College Baptism into the Abortion Debate

John C. Rankin (December 15, 2013)

In the fall of 1972, I was baptized into the debate over human abortion.

In a college religion class — just several months before the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision — we read several articles on the subject, which was new to me.

The class had about thirty students, and when it came time for discussion, I was the only one who spoke against human abortion. As I did, I was met with overwhelming opposition and even derision from my classmates. The most serious challenge was from a guy who asked me what I would do if my wife were raped — would I “force” her to keep the baby? The classroom was hushed, and I gave answer, never having thought about it before.

First, I said that any woman I would marry would share my faith in Jesus Christ, and that I also believe in the power of prayer to protect her from such an evil. I do even more so today, knowing the territory of spiritual warfare as I now do.

Second, if such an evil were theoretically possible (cf. Daniel 3:16-18), any woman I would marry would also share my belief in the inviolability of the unborn. I then said it would be easier for me to argue for the abortion, since the child would not be mine, but nonetheless I would support my wife, love her more than ever in the face of such trauma, and raise the child as my own with her.

The class broke out in a caustic and mocking laughter. As it did, the professor, Dr. Lee Scott, interjected. Prior to that moment I was not his favorite student. I was one of those “Jesus people,” long-haired and bearded with wire-rimmed glasses, theologically nascent, and forever asking questions that challenged various of his assumptions (in retrospect, I probably asked some good questions, and undoubtedly asked some stupid ones too).

When I gave my answer and the class started its derision, Dr. Scott said something pretty close to “Shut up.” He probably did not use those words, as he was a gentle and gracious man, but his emotions carried the same force. He rebuked the class and told them to be quiet unless they were willing to be as consistent as I was, or able to make a better argument. This was my baptism into the abortion debate. And, no one gave further comment.