On the third Sunday in January of each year, many evangelical churches set aside a few moments to mourn the loss of millions of unborn children and to celebrate the precious gift of life that God has given each of us.
Oftentimes, when Christians speak about political or social issues, some in our society respond by telling us we should keep our beliefs private, within the walls of the church. Many people believe that faith is private and personal and should not impinge upon decisions being made in the political arena.
But we believe that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, and his resurrection is a very public event. Furthermore, our declaration that Jesus Christ is King of Kings has political implications. That is why throughout history, Christians have spoken truth to power:
- The saints who went before us were courageous enough to denounce infanticide in ancient Rome and rescue discarded babies from trash heaps.
- In England, men like William Wilberforce and John Wesley, exposed the horrors of the slave trade and organized Christians into groups that would fight for the rights of people considered to be "inferior".
- Many Christians in Germany opposed Adolph Hitler and the Nazi regime. Some of them, including the pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, paid for his outspoken opposition by being condemned to death.
- More recently, pastors like Martin Luther King, Jr. have reminded us that every human being bears the image of God regardless of their race.
- And today, you can find countless Christians working to put an end to human trafficking and sexual slavery, and to rid Africa of the deadly scourge of AIDS.
We stand in a long line of courageous men and women who were not afraid to speak out against the injustices of their day. And that is why we speak up in defense of the vulnerable lives of unborn human beings.
We believe that every human life has value. Every human being has intrinsic dignity. All human beings - from those in the womb, to those in elderly nursing environments - have worth. Every life deserves to be protected by law. We believe in human rights for all.
Since our last celebration of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, we have seen public sentiment continue to move in a pro-life direction. A majority of Americans now consider themselves to be "pro-life." A sizeable majority opposes abortion funding by the government. Most Americans endorse restrictions on abortion that would make this practice rare.
Even pro-choice leaders have begun speaking of abortion as a "tragic choice." President Obama admits that there is a moral component to this question that cannot be easily dismissed.
The recognition of a moral dimension to this question is both encouraging and discouraging. It is encouraging that people are finally accepting what science and biology have been telling us: Life begins at conception! Ultrasounds have given us a glimpse into life inside the womb.
But the admission of abortion as a "tragic necessity" is also discouraging. It means that some people believe that abortion terminates a human life, and yet they still believe that there are circumstances under which this kind of killing should be sanctioned. I don't know who scares me more - the abortion crusader who believes, against all the evidence, that the fetus is no more human than a blob of tissue, or the abortion advocate who believes fetuses may indeed be human persons and yet would still sanction an atrocious act of violence toward these helpless victims.
The question of abortion goes beyond partisan politics. One can find Republicans who promote the legal sanction of abortion, just as one can find courageous Democrats who stand against it. As Christians this morning, we call on all officials in our country to protect and serve every member of our society, including those who are the smallest and most vulnerable.
It is appropriate that Sanctity of Human Life Sunday would be celebrated the same weekend that Americans remember the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. One reason why we stand for life is because we stand for human rights and racial equality. Abortion strikes at the heart of both of these convictions.
In an interview with The New York Times last July, Supreme Court Justice - Ruth Bader Ginsberg - was asked about the federal restrictions that forbid the use of Medicaid for abortion. Listen carefully to her response:
"The ruling about that surprised me. Frankly, I had thought that at the time Roe versus Wade was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of…"
Justice Ginsberg admits that behind the Supreme Court decision in 1973 was the concern that we limit the expansion of "populations that we don't want to have too many of." I wonder what populations she might have been referring to. If the statistics on abortion demographics are any indication, one can hardly miss her point. Abortion has taken a terrible toll on the black community.
14 million black babies have been aborted since 1973. (That number is equal to one-third of the number of blacks living today.)
Black women are almost 5 times more likely to abort than white women.
And get this: although blacks compose only 13 percent of the population, they have 37 percent of all abortions.
The niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. - Alveda King - has said:
"Abortion and racism are evil twins, born of the same lie. Where racism now hides its face in public, abortion is accomplishing the goals of which racism only once dreamed."
Of course, we do not oppose the slaughter of unborn children merely because it unjustly targets minorities. We believe that abortion cheapens life for all of us. Once we discriminate against human life in its earliest forms, we soon determine that other lives can be discarded and wasted.
We as Christians must work to bring comfort and care to pregnant women in need, and to the women who have regrets about their abortions. We do not believe that it can somehow be in the best interest of a woman to deliberately kill her unborn child. Difficult pregnancies provide an opportunity for us to embrace the mother and child alike. And that is what churches and pregnancy centers all across America do every day.
So we call on those in government to protect the weak and vulnerable, and to do so without discrimination. We seek to defend those who cannot defend themselves. We speak up for the unborn and the disabled. We welcome the child with Down's Syndrome, the child with abnormalities, the child with AIDS. We financially support the family who adopts children of other nationalities and races.
You can tell how pro-life, pro-family, and pro-child our churches really are by the way we support the youngest in our congregations. Some Christians would give months of their time to campaign for a pro-life candidate, but would not give a few hours a year to sit with children in the nursery or teach a child in Sunday School. A truly pro-life, pro-child church will never have a shortage of nursery workers. The sounds of babies crying are the sounds of life, God-given life that we cannot take for granted.
A truly pro-life, pro-family church welcomes the disruption of children in the foyer, rejoices at the sight of new faces in children's church. and smiles at the thought of families from different countries and backgrounds joining us in praise to God.
Being pro-life is not just about having bumper stickers on your car. It's about loaning your car to a single mother.
Being pro-life is not just shedding tears at the thought of how abortion robs the world of a child. It's about you and I treasuring the children God has given us here and now.
Let's continue the defend those who cannot defend themselves. Let's support the pregnancy centers who need ultrasound machines whose images usually convince a woman to save her baby.
Let's welcome the little children, and fight for their right to life.
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