A couple of weeks ago a Planned Parenthood clinic received a bouquet of peach roses and a letter of thanks and apology – from a pro-life Christian, Sarah Parker. The gesture, in the wake of the Colorado PP shooting, was one of “repentance and gratitude.” She apologized for the way that PP workers have been treated “in the name of God” and thanked PP for it’s good intentions towards women. She posted about her idea on Facebook, where it began to attract attention.
Some evangelicals have gotten excited about Sarah’s gesture, saying it’s Christ-like, a loving approach to being pro-life. It’s an understandably attractive position to take – it’s kind and friendly – but it’s unfortunately misguided.
In the first place, the church itself does not owe Planned Parenthood an apology. Acts of violence against PP have never been condoned by the body of Christ. Have some individuals who claimed to be following Christ committed acts of violence? Yes. But the church condemns this. To assume that as a Christian you can apologize for them is assuming some of the responsibility. Would you apologize to the family of Officer Garret Swasey, one of the shooter’s victims in the Colorado shooting? Would you tell his family that on behalf of the church you want to apologize for what the shooter did? That would be disrespectful and foolish. Only the shooter himself can apologize for his actions, and only his apology would be worth anything to those he hurt.
Not only is Sarah’s apology unwarranted and unhelpful, but her gratitude is misplaced. She says, “Some say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Well I think the road to reconciliation is paved with seeing those intentions, celebrating them and then seeing how we can change for the better.” This is a sweet sentiment, but it’s wrong. What Mark Twain meant when he said “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is that people with the best of intentions can still commit the worst of sins. Sarah suggests that intentions have some merit on their own. They don’t. The shooter and others who have committed violence against abortion clinics could be said to have had “good intentions,” since they thought they were trying to reduce the number of babies killed. But it is no credit to these terrorists that their intentions were good. All it does is show the depth of their folly. We cannot start with intentions if we want reconciliation. We can only start and end with truth.
And the truth is there is nothing to thank Planned Parenthood for, nothing to “celebrate,” as Sarah wants to do. Since their founding PP’s care for women has been tied up with the eugenics movement. As we’ve said before at Save the Storks, caring for women means caring for all women – all races, all demographics – and not forsaking the mothers among us.
While I don’t think Sarah meant to imply anything of the kind, her vague apology to Planned Parenthood for “how they’ve been treated in the name of God” could easily be interpreted as an apology for the church’s anti-abortion efforts – for protests, for speaking out against abortion, or for lobbying to defund Planned Parenthood. These are things the church is right to do. These are ways that we literally defend the defenseless and uphold the rights of the oppressed.
Sarah says, “This post and delivery wasn’t to self promote but to show that unconditional love will always ignite restoration.” Unfortunately, her gesture misses the mark. Unconditional love is what the Father has for his children, and yes, it is how we ought to love one another. But flowers and apologies are not how we love. We love by telling the truth, by providing a way out for mothers who feel trapped, by showing those who work at PP that caring for women looks very different than what they’ve come to know. Love isn’t always a soft and cuddly thing – it is often uncomfortable. Sometimes it carries signs in protest. Sometimes it drives around in a van giving women free ultrasounds. Sometimes it comforts, but sometimes it says hard things. Love has even been known to lay down it’s life. But love endures all things.
We sympathize with Sarah’s heart for the Planned Parenthood employees and with her sorrow over violence. But we want to remind believers that the church is not to blame, and that our opposition to Planned Parenthood must remain vigilant.