When I recently began participating in this year's 40 Days of Prayer for Life to end abortion, in Schenectady, N.Y., I had an epiphany of sorts.
I have always been opposed to abortion. I prayed personally and in church for its end, voted for pro-life candidates, sometimes aided pro-life groups, and occasionally attended prayer rallies. But for the most part, like many Christians, I've been busy with my own life: with work, family, friends and various diversions. Now I'm seeing the abortion issue with greater clarity and urgency.
The 20th century was an era of mass murder. Tens of millions of innocent people were killed in the name of some version of state socialism. The worst perpetrators in terms of numbers killed - Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong - are long dead.
The only major state-sanctioned genocide that began in the 20th century and continues to thrive in the 21st is abortion. The National Right Life Committee states that more than 53 million abortions have occurred in the United States since legalization in 1973 through 2009-10, based on information from the Guttmacher Institute, once a research arm of Planned Parenthood.
What I find scarier than the sheer magnitude of the killing is the lack of any significant outcry against it. We've grown comfortable with genocide as long as it doesn't affect us, our families or friends directly. One quote of debatable origin may help explain this: "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic."
Often we don't get upset unless we can feel the pain or loss suffered by not only the unborn but women and families. Helping us overlook the pain are many media outlets, religious groups, politicians, and educational institutions, which focus on the plight of women with unplanned pregnancies rather than the well-documented emotional and physical toll on post-abortive women. Commonsense alone would say a woman excising a developing human being from her uterus wouldn't be able easily to walk away from this event as if she'd just emptied the garbage.
Somehow abortion forces have made the developing baby the culprit here, a kind of parasite, as if no consenting adults were involved with its conception. The idea of solving problems by getting rid of people is quintessentially Stalinesque. The Soviet dictator was once quoted as saying, "Death solves all problems - no man, no problem."
The dehumanization of the unborn baby as "a blob of tissue" or "the product of conception" helps salve our consciences. The indictment of slavery by the 18th-century French philosopher Charles de Montesquieu applies equally to abortion: "It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures [blacks] to be men, because, allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow that we ourselves are not Christians."
My wife has astutely pointed out on several occasions that the moral and spiritual decline of the nation is primarily a Christian problem. Hilmar von Campe, a Protestant Christian who was a member of the Hitler Youth and served in the World War II German army, raises the issue of Christian culpability in his book Defeating the Totalitarian Lie. How could it be that a primarily Christian nation could allow the Nazis the commit such "horrendous crimes?" he asks.
His answer: "I went to church, but I was not a Christian. I didn't love God, and neither did they [many other Germans], no matter what they said, because the only way to express your love for God and for Jesus is by obeying our creator's Commandments, and by making them the basis for your national life."
St. John Chrysostom, in a homily on the Acts of the Apostles, may not have gone as far as labeling weak Christians as non-Christians, but he does have something strong to say: "There is nothing colder than a Christian who does not seek to save others."
Can a nation that condones genocide judge rightly on other matters and can it continue to be blessed by God? More than 620,000 men died in the Civil War, with the abolition of slavery being one of the two major issues. Will Mother Teresa's statement about abortion become a prophecy: "Nuclear war is the fruit of abortion."
Eric Retzlaff is a registered nurse; a former newswriter, editor and publicist; and a member of Our Lady Queen of Peace parish in Rotterdam, N.Y.