Don’t Forget: We Are Not All Elite

Bravado has swept through the church as local congregations have begun to defy the lock-down guidelines issued by their local governments. I type today not to condemn or support such action. Undoubtedly there is a time and place for civil disobedience. Depending upon where you live, that day may be today.

But as we decide the best way forward for our congregations, I want to remind elders, deacons, and church members that their churches are not comprised of special forces platoons equipped to run roughshod over all that stands in their way. Rather like Moses, we lead camps filled with young mothers, vulnerable children, weak cancer patients, irresponsible teenagers, and aging senior adults. When we oppose the government, we risk the health and safety of both the weak and the strong.

Indeed, the day for such stands will come. They existed in years past. I have the greatest respect for Corrie Ten Boom’s eighty-four -year-old father who willing died in a German concentration camp, preferring the gospel command to love his neighbor above his personal safety.

But for most of us (the residents of Nevada sadly reside in a very different paradigm), the restrictions have not singled out churches. Christians have not been persecuted, yet.

According to history, these pandemic guidelines will be brief. Pandemics usually run their course in about one to two years. Most will not last that long. Life will go back to normal and society will forget the ‘horrors’ that once dominated the news cycle. For example, few to none of us remember that the city of New York killed 72,000 cats and 8,000 dogs in 1916 in an effort to prevent the spread of Polio. Our collective forgetfulness proves that the guidelines of today will soon fade into the wasteland of lost memories. In a few weeks or months, the world will return to ‘normal.’

Until then, I believe the Jesus who welcomed vulnerable little children into his inner circle would desire for us to sacrifice our Sunday morning norms to create environments where all members could worship without facing harm.

If men and women become sick and/or die because we hastily return to our per-COVID19 practices, we will weaken our churches and do harm to our gospel witness. The church needs its weak brothers and sisters, even those over eighty. Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted,

Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also the strong need cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship.

Before we embrace a plan for the future, we must determine whether or not it benefits both the strong and the weak in our midst. A plan that helps one group while harming the other is incomplete.

Times of persecution will come as the Ten Boom’s life make clear. When the days are dark, churches and their members will need to take stands that risk the wellbeing of all of their members. But such stands should always be the last option, not the first or the second.

If we can move forward and worship in such a way that protects the most vulnerable among us, why would we risk harming them?

A Pastor’s Response to the Abortion Survivors Protection Act

abortion-bill-2011The abortion debate has accelerated to breakneck speed over the last several weeks. What was thought unthinkable  at the beginning of 2019 is quickly becoming a normal part of political dialogue.

Last night, the United States Senate filibustered Senate Bill 311 – Born- Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. The bill put forward by Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska would require that any child who survives an abortion is given the care that a “conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age..[and] ensure that the child born alive is immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.”

The bill clearly states that those who refuse to care for a baby or abuse a baby shall criminal prosecuted. However, the woman who had the abortion could not be charged with a crime. In short, the bill sought to affirm the dignity and worth of some of the weakest and most defenseless of humans beings without inflicting any legal harm upon the mothers involved in the abortion process. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel said,

It would make sure our laws reflect the fact that the human rights of newborn boys and girls are innate…Are we really suppose to think that it’s normal that debating whether a newborn -whether newborn living babies deserve medical attention?

Sadly, the answer is yes. Forty-four senators voted against the bill keeping it from going to floor of the senate for the vote. Both Virginia Senators, Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tim Kaine, and all six Democratic Senators seeking their party’s 2020 presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, voted against the bill.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen said, “This bill is just another line of attack in the ongoing war on women’s health.” But it is not such an attack. The bill did not addressed the topic of abortion. Rather it addressed the circumstances following a baby’s birth after a botched abortion. Even using the loosest of definitions, no person can credibly claim that a delivered baby is still part of the mother’s body and that the baby’s health is subservient to the mother’s desires.

Her colleague Senator Tammy Duckworth who also voted against the bill clarified what was going on when she said,

If it becomes law, this bill would force doctors to perform ineffective, invasive procedures on fetuses born with fatal abnormalities, even if it’s against the best interests of the child, even if it goes against recommended standards of care and they know it wouldn’t extend or improve the baby’s life, even if it would prolong the suffering of the families, forcing women to endure added lasting trauma, making one of the worst moments of their lives somehow even more painful.

Notice she is talking about “fetuses born.”  She believes babies should be allowed to die and to die quietly deprived of treatment. To treat the babies with the dignity shown to the adults would cause “lasting trauma” according to the senator. Let’s be clear, these 44 senators are unapologetically arguing for mercy-killings…for infanticide. As Senator Sasse said the vote was about,  “whether or not we’re OK with infanticide.”

Evidently many politicians are ok with infanticide.

