Timothy Cole: My Conversion From Pro-Life Speaker to Abolitionist

Timothy ColeAbolitionism

My mind was blown and my heart broken during junior high history class. I had always naively thought grave societal evil was mostly confined to ancient times, and that America had always been on the right side of history. Learning of our nation’s history of slavery, mistreatment of Native Americans, the Civil War, the civil rights era etc. disturbed me to my core and removed my imagined barrier of time between then and now, taking some of my innocence. How could modern people do these things? How could modern people commit genocide and Americans fight for such awful racial discriminations as chattel slavery and Jim Crow!

Jesus became the Lord of my life when I was 13. A newfound passion to serve Christ coupled with a more robust awakening to the horrors of sin birthed in me a desire to make a difference and fight the evils of my own age; to bring the Gospel to the world and work to bring His kingdom and His will to be “done on Earth, as it is in heaven”.

After four years of missionary work in Brazil, I returned to the U.S. with my family in 2006 and was immediately bewildered by the apparent moral degradation of our nation. It was intense reverse culture shock.

For decades I had been searching for an outlet for my smoldering desire to fight abortion. I periodically prayed for wisdom and guidance. In the lack of clear direction, I did research and kept an eye out for opportunities. God eventually opened doors and helped me hear His instruction to seek Him first.

Joining the Pro-Life Movement… With Reservations

I learned about pregnancy care centers when a local center director spoke at our church. I joined the board of that organization and served for two years. During my tenure, I learned much about the pro-life paradigm. For example: women are the “second victim” of abortion, pro-life laws exempt women from prosecution, and abortion is an option discussed with mothers at pregnancy care centers “because it is an option.” I rejoiced in this opportunity to serve, but sought an opening to affect change on a larger scale to protect babies from murder.

Around that time, I attended a National Right to Life conference in Overland Park, KS. During the presentations, the small red flags I had become wary of with the Pro-Life Movement became giant, waving banners that I could no longer ignore. I nearly had to pick my jaw up off the floor when a speaker said they support legislation with exceptions that allow for the murder of babies conceived in rape, incest and for danger to the life of the mother. I left the workshop confused and wandered around in tears; thoughts racing and searching for someone with the organization with whom I could discuss this betrayal of the cause.

When I found no one, I contemplated leaving, but fear of losing the only outlet for my desire to fight abortion politically kept me there. Probably out of a desire to not lose the only anti-abortion movement I was aware of, I too easily was talked back into the Pro-Life Establishment by assertions that we must do what we can given political realities, and that we must change hearts and minds before we can demand justice for the preborn. I set aside the obvious truth that it is evil to promote laws that establish injustice and that it is evil to justify the means with the end.

Stepping Into Leadership

Soon after, the big chance for me to make a difference politically finally came when Kansans For Life (KFL) began recruiting volunteer speakers. I attended their training, but once again was bothered by what I heard. The speaker kept talking about the importance of protecting certain pieces of pro-life legislation and spoke nothing of ending the murder of babies. I was told we cannot end abortion immediately, so while we might be able to do that in the future, right now we have to focus on restricting abortion however we can. I was told that even if the pro-life measures do not pass, they are crafted to frame the debate in a way that sways public opinion toward pro-life thinking.

The KFL trainer added that polls show the strategy is working and we are getting closer to the point where we have sufficient public support to further protect babies via more strict pro-life laws. The ‘save the babies you can’ and ‘we will eventually get there’ view was compelling enough for me to stick around. I moved forward and became a volunteer KFL speaker.

Abortion Must Be Abolished?

A short time later, two perplexing conversations occurred in the same evening, one before and one after an event I helped coordinate at my church. I was approached by a Christian brother who was greatly concerned about guest speaker Kevan Myers and about the abolish abortion materials Kevan displayed on his table. When I told him I saw no problem with either, he pressed further: “Kevan is really extreme on abortion… He is for no abortion… I mean he is for no abortion, NO abortion!” I was perplexed, trying to figure out what was extreme about that. He then ended the interaction abruptly with, “OK, whatever. I just wanted to make sure that was okay.” I sat in confusion wondering why a fellow Christian, serious about the truth of scripture, would be concerned by the assertion that no baby should be murdered in his or her mother’s womb?

After the event, I told Kevan my plan to speak for KFL. Rather than the enthusiastic response I expected, he looked surprised and concerned. He talked to me about the importance of passing just laws and said pro-life legislation is iniquitous and unbiblical. I listened intently, thinking he was probably naïve about the political realities but also wondering if I was right. We were not able to talk at length, so we agreed to talk more later.

In preparation for my first speaking engagement, I reviewed the KFL Value Them Both constitutional amendment presentation. Especially after Kevan brought many of my earlier concerns to the forefront of my mind, the KFL content made no sense. I was supposed to take up the time of a bunch of pro-life Christians by asking them: “Should a minor be able to have an abortion without her parents knowing?!” What does that have to do with anything? Slide-after-slide, the points focused on the importance of pre-abortion counseling, informed consent, access to an ultrasound, etc. before the baby is killed. I became increasingly frustrated and eventually got mad and shouted, “This presentation has nothing to do with ending abortion!”

