Look, Westley, She Always Was Your Little Sister

In the August 8th post, Look Westley, it really is a watermelon, I shared a conversation that I had with my two-year-old great grandson about the day he would meet his baby sister for the first time. Here is a picture of Westley meeting Melanie for the first time.

I was working on the post, Look Westley, It’s a Watermelon, and Westley was spending the day with us. He was sitting on my lap at the computer while I shared that I was writing about his baby sister that was inside his mommy’s tummy. She was out of sight like a watermelon seed inn the ground. But she was alive and one day he would see her and hold her for the first time. She was very, very small like a watermelon seed that would someday grow and some day it would be a real; watermelon.

I suspect that conversation about his sister and a watermelon may have influenced Westley more than I anticipated. Whenever anyone asked Westley the name of his little sister, he responded “Watermelon.” Now, there is similarity in sound between melon and Melanie.

Mary and I anticipate meeting Melanie for the first time today. Our hearts are overflowing with joy at her arrival. At the same time, there is heavy grief in my heart knowing that thousands of little babies like Melanie are being discarded like an uprooted vine tossed into a compost pile.

Harsh? Yes! But it is reality today when the debate is no longer about the right of a baby in the womb, but about personal freedom and reproductive choice. At this point in history, we have lost the battle over abortion as evidenced by the overwhelming victory to make abortion a constitutionally guaranteed right in Ohio. I would never have considered that possible in once conservative Midwestern Ohio.

It appears, that any candidate committed to restricting abortion is at the mercy of an electorate that reflects the Book of Judges where everyone did what was right in their own eyes. The violence and eruption of anti-Semitism across the globe is shocking. But, what should we expect when the only law is “don’t tell me what to do!”


The High Cost of Defending the High Ground

The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest single battle in the Civil War. Over 160,000 Union and Confederate troops struggled for three days between July 1-3, 1863. Gettysburg would prove to be the turning point in the war, and the turning point at Gettysburg was the failed Confederate charge to take the high ground – East Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill- away from the Union forces. The failed Confederate assault to take the high ground, cost nearly 65% of the troops, sent Lee’s army in retreat across the Mason Dixon Line.

Some have debated whether the loss of so many American lives- both Union and Confederate- during the Civil War was worth the price. Those who understood the cancer of slavery said yes. Every black slave that finally tasted freedom would say yes.

Consider another war and another battle to control the high ground on June 6, 1944. The Allied invasion on the beaches of Normandy resulted in severe casualties, especially at Omaha Beach where brave American soldiers, and many filled with fear, left the protection of their landing craft and leaped into the Atlantic surf seeking safety on the beach and discovering German landmines, barbed wire and the relentless staccato of Nazi machine guns reigning down from the higher ground.

Was D-Day worth the cost of thousands of lives? Those prisoners still alive in Hitler’s death camps would respond, “yes!” What would life be like today if Hitler’s demonic vision to rid the world of people deemed to be an inferior race?

Today, another war, another struggle over the moral high ground is being fought. Or, at least it was. Seems to me, we have relinquished the high moral ground in the debate over abortion when we celebrate a state law restricting abortion after 21 weeks gestation. Certainly 21 weeks is preferred to abortion up to the minute of a natural birth.

But, is this any different than the failed compromises preceding the Civil War? Did the Missouri Compromise make slavery less immoral south of the Mason-Dixon line? The Kansas-Nebraska Act permitted each new state that joined the Union to decide whether to legalize or to forbid slavery. Sounds like the abortion debate today.

When I began posting here on standingonthepromise.com, I never intended to treat the issue of abortion in four consecutive posts. However, the stakes are so high with so many innocent lives at risk, I soon realized I couldn’t say all that I wanted in one post. So, consider the following as an addendum to the previous posts about the struggle over abortion. I believe abortion on demand is the greatest evil- a moral epidemic- in our culture today.

The rapid increase of deaths caused by an overdose of fentanyl or other opioid drugs has caused some people to consider it an epidemic. Pictures of homeless people, sprawled on the sidewalks of our cities, injecting drugs into their arms appear on tv newscasts.

One of my initial responses to these images was to ask myself, “Why are they doing this? Why are they risking death for another high? What is the pain that is causing them to self-medicate?”

There’s enough blame to go around. It is easy to point fingers at the drug cartels that smuggle illicit drugs across our porous southern border. Liberal politicians- both state and national- that refuse to enforce the Law also bare responsibility for the opioid epidemic. Even I, who watch the pictures of people lying on the sidewalk or staggering down the street bear some responsibility. Have I prayed for them? Have I ever risked trying to speak to them- to even ask their name? Of course not! It’s too dangerous? After all they’re miles away from Troutdale. It’s not my problem.

Yes, the opiod epidemic is taking the lives of too many people. But the differences between the abortion epidemic and that of opiod deaths are stark. Every person that inhales or injects or swallows drugs has chosen to do it. Perhaps it was just curiosity the first time. Or, perhaps it is an attempt to escape reality by burying the inner pain caused by life’s harsh experiences. However, no matter the reason, it was a choice that each victim of a drug overdose has made. A risk they chose to take.

In contrast, the epidemic that I am thinking of is never the choice of the victims. Far more deaths in our country result from abortion than from drug overdoses.

