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 http://www.houstonpregnancyhelpcenter.org/) 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.

Saving Power of Imagination!

My introduction to Woody Allen movies was through his later film ‘Midnight in Paris‘. I liked Woody Allen’s use of imagination in the movie. ‘Midnight in Paris’ is a story about a couple, Gil and Inez, engaged to be married that go to Paris for vacation to celebrate their engagement. The lady’s personality is that of a ‘philistine’ in that she lives in the ‘material’ world cares pretty much for nothing else other than good food, dressing well and exciting sex. The man on the other hand has a finer tastes for life. Gil is thrilled that he is in Paris the city of dreams for the quintessential artist.

The man and the woman see and experience very different worlds in Paris. Inez goes about the city uninterested, disenchanted and ends up having an affair with the guide. Gil on the other hand, finds his imagination getting fired up. He can’t get enough of the city and goes about exploring it. Inez sees no point in enjoying the night walk in Paris. Gil goes it alone. It is in one such midnight walk that a carriage pulls by and he is asked to hop over into it. He gets transported into the Paris of the 1920s when it was thriving richly with a host of young Bohemian artists. He meets everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Gertrude Stein and spends the night in their August company. This happens every night. Gil lives a dream life in his imagination. He is a happy man.

The question here is… What do you make of Gil’s imaginary world? Does it really matter that the guy has such a powerful capacity for imagination? Or may be he needs to see a Psychiatrist? Why make such a big deal of this imaginary world? Should we just dismiss this cinematic depiction of the power of living in an imaginary world as a crazy old Woody Allen’s attempt at making mediocre movies towards the tail end of his career.

I think the answer to this question is implied at the end of the movie in how Paris changes the lives of the couple. Gil is not looking for anything specific in Paris to satisfy him. He surrenders to allow himself to be surprised by his imagination. The more Gil is drawn into this beautiful imaginary world, the happier he is in the real world. That he does not get any sexual satisfaction from his bride to be is immaterial to him when compared with the beautiful imaginary world he is a part of. The woman on the other hand presumably gets ALL she the exciting sex she thinks will make her happy, but ultimately ends up dissatisfied.

When Inez finally confesses that she has been has been having an affair with a mutual friend of theirs and wants to break-up, Gil isn’t the slightest bit perturbed which infuriates her all the more. Gil was living in such a beautiful world of imagination that the pleasures offered in the real world seemed mediocre. His imagination was powerful enough to make life satisfying for him. He did not need a ‘hot wife’ after all. He has his eyes set on a world where ones satisfaction isn’t determined by ones needs but by ones ability to be eternally surprised by imagination.

I think there is a Christian principle here. Just like Gil is satisfied by the hope, joy and love offered by the imaginary world do that he does not care much for the mediocre pleasures of the real world, the Christian is to be satisfied by the hope, joy and love of the Heavenly world so that sometimes when we have to give up some of the pleasures of this world it wouldn’t be that big a deal.

The Bible uses our imagination to enthuse us about the great goodness of the Heavenly world. The Bible talks abstractly about the next world in terms of the length, breadth and height of the treasures God has prepared for those that love Him. Then the Bible also talks concretely about streets of gold, sea of glass, great mansions. This abstract and concrete figures of speech is meant to fire-up our imagination so that in the imagination empowered Hope of the things to come, we would endure the hardships of this world.

If we do not use our imagination to envision, explore and be enthralled by the Hope we have in Christ we, like Inez will see a very ‘reductionistic’ world and will ultimately begin seeking after silly pleasures to satisfy us. Christians like Gil have to be people with fired-up imaginations so that we see that there is more to this world than meets the eye. We should go about exploring the world through the Word of God. The imagination empowered vision of the World painted by the Bible will help us set our priorities right and live a happier and FULLER life in this world and the next. Unless Christians use their imagination to see the BIG world that God created and called us to be in, we would become a bunch of petty people seeking after silly stuff in a reductionistic world. Imagination saves us from this narrow focus by helping us SEE the great things God has in store for those that love Him.

Chick-fil-a – an Apology from God???

As much as Christians love to show their solidarity with the ‘Christian’ President of a Fast Food Chain, it might be a better idea for the Evangelical Christians to show equal care and concern for  the plight of the poor and the oppressed.

I was at the Chick-Fil-A on the 1st of August (Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day) at 10:00 PM and there were about a 150 people in there, most of them presumably Evangelical Christians showing solidarity to the fast food chain over controversy created by a statement made by the ‘Christian’ President of Chick-Fil-A  essentially saying that America would incur the wrath of God because of its laws becoming increasingly Gay-friendly. Presumably, millions of Evangelical Christians went to Chick Fil A Nationwide that day.

A more interesting spectacle was watching the liberal Mayors vociferously oppose Chick-Fil-A plans to build more restaurants in their cities only to back track their statements because to do so would have been illegal – the President was just exercising his first amendment right. Here is a really funny video made by a gay dude asks the Mayors to chill. All of this ‘tempest in the teapot’ not withstanding, what really caught my eye was an article quoting Billy Graham quoting his late wife Ruth saying

Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

I don’t know about God needing to apologize to anyone, but let us go with this for now as there is a bigger point to be made.

Billy Graham in his letter ‘My Heart Aches for America‘ quotes the statement above and then the passage from Ezekiel  16:49-50 from which this quote is purportedly derived from and then goes on to talk about the sins of abortion and sexual depravity leading to impending judgement from God. Yes, abortion and sexual depravity are sins as per the Bible. Yes, America is like Sodom and Gomorrah, but there is a key point to be noted. America’s similarity with Sodom and Gomorrah is not just in it sexual depravity, but in its indifference to the poor and needy. 

Read Ezekiel 16:49-50 (ESV)
49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.

Yes there was rampant sexual sin in Sodom and Gomorrah, but God’s primary objection against Sodom and Gomorrah (and Israel) is not sexual immorality, it is indifference towards the poor while living in excess. The crime is in not treating a fellow human being as someone with dignity – the dignity that comes in one having been made to reflect the Image of a fiercely loving God.

God equating Israel to Sodom and Gomorrah in Ezekiel has more to do with Israel’s indifference to the poor and needy than its sexual depravity.  In the New Testament, Christ brings similar complaint against the Jews in the Story of Lazarus and the Rich man – the Rich man did not do anything wrong per se, he was just indifferent to the poor man at his doorstep.

This complaint of indifference applies as much to Evangelical Christianity today as it did to Israel back in the day. Ruth Graham is probably right that if God is to use the same yardstick, He will have to judge the America, but not so much for the sexual depravity of the non-Christians as much as for the indifference of Evangelical Christianity towards the poor and needy around them. Unfortunately, Christians today often tend to exaggerate the consequences of sexual sins while trivializing the consequences of sins of indifference towards people that need our love. 

Of course, Evangelical Christians give more to the cause of social upliftment than the non-Christian counter parts, but the question is do we give enough to offset God’s impending judgement, if God were to use the same yardstick that He used against Sodom and Gomorrah. I suspect that answer is no. As much as Evangelical Christians pray and work towards a National revival of the non-Christians, we should also pray and work against Christian indifference incurring the wrath of God that was directed at Israel and Sodom and Gomorrah. 

As much as Christians love to show their solidarity with the ‘Christian’ President of a Fast Food Chain, it might be a better idea for the Evangelical Christians to show equal care and concern for  the plight of the poor and the oppressed. The day when we see a 150 Evangelical Christians at 10 PM at Nationwide ‘show compassion for the poor and needy’ campaigns, Evangelical Christianity would have inched closer towards a more God-pleasing state of existence. Pray that that day would come soon, before it is too late! Least God should have to apologize!! Of course, He needn’t. 

My Valentine Meditations – On the Missing Valentine

Saint Valentine married people off and got killed for that. In a poll among young urban Americans one the questions was, ‘Do you think marriage is obsolete?’. Majority said ‘Yes’. Another question of the same poll said, ‘Do you want to get married?’ Majority said ‘Yes’. Most want to marry, but aren’t getting married. We live in a world of delayed marriages, if at all people marry. Modern times is missing its St.  Valentine.

The idea of obseletness of marriage is not a problem among just among urban elites. I was reading an article where a school teacher writes about the struggles he has in understanding the mindset and the maturity of the a few of his students who are pregnant in their teens. He discusses a bunch of questions two of which caught my attention. He asks the pregnant teen, “Do you think the father of your kid would marry you?”. The pregnant girl answers, “I don’t think so”. “Do you think your having this child will affect your future marriage?”. The girl answers, “I don’t know”. The girl sitting near by asnwers, “Nobody marries anymore, Mister”. The whole class bursts out laughing. 

Where is the St. Valentine of this age who helps those who want to get married, but don’t know why it isn’t that simple as it once used to be? Is he in hiding? Have we lost him? Has he matyred again?

I was reading another article about some controversial debates about the implementation of the new Healthcare ACT in the US. The question on the table was about whether birth-control pill had to be made freely available in College campuses as part of the Healthcare mandate. The article also had some snippets about what students in college thought about the plan. One of the girls supporting the free distribution of pills said, “I am an adult. None can stop me from having sex. The only question is whether or not I am going about it in a healthy way.”

Today, I read an article about how women in military are sexually abused by men. Last year alone there were 3200 reported cases of sexual abuse in the US Army. Most go unreported. One of the ladies said that when she complained about abuse to superiors, she was told to “things like this happen, suck it up”.

The fundemental premise in the above statements is the idea that ‘sex is a fundemental right’. The belief is that, “None can deny me my right to sex”. It is almost has the primacy of the First Amendment right. What is missing there is the idea that ‘sex is right, only when the season is right’. 

God created life to have different seasons. In one season, we are kids and then we become adults, then we become parents, then we become grandparents. Then we die. All of these seasons are held together by the ‘bonds of love’. Love has different manifestations in different seasons. If we try to mess with the appropriate manifestation of love for a season, we end up marring that season itself.

Marriage is an important season in a person’s life. When God instituted marriage he clearly defined the need for a new manifestation of love. He said, “for this reason man shall seperate from his father and mother and ‘cleave’ with his wife, and they shall be one body”. Marriage ushers in a new season which is manifested by new expressions of love in the romantic and erotic forms. As long as the romantic and erotic forms of love are expressed towards the purpose of becoming one with the spouse, the God ordained manifestation of love brings joy to the season of marriage. 

Our modern society is trying to reengineer the manifestations of love and decouple it from its appropriate season so that people will have the individualistic RIGHT to gratify themselves with any form of love they want anytime with anyone.  The lines between the seasons of adulthoood and marriage gets blurred because people try to enjoy the marital manifestation of love before marriage. When the lines get blurred so much, eventually the season itslef finds no reason for existence. We are left with, “Nobody marries anymore, Mister”. 

Premature experience of profound love forms can be very detrimental to love itself. In the movie ‘Blue Valentine’, the wife says that she has been sexually active since 13 had more than 25 partners. Still carrying the baggage from her old relationships, she is not able to enjoy sex with her husband. She is unable to make the transcition from ‘lusting sex’ to ‘loving sex’. In the movie, this inability of hers becomes the breaking point of an already strained marriage. 

Marriage, kids and a stable family is the basis for any civilization to thrive. A civilization that does not have thriving marriages will die. The root cause of this predicament is the unwillingness to submit to Truth. The Truth as God instituted is for different life seasons to be coupled with appropriate manifestations of love. God joined sex with marriage. Let man not separate what God has joined, for if he does will end up destroying both of what he seperated. As the author of the book ‘Unhooked’ says, “we delay love to enjoy sex and end up losing both”. 

St. Valentine stood by God’s Truth to multiply and be fruitful. He supposedly stood against the edict of a selfish tyrant to the point of death. Our civilization needs, many who imbibing the spirit of St. Valentine will stand up for Truth of God and take a stand against their own selfish desire for gratification. God’s Truth sets us free to experience life in ‘all of its fullness’ that spans across life’s seasons, bonded in love. Sacrificing God’s Truth in the altar of self-indulgence is the problem of the missing Valentine.