I called the KFL volunteer coordinator about my concerns. Surprisingly, she initially told me she agreed that this content didn’t make much sense for a church presentation setting with a Christian audience. She passed my concern up the KFL chain, and was told that this was the sort of content that we need Christians talking about to their non-Christian friends to garner support for the Value Them Both amendment to the Kansas constitution, even if they are not completely against abortion. I was not convinced this was right, but understood what they were saying. Again, I reluctantly stayed on board against my better judgement.

Thankfully, I remembered my conversation with Kevan and decided I wanted to talk with him prior to my first KFL speaking engagement, which was less than a week away. My concerns about KFL and the Pro-Life Movement remained in the back of my mind. I wanted to put them to rest and help Kevan understand the importance of moving toward abolition by using incremental bills to gain ground. His opposition to pro-life legislation concerned me because I did not want division in the church to prevent progress toward the end of abortion. I also respected his perspective and wanted to be sure we could align as much as possible, so I could speak for KFL with confidence in the Lord’s blessing.

We called and it did not go as I had envisioned, in the most glorious way possible! Kevan walked me through scriptures about justice, not showing favoritism, and how the law is a tutor. He exhorted me to trust and obey the Lord rather than the strategies of men. I’d planned to persuade and was the one being persuaded. We closed the conversation with prayer. I requested additional prayer and committed to continue searching the scriptures and seeking the Lord’s direction before deciding how to proceed.

Though I was cautiously not wanting to jump into (or out of) anything too quickly, I already realized I was wrong and Kevan was right before I had hung up the phone. I clearly saw how scripture prescribes abolitionism in response to societal sins, and how it opposed my pro-life direction. I just wanted time to ensure I was not making an emotionally reactive decision and to build confidence in this change of direction.

I felt the gravity of the decision before me. To embrace abolitionism, I would have to turn away from the rare and meaningful opportunity to take action on an issue that God had placed heavily on my heart for decades. I slowed down to pray and make sure I was neither taking scriptures out of context, nor ignoring the full Biblical message about responding to evil and injustice. After talking with my wife, praying, reading scripture, watching videos Kevan sent me about equal justice and holding pro-life legislators accountable, I firmly and publicly became an abolitionist.

I cancelled my KFL speaking engagement and called my pastor to alert him that my introduction to the congregation of the Value Them Both amendment (the next morning) would be to speak against it. He listened and agreed with the scriptural foundation from which I criticized the amendment and pro-life incrementalism. He said he’d made similar assertions and posed comparable questions to his comrades in pro-life work. He too wanted time to think about what I’d said. He expressed concern that turning people from pro-life to abolition would essentially leave them with nothing to do about abortion. I shared his concern at the time, but have since found many opportunities to work toward abolition in tandem with abolitionists in our area such as Kevan’s team in Kansas City, and the folks at Abortion is Murder Kansas.

The law is a tutor (Galatians 3:24). It teaches us the will of God and His standards. We as students of the Old Testament law learn how we fall short, cannot be righteous, and need a savior. Pro-life legislation designed to protect some babies and not others based on arbitrary criteria teaches the culture and the Church a warped version of justice. Pro-life legislation and rhetoric may have taught my Christian brother that ‘no abortion’ is an extreme position. Pro-life efforts, with my support, have deceived the secular culture and poisoned the minds of believers with nothing less than pro-abortion thinking. Isaiah (10:1) warns against establishment of unjust laws. I now realize I was guilty of participation in this sin.

I again shared these concerns with my KFL volunteer coordinator when I formally stepped down. She remained sympathetic, but was ultimately unmoved from her incrementalist pragmatism. She was too focused on what she thought would work. This argument is ironic, when you consider how ineffective decades of pro-life efforts focused on compromise have been. Pro-life leaders and volunteers claim their efforts have been fruitful, but a comprehensive look at the statistics they use to support the claim does not really support such a view.

Not One Second More

In closing, I will note that one of the easiest ways to become an abolitionist is to spend time pleading with mothers and fathers at abortion mills not to murder their children. While standing with abolitionists at Planned Parenthood not long ago, I spoke with a father there for an abortion and shared the Gospel with him. He ultimately chose to murder his baby, acknowledging full-well that it was murder but citing his emotional wellbeing as the justification for participation in this murder. While I am thankful for the opportunity and gift of participating in the Great Commission in this way, interactions like this which expose the evil of abortion in all its horror one make me more passionately despise abortion and any worldly philosophy that rejects the Biblical mandate of demanding our state and nation immediately repent for the sin of abortion.

As Presbyterian minister and slavery abolitionist George Bourne put it, “Can any supposititious expediency, any dread of political discord, or any private advantage justify the prolongation or corruption, the enormity of which is unequaled, or repel the holy claim to its extinction?  The system is so entirely corrupt that it admits of no cure but a TOTAL AND IMMEDIATE abolition.  For a gradual emancipation is a virtual recognition of the right, and establishes the rectitude of the practice.  If it be for just for one moment, it is hallowed for ever; and if it be inequitable, not one day should be tolerated.”

My journey — now as an abolitionist — continues with many opportunities to fight the good fight, run the race, and keep the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). Join us.

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