Which would be harder to hear: "Mom, Dad . . . I'm pregnant" or "Mom, Dad . . . years ago I had an abortion because I was afraid to tell you I was pregnant"?

It's not a hypothetical exercise. Given the numbers of teen pregnancies and abortions in this country, for many families it's all too real . . . like the family to which the Garden of Hope recently introduced us.

A young woman called their hotline last week, seeking information about abortion. She thought she'd "quickly and secretly" terminate her pregnancy while on a visit to Grand Rapids. As a college student, having a child would complicate her life, but her greatest challenge would be telling her parents.

We talked for a long time and this dear, sweet girl had no clue about the devastation brought on by the decision to end the life of her child. I assured her that her parents would know something had happened because the sparky, happy young girl that left their house to come to GR would never be back and they would want to know what was happening to their daughter.

As she hung up the phone, she promised to talk to her parents, and the next day she called back to report. Her mom "felt badly" she'd been afraid to talk to them. They support her plan to continue the pregnancy and assure her they'll work out everything together.

Not all parents are this understanding -- some overtly pressure reluctant daughters to abort their babies -- but most are mature adults who know how to handle disappointments and setbacks. Parents love their children, have sacrificed much on their behalf already, and genuinely want what's best for them. Young people need encouragement to enlist parental input and not act on mistaken assumptions their parents will "kill" them when they receive bad news.

Still, as Russell Moore cautions in his response to TIME magazine's cover story on how the pro-life side seems to be winning, "It’s easy to identify as 'pro-life' when one sees nothing really at stake." He goes on:

A feminist leader once said that most Americans are pro-life with three exceptions: rape, incest, and “my situation.” When the teenage daughter is pregnant, the theory is abandoned and bloodthirsty pragmatism rules. I fear this feminist is all too right.

Pharaoh was pro-immigrant until the Israelites threatened what he wanted. The first Herod Administration was pro-Messiah until the actual Messiah threatened his throne. The second Herod Administration was fine with desert prophets until one meddled with his “adult entertainment.” Lots of people are pro-life and pro-child until the lives of children become personally inconvenient.

. . . [W]e must have a realistic view about how ingrained the abortion-rights worldview is in our culture.

Yes, in our culture, and in our hearts. As with other temptations, it's well before we face this one that we need to determine what our response will be. If we expect our teens to do the right thing when their backs are to the wall, we also must be firm in our minds how we'll react when they make a mistake.

Most Christian parents are zealous about getting the message of sexual purity across to their teens. The trick is striking a balance between that and the equally biblical message of the sanctity of human life. So that his daughter wouldn't err into thinking abortion was better than coming home pregnant, our president Tom Lothamer repeatedly told her, "If you make a big mistake, like getting pregnant outside marriage, don't run to the world for help. Come home! It's safer. Whatever it is, we'll handle it together."

Truly, grace is greater than all our sin. The challenge is to be "cross-bearing for the child-bearing," as John Ensor writes. "To be a lifesaver, you must do what lifesavers do every day" in pregnancy care centers. In closing, I summarize his points:

  1. You must listen and love
  2. Lower her fear and increase her hope
  3. Amplify the voice of her own moral conscience
  4. Inform and educate her
  5. Offer your personal help

Related: 

In our sadness over the murder of innocent children in Newtown, CT, at Christmastime it's not hard to draw parallels with Herod's slaughter of children in Bethlehem near the time of Christ's birth. As then, the tears flow, and the cries go up. We ask, "Why? Why do the innocent suffer? Where is God?"

Asaph asked this question in Psalm 73, but phrased it somewhat differently: "Why don't the wicked suffer?" When the innocent suffer and the wicked don't, the result is the same -- people are tempted to doubt God.

They say: “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth.
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence;
For I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning.

The wicked life of ease is as much a problem as the evil that befalls the undeserving. When God doesn't prevent evil or immediately punish it, some people conclude He doesn't exist, He knows nothing, or is weak. It's far from an academic exercise or idle speculation. If a satisfactory answer isn't found, some turn away from faith in God, or are hardened in unbelief (Hebrews 3:12-15).

Asaph recognized the danger. He was careful not to vent his tortured thoughts while they were still foremost in his mind, lest he betray God's people -- the generation among whom he walked. He wasn't like some teachers who raise provocative questions without making an effort to answer them. As the writer of Hebrews says, we have a responsibility to the congregation: "Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

So what's Asaph's answer? Does God know what's in the heart of the wicked person before he acts? Does He see the future? Is He aware of who the victims will be and the void they'll leave behind? Should we continue believing in God and maintaining pure hearts when pain is the result?

The answer is yes, God does know and see all. Righteous living is worth it. In suffering, we experience the consequences of the Fall and recognize our need of a Deliverer. In His sovereignty, we're allowed by it to glimpse the brevity of this life and prepare for the next.

Asaph felt as wretched as anyone could "until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end." He came to terms with reality in the Temple where He was reminded of 1) God's holiness, 2) His desire to fellowship with men, 3) the problem of sin in the hearts of all men which separates us from God, and 4) the provision of sacrifices to atone for it. He saw that the wicked are on a slippery path, even though it appears they have it made. Their end is in sight; their destiny is destruction. (See also Matthew 7:13-14.)

As for the pure in heart, they seem to live precariously, but the truth is they'll be with God "afterward" (Ps. 73:24) -- even as are always with Him now (v. 23). He is holding their hands, guiding them. God is all their desire, their strength, and portion (vv. 25-26).

This is even true in times of doubt. In verses 21-23, Asaph admitted:

When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within,
Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.
Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand.

Evil exists. To avoid it, we'd have to go "out of this world," as Jesus noted. But good exists too -- with God. As Asaph says, "the nearness of God is my good," not all the stuff over which I'm envying the wicked. Sometimes we need a reminder that the only real good in life is the presence of God. Suffering is, therefore, useful in getting us to loosen our grip on other things that have taken His place.

One day Jesus was asked about some people who were killed by Pilate. Were they being punished for something they'd done, or was this just another outrage against goodness? Jesus chose to focus on something else. He warned, "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." This could be the sobering lesson of Sandy Hook Elementary School, too.

God didn't let a bitter, brutish Asaph go, and He's not going to cast away the honest questioner of 2012 either. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Let us humbly bow before Him.

I pray the grieving families will experience the nearness of God in all its goodness and take refuge in Him (Ps. 73:28) during this impossibly difficult moment. His Father heart grieves with them. The Son He sent to once-for-all atone for sin is the One who assures they can someday be joyously reunited with their children.

Related: 

Time was when pet euthanasia was used as a rational for people euthanasia. The logic went something like this: If we can put a dog or cat out of its misery, why can't we do the same for humans?

[For examples of this sentiment, see the following articles: Pro-euthanasia ads air on Australian TV, Is euthanasia for the living or the dying? and Dutch Euthanasia.]

While the pro-life side appreciated the ever-so-slight acknowledgment that human beings deserve better treatment than dogs and cats (that was the intent, right?), we reject the rationale. Human beings stand above the animal world as imagers of God. (Genesis 1:26-27, 9:2-4; Psalm 8:6-8)

The death of animals is morally neutral, while that of humans requires scrutiny. In Genesis 9:5-6, God made animals accountable for the death of humans, not the other way around.

"Better" treatment of human beings, in our view, involves easing suffering -- through  palliative care and hospice ministries that affirm every patient's worth as valuable to God -- not ending it by killing the sufferer. Our LIFT program trains Christians to do that for fellow-church members and others.

So now it's amusing to read about a new twist on the old argument. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, dying pets are receiving palliative care rather than euthanasia. In 'It's Just a Dog. Get Over It.', Jessica Pierce writes about how the line is being blurred between pets and other family members. Owners are shelling out big bucks to provide pets with care from one of the approximately 75 veterinary hospice services available around the country.

"Once euthanasia was the default response to an animal's mortal illness. Not any more. . . . Working together, pet owners and veterinarians can often maintain a good quality of life for an animal long after we might, in past times, have simply euthanized it."

Will this mean the end of the euthanasia-for-people argument? Will euthanasia advocates now say, "If we can give pets life-affirming care like hospice, why can't we do the same for humans?" One would hope so, yet it would be sadly ironic that it would take uber-love for pets to get us to view people from the proper perspective.

It's too late for those who have been legally euthanized in places such as Belgium and the Netherlands. And in Oregon and Washington state. (Click the above links for the latest statistics.) Here's some commentary from those who have digested the figures:

  • There have been 5,500 cases of euthanasia in 10 years of legal euthanasia in Belgium. The European Institute for Bioethics raises serious questions about the practice, including how intertwined it is with organ retrieval for transplants. Wesley Smith says Belgium has gone "off the moral cliff."
  • The Netherlands prize their euthanasia efficiency, but Dr. Bernard Lo questions the extent of government oversight in a recent Lancet article, (volume 380, issue 9845, pages 869-870, 8 September 2012, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61128-3). Alex Schadenberg says euthanasia there is "out of control."
  • The Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation bemoans the steady increase in numbers of physician-assisted suicides in Oregon and the lack of transparency in the process. (This seems to be a common theme.)
  • Washington is the latest arrival to the euthanasia scene, but it appears to be surpassing Oregon in numbers, according to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church. 

Postscript: Get ready for the next assault on the sanctity of human life -- plant rights! See Pea Personhood? and, for the inevitable twist, Why Did We Ever Start Calling Patients “Vegetables?”

This just in (3/8/13): Someone in the UK says disabled children are too costly, and should be 'put down.' Horrible! See also We Already 'Put Down' the Disabled!

Blogger Jonathan Dudley started something when he wrote "When Evangelicals Were Pro-Choice" (for CNN) and "How Evangelicals Decided that Life Begins at Conception" (for the Huffington Post).

His contention is that "what conservative Christians now say is the Bible’s clear teaching on [abortion] was not a widespread interpretation until the late 20th century." For proof, he cites individuals and groups who agreed with the legalization of abortion in some, if not all, circumstances in the late 60s and early 70s.

Dudley explains the migration to the current pro-life view as evangelicals falling under the influence of powerful leaders of the "Religious Right," such as Jerry Falwell. Christians should, in his view, "consider the possibility that they aren’t submitting to the dictates of a timeless biblical truth, but instead, to the goals of a well-organized political initiative only a little more than 30 years old."

Why does it matter that what evangelical leaders say is "the biblical view on abortion" was not a widespread interpretation until about 30 years ago? For one thing, it's harder to argue the Bible clearly teaches something when the overwhelming majority of its past interpreters didn't read the Bible that way. For another, it illustrates that evangelical leaders are happy to defend creative reinterpretations of the Bible when it fits with a socially conservative worldview -- even while objecting to new interpretations of the Bible on, say, homosexuality, precisely because they are new. And for another, by looking at the history of how today's "biblical view on abortion" arose, one can begin to see the worldview that made it possible. In the process, it becomes apparent it is that unacknowledged worldview, and not the Bible, that evangelical opponents of abortion are actually defending.

Several Christian writers generated helpful responses: Mark Galli of Christianity Today (here and here), John Stonestreet of Breakpoint, and Albert Mohler. I'd like to add a few points to the discussion:

  • InterVarsity may have published (and then rescinded under pressure) a 1984 book that said abortion was legitimate in some instances, but it had already published Michael Gorman's Abortion and the Early Church in 1982. This book built the case that from its earliest days, the church opposed abortion.
  • Regular Baptists, from which Life Matters Worldwide sprang, were solidly pro-life from the beginning. In 1971, two years before the Roe v. Wade decision, the GARBC (which would call themselves "fundamentalists" rather than "evangelicals)" acknowledged that "the sanctity of human life is well documented in Scriptures" and resolved to "go on record as being thoroughly opposed to abortion on demand."
  • Diverse methods for interpreting Scripture -- in the past or today -- better explain why there's diversity in Christendom on abortion. Your stance on this issue has more to do with where you land on the errancy/inerrancy spectrum than anything else. Those who approach the Bible with a non-literal hermeneutic are the ones who come up with novel interpretations (concerning homosexuality, for instance), while we who take God's word literally have always maintained it's a sin. 
  • The same is true of abortion. Taking God's word at face value and employing grammatical-historical methods of interpretation, we are satisfied with statements about the personality of unborn humans as found in Genesis 16:11-12 and 25:22-24, Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, Hosea 12:2-3, Luke 1:15 & 41, and Galatians 1:15-16. 
  • What hindered many Christians from early involvement in the pro-life movement was not lack of biblical support, but hesitancy to join the political fray. What increased the comfort-level with the pro-life movement for many evangelicals (and brought them into the political arena by the backdoor) were hands-on ministries such as pregnancy care centers that sprang up in the 1980s. PCCs gave them opportunities to prevent abortions by offering alternatives. They could serve families in their communities, reach out to women who'd already had abortions, and share the Gospel.  

Over time, our understanding has grown about just how pervasive the sanctity of human life ethic is in Scripture, and what we are called to do about it. More than a few proof-texts, it's a theme from Genesis to Revelation.

Every age has been confronted by challenges that require Christians to go to work "rightly dividing the word of truth." If, as Peter says, "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness," then we are equipped to handle questions that didn't necessarily arise in the 1st century -- or the 3rd, or the 13th.

No, the word "abortion" never appears in the Bible, but if you study topics such as violence or the murder of innocent people, you'll find those are the domain of wicked people. Furthermore, the treatment of widows and orphans as well as all poor people is also tied to the sanctity of human life. Thus, if you make a move to strike someone, or abandon a hungry person to her own devices, you're placing them at risk of death -- their blood would be on your hands.

Abortion is nothing if it is not violent; it is the ultimate injustice. The pregnant mother and her unborn child must not be abandoned. We are learning what to do when it comes to this issue.

Postscript 12/6/12: Here's a pertinent article by Phil Cooke that appeared on a Huffington Post blog -- How Christianity Lost Its Voice in Today's Media Driven World

While some people are critical of social networking (and the Internet in general) as being a time-waster and a dangerous source of filth and misinformation, I'm a fan. Unlike mainstream media, it's a form of communication that we can turn to our advantage.

I wouldn't be blogging if I didn't think so, but I do acknowledge the truth of what the critics say. As with any good thing, moderation and discipline are advised. I want to add another misuse to the list: Social media such as Facebook and Twitter give occasion for people to spout off in ways they probably would not in polite company.

I can't count the number of times I've cringed at the response of someone who claims to be a Christian because what he or she has said was disrespectful or hateful. Mom was right: We should think before we post.

And we should apply Paul's words to Timothy about communication with or about opponents:

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 24-26)

I apply these words this way:

  • The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. I don't think this means we shouldn't respond, but we mustn't be argumentative. Any reply should be for the reader's benefit and not for me to "score points."
  • The Lord's bond-servant must be kind to all . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. I take this to mean there ought not be any name-calling, verbal abuse, or harshness.
  • The Lord's bond-servant must be able to teach . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. Teaching is something other than the clever jab or sound byte. It requires time and patience. More on this below.
  • The Lord's bond-servant must be patient when wronged . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. Oh, it's so tempting to retaliate when the other side calls us a name or is harsh and abusive about an idea or person we admire -- abundant evidence of that online -- but their behavior doesn't excuse our responding in kind. "Love keeps no record of wrongs." We also don't have to rebut every charge made against our side.
  • The Lord's bond-servant must with gentleness correct those who are in opposition . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. If repentance is the goal-- and it always is -- then gentleness is the key for dealing with opponents.

It's tempting to say nothing when we can't think of something nice to say, but the unborn can't afford our silence. I'd like to take this opportunity to challenge all of us to become an army of patient persuaders as described by Paul. If we can't learn to articulate our beliefs in ways that appeal to others, then can we at least point them to resources that can be counted on to not bash them over the head? Here are a couple good ones:

Stand to Reason - basic Christian apologetics 
Life Training Institute - pro-life apologetics (see The Case for Life companion site)

One last thought: Our opponents are not exempt from kind treatment because they advocate the killing of innocent unborn human babies. At the time of writing 2 Timothy, Paul was in prison awaiting execution by Nero. He didn't allow fear or hatred to deter him from attempting to persuade guards and soldiers -- who had participated in the deaths of other Christians -- to accept Christ as Savior. He took great delight in the Gospel going forth, even though others might do so out of spite (Phil. 1:12-17). And, while he acknowledged the harm some Christians had done to him, he prayed God wouldn't hold it against them (2 Tim. 4:16). That's something to remember the next time we're attacked.

Related: 
Should pro-lifers verbally "bash" anyone? (on Facebook)
Monday musing for October 5: Love the enemy
Monday musing for September 17: Christians in an age of aggression

Postscript: The reason we often lack graceful speech is we fail to rely on the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, in Luke 12:11-12, "When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Thus it might be advantageous to learn to cite Scripture and not certain radio talk show hosts who may or may not always speak from a biblical point of view.

We're all familiar with -- and intimidated by -- the model woman depicted at the end of Proverbs 31, but have you ever heard a sermon or read an article about the man in the first 9 verses?

The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.
Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!
Do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings.

It is not for kings, Lemuel—it is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.

Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!
Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, 
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Scholars note this king is unknown in the annals of biblical history and agree Lemuel may be a euphemism for Solomon. The name means "to God," as in "belonging to God." If the "Proverbs 31 woman" is God's ideal for womanhood, then verses 1-9 could be said to describe the ideal leader -- the one owned by God.

A likely reason we don't hear much about this passage is its dangerous reference to strong drink, as though drunkenness is allowed the common man if not the king. Plenty of passages -- including Prov. 20:1 and 23:19-21 -- clear up any misconception. (See also Luke 21:34, Romans 13:13, 1 Cor. 6:10, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:18.) Basically, good leaders are those who don't indulge themselves, or let their pleasures overcome good judgment. Ecclesiastes 10:16-17 serves as a parallel:

Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning. Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time—for strength and not for drunkenness.

Note also that the "Proverbs 31 Man" does not indulge himself with women -- leading to unwise alliances, fatherless children, and broken relationships. Dalliances sap strength AND, in our society, lead to abortions. The wise man exercises self-control in this area of life as well.

The point of sober leadership is the just use of power. The good leader doesn't allow his friends to ply him with anything -- wine, women, wealth -- to the neglect of justice.

In a crowded throne room (or courtroom) a king could be dazzled by the pomp, ceremony, and influence of powerful advisers. He could overlook the poor man in ragged clothing standing at the end of the line, or forget the wretches outside who never gain entrance because they're too ashamed, or disabled, or must work all day to survive. After all, they're not the king's party pals.

In all the competing interests, the king must keep the "little people" and their concerns in mind. The wealthy, the powerful, the beautiful have their own voices. But who speaks up for the little ones, the "non-persons" who have no voice?

Not only should the godly leader avoid perverting justice by condemning the innocent (Exodus 23:1-9, Dt. 16:18-20), but he should also be their advocate. "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. . . . Speak up!" Men who defend the weak and helpless imitate the character of God: Psalm 10:17-18, 82:3-4, 146:9; Proverbs 10:29, 31:9; Isaiah 1:17, 25:4; Jeremiah 5:28, 16:19; 2 Samuel 22:33.

What if we don't have leaders like that? What if they're under the influence of Planned Parenthood? What if they not only disregard the unborn, but advocate on behalf of their enemies?

It falls to us to do the speaking up -- petitioning to and about our leaders. Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks should be made to God for kings and all who are in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-4). And, while the parable in Luke 18:1-8 is about demonstrating faith through persistent prayer, it also shows the propriety of petitioning "unjust judges." Through our diligence, perhaps one day they'll do the good they're reluctant to do, despite their prejudices. (Note that the parable also diagnoses the root of injustice -- no fear of God or respect for the sanctity of human life.)

Men -- whether they're leaders in government or at home -- must speak up about abortion. Despite what feminist's say, men shouldn't be silenced because they lack female reproductive equipment or the experience of bearing children. Many women have abortions because their men are either coercive or weak. Since all human life in the womb is valuable to God -- male and female -- male voices are crucial to the pro-life movement. Abortion is not just a "woman's issue."

Related post-election reading:

I still remember the moment I excitedly realized I could obey a difficult passage of Scripture. The sun was in my eyes as I headed east after leaving the bagel place where I'd studied Luke 6:27-36. It may have been this same time of year, with a 40 Days for Life campaign going on. Whatever it was that made me put two thoughts together -- loving my enemies and praying at the abortion clinic -- I felt joyful as I anticipated loving the local abortionist by praying for him!

Before this, the concept of having an enemy had been rather vague. None of mine seemed to have a name or a face. They existed in the abstract -- Fear, Anxiety, Forces of Darkness in High Places ... entities like that. Whenever I came across references to foes in the Psalms, I spiritualized them. In general, I didn't really want to identify someone as my enemy because that would mean -- in the world's scheme of things -- having to battle or confront him or her in some way.

Thankfully, what I am actually called by Christ to do is love, do good to, bless, and pray for those who "despitefully use" me. Or despitefully use the unborn.

As previously noted, righteous indignation is too thin a motivation for being pro-life anyway. It simply doesn't get at the core problem or bring about lasting change. The reason is, it doesn't reflect the totality of Christ's character the way loving ones enemies does.

Over at Churches for Life, Rev. Douglas W. Merkey writes that there are many possible motives for being pro-life. "Some ... are driven by an imbalanced affection for God’s law and an overblown sense of their own piety. Some ... are driven by unresolved guilt, perhaps fueled by their own abortion experience. Some ... are driven by a hope for human approval, or insecurity. Still others ... are driven by a craving for political, social, or moral enlightenment." He urges champions of life to be "gospel-driven." (See a longer treatment of this idea here.)

When I read the article my mind went to 1 Corinthians 5:9-13a where Paul corrects a misperception: 

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges.

We're to hold "insiders" to God's high standard but, rather than being constantly alarmed or surprised by what "enemies" do, we're to treat them with godly pity. "Such were some of you."

So, while I might identify someone as an enemy of life, my treatment of him or her is modified by what God requires of me in terms of reflecting His mercy. I have to recognize this person is incapable of living a new life, never having forsaken the old (Col. 3:1-14). He lacks the advantage of an indwelling Holy Spirit.

Thanks to the Gospel, enemies become friends. Carol Everett is one such trophy, among many. Hatred and vilification could not do what the Holy Spirit, prayer, and persistent pro-life witness did by God's grace.

A new pro-life organization is devoted to bringing abortion doctors and workers out. Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood executive, has started And Then There Were None, whose goal it is "to provide financial, emotional, spiritual and legal support to anyone wishing to leave the abortion industry."

Do you know the name of an abortionist? Would you pray for one today? Here's a list of over 700 in the U.S. Find the one nearest you.

Even though "progressives" wish we'd gotten past the abortion issue by now, it has certainly not faded from this election cycle. In fact, "social issues" (marriage and abortion) once again offer some of the clearest distinctions between candidates at all levels.

Both candidates for president, however, agree abortion should be admissible in cases of rape, incest, and the life (and health) of the mother. This has not been the case in other contests and the rape issue has somewhat blown up in all our faces. Republican candidates could do a better job expressing themselves, but it's surprising how surprised the media has been by the idea that executing one of the victims of a crime ought to be a crime. (And, no, scorn for opposing views does not qualify as a rationale.)

Aside from the standard objection to such "hard case" abortions -- that a person's right to life is not altered by the circumstances of his or her conception -- the pro-life view seems to steadily lose resonance. That's as Jesus predicted (John 15:18-21), so please let us not act surprised.

Tired of being on the defensive, one Christian blogger put together 10 questions that pro-choice candidates should be forced to answer. I'd add an eleventh: Why should being conceived in rape or incest be a death sentence? "Liberals" are usually so good at identity politics, so I wonder why they can't distinguish between a rapist and his baby.

Pregnancy resulting from rape touches on a host of meaty doctrinal issues. A theologian would really be able to sink his teeth into them, but I'll sketch out a few aspects of the biblical worldview that have been overlooked in the recent drama:

  • Sin - Non-biblical worldviews deny its existence, but the Bible says there is such a thing, and that rape belongs under the heading (Deut 22:25-29). God is the ultimate One sinned against, as well as the victim (Psalm 51:4). Rapists and abortionists must answer to Him (Gen. 9:5).

  • Justice - Non-biblical worldviews mistakenly blame the victim for rape, or punish the children. Deuteronomy 24:16 says only the perpetrator is guilty. 

  • Suffering - Non-biblical worldviews say a sovereign God would never allow suffering, so instances of rape mean God either doesn't exist or is weak and not worth our time. In the biblical worldview, God is always great and good, no matter what happens to His creatures. Suffering is a result of Adam's sin and sovereignly allowed by God for purposes known to Him and rarely revealed to us (Job 1-2, Gen. 50:19-20).

  • Life - Non-biblical worldviews view life as random and essentially meaningless. The Bible teaches, however, that God is the source of all life (Genesis 1-2, John 5:26, Col. 1:16-17, 1 Tim. 6:13). Human life is no accident and all human beings are created in God's image (Gen. 1:26-27, Ps. 139:13-16). This includes the child of rape or of any illicit sexual encounter. It even includes the rapist!

  • Parenthood - Non-biblical worldviews increasingly consider children as commodities owned by their parents, but in the biblical worldview, children belong to God and are granted to parents in a stewardship arrangement (Psalm 127:3). Adoption reflects God's loving character and is an excellent alternative to abortion (Eph. 1:5). 

  • Redemption - We who know the Savior who redeems and restores sinners should let these truths shape our responses to rape victims and their children. We should also never let the magnitude and horror of such a violation be too far from our imagination. We should suffer alongside women as they relive their trauma. When they elect to continue a pregnancy, we should support them with a sense of respect, awe, and gratitude for the abundance of God's grace in their lives. We should love and welcome their children.

This has been an admittedly rudimentary treatment of theological issues at stake in our culture. [Added 10/31/12: To demonstrate the difficulty of saying everything you need to on this subject, I found myself today regretting I hadn't made a point about how abortion solves nothing -- doesn't erase the rape or negate the trauma -- it only compounds the violence and violation that women feel. I also should have provided a link to What About Abortion for Rape or Incest? on our website.]

Related: 
Mohler: The Mourdock Moment -- Life, Death, and Lies on the Campaign Trail
Christianity Today: Are Pregnancies Even from Rape a Gift from God?
Douthat: The Press and Abortion, Revisited
Richard Mourdock Gets in Trouble for His Extremely Conventional Religious Beliefs
Rape, Conception, and God: Why Mourdock Was Right
Our Media & The Blessed Rape Baby
Rape, God, Life, and Liberals
Reardon: The Despicable “God Intends Rape” Comments
Mohler: The Great American Worldview Test -- The 2012 Election
Pro-life group vows changes after Akin debacle

Personal stories:
“Rape hurt my mother, but abortion devastated her.”
‘I’m not a mistake.’ Five women conceived in rape support Mourdock
I was conceived in rape. Did I deserve to be aborted?
My Rape Pregnancy and My Furor Over Social Myths
Dear Ann Coulter: babies conceived in rape are not cannon fodder

Postscript: I was just chatting on Facebook with a friend in Kenya and asked him to pray for our country as we undertake the election next week. He replied, "I fervently pray for your nation. May God give you a leader after his heart and give all of you wisdom as you elect." And then he said something that put everything we endure -- endless robo-calls and attack ads -- in perspective: "Pray for us also as we come to elections. Civil wars arise and many kill each other." Wow. Good reminder, huh? Please pray for Kenya!

What does the following factoid say about our culture?

The National Retail Federation projects that Americans will spend $370 million this year on Halloween costumes . . . for their pets!

It's ridiculous on so many levels: There's the folly of celebrating ancient pagan rituals; the pretense of substituting cats and dogs for children; and finally, the fiction that Americans are suffering under a down economy.

Oh, what Life Matters Worldwide could do with $370 million! Or any number of pro-life ministries . . . combined. Did you know that our entire budget for this year is a little over one-tenth of one percent of that figure ($392,000)?

How should we explain this to friends in Africa, Latin America, or Asia, where paganism is not a game and the struggle for daily survival is all-consuming? What couldn't they do with a fraction of what we waste?

Meanwhile, in Uruguay, the country's Senate has joined its House in legalizing abortion in the first trimester. The first abortion clinic has recently opened in Northern Ireland. And in China, abortions continue on a pace of 13 million per year! These three reports were found in a quick scan of headlines from just one newspaper this morning -- The New York Times. They show that we Americans have done a good job of exporting abortion culture.

What can we do? I'd like to think that with more support we could do more to fight abortion here and abroad. We could do more to counter philosophies and vain deceit (Col. 2:8).

This past weekend our board met to discuss next year's general budget and special projects. For now, we're still working on meeting this year's goals. If you'd like to help us, click the 'Donate Today' tab above. From there you can select General Fund or one of our projects to support.

Thank you!

Jesus' description of a future separation of sheep from goats in Matthew 25:31-46 has always held me in fascinated terror. I remember hearing my mother read it when I was a child of five or six and feeling an awful pang of conviction. Had I ever helped someone in such a way that would keep me from being lumped with the goats?

When I asked our president, Tom Lothamer, what he was musing about this week, he brought up this passage. And he said that on a recent reading something struck him afresh. He noted how unconscious the sheep seem to be of their own actions. When told why they are worthy to "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," they ask, "When did we do all this for you?" They seem unaware that helping people, particularly "the least of these my brothers," was actually service to Him.

I think this means sheep are those who serve Christ without consciousness of self, from an overflow of worship and gratitude. What they are conscious of is God's constant presence and protection, His watchful eye, His glorious character that exudes mercy and grace. They don't think about service in terms such as, "I'd better do this for God." Or "I need to rack up more good works." Or "It's my duty as a Christian to help so-and-so." Somehow they are honestly innocent about service to others. They display the beauty of a life transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Goats, on the other hand, seem very conscious of all they have done. Their question is, "When did we not take care of you?" They are religious about keeping score, racking up points, mindful of earning something, making their own way. It's the same attitude that comes through in Matthew 7:22 about people who profess to know the Lord but are ultimately denied by Him.

There have always been questions about this portion of chapter 25, such as who is Christ intending as "the least of these"? And what is meant when He says this is a judgment of "the nations"? Not to be missed, however, is the Bible's unavoidable emphasis on helping the helpless (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Psalm 41:1; Proverbs 19:17, 21:13; Luke 10:25-37, Hebrews 13:1-3, 1 John 3:16-19).

What does this have to do with being pro-life?

Everything. Leaving someone hungry, sick, by the side of the road, and so on consigns him or her to the present condition. Left unattended, unless someone else steps in, he or she will die. And then the question is, will his or her blood will be held to my account (Genesis 9:5)? Will I have to answer for it?

I am my brother's keeper. I am called to be a good neighbor. I may hope and pray for others to come along, but I don't know they will. I am here. I am aware of a need. I must do something.

The Good Samaritan was more conscious of the beaten man's need of help than of its cost to himself or his own piety. He said, in effect, "If I don't take care of this person, who will?"

In the latest update from Bill and Lori Smith (10/14/12), the missionaries to Papua New Guinea write:

Real religion is a relationship with God through His Son and it is lived out in our lives among the people we touch each day. It is not something done each week . . . our religious activities . . . it is a life-transforming daily explosion of His power through my life [my emphasis]. It is reaching out to the lost and hurting around me. It is being willing to go to the place of sacrifice and be willing to be hurt and used and abused to show my love! Leaving my comfy pew and putting into action the love of God to those that need it most! . . .

We can work or we can serve . . . there is such a difference.

What a joy that as we refocus and see God clearly in our lives He eclipses the irritants, fears and frustrations. We give because He has given all for us. We love endlessly because we are loved beyond measure. Our actions speak the words in our lives.

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