I went to the March for Life for the third time in my life this year.
For the third year in a row, I gathered with thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people to defend the lives of the unborn generation. For the third year in a row, I dutifully got up early, put on layers upon layers of clothing, dragged my introverted self into a huge crowd of strangers, and tried my hardest to think positively about the actions I was taking.
But for the first time, I hated it.
Maybe it's because of my time at college, maybe it's because of the growth I've experienced as a Christian and as a human, or maybe it's just because I was extra tired, but something just didn't settle well with me as I marched. My mind felt weighed down with the words I heard spoken around me, words such as "arrest" and "execute."
My senses were bombarded with bodies pressing and people shouting (sometimes rather offensive) statements. Pictures of bloody unborn children were scattered on the ground and plastered on large posters that I couldn't help but look at as I walked past.
I heard people claiming to be Christians shouting horrible things about my God that contradicted everything the Bible says about him.
The whole time I was marching I was asking myself three questions: (1) why did I think this was a good idea, (2) why am I marching, and (3) how much longer do I have to be here?
Question three was answered quickly enough as I reached the end of the march and escaped the crowds, but the other two were not so easily answered. Why did I, an introverted, slightly claustrophobic, perpetually tired person, decide I should go to a HUGE march in a crowded city and walk 2 miles?
The answer, many would say, is obvious: to practice my right of free speech and to stand up for those who can't stand for themselves.
This statement is true.
I stood with an amazing number of people to save the lives of unborn children who deserve a chance. I marched out of love for children and life. I marched to show the love of God and the power He has in my life and the world around me.
However, what I saw around me was not love, it was condemnation. I heard people condemning those who chose to get abortions, those who gave the abortions, and those who did not vote pro-life. I heard people condemning the women who will be marching at the Women's March.
While I was amazed by the peacefulness of our stand, I was terrified by the lack of love in our movement.
I felt surrounded and trapped in a situation that held little to no good. While the crowd pressed and moved around me, I listened to the chants and the screams coming from those closest to me.
I heard the speeches from members of the Senate and the Vice President, I heard cheers as the president was announced (which prevented me from hearing what he even said), and I heard laughter and joy streaming out of the crowd as statement after statement was made condemning abortion.
To be honest I was afraid.
I felt like I was in a crowd of robots all programmed to have the same reactions to everything and I didn't share those reactions. I felt condemned because of that. I came to the conclusion that not only did I not want to be there, but that I don't agree with what it seems the March for Life has come to stand for.
I know this may seem confusing. Why would I go to the March for Life if I don't agree with it? Don't get me wrong. I am pro-life and I always will be. I believe life should be given a chance before it is taken away. I believe God gives life to people for a reason.
However, I understand the fear that comes with an unwanted pregnancy. I understand the health risks (physical and mental) that come with some pregnancies. I understand that there is no end-all answer to this problem.
When I marched, I did not march to make abortion illegal or to persecute those who participate in them.
I marched in the hopes that we will find other ways to deal with unwanted children, that we will provide more support to scared mothers who don't know what to do, and that we will fight for the rights of the mother as much as the child.
I did not march to hate on people and their actions.
I did not march to scare people into believing one thing over another, just as I do not share the gospel in order to scare people into believing. I marched to show the love of God for mothers, fathers, and children everywhere.
The same thing can be said about our church. Right now it is divided and messy, full of hatred and contempt. Attending events such as the March for Life puts into perspective just how far our church has wandered from God's plan for us. Our church has caused more pain and suffering than ever should have been allowed.
I pray that this year, and in the years to come, we make an effort to include more love in our churches, to reach out to those stuck in sin and hurting, and to love them while still standing firmly by our beliefs.
While all of this, and more, can be said about the March for Life and the Christian church, it is important to note the people who were marching in love and obedience, whose quiet prayerful demeanor caught the attention of many and influenced the effect the march had on everyone. Where any large number is gathered, there will be positive and negative. I saw many examples of both at the March.
To the people who feel attacked by the March for Life: I am truly sorry.
I do not mean to attack you when I march for such a cause. I love you, I respect you, and I want you to find peace In this world.
To the people are blindly cheering for a cause that is stretching its boundaries: take a step in and keep us close together. We are a cause for love, not condemnation, and hate. It is not our job to condemn or shame people. It is our job to love with a love only God can provide.
To those of you who are just as scared as I am: stay strong. There is a cause that will shine through moments like this. Keep stepping out of your comfort zone and following God's path for you, whether it means coming back next year or not.
The March for Life is beautiful in numbers and meaning. It has good intentions that unfortunately have been infested with humans who tend to mess everything up. I pray for everyone who was at the march.
Let us find in our hearts what the march really means to us and to our country so that next year we can stand united and stronger, full of love and lacking in contempt and hatred, understanding the nature of sin and the divine power of God's grace and salvation, so that our front is pure, set apart, and undeniable.