. Pregnant women who didn't want to be pregnant now would have safe and clean access to abortion. No more back street alleys. No more quack doctoring or dangerous home remedies. To make the procedure more palatable, the rhetoric included phrases like fetus, viability, and the oft-repeated promise that every attempt would be made to reduce the number of overall abortions. The sign identifying the clinic never read "Get your abortion here - two for one on Fridays," but rather featured something innocuous such as, "The West Philadelphia Women's Medical Society,"
Many mourned. Pregnancy, they maintained, is a temporary condition and there are many ways to help a pregnant women who doesn't want to be pregnant deal with the pregnancy without resorting to the "permanent solution" offered by abortion. To make the horror real, posters of aborted infants were printed up, in living color and abortion clinics were besieged by vocal protesters holding gruesome signs, some slinging epithets to the women entering the facility. Some even offer their own version of a permanent solution by firing upon and sometimes killing the doctors and staffers who worked at abortion clinics.
Through the years that followed, up until present-day, demonstrations, letter writing campaigns, op-ed pieces and kitchen table discussion have addressed the issue with little visible progress on either side of the fence.
That may be changing. And it may be changing, at least in part, to a growing but not yet widespread practice know as the 40 Days for Life Campaign.
At the very least, the campaign, which started in the fall of 2004 in Bryan/College Station, Texas, played an important role in the life of Abby Johnson, author of "Unplanned -- The dramatic, true story of a former Planned Parenthood leader's eye-opening journey across the life-line." (ISBN 978-1-4143-4835-3)
The premise is simplicity itself. Abortion providers, long considered the enemy by those of us who believe that every life matters, from conception to natural death, are lifted up in prayer, 24-hours a day, for 40 days. Volunteers stand at a respectful distance but within view of the abortion clinic where they pray for the clinic staff, the doctors, the clients and the babies.
Gone are the gruesome images. Gone are the verbal accusations, replaced by whispered prayer, cordial greetings and quiet offers of viable options to the mothers facing a crisis pregnancy, whatever the crisis may be.
Under way right now in 301 locations nationwide, the effort is reaping a life-saving harvest. The web site: www.40daysfor life.com keeps a tally of babies saved. As of Day 21 (Oct. 18, 2011) 302 babies have been saved from abortion.
Johnson's story reveals, in terms anyone can understand, the hows and wherefores of how she, a God-fearing woman, came to be involved in the pro-choice movement, beginning as a volunteer trained to walk clients past the gauntlet of protesters, rising to the position of clinic supervisor before witnessing an ultra-sound guided abortion, realizing almost in the same instant that the 13-week-old fetus (that had suddenly became a baby in her eyes) died, that everything she had believed about abortion and the work of Planned Parenthood was a lie.
On the Planned Parenthood side of the fence, Abby's convictions ran deep. She believed, whole-heartedly, that she was saving women's lives, that her work had validity as she sought to minimize the number of abortions overall and that the babies that were aborted, including two of her own, weren't babies quite yet.
The names we choose and the names we use matter. It's a psychological tactic, most clearly evident in times of war. That's how the Germans became "krauts" and the Viet Cong became "gooks." And that's how pre-born babies came to be called "fetuses."
When all is said and done in this battle for the pre-born, don't be surprised to discover that we are all "pro-choice." Some of us simply choose life.
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.