Admittedly both of Virginia’s Senators claimed to have opposed the bill for a different reason. They claim the bill is an unnecessary restatement of existing laws that will empower their political adversaries. But if the law does nothing then why are the senators who claim to find abortion (not to mention infanticide) troubling opposing the bill?

I believe the Senators from Virginia have opposed the bill because it actually does something. Only a few short weeks ago, Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia asserted that states could practice infanticide. He said,

If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.

Senate Bill 311 would stop Governor Northam’s prediction from begin a reality. Senator Joni Ernst from Iowa noted, “This legislation closes the gap and ensures that there are concrete enforcement measures to protect children who survive abortion attempts.” In short, current U.S. laws protect all babies but lack the teeth needed to be meaningful enforced. Senator Sasse’s bill supplied that enforcement.

Both Senator Warren and Senator Kaine voted against the bill; they voted against defending babies who were born outside of the womb. They defended infanticide.

As Christians we cannot be ok with infanticide. We know that all humans even the tiny, malformed, and sickly ones are created in the image of their creator and deserve life just as much as the senators on capital hill.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them – Genesis 1:27

And though infanticide and unlimited access to third trimester abortions has gone from being political untenable in January to being defended on the floor of the U.S. senate in February, Christians most continue to boldly speak for life. We must defend the defenseless.

I have written to both Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tim Kaine imploring them to defend life. I encourage you to do the same. I encourage you to speak to this grave moral issue. Christians may lose the political battle; the outcome is not certain. But our calling is certain. We have not lost our voices. Let’s use them to implore God for mercy and to encourage our senators and other public officials to defend life.

Will you join me?

A Pastor’s Response to The Politics of Infanticide

Just when you think the world cannot get any crazier it does. Yesterday (Feb 4, 2019), Senate Bill 130 which outlaws infanticide was blocked by Senator Patty Murray of Washington State. She objected to bill because she thought it was redundant. Senator Murray said,

We have laws against infanticide in this country. This is a gross misinterpretation of the actually language of the bill that is being asked to considered and therefore I object.

Indeed in 2002, the Federal government did enact the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act expanding the United States Government’s definition of human persons to include, “every infant member of the species of homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.” As of 2002, all U.S. born babies have been legally entitled to the same care as adults. But the nature of that care has not been clearly defined. Last night, Ben Sasse attempted to define that care.

His legislation states:

(1) If an abortion results in the live birth of an infant, the infant is a legal person for all purposes under the laws of the United States, and entitled to all the protections of such laws.

(2) Any infant born alive after an abortion or within a hospital, clinic, or other facility has the same claim to the protection of the law that would arise for any newborn, or for any person who comes to a hospital, clinic, or other facility for screening and treatment or otherwise becomes a patient within its care.

In short, Sasse and the other 39 sponsors of the bill had simply tried to clarify that all ‘fourth term’ abortions were illegal. The Bill does not change any abortion law. It simply says all life outside the womb deserves care and protection. As the senator said,

There are only two sides of the debate on the floor tonight: You’re either for babies or your for defending infanticide.

Sadly, many U.S. Senators including Virginia’s two senators appear to be on the side of infanticide. All but one of the Democratic senators missed last night’s vote. And the one Democrat Senator who did appear, Senator Murray, appeared for the purpose of defeating the legislation.  Senator Feinstein from California who also was absent during the vote claimed the bill was an attack on women. But her comments reveal the opposite to be true. She said,

Imagine being pregnant and learning that your baby has a terminal condition…This bill would limit the mother’s decisions and require her doctor to administer unwanted care that could prolong her pain and suffering – even putting her health and safety at risk.

Notice who is sick? It is not the mother but the infant. But who is harmed by the infant’s care and life? It is the mother. The senator from California has said that a mother should be allowed to deny her child treatment to preserve her quality of life. Senator Feinstein has defended infanticide.

And she is not alone. Governor Northam of Virginia sparked this debate last week when he seemingly endorsed infanticide during a radio station interview. The defense of infanticide which seemed to be a ridiculously extreme position only days ago now appears to be a politically acceptable.

And few main stream media outlets have ignored this seismic moral and political shift.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel accurately noted that, “Frankly, it is harrowing that this legislation is necessary.” The debate over infanticide which seems better fit for Nazi Germany has now arrived in 21 century America. This is our debate.

Christians and Virginians must speak clearly against infanticide. We must use our voices and the democratic process to encourage our state and federal politicians to defend all of life. We must daily and repeatedly remind our neighbors, our communities, and our nation that every human life – the terminally ill, the sick, the young  and the old – is valuable.  I hope and pray that Sasse’s bill will be reintroduced soon and that all 100 senators will support it. But regardless of what the future hold, Christians must never tier of defending life.

We cannot be silent on this issue.

May God be merciful to us!