It is rare for any social movement to be united. Look at Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois, and later Martin Luther King Jr.’s tactic vs. those of the Black Panthers. Look at any genocide, and there will be those who want to eliminate those perpetrating it and those who want to focus on helping those at risk. The pro-life movement, unfortunately, is not united either in all areas.
One facet of this movement, the use of graphic images of abortion victims, gets a particularly bad rap from those on both sides. The pro-choice side obviously doesn’t want people to see the truth. The pro-life side has various reasons they will state of why the use of victim imagery is wrong or shouldn’t be used. I am not getting into reasoning I’ve heard nor why it is used; to do so I would have to plagiarize the work of people far more knowledgeable than me. I do, however, want to look at graphic imagery from a biblical perspectives.
Before I begin, let me state that one does not have to a Christian or religious to be pro-life. Look up Secular Pro-Life and their reasoning behind their views. Nor does one have to go about victim imagery from a biblical view. Most arguments, in fact, have no religious backing, but instead look at the practical approach to its use and its success in past and current social movements. A good talk on these points was delivered by Stephanie Gray, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVcZNDNBp84.
I appeal to a narrower group: the Christian who is opposed to the use of graphic images. I would hope that you realize that God is against baby killing (just look at what He did to those who sacrificed them), but what you may not realize is that He has long endorsed the use of graphic imagery, albeit in person (being that cameras are a more recent invention).
“And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.” (Joshua 7:25-26). After Achan caused the death of 36 Israelis and a collective sin to come upon the camp, Joshua, under God’s leadership, commanded that he, his family, and his possessions be stoned. Afterwards they were burnt and buried under a “great heap of stones”. This may not seem that graphic, but at the time of this writing, the heap was still there. Furthermore, it was in the Promised Land that Israel was living in. Hence, every time someone walked by, they would remember this (very graphic) punishment on Achan for his sin. And still underneath the stones was Achan and his family. The heap of stones is consistent with such uses in the Bible, as we will momentarily look at, and served as a grim reminder of the price of disobedience to God.
“And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day. And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day.” (Joshua 8:28-29). What’s more is that Joshua did this to multiple kings in the following chapters. This practice was not in the least called into correction by God. To show all who would see what happens when one stands against God and His people, the kings are hung not just to kill them, but are left there for the day (that’s graphic, if you follow). (And as the kings were to be seen of all Israel, I can guarantee there were kids that saw them.) Then they were put in front of their cities’ gates and buried underneath “a great heap of stones.” Those who didn’t see them on the tree would see the stones they were buried under, and both enemies of Israel and Israel themselves would remember the price of opposition to God.
“Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled….And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent.” (I Samuel 17:51, 54). There are a few things that must be recalled here. One, David had already been told he would be king, but it would be awhile before he would become king. Second, Jerusalem at this time was not under Israelite control. It had been unconquered in Joshua’s time and had given Israel problems since. Fear was not only struck into the Philistines by the beheading of their champion fighter, but David used it for a greater purpose. He took Goliath’s head to the gates of Jerusalem and left it there (in case you were wondering, that’s graphic). This way, David told the inhabitants of Jerusalem that they were next to be conquered. Sure enough, one of the first things David does as king is conquers Jerusalem. The reminder of the price of defying God and future warning to others is done graphically.
“Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds. Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh. And the chief of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword. (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, Tell us, how was this wickedness? And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead. And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel. Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel. And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his house. But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it; And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victual for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel. So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.” (Judges 19:22-20:11).
After this, God Himself delivered Benjamin into the rest of Israel’s hand, and 25,000 thousand soldiers of Benjamin were killed. In addition, Israel killed all the men and animals of every city they came to and burned the cities.
This is perhaps the most vivid use of graphic imagery in the Bible, and for a similar purpose to why it is used in the pro-life movement. (Realize I am not endorsing giving over one’s wife to these men.) The Levite man was stuck in a bad position, not because of who he was, but because of who the men of Gibeah were. There was a huge problem in the tribe of Benjamin, and that made serious problems for the rest of Israel. This went beyond his situation, it was the lifestyle of Benjamin. The problems were so grave that God allowed Israel to start a civil war with a tribe to eliminate the evil.
Such as it is in America. There is a huge problem here. Twenty-nine hundred children are killed every day, legally. But what was the Levite’s response? He doesn’t go back to the other tribes and say, “Guys, there’s a huge problem here. Let me try to explain to you, without being too graphic and definitely without showing you the full reality of the problem, what is wrong.” No, he (in a most graphic fashion) cuts his concubine into twelve pieces and sends them to each tribe. Because he knew that this sin needed to be seen.
And what was Israel’s response. Everyone who saw it said, “This is too graphic a method,” right? Not at all. They said, “There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.” They, having seen something so disgusting, took it for what it was. Then they rallied together, heard the details, and took action. This action was unified and swift. Because when we physically see the problem with an explanation behind it, it compels us to action. How can we not act seeing how barbaric a crime is being committed? Israel went out and fought the problem, and they defeated it. When we see the problem, God is with us to fight it.
This has not at all exhausted the biblical use of graphic imagery. But hopefully the point has been made, that God allows and encourages its use so that other can be warned and mobilized because of the sin that has taken place. We need Christians mobilized to fight abortion. Show them what it is. We need people to be warned of how serious it is, and how evil it is. Show them why it is evil. It’s the logical thing to do, and it’s the biblical thing to do.