A Pushy God

C. S. Lewis once observed that "a young atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully," because God is no gentleman. He will use any means at his disposal to bring us into the kingdom. Bernard Nathanson, the atheist abortionist turned prolife crusader, recently discovered this fact firsthand. God used Nathanson's despair over his abortion career to bring him to Christ. Faith in the Christian God was not something Nathanson would have believed possible just a few years ago. Nathanson was born into a Jewish family but ultimately rejected his faith. While attending medical school in the 1940s, Nathanson persuaded his pregnant girlfriend to abort their unborn child. This event, Nathanson says, "served as [an] excursion into the satanic world of abortion." That excursion lasted three decades. Nathanson founded the National Abortion Rights Action League and worked with feminists to legalize abortion. In the process, he presided over some 75,000 abortions. It took the development of ultrasound technology to cause Nathanson to question the morality of abortion. Haunted by sonogram images of babies moving about their mothers' wombs, "I became increasingly certain," Nathanson wrote, "that I had in fact presided over [tens of thousands of] deaths." Nathanson subsequently became a vocal prolife apologist. He outraged his former prochoice allies when he produced the documentary film The Silent Scream. It revealed ultrasound images of a three-month-old fetus?the so-called "blob of tissue"? struggling violently as she is torn to pieces by an abortionist. But despite 20 years of prolife work, Nathanson still felt weighed down by guilt. He had, as Jewish tradition recommends, tried atoning for his sins by performing good works. But instead of feeling better, Nathanson says, "I felt the burden of sin growing heavier." He considered taking his own life. And then, on a cold, wintery day in 1989, Nathanson let his atheistic guard down. He had traveled to an abortion clinic to research an article on clinic blockades. He watched as 1,200 prolife picketers prayed and sang in the cold, surrounded by hostile abortion supporters. The sight, Nathanson says, led him to "seriously . . . question what indescribable force generated them to this activity. For the first time in my . . . life," he says, "I began to entertain seriously the notion of God." Nathanson began meeting with a priest, Father John McCloskey, who taught Nathanson what he desperately needed to know: that forgiveness is possible, even for a man who'd presided over the deaths of 75,000 innocent babies. Nathanson met a God who was, he writes, "a loving . . . figure in whom I would . . . ultimately find the forgiveness I have pursued so helplessly, for so long." Bernard Nathanson was baptized at an Easter vigil service. Accordingly, his first act as a Christian was to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord who bought his forgiveness and rose to give him the new life he will enjoy for all eternity. Bernard Nathanson has discovered what C. S. Lewis learned before him: that God is no gentleman. But Nathanson is too happy to care. "For the first time in my life . . . I will be free from sin," he says. "I will feel the shelter and warmth of faith."


Chuck Colson


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