January 23, 2014

Why I Marched #marchforlife

by Jesse Johnson

Yesterday I participated in The March for Life, an annual protest march held on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision.  If you weren’t there, you likely didn’t hear much about the event. Today I want to describe it to you, and then tell you why I have participated the last two years:


The march begins at the National Mall, then makes its way up past the Capitol Building to the steps of the Supreme Court. It is impossible to know how many people were marching, but it feelt like less than last year, which was owing to the fact it was VERY COLD, and DC was hit by its biggest snow of the year the day before the march. Even so, last year there were lots of people, although estimates of how many were all over the map. Some news papers said there were about 65,000 people, and some others said there were 650,000 people.Obviously those numbers aren’t reliable. Most people don’t care, because the march is hardly covered by the press at all (last year despite having over 500k people there, an anti-gun rally with 5k people drew bigger headlines in most papers).

Two things stand out about the marchers: they are very young, and very Catholic. This is pure guess work, but it looked like 75% of the crowd was under 25, and about 75% of the crowd was wearing something that designated them as Catholic (such as church scarves, friar robes, or giant banners of the Virgin). In fact, I ran into a friend at the march who said, “whoa, another protestant!”

The day began at a stage, where Matt Maher played, and he was followed by speakers—a Catholic Bishop, John Boehner, and others. Everyone then marched to the Supreme Court with a lot of chanting.


The whole affair is certainly conflicted. On the one hand, there were graphic pictures of dismembered and discarded babies. On the other hand, the marchers were often chanting as if they were at a high school football game (“We love babies, yes we do! We love babies, how bout you?”).  Part of that is certainly the fruit of a generation raised in a culture of death. These students have always lived in a world where it is legal for mothers to kill their children. The statistic of 56 million Americans aborted in the last 40 years is just too horrific to comprehend, and has just become part-and-parcel of our culture.

So why did I march? If you look through American history, abortion is not the only social evil that has been institutionalized and legalized. Consider two other examples: the slave trade and segregation. Both of those were enshrined in our country’s culture, much like abortion is today. Both of those were eventually abolished, and the masses’ protests—specifically the religious masses—were instrumental in closing those chapters of our history. Our country’s history has taught us that this kind of social protest works.

I know that only the gospel can change a heart. And I know that you can make abortion illegal without advancing the kingdom of God one inch. Yet I am a citizen in two kingdoms. I don’t think that participating in The March for Life is advancing the gospel, but it is protesting a horrible evil enshrined in our culture. Citizens of a country have a duty to speak out when confronted with immorality. Because of common grace, God has allowed some truths to be in the reach of those who are outside of Christ—such as murder being evil, for example. And it is obvious that as a culture slides away from morality into depravity, that it is sliding further and further from common grace and into God’s judgment.

It is foolhardy to sit back and say, “I can’t do anything except watch.” That’s why I’m committed to writing about the evils of abortion (like here, or here), to preaching against the evils of abortion, and to using any means I have to expose people to the truth. If marching against legalized infanticide seems like such a small statement, I suppose I’m more comfortable with that small statement than with no statement at all.

Last year on the march I ran into a group of a dozen counter-protesters who were speaking out in favor of keeping infanticide legal (they actually confessed that they were not speaking out of conviction, but that they had been hired—money apparently being the only kind of conviction some people have). This year I saw only one person.


The one counter-protester I saw this year. At least he had something to say, no matter how illogical.

There are no real arguments to keep abortion legal. Unlike 40 years ago, there is no doubt about what is happening in the womb at 14 weeks (in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court said that there was). There is no shortage of families looking to adopt children, meaning that even in an unplanned pregnancy of a young mother, there is no need “to punish them with a baby.” The truth is that the only real reason to keep infanticide legal is that people hate God and all he stands for—even simple things like common grace.

The next few years should certainly be enlightening. As a generation that has grown up with legalized abortion gives way to a generation that has grown up with ultrasound machines and in-utero surgeries, the shadows of justification for abortion simply have to fade. The moral arc of the universe is long, but it tends towards justice, and in this case the days of society tolerating the slaughter of tens of millions of babies certainly has to be coming to a close. Even if it only gets closer one march at a time.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Have you checked out the new movie about abortion? Just released yesterday.

    • Jill Stevenson

      Thank you for posting the video.

  • D Drake

    Thanks for the article

  • Glad you were a part of this march. I’m sortof conflicted on protests like this: one one hand, I think it’s a good medium to voice a protest, but I wonder if the louder, stronger protest of abortion comes from the families that actively bring in the orphans and the unwanted. Being pro-life, I wonder, if that should be more of a VERB, an action you do in seeking out to give a loving Christian home to orphans and unwanted children, instead of just protesting against the abortion practice. Of the two I wonder which one makes the loudest testimony.

    • I don’t really see a dichotomy, right? I’d question someone’s sincerity about either if they saw this as an either.

      • Both have a place in speaking out for the value of life, but what I was getting it was, which one makes a stronger testimony of being pro-life: marching with signs, or demonstrating love for unwanted children by opening the home and, say, bringing in an orhpan from China into a Christian home.

        As an aside about Catholics at the march: they are interesting in that they remain vociferously pro-life, yet most of the ones I know only have 1-2 children themselves, so it’s sort of as if they’ve found a loophole around papal restrictions on birth control or something, yet they remain nobly strong advocated for the unborn.

        • Emmie

          I agree with Johnny 100%. It isn’t enough to say you are pro-life and hold up signs. It is adopting, serving in orphanages, caring for the mother who *chooses* life rather than continuing to judge her first choice to have sex out of wed-lock, offering counseling to the mother long after the baby is born and she is facing post pardum depression, education people on adoption, taking meals to people who are foster parents, need I go on? Holding up a sign *is* an action, yes. But loving women, even if they choose to abort, not condemning them but listening to them, crying with them, being the hands of Jesus to them (have you ever known a woman to abort who didn’t regret it? She needs love. Not condemnation. Signs in her face don’t show her Christ….). I understand what Johnny is saying, and I pray that Christians go from holding up a sign, to being mobilized to care for LIFE. Both before birth, and after birth.

        • Johnny, how many Chinese orphans have you adopted? I’ve always been interested in adoption.

  • I applaud you for marching yesterday and I think your blog is spot-on. Thank you for an insightful (as always) blog.

  • Thanks Jesse! This was really helpful and insightful. Sometimes I find difficulty trying to find the balance between being respectful of the God-ordained govt. (albeit wicked) that has authority over us, while also understanding that we live in a representative govt. Obviously we can’t be represented if our position isn’t known. It’s a good reminder that a protest isn’t disrespectful by default, as long as it falls within the confines of other laws. That said, I agree that even though the Gospel is the solution to a heart issue, but we have a responsibility to restrain evil at the same time.

    On another note, I thought it was interesting that you brought up how we now have irrefutable evidence concerning what is happening in the womb since Roe v. Wade. I remember reading an article by Al Mohler some time ago that shows how the liberal/feminist argument has changed on abortion – from “We don’t know if this is a child,” to “We know he/she is, but it’s the lesser evil to promote feminism.”

    This is exactly what was said, “In ‘Yes, Abortion is Killing. But It’s the Lesser Evil,’ writer Antonia
    Senior acknowledges that an unborn child at any stage is a human life.
    But she then proceeds to assert that feminism is more important than
    life, and that, when necessary, women must be willing to kill for the
    feminist cause even as they are willing to die for it.”


  • George Pearson

    wow. great one Pastor Jesse!

  • Gavin Baxter

    Thanks for taking a stand, and for highlighting the issue.
    Just a reflection on a previous article re poverty, are there not similar issues here? …
    “I know that only the Gospel can change a heart. And I know that you can *alleviate poverty* without advancing the kingdom of God one inch. Yet I am a citizen in two kingdoms. I don’t think that *feeding the poor* is advancing the gospel, but it is *combating* a horrible evil enshrined in our culture… It is foolhardy to sit back and say, “I can’t do anything except watch.””
    Just thinking aloud. Thanks for the forum!

  • Thanks for writing this, Jesse. I’m super encouraged to see some balance here. Onward Christian Soldier!

  • 4Commencefiring4

    While I’m certainly pro-life and applaud your taking part in the march, I’d have to say it may be a stretch to say there are “no real reasons” to keep abortion legal…and I don’t give them more weight than their opposite, by the way. That said, I think what constitutes a “real reason” is a matter of one’s viewpoint.

    It reminds me of the debate regarding how “literal” one takes the Bible: it’s often said that if you take all prophecy “literally”, you wind up in the premill camp, and if you don’t, you won’t. Similarly, if your focus is limited to the mother alone, you’ll likely be pro-choice; if your focus is on the child, you’ll come out pro-life. Both camps offer “real reasons”, in that they have meaning and impact in real people’s lives.

    The trick is to engage the reasons they put forth in favor of abortions, even as we disagree with them. Too often, I see our side just shouting “murderer” and thinking that will change their minds. And isn’t it ironic that the left loves to portray the christian community as “anti-science”, yet when abortion is the issue, which side doesn’t want to acknowledge science? Biology is the issue in both instances, too.

  • GinaRD

    Thanks for this piece. I’m glad you went to the March. I didn’t go this year, but I’ve been a few times before, and it is truly worthwhile.

    Oh, and that is fascinating about the paid pro-abortion protesters! Guess we shouldn’t be surprised . . .

  • Victoria Shephard

    I was able to participate in the Walk for Life West Coast this past Saturday. I will be there every year for as long as I live in California.

    • Victoria Shephard

      WFLWC is held in San Francisco. 🙂