The abolitionist stance on immediatism is easily one of the most controversial and misrepresented tenets of the abolitionist ideology. On this page, we hope to shed some light on what we mean (and don’t mean) by the term “immediatism”, and address some of the most common questions and objections we encounter. As you examine the following materials, please be willing to examine it honestly. Be willing to examine whether you are thinking rightly on this topic. Lay aside what you may have heard from opponents of abolitionism. Study this tenet prayerfully and with your Bible open.
We realize that while some folks who know better intentionally misrepresent us and spread deception to fortify the kingdoms they are building for themselves, a great many people have simply never thought about it. Most abolitionists were, at one time, incrementalists. Our desire is to persuade you by reason and scripture to change your thinking about the strategy and steps the Body of Christ should be taking in this fight against abortion.
What we mean by Immediatism:
We demand the immediate and total abolition of abortion.
We believe that allowing abortion in some cases along the way to its total abolition is neither strategically sound nor consistently Christian. You cannot abolish any evil by justifying or allowing it to continue in some cases. Any strategy for ending abortion in this country which allows for the continued occurrence of some abortions for the sake of eventually outlawing the rest, though seemingly pragmatic, is compromise and it’s promises of effectiveness are false.
We reject incremental abolition, the and the gradual regulation of evil. This fight is not an issue of what seems practical, achievable, or reasonable. It is an issue of obedience to God. We must make no compromise with Sin or the means of fighting Sin. Abortion is the abominable sin of child sacrifice and as such we call for its immediate and total abolition. God never accepts a gradual repentance of sin (individually or nationally) but rather demands a radical cutting off and turning towards Christ alone in total faith. Jesus declared to sinners, “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) Repentance is not evolutionary transition from darkness to light over time. Repentance is a complete reversal of belief, thought, and action.
What we absolutely do NOT mean is that if we can’t save all babies, we shouldn’t save any. The idea that we are “all or nothing” presupposes that there are only two options: incremental steps or no steps at all. We reject that premise. We contend that those who fight abortion should be unified in calling for immediate and total abolition.
On the Claim that the immediate result of abolition must be accomplished over night or else that victory belongs to compromise and Incrementalism
The doctrine and practice of immediatism has never been opposed to long, hard work or constant and consistent toil on behalf of those whom we are seeking to save. ImmediatISM is not simply a synonym for “immediate” in the way that modern day anti-abolitionists so constantly frame it. It never has been and it never will be (regardless of how many people they fool into believing that this is the case).
Immediatism is about what we call for, work for, focus on, and demand. We demand the Abolition of Human Abortion (rather than the regulation of the practice of abortion or the banning of this or that procedure or place that the evil deed is done). We seek the establishment of justice for ALL pre-born human beings (rather than seeking to establish laws which protect human beings who have reached a certain age or stage of development or who meet the current criteria our culture deems worthy of first order protection, such as having been conceived in consensual sex and possessing the right number of chromosomes).
We view abortion as a national sin and focus on the evil of abortion in and of itself as murder, seeking its total abolition. Our opponents agree with us morally that abortion is murder but do not treat it practically as murder in and of itself. They focus on fighting the way that abortion is done, and to whom, and seek to limit the number of abortions that take place by dealing with abortion methods or practice by degrees.
The anti-abolitionists of our day want to keep this stark difference from the view of their fans, financial supporters, and future staff members. We want to get their fans, financial supporters, and future staff members to repent of placing their faith in the incremental measures and schemes of the past four decades. We want these pro-lifers to cease focusing on abortion methods or permissions and stop putting band-aids on the corpse of this culture of death and go instead out onto the streets, to the mills, and everywhere else demanding the abolition of abortion, repentance of the sin of child sacrifice. We want them to help us pass laws to establish justice in keeping with that resolution. We want people to unify together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and work on the ABOLITION of abortion rather than focus on its regulation.
This is the difference and all the talk from incrementalists about how we hate babies and wouldn’t save a baby in a box that was dying ten feet away from us because that baby is not all the babies and we would have to take steps to get to him, is nothing but a paranoid attempt to keep their own people from looking at what we actually are saying and doing.
On the claim that immediatism is nothing but magic-wandism and that immediatists aren’t allowed to appreciate the gradual fruit of their labors:
That immediatism produces gradual results has always been recognized and understood by abolitionists.
As historian Aileen Kraditor writes in “Means and Ends in American Abolitionism,” the abolitionist’s conception of his role in society as an agitator was focused practically and consistently on the principle and goal of immediate change rather than the goal of producing incremental victories. “The goal for which [the abolitionist] agitated was not likely to be immediately realizable,” Kraditor writes.
