How One Nineties Youth Pastor Fought Abortion With A Song

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I’ve kept some CDs from the 90s. Among them are a few Christian albums that meant a lot to me during my high school years when I came to faith in Jesus. Jars of Clay, Newsboys, DC Talk, Five Iron Frenzy, among others. There are some beautiful truths in those songs wrapped in music that wouldn’t fare these days.

One of these albums is by a youth pastor known well to young Christians on the West Coast back in the nineties. His name is Steve Mills. To be more precise, Steve was a worship minister at a well-known youth camp in the region. I never met Steve, but he once did a concert for the small youth group I was in and his music made its way around my group of friends. One song in particular introduced the pro-life argument. I remember how it made the girls cry. I’ll explain why shortly.

There’s a reason why this album is not on Spotify right now. It’s a little cheesy and some of the writing, while doctrinally sound, is a little on the nose. I’m certain that the screaming 80’s guitar part on track three didn’t work in 1996. Grunge put that kind of guitar work to bed. Steve missed the memo.

The Enduring Witness of a Life-Giving Song

But there is one memo Steve did not miss. It’s the reason I dug up this old CD in a box in the garage this week and played it on my way to the office. It’s the reason I kept this album in the first place. Track six is titled, “The Chance to See.” It’s a song about abortion. I hadn’t heard a song like this before and I haven’t since. I’d encourage you to listen to it on YouTube before you continue reading this article—it will be worth your time.

What Steve did with this song is beautiful and instructive for us in a post-Roe era. He’s an example of one man’s faithfulness in his corner of the world. As I listened to this song on my way to work, I pondered what lessons we might learn from Steve in our work for the unborn.

What did Steve get so right in this song? Why did Steve’s song make the girls cry? How did Steve’s song win me to the pro-life claims on first hearing?

I can think of four reasons why, each with their own lesson for us.

First, he sang about Sarah and Kevin.

I said that Steve’s song is about abortion. That’s not quite right. “A Chance to See” is about two children, a boy and a girl, who didn’t have the chance to see. Meet Sarah and Kevin.

Verse 1
Maybe today could have brought in some way

New joy to the life of one girl.

Sarah might have had time for a hillside to climb

Or paraded as queen of her world.

I wonder how tall she would stand.

I wonder just where she would play with her friends.

I wonder what color her eyes would be,

The eyes that were never allowed the chance to see.

Verse 2

Adventures ahead, Kevin jumps out of bed,

A day in the life of one boy.

Playing hide and go seek,

Riding bikes down the street,

The pleasures he’ll never enjoy. …

I wonder how tall he would stand.

I wonder just where he would play with his friends.

I wonder what color his eyes would be,

The eyes that were never allowed the chance to see.

Arguments are needed in the public square, but so is art. To cultivate a moral imagination, and a holy outrage at abortion, we need more than propositions; we need poetry, pictures, and song. Because the decision to abort a child involves the head and the heart, logic and longings, moral reasoning and our deepest desires. The poetry of this song and specifically these names opened our imaginations in a way that helped us see the truth about life with the eyes of our hearts.

If many mothers choose to abort because they just can’t imagine life with their child given the real costs of parenthood, then let us hold out the beauty of children, of childhood, and the subtle and simple joys of seeing a child grow up. If it’s hard to imagine life with children, let’s help our neighbors imagine the lives of their children.

Yes, even good childhoods are filled with more than riding bikes and playing games. And some children will have particularly hard lives. Parenting is also way harder than an afternoon at the park. That’s why we need moral reasoning and an appeal to the conscience. Children are not valuable for the good they may enjoy or impart, but because they are one of the good things God made. Nevertheless, let us also touch the imagination with these truths so that they are felt.

We ought speak to the head and the heart. Maybe one of the best ways to do both at the same time is to sing the names of children, names like Sarah and Kevin.

Second, he identified with the pain of abortion.

Here is the bridge in Steve’s song. It speaks a hard truth in a heartfelt way.

Oh, can’t we see how great the lie that we’ve believed?

We’re trading our convictions for painful scars that never leave.

In addition to a songwriter, I imagine Steve was a faithful preacher. This is a good piece of rhetoric. He asks a question that assumes a premise firmly established in Scripture: that we have believed a lie. He is right and we know it. And he knows we know it. That’s why he doesn’t make the case for the truth here but assumes the truth and cries out with this knowing question. In doing so he cuts to our hearts. The lives we have imagined in Sarah and Kevin really are lives they deserved to live.

If the first line confronts us with a painful question—even our sin in believing a lie (I’ll get to our culpability in a moment)—the second line helps us both feel and acknowledge the pain inflicted by these lies. The lies that perpetrate abortion hurt more than just children, for lies can inflict pain on more than one party at a time. In fact, they are good at that. Though he may not have meant this play on words, the eyes denied a chance to see reveal our own blindness. Unable to see, we hurt others and we hurt ourselves in the dark.

