Festival of Life in Galesburg equips people to make case for life — in 41 seconds

At the Festival of Life in Galesburg Oct. 27, keynote speaker Scott Klusendorf said this is a unique moment in time and "every one of us must be equipped to stand up and make a case for life on hostile turf. You cannot leave this to professionals." (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

GALESBURG — Calling this a unique moment in time, Scott Klusendorf said the abortion debate in America is not about choice, privacy or even whether pro-lifers are “nice enough.”

The fundamental question on which abortion supporters disagree with pro-lifers is “Who counts as one of us,” said Klusendorf, president of the Life Training Institute and the keynote speaker at Knox County Right to Life’s Festival of Life. The 19th annual event was held last Sunday and drew about 200 people to Bethel Baptist Church in Galesburg.

Members of Students for Life from Galesburg High School pose with Scott Klusendorf, the keynote speaker at last Sunday’s Festival of Life in Galesburg. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

In addition to the Festival of Life, Knox County Right to Life sponsored a dinner for pro-life pastors and supporters on Oct. 26, which brought 109 people to Corpus Christi Church in Galesburg.

Klusendorf, who spoke at both events, noted that the abortion debate had become “incredibly divisive,” something he attributed to the federal courts signaling that they might release control of who determines abortion policy. This would give states an increased measure of freedom to write legislation, which is what happened in New York in January and in Illinois at the end of the spring legislative session.

On June 12, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law the Reproductive Health Act, which made abortion a fundamental right in Illinois.

“My thesis tonight is very simple: Every one of us must now be equipped to step up and make a case for life on hostile turf,” he said. “You cannot leave this to professionals. You cannot look at someone like my friend, Father Frank Pavone at Priests for Life, and say, ‘We’ll let him do it.’

“No. Each of us have to step up and make the case for what we believe with a culture out there that doesn’t share our worldview,” Klusendorf said, promising that he would give them the tools to make their case in one minute or less. (See the related sidebar below.)

This would allow them to “put a pebble in someone’s shoe,” he added, wearing on that person until they have to do something about it.

NOT ONE OF US?

Klusendorf posed three questions that must be answered persuasively if they hope to get that pebble where it needs to be: What is the unborn? What makes us valuable? What’s our duty?

“If you get those three questions right, men and women, God will use you where he’s placed you to make a difference,” he said.

To address the first question, they must understand that this culture simply assumes the unborn aren’t human, according to Klusendorf.

“Some choices are wrong, like intentionally killing an innocent human being simply because he’s in the way of something we want. That’s a choice that civil society should not allow.” — Scott Klusendorf

“I have had people say to me, ‘I am totally pro-choice because I trust women to make their own personal decisions.’ Would anybody you know use that line of reasoning if they were trying to justify killing a toddler? Never in a million years,” he said.

“Why do they do it with a fetus? Because they assume the human fetus is not one of us,” he explained. “They don’t argue for it; they just assume it. This is a huge problem.”

While faith is important, the argument for life can be made with the science of embryology. He summed this up by noting “from the earliest stages of development, from the one-cell stage, you were a distinct, living and whole human being,”

It is also a fact that human beings aren’t constructed like someone builds a car, Klusendorf said, but develop from within. “You are the same being today as you were back then.”

Pro-lifers are often accused of imposing their personal morality on others. This isn’t a matter of personal choice or preference, however, like choosing chocolate ice cream over vanilla, he continued.

“Some choices are wrong, like intentionally killing an innocent human being simply because he’s in the way of something we want,” Klusendorf said. “That’s a choice that civil society should not allow.”

THE “SLED” TEST

The speaker acknowledged that there are four differences between a person as an embryo and as an adult, but none of them make it OK to kill the embryo and not the adult. Those differences are: size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency or SLED.

If size determined worth, for example, that would mean that men deserve more rights because they tend to be larger than women, Klusendorf said.

Embryos begin their life in the womb and continue to develop outside the womb, but where you are doesn’t determine what you are, he added. Everyone in the room had come from somewhere else to be at the Festival of Life, but the trip hadn’t changed them from one thing into another.

“How does a journey of seven inches down the birth canal suddenly transform you from a non-human, non-valuable thing we can kill to a valuable human being we can’t? The answer is if you weren’t already human and valuable, you don’t get there by changing your address.” — Scott Klusendorf

“How does a journey of seven inches down the birth canal suddenly transform you from a non-human, non-valuable thing we can kill to a valuable human being we can’t? The answer is if you weren’t already human and valuable, you don’t get there by changing your address,” Klusendorf said.

In answer to the final question, he said our duty is to love our unborn neighbor and then act like we love him, starting by defending him. Sometimes that comes at a cost, he said, pointing to the Galesburg High School Students for Life.

The first pro-life group at a public high school in Illinois, members are “willing to defy a culture that hates them because they care more about the lives of unborn children than they do the feelings of born people,” he said.

“Are we willing to love our unborn neighbor at a sacrificial level,” Klusendorf asked.

ESSAY WINNERS ANNOUNCED

Klusendorf said he was grateful for the work done by Knox County Right to Life, which was founded in 1978 in response to a newspaper article that said second-term abortions were being performed in Galesburg.

Winners of the Knox County Right to Life essay contest included (first row, from left) Cadence Manning, Reuben Fammer, Antonia Kisler and Adrianne Fernando, who received honorable mentions, and (second row, from left) Josephine Boynton, third place; Gerard Remmes, first place; and Alyssa Hyatt, second place. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“It took 14 months of peaceful and prayerful witness, along with perseverance and dedication from so many in the community, but the abortionists left, praise be to God,” said Jennifer Remmes, president.

The organization’s goals are to educate, promote lobbying through letter writing and occasional visits to Springfield, mentoring “the growing and enthusiastic GHS Students for Life group,” and promoting women through the local pregnancy center and standing in front of Planned Parenthood in Peoria, she said.

For five years, Knox County Right to Life has also sponsored an essay contest with winners announced during the Festival of Life. Taking first place this year was Gerard Remmes, a senior at Galesburg High School and president of Students for Life there. He received $200 and a plaque. (See his essay here.)

Second place, which included a plaque and $100, went to Alyssa Hyatt, who is homeschooled. Josephine Boynton, a senior at Galesburg High School, received $50 and a plaque for third place.

Honorable mentions went to Cadence Manning, Reuben Fammer, Antonia Kisler and Adrianne Fernando.

How to put a pro-life “pebble” in someone’s shoe

While he was being timed by Gerard Remmes, president of Students for Life at Galesburg High School, Scott Klusendorf offered the following statement that can be used to sum up one’s pro-life position when talking with someone who supports abortion:

“I’m pro-life because it’s wrong to intentionally kill human beings. And the science of embryology says from the earliest stages of development you were a distinct, living and whole human being. You weren’t part of another human being, like skin cells on the back of my hand. You were already a whole living member of the human family, even though you had yet to grow and develop. You know what else? There’s no essential difference between that embryo you were and the adult you are today that would justify killing you back then. Differences of size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency are not good reasons for saying we could kill you then but not now.”

It took him 41 seconds to make his point. While he didn’t cite Scripture or the Catechism, he asked, “Did I communicate religious truths? You bet I did.”

Klusendorf promised this would put a “pebble” in someone’s shoe, giving them something to think about for a long time.

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