For the Dignity and Worth of Every Person

The dizzying move from the March For Life to President Trump's executive order.

By Anika Smith Published on January 30, 2017

Forgive me, as I’m feeling dizzy and disoriented by the events of the last week.

On Friday I heard Vice President Mike Pence give a beautiful speech at the March For Life, inspiring pro-lifers with the hope that “life is winning” and painting an image of the movement as one for compassion and gentleness:

But as it is written, ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all.’ Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness.

I believe that we will continue to win the hearts and minds of the rising generation if our hearts first break for young mothers and their unborn children, and if we each of us do all we can to meet them where they are, with generosity, not judgment. 

To heal our land and restore a culture of life we must continue to be a movement that embraces all, cares for all, and shows respect for the dignity and worth of every person.

Every person there knew the sincerity of the Vice President’s words. I spoke with many Trump supporters that day, but also with Trump skeptics who were nonetheless encouraged by Pence’s speech. The pro-life movement is about caring for the least of these, the most vulnerable members of society, those orphaned and widowed by a culture of convenience. Hearing gentleness and compassion championed as the way forward was a fulfilling moment for those of us who have been working with joy for the right to life.

It’s that same joy, compassion and gentleness that I find in my friends who not only march for life every year and volunteer in pregnancy centers but work for persecuted Christians and refugees. As the Vice President says, in the movement for life we “embrace all, care for all, and show respect for the dignity and worth of every person.”

This is why I was not surprised when the same friends who marched with me on Friday asked me to join them at the Dulles airport on Saturday to support the people detained under President Trump’s travel ban.

To Dulles, With Love

We were alerted to the situation not by a hysterical liberal media (that came later) but by a friend (we’ll call him Alex) who was recently granted asylee status. His lawyers were the same lawyers working on behalf of the detainees, and Alex was asked to come and translate the legal documents for them.

Often when I talk about the importance of standing up for the preborn, I get asked about how I got started caring about the issue. For many of us in the pro-life movement, there is a story about how abortion has affected us, about people we have loved and loss we have experienced. One of the reasons the younger generation is more pro-life is that we have lived our lives in a post-Roe world: We see and know the consequences of abortion. We also are confronted with the humanity of the child in the womb with the advent of the sonogram and the definitive moment of the heartbeat.

Philosopher J. Budziszewski says there are some things we can’t not know, foundational principles of right and wrong that are written on every human heart. The worth and dignity of every human life, as Vice President Pence said, is one of those things.

Honoring the worth and dignity of every human life involves welcoming the immigrant even as we secure American borders and keep people safe. I would never argue that we should stop screening altogether, and my bleeding-heart conservatism is thankful for the measures that keep Americans safe. But when I learned that a Syrian Christian family who made it to the Philadelphia airport only to be turned around and sent back, I wept. When Alex asked me and my friends to come to the airport and support the people being detained, I went.

Knowing Alex means I know someone who has survived persecution and who has endured more than I can imagine, first putting his life on the line as a military interpreter for the sake of American troops in Iraq, then losing his home and his family for the sake of Jesus Christ.

On Saturday, our tribe of evangelical and Catholic friends prayed as we heard that Customs and Border Protection (CPB) was defying the federal court order to allow the detained travelers (including some green card holders) to see their lawyers. We watched and waited as a few were released and reunited with their families, the numbers slowly moving from 60 detained to 22.

On Sunday we went back home for church and rest and prayer, and Alex was asked to return to Dulles to do more translation work. Then his lawyer called him in a panic, telling him to stay away because of the risk that non-US citizens would be arrested and the complications this could cause Alex’s immigration status.

My friend, who has given America much, is not the only one. The executive order is so broad that it threatens other military interpreters who would otherwise be finding refuge in the nation they have served. Because this executive order is sloppy and not well implemented, we have confusion and chaos that will likely and needlessly cost human lives as refugees are sent back to face persecution, starvation and possible assassination.

I am grateful to God for the witness of Vice President Pence at the March For Life, and I take him at his word: We should be known for our gentleness and the value we place on every human life. May God help us make this a reality, not only for those vulnerable in the womb, but also for those vulnerable on our borders.

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