Justice, Peace, and Abortion: An Interview with Mr. Everett White

MAY 26, 2017

Summarize in a few sentences what God has called you to do.

In terms of vocation, God has called me to be a lawyer. I've wanted to be a lawyer since I was a kid, and I never seriously considered anything else. I've been practicing now for 12 years. Until 6 months ago, I was a litigation partner at a big firm. But I recently joined a boutique healthcare firm and I've really enjoyed it. 

How does having a Biblical worldview transform the way you practice law?

A Biblical worldview transforms every aspect of practicing law. It transforms the day-to-day decisions, such as how you talk to opposing lawyers, how you bill your clients, and whether you accept certain cases. But it also transforms the ultimate goal of the work. It shifts the focus from winning at all costs to working in a way that pleases the Lord.

Tim Keller's book on work ("Every Good Endeavor") has been helpful to me on this. He reminds believers to try and connect our work to an attribute of God or to His work. In my practice, that is usually God's justice. When I'm drafting a brief, or taking a deposition, or negotiating with the other side, I try to remind myself that we are pursuing justice. And justice is a real thing. God has shown us what justice looks like in Scripture, and He cares deeply about justice being done. 

Of course, I want the best result for our clients, but not if the result is unjust. There's a natural tension there, and finding the right way to simultaneously pursue justice and your client's interest is not always easy. 

How should Christians think about lawyers?

Lawyers do a lot of different things, so it's difficult to come up with a universal statement on how Christians should think about them. One way to think about them is as peacemakers. Whether you’re a doctor in a dispute with the government about billing, or whether you’re a business who’s suffered because someone else breached a contract, or whether your crazy sister thinks she's entitled to all of your parents' estate, lawyers are the ones who can help make peace.

You are passionate about the issue of abortion – how should a Christian understanding of justice and the law guide us as we think about this issue that is so controversial in our day?  

That’s a hugely important question, and I think you’re right to link justice and the law as guides. There’s no way to answer adequately in such a short space, but I’ll try to make two points. One, abortion is a massive injustice—arguably the greatest injustice of our time. And two, our response to this injustice should be proportional and yet consistent with our obligations to the law of the land.

As to the first point, there’s an idea in the air that all sins are equal in the eyes of the Lord. That’s not true. The smallest sin surely separates us from God, but Scripture is clear that some sins are more heinous than others. Murdering your brother is worse than stealing his property.

If a fetus is a person, then abortion is the unjust killing of an image bearer. And that is a really big deal to God. It should, therefore, be a big deal to us. I think most Christians are against abortion, but my sense is that we’re not as outraged as we should be; we’ve been somewhat anesthetized to it. I agree with one author’s observation that if they were shooting toddlers execution-style, there’d probably be more outrage. But it’s really no different (a fetus is just younger, smaller, and lives somewhere else).

So how should Christians respond to the injustice of abortion? That question leads to the second point. The Sixth Commandment requires us to act to preserve the life of others. So we should do something. Yet abortion is legal, and Christians owe certain obligations to the civil law. Christians must, as a general rule, obey the law and respect the government’s authority as God’s appointed agent for administering justice. In other words, individuals can’t ignore laws they dislike, and they don’t have the power of the sword. I think there’s room for non-violent (repeat: non-violent) civil disobedience to preserve life, but that’s a different article.

Our response to abortion, in short, must be both proportional to the injustice and consistent with our obligations to the law. It must fall somewhere on the spectrum between doing nothing and storming the abortion clinic with an assault rifle. What that looks like on a daily basis is different for everybody.

For Christians who live in Mississippi, I think praying for, donating to, and volunteering at the Center for Pregnancy Choices (CPC) is one of the best things we can do. CPC, which the church supports, provides a host of services (e.g., ultrasounds, counselling, etc.) to pregnant women. It just opened a facility in Fondren near the last remaining abortion clinic in the State and is in need of monthly supporters. I don’t mean for this to sound like an ad for CPC, but I think they are really on the front lines giving women hope, loving them, and pointing them towards Christ.