Jul 23, 2015


It was the eyeball test for me. Not the Bible or fundamentalist religion. Not my upbringing. Not Christian Ethics. Human ethics. An eyeball. Seeing. Using my own mind devoid of what detractors might call brainwashing or undue religious persuasion.

This is not a faith-based thing.

Baby, fetus at 12 weeks - BabyCenter
I look at this thing developing and I see a child. I do not care when the soul does or does not enter into this thing. I do not care about the deprived condition of the mother (I do care for her, but with respect to killing another being I do not take into account the low condition of the killing; if this is a child, then this is murder; I would no more allow a destitute man to mercy kill his dog for lack of money to feed him when there are shelters nearby). I care only that this is a thing worthy of protection. Indeed so in need of protection that nature (if you do not believe in God) necessitated that this thing remain in the womb for months and then for years after be totally dependent on others for survival. We have perhaps one of the longest periods of total inability of all beings on earth (to my unscientific mind). I don't care if you call it a person or not. Look at the thing. Look at the eyeballs forming, at the ears, at the nose, at the arms and legs. This is not a tumor or a cyst. I had a cyst; it did not look like a baby. My wife had a growth under her tongue; this was also not a baby. This thing I am looking at - this is a nascent baby. My eyes function.

As a human being - even in a context devoid of religious persuasion (as if such a thing is possible) - I am bent in my will toward the protection and care of others, especially those who cannot help themselves. I firmly believe that those who do not retain some shred of empathy toward their fellow man are rightfully culturally and socially isolated. At best they are outcasts and loners; at worst they are sociopaths. I would place those who see this baby-like thing and think "hmm, tumor, abscess, whatever..." in the latter category. This is a gut reaction, emotional, derived from the essence of my being as a person, independent of whatever verses you might throw for or against abortion.

Abortion is abhorrent.

A challenge might be "the eye test is insufficient." To which I would respond, "aye." The ethical questions run much deeper than just "this looks like a baby." My second level is the consideration of what this fetus becomes. Even if you disregard the eye test, the simple fact is that this thing becomes a child. This is a pre-child, and in truth becomes viable earlier than many people imagine (the youngest preemie was 21 weeks in, safely in the second trimester. Even if you call this a "pre-baby" in the first trimester, you are still looking at an extremely heightened level of consideration. My third level is a "what if" regarding an artificial uterus. What if a womb was created that could host children from inception to birth? I suspect the vast majority of people would say that would be an obligatory alternative to killing the child in the womb. If, given reasonable alternatives, the 'thing' (which I call a baby and pro-choicers call, what, a fetus? Tissue?) would be preserved, why are we killing it now?


So What?

1 - If abortion is so abhorrent to me, in a culture that accepts it I must respond with the absolute necessity of free or inexpensive birth control, sex education, and, in particular, condoms. Condoms everywhere! Listen: people are going to have sex. How can I expect otherwise of a people who my very faith says are lost and fallen? Why not help them help themselves and prevent something I abhor in the process? This would go along with proper sex education.

    Challenge: Free birth control runs contrary to God's plan for sex.
       Response: Well I'm not Catholic, so I don't really go down that road. I think sex is for pleasure as well, just designed for the context of marriage.

   Challenge: If sex is for marriage, why encourage it among those who are not married with free birth control?
       Response: In a world where sex is the chief good and sexual encounters the height of human experience, what encouragement am I providing? From my experience as a Pastor, people - especially teens - do not need encouragement to figure out that they desire sex.

2 - If abortion is so abhorrent to me, I cannot agree with the pro-choice argument that this is a mother's decision - her and her doctor - to be done as an act of the will whenever she pleases. I can no more abide this than I can abide the idea that a a disabled child should be allowed to be killed / euthanized as a decision between doctor/parents after the child is born. Difficulty does not determine worth or value. I thus firmly believe in limiting abortions as much as humanly possible.

   Challenge: What about when the mother is in danger?
      Response: I would not disagree. Abortion in case of life-threatening contexts is viable. But these cases should be medically accepted and well-known, not on-demand.

   Challenge: Children die in the womb all the time, especially during the first trimester. Abortion is nothing more than the replication of something that happens all the time.
      Response: People die every day. Do I hasten their demise with my car or a gun?

   Challenge: What about these poor mothers?
      Response: Here I say: let the mother come to us, the Church, and let us envelop her with open arms to ensure she need not make this decision. Let the government be of such kind that mothers need not fear losing jobs or well-being because of pregnancy. Let us lower the barrier for parenthood and provide reasonable supports and education for parents-to-be. So, too, with fathers: why not have paternal and maternal leave? Because we are too broke fighting wars? This is to our shame.

   Challenge: Why not just agree that it should be Safe, Legal, and Rare?
      Response: If removing a child is not painful, not harmful, and not bad at all (as pro-choice advocates say), then why care if it is Rare? Why have rarity on the table at all? Why throw this dog a bone? This is patronizing talk toward those of us who genuinely believe this act is murderous when not absolutely necessary. Rarity implies that you KNOW it is wrong, somewhere deep inside, and thus want to limit it as we do. Perhaps you see a baby in that picture, too?

   Challenge: You are calling women who make difficult choices murderers.
      Response: Here I can only answer from a position of faith, for from a position of a secular observer my answers falter. I have no idea what one does with guilt absent the good news. Where does it go? Does it merely transform into anger or depression? Does it just get swallowed? I believe that all mothers are murderers - that I, too, am a murderer - because Jesus told me so. 
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire."
I am no better than the woman who makes a choice that she perceives as difficult or frightening. I am not even better than the woman who simply wants to 'live her life' and has abortions on-demand with regularity, her selfishness expressing itself it ways even pro-choice people might find reprehensible. I am not better that these people on the Planned Parenthood videos offering parts for medical research -  allowing their own nebulous moral standards to be nibbled away by a melange of indifference and tired greed - or the people who pay for such parts. I am a vile person in my own right. I have my stains and my guilt, and I dare not judge others. I saw merely this: Christ died for me, so I am free from my guilt and can sacrifice myself for others, even the unborn. This would be my prayer for mothers who despise the baby inside them: that they would know the love of God sufficient to overcome the challenges ahead and love someone totally unable of helping his- or her-self.

Jun 9, 2015

Franklin Graham Makes No Sense // On Fear

The overriding imperative of the Christian is the Gospel: living and sharing the news of Jesus our savior. The Gospel is not a bar to pass "in order to become a Christian." The Gospel is the defining nucleus of the Christian life. All ethics flows from the Gospel. I am grateful for the title of Pastor Timothy Keller's publishing work: Gospel in Life. Grace does indeed change everything.

Franklin Graham's recent statements make no sense when held up to the Gospel. 

In response to some ads from secular companies featuring homosexuals, he says:

Let’s just stop doing business with those who promote sin and stand against Almighty God’s laws and His standards. Maybe if enough of us do this, it will get their attention.

 And so he won't buy from Tiffany and he won't bank at Wells Fargo, or something.

To quote the younger generation: I can't even.

A Few Thoughts on This Nonsense

1. From an utterly pragmatic stance, his efforts will have no effect whatsoever. Do you remember when the Southern Baptist Convention voted to boycott Disney? Remember the disastrous effects of that boycott on Disney's bottom line? Yeah, I don't either. For eight long years good Southern Baptists did what they do most every week:  ignore the sanctimonious and Pharisaical pleadings of their Pastors whilst doing just about whatever they please. They watched Disney shows and went to shake Mickey's hand down in Florida and out there in godless California. Franklin Graham has effected nothing by this pronouncement. Good thing he didn't call for a boycott or he would have to tuck his tail and run like the SBC eventually did.

2. From the perspective of the Gospel, Franklin Graham has only pushed people further away from Jesus. I will argue this point strenuously until my last breath: no one is made righteous through the approximation of biblical law in American law. We cannot make someone better. We can safely execute justice and protect lives. We can seek to justly run a society by imprisoning those who commit crimes. But we cannot - cannot! - make people good! We cannot make people believe in Jesus! These are not things that we can do with our threats, with our batons or our guns. Goodness and righteousness flow from the Holy Spirit alone, right? Am I alone in beating this drum?

3. It is absolutely impossible to stop doing business with "those who promote sin and stand against God's laws." Do I need to even argue this? Are you going to root out every company that does wrong? Where do we begin? Stop eating bananas, drinking coke, driving Fords (or cars in general, really), using oil, wearing clothes... I mean, EVERYONE ON EARTH PROMOTES SIN AND YOU OUGHT TO BELIEVE THAT MR. GRAHAM. There is none righteous! Not one! 

4. It is raw stupidity in the light of the Great Commission to suggest that we stop doing business with "those who promote sin and stand against God's laws." How on earth are you supposed to reach actual human people with the news of Jesus without interacting with / doing business with / working alongside / actually engaging with people who need to be saved? 


On Fear

The root of comments like Graham's or Mr. Huckabee's about transgendered folks is fear. Fear has invaded the evangelical church to a degree that I could not have imagined a decade or two ago. Fear saturates the foyer conversations of churches large and small across America. Fear fills pulpits right now. Fear loves social media and fills our Facebook feeds. 

What is this fear? It is a base thing, hard to grasp, ill-defined.

Fear spills out from young parents who don't know how to talk with their kids about sexuality for fear that they will end up doing or being something the parents hate. 

Fear spills out from the older folks who remind me time and again that Jesus must be coming soon because the world is surely worse than it has ever been (patently untrue), that governments are crumbling all over (another falsehood), that a Muslim is in the White House (nope), that morality has reached an all-time low (again, no), an so on.

I weep - actual tears falling from my eyes - when I see this fear saturating the Church. Are we not the triumphant people of God? Do we not remember that Jesus told us to take heart because he has overcome the world? Do we not draw comfort from his Gospel and defeat of death itself? Are we not the Mockers of Death, the Conquerors of Fear itself? 

Nothing - NOTHING - shakes the Gospel or the Kingdom. It will not be moved. Why this fear? Why react so strongly to gay folks on the television or transgendered people in Vanity Fair? Why not recognize that we Christians are and always have been a people who are no of any given country, class, race, or land. We are a people who transcend time itself. America may well fall apart because of bad leadership or too many wars or moral decay. In fact, I promise America will do this one day! When she does, we Christians will not cease our worship, will we? Is America the Kingdom of Heaven? Is God the God of America alone?

I am convinced that responses like Franklin Graham's are the dying gasps of a movement of God's people - an evil movement - that placed its trust in political leadership and political power instead of the Kingdom of Heaven and her King, Jesus. These people are afraid because their movement failed. The Moral Majority accomplished little of substance and nothing of lasting value. As these kinds of movements  fade and their losses become more obvious I hope that we the Church can go back to the business of being the Church and again focus on Christ and him crucified and resurrected.

We are not cultural arbiters. We are not kingmakers. We are mere Christ-lovers. Let's stick with that. It is enough.