Roni Cairns is a good friend of mine whom I’ve known for at least four years. She’s the reason I began exploring the use of relational apologetics to persuade pro-choice people to the pro-life position. After four years of friendship and debate, Roni is now pro-life.
Roni and I met each other in an abortion debate group on Facebook. I spent about a year participating in that group, ultimately becoming one of the admins, even though most of the participants were pro-choice. I learned a lot that year about how to (and how not to) debate online. (I’m sure I will be publishing some of what I learned in the future.)
Roni was extremely pro-choice, but we genuinely liked each other from the beginning. Of all the people in that group, Roni was one of the three pro-choice people whom I was closest to, and believed most likely to one day become pro-life. Roni is an amazing reader, a good thinker and her ultimate fantasy is being a Supreme Court justice.
Roni just finished writing a series of blog posts about her conversion. There are links to all of them at the bottom of this article, but my favorite is part four, which Roni gave me permission to post in its entirety here. It’s about the night my friend Clinton Wilcox and I took Roni to dinner.
Becoming Pro-Life: Iceberg, Straight Ahead!
As I sit here and am about to share perhaps the most significant part of my shift to Pro-Life, a very special book sits next to me. It’s in nearly the same condition as I got it. The pages are still white and crisp. But the upper right corner of this softcover book is a little bent. This is because I have a terrible habit of flicking pages between my fingers as I read. Opening the book to the title page, I find myself smiling and tearing up at the five hand-written messages crammed onto the page. I can tell you the exact date I got this book and these notes were made: September 12, 2012.
Let’s back up a wee bit, though. By this point, I’d been talking to some of the greatest Pro-Life people in the history of ever, even if I didn’t realize it. I don’t even think I could list all of the great Pro-Lifers I’d talked to by this point… Josh Brahm, Clinton Wilcox, CB, JBH, FA, AL, GT, AR, LR, LHB, KDT, CDD, CD, AF, Destiny ReNae Gonzalez, IT, RMN, SMU/P, Aryn Bedrick… So many names. Now let me say here that some of these were not my friends by the aforementioned date–some I had merely spoken to. Some I severely disliked (at this time, though I considered myself “on the fence”, as far as abortion legality went, I still supported it, and was still judging many of these Pro-Lifers from what my Pro-Choice friends (typically, but not always, extremists) had told me about them).
I had started to call myself “on the fence” because I came to realize, slowly but surely, that there were many great Pro-Life points out there (and great Pro-Life people, even if I didn’t realize that my “enemies” were some of them). There were bad Pro-Choice arguments, and I’m really glad that the ones who first started pointing these out to me were not the stereotypical hateful Pro-Lifers/extremists. I don’t know what I would have done if they had been. No doubt, I would have been even more resistant to change than I already was.
I actually paid attention to the logic behind arguments. And I think that is what made a world of difference. There was still that day though, and that book. It’s not a large book, but it’s significant. For some time, by this point, I called myself “Pro-Solution” and had a page about trying to find common ground between the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice sides of abortion. I was certain it existed, and still am. However, due to the nature of the terrible people I still associated myself with, I had countless times gotten discouraged (and I will address this in the next post). I will share with you the title of the book and maybe you’ll see why just that alone is significant. But I am not going to share that with you yet. First, I want to share with you the date. September 12, 2012: The day I met Josh Brahm, Clinton Wilcox, and a few other important people.
“God loves you, Roni. Seek him all your days.”
(one of the messages on the title page)
I cannot possibly express to you how excited I was as my mother drove me, my sisters, Piper, and my husband (at the time) to Wichita. I was going to meet Josh and Clinton! I’d been talking to them online for a good year (more than that!) now and here they were in my state! AAAAH!!! I could not contain my excitement, either. I would catch myself smiling when I thought about it on my ride there. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what my family was going to go do while I hung out with Josh and Clinton (and some guy named Steve). I didn’t care then, and I don’t care today. The point of the day was to meet two really, really awesome people.
Here was the plan: I was going to be dropped off at Steve’s place where Josh and Clinton were staying, and we would hang out there for a while. Then we’d go to Olive Garden and eat. Then I’d go back home.
As we pulled into the driveway I saw Josh outside. I waited (barely) for the car to stop before I got out, jogged, and had to jump up in order to hug him–he was tall, okay? Clinton is quite a bit taller than me, too. Pretty sure I had to jump to hug him too. And I’m only 4’11”. I then introduced Josh and Clinton to my family and to my husband. I introduced them to my precious baby girl, who was a whole year and two months old at the time).
It was a pleasure to meet you. I admire your desire to think critically and enjoyed tonight’s discussion.
Peace and joy,”
~JW (Steve’s sister)
(Another message on the title page)
I’d brought a bag of books with me, to show the books I’d been reading. I had also brought one of my favorite books, a legal text, regarding bioethics, personal autonomy, and social regulation. It was this big, bulky, brown book–one that you would see in a lawyer’s office, or one you’d have to read from in law school. I still treasure it. I think that they may have been shocked, but in retrospect, they’ve both read so many books on the abortion issue, if they did seem shocked, I wonder if it was simply to compliment me?
We talked for some time about how awesome it was to be meeting, and not just Skyping or chatting behind a screen in a debate forum. I genuinely think they were happy to see me, which is really weird because I was (and still am) a nothing. I’m not some kind of big philosopher. I’m not that smart. I’m not famous. I’m not, nor have I ever been, big in the Pro-Choice or Pro-Life movements. I’m this woman who lives in Kansas who sometimes Skypes with people and talks on the phone with others. People don’t listen to my views and think that I’m some big thinker. I don’t think I’ve influenced many with my views at all. I’m just now making more friends and just now really desiring to do something with my views (blog, talk, listen, go out there and do something).
I appreciate knowing you and enjoy our discussions. I know you’ll enjoy this book.”
I’m pretty sure Steve wasn’t there in the beginning, because if I am remembering correctly, he and his sister came home after I arrived and had been talking to Josh and Clinton. Steve introduced himself, as did his sister. There was someone else with them (JM), who also introduced himself.
We all sat in the kitchen/dining area (they were in the same room), and there the real talking began. It was wonderful to be able to be heard. In most online debates, you speak all you want but your arguments are seldom heard from the opposite side, and if they are, it is mostly so that the opposing side can misconstrue them. For a long time, by that day, I had been mostly asking questions and lurking. Of course I’d debate too, but it was mostly on the pages where, again, you weren’t really heard. But here these people were, (all Pro-Life, mind you) talking to me, asking me questions, and–here’s the kicker–actually listening to me. They didn’t tell me I was wrong. They didn’t call me a murderer. They addressed what I said, asked for clarification, and they let me ask questions–answering every single one I asked. Now THIS was a discussion! Their questions were sometimes difficult to answer though.
I remember one stuck out: Someone asked me what the difference between a child immediately after birth and the fetus immediately before birth. Not just what the difference was, but what the MORAL difference was. There aren’t really that many differences anyway, physically, and I couldn’t think of a moral difference. It moved back from there. What was the moral difference between a fetus at 39 weeks to 38? 38 to 37? 37 to 36? And down and down and down.
I noticed that my knowledge of facts really didn’t have nearly as big of a part in the discussion as I would have liked then. I understand it now, but I still felt like all facts were 100% relevant and you could derive an “ought” from an “is.”
The discussion really didn’t last long, though. But it was fantastic. I wish I could see more of these, be a part of more of them. Some might say it was unfair; four Pro-Lifers to one “non-traditional Pro-Lifer” (as Josh had once called me). Four individuals to one who had been so extreme at one point. But each question opened my mind further.
If you’ve seen Titanic (and if you know me, you know Titanic references are 150% predictable and valid), perhaps you remember that the iceberg it struck seemed to come out of nowhere (despite the warnings), and when it struck the hull of the ship, instead of ripping straight through, it left a series of holes. That was pretty much what my conversion was like.
My Pro-Choice ship was sinking. There weren’t enough lifeboats to save everything. But it was going to take a good while for it to sink, considering its size and the small breaks in the hull. I had a ton of Pro-Choice friends, many of them hateful, and I knew that no matter how many flares I shot, many of them wouldn’t understand. The ones that managed to rescue the pieces of my Pro-Choice self (which I came to desperately cling to) were too late when they arrived. The ship was already gone.
I had mentioned that I wanted to find common ground between the two sides of abortion. Someone mentioned that Steve had written a book. He even had a copy. Better yet, he was going to give it to me. Best detail: He was going to give it to me FOR FREE. BOOYAH!
He handed the book to me. It was small (especially compared to other books I owned), but I didn’t care. I knew before I looked at it that I would treasure it. But then, I read the title and the value of the book to me rose to infinite heights:
And then they wanted to write in the book. I’m not sure what prompted that, but they did. The fourth message in the book read:
It was a joy to meet you [and] have you in our home. You’re welcome anytime. Enjoyed seeking truth together with you!”
I’m actually crying now as I type this. I will never be able to thank the people I met that day enough. Don’t judge me.
Clinton, Josh, and I went to eat at Olive Garden. I’d never been to one before, but I knew I liked chicken alfredo. I can’t remember what the other two ordered, but I do remember that when we got our salad, the server asked if we wanted any cheese on it, and was prepared to pour some on the salad. I refused. Clinton said yes. He got cheese. When asked if that was enough, Clinton wanted more. I respect Clinton more for loving cheese. It’s delicious.
And I swear to you that some deity made my chicken alfredo, because I was in heaven. It was so delicious.
I was dropped off at a Barnes & Noble bookstore, where my family was, after dinner. I was sad to see the day end, but I knew I would never forget it. I cherish the memories. I cherish the book. I cherish the friends i had and the friends I made. I wish I could tell Steve about this change. I wish I could thank him again–him, his sister, Clinton, Josh, and JM. I will never stop being thankful for the real discussion, the real dialogue, the listening, the understanding.
I love you, my friends. You have made me a better person, even if I didn’t realize it then.
Oh, but before I end this, I recall telling you that there were five messages on the title page. I’ve only shared four. Let me share that last one.
“To my closest pro-choice, soon to be pro-life friend Roni.”
Read Roni’s entire conversion story here: