Over the last several months friends of mine have asked me if I would still use the “AHA” symbol.
There are some reasons for why I would and there are some reasons for why Iwouldn’t. AHA is a symbol that represents an ideology. AHA (abolish human abortion) is the “wrote-out” symbol that represents abolitionism. Abolitionism is an ideology that I affirm, have defended, and will continue to defend. Abolition is the Christian doctrine of the abolition of societal evil and freeing man from the dominion of man. It is an orthodox and Christian ideology built on sound theology. However, symbols are adopted by various people and not others. In a very real way symbols are social constructs and their meanings have a degree of fluidity. Therefore, the reality is that there are a group of individuals who associate with “AHA” that I cannot endorse for various reasons. Part of the issue is that literally anyone can buy an “AHA” t-shirt and call themselves an abolitionist. Because of this you will have some troublesome people. That, however, is an unfortunate but necessary problem; you can not police what people label themselves or vet who buys a shirt or sign. However, another problem is that some more prominent abolitionist figures have proven themselves as untrustworthy and some have downright heretical theology.
So, do I wear the “AHA” symbol? It took some thought, counsel, and prayer, but I do. I understand why some have choosen not to. I’m deeply sympathetic. But I believe the ideas are good enough and that truth will win out in the end.
The “AHA” symbol is offensive to many. Some of that offense is earned because of the narcissistic behavior of some abolitionist leaders. However, much of the offense of the “AHA” and of full-orbed abolitionism is because the unfettered Gospel is offensive. Abolitionism is a call for repentance and that is offensive. Simply put, that is why I support this offensive symbol. Sadly, that is why I do not support Free the States.
Free the States is a pro-life organization started by certain leaders in the abolitionist movement. Why do I call Free the States a pro-life organization and not an abolitionist organization? It is because abolitionism is, and has always, been about more than one tenet and affirmations of ideas. It has been about affirmations and action. Free the States stresses and focuses almost entirely on state’s sovereignty. They focus on political immediatism. I do not say unqualified immediatism because immediatism has always been about repentance from personal sin along with civil repentance.
Admittedly there is some nuance here. It may take some observing, dicernment, and time to see the problem. I know FTS shares Bible verses occasionally. I know they have quoted Garrison talking about faith. I know the board members say they affirm all five tenets of abolitionism. But that’s not the point I’m making.
For years abolitionism was about prophetically calling on the states to repent. It was about loudly, unapologetically, and unashamedly calling on all men to repent. I’m sure FTS will host some events where things like that may happen with one or two of the speakers, but what is the mission of FTS? We do not have to guess or speculate. They tell us right on their website.
It is not a bad mission. But do not be deceived, the mission is political. The mission is state’s sovereignty. Not bad, to be sure, but it is not abolitionism. The question is not whether or not they have shared a meme once before with a Bible verse on it, the question is whether or not they are centered on the Gospel? Is Christian lingo a tool for FTS, or is the Gospel being proclaimed loudly and consistently?
Abolitionism has always been about a loud and uncompromising minority. One abolitionist leader who’s associated with Free the States once told me that abolitionism will eventually be adopted by others in the pro-life movement and that at first it will be watered down and compromised. This abolitionist leader told me that they would never dare use the “AHA” symbol because the “AHA” is too offensive and uncompromising. I expected pro-lifers to start adopting the rhetoric of abolitionism in compromised and inconsistent ways, but I did not expect abolitionists, much less abolitionist leaders, to start and lead the pro-life organization that did exactly that.
FTS leaders will say that Free the States is an abolitionist organization, but there’s a reason why they do not use or adopt the “AHA” symbol. That reason is political pragmatism. FTS leaders will say on one hand that they haven’t had time to add five lines of text or a link to their website, but out of the other side of their mouth will say that FTS is intentionally subversive. Which is it? Is it a mistake or a matter of no time, or is FTS intentionally an undercover abolitionist organization? Will abolitionists only see five tenet abolitionism from the Free the States social media page after a major political event and after people speak out about Free the States’ strange reluctance to associate with the “AHA” symbol?
Will we only hear about the Gospel from Free the States after some ask why their website is as secular as can be?
If I write an article on how Free the States does not ever mention substitutionary atonement, should I expect to see a post from FTS in a few hours (or minutes) about substitutionary atonement?