Every life is a terrible thing to waste. Every death should be grieved whether occuring in a lean-to tent on the streets of Portland or in an abortion clinic.

Sadly, without legal protection and a fresh spirit of compassion, infanticide will continue in our self-centered, pleasure-seeking culture. Today, we seem to be in a race to make abortion legal at any time and for any reason. However, man-made laws can never make something that is inherently evil morally good.

I realize that I may be “preaching to the choir.” People who already believe that legalizing abortion is wrong. Perhaps, these blog posts may be just a “voice in the wilderness.” But, if you also feel compassion for the most vulnerable among us, I invite you to also pray for and to cry out for justice for unborn.

Oh, how I long for that day when pain and death will no longer make headlines. When justice and compassion will flow like a river and innocent blood will be vindicated.

That wonderful day will be the fulfillment of the promise I stand upon, that someday the “seed of the woman” will deal a death blow to the great serpent- the enemy of everything that is good. Meanwhile, I am sustained with anticipation and will continue to offer my voice on behalf of the victims of this great epidemic.

The Mystery and Wonder when Two Cells Become One

“For You formed my inward parts;
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Yor works;
My soul knows it very well.”
(Psalm 139:13- 14a. ESV)

My original intention when I set out to write this post several weeks ago was to explore the familiar “one flesh” statement in Genesis: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24, ESV)

How can two people, a man and woman in a marriage covenant, become one? I pondered whether there might be something from the natural, physical world that might help illustrate “two separate identities becoming one.”

My mind turned to human reproduction. The search was on. The Internet replaced Biology and Human Anatomy text books. I discovered more than a potential illustration of how a man and a woman become one flesh in the marital relationship.

My research immediately pulled my mind back to the question that I have addressed in the previous blog posts:  When does a baby in the womb become a person deserving legal protection? I believe the answer lies in the following information lifted from my research:

When two unique cells- an egg and a sperm- come together they lose their identity and become one very special cell- a living organism that can divide and grow into a baby boy or girl- another human being.

In human reproduction, the male produces thousands of sperms- single cells with a nucleus but with only half of the chromosomes that identify us as being human. The woman’s body produces ova/eggs that are also single cells with a nucleus but only 23 chromosomes. Because the sperm and egg contain only half of the number of chromosomes, they are call haploid cells. In the human body, only egg and sperm cells are haploid—containing only 23 chromosomes.

These cells, sperm and egg, are not living organisms and cannot survive unless fertilized. Both sperms and eggs have a very short shelf life if fertilization does not take place.

Now I quote from a textbook: “sperm and egg cells, known as gametes, fuse during fertilization to create a Zygote. During fertilization, a sperm and ovum unite to form a new diploid organism.” (Note my emphasis.)

This new human diploid cell contains the full set of 46 chromosomes and has the potential to multiply by dividing. To grow and mature into another human being. But, note in the bold print above how the sperm and egg have “fused” together. They have become one cell with a full set of 46 chromosomes that will determine everything about the baby that is developing in the mother’s womb. This cell- this tiny cell- is a living organism with its own identity while living within but not part of its mother. It is a distinct organism from its mother. Its life could potentially extend through nine months of gestation and decades outside the womb.

So, it is here inside the mother’s body that something special, something wonderful, has happened.  Two unique cells have fused to become one new living being. This truth from human reproduction- from science- convinces me that life begins at conception and has potential to live and mature for nine months in its mother’s uterus. If not destroyed.

So having shared three previous posts asking when does an embryo become a person, I choose to land on these words above: “fuse” and “form a new, living organism.” Any deliberate attempt to prevent its maturation and a live birth is to take another human life. It is wrong. It is inhumane.

That is why I have written these posts. I add my voice to those who, like the 19th century abolitionists who demanded the immediate end of slavery. A war was fought. Blood was spilled on American soil to remove the curse of slavery. Pictures and stories about the suffering that black slaves endured helped turn public opinion.

Today, after the death of Roe v Wade, it’s as if another war has been declared. A war against life itself. Liberal politicians rush to protect abortion on demand. Liberal states advertise that they’re open for business. Even some more conservative states are being caught up in the abortion riptide.

Two pictures are unwelcome at a proabortion rally or in front of the local Planned Parenthood building: pictures of the tiny miracle sucking his thumb while living inside the womb of its mother and especially unwelcome are real pictures of the “product” of an abortion- whether burned by saline solution or dismembered and suctioned or poisoned. (Yes, those are harsh words, but it’s the truth about abortion. The truth they want to hide. The truth, like that of slavery, that the public needs to acknowledge.)

Let us join the struggle to remove this blight that tarnishes our claim to be a civil society. Let us reclaim the high ground in the struggle to protect all human life. Let us demonstrate compassion for the pregnant woman who is being pressured to abort her baby. Let us walk with her through her pregnancy- both prenatal and postnatal.

Let us help reveal the mystery and wonder that is happening inside the womb. I encourage you to go on Line to be, as I was, overwhelmed and exclaiming “Wow! Marvelous! Unbelievable! Wonderful!”

I share a very few examples of the wonder that is transpiring inside the womb:

By the 4th week of pregnancy, the neuro tube that will become the brain and nervous system is forming and the head is beginning to form as is the head with eyes, ears and mouth. (The formation of the eye between the 3rd and 10th week is a marvel in itself.)

5th week: