We Had an Incredible Weekend with Students for Life of America

New-SFLA-LogoMy brother Tim and I just got back from Washington DC after spending two amazing days with the staff of Students for Life of America (SFLA).

Our objective was to bring their new Regional Coordinators through the brand new Equal Rights Institute seminar and follow that up with an outreach on the streets of D.C. This was a daunting task because Tim only got to Fresno a few weeks ago which didn’t give us very much time to create a seminar! We temporarily put our fundraising on hold and spent those two weeks brainstorming with a marker board and then separating to write out our material. We created more original content than I thought possible. Much of it will show up on this blog in future posts.

SFLA's Daniel DeFonce, Missy Martinez & Tina Whittington during our outreach. Photo courtesy of SFLA.

SFLA’s Daniel DeFonce, Missy Martinez & Tina Whittington during our outreach. Photo courtesy of SFLA.

 

Seeing my friends from SFLA again was wonderful. I seriously love these people, and they’re making an incredible contribution to the pro-life cause. We also got to meet their newest Regional Coordinators (RC’s). These are the staff who are paid full-time to drive in loops in various states to provide training, coaching and logistical support to SFLA college campus and high school clubs across various regions in the country. I’ve said before that I believe SFLA’s Regional Coordinators are some of the most strategically placed pro-life activists in the country, and working with them to reach the 8,000 actively pro-life college students in America has been a big part of Equal Rights Institute’s strategy from the beginning.

SFLA's R.J. McVeigh & Rebekah Chiew during our outreach. Photo courtesy of SFLA.

SFLA’s R.J. McVeigh & Rebekah Chiew during our outreach. Photo courtesy of SFLA.

 

The new R.C.’s are fantastic. They are passionate about learning what they need to effectively dialogue with pro-choice students, and to train their students to do the same. They did so well in our mentor groups during the seminar that we often had time for more advanced Q&A! After speaking to them about responding relationally to the question of rape before giving a philosophical response, we went to our groups to put the R.C.’s to the test. We got in their faces and yelled at them about being horrible human beings who want to force rape survivors to be pregnant. Every single one of them responded with love and concern for both rape survivors and the pro-choice person we were pretending to be.

SFLA's Missy Martinez and Casey Tesauro during our outreach. Photo courtesy of SFLA.

SFLA’s Missy Martinez and Casey Tesauro during our outreach. Photo courtesy of SFLA.

 

SFLA's Michele Hendrickson and Angela Erickson during our outreach. Photo courtesy of SFLA.

SFLA’s Michele Hendrickson and Angela Erickson during our outreach. Photo courtesy of SFLA.

The following morning we went to the Ballston Metro to talk to pro-choice people. Our goal was to get every R.C. into at least one conversation, and most of them had at least three before we were done!

More incredibly, while using the dialogue techniques we taught them the day before, they talked to four pro-choice people who became pro-life, and ten more who had major shifts in their thinking! It was a more successful outreach than I had even hoped for, especially for only having two hours to talk to people on the street!

It was wonderful to debrief with the staff afterwards and listen to their stories of the people they talked to. I also informed them that SFLA has agreed to have us mentor each of the RC’s on a one-to-one basis to continue their training. They were thrilled. As you can see from the picture below, we had a very lively debrief meeting!

Debriefing after our outreach. Photo courtesy of SFLA.

Debriefing after our outreach. Photo courtesy of SFLA.

 

We are so excited to be getting our pro-life dialogue techniques into the hands of the pro-life people that need them most: college students. Would you consider partnering with us to make that possible?

I’m honored to be speaking at the “Be Normal & Change History” conference, put on by California Pro-Life Council.

Other speakers will include:

  • Carol Tobias, President of National Right to Life
  • Father Frank Pavone, Director, Priests for Life
  • Joel Anderson, State Senator – District 36
  • Brad Dacus, Pacific Justice Institute
  • Brian Johnston, Pro-Life Author and Advocate
  • Mike Spence, City Councilmember – West Covina

CPLC

Date: September 13, 2014
Time: 12:00-05:00 p.m.
Event: "Be Normal & Change History!" Pro-Life Conference
Sponsor: California ProLife Council
(916) 442-8315
Venue: Ayers Inn Orange
(714) 978-9168
Location: 3737 W. Chapman Ave.
Orange, CA 92868
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

Sometimes, when you think about your past, particularly something that you have since changed, you want to get rid of much that was associated with whatever was prior to your change. However, I don’t want to do that in the case of my being pro-choice. I want to remain open to arguments from the pro-choice perspective, even if I’m not sure that I will hear something to convince me to be pro-choice again. I want to keep my compassion toward pro-choicers, even when I see so many bullies making poor arguments.

It can be very difficult sometimes. There are some days that I see pro-choicers saying horrible things or making poor arguments and I just want to honestly drop everything and lump them all into the same group when I’m put in a bad mood. But I don’t do that, because there are many wonderful people out there who are pro-choice, and I was once there as well. I was not pro-choice out of hate, and it is the same with some pro-choicers.

I seriously did not consider the human fetus to be a person. Now that I do, however, and now that I have come to learn more and read some of perhaps the best pro-life arguments, I have changed, and I have to remind myself that I had to take the time to step out of my own comfort zone to listen to those arguments and consider them. It is so easy to live in our comfort one and never acknowledge what we disagree with.

I hope I never come to that point, where I refuse to listen to those that disagree with me simply because I don’t agree with their stance. I hope I never forget that I was once as bad (and sometimes worse) than the people that upset me with the things that they say. And though I am comfortable in my pro-life stance, I hope I never stop considering new arguments and bettering my own.

Roni Cairns

6 Tactics That Helped Me Have a Productive Conversation with Three Mormon Missionaries

mormon medium sizeThese six tactics not only helped me navigate a 90-minute debate with three Mormons when I didn’t know anything about Mormonism, they can also help you have better conversations with pro-choice people.

I’ve never really spoken with missionaries from the Church of Latter-Day Saints before. I haven’t avoided it, it’s just that for some reason they never went to our neighborhood. That’s why I was surprised the other day to hear the doorbell ring and to open my door to three LDS missionaries asking to pray for me.

You’re probably thinking that I got a big grin (at least on the inside) and immediately welcomed them in. I’m embarrassed to say that I politely declined on impulse. That might have partially been because the impression they gave was that they only wanted to pray for me, and since I believe they would be doing the equivalent of praying to a brick wall, it didn’t seem worth the trouble. But there was also a lazy part of me that just wanted to rest and for them to move on to the next house. I’ve been working 12 to 16-hour days lately and I finally had a Sunday afternoon off, and for a few moments I cared more about that than the three souls standing in front of me. I’m happy to report that once we sat down and got into real discussion, I very much enjoyed myself. I’m glad that they were pushy enough to get past the internal barriers I put up when I saw them.

I was a little nervous when they finished praying, because I have never really studied Mormonism. I know a little bit, but it’s one of those things I thought I would always get to later, “when the time was right.” Now here I was, feeling like I was going into a three versus one battle. Even worse, it was like they were a fully-armored team and I felt like I didn’t have any weapons!

Pro-life and pro-choice people often struggle to have productive conversations with each other. I think there are literally dozens of reasons for that, but one of them is that both sides understandably have an agenda they want to focus on instead of learning what the other person believes. Since I didn’t know very much about Mormonism, this was an opportunity for me to put my agenda to the side and go into “information gathering” mode.

Luckily, the discussion went a lot better than I feared it would, thanks to the six tactics in this list.

There is a fine craft of learning the way of love that means we keep finding truth without thinking that makes me better than others.

Jonalyn Fincher