Gunnar’s post on 1/10/12, “Sanctity of Human Life” was right on. Not long after coming to know the Lord in 1981, I was exposed to the reality of what abortion really is. I had family members and friends that chose abortion based on the biased and limited propaganda that Planned Parenthood spewed pretty much unopposed. Because that was pretty much all they were exposed to, they made a decision that not only had a radical consequence for their unborn babies, but also radical, life-long consequences for they themselves.
In response, I studied up on the subject and got involved with the pro-life movement in various ways, leading people from our church, (CC Escondido), to picket outside an abortion clinic in San Marcos, CA, and even picketed with a large group of people at the NOW national conference that was held at the Hotel Del Coronado back when Roger Hedgecock was mayor of San Diego.
At the abortion clinic we pleaded with the women who were entering to re-consider what they were doing and tried to give them the reasons why we were pleading with them, attempting to explain to them what really takes place during an abortion. We also warned them that they would be held responsible by the God who created mankind because they were willfully destroying a little person created in His image and likeness. We never did turn actually turn away a woman while I was there, but the foot traffic in and out of the clinic definitely decreased on the days we were out there.
After a while, I was personally convicted that my role was to change in the battle for baby rights because others–many others had felt the call to do the confrontational stuff. So, along with Pastor Pat Kenney, (the Sr. Pastor of CC Escondido at the time), we linked up with some other folks and actually attended a few of foundational steering committee meetings for what would become Alternatives Women’s Clinic, the clinic that Gunnar serves as a board member.
I wouldn’t have explained why I began to concentrate on that front of the battle the way I’m about to, but suffice it to say that I recognized that we had no credibility and no moral leg to stand on in the eyes of unbelievers if we didn’t offer an alternative to the women that we were trying to keep from aborting their babies. (Which is why I believe the name “Alternatives” is about as good as it gets for what used to be called a “crisis pregnancy center”).
Over the years, I’ve stayed engaged to a degree, (but honestly, not to the degree that I’m content with), in various ways with Sanctity of life issues and was even blessed to speak at the annual fund-raising dinner for the Crisis pregnancy in St. George, UT, a few years ago.
As with pretty much all other things, my cross-cultural ministry study and experience, (think: Missions!), has given me a different grid to process the whole abortion issue through. I’m sharing it here because I’ve found that when I explain it to Christians and even non-Christians using this kind of terminology, it seems to bring some clarity to them. I believe that as a pastor I need to regularly look for new ways to frame biblical truth so that God’s people can have a greater understanding of things and then be provoked by His Spirit to engage in those things that we know are close to His heart.
Here’s how I share my perspective of the abortion issue in America today:
1. Do little girls joyfully dream about getting older and then having a medical procedure done on them that will destroy the baby that is growing inside of them? I think not.
2. If that is true, then what might cause a girl or woman to choose to submit to a procedure like abortion?
3. Basically, in a free society like ours that values self-esteem as its pinnacle virtue, a high degree of individualism is necessary in order for each person to esteem themselves as much as possible. Thus, you have fertile ground for abortion rights and abortions to exist.
4. Because of these foundational cultural traits, abortion is tolerated by the vast majority of Americans, even though they say they are personally against it.
5. And thus, abortion is not only legal, but to most Americans it serves a crucial cultural purpose: It provides a choice for the girl or woman to remove an obstacle that she believes will in some way limit her individualism because if her individualism is hindered, her self-esteem may never be obtained and she may never be a completely fulfilled person.
In the realm of cross-cultural missions, if the missionary discovers a specific cultural trait that is contrary to Kingdom culture, that cultural trait must be exposed, condemned, and then abandoned. But doing those things alone will NEVER really bring about true transformation away from that cultural trait. The reason for this is simple: Because every cultural trait serves a purpose within the larger culture.
So, we MUST be diligent and put forth the time and energy necessary to discover the role that specific cultural trait plays within the larger culture. Once we understand what that purpose is within the larger culture, we can seek God’s wisdom regarding the introduction of a new cultural trait that is in line with Kingdom culture and that is capable of replacing the one we are condemning. We basically make known to people that God and His kingdom offers a viable alternative to the ungodly practice. That alternative is in line with His Kingdom and will actually accomplish what the ungodly trait did, but in a non destructive to mankind and God-honoring way.
A good example of this approach is found in Daniel, chapter one. Why did kings in those days sift through the people their armies had conquered to find the best and brightest young people? So they could shape them and mold them into people who would perpetuate the kingdom later on in their lives. In their minds, the ultimate motive was for the good of the kingdom. They believed their training regimen, right down to what the captives would eat, was the best way to accomplish their ultimate goal.
That was the context Daniel and his buddies were dropped into by the sovereignty of God. They didn’t take a stand against learning a new language, a new culture, a new education, or even having their names changed to reflect pagan Gods. But, they did take a stand against the diet their training regimen required. At that time, that diet was clearly opposed to an aspect of the Kingdom culture God had called His people to live within.
Daniel modeled the point I’m making. He offered an alternative. He asked for permission to embark on an alternative diet and then he gave the Babylonians the right to judge whether his alternative might actually have accomplished their ultimate goal better than their existing specific cultural trait, (unclean foods).
It’s similar to polygamy among many ethnic groups. Polygamy isn’t primarily an expression of sexual addiction among the men. In their culture, it serves many practical purposes. Most of those purposes can be accomplished by a local church. Alternatives can and should be offered, not just condemnation of the ungodly practice.
And so it is with abortion. God’s people should offer alternatives. We need to be able to say to those girls or women who are pregnant that we have an alternative for them. We will use our resources to give them a choice. Yes, there will be a minor restriction on their individualism if they see the pregnancy through to full term, but we’ll use our love and resources to keep that to a minimum. And the day the baby is born, we’ll ensure that they can have their full individualism back at the very same time we place the baby into a family that will love and care for it with absolute joy.
To offer an alternative like this hinges on the body of Christ working together in unity and I thank God that it’s happening and I pray it will increase until the evil of abortion is done away with.
Finally, as a pastor John Piper challenges me at a number of levels. In the area of abortion, his devotional book: A God-ward Life contains a number of daily entries that analyze abortion from a number of different and very well thought out angles. His commitment to doing a Sanctify of Life message every January for his congregation and his engaging the abortion issue in picketing abortion clinics and writing letters to the editor of his local newspaper is inspiring and convicting. A senior pastor not just teaching about engaging his local community holistically but actually modeling it himself is something that a local church and the unbelievers in his community NEED to see.