The Pro-Life Movement in a Liberal State Like California

Christian advocacy in a post-Roe world

D.J. Jenkins

In the aftermath of the historic decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, there is a scenario I can’t get out of my head. I imagine what it would be like to be a Christian living in the deep South in 1840 who was committed to seeing slavery come to an end. My beliefs would come from a deep, theological understanding of the doctrine of the imago Dei, that all persons are created equal by God and have inherent value, worth, and dignity. Thus, antebellum slavery defined by man-stealing (1 Tim. 1:10) and severe abuse is an affront to the holiness of God. Therefore, I would be committed to seeing an end to the wicked institution of antebellum slavery in my state and indeed the entire country. 

But I would have a problem that’s not hard to imagine if we know our history well. Living in the deep antebellum South means that the entire community supported, the very economy depended upon, and all the local and state laws were in favor of or defended the institution of slavery. Therefore, when those around me were defending antebellum slavery, they were defending their community and way of life. 

In this scenario, the Christian desiring an end to slavery and living in the deep South in 1840, was a theoretical man on an island. While he or she was praying for a day when slavery would become unthinkable, nearly every person around them thought that position was destructive to their way of life. So, what should the Christian’s life back then have looked like as he sought to “open [his] mouth for those who can’t speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” How could she have “open[ed] [her] mouth, judge[d] righteously, defend[ed] the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:8-9, paraphrase mine) in regards to the wicked institution of slavery? How should he have protested, voted, or tried to convince others around him? What could he have done to win hearts and minds to the righteous cause? 

Living in a post-Roe world as a Christian

Coming out of this scenario and back into 2022 and a new post-Roe world, I’m a committed Christian living in a place I love: Los Angeles, California. And as a follower of Jesus, I’m a committed pro-life person. My holistic, womb-to-tomb pro-life beliefs come from a deep, theological understanding of the doctrine of the imago Dei, that all persons are created equal by God and have inherent value, worth, and dignity, and thus to snuff out that life, before or after birth, is an affront to the holiness of God. These beliefs also lead me to find every opportunity to support vulnerable women in crisis, through charity and through the state. Therefore, drawing from my Christian faith, I’m committed to seeing both an end to the practice of abortion and flourishing economic systems that support vulnerable new parents and children in California and indeed the entire country.

But you already know the problem. Living in Los Angeles in 2022 means that my entire community, so many of our dear friends here, and all the local and state laws are in favor of or are defending and advancing the practice of abortion. I’m praying for a day when abortion will become unthinkable and illegal here, but that at times seems as impossible as a Christian seeing an end to slavery in the deep South in 1840. 

California leads the nation in the number of abortions annually and now plans to become an abortion sanctuary state. Gov. Gavin Newsom is using campaign funds to put up billboards around the country that read, “Need an abortion? California is ready to help,” which, tragically, quotes Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”1https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/15/gavin-newsom-california-abortion-sanctuary-red-state-billboards-00057060 He is also aggressively signing bills that provide strong abortion protections and hosting a California abortion website that helps people find out where to obtain an abortion, among other information.2https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-09-27/newsom-signs-13-abortion-protection-and-reproductive-health-bills

So, I, like many other Christians in progressive states like California, am now asking myself, “What should my life look like as I seek to open my mouth for those who can’t speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute? How can I open my mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy in regards to the practice of abortion here in a post-Roe world?” How should I speak out? How should I protest? How should I vote? How should I try to convince others around me? How can I win hearts and minds to the righteous cause? How should I speak to my congregation?

My thought experiment about living in the deep South is of course hyperbolic. There are surely historical inaccuracies in my imagined scenario. But thank God we are in a society now where slavery is illegal and that sees it as unthinkable and more than unnecessary, as detestable. It wasn’t always so. And it wasn’t that long ago. 

What can we do?

The recent overturning of Roe has indeed created a new world. But abortion isn’t seen as anything close to unthinkable or unnecessary in my beloved California. So, we have got to play the long game of hearts and minds here. This could take many forms, from simple one-on-one conversations, to advocating on the governmental level. We don’t have the luxury of culture-warring here, pitting ourselves against those with whom we vehemently disagree. 

At the relational level, we have to make common-good relationships with pro-choice neighbors. We need to learn to speak in a way where people say, “I may not agree with your conclusions, but I can see you care for vulnerable women. I can see you care for children. I can see you care for the poor.” We can urge our churches and other pro-life friends to link arms in our community with crisis preganancy centers and other nonprofits that serve vulnerable women and children, a path which many pro-life advocates have already paved for us.

Even as we work for laws that restrict abortion where possible, at the governmental level, we’ve got to advocate for fiscal policies that reduce abortions and provide greater safety nets for the vulnerable. As much as our personal relationships and local nonprofits can do, the resources available at the governmental level vastly exceed local efforts. As those more versed in public policy than I have said, a new post-Roe world “is one that compels a greater claim on public resources to support expectant mothers.”3https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/07/opinion/republican-policy-after-roe.html#:~:text=But%20a%20world%20in%20which,parents’%20lives%20a%20little%20easier There are potential areas of overlap in bipartisan efforts even in California that Christian pro-life advocates should be willing to get behind when our interests align.

In addressing both the relational and governmental levels like this, Californian pro-life Christians will simply be obeying the words of the Lord Jesus, “ . . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). And it may not happen in my generation, but Lord-willing there may come a day when even in California abortion is illegal and as unthinkable as slavery is today.

D. J. Jenkins is the pastor of Anthology Church of Studio City in Los Angeles, California.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24