Posts tagged “life”

The 10th Annual Sanctity of Human Life Post

January 20, 2013   1:00 am

(Each year, the Sunday closest to January 22, the date of the passing of Roe v. Wade, is observed as “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” in many churches.)

Ten years have brought us a long way. The 7th post on this blog observed 2004’s Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This year brings us to the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand in the United States.

As America has become more politically polarized, her views on abortion have as well. However, there is a growing trend against abortion, particularly the more barbaric late-term procedures, which are now only approved by those blinded by their insistence on how much of a “right” it is. A recent Time cover read “40 Years Ago, Abortion Rights Activists Won an Epic Battle with Roe v. Wade: They’ve Been Losing Ever Since,” and Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, thoroughly dissected that article. And, there are some truly heartening statistics for those who value life:

However, as Dr. Mohler so adeptly points out, abortion is far from the “rare” its proponents claim they want to see. 50 million abortions have been performed since Roe passed, and we are at the point where 1 in 3 women have had an abortion by the time they make 45.

Science is helping the pro-life cause. I covered a good bit of this about a year and a half ago. Ultrasound has given us a window into prenatal development, and psychology and psychiatry have identified post-abortion depression as much more common than postpartum depression per incident.

Interestingly enough, the most damage to the pro-life cause in the past year came from two pro-life national office candidates. I covered both those guys at the time (the latter also citing Dr. Mohler - what can I say, he agrees with me a lot!), and since that is where our movement faltered this year, I believe this is where our focus should be. Our participation in the debate should keep the following Scripture in mind:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world…” - Matthew 5:13-14a (ESV)

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ…” - Ephesians 4:15 (ESV)

As Christians advocating for God’s way of handling His creation, we must remember who we are. Salt can make a meal pop; however, salt can also overpower, and can be painful when ground into an open wound. Akin and Mourdock were the latter, coming off as callous and uncaring, much like those who still support “partial-birth” abortion come across to us. Light illuminates, but it can also blind. I left the entirety of Ephesians 4:15 there to show it in its context, but the first part of that verse is the key. We know this works; the “crisis pregnancy center” didn’t even exist before Roe v. Wade, and now they outnumber abortion providers. Their popularity is due to the care that pregnant and scared women can receive from these organizations. They don’t beat the women over the head with their “mistakes” of pregnancy or of seeking an abortion; they offer counseling, ultrasound, and support through pregnancy, childbirth, and the first few months of motherhood. They show a better way, and many women are choosing that path.

While progress against abortion is good, there is an the assault on the sanctity of human life from the other flank. “Assisted suicide” has been making the news already this year. In late 2012, two brothers in Belgium asked to be euthanized and eventually found a doctor who agreed, despite their condition not being consistent with even a liberal interpretation of the “unbearable pain” that law requires. North of our borders, Quebec looks to become the first Canadian province to legalize assisted suicide, not through legal changes, but through medical characterization of the procedure.

Both the Belgium law and the Canadian guideline revisions have advocates claiming that they will be applied narrowly; it sounds like they want it to be “safe, legal, and rare.” Where have we heard that before? Belgium and Canada both have government-run health care systems, so the government has a financial interest to maximize its investments in the system. Right now, it’s a long jump to allow someone to be euthanized because they have no hope of recovery, and keeping them alive is expensive. With the Belgian brothers, and this change in health guidelines in Canada, that jump became half as long. I’m certainly not accusing the advocates of these laws of wanting to kill people; I’m sure to them, this is just them trying to help people in pain. I can guarantee, though, that in 30 years, very few of these people will still be around, and the next generation will have been reared in a society where it’s perfectly normal to choose when you die. At that point, faced with looming deficits, it’s a very small leap to see mandatory euthanasia based on medical evaluation. The slope isn’t terribly slippery, but it’s a slope nonetheless.

This illustrates the root of the disagreements many of us pro-lifers have with these laws, guidelines, and procedures. The disagreement is one of worldview. We see human life as precious, from the moment of conception through natural death, being conferred that status by God’s declaration and unique grace to us within His creation. Human life alone is described as being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); its offspring described as a “reward” and having many as a “blessing” (Psalm 127:3-5); prohibited from being killed (Exodus 20:13); offered salvation from our fallen state (John 3:16); and promised reuniting with God (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) or judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). God has made it pretty clear how He views the part of His creation that was made “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27).

If we lived in a society that agreed with this worldview - well, I probably wouldn’t be writing this. However, we do not, and the society in which we do live has an answer to each of those points.

This brings us back to the Akin/Mourdock problem. Simply asserting our views (then asserting them more loudly) is not going to be a very effective way of convincing others. We should keep in mind that not only does our society hold those conflicting views, they also claim to value tolerance above all else - except for tolerating us, interestingly; they have been raised to believe that we are hateful people who just want to control people’s lives and force our religion down everyone’s throats. Compounding the issue, some of our forebears actually did go about things this way, particularly over race.

So, is it just futile? Of course not. I believe the answer is three-fold.

  1. We must advocate with words. We must choose those words wisely, but we must use words. These words should be loving, condemning the practice of abortion while offering love, compassion, and forgiveness to those who have had them, realizing that it is but by the grace of God that we have not made (or are not still making) the same decisions. Use words honestly – where science supports an argument, use it; where it doesn’t apply, don’t try to shoe-horn it into applying.
  2. We must back up these words with actions. Crisis pregnancy centers, as mentioned above, have been hugely effective in not only preventing abortions, but for education and support. The film To Save a Life showed another angle of being pro-life, taking an interest in others to prevent suicide; though I didn’t mention it above, suicides are also up this past year. Be involved with food banks, shelters, or other organizations that show we care for life when those lives are going through rough times. Be involved with senior’s activities. Pick a place and plug-in; put feet to your words.
  3. We must be vigilant. We must not give up the fight against legislation or policies simply because we haven’t had time for the first 2 points above to be effective. We must continue to pray; we have the Creator of human life on our side.

Changing the culture seems like an overwhelming task, and it truly is a monumental one. However, the size of the task does not relieve us of our responsibility to be salt and light, and to work towards making it a place where all life is valued, from the moment of conception through natural death.

Mohler on Mourdock

October 28, 2012   7:02 pm

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, produces a daily podcast called “The Briefing,” which he describes as an analysis of current event from a Christian world view. It’s my morning newscast; at 15 minutes, it’ll pretty much get me to work. This past Friday, he hit an absolute game-winning, out-of-the-park, grand-slam home run. (Hey, I’ve got to get my baseball metaphors out of the way, since the season’s over as of about an hour ago.)

The transcript below is mine (names spelled phonetically if I didn’t know them already), of the final 10 minutes. He analyzes Richard Mourdock’s controversial comments, then turns his attention to the issue that both he and Todd Akin have both bumblingly defended. (If you’re in a hurry, skip to the last 4 paragraphs.)

It was a statewide debate that would’ve been unlikely to gain national attention. But all that changed on Tuesday night when, in a debate between United States Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, the Republican, and US Representative Joe Donelly, the Democrat, the issue of abortion arose, and it ended up arising explosively. In this case, Richard Mourdock, asked about his position on abortion, said this: “The only exception I have to have an abortion is that in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, and I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And I think that, even that life that begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

The fury and firestorm that erupted after Mourdock’s comments has now reached a fever pitch. And, what you have across the political spectrum is somewhat feigned, and perhaps somewhat genuine outrage at the candidate’s statements on abortion. All this, of course, is more intensive in terms of our national discussion, because of the aftermath of the controversy over another Senate candidate’s comments - that was Todd Akin, running for the United States Senate seat in Missouri - and in a similar way, Mr. Akin found himself as the topic of focus and controversy over the statements that he intended to be reflective of a consistent pro-life position.

In both cases, the issue was rape, and the connection to abortion. In Mr. Mourdock’s case, the comments are actually far less complicated than the comments that were made by Todd Akin. His statement - let me repeat again - was about his position on the sanctity of human life, and thus, exemptions for abortion. Mr. Mourdock is known as a pro-life candidate who has said he will try to achieve increased limitations on abortion if elected to the Senate. Let me read to you his words again. He said, “The only exception I have to have an abortion is that in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, and I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And I think that, even that life that begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Many in the media, and even some in very high office, have attempted to characterize Mr. Mourdock’s statement as suggesting that rape is a part of God’s will. For instance, you have the President of the United States responding with outrage, suggesting that what Mr. Mourdock said is nothing less than politically atrocious. The Obama campaign, according to Jonathan Weissman of the New York Times, sought to exploit the opening from Mr. Mourdock’s comments, as did virtually every Democratic campaign for the US Senate; pressing, they say, a unified message that the Republican party’s out of step with female voters. President Obama “felt those comments were outrageous and demeaning to women,” so said Jane Saki, the president’s campaign spokeswoman. Ms. Saki also said it was perplexing that Mr. Romney, the Republican candidate, had not demanded that his ad for Mr. Mourdock be taken off of television.

Let’s look at the comment, and let’s consider the controversy. There is something here that is very important for those of us who are pro-life to note, and to note with requisite care. What we’re talking about here is a man who, very sincerely and very self-evidently, sought to define the sanctity of human life to cover every single human being from the moment of conception until natural death. He has found himself in very hot political water, in a very close Senate race that was probably already too close to call, and may now put himself in a significant electoral disadvantage. What went on here, and what should we learn from it?

The first issue to consider here is the matter of communication. I think any fair-minded person would understand that Mr. Mourdock is right when he complains that his comments have been taken out of context, so that it appeared that he was referring to rape as God’s will rather than the gift of life. Hats off to at least some in the media who have noted this; Amy Sullivan writing in the New Republic wrote this: “Despite the assertion of many liberal writers I read and otherwise admire, I don’t think that politicians like Mourdock oppose rape exceptions because they hate women, or want to control women. I think they’re totally oblivious,” she writes, “and insensitive, and can’t for a moment place themselves in the shoes of a woman who becomes pregnant from a rape. I don’t think most care that their policy decisions can impact what control a woman does or doesn’t have over her own body.” She then writes this: “But if Mourdock believes that God creates all life, and that to end a life created by God is murder, then all abortion is murder, regardless of the circumstances under which the pregnancy came about.” She is exactly right; that was Richard Mourdock’s point.

But, he’s paying the price for miscommunicating here, and for bringing up the issue of rape in a context in which he didn’t have to answer the question that way. He brought up the issue of rape without a way of adequately explaining what he was going to say thereafter, and he spoke in a way that was simply too brief to carry the weight or the moral meaning of the argument he was trying to express. He needed to say that he believes that God has given the gift of life to every single human being, and that the circumstances that brought that gift of life about are not what establishes the dignity or sanctity of any human individual’s life. Rather, he was trying to say that there is an objective value - sanctity, dignity - to every human life, and that includes one born out of wedlock, that includes one born out of expectation or hope, and that includes one born, also, out of something so absolutely horrible, sinful, and almost unspeakable as forcible rape.

There are others who similarly got it right, in the midst of those who clearly got it wrong. Kevin Drum, writing at Mother Jones, which is one of the most leftist periodicals in America, also decided to do a bit of truth-telling here. He writes this: “Mourdock is getting beat up pretty bad for this, so I think that’s just fine.” He means that politically. “At the same time, can’t we all acknowledge that this is just conventional Christian theology?” Very interesting. He goes on to write: “What I find occasionally odd is that so many conventional bits of theology like this are so controversial if someone actually mentions them in public.”

Going back to Amy Sullivan, again at the New Republic, she writes this: “Take a look again at Mourdock’s words. ‘I came to realize that life is a gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.’” She then writes, “The key word here is ‘it’; I think it’s pretty clear that Mourdock is referring to a life that is conceived by rape, he’s not arguing that rape is the ‘something’ that God intended to happen.” She then writes this, very important: “This is a very common theological belief, the understanding of God as an active interventionist. It’s also,” she writes, “not limited to conservative Christians. There are liberal Christians,” she writes, “who also argue that things work out the way they’re supposed to. Some of them are in my own family, and I think they are wrong.” So, in other words, Amy Sullivan clearly believes that Richard Mourdock is wrong; but she’s very clear also that her liberal media peers, far to many of them, and those who are politically opportunistic on the other side, are using this statement out of context, and knowingly so.

But there are severe lessons to us. The lesson first is communication. We must not let ourselves fall into the position of appearing to say anything that comes close to what Richard Mourdock is accused, albeit falsely, of having said. But the most important issue here is not politics - it’s not political; and, it’s not about communication either. It’s about the dignity and sanctity of every human life, and the attack upon human life by the culture of death in the form of abortion. Here is something that conservative Christians - those running for office, and those voting for someone running for office; those who are activity in the political sphere, and those who are just trying to understand it - in terms of how abortion should be considered in the frame of public policy.

Right now, the public is very clear that the vast majority would accept legislation or some political action to constrict and restrict the number of abortions in America. Americans, across the board, are increasingly outraged at the scale of abortion, with 1.2 to 1.4 million babies being aborted every year. Only a tiny percentage of them are covered by the most frequently-asserted exceptions, whether it’s rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. The last of the three, an intervention to save the life of the mother, is often misconstrued by virtually everyone, because the main issue there should be cases in which action to save the life of the mother tragically, but unavoidably, causes the death of the unborn child. But in looking at the three exceptions - just taking them at face value, understanding that we cannot be morally satisfied that the circumstances of those conceptions should lead to the allowance of the abortion of those babies - we should, as a matter of public policy, right now, work for legislation that would restrict the number of abortions, and would eliminate the vast majority of abortions. Approximately out of the 1.2 to 1.4 million, we’re talking about all but a handful of about 20 to 50,000 abortions, at the most extreme estimate, in terms of a year.

Now let me be clear: we could not accept those exceptions as a permanent condition. We could understand that on the way to this society embracing the full dignity and humanity of every single human life, this is a way of at least saving the vast majority of unborn babies. That’s why, when a politician right now is running for office, we should not expect them to say that they would not accept any exceptions in terms of public policy. But I do expect them to say that they cannot accept them morally as a permanent condition. In other words, if I were asked this question, I would say that right now, I’d be willing to sign on the dotted line to legislation that would eliminate over 95% of all abortions in America. I would not then remain satisfied. Even as the pro-abortion movement would be trying to convince Americans to liberalize abortion, I will from that point onward be doing my dead-level best to try to convince Americans to move to an even more consistent pro-life position.

There’s a statement that applies in politics perhaps more appropriately than anywhere else. “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” We cannot sell out our principles - most importantly, the principle of the dignity and the sanctity of every single human life - but, we cannot sacrifice millions of unborn children to our principle on our way to trying to get this nation’s conscience in alignment with human dignity.

If you aren’t listening to “The Briefing,” you’re missing out. Check it out on iTunes, or at Dr. Mohler’s site.

My Ideal Candidate

December 15, 2011   5:55 pm

As I type this, we’re fewer than 2 hours out from the final GOP debate before the Iowa caucuses kick off the official primary election season. The current Republican field is the largest it will be, and I am underwhelmed. There’s a recurring theme that “Any of these folks would be better than Obama.” I believe that statement to be true for each candidate in certain areas, but in others, I’m not so sure. A Republican who does not govern according to the conservative principles of their electorate only serves to leave the country worse off, disappoints their supporters, and damages the “brand” of conservatism. “Vote for me - I’m not the other guy” is not a strategy that generates passion and support.

I would think that, approaching 2012, finding a candidate who embodies all of the following principles would not be that hard to find. I want someone who:

One wouldn’t think that this would be so difficult to find. However, were I to go down this list and put a candidate’s name by each bullet point, I’d use each at least once, if not more often. The fact that I could put Obama’s name on all but the last gives me no joy; if the Democrat party had someone running who embodied these characteristics, I wouldn’t think twice about voting for them.

1:05 out now. Here’s your chance, GOP’ers. Convince me.

Unsafe, Illegal, and Rare

September 3, 2011   10:02 am

Only a month late (when I originally wrote the bulk of this - now it’s more like 8 months late), this is the 8th annual “Sanctity of Human Life” post. It’s going to be a long one; please don’t TL;DR it. There’s too much to this topic to do it justice in 5 paragraphs, and putting it out in parts would invite debate and assumptions about the parts I’d left out. This post is free of my typical snark, and also free of (atypical for me) hyperbole; I am completely serious, and have reviewed my words to ensure they are the ones I intended to use. The premise is simply this - abortion is morally wrong (which we now know, given advances in medical science), and as such, should not be legal nor easy to obtain.

Let’s start with the framework within which I view the issue. I believe that man was created by God and placed here on this planet to live for His glory, and that He has given us the earth for our pleasure and enjoyment. I believe that evil exists in this world, that bad things happen, and that actions have consequences. I generally believe (though not always) in erring on the side of caution. I believe that, as God’s creation, all life is sacred. I believe that God has enabled man to discover many beneficial things in the area of medicine and health care, and I believe that He expects us to use this knowledge within the framework and principles laid out in His Word.

(I fully realize that many of you reading this may not agree with that framework. Feel free to debate about what appears below, but the above paragraph contains things that, for me, are past debate. I’ve heard the arguments against it, and I’m simply unconvinced.)

In looking back through my archives, the post entitied “Abortion: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Passed” was my 5th post on this blog. In this post from 2003, I mentioned (without citing) the medical advances that had happened since 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision. This page has a good description of what happens day-by-day. At 21 days (3 weeks), the heart begins beating. With ovulation occurring 14 days after menstruation starts, and another 14 until it’s due to start again, a woman would likely not even realize she’s late before her baby’s heart is beating. 9 days later, at 30 days, this heart is circulating its own blood supply, completely separate from the mother’s, thanks to the placenta. Day 35, we’ve got a 5-fingered hand, and on day 40, we have brain waves. By one and one-half menstrual cycles, we’ve gone from nothing to a beating heart and brain waves.