Will Free the States support secular Pregnancy Resource Centers and then edit their post only after someone points out that they’re being pro-life again?
To be clear, I rejoice when I see FTS sharing abolitionist ideas, but I want them to adopt the ideas as central to their message, and not just as a gotcha social media post that conveniently appears after the event and after people point out abolitionisms absence from the supposedly abolitionist organization. For now, five tenet abolitionists will continue to steel ball Free the States. The symbol, much like full-orbed abolitionism, is too offensive for political purposes. So FTS leaves it out and minimizes it until they are prodded and poked. So be it. If it takes agitation for an supposedly abolitionist organization to sound like abolitionists, then so be it. We will continue to agitate as the loyal opposition. Not loyal to any organization or leader, but loyal to our King and loyal to abolitionism.
FTS may be an okay political organization, but it’s not abolitionism unless it’s focus is the Gospel of the Kingdom. The states will be freed, but only by the Gospel. Not the other way around. That is first and primary concern. Pragmatism and dangerously broad religious ecumenicalism is being adopted as opposed to true Kingdom driven approach. Yes, abolition is a worthy cause, but we serve a King first, not a cause. When we use the Gospel as a political chess piece and when we only speak out about all five tenets in order to try to prove a point, something has gone wrong.
Let me be as clear as I can be. An abolitionist organization cannot be subversive about it’s abolitionism and the Gospel. That is not being tactical, it’s being pragmatic and cowardly.
I am okay with being an outsider and in the minority. That is how abolitionism started and that’s how it will succeed. We sacrifice both abolitionism and the Gospel when we put the political cart in front of the Kingdom horse.
How do we free the states? Liberty is through Jesus Christ and his Gospel. Freedom from sin and the dominion of man over man is found through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Freedom from oppression comes about through proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom. Freedom from Supreme Court tyranny comes from honoring Christ as King. That is how we free the states. Politics are fine, but must serve the Kingdom. The focus must always remain the Kingdom. FTS does not do that.
I wrote the below quote in April 2016. Abolitionists applauded. I was talking about typical prolife organizations.
Today, in 2019, it describes, in essence, Free the States. Their Christianity is put on the back burner to be used when necessary to gain favor from certain crowds. The Gospel is used as a tool, as opposed to be being the point.
“Attempting to pander to the largest audience possible, the pragmatist will only ever employ secular tactics that do not proclaim the truth of God’s Word. Now, to be fair, there are rare occasions where the pragmatist will dress up his humanistic pro-life philosophy with a few bible verses. A striking example of this is when a supposedly “gospel centered” pro-life center exposes abortion on colleges across America. This pro-life center will expose abortion on secular campuses with their standard humanistic argumentation. But on Christian universities they will include Bible verses on some of their signs and slideshows. This relegation of anything Christian to only culturally Christian environments is blatant pragmatism. But it’s more than that. Although on Christian campuses they pull out the Christian signs, their tactics do not change. It’s faux Christianity. It’s an appearance of Godliness employed to cater to the religious whims of Christian college students. The HUGE question that needs to be asked is, why is the sanctioning off of your hollow religiosity to Christian schools considered Gospel centered? Let’s pretend for a moment, and it IS pretending, that your Christian GAP displays were somehow proclaiming the Gospel. Is it not the secular schools that should hear that message the most? The pro-life pragmatist makes the Gospel of Jesus Christ just another tool in their pro-life tactics toolbox. This should disgust the Christian, yet we continue to send our financial support to such institutions.”
In closing, I wish Free the States the best. I pray that they lead unapologetically with the Gospel of the Kingdom and I pray that they grow to be more and more uncompromised. I also pray that they are open to this correction and do not scorn a friend that has serious concerns. I am only an outsider if you make me one. I have reason to seriously doubt the theology and the integrity of board members of Free the States, but even given that, I hope they are successful in their endeavors as long as that endeavor is as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. My concern is not so much about not using the symbol, but rather their reductionist version of abolitionism and why they chose to not use the symbol.
I also pray for the larger abolitionist community. Do not see abolitionism as an organization and do not see abolitionism as a leader. It is neither. Do not see this as an “attack” on abolitionism any more than we see Church Repent as an “attack” on the Church. For those reasons I can have unity with five tenet abolitionists; because it is not about Free the States and it’s not about figurehead leaders, it’s about the Kingdom of God.