This tweet represents the lowest point of dishonesty to which we can descend when we sell out to the crass tone of secular politics instead of following the way of Christ.
So begins one of our Southern Baptist Convention president’s latest attacks on abolitionism. Here is the quote from SBC Pastor Dusty Deevers that sparked Pastor Bart Barber’s tweets:
“In Louisiana this spring and at SBC annual meeting this summer, Brent Leatherwood sided against the innocent preborn now he leads the ethics and policy arm of the SBC. We glory in our shame.”
Let us examine Bart Barber’s accusation to see if Pastor Deevers has indeed abandoned the way of Christ and traded it for the dishonesty and crassness we have come to expect from secular politics.
Brent Leatherwood did, in fact, sign his name to An Open Letter to State Lawmakers from America’s Leading Pro-Life Organizations that said, “Women are victims of abortion” and “We state unequivocally that we do not support any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women and we stand firmly opposed to include such penalties in legislation.”
This letter was published on May 12, 2022, the day before the Louisiana State legislature was preparing to vote on Rep. Danny McCormick’s bill titled the Abolition of Abortion in Louisiana Act of 2022. This bill was the first ever abolition bill in the nation to ever be voted out of committee and brought to the floor for a vote and it would have established equal justice and equal protection for the preborn in Louisiana, holding all parties involved in abortion equally accountable to the law including the aborting mothers. With a copy of this open letter on every conservative legislator’s desk, these lawmakers, who supported McCormick’s bill on May 11th, withdrew their support and killed it via the death of a hundred amendments on May 13th. McCormick wisely withdrew the bill from consideration with little doubt as to the cause of his peers’ sudden change of mind.
On June 16, 2022, during the SBC annual meeting’s ERLC report, Brent Leatherwood was asked the following by Pastor Brian Gunter, who was primarily responsible for helping Rep. McCormick submit the Louisiana abolition bill, “Is it really your position that the mother who willfully kills her own child by abortion is never guilty before God and she should never face any consequences under the law?” Leatherwood answered, “You’re not going to get me to say that I want to throw mothers behind bars. That is not the view of this entity. That is not the view of this Convention. It is not the view of the Pro-life movement.”
These two incidents referenced by Pastor Deevers provide the context for his tweet in question. Were these two actions indeed actions in which Brent Leatherwood “sided against the innocent preborn”? From the abolitionist perspective, the answer is a resounding yes.
From the abolitionist perspective, the preborn simply cannot be afforded protection equal to all other image-bearers without also possessing the justice deserved by all other image-bearers. We believe this is consistent, not only logically, but biblically. Just google “pro-life syllogism” and you will find several logically consistent, pithy sets of three statements, which if agreed upon and carried to their logical conclusions, it should be easy to agree that all parties involved in abortion should be held equally accountable under the law. Brent Leatherwood refuses to agree to this logic.
Even more importantly, the Giver of logic also gave us His perfect Word. And His Word is not ambiguous on this issue. Consider the following Scriptures from God’s law:
You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.-Leviticus 19:15-16
In the case of abortion, deferring to the great would mean deferring to those on this side of the birth canal. We are greater than the preborn in the sense that we have, among other things, more strength, more abilities, and we have a voice. We are not to lie about our neighbor; in this case, we are not to call all aborting mothers victims (of course, we grant that some are victims) and we are to call all aborted babies victims. To do otherwise would be to slander and stand up against the life of our preborn neighbors; it would be to pervert justice and show partiality. We are told over and over that our God is impartial (Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Job 34:19: Acts 10:34-35: Rom. 2:9-11; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25) and consequently, His people are to be impartial like Him (Deut. 1:16-17; 16:18-20; Psalm 82:1-4; Prov. 18:5; 24:23-26).
Proverbs 17:15 is like the blood of the slain preborn crying from the ground against the pro-life lie that a mother should be able to kill her child with impunity: He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
It is this understanding of Scripture that causes abolitionists like Pastor Deevers to say Brent Leatherwood “sided against the innocent preborn.” As long as the innocent preborn are deprived of equal justice, they will be deprived of equal protection, and these deprivations can only be attributed to a lack of equal value.
Equal value = equal justice = equal protection
No amount of tooting the pro-life horn will change the fact that the preborn have not been equally valued. No amount of foster and adoption services, adoptions, poverty-assistance ministries, and free ultrasound machines will create protection under the law for preborn persons that is equal to that of born persons. Only equal justice can do this. To stop short legislatively through incremental steps like heartbeat laws, pain-capable laws, 15 or 20 week gestation bans, or even trigger laws is to stop short of providing equal justice and therefore to stop short of equal protection.
And now, post-Dobbs, the great glaring deprivation of justice in all 50 states is to maintain the lie that a mother is never to face criminal charges for murdering her own offspring so long as it is done en utero. Considering the biblical testimony, this is shameful. Considering our Convention’s self-referential designation as “people of the book,” this is doubly shameful. And considering the appointment of Brent Leatherwood as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, how can we not agree with Pastor Deevers when he says, “We glory in our shame” at the appointment.
So is this position consistent with “the way of Christ” that Pastor Barber references? Remember, Jesus pronounced woes on the religious leaders of His day for rightly tithing their spices, but neglecting “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.” He says, “These you should have done, without neglecting the others.” And then he calls them “blind guides” who are “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” (Matthew 23:23-24).
Our Convention president may call Southern Baptist abolitionists “one of the gravest threats to the work of the SBC,” but we abolitionists are more concerned that Christ not refer to our appointed convention guides as blind camel-swallowers who want to embrace mercy while neglecting justice, as though we are free to pick and choose which weighty matters of the Law are and aren’t the way of Christ. So, no, Mr. Barber, we do not agree that we are descending to the lowest point of dishonesty when we say such things and neither are we merely selling out to the crass tone of secular politics. Rather, we are seeking to call our fellow Southern Baptists to consistently submit to King Jesus who calls on all rulers of the earth to “kiss the Son, lest He be angry” and who offers blessing to “all who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:10-12). From our perspective, this is the way of Christ.