Let’s look at what happens up to 12 weeks, which is when pretty much anyone who approves of abortion thinks it’s OK. The liver starts making blood cells, and the brain is controlling the limbs in week 6. Week 7 brings the jaw, tooth buds, and eyelids. Week 8, and I quote, “the fetus has everything found in a fully developed adult,” including stomach acid and a complete nervous system. Fingerprints, fingernails, and hair appear in week 9. In week 10, “the fetus can bend, stretch, make fists, open hands, lift its head, squint, swallow and wrinkle its forehead.” Week 11 brings urination, and in week 12, the baby is breathing amniotic fluid, has sleep/awake cycles, and does exercises. All this knowledge has been gained due to ultrasound technology and other study.

Now, God, morality, and everything else aside - read those descriptions again. Does that sound like an unviable tissue mass? Sure, it’s dependent upon its mother for sustenance, but how is that different from a newborn baby? It isn’t - and that’s what we’ve learned. It’s not a blob of cells that represent an inconvenience, it’s a new creation that has been entrusted to the mother. Even without counting abortion, an estimated 25-33% of pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth (according to HopeXchange, an organization that help people cope with these types of losses). With numbers that high, it would seem to me that the tissue masses that are unviable are taking care of things themselves.

Respect for life is one of this country’s core principles; “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are inalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. Laws against murder are nearly universal, even in countries that cannot claim the God-seeking history that ours can. It is simple human nature that reasonable humans understand - it is wrong to take the life of another without cause. (This is not to imply that I am anti-death penalty or anti-military; there are limited times when life-taking can happen in a moral way.) With science again backing up Scripture, we see that the developing fetus is simply a pre-born baby that is being knit together in its mother’s womb.

So now, let’s look at the whole “safe, legal, and rare” thing, a phrase used by many pro-choice supporters to describe their desired state of abortion. It’s a given that “safe” doesn’t apply to the unborn baby - they suffer near 100% fatalities. (Yes, near.) But is abortion as we know it today safe for the mother?

Now, childbirth brings its own complications, to be sure; I don’t mean to imply that birth is completely safe. However, birth does have the advantage of being how our bodies are designed to work. Given the risks, I believe abortion is unsafe for both mother and baby.

We’ve established unsafe; how about legal? We know that Roe v. Wade “legalized” abortion, but there are still laws regarding its practice. Different states have different laws; nearly all states permit abortion through the first trimester, and some allow it through the second trimester. Few permit it in the third trimester, and there is now a Federal law against “partial-birth abortion,” a practice so abhorrent I’m not even going to describe it here. But, do its practitioners follow these laws? Some do; others, like Kermit Gosnell (link gone) do not, and Lila Rose has made a career exposing the unethical and often illegal practices at the nation’s #1 abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.

Hmm - we’re 0 for 2.

How about rare? Well, let’s look at the statistics. In 2008, there were 1.2M, down a little from the previous year; however, births were also down 2%, to 4.2M births. So, we prevented 22% of the pregnancies from resulting in births. I would not consider something that happens between a fifth and a quarter of the time rare, and I don’t think anyone else would define it that way either. What it comes down to is this: if it’s safe and legal (as we’ve been told, and those who question are ridiculed), it won’t be rare.

Now, let’s contrast this with the opening paragraphs. Abortion is not safe; it kills the baby, and causes health problems from the ex-mother. It’s not rare; it occurs in over 1 out of 5 conceptions. As a person with the beliefs I laid out above, this is an absolute no-brainer. God created our bodies to reproduce; it’s a natural consequence of the act that leads to conception. The easiest way to avoid conception is to avoid intercourse (also advocated in Scripture for those who are not married), and the fruits of that intercourse are, time and time again, referred to as gifts from God.

As an American, I see 20% of two generations now cut down before they breathed their first breath. I see counselors having a very easy time convincing people not to have abortions, simply by using ultrasound to show these ladies the life that is living inside them. I hear of post-abortion counseling groups with waiting lists. Have we aborted the person who was to find the cure for cancer? The scientist who was to determine how to produce food in desolate regions? The person who was to invent the flying car? Who can say what the long-term consequences have been for our folly of convenience.

It’s not safe. If it’s made illegal, only then can we hope to make it rare.