Rethinking Evangelicalism’s Tropes #1: “Rescue Those Who Are Being Taken Away to Death”


In the late 1980s, I was an active footsoldier in Operation Rescue, the anti-abortion organization. Not a leader. Not an organizer. But one of the grunts who did the protests and paid for doing so. I have the battle scars. You may disagree with me if you will, but you can’t challenge my experiences.

I met some of the most concerned and dedicated people in Operation Rescue. Better people than I am. I was committed to the cause. For those others, though, the cause was their life.

I think there’s a powerful spiritual delusion that accompanies the pro-“choice” side. Planned Parenthood used to hide behind the mask of “helping women,” but their rabid opposition to General Electric’s 4D sonogram technology tore away that mask several years ago. Though the 4D technology would help women immensely, especially healthwise, it has the side effect (a negative one from Planned Parenthood’s perspective) of showing the developing fetus in crystal clarity. Makes it much harder to abort one’s child when that child flashes you a winning smile from the womb.

In short, Planned Parenthood doesn’t give a damn about women’s health. They love the money that comes from killing babies.

As for Operation Rescue, while it had a large Roman Catholic contingent, the most conservative of conservative Evangelicals made up the rest. A Rescue meeting had a lot of Bible in it, at least the ones I attended. Rescue’s name and rallying cry come from this passage in the Bible:

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?
—Proverbs 24:11-12

The first sentence was the major theme, but what followed was often used for garnering new recruits for Rescue.

Today, I’m not active in Operation Rescue or the prolife movement. I haven’t been in 20 years. That said, I didn’t leave because of grudges or snits. I left because I felt there had to be a better way.

It’s not that babies weren’t saved. They were. But it seemed a lot of effort went into Rescue that could have been more effective if channeled into the mission Jesus gave us:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
—Matthew 28:19-20

Jesus adds this insight:

For the one who is not against us is for us.
—Mark 9:40

We tend to interpret the Bible willy-nilly. Whatever suits our position winds up quoted.

But how can we as the Church interpret anything from the Bible without a reference back to the mission Jesus gave us? I would contend that everything we do as Christians must be viewed through the lens of Matthew 28:19-20 or else we are off our mission, the mission the Lord gave us straight from his lips.

In light of this, how then should we interpret Proverbs 24:11-12?

Are we to rescue babies alone? No, we are to rescue anyone being led away to death. And since anyone whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life will taste the eternal agony of the second death, working to rescue those stumbling toward it becomes our primary job. The only way to interpret Proverbs 24:11-12 is that we are tasked to ensure that no one, no matter how deserving, ends up being led off to that hellish slaughter.

Physical death is horrible. In the case of the death of the unborn, babies being ripped apart in the womb should shock and horrify anyone whose soul hasn’t been seared. But the second death is an order of magnitude more horrifying than any of that. We just choose not to think it is.

Leonard Ravenhill, a favorite of this blogger, wrote this:

Charlie Peace was a criminal. Laws of God or man curbed him not. Finally the law caught up with him, and he was condemned to death. On the fatal morning in Armley Jail, Leeds, England, he was taken on the death-walk. Before him went the prison chaplain, routinely and sleepily reading some Bible verses. The criminal touched the preacher and asked what he was reading. “The Consolations of Religion,” was the reply. Charlie Peace was shocked at the way he professionally read about hell. Could a man be so unmoved under the very shadow of the scaffold as to lead a fellow-human there and yet, dry-eyed, read of a pit that has no bottom into which this fellow must fall? Could this preacher believe the words that there is an eternal fire that never consumes its victims, and yet slide over the phrase without a tremor? Is a man human at all who can say with no tears, “You will be eternally dying and yet never know the relief that death brings”? All this was too much for Charlie Peace. So he preached. Listen to his on-the-eve-of-hell sermon:

“Sir,” addressing the preacher, “if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worthwhile living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!

For all the time and energy the prolife movement has invested in fighting for the unborn, I keep wondering how many more gains we could have made if we focused on ensuring not one soul ended up in hell forever. Converts to our faith don’t tend to abort their unborn children. And in making those converts a priority, aren’t we in fact rescuing two people?

Sometimes, the good is the enemy of the best.