She continues, “Its realization must follow conversion of an enormous number of people, and the struggle must take place in the face of the hostility that inevitably met the agitator for an unpopular cause. Hence he would be denounced not only as a contemnor of the general will but also as a visionary. The abolitionists knew as well as well as their later scholarly critics that immediate and unconditional emancipation could not occur for a long time. But unlike those critics they were sure it would never come unless it were agitated for during the long period in which it was impracticable.” (p26). As Kraditor continues to explain: “To have dropped the demand for immediate emancipation because it was unrealizable at the time would have been to alter the nature of the change for which the abolitionists were agitating. That is, even those who would have gladly accepted gradual or conditional emancipation had to agitate for immediate and unconditional abolition of slavery because that demand was required by their goal of demonstrating to White Americans that Negroes were their brothers” (p. 27).
William Lloyd Garrison, the most vocal and active proponent of immediate abolitionism (also the most hated by gradualists), understood this principle fully and freely explained that, “We have never said that slavery would be overthrown by a single blow; that it ought to be, we shall always contend.” As the American Anti-Slavery Society (the “ICAS” of the 19th century) stated in its first annual report, the well-meaning gradualists who opposed their focus on immediate abolition had entirely misunderstood immediatism and falsely opposed their ideology and strategy. The American people, the AASS argued, would be “moved” to abolish human slavery by a “powerful array of true principles” and only ever transformed by an uncompromising call for “total, immediate, and unconditional emancipation.” The AASS in turn exhorted gradualists to cease toiling on increments and regulations but to instead, “urge the naked truth,” and “insist upon reformation now.” The AASS explained that immediatism would bear fruit that was “sufficiently gradual,” and “practical reformation” would be produced only “after the sternest immediatism of doctrine” was consistently proclaimed and adopted. Of course the abolitionists understood that they were dealing with a mass of slavery supporters and anti-slavery incrementalists who could not even imagine immediate unconditional emancipation and an apathetic culture which had long become accustomed to the argument that the only way to abolish slavery would be to do it gradually (because they feared that it would be dangerous to grant black people their freedom from bondage overnight in the way that they eventually received it), but this only encouraged the abolitionists to keep on calling for repentance of the national sin of chattel slavery. And they well knew that calling for incremental change (just as we know today) only put off abolition and even after decades of work and millions of dollars would only ever produce incremental change.
As the historian William E. Miller argued in his monumental work “Arguing Against Slavery” (1996), the American abolitionists learned to denounce all forms of compromise and procrastination regarding their position and appeal from studying the work of earlier British abolitionists who were constantly thwarted, delayed, and distracted by calls for regulation and gradual abolition. As Miller records, the American abolitionists, like the English abolitionists before them, became convinced by history and experience that “any kind of procrastination” had to be vociferously denounced. Miller adds, “As Martin Luther King and his cohorts fighting against racial segregation in the twentieth century had repeatedly to explain “Why We Can’t Wait” (the title of one of his books), so in the previous century the English Abolitionists, in their long struggle, had finally come to see that they had to say “immediately”–because anything gradual stretched out into never. If you were serious about ending slavery, history had shown, you had to cut through that endless self-deceiving delay” (p. 74).The call and cry for immediate abolition was that which imbued the abolitionist movement in America with its strength and moved the whole country along to emancipation.
As Wendell Phillips, standing over the coffin of William Lloyd Garrison recollected, “[Garrison] seems to have understood–this boy without experience–he seems to have understood by instinct that righteousness is the only thing which will finally compel submission; …that only by the most absolute assertion of the uttermost truth, without qualification or compromise, can a nation be waked to conscience or strengthened for duty” (Phillips, “Funeral Oration for William Lloyd Garrison”). As a contemporary historian of American abolitionism recorded, “It was the custom in that day to inveigh against immediatism as “impracticable.” “You cannot,” said our opponents, “emancipate all the slaves at once; why, then, do you propose so impossible a scheme?” Our reply was, that slaveholding being a sin, instant emancipation was the right of every slave and the duty of every master. The fact that the slaveholders were not ready at once to obey the demands of justice and the requirements of the Divine Law militated not against the soundness of the doctrine of immediatism or against its power as a PRACTICAL WORKING PRINCIPLE. The minister of the Gospel does not cease to proclaim the duty of immediate repentance for sin because he knows that his message will not be immediately heeded. It is his duty to contend for sound principles, whether his auditors “will hear or forbear.” He dares not advise or encourage them to delay repentance for a single hour, though he knows that in all probability many of them will do so until their dying day.”
Compromise may very well be the art of politics, and politics might very well be the art of the possible. But immediatism has always been the art of the desired end and the causal power driving all great moral transformations and cultural reformations. This is true regardless of how long it takes for the transformation to truly come into effect. The time it takes for a nation to turn from its wicked ways and change its course is only as long as it takes for that nation to repent before, or be judged by, Almighty God. That it takes time to put the pieces of the nation back together is no fault of immediatism or failure on the part of God. That is the way things are. But, and this needs to be clearly understood by all who are engaged in this current conversation, unless we call for the total, immediate, and unconditional abolition of human abortion, we will never see it, except as the result of our own conflagration.
See the Wretched Video here