Sunday, January 20, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
(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:
Four states have only one abortion provider in the entire state
24 states have passed 90 laws restricting abortion since 2010
Some states require parental notification for minors seeking abortion
Some states impose waiting periods and/or counseling before an abortion can be obtained
30 states do not fund abortions via Medicare
The number of those who self-identify as “pro choice” is down to 41%
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 thoseguys 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.
Creation? No, we just evolved - somehow - big bang, amoeba, something - and there definitely was not intelligent design!
Lots of children are a good thing? No, that would interfere with our careers; let's delay that, scrape their beginnings off our womb if they're not convenient; there will be time for that later, right?
Murder? Don't try to force your religion on u… wait, if there aren't any laws against murder, then I could be murdered… OK, you can have that one.
Salvation? I'm a good person (hey, I don't murder!), why would I need to be saved?
Judgment? But wait, doesn't your own Bible say “Judge not, that you be not judged?”
We're made in God's image? Well, now you're on to something - if God is in each one of us, doesn't that make us all God? Then, what I want to do must be God's will, because it's my will!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
Today is the first day for the 40/40 Prayer Vigil for Personal Revival and National Renewal. That's a pretty long title, so I'll just call it 40/40 from here on out. I just got through praying over the first day, and I'm really excited about how this is going to change me. (No, I don't have any inside knowledge - I just know that God's plan is better than mine every time. I've also been through the entire guide, so I know what's coming up!)
40/40 is praying for either 40 days or 40 hours prior to our national election. While it is timed to coincide with the election, and voting is the focus of a few of the days, the main focus of this prayer vigil is personal revival. Though originated by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the vigil is non-denominational; if you're a Christian, you likely won't find any of these suggested prayers running counter to your beliefs. Finally, this is a non-partisan thing; no matter what letter would be in parentheses after your name, if you're a Christian, this is for you.
So, how can you join in? Well, a PDF copy of the guide (in both English and Spanish) can be downloaded from the ERLC's official 40/40 prayer site. You can visit this page each day; the prayer guides will be in the sidebar. If you want a daily site in Spanish, visit PrayerTracker and change the language to Spanish. Finally, if you have a WordPress blog, and you want to have the prayer guides in your sidebar, you can search for the “40/40 Prayer Vigil” plug-in and install it however you normally install plug-ins.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Daniel J. Summers
As most of you know, this past two weeks have been quite an experience. We were supposed to leave for a trip home, visiting Dollywood, seeing family and friends, and in short, having an actual vacation. That's not how it went down…
Wednesday evening, having gotten our vehicle completely loaded, we sat down to eat. Michelle had cream of chicken soup, and when she was through, she said that she felt a little off. About a half hour later, she was having abdominal pain so severe that it was making her black out if she tried to get up out of bed. She called a specialist who was familiar with her history, and he said that it sounded like she needed to go to the ER with a suspected a gall bladder problem. She also had a hernia that she's had since our third son Jameson was born; she had been consulting with this specialist to have it fixed January/February of next year. At the ER, they ruled out a blockage in this hernia and gall bladder problems, and it looked like we may have been sent home. Michelle asked the ER doctor to talk with her specialist, and once he did, she was admitted. The next morning, this specialist evaluated her, and said that the hernia had become incarcerated; it wasn't blocked, but blood flow had been cut off to it, and the intestines were starting to die. This hernia repair became a 4-hour, 15-minute emergency surgery, followed by a day in ICU, two days in a step-down unit, and four days in the standard post-surgical inpatient unit.
Although this situation was scary at times, there is a whole lot more about which we can be thankful. For the balance of this post, I'd like to take some time to, as the old hymn says, “count my blessings.”
First, look at all the good things dealing with the timing of this. Praise the Lord we were here in Albuquerque, and not somewhere on I-40. It is highly unlikely that the diagnosis would have been made, and surgery performed, were we not where Michelle's history was already known. Even if they had, the week-long hospital stay in some unknown town would have been difficult; as it was, we were able to use our home, and rely on our network of friends here for support (more about them next). Michelle's specialist, who made the correct diagnosis, is only in Albuquerque once a month, but he was here that night; we found out later that he actually stayed over an extra day to do this surgery. Also, a surgeon whom he trained as a resident (and called his “star pupil”) is the director of surgery at Lovelace hospital here in town; he and she both were able to work together on the surgery. And, while we knew this surgery was coming, the fact that it had to be done as emergency surgery means that it's automatically covered; no paperwork hassles and waiting for referrals! I had already lined up time off from work, so I wasn't expected to be there.
Second, I'm exceedingly grateful to my friends here in Albuquerque. I won't name them all publicly because I haven't asked their permission, but there were many families that came together to help take care of our children (even offering for them to spend the night, which never did materialize). There were also many other families that made meals for us, bringing us so much food that we were able to get at least 2 meals out of each one. Phone calls, visits, and e-mails of support also helped Michelle and me during this time. Finally, prayer - I know that the one thing that has made the difference in this situation was the intercessory prayer on Michelle's behalf, and prayers for me as I was working through everything else. During the entire time, I was never worried; I had a peace that the doctors were going to figure it out, and we were going to be OK. While I try not to let on too much, that mindset is pretty rare for me when facing medical situations - my mind wants to go off and worry about these worst-case scenarios, rather than trust God in the scenario in which He's placed me. As I put prayer requests out via Twitter (more on that below), we often saw near-immediate change in situations. Both Michelle and I are very grateful for those of you who lifted us up in prayer.
Third, special thanks go to our families. From the time they heard about what was going on, the planning was continuous. Everyone worked together, and the children were able to still get to go visit them. Thanks to our families, they were even able to spend a few days at our vacation condo in Pigeon Forge and meet up with friends with whom we were going to be vacationing. Having the children safely with grandparents, I was free to focus on Michelle, and helping her during her stay in the hospital. It's also helped her to be able to focus on her recovery now that she's at home. The children will be coming home soon (in time for Christmas), and we're really looking forward to seeing them.
Fourth, Twitter was great. Sure, it may seem strange to offer thanks for a social networking site, but Twitter really helped me during this time. Facebook would have seemed to be the solution for keeping people informed, but Michelle has friends, and I have friends, and some of those cross, but some don't. Since you have to be friends to see updates, I would have had to have double-posted. (I don't even know if the Facebook client on our phones lets you easily manage dual accounts; and while I've boasted about Seesmic Web's ability to dual-post to Twitter and Facebook at the same time, Seesmic for BlackBerry doesn't support Facebook.) Twitter, being public by default, was what I needed. I didn't need to give the same update by phone 14 times, and I didn't need to fiddle with changing settings. “Pull up the box, type my 140 characters or less, and press send” was much easier for providing up-to-date information to people who wanted to know it. There was a little resistance from some folks, but once I reassured them that my profile page was a simple web page with no account needed, they got it. I'm now grateful for the micro-blogging platform I scorned for so long.
Finally, I want to praise the Lord for this outcome. Although it wasn't our timing, God knew when this hernia needed to be repaired. It's been hanging around (pardon the pun) for nearly six years - the fact that it's in the past, even now, I don't think has truly sunk in yet. The doctors who needed to be here were here. We avoided the disaster of being sent home from the ER with the problem unresolved. While, obviously, Michelle isn't completely healed from surgery this extensive in two weeks, her healing progress has been in line with what the doctors have expected; this isn't an exercise in “speed-healing.” Looking back, we can see how everything worked together to ensure this bad situation had a good outcome. Thank you, Lord.
Scott Kalitta was a Top Fuel and NHRA champion. Today, during a qualifying run, his car exploded and lost control, then exploded further when it struck the end of the drag strip. I was associated with that family (and their other business) a few years ago, and while I never met any of them, I heard from their employees and acquaintances that they were good people and good employers. ESPN has a limited report now; I'm sure they'll have more information as soon as they can pull it together.
The above is paraphrased from 2 Corinthians 12:9. It's also the title of a song written in 1988 by Steven Curtis Chapman, a young up-and-coming Christian music artist. Over the past twenty years, many Christians have been comforted and encouraged by this song. Now, it's his turn to be comforted. Yesterday, Steven Curtis Chapman's 5-year-old daughter was struck and killed by one of her teenage brothers, who was driving an SUV and didn't see her. From the response posted on his site and his radio interview following it, it sounds like he is handling this very well. However, it's got to be difficult to go through something like this. Let's pray that the Lord will comfort he and his family.
His strength is perfect when our strength is gone;
He'll carry us when we can't carry on.
Raised in His power, the weak become strong;
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect.