By / Dec 8

Discussions about abortion in America often center around issues of individual choice and autonomy. Yet, embedded within the debate is a less examined but profoundly disconcerting facet: the disproportionate impact of abortion on racial minorities. Individual “choice” cannot account for the racial disparities in abortion rates. These disparities appear to be the result of eugenic ideology and targeting by the abortion industry.

Disproportionate burden

Data from institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal the stark racial disparity in abortion rates. For example, every year the CDC conducts abortion surveillance to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions in the United States. In 2020 (the latest year for which complete data is available), the CDC found that among the areas that reported race by ethnicity data,

  • non-Hispanic White women (White) and non-Hispanic Black women (Black) accounted for the highest percentages of all abortions (32.7% and 39.2%, respectively),
  • and Hispanic women and non-Hispanic women in the other race category accounted for lower percentages (21.1% and 7.0%, respectively).

White women had the lowest abortion rate (6.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (118 abortions per 1,000 live births), and Black women had the highest abortion rate (24.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (426 abortions per 1,000 live births). According to the Departments of Public Health of every state that reports abortion by ethnicity, Black women disproportionately lead in the numbers:

  • In Mississippi, 79% of abortions were obtained by Black women; 
  • in Washington, D.C., more than 60%; 
  • in Georgia, 59.4%; 
  • And in Alabama, 58.4%. 

As a policy report by the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) noted, “In state after state, similar numbers are found, with black women aborting at two, three or more times their presence in the population.”

This racial imbalance is not merely a statistical anomaly but a reflection of deep-seated systemic issues. “There is a widespread perception that women, particularly African American women, are freely exercising their ‘choice’ when they enter the doors of the nearest abortion center,” says the CURE. “Nothing can be further from the truth. The reality is that black women are being pushed – led from behind – into abortion centers by a cadre of elitists who agree with Frederick Osborne, the leading eugenicist of the 20th century, that ‘birth control and abortion are turning out to be great eugenic advances of our time.’” 

The eugenics connection

As CURE points out, the racial undertones of abortion are deeply rooted in history. The early 20th-century eugenic movements aimed at improving the genetic quality of the human population, often targeted marginalized racial groups, deeming them “unfit” for reproduction. The movement’s pernicious ideology of racial superiority often advocated for the reduction of births through abortion. The echoes of such ideologies can still be found in the modern-day abortion narrative, manifesting in the significant racial disparities witnessed today.

Even today, there are only five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and Tennessee) that prohibit abortions because of the race of the child.

Targeting by the abortion industry

The abortion industry, whether intentionally or inadvertently, amplifies these disparities. The location of clinics, pricing structures, and the level of engagement in minority communities increase racial disparities on abortion. The industry appears to be capitalizing on systemic inequities, thus perpetuating a cycle of exploitation.

For example, studies have shown that abortion clinics are disproportionately located in minority-dominated neighborhoods. This geographic proximity exacerbates the accessibility and hence, the likelihood of opting for abortions among these communities.

A 2012 study found that 79% of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities were located within walking distance of a Black or Hispanic neighborhood. Using Census data, this study documented the racial demographics of each census tract (similar to a neighborhood) within a two-mile radius of each of Planned Parenthood’s 163 surgical abortion facilities operating in 2010.

A census tract was counted as a minority neighborhood if its minority racial percentage reached over 50% or if it was 1.5 times that of the county percentage. An updated analysis in 2015 found that the new set of 173 Planned Parenthood surgical abortion facilities operating in 2014 continue their practice of heavily targeting minority neighborhoods for abortion, with 78% within walking distance of these communities.

The racial disparities in abortion rates are not mere coincidences but symptomatic of broader systemic issues. The abortion industry’s role in this scenario warrants a thorough examination and a call for accountability. It is incumbent upon society to address the root causes of these disparities, fostering a culture that cherishes life and provides support for individuals across all racial and demographic lines.  

Society must uphold the dignity of all individuals irrespective of racial or ethnic backgrounds. The evident racial disparities within abortion statistics require a moral and ethical introspection on the part of society, policymakers, and the abortion industry itself.

Editor’s Note: When you give, the ERLC can do more in 2024 to continue to advance the prolife movement, in ways like shaping policies that provide care and support for vulnerable mothers and families in a post-Roe America. Consider giving a year-end gift to bring hope to the public square.

By / Sep 1

Monday marked the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Held on Aug. 28, 1963, the march stands as a watershed moment in the Civil Rights Movement, influencing civil rights legislation and contributing to the end of racial segregation.

Here is what you should know about the Christian significance of the march, its impact on civil rights laws, and the ongoing quest for racial reconciliation.

Historical context: A moral imperative to overturn Jim Crow

The March on Washington occurred during a tumultuous period characterized by racial discrimination and social unrest. Although slavery had been abolished, systemic racism persisted, particularly in the form of Jim Crow laws. Named after an offensive and degrading stereotype of African Americans, Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local statutes that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States.

One of the primary tenets of Jim Crow laws was the doctrine of “separate but equal,” upheld by the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. This doctrine allowed for racial segregation so long as facilities were “equal,” though in reality, they were often inferior for African Americans. 

Jim Crow laws also mandated the segregation of public schools, public transportation, restrooms, restaurants, and even drinking fountains. They entrenched racial boundaries by establishing voting restrictions and prohibiting interracial marriages. These laws often enforced job discrimination, ensuring that lucrative and desirable jobs were reserved for white individuals.

Jim Crow laws were enacted primarily from the late 19th century to the early 20th century and remained in effect at the time of the march. This struggle for civil rights was therefore not merely a political or social endeavor but a moral imperative deeply rooted in the Christian doctrine that all human beings are created in the image of God.

The march: A manifestation of Christian activism

Organized by civil rights and labor leaders like A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the March on Washington brought together an estimated 250,000 individuals of all races. Many of the promoters and speakers at the events were Christian leaders, as were a great number of those who participated in the march.

Although the organizers disagreed about the purpose of the event, the group came together on a set of goals

  • passage of meaningful civil rights legislation; 
  • immediate elimination of school segregation; 
  • a program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed; 
  • a federal law prohibiting discrimination in public or private hiring; 
  • a $2-an-hour minimum wage nationwide; 
  • withholding federal funds from programs that tolerate discrimination; 
  • enforcement of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by reducing congressional representation from states that disenfranchise citizens; 
  • a broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to currently excluded employment areas; 
  • and authority for the attorney general to institute injunctive suits when constitutional rights are violated.

Event organizer Bayard Rustin recruited 4,000 off-duty police officers and firemen to serve as event marshals and coached them in the crowd control techniques he’d learned in India studying nonviolent political participation. The official law enforcement also included 5,000 police, National Guardsmen, and Army reservists. No marchers were arrested, though, and no incidents concerning marchers were reported.

At the close of the event, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, delivered his iconic speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. King improvised the most recognizable, memorable part of the speech for which he is most famous, according to his speechwriter and attorney Clarence B. Jones. Although King had spoken about a dream two months earlier in Detroit, the “dream” was not in the text prepared by Jones. King initially followed the text Jones had written, but gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” King nodded to her, placed the text of his speech aside, and veered off-script, delivering extemporaneously what is referred to as the “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most famous orations in American history.

A cultural shift and the end of segregation

The March on Washington was instrumental in the passage of key civil rights legislation. 

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, echoed the biblical principles of justice and equality.
  •  Similarly, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 sought to eliminate racial discrimination in voting, aligning with the Christian conviction of fair treatment for all people made in God’s image.

Beyond legislation, the march initiated a significant cultural shift. The event brought the issue of racial inequality into the American consciousness, challenging people to confront their prejudices and to strive toward the Christian ideals of love, mercy, and unity. While laws could mandate desegregation, it was this change in collective consciousness that truly began to dismantle systemic racism.

As we reflect on the march, it’s essential to recommit to the Christian call for racial and ethnic reconciliation. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This verse highlights the biblical mandate for unity, transcending all racial and ethnic divisions, especially in the Church.

The March on Washington serves as a profound reminder of the Christian principles of justice, equality, and love for one’s neighbor—all grounded in the reality that we are all created in God’s image. The event was not just a milestone in American history; it was a manifestation of Christian activism that led to transformative civil rights legislation and cultural changes. However, the journey toward racial reconciliation is far from over, as evidenced by the devastating and sinful acts of racial hatred and violence we see too frequently. As followers of Christ, we are called to continue this vital work, striving to build a society where all are equal, all are loved, and all have the opportunity to hear the good news of Christ Jesus.

By / Feb 21

Years ago, as my wife and I were renovating our house, we met an African American gentleman who came to help with one of our projects. We welcomed him into our home and left him to do his work. After he finished the job, we began to talk. He graciously thanked us for the hospitality and mentioned it was not always the case. Upon my inquiry, he proceeded to describe some horrendous experiences he had endured as a Black man in people’s homes in our small Southern community. Some wouldn’t allow him in their houses, others watched him like a hawk, and others spoke in passive but incredibly derogatory ways toward him as he worked. He even told us that there were certain areas in town that he asked not to be assigned because Confederate flags fly proudly in front yards, which is still far too common for those of us who call this place home.

As Christians, the ways that this man had been treated should turn our stomachs and push us toward a righteous resolve to rid our communities of these abohorent and blatantly sinful attacks on the dignity of our fellow image-bearer. And while racism isn’t as open and obvious as it once was in our nation, it is still painfully present even if in more subdued or subtle forms. Many Christians today often feel caught between the realities of racism in our society and the calls for social justice that at times are at odds with the biblical social ethic. On one hand, some tend to argue that racism is nonexistent or at least not a prominent issue facing the church — often being seen as a secondary or tertiary issue to other cultural and social issues in Christian ethics. On the other hand, much of what is promoted in terms of social justice today does not accord with true social justice, biblical defined which is rooted in the inherent dignity of all image bearers and redemption through the cross of Christ.

How is a Christian to navigate these questions today of standing against racism but not losing biblically grounded justice? Scripture makes clear that racism in any form is a grievous sin before our Holy God and is to be repudiated in the strongest of terms, wherever it is found, by the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13; Gal. 3:28; Rev. 14:6). As Christians seek to walk through these complexities and tensions, we must keep two overlapping truths together. First, biblically grounded social justice is central to the gospel message being rooted in the imago Dei. And second, downplaying social justice or failing to address the outworkings of sin in our society is a repudiation of the Christian social ethic (Psa. 89:14).

Social justice and the gospel message

The concept of social justice has at times been hijacked by the wider culture to stand for causes or to justify actions contrary to the biblical message of human dignity and the reality of sin. Christians rightly decry how the term has been overly politicized and has been taken up to promote causes that degrade true human flourishing and the common good in our society. Some calls for social justice reduce all of human existence to power dynamics or push radical social agendas that are designed to normalize hyper individualism and complete moral autonomy. But we also must be honest that the gospel message has likewise been hijacked by some — especially in the past — to support or even promote the horrors of slavery, segregation, and the continuation of unjust policies that seek to define someone’s value and dignity based on their skin color or background. Injustice is an affront to God and his character no matter where it is found.

The Christian moral tradition clearly illustrates that the gospel message is the good news that Jesus Christ lived the life we were created to live and died the death we deserved to die in order to give us everlasting life in relationship to God for eternity. It also makes clear that this message of new life in Christ contains wide-reaching and life-altering social implications for all of society which is rooted in the God-given dignity of all people (Gen. 1:26-28). The personal aspects of the biblical ethic directly inform the social aspects because we are individuals living in community with one another. We each bear immense responsibility for pursuing truth and upholding justice in our society. As new creations in Christ, we are to model for a watching world what Jesus meant when he called his people to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (2 Cor. 5:17; Matt. 22:37-39). Overlooking our neighbors or passively allowing injustices to be perpetrated is completely contrary to this command by God to stand for the vulnerable and downtrodden in our communities as we seek to biblically defined justice wherever injustice is found.

An ethic to make the world tremble

As the world-class evangelical Protestant theologian and ethicist Carl F.H. Henry boldly stated, “Social justice is not simply an appendage to the evangelistic message; it is an intrinsic part of the whole, without which the preaching of the gospel is truncated. Theology devoid of social justice is a deforming weakness of much present-day evangelical witness.”1Henry, Carl F. H. God, Revelation and Authority. Vol. IV. Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1979, 551. For Henry, social justice is a key part of the gospel message because it is the outworking of the Christian social ethic grounded in the imago Dei and modeled by the Church throughout a host of social justice issues such as racism, caring for vulnerable children in the womb, or decrying the killing of the elderly in the name of “dignified death.” Rightfully defined in this era of immense confusion over the social aspects of the biblical ethic and the nature of responsibility, the Christian social ethic is robustly pro-human dignity in every aspect of society, even those deemed not worthy of respect or honor by the culture around us.

This vigorous and unadulterated biblical social ethic must be retrieved in each generation as new challenges arise and questions of human anthropology are being asked in light of the quest for moral autonomy and even in the face of modern technological developments. Henry, speaking of the nature of the gospel and the Christian social ethic, once wrote that we must “confront the world now with an ethic to make it tremble, and with a dynamic to give it hope.”2Henry, Carl F. H. Twilight of a Great Civilization: The Drift toward Neo-Paganism. Westchester, Ill: Crossway Books, 1988, 166. This practically means that we recognize sin and the distortion of human dignity wherever it may be found, as well as the hope of reconciliation that we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

In an age of rampant moral autonomy and hyper-individualism, the Church must see and proclaim that sin is not simply an isolated personal issue, but something that is pervasive throughout every single aspect of society. Thus, we must not only articulate a vision of biblical justice but also seek to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11-21). We must ensure that our words align with our actions as we proclaim a message of hope in a sin-torn world longing for redemption. As the prophet Micah reminds us, the Lord has spoken and commands that as his people we are to “love justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our God]” (Micah 6:8).

  • 1
    Henry, Carl F. H. God, Revelation and Authority. Vol. IV. Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1979, 551.
  • 2
    Henry, Carl F. H. Twilight of a Great Civilization: The Drift toward Neo-Paganism. Westchester, Ill: Crossway Books, 1988, 166.
By / Jan 7

Today, the three men convicted of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder were sentenced to life in prison. Arbery’s family has waited almost two years for justice for their son after Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael, and Roddy Bryan mercilessly chased down Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, and fatally shot him while he was running in a Georiga subdivision. This horrible act of violence rightly brought national outrage. 

Arbery’s death renewed calls for racial justice and revived painful memories of racial violence across the South through the painful era of Jim Crow and beyond. Thankfully, unlike so many cases of the lynching and death of black men and women throughout America’s history, a jury of mostly white citizens reviewed the evidence and convicted the three men first, and then a judge handed down just sentences for taking the life of a fellow man.

Rejoicing and lament 

It is appropriate for Christians to both rejoice and lament in this moment. We can rejoice in the justice of the verdicts and sentences. It is right for these three men to be punished for their heinous racial crime that was perpetrated against an image-bearer of the Almighty. Our American system of earthly justice is far from perfect, but in this case, it brought about a just outcome. 

Yet, we should also lament the racial hatred that led to the death of Arbery, who was only jogging through a neighborhood. The guilty verdicts and life sentences, while correct, won’t bring back a son to his grieving parents; it won’t erase the pain they will likely feel for the rest of their lives. 

We should also lament the slow wheels of local justice in this case. When the shooting happened, local prosecutors declined to prosecute before a video leaked and provoked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to investigate. The GBI then arrested the McMichaels before the case was transferred to the Cobb County District Attorney. 

Though America has come far in moving to uphold her promises of “all men created equal,” she has a ways to go. The weight of slavery and the legacy of Jim Crow haven’t exited quietly. They continue to haunt our nation. 

The Christian’s longing for justice 

Earthly justice hits at the heart of Christians for many reasons. We believe in the inherent dignity of every human being, knit with care and purpose by God in each womb (Psa. 139). We believe that every drop of innocent blood shed does not escape the watch of the Almighty (Gen. 4:10). Because of this, our hearts were provoked by a good kind of outrage, a demand for justice, when we watched the horrible video showing Arbery robbed of the breath of life.

This longing for justice is not unnatural and has been a feature of the human experience since the entrance of sin in the Garden, when human hearts were corrupted by the enemy and prone to turn in violence on fellow image-bearers (Gen. 3–4). And our imperfect and temporary models of earthly justice point us to a God of perfect justice, a God who turns no blind eyes to racism, hatred, and violence. 

Ultimately, our longing for evil to be reversed, for injustice to be made right, and our cries to “let justice roll on like a river” (Amos 5:24) will not be satisfied in any earthly court. Civil authorities are delegated the sword of justice by God (Rom. 13), but there is only one place where divine justice and wrath against evil was satisfied. It happened 2,000 years ago, on a lonely hill outside a backwater Roman province, as Roman soldiers carried out an unjust state execution of an innocent itinerant rabbi. There, Jesus, human and divine, bore the weight of every unjust act in the universe and the wrath of a holy God (2 Cor. 5:21). No sinful human can pay for their own sin, no matter how long the sentence, no matter how cruel the punishment. Only Jesus, the sin-bearer, can bear this weight. And only God can bring about perfect justice for those who won’t repent. 

And yet it was also in this moment when sin — lynchings, racism, violence, the shedding of innocent blood — and death were forever defeated. Jesus not only satisfies our longings for true justice but also defeats, through his death and resurrection, what creates injustice in the first place. The resurrected Jesus is pointing us toward a day without sin, tears, sorrow, and death (Rev. 21:4). Until, then, we work to make our societies more just, to make injustice less common, and to announce the verdict, “It is finished.” 

By / Feb 25

The calling we have as Christian parents is to help shape the worldview of our children toward one that increasingly reflects the heart and mission of God. This includes talking about things like personal integrity, love for neighbor, generosity, and peacemaking. As a parent to four young children, I’m convinced this must also include conversations about race and justice. 

American culture has been guilty of the sin of racism. It goes all the way back to colonial times; European settlers stole land from the Native Americans and brought African slaves to North America. In short, this is not a new problem, and tragically, white evangelical Christians in particular have often passed down an indifference toward issues of race and justice from generation to generation — an indifference that persists even as our country grows more divided. Brothers and sisters, this should not be. 

Many of us struggle to engage in what are challenging and increasingly complex conversations on race in our country. To that end, I want to share a few guiding principles and practical steps you can take in this direction with your family. The goal is not to have all the answers, but to engage with a posture of humility — listening, learning, and depending on God, his Word, and his people.  

  1. Educate yourself about God’s heart for justice in the Bible. As a pastor, I have found that many of the people I shepherd are surprised by how much the concept of justice is talked about in the Bible. Spend some time digesting the prophetic books where you read things like these passages from Isaiah and Jeremiah: 
    Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isa. 1:17)
    Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. (Jer. 22:3)
    As you can see from these passages, the process within your family must move from education to action. For those committed to following the way of Jesus, these are not optional tasks. 
  1. Educate yourself about injustice in our nation’s history. All of our children should be learning about the evils of slavery and the significance of the Civil Rights Movement. They likely know the names Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks. But as you do your own research, tell them about the figures and stories you come across that they may not necessarily read about in textbooks. The Equal Justice Initiative has been an incredibly helpful resource for me in this area. In 2019, I purchased their calendar where you can learn about a different historical event in the realm of social and racial injustice in America’s history each day. deBecoming aware of deeper history will help our kids become advocates and burden-bearers for those who have been oppressed by racism, and help them not become casualties to the ignorance that erodes into damaging indifference.  
  1. Educate yourself about injustice in your city. I live in Kansas City, a place with a long history of racial division. A street called Troost serves as a modern-day “dividing wall of hostility” that continues to remind us of our dark past and remaining socioeconomic and racial divisions. Every city and state has stories like these, so do the work to learn them, share them, and model for your kids what it looks like to strive for righteousness. 
  1. Be intentional about sharing what you learn with the next generation. We drive across Troost every day as a family. I’ve shared some of that history with my kids in age-appropriate ways. I’ve also tried to translate the complexities of redlining or racially-restrictive housing covenants into language they can understand more easily, so they can begin forming a wider perspective of institutional practices that have handicapped millions of minorities in our city and how those things are not in alignment with the kingdom of God.
    In the student ministry I led, we toook a driving tour of our city with historical commentary of the role of segregation. We do this in an effort to educate and create space for questions and dialogue, in hope that we may not be guilty of the same sins of our ancestors.
  1. Cultivate empathy. As we watched the events surrounding the death of George Floyd and the following global protests, we talked about the imago Dei, the dignity of every human being made in God’s image, and the pain related to various forms of injustice our brothers and sisters of color have carried for so long — injustice that my kids will most likely never have to experience personally. They saw my wife and I weep and lament the injustice in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of color. My friend Brian Key says, “When you weep with someone, you identify with them in their pain. It is humanizing in the face of the dehumanizing pain of grief. It somehow makes the grief less lonely, though not less painful.” That’s the kind of posture we want to cultivate in our kids. It didn’t take eloquent speeches from us to point them that direction; it just took tears. 
    We want to stir empathy, compassion, and understanding in the hearts of our sons and daughters because that reflects the heart of our God. And we want to be the ones shaping the narrative biblically, not the media or their friends. This requires being proactive rather than reactive, and an eagerness to truthfully and courageously confront racist realities we have been born into as Americans. 
  1. Pursue expressions of diversity. In heaven we will worship with every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. But in the U.S., most of us have inherited the reality of living in more homogenous communities. It will take creativity and commitment to continually pursue diversity across the spheres of our life. 

Prioritize the conversation

What we talk about reveals the disposition of our hearts. This is what Jesus was highlighting when he said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). As evangelicals we have done a good job of prioritizing conversations around sexuality, gender, and the sanctity of life — as we should. But we must also not neglect topics of racial justice or treat them as less important issues. 

The opportunities are all around us, whether it be in the history they are learning in school, the political debates they are increasingly aware of, or the questions they ask about people they see every day. So the next time you see something on the news, or your kids share about what they are learning in American history, or when you take them to Ephesians 2 in your family devotional time, seize the opportunity to point them to God’s heart for racial reconciliation and pray with them along those lines. Repent of apathy, and pray for opportunities to live out justice in your community.

May we not be guilty of turning a blind eye or passively handing over discipleship to the culture. But with confidence in Scripture and the calling we’ve been given to be ambassadors of God’s love in Christ to the world, instill in our children a heart that pursues justice, loves mercy, and humbly submits to the God who tears down dividing walls for his glory and the good of the world. 

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