Conversion: how to change hearts without losing your mind

Everybody's favorite part of "Office Space:" when Peter just doesn't care.
Everybody’s favorite part of Office Space: when Peter just doesn’t care.

I was having a conversation with an extremely smart, badass pro-life dude in Washington, D.C. a couple weeks ago. I had had a couple drinks, so I was being really honest. You know how it is.

I said to him something like, “I just feel really different from a lot of these people. Everybody’s a nun or a priest or super-Catholic or they have twelve kids. Either that or they’re 24 and extremely responsible with a degree in Pro-Life Organizery and they know everybody and do everything right. And I’m just this 33-year-old with no kids and unpaid medical bills who needs to go to Confession really bad and my nail polish is always chipped and the registration on my truck is expired and I never get anything done and I live in the middle of nowhere and don’t know anybody and have a weird brain. I’m a consummate underachiever. I’m the Bart Simpson of pro-life.”

And my friend said, “All these people are meant to run the pro-life movement. You’re meant to convert people to it.”

So that was, basically, a major epiphany. I couldn’t even speak for about ten seconds. (Rare for me.)

I don’t know if I’ve ever converted anybody to being pro-life. I wonder about that sometimes. I guess it’s possible that it’s happened and I don’t know about it. For one thing, I believe that God does that, not I. For another, I’ve always thought of myself as preaching to the choir, sort of. I write semi-amusing blogs about Ziggy the Zygote and Hannibal Lecter to make people who are already pro-life feel, like, more pro-lifey or something.

So what my friend said made me think pretty hard. If I’m not converting people already, how do I do it?

St. Francis of Assisi said, immortally, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” The same tenet should apply to the pro-life movement.

I was converted because my friend wasn’t trying to convert me. She didn’t present herself as a person who was going to Talk to Me About Abortion. She was just my friend – a sane, normal, smart young woman who happened to be pro-life. And because of that, I was drawn to her. I asked her about it. She advertised just a little – with a “CHOOSE LIFE” bumper sticker – and let me take the bait.

When you go around with megaphones and signs screaming, “HEY EVERYBODY LOOK AT ALL THIS ABORTION!” nobody cares what you have to say, the same way nobody cares if you go around saying, “I’M GONNA TALK ABOUT JESUS REALLY LOUD RIGHT NOW!” You’re just some jerk with a megaphone and some signs.

It doesn’t matter if it’s right that people ignore that approach. It’s just a simple fact. We can either deal with things the way they should be, where everybody pays attention because abortion is a Very Important and Serious Issue, or we can deal with the world the way it is, where if you talk about abortion really loud you are a dumb a-hole. If the world were the way it should be, abortion wouldn’t be an issue at all, would it?

I do not have all the answers, and I’m not here to condemn this approach or that. But I believe, deep down, that the best way to convince anybody of anything is to get them talking and thinking – and laughing.

I’ve heard people on the internet saying the pro-life movement is doomed unless we lead with the Gospel. Well, maybe they’re right, and maybe God is gazing sternly upon me even as I say this, but here’s the truth: if my friend had mentioned God when she converted me to pro-life, I would have stopped listening. I wouldn’t have become pro-life, which means I wouldn’t have become a Christian.

Would I have been misguided and wrong for rejecting God? Well, sure. But being pro-life got me to God, eventually. And using reason, ethics, and science got me to pro-life where an appeal to religion wouldn’t. So God wins in the end, anyway. Truth leads to Truth. Maybe your tactic doesn’t win, but Truth does. So who really cares?

Let’s talk about the movie Office Space. There’s this uptight dude who hates his job as a corporate drone, so he goes in for hypnotherapy. But right before he gets woken up, the hypnotist keels over and dies. So this dude walks around hypnotized into thinking everything’s cool and there’s nothing to be anxious about. He skips work if he wants to, plays video games on his computer, ignores his boss, wears jeans, and walks around like he owns the place. He is just totally, unapologetically himself. And he gets promoted.

It’s the same in life: when you are yourself, people are drawn to you.

I’m not advocating not caring about anything, but maybe not being so dadgum anxious is a good idea. I had that epiphany recently where I realized I don’t make sense, I’m a big weird mess, I’m full of contradictions, and I need to be okay with it. That epiphany was followed hard upon by this most recent one. I – we – are going to convert people to pro-life the same way you convert people to anything: by making them want to join you. The friend who converted me was calm, relaxed, and self-assured. She had the Truth, and she knew it. It didn’t make her hostile and loud. It gave her the quiet, untroubled confidence of the truly righteous.

So that’s how I’m going to convert people, if I convert them at all. Not by getting all up in everybody’s face, but by being a (somewhat) sane, (semi-)normal, (arguably) smart, young(-ish) woman who happens to be pro-life. That’s it. I won’t hide it, but I won’t scream it at you, either. I’ll put out my little flag and let you come to me – not with my signs and megaphones, but with my human self. With my scabby sunburned nose and my tattoos and my big ol’ butt and my crooked teeth and my messy human heart. And the Truth. And I’ll let you know it’s yours, too, if you want it.

This, I believe, is how we’re going to convert people: not by being loud, but by being right.

  • Jonathan Darnel

    Kristen, I do pro-life activism for a living, as a member of Center for Bio-Ethical Reform of Maryland. I regularly go out to public places (with signs!) and start meaningful conversations with pro-aborts. I am often quite successful at getting them to think critically about the issue. This never would have happened had I just “been myself” and stayed in my own little sphere.

    Constantly I must defend our tactics against pro-lifers who, having never tried it themselves, assume that we are lunatics who damage to the movement. I wish you would come out with us once and see for yourself how wrong this assumption is.

    There is a place for quiet persuasion, but this is a holocaust. Would you give the same advice to Christians in Germany in the 1930s: just quiet persuasion; no loud shouting? Please respond to the plight of unborn babies in the same way that you would hope others would respond to your own life being threatened.

    • Laura

      If you read the article, you would see where she’s coming from. If anyone had yelled at Kristen or held up big signs, she would not have been converted. It was through her friend who had a “quiet, untroubled confidence of the truly righteous” that she was brought to the truth.

      Signs have their place, but like Kristen said, there is no one way to end abortion. Please take that to heart. Kristen’s way will not convert everyone, and neither will yours. It’s time we realized it takes all kinds to end abortion. This was simply explaining Kristen’s way.

    • Dear Jonathan Darnel. There is room for everyone!

    • When you compare the legal abortion of a zygote, blastocyst, or embryo to the Nazi holocaust you not only sound like a lunatic but trivialize the suffering of every Jew or gypsy that was sent to a death camp and suffered horrendous, long term torture, lost their families, friends, careers, homes…everything. Any civilized human being should mock you, your movement, and your zealotry on a regular basis.

      • marie27

        I like how you through “legal” in there, as if that somehow makes it OK. Guess what – the holocaust was “legal” too.

      • bubbalouwee

        I see the abortion holocaust as being worse than the Nazi holocaust against the Jews, as many more lives have been slaughtered and it uses lies to set a mother against her own child. What the Nazis did was terrible by a governing group of madmen, but apathy by a large portion of our culture has caused millions and millions of lives to be brutally murdered. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

        • Lynne

          I agree except…Jesus please help us. We are commanded not to reach out to the dead. It’s a grave sin.-Deuteronomy 18:10-13. 1 Chronicles 10:13-14
          Isaiah 8:19
          When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living

      • Basset_Hound

        One MORE time, John, by the time a woman misses her period, the “blastocyst” stage has LONG since passed. The pro-lifer you mock and ridicule are astute enough to realize that it’s not just about the babies that are brutally killed, but about the women who are exposed to unregulated back alley butcher shops.

      • Lynne

        You sound like a liar and a “sane” calculating one…after seeing the pictures of murdered unborn human beings (which usually must take place at least around 8 weeks avg to make sure they get all the human parts; I’m in the medical field & this is a fact)…and dare decide that one human murder is not comparable to another. We haven’t even mentioned the partial birth murders…um…abortions.

  • Laura

    This is such a good article, Kristen! Thank you so much for reminding us that really the truth is what matters. Your perspective is invaluable!

  • http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-922402 ♥ “I didn’t know that you were dancing in my Womb”

  • Lilian Stoltzfus

    Very nice article with some great points. I know I’ve messed up in this arena – being too uptight/anxious/defensive that is. Calm, humble assurance of having Truth is extremely attractive to people. And using humor is too.

    Not to trivialize abortion at all. Sure, we need to be serious when it comes down to it. We need to be unafraid to speak for reality. But perhaps a little balance is best. God will use both quiet and loud converters.

    “Truth leads to Truth.” <–I love that.

  • SWEET POST, Kristen! You are one seriously funny, from-the-heart flavor of Jesus People. Love it! :)

  • Alacia

    Fantastic, young lady. You are a gifted writer and a very wise, very funny woman!

  • conan99

    Kristen, I have this issue of sharing on ALL matters, not just life or death, or the gospel. The argument of ‘If your neighbour was in a burning house, would you call out to save them?’ is true if the neighbour wasn’t deluded that a ‘little fire’ never hurt anyone, and those ‘sanctimonious gits who walk around criticizing other peoples houses are haters’! People are not neutral on God, abortion or sexual issues, whether they appear calm or not. I am cursed with a fear of man, which leads me to be extremely cautious of conflict, heated discussions, or anger. It won’t be until the Lord gives me strength to stand up for the truth and what’s right that anyone will hear my voice apart from a gentle, but well constructed argument for what I believe. If God want’s to save the world through my voice, he has strange taste!

  • Jan_England

    Could have done without the vulgarity used at the very beginning. Frankly it made it difficult for me to want to read the rest.

  • Lauren

    Something I’m a little concerned about, though, is that the pro life movement overemphasizes Roman Catholicism. Without meaning to, it comes across as if Roman Catholics are the only ones out there doing anything. I’m not saying don’t take God out of the equation. What I am saying is, the movement could use a little more nondenominational approach.

    As in, don’t blare out the Hail Mary on megaphones while we’re marching through DC.

    • The Catholic Church IS The ONLY Church who has consistantly Opposed The Genocide by Abortion,,,, sadly ,,many so called ‘churches’ accept contraception (which is an abortifaciant) and abortion on demand. That why it’s seen as primarily a Catholic battle for life ,because too often That’s The Way it is!

  • Jeanna

    Thank you for this beautiful article. I was put on my heart this last year that I had been going about pro-life all the wrong way with my take no prisoners attitude…win an argument, lose a soul. Of course Jonathan this doesn’t meant the the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s approach is wrong. I do think the displays are an important part of awakening people to the atrocities that happen, but the attitude with which those who man the displays is also really important and I believe that is what Kristen’s article addressed (I’m not at all implying that you or any others at CBR have the attitude I once did, just speaking in generalizations here). We bear pro-choicers no ill will, but want to share the truth with them in love. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 Lord forgive me for all the hearts I’ve hardened by my self righteous attitude.

    “Christianity does not begin by reforming society; it begins by regenerating men.”
    ~Venerable Fulton Sheen, “Missions and the World Crisis” p.62

    The Christian Conquest of Pagan Rome

  • Flayer

    An atheist I know once told me that he was against abortion because if life doesn’t begin at conception, then when does it. He was an atheist but believed in the right of innocent life.

  • Cassi

    For Jonathan: Is there not room for all of us? I don’t know if you’re Christian, but I assume the odds are on my side that you would be. So I offer you the image of the Body of Christ. If the hand says because I am not the foot (not looking it up here, so the body parts are random), I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? It only takes a little reading of lives of the saints to realize that there is room for incalculable individuality in the Body of Christ, and the same could be said for the pro-life movement. We all do the work we are able to do, or adept at. There are those who may be incapable of doing more than offering prayer, but those prayers count. You seem to have found your work and your style, and it’s yielding fruit. Perhaps God places those people in your path who respond best to that. And perhaps those God intends to place in Kristen’s path will respond best (like her) to a more gentle, less in-your-face approach. The Holy Spirit changes hearts–He just uses us a bit along the way. Don’t assume your way of being pro-life is better than hers just because the two of you are different.

  • Mary Avila

    Again! I am one of your….MANY Biggest fans!!!! Love it and I love Office Space ! Go Kristen and I truly do believe with my whole heart and soul..You have and will convert more people to the pro-life movement & to Christianity than you will ever know! Peace, Love, Prayers and Please never stop being YOU!

  • Lynne

    Very noble…but being born again & saved is an eternal life issue…make that number one in own life 1st & let God lead in all. Being born again is not going to a fallen man (i.e. catholic priest which is part of false religion or cult of Christianity) for confession. It’s repenting & believing on Lord Jesus Christ. May He bless.