Christian Response to the Abortion Debate – Go the Extra Mile!

Let us not only use the Dr. Kermit Gosnell fiasco to ‘just talk’ about pro-life causes or find fault with others, rather. let use this opportunity to look at ourselves introspectively and see how we can ‘go the extra mile’, by an ethic of self-giving, to save kids either by adoption or by providing support to mothers in distress.

The trail of Dr. Kermit Gosnell the provider of questionable abortion services has brought the abortion debate back to the fore. Pro-life activists use this to strengthen their case, and activists on the pro-abortion side do likewise too. When such issues come to the fore, it creates a space for ideas to be discussed and important questions to be asked. One such question is how should Christians respond to the abortion question.

Christian Response – Bumper Stickers? Facebook Posts? Vote the opposition out? Overturn Roe V. Wade?

Often times, well meaning Christians feel that if others would realize that a life is being killed, they would stop abortion. So some Christians try to use graphic images and hyperbolic language on everything from Facebook to Bumper stickers to get people to think abortion is murder. But more often than not, judgmental words falls on deaf ears because the problem isn’t so much intellectual as physical and spiritual. Being judgmental is rarely a good approach to a problem. Why? Because even Christ has asked us to not look at the speck in others eyes. We need to start trying to find the log in our own.

The politically active Christian conservative response is to keeping voting for the right candidates at the county, city, state national level to somehow overturn Roe v.Wade. It is good to not want to vote for the pro-abortion candidate, but how does voting for pro-life candidate really solve the issue of millions of babies being killed in the womb. Overturning Roe v. Wade is good, but that will not solve the abortion problem. Just like liquor production/consumption went underground during prohibition, If Roe v. Wade were to be overturned abortion will go underground too. Lives will still be lost (may be to a slightly lesser degree but they still will be). Case in point, abortion is illegal in India but it happens every day. I am not suggesting that Christians shouldn’t attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, we should… but we need to realize that Roe v. Wade is just the tip of the iceberg, abortion issues involve huge underlying cultural strongholds that are seldom acknowledged, rarely talked about in popular Christian circles (in my humble opinion).

An Iceberg Kind of Problem

Problems of this iceberg kind that are deeply rooted in a society’s cultural values cannot be legislated away, they require a multifaceted, long term, bottom up approach. Problems of the iceberg kind need action oriented solutions that slowly and steadily chip away at the root cause of the problem. To address a problem in a multifaceted approach, we have to first understand the deep rooted multifaceted nature of the cultural causes of abortion.

Causes for abortion:
1. Breakdown in family structure leading to children being seen as a burden to living an affluent, peaceful and carefree life.
2. Inadequate familial/community support during pregnancy leading to wrong headed guidance during the vulnerable phase of pregnancy.
3. Irresponsible use of sexual freedom.

The Real Question… the Right Answer

Given the deep rooted cultural causes, the question of Christian response is not so much about how Christians should respond to the problem of abortion as much as it is about how Christians should respond to the cultural causes underlying need for abortions… The best answer, in my opinion, is not in bumper stickers or political power but in the willingness of the Christian(s) to go the extra mile with the lady in distress wherever God has placed us. Most women that go to abortion clinics go there in distress. They opt for abortion because they do not see another way out. We need to love the people in distress as God loves us. Depending on where a Christian is in his/her life, ‘going the extra mile’ may mean different things… To some it may involve considering adoption of the children of mothers at risk. To others it may mean supporting a family that is going through adoption of a child of a mother at risk. Or it could mean helping the mother at risk during pregnancy and after pregnancy so that she can get back on her two feet and move on with life. We need to have a ‘go the extra mile’ with the lady in distress approach instead of the ‘grab the leavers of power’ and change course approach. Going the extra mile as Christ has called us, is not a silver bullet. It is the start of a long process of going extra miles. We will walk and not be weary, we will with God’s help come victorious in the end. Let us now look how going the extra mile works in different scenarios.

Consider Adoption – Go the Extra Mile Yourself

Modernized culture sees kids as a burden and not a blessing from God. When we look back at History, back in Rome when Christians were persecuted left right and center, abortions (infanticide) was a huge cultural phenomenon among the pagans. Children were thought to be a burden back then too. Lacking modern abortion procedures, they gave birth to children and left them in some secluded place to die (as per Roman law, until the father ‘owned’ the child, it did was not a person. The father could discard the child as he would his property). The Christians would go look at these places, take the abandoned infants and bring them up as their own (Link here). Surprise, surprise… one more Christian is added to the number. Among other things, Christians kept adopting kids over a few centuries and surprise, surprise… one day the Roman empire became Christian. As modern Christians, would we be willing to consider this patient, painstaking, long term approach to true cultural change?

