Lauren McAfee on Having a Holistic View of Life
Nick Vujicic: Hello and welcome to the Nick V Network. Out of all the things I ever want to talk to the world about that’s very close to my heart, it is the absolute truth that life begins at conception and every single baby has value. We know that God has a plan for everyone, and I am privileged and honored just like we all can be, first of all to discover our greater purpose in life, thanks to the one who really has had our name written on the palm of his hands before the earth began. I’m talking about life. I’m talking about standing for life. Being born without arms and legs can tell you right now, we all can be the hands and feet of this movement that needs like never before all of us to join in collectively, all unification across the churches, denominations, and nonprofits alike to stand for life.
I am joined by Lauren Green McAfee, who works in Ministry Investments with her family at Hobby Lobby. She’s pursuing a PhD in ethics and public policy, her research focus is in bioethics and women’s reproductive health. While earning her graduate degrees in pastoral counseling and theology, Lauren worked at the Museum of the Bible for its founding days until its opening in Washington, D.C. She is the co-author of Only One Life and Not What you Think. Lauren and her husband, Michael, share a daughter through adoption and live in Oklahoma. She’s the founder and visionary of Stand For Life, a Collective Impact Alliance of Life Organizations.
Lauren Green McAfee, I’m going to give you an air fist bump and a hug from here. I love you. Good morning.
Lauren McAfee: Good morning. Hey, it’s great to be here.
Nick Vujicic: Great to have you here. And thank you for giving me the privilege of being in that meeting for Stand For Life. I was blown away. That was in Georgia, Atlanta.
Lauren McAfee: Yeah. Yeah.
Nick Vujicic: And we are-
Lauren McAfee: [inaudible 00:02:32] It was amazing. It was such a fun time just to be with other friends and like-minded individuals that are saying, “Hey, how can we make a difference in this space?” So thanks for being there.
Nick Vujicic: And you know what I love about your leadership with Elizabeth Graham as well is really coming with humble hearts, coming with open hands and saying, “Guys, we really need to work together. This is all about God. This is about not us or an organization, it’s about God seeing his people unite. And let’s face the facts. Let’s see what is working, what isn’t working, and let’s improve what we can do.” Can you at least talk about first about Stand for Life and its passion for unifying multiple organizations on multiple fronts for God’s heart to be shining all across America?
Lauren McAfee: Yeah, absolutely. So Stand For Life really is about a vision of bringing people together. So whenever my family was going through the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case back in 2012 to 14, I was able to kind of for the first time, see the national pro-life movement because our family’s Supreme Court case was about a life issue. And we were being so encouraged by so many pro-life organizations reaching out to us saying thank you for our stand, and that they were praying with us and standing with us in our case. And I just caught a vision for wanting to see all of these great life organizations, pro-life organizations coming together and having a space where we could sit around the table, have conversations about the realities of the movement, thinking about how we can work together and be more strategic and more effective together than any one of us could on our own. Because all of us being unified is going to be a stronger movement than all of us in our silos trying to work towards this end.
So it’s been a lot of fun over the past few years to see life organizations every year coming together and doing the work of having relationships with one another and working together.
Nick Vujicic: We’ve been praying for you. We’ve been praying for your family, especially with that court case. God bless your family. I have to say that God bless you-
Lauren McAfee: Thank you.
Nick Vujicic: … and God bless the generations to come of continuing legacy impact not just here in America, but the ripples worldwide. It’s an honor to interview you today. Lauren, was that part of how your passion to help people choose life began, or tell us more about that?
Lauren McAfee: So I would say I grew up having a framework for being pro-life based on what I was seeing in scripture. So I saw in Genesis, “All people are created in God’s image.” And so right away I knew that every life had something unique about it. It was created in the very image of God. And so every life has value. And growing up reading the scripture, I also came across Psalm 139, it’s saying that, “We were each knit together in our mother’s womb.” And so we were intentionally created. We were known by our creator even in the womb. And reading in the gospels, the New Testament where you have John the Baptist in his mother’s womb leaping whenever Mary who was pregnant with Jesus walks into the room and greets Elizabeth. Before Mary even told Elizabeth the words that she was pregnant, she knew and she felt her baby in her womb leaping at the response to Jesus.
And so just this life in the womb being created in God’s image and the value of all people has obviously been a theological framework that I’ve had from reading the scripture. And then of course, walking through the Supreme Court case certainly shaped that picture of the pro-life movement in terms of my understanding of who are different people working in this space and what does that look like. And then also in my own personal life, we have a daughter through adoption. And so-
Nick Vujicic: Congratulation.
Lauren McAfee: … we are just so grateful that her mother chose life and gave life to our daughter, and we pray for her birth family and love them. And we’re so grateful to have our daughter in our family today. And so that’s been a very personal experience and we’re in the adoption process again and-
Nick Vujicic: Come on.
Lauren McAfee: … so yes, praying for the birth mom that will someday be finding out that she’s in an unexpected pregnancy and wanting support and wanting help and someone to walk alongside her. And we pray that we’ll be able to walk alongside a woman and care for her and care for her baby if she does want to make an adoption plan. And so all of those experiences have really shaped my passion for the life issue and the way that I want to see the life movement just really caring for families, caring for women, caring for babies, and stepping in the movement.
Nick Vujicic: Let’s expand on that. First of all, congratulations.
Lauren McAfee: Thank you.
Nick Vujicic: And may God bless that adoption process. Come on, we all, us churches, there are a hundred thousand churches out there in America, and there’s about 450,000 children waiting for a foster family and about a hundred thousand plus families that really should be adopted. So God bless you.
Lauren McAfee: Thank you.
Nick Vujicic: Me and my wife, we are talking about that. As far as the timing, it’s in God’s hands, but I just want to say thank you. God bless you.
Lauren McAfee: Oh, it’s such a blessing. We’ve been blessed immensely.
Nick Vujicic: That’s awesome. Expand on that little, when you come from a holistic point of view, the dignity of the human being, the value, but your holistic approach on that as a Christian, help us understand the layers of that.
Lauren McAfee: I think this is something that I have certainly been learning and humbly trying to grow in over the years. I mentioned, first, it was kind of a theological concept that was shaping my views, and I think that that’s a good foundation. But listening to women’s stories in the past few years, I have walked alongside closely with women who were in unplanned pregnancies and were kind of facing those kind of worst case scenarios that you think of. I mean, these were some of the women that I was walking alongside and seeing the very real challenges that they had in their life and in their circumstances, and wanting to see them cared for in a holistic way was more than just having some talking points or being able to point to a conviction. It started there of course, but it was walking alongside them and saying, “Hey, how can we think about them and their dignity? Every person.”
I think having a holistic view means we not only apply our convictions into what we believe, but then we also apply that even into the hard places of maybe people we disagree with and seeing their dignity. People who disagree with me on this issue, seeing their dignity, how does that mean I treat them? If I see my enemies or people who disagree with me and want to see me fail even, how do I think about them as image bearers and care well for them?
And then as we’re stepping into the pro-life space, how do we care for women and the circumstances that they’re facing? Because they are created in God’s image, but they were created as a whole person. They have emotions, they have real physical circumstances that they’re facing. Spiritually, how can we care for them and looking at them as the whole person that they were created as? And looking at all of those as pieces of how we can engage them in the life issue and helping step in where they have challenges in their circumstances that they need solutions for so that they feel like they can make a choice for life.
And the choice for life is always the right choice, but certainly there are barriers that women face that make that seem like an impossible decision, but we know it’s not. We know it is the right decision and a absolutely possible decision to make a choice for life. And it’s helping women see the support that they’re going to have in that journey towards choosing life and having a child, whether she wants to parent or she wants to make an adoption plan.
Nick Vujicic: Lauren, we all know Roe v. Wade was overturned, but we know that it’s to the states. We know that there is still a lot of work in the pro-life movement. There are still some pastors that are not vocal. Tell me, as a Christian and as one woman to all the millions of people watching, what is your real honest take on the pro-life movement that you’ve seen up until this point, and what are your hopes for the future, for the pro-life movement through Stand for Life as well?
Lauren McAfee: So when we think about the life issue, it’s sometimes easy to think about the legal aspect, the political aspect of this issue, because those are often the loud aspects of the movement. And so that’s what we’re hearing about. And certainly with what happened with the Dobbs decision this year, that’s been a loud piece of the movement. And we’re so grateful for the Dobbs decision and that life is being protected in many states, but that is a piece of the bigger picture of the life work. So you have different work being done in church engagement and trying to support women and their healthcare needs, walk alongside women that are wanting to see how they’re going to care for a child and kind of step in with those needs that she has. All of those different areas of the movement are a piece of the greater picture of what is happening in the pro-life space.
And so while there are lots of things going on in the legal space, I’m also really excited about the future of the movement of the church stepping in and caring for women well. And so I think that the future of the movement is going to be happening in communities, in churches all over our country, with church pastors and church leaders and members of those congregations saying, “Hey, we are a part of the solution to the abortion pro-life conversation, and we want to be the hands and feet of Christ and step into these circumstances where women are facing unplanned pregnancies and need somewhere to turn.”
And I think historically, the church has not always been seen as a safe place for women in unplanned pregnancies to go to. And I’m so grateful for friends of ours that have helped the church to have the resources and the tools to know how to step in and care for women and disciple women and walk alongside them, meeting these spiritual, emotional, physical needs that they have. And point them ultimately to the hope that they have in Jesus caring for them as a person and saying, “Hey, here is hope as well for you spiritually, and we love you, we care for you. Jesus loves you and cares about you, and we want to walk alongside you, not just until a baby is born, but even after, and welcome women into the church family.” The capital C, church family, into this family of Christ.
And so I see that as really the future of the pro-life movement, is seeing churches, believers all across the country stepping in. And this has been happening. I mean, if you look at the pregnancy help organizations, people that have been stepping in and walking alongside women, it has been people who care about this issue and are motivated by their faith convictions. And so yes, the church has been doing this, and I just think that that is accelerating right now in the future of this movement because of things that are happening legally and legislatively that I think is right and good for the church to say, “Hey, yes, we care. We are stepping in. We are called to go out and see the vulnerable and to help them.”
Jesus, whenever he was walking on earth, he was always going to those who were vulnerable and who had needs, and he was helping them. He saw them, he knew where they were at, and he wanted to provide them solutions. Yes, for whether it was a physical ailment or a spiritual, he was always caring about their spiritual health, but he saw the circumstances around their lives and he was stepping into those circumstances while pointing to the truth of who He was and the truth of the gospel. And so that’s a beautiful picture of the opportunity that we have stepping into the vulnerable lives of women, of babies in the womb and of families who need support right now in their circumstances surrounding an unplanned pregnancy.
Nick Vujicic: That’s amazing. Lauren, if the church is not, if there’s someone who goes to church and the church is not talking about it, and we also know that it’s not just a woman’s issue. It takes a man and a woman to conceive. What about approaching that conversation, the pro-life abortion issue, sometimes the shame and condemnation that does affect us, whether we feel it at that point or not? Talk to us about that. How do we start this?
Lauren McAfee: I think the beautiful thing is that whether your church is already engaged in this or not, you can be a person who says, “I’m going to step into this. I’m going to take a stand for life and I’m going to be praying about this. I’m going to find the ways in my community that I can get involved, whether that’s a pregnancy help center or getting an embrace grace group, which is a discipleship group started at their church.” There are ways that each of us can be involved in caring, and maybe it’s even stepping into adoption and foster care. That’s obviously a significant issue as well, something that’s very near and dear to my heart.
And so everyone has the chance to be involved in this issue and we need the whole church. And so I think that that is a great opportunity, and to do it in a way that we’re living out the gospel, we’re showing people the hope that Jesus brings. And as far as the shame piece, I mean every one of us is going to deal with that, with the broken pieces of our own lives. And so I think in whatever the circumstance that it is, it’s knowing the truth of the gospel, that we are all broken and fallen sinners. I mean, we don’t like to talk about sin, but we’re all broken. Even those of us that maybe feel like we can put on a facade and look like we have things together, everyone is a sinner. And so we all come before our heavenly Father God with a sin nature.
Nick Vujicic: That’s right.
Lauren McAfee: And so the gospel is that we were all broken, and despite our brokenness, Jesus is the one that stepped in and made the way for us to have a relationship with God through his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection. And so I remind myself of that every day of the hope and the truth of the gospel, that I am, despite my failures, made in the image of God, and He sees me and He sees righteousness because of what Christ has done in me, not because of anything I’ve done.
And so we have that same beautiful hope and picture of the gospel that we have to offer to anyone that’s coming to our churches or coming to us in need, facing an unplanned pregnancy, is that beautiful grace that God has given us, that despite our own failures or things that we think are mistakes-
Nick Vujicic: Amen.
Lauren McAfee: … God is working in it. And so God can work in the circumstances that a woman, a man, a family in an unplanned pregnancy is facing. And God can use that to not only shape the parents’ lives as well as that child’s life, but even use that as a testimony to His goodness that He can turn broken things into beautiful things. And so that’s I think one of the great opportunities that the church has to get to step into the beautiful working of what God is doing in challenging circumstances.
Nick Vujicic: Amen. Amen. And we all can be the hands and feet once we’re healed and redeemed, and the joy comes in. First of all, if God can use a man without arms or legs to be his hands and feet, then God can use any willing heart. When he doesn’t give a miracle, be one. Okay? So God sets us up where, yes, he can take those broken piece and do something beautiful and then help someone else, but it’s that healing, that relationship. And I love how you’ve described it. We’re all broken. We all need healing on some level. Lauren, what are the challenges in culture that you are seeing that are hindering, if you will, the framing of life from a holistic view? I mean, there’s a lot in that question, but tell us what are you seeing?
Lauren McAfee: Kind of a high level philosophical perspective, I think our own country’s culture has been very focused on the individual and kind of self-fulfillment, self-identity, looking to the self, like myself, to be my own source of happiness, of pursuing whatever it is that I have and desire at any moment. And so one of the challenges can be that whenever we’re talking about the life issue, if I’m focused on myself, that I’m thinking about all of the dreams that I had for my life without a pregnancy, and I’m thinking about me and myself and what do I think sounds more convenient or more comfortable? And that’s not to say… I mean, the challenges are real, and so that is absolutely a part of who we are. But in scripture, we’re reminded that we’re not just ourselves, but we are created by a creator God, so we have a father. And we are created to be in relationship with others.
And so when we look at that bigger perspective of not just looking to self, but looking to God and looking to others and how are our decisions impacted by what we believe about who God is and how we engage with others around us, then we look not only to see the myself in terms of how I define myself, but how does God define me? And that is, as I’ve said, created in God’s image. And also how does God define others? Maybe that child in the womb or those that I’m in a relationship with in God’s image. And so looking to the others and how I can honor God by how I treat others, how I care for this pregnancy, how I care about this baby in my womb, and also know that my identity is not found in being able to pursue all of the dreams that I thought were going to fulfill my identity, and maybe a pregnancy is going to keep me from that or the shame that I might feel if others find out about this news.
Whenever I can look to what God says about me, and I can say, okay, my identity’s not in my job because God who’s created me and he cares for me and he loves me regardless of whether I have the career that I think I wanted or could have. If other people are judging what happened in this pregnancy, okay, well, I can again look to God and say, “You know what? God sees me and loves me and wants a relationship with me despite the bad decisions or mistakes that I think I’ve made.” And so having that purpose and that identity in terms of seeing ourselves in a relationship to God can help us as we look to care about our relationships with others and a relationship with a child in the womb.
And so I think that because of this self-focus in our culture, that has been a challenge for the pro-life work, is being able to help people see that bigger picture and think about their relationship to God and their relationship to others as they think about the life issue. So there’s lots of challenges, but that’s certainly one of them shaping this issue.
Nick Vujicic: Lauren, amen. This is so exciting that we get to talk about even the layers of this for the individual watching. Always comes back to whether your church is doing something or not. We can embrace those, I mean, women and families affected with abortion, the past. It’s terrifying when you have an unexpected pregnancy and all we want to do is love on these women and families affected with this issue. And so Lauren, how can we embrace and approach and love on the women and families affected?
Lauren McAfee: I think there’s a lot of ways that can be done. Certainly, something that has been impactful for me has been listening to women’s stories who had faced an unplanned pregnancy.
Nick Vujicic: That’s true.
Lauren McAfee: And that helps me get in their shoes. Anyone that we’re trying to serve, I think being able to look at, what are their real challenges? What might they be feeling? How would I respond if I were in that situation? Helps to grow in our hearts, I think empathy and compassion so that we can then care well for the people that we want to serve. And so I think listening and understanding where women are coming from is a really valuable thing for all of us to do as we’re engaging in this issue, but then also saying, okay, what are the actionables that I can do? Certainly, praying for those that are facing unplanned pregnancies and considering abortion, and getting our churches more engaged, finding the pregnancy center around you that you might be able to volunteer in.
And maybe that means too, coming to the Stand for Life Conference, which we’re going to have January 2023, this coming January 18th and 19th, and being able to listen to people share their stories, teach from scripture about how we could think about this and give real practical steps for what we can all do, leaving that conference to be more engaged on this issue. So that’d be a great actionable step for people who want to be engaged on this issue and want to think well about this issue, and all of the complexity and nuance that comes with it. Yes, there are lots of different layers and aspects, but at the end of the day, we can be motivated by that truth that it all started with, is that God created life, He created my life, He created your life and every life in the world, and so how can we value every life and care for the lives of women that are carrying that child in the womb?
Nick Vujicic: Amen. Wow. I’m so inspired. Lauren, thank you. I want to echo right now, will you join us? Will you join the movement to Stand for Life? This is the beginning. This is where you and I and Lauren and the whole movement of all God’s people saying, “Yes, God, we are ready. We’re ready. Let’s stand for life.” Well, I’m going to ask you right now, will you and your church consider to joining us right now in Washington, D.C. coming up, Lauren already mentioned it, January 18th and 19th for the Stand for Life Conference. We are going to be live-streaming if you cannot make it in person. But I want to ask you, please will you right now tell your church, tell your friends, tell your Bible study, let’s all go and stand for life in DC with standforlife.com. All the information is there. Get your tickets, register it right now, and come as a group. Just make it a point. We’ve never done it as a church before to go to Washington, D.C. this is the movement we want to be part of.
And also be in contact with us and join us. Join the movement, take the pledge and Stand for Life at this website, standsfl.com/nick. I want to tell you right now, we love you. Lauren, thank you for loving on us as individuals, as a church from a perspective of seeing, from your family standing for life on the Supreme Court level. You as an individual going into all the studies and PhD and counseling and really understanding what does this really mean to come alongside someone who’s considering to terminate the pregnancy.
Lauren McAfee: Thank you.
Nick Vujicic: To embrace that family, to embrace that woman, and anyone out there in the community who’s like, “Yeah, I want to know how to stand for life in my own community.” You’ve been an incredible joy to have on the show here, Stand For Life. Thank you for what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and what God will do through Stand for Life movement. I’m so excited to be a very small part of this. Lauren, thank you so much for coming.
Lauren McAfee: Thanks so much, Nick. It’s been a joy.
Nick Vujicic: God bless you.