A funny thing happened on my way to the 2018 March for Life–I almost talked myself out of going. I was already in DC, having attended the 8:30 prayer service at DAR Hall, although technically it was the 24th National Memorial for the Preborn and their Mothers and Fathers. At any rate, my car was in two-hour parking and I had broken away from the group (of mainly pastors), in search of a parking garage to prevent my car from being ticketed. It would have been easy to just keep driving as I needed to get to Richmond that night. But then I received an email from Dennis Nelson, President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE, which said, “Thank you for your bold witness as you participate in the March for Life today. Your presence and involvement help communicate the fact that we as Lutheran Christians believe that life, including the life of the unborn, is a precious gift from God.” Okay then—the timing of that was incredible and I believe in God, not coincidence–better find the others.
Four minutes later, my bus arrived and within an hour, by bus and by foot, I arrived at 12th Street and Constitution Ave where I was told to look for a large Lutherans For Life banner on the sunny side of the street. For the next two hours, Lutherans of all stripes gathered there to assemble their banners, grab lunch from the food trucks, and prepare for the march. There was unity of purpose, music, and joy in the air as introductions were made and photos were taken.
For us, the March began about 2 pm and we very slowly walked 1.3 miles to the United States Supreme Court building in about an hour and a half. Along the way, we saw a multitude of Catholic priests, nuns and lay people—an amazing witness to other Christians. There were also a number of evangelicals from independent and traditional churches. We saw Lutherans holding signs and singing along to the hymns printed on the back of the signs. I will admit, I don’t trust myself to walk and read at the same time, so it was good that the hymns were familiar.
At the prayer service I noticed a lot of young people in the seats, in sharp contrast to the seniority of some of the clergy on the stage, but during the march we saw huge crowds of high school students, often dressed in brightly colored hats, scarves or shirts, as well as babies and young children. There was even an ELCA law student who attended with his NALC mother. His mom later told me, “It was great for him to see so many young adults his age marching for the cause of life.” Another young man approached us because he saw the banner we took turns carrying. He had come in from Iowa, one of only two Protestants on the bus, and he was happy to see other Protestants present. Now, 45 years after that fateful court case was decided, there seems to be hope for the future based on the youth present. This is not a battle that is going away anytime soon. I was heartened to hear that the President addressed the March for Life at the Rose Garden, but I did not witness that.
At the prayer service, I sat two seats away from an older teenager who seemed uncomfortable in her own skin and remarked that she wasn’t even religious. Near the end of the service, the Benham twins, David and Jason, spoke and much of what they had to say was directed at the youth. It turns out that their father, a pastor, used to talk to Miss Norma nearly every day because his office was located right next to the abortion clinic where she worked. Yes, the Norma McCorvey, from the Roe v. Wade court case, that led to legalized abortion in the United States. The Benhams continuously sent her cookies and invited her to dinner at their house until, over time, she became a Christian and pro-life. It is a much more complicated story than that, but I’m glad I got up early enough to hear it. If nothing else, a seed has been planted in that teenager, and I will always wonder if that day was life changing for her.
I don’t usually think of Washington, DC as a friendly place, but I met nice people at every turn all day long. Not just the marchers, but the bus drivers, the parking attendant, random people I stopped to ask for directions, and the Metro subway workers. I made it safely back to my car, parked somewhere near the intersection of Vermont and L streets, because the Metro workers knew I needed to get off the subway at McPherson Square. That was very important to know because my phone had died by that point and I didn’t have a map. Next time I will bring a bottle of water, my cell phone wall charger plus a map and SmarTrip subway card. When I finally got to my room in Richmond, VA that night, I had walked 13,725 steps and I fell asleep instantly.
To give you a feel for just how big this event was, watch this timelapse of the 2018 March for Life.
In its most recent newsletter, Lutheran CORE’s Steven Gjerde noted that ELCA Presiding Bp. Elizabeth Eaton had stated that, “Life is precious and beautiful and, even in its painfulness, something fiercely to be protected.” Next year, please join Lutheran CORE members, supporting members and partners, from a multitude of Lutheran church bodies, who will participate in the 2019 March for Life. Invite a friend, bring your kids and their friends, in order to show them that they are not alone and that “… we as Lutheran Christians believe that life, including the life of the unborn, is a precious gift from God.”
Member of the Board of Lutheran CORE