The pains inflicted on children through abortion are different than the pain we feel as sinners in committing an abortion. But we can speak about both kinds with honesty and candor. The Bible speaks about sinners as guilty and rebellious (Eph. 2:1–3). Yet even when the crowds came to Jesus for healing and not for the spiritual salvation, nevertheless he had compassion on the crowds (Matt. 14:14). Scripture also speaks of how Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the glory of God in Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). We must study and speak of the pain of the unborn. But we can speak with great compassion about the pain inflicted by this sin on their parents as well, indeed on all of us.

Of course, we cannot only speak about the lies and painful scars of abortion. We must say more. And Steve did.

Third, he named the sins.

There’s something startling and yet strangely refreshing about Steve’s pre-chorus repeated several times through his song.

How carelessly choices are made.

The chance of a lifetime is unjustly weighed

As the voice of convenience drowns out

The first cries of a child.

The language here is uncomfortable: careless choices, unjust weights, the voice of convenience and the drowned out cries of a child—a reminder of the violence of abortion. He sings not only of the sin of abortion but of the sinful motives that lead us to abort our children.

Steve treated us like responsible moral agents. Yes, we are deceived by lies, a deceptive serpent, and world system that devalues life. Yes, some who commit an abortion do so from a mix of confusion, pressure, and tragic personal circumstances. And yes, abortion leaves painful scars that never leave.

But it’s also a sin to believe a lie. It is an injustice to weigh the life of a child against sexual freedom, public approval, a career path, or financial stability. These are precisely the reasons for most abortions. What demographic is more likely to get an abortion, rich or poor women? In our own country, higher income single women are nearly four times more likely to abort their children than women with low incomes.[1] Steve was right: “the voice of convenience drowns out the first cries of a child.”

1. “Sex, contraception, or abortion? Explaining class gaps in unintended childbearing,” Richard V. Reeves and Joanna Venator (Feb. 2015).

We must address the sinful choice of abortion and the sinful motives that lead us to abort. But we must also take Steve’s lead in refusing to stop there.

Fourth, he led us in a prayer for forgiveness.

There is another song about abortion that was released in 1996: “Brick,” by Ben Folds Five. It’s about the songwriter’s fateful and lonely trip to the abortion clinic with his girlfriend. “She’s a brick and I’m drowning slowly.” It is a heartfelt song as well. But a heartfelt song without hope, sung as if through tears.

It may be true that the painful scars of abortion never leave. But these scars are not the last word and Steve made sure we knew that. His song would be sunnier than “Brick” but equally as hopeless if there were no forgiveness for sins.

That’s why Steve closes his song with this simple spoken prayer,

Father, forgive us.

I’ve never heard a song end in this way. Most songs are about happier things, not about our sins. Maybe that’s another reason this song isn’t on Spotify. But this struck me as a beautiful ending to a strangely beautiful song.

There is a cost for acknowledging the inherent dignity of the unborn: guilt. For as many babies have been aborted there are mothers and fathers who have committed abortions, family who have pressured them to do so, friends who have affirmed the act, and citizens who by conviction or cowardice have protected abortion in law. There is a lot of sin to go around.

We have believed great lies and we have committed great sins. Thanks be to God, because our God is not only great in his glory but in grace, there is greater forgiveness still. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1).

The message of forgiveness will no doubt harden many further. After all, the offer of forgiveness implies guilt. Sinners still need to come to terms with the truth of sin. But for many, the offer of forgiveness will be their way to the truth. For is it not the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4)?

The Reason Steve’s Song Is Not on Spotify

Credit where credit is due: this song is the least dated music on Steve’s album. It’s a sweet piece of music with no screaming guitar licks. I’m glad for that, because it made reimagining Sarah and Kevin a moving experience on my way to work. More importantly, honor where honor is due. I thank God for Steve Mills, a local songwriter and worship leader ministering to youth in Northern California in the mid-nineties.

I found out the reason his song is not on Spotify. These days we might imagine it is because the song’s content is objectionable. In this case, as I learned, Steve doesn’t even have a digital copy of his own song. Which is a reminder to us all that our work is not only bound to a specific place but a specific time. Our labors are soon forgotten. We even forget them. But they are not lost on eternity. Steve wrote a song he can’t even play on a modern device. But I am typing these things almost thirty years later because he picked up his guitar.

Steve did his part. It was not a big-time song, but it was a big deal for us. Others did their part through baby bottle drives, crisis counseling at pregnancy centers, diaper and car seat donations, adoption and foster care, and a million prayers and conversations with neighbors about the preciousness of life. Steve had a guitar and a knack for a song. What’s your part?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author

  • Trent Hunter

    Trent Hunter is the pastor for preaching and teaching at Heritage Bible Church in Greer, South Carolina. Trent is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Graphical Greek, an electronic reference guide for biblical Greek, Joshua in Crossway's Knowing the Bible series, and is co-author of Christ from Beginning to End: How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of Christ. Trent is an Instructor for the Charles Simeon Trust Workshops on Biblical Exposition.

Trent Hunter

Trent Hunter

Trent Hunter is the pastor for preaching and teaching at Heritage Bible Church in Greer, South Carolina. Trent is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Graphical Greek, an electronic reference guide for biblical Greek, Joshua in Crossway's Knowing the Bible series, and is co-author of Christ from Beginning to End: How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of Christ. Trent is an Instructor for the Charles Simeon Trust Workshops on Biblical Exposition.