If Christians truly want to save lives, we need to be willing to adopt kids from the ladies in distress who do not have the support structure, in the form of a good family to be able to raise kids. Unfortunately, many modern Christians view having kids as a burden, so find it difficult to ‘go the extra mile’ of adopting kids from distressed moms. The pro-abortion activists too do not want to ‘go the extra mile’, in the sense that they want the distressed mother of the child to be exempted from having to ‘go the extra mile’ of having the child. The pro-abortion folks would rather kill. Of course, the Christians majority do not want to kill, but often we do not seem to be too eager to want to save the child by adoption either. Apart from voting for the ‘right’ candidate (as though that would solve the problem of dying kids), we Christians are mostly content going to prayer rallies and shouting with all our strength that it is murder. We are not wrong, but we aren’t doing enough either. The question to the ‘transformed’ Christians is, are we willing to show the world that children are a blessing. Going the extra mile means we are willing to do more than what is required of us. The Word of God mandates that we do so (in one form or another). Are we open to the possibility of God calling us to ‘go the extra mile’ of adopting unwanted kids.

From what I know Houston has some good pastors who are setting great role models by adopting kids in addition to having kids of their own. Read Pastor Voddie Baucham here 6 of his 8 kids are adopted is one example (Note: in some parts of his video, Pastor Baucham comes off as being more critical of the culture and consequently less critical of the Church. My tone in this post has been to be more critical of the Church’s response than the culture outside the church.)

Support Ladies in Distress – Go the Extra Mile

Of course, some of us may not be in a position, either financially or socially, to be able to adopt the child of a lady in distress. So what can these Christians do? I am one of these Christians. Given where I am, I cannot adopt a kid. I don’t think I’ll be anywhere close to adopting a kid any time in the near future either. How can Christians that cannot adopt ‘go the extra mile’ to save the kid? One answer… by providing as much outside support to the mother of the kid as we can to help her through pregnancy and adoption process, if she decides to give the baby for adoption. Or help her grow the child if she decides to keep the child. Help the mother get back on her feet after delivery. Provide continued community support to the mother. It is good to sponsor Compassion kids in Africa, Asia and South America, but sometimes we also need to look after the Lazarus at our doorstep. All of this involves Christians following an ethic of self-giving Christ-likeness. Are we willing to be conformed to the self-giving image of Christ?

Often times when a woman without the good familial/community support realizes that she is pregnant, she hits a point of crisis. She is vulnerable to opinions expressed by people she is with. At such times, a woman’s needs are specific and predictable which opens up avenues for Christians to help. A woman in distress will visit a pregnancy testing clinic. If such a woman in crisis steps into the Planned Parenthood center to get a pregnancy test she is likely to end up choosing to abort the kid. Christians need to have pregnancy centers which become a place where women in crisis can come and get counseled. The good news is, Christians run such pregnancy centers (here is an example but they tend to be understaffed and are in constant need for volunteersour time may be well spent helping at such centers rather than plotting overturn of Roe v. Wads, so to speak. Such pregnancy centers need help from Christian men too.

If a woman in crisis decides to not abort the child, then she needs a home, a support structure which she is cared for until delivery and the child is given for adoption. She also needs support after delivery to go back to school or work. Christian families need to open up their homes for this cause. There are some families that do this, but again we need more. Even Christian singles who may not be able to provide such help can complement the help provided by Christian families. Christian singles, instead of congregating among themselves doing dance nights, game nights and movie nights, can provide community support for such distressed ladies living with the Christian family that supports them.

Need a Reality Check?

Irresponsible use of sexual freedoms is another root cause that increases the probability of rampant abortion.  The liberals advocate providing greater access to contraceptives. This is a tricky topic among Christian conservatives. Christians mostly oppose this. Christians are right in opposing illicit sex outside of marriage. But the reality is, restricting access to contraceptives is not going to impact the sex culture in high schools, colleges and other places. Given this reality, wouldn’t it make sense that we should at least allow people to provide themselves the possibility of preventing an abortion using contraceptives. My thoughts on this topic are still evolving, they are not final yet. There are a good number of Christians who are opposed to broader access to contraceptives, they have good reasons. But I for one do not find their reasons are very persuasive given the reality of the sexual culture we live in.

The BIG Need: A Christian, Go the Extra Mile Culture

As Christians, we have been judgmental of others long enough. We’ve looked for the ‘speck’ long enough. We blame politics, we blame the Supreme Court Justices, we blame liberal advocates of abortion… It is perhaps time for us to look for the log in our own eyes so to speak… There is no easy silver bullet to solving the abortion problem. The abortion problem is deeply rooted in cultural breakdown which needs to be changed bottom up. Back in the first century Christian world too there was no silver bullet to changing the Roman culture. But then there was the Gospel, Christians responded to the Gospel by loving people around them. As the gospel worked itself in the culture from the bottom up, the culture changed, people changed. Christians of the first few centuries who were saved by the Gospel’s power were empowered by the Holy Spirit and went the extra mile to save others by adoption and other means. If modern Christians obeying God’s command ‘go the extra mile’ along with those in distress, we too will see similar results as the first century Christians.

Let us not only use the Dr. Kermit Gosnell fiasco to ‘just talk’ about pro-life causes or find fault with others, rather. let use this opportunity to look at ourselves introspectively and see how we can ‘go the extra mile’, by an ethic of self-giving, to save kids either by adoption or by providing support to mothers in distress. If enough modern Christians, with the help of the Lord the Holy Spirit, will create and foster a patient, painstaking, persistent ‘go the extra mile’ culture, that will become an avenue to bring about bottom up cultural change.

Don’t Let a Crisis Go Waste – Soar on Eagle Wings Instead…

The shrewd people of the world use crisis for personal benefit. The foolish people of the world let the crisis define them and waste away. As wise Christians we use the crisis to know ourselves by involving in healthy enterprises, know people around by being vulnerable about our weaknesses and to know God by looking up at Him for help.

There is a saying in politics, ‘Don’t let a crisis go waste’ meaning when bad stuff happens, after the immediate crisis is over, during the ‘crisis recovery’ phase when people are vulnerable and impressionable, the shrewd politician should attempt to channel the emotions poured out into avenues that further desired policy agendas. Case in point… the President Bush used the opportune window that 911 to pass the in the Patriot Act,the President Obama sees the Newton incident as an opportunity to promote his agenda on gun control laws.

Politics apart, the idea of ‘don’t let a crisis go waste’ has some significant applications to Christian living too. Often in life we come across disappointments. A disappointment depending upon the magnitude of it can be a crisis. Every time we face disappointments there is accompanying set of emotions from anxiety to anger to despondency. During the ‘crisis recovery’ phase, depending on the nature of the crisis and the personality of the individual, people will process and respond to it differently. Some live in a state of depression of regret over the past, others are anxious about the prospects of future and some others live in a state of denial ‘kicking the can down the road’ (if you will) and then there are people who to escape the dreariness will get into addictions and waste away.

The question to the Christian is how do we channel ourselves as we get through the crisis recovery phase. There are three aspects to channeling the emotions as we work through a crisis recover phase which are distinct and stand on their own but still are related to each other as well.

1. Take up a healthy enterprise you enjoy and discover yourself. In C.S.Lewis’ last novel ‘Till We Have Faces’, Orual is depressed out of her senses. In her recovery phase, she finds pleasure and a way back to stability by learning the skills of warfare and governance from the King’s Commander Bardia. When I went through a minor personal crisis, I found my joys in reading good books, watching good movies, and at work. Books I read were the Holy Bible, ‘Doctrine of Knowledge of God’, ‘The Great Gatsby’ etc… I watched good movies made by independent filmmakers, ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’, ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ etc… Then I worked hard at the office, my journal then at the gym… In all of this, I experienced God extending the grace to me so that I will enjoy them and worship Him through them. Such healthy enterprises were also a means to spend some time in solitude and get to know myself.

2. Share your burdens with the community and allow them to provide for you understanding, companionship and comfort. A deep instinct that we have when they are in phases of ‘crisis recovery’ is that we crave anonymity  We want to disappear. We do not want anyone else to know about the vulnerability, pain and suffering. In wanting to disappear from the community some may follow a healthy pleasure in some enterprise (# 1 stated above) and find comfort in seclusion. Though # 1 is good, in an off itself, it will not help. We need the community. It is at such times that you really know who really cares about you. Being away from family, I found comfort in the community among my christian friends. I spent time eating dinner, watching movies, talking, having coffee at Starbucks etc… The community is a place were you get to know other people and experience God’s grace by hanging-out with folks that love the Lord.

3. Look up to God to save you! Even as # 1 & 2 (stated above) are good and great, they are still not complete. Ultimately, you need to know that you are eternally loved with a steadfast love… If we aren’t assured of this eternally secure love, doing # 1 and 2 no matter how great it may be, amounts only to enjoying a peg of wine, a game of poker or some other indulgence on deck of the sinking Titanic. It is the assurance of the eternal love of God that gives us the security to freely enjoy # 1 and 2 as God’s gifts to us. Enjoying a healthy enterprise (# 1), enjoying community (# 2) cannot truly flourish unless God gives us eternal protection in Him. All this to say, that when we go through challenging crisis recovery phases, primarily, we need to look up ‘unto the Hills from where comes help’. Every time we look up at Him through the crisis, we get to know Him better. By the time you get out of the crisis recovery period you’ll be glad you went through it. For, by losing a part of you in the pain and suffering, by looking up at God, you would have gained knowledge of God that is invaluable. After all, Paul compares ‘everything else’ to manure when compared with pleasure of ‘knowing Christ’.

As I was looking up at the Lord by reading through the Word of God to soothe my soul during my crisis recovery, I came across the passage below that showed me how much God really loved me, and that my soul being in turmoil is ok, for ultimately my salvation is in the Lord. I just have to remember His ‘steadfast love’ and prayerfully be in His presence.

Psalm 42

5. Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation
6 and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Of course, what I have described isn’t a 1-2-3 technique… To say, ‘Just perform this 3 step technique, and you’ll be fine’ is a hoax. Life is too messed up for there to be an easy way out of loss, pain and suffering. After all even Christ wasn’t exempt from life’s crisis.

Even as you enjoy healthy enterprises, commune with healthy people and look up to the Lord for help, you’ll still find yourself slipping through the cracks, you’ll have ups and downs, but for a while the overall trajectory may continue to be downward. You’ll keep going down until you hit the rock-bottom. Depending on the nature of the crisis it may take only a little bit, or it may take a long time. But you will hit the rock-bottom. Once you have hit the rock-bottom you will realize that you really are standing on the Rock, the Redeemer the Christ. From that point you will ‘soar up in Eagle wings’…

Isaiah 40
27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

As we feel like we are going down the spiral, we may be tempted to complain and ask God what it is about. It is ok to complain to God as long as we also listen to 1) God’s response that He is ‘understanding’ of things is better than ours and 2) God’s promise that no matter what happens He will not allow us to grow weary or be faint (even when we are at the end of our strength). Christian life is a long road, we will come across many a crisis. God promises that no matter what we will be renewed in strength, even as we walk long tough paths, we  may complain, but will not grow weary. It is through crisis that we get to experience God’s grace that upholds us through our long lonely walks. Such experiences of God’s grace are worth the long lonely walks.

The shrewd people of the world use crisis for personal benefit. The foolish people of the world let the crisis define them and waste away. As wise Christians we use the crisis to know ourselves by involving in healthy enterprises, know people around by being vulnerable about our weaknesses and to know God by looking up at Him for help. Even when things are bleak, we keep walking onward trusting God’s got our back. Every crisis is an opportunity for us to courageously cherish life, commune with sympathetic people and worship a Brilliant and loving God more. After all, the crisis is worth it if we don’t waste it but with God’s help use it to walk, run and soar up on Eagle wings.

30 years… 3 times… Cup Overflows in Eternity!

Thanks be to God
For on the other Shore is this Ocean
Which the drop can never empty
My cup overflows living God’s Eternity!

30 years have I lived
Its gone in a flash
I couldn’t tell how
But, oh! life is short

30 years have I lived
Glories… there’s been some
Too short lived though
For me to remember

30 years have I lived
Seen my share of joys
But then time catches on
Even to the memories

30 years have I lived
Sorrows ebb and flow
With the tide of time
But then time flies

30 years have I lived
May be another 30
I will live. If blessed,
A 3rd 30 too, God knows

In the 3 30 years of life
Sorrow, joy and glory
co-mingled flow…
All but a blip in Eternity

Oh, even a 3 30 year life
Full of sorrow is but a drop
In the ocean of God’s Eternity
An Eternity complete and joyful

Thanks be to God
For on the other Shore is this Ocean
Which the drop can never empty
My cup overflows living God’s Eternity!