WASHINGTON(BP)—Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President J.D. Greear declared abortion the “greatest moral tragedy of our day” at the 2021 March for Life held virtually at noon Jan. 29 amid safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic and volatile political division.
“Do you want to protect the innocent? Do you want to defend the vulnerable? Are you committed to social justice? Do you want to fight systemic injustice?” asked Greear, the first Southern Baptist president to participate in the annual march in its 48-year history. “There are few places where dire urgency meets such moral clarity and such clear opportunity as with the cause of the protection of children in the womb. Speak up, Scripture says. Speak up for the voiceless. Defend the cause of the poor and needy.”
Greear was among a lineup of speakers including religious, political, civic and societal leaders who spoke to tens of thousands or more viewers. Greear joined 50 leaders in a physical march in Washington to the U.S. Supreme Court building after the virtual event. Scores of others joined the physical march as it proceeded down Pennsylvania Avenue, despite event organizers’ plans to limit participation for safety concerns.
Greear told of the joy he experienced at the congregation he leads, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., The Summit, when he held a baby whose mother was swayed from an abortion while listening to Greear preach. He learned of the story from the adoptive parents who introduced the infant to Greear.
“As I got to hold that little baby that day I knew, I knew that life was worth it because we’re not talking about a political reality,” Greear said. “We’re talking about individuals. So why do I march? I march because actual lives are at stake. I march because our words matter.”
He encouraged others to protect life.
“Maybe you’re listening in today and you’ve had an abortion, or maybe you’re considering it,” Greear said. “If you look to Him, you’re not going to find an angry judge pointing a finger at you to condemn you. You’re going to find a compassionate Savior with open arms ready to receive you. And we’re here too.”
The SBC has fought years for the sanctity of human life through advocacy, education and exhortation, including the annual Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the SBC calendar, advocacy through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and state conventions, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and various resolutions passed at SBC annual meetings.
Southern Baptist ethicist Elizabeth Graham told Baptist Press that holding the event virtually did not diminish its cause.
“Our commitment to speak up for the most vulnerable and advocate for laws that protect the preborn is as strong as ever,” said Graham, vice president of operations and life initiatives for Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission. “The pandemic reminds us how the preciousness of every life should be an unbreakable tie between all of us. We will continually put one foot in front of the other, in our communities and with our advocacy, to march toward that day when the dignity of each life is enshrined in law and cherished in our hearts.”
This year’s event theme “Together Strong: Life Unites,” spotlighted the importance of diverse voices united in the fight for human life, March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said.
“We ask President Biden to consider unifying pro-life policy divisions, policies that are supported by the clear majority of Americans, like those three-quarters of Americans who believe that abortion should be limited, at most, to the first three months” of life within the womb, Mancini said.
The event included speakers from various religious and political perspectives, including Democrats such as Hawaii State Senator Mike Gabbard and Kentucky General Assembly Minority Whip Angie Hatton. The Democratic Party’s platform includes abortion rights.
“Nationwide, a third of Democrats are prolife,” Hatton said, “which amounts to about 21 million of us.”
Within the past four decades, more than 1.5 billion babies have been aborted worldwide, said human rights advocate Lila Rose. In the U.S. alone, she said, more than 62 million lives have been aborted since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973.
“We remember them. We will never forget them,” Rose said. “And we will fight to secure a future where every child is safe. There is hope.”
Other speakers included former National Football League star Tim Tebow, who thanked his mother for giving birth to him against doctors’ advice to abort him during a difficult pregnancy; U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ); former NFL Super Bowl winner Benjamin Watson and his wife Kirsten; Archbishop Joseph Naumann, and Focus on the Family President Jim Daly.