Actor Jonathan Roumie, NFL Hall of Famer Tony Dungy inspire participants at 50th annual March for Life
Addressing thousands of people assembled on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a man who became famous for playing Jesus Christ on television gave credit to the real Jesus for leading him to speak out publicly, for the first time, about his pro-life views.
“This guy made me do it,” Jonathan Roumie told the crowd at the 2023 March for Life, pointing at the sky. “And I’m a better man for it.”
Roumie, a devout Catholic widely recognized for playing the role of Jesus on the popular TV series “The Chosen,” approached the podium Jan. 20 to roaring cheers from the crowd. He was the top-billed of the dozen or so speakers who addressed the attendees immediately before the 50th annual march got underway.
“God is real, and he is completely in love with each and every one of you,” Roumie told tens of thousands of marchers, many of whom clutched homemade banners and signs bearing pro-life slogans.
“History has been made. Life has triumphed in an extraordinary way,” he said, “and the light of world, who is Jesus Christ, the author of life, his light has burned so very brightly within each and every one of you, irrespective of your specific beliefs, compelling you forward for one reason or another to stand together today to fight for the worthiest and noblest cause possible — which is to allow the unborn the right to enter into the world, and defeat those earthly forces who seek to destroy the very evidence of them.”
Friday’s demonstration was the first national March for Life to be held since the overturning of Roe v. Wade last June, a Supreme Court decision that did away with nearly 50 years of precedent allowing abortion nationwide. The theme of this year’s March for Life is “Next Steps: Marching into a Post-Roe America,” which emphasizes the need to continue to work toward legislation, both at the federal level and the state level, that will protect the most vulnerable.
Roumie spoke primarily about the spiritual battle that is taking place in U.S. society over abortion and cautioned the crowd — especially young people — to take their faith seriously in the face of resistance, including from popular culture and the media. Satan, he said, “wants us to believe that abortion is not harmful,” and those who are not grounded in a solid faith in God are “ripe for corruption.”
“Just as God is real, Satan is also real … he pushes you to doubt, when you know in your heart the right thing to do,” Roumie warned.
While Roumie grew up Catholic, he has spoken openly about the deeper conversion he experienced around four and a half years ago, when he began to grow in his faith. Roumie said Friday that “dwelling in the realm of spirit” has changed him “from the inside out.” Practicing one’s faith, you “begin to see the truth manifest itself in all areas of your life,” and you “can’t unsee what you’ve seen.”
As Christians, Roumie said, “we know how the story ends. God won.” He encouraged those listening to emulate Jesus by seeking to love and pray for their enemies and those who disagree with them. In concert with prayer, Roumie said those present have the ability to affect a pro-life culture and “reveal God’s truth” by using their “financial, spiritual, and temporal” resources.
“We are beautifully flawed, but not alone,” he encouraged. “God is love, and true love gives way to life, not death.”
Roumie’s fellow speakers at the 2023 March for Life addressed the march’s theme, “Next Steps.” They spoke to the attendees about the importance of building a culture, both legislatively and in each person’s personal life, of support for women and babies.
Tony Dungy, a professional football coach, father of 11, NFL analyst, adoptive dad, New York Times bestselling author, and Pro Football Hall of Famer, took the stage to speak about the recent health scare of NFL player Damar Hamlin, and the public outpouring of prayers that took place when it appeared that Hamlin’s life was hanging in the balance.
Unborn babies are not as visible and well-known as famous athletes, Dungy said, but “those lives are still important to God, in God’s eyes.”
Saving their lives is “not the end of the story,” though — mothers and babies need our help, he said. Dungy’s wife, Lauren, took the stage and spoke about their adoption experience alongside the couple’s now 21-year-old daughter.
“We are talking about lives,” Lauren Dungy said. “We need to pray for every woman who is in this situation ... we have to pray that we have enough adoptive families to pray for these precious lives.”
Summer Smith, a student at Liberty University, spoke about the importance of supporting women in need, especially at crisis pregnancy centers.
“For me, being pro-life is personal,” she said, relaying the story of how she found out that one of her own siblings was aborted.
“Speak up about abortion in your family, your friend group, and on your campus. And speak up with love,” Smith said. “Our faith must be well-reasoned and well-informed.”
Several lawmakers spoke as well. State Rep. Trenee McGee (D-Connecticut), a leading pro-life Democrat, took the stage to decry what she called the “systemically racist abortion industry” and passionately encouraged the crowd to advocate for policies that “not only protect life, but sustain life.”
“Pro-life for the whole life, baby,” she proclaimed, to loud applause.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, urged those gathered to vote to support pro-life candidates and lawmakers.
“We ought to continue to march. You know how much is at stake,” Scalise said.
Another member of Congress, Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), said he attended the first March for Life in 1974.
“This rally stirs us all to prayer and hard work, and inspires us to do more and more and more in defense of life,” Smith said.
Smith also decried the continued instances of violence and intimidation against pro-life entities that have taken place since the Dobbs decision, and said they have heard merely “crickets” from the Justice Department in terms of arrests and prosecutions of the many documented crimes against pro-lifers.
Smith said the legality of abortion throughout pregnancy, as many states still allow, is a “barbaric” outlier on the world stage. He encouraged all those in attendance to continue to pray and advocate for an end to abortion.
“The injustice of abortion need not be forever, and because of you, it won’t be. God bless you,” Smith concluded.
The speeches even included one from the daughter of a canonized saint, St. Gianna Beretta Molla. Molla, a doctor, became ill while pregnant with her fourth child and was encouraged to abort the baby in an attempt to save her own life. Molla chose life and passed away a few days after giving birth. In 1962, she died at 39 years old.
“I would not be here with all of you, if I had not been loved so much!” the saint’s daughter, Gianna Emanuela Molla, who is also a medical doctor, told the crowd.
“The gift of life is truly the greatest, the most precious, and the most sacred gift we always owed to honor, respect, and defend!”
Sr. Mary Casey O’Connor, a member of the Sisters of Life, spoke with her twin sister, Casey Gunning, who has Down syndrome.
“I came from all the way from Colorado to announce to America and to the whole world that life is good and that life is a gift!” Casey Gunning said, drawing loud cheers from the crowd.
“Your child will be a blessing to you and to the world,” she said, referring to parents with children who have Down syndrome.
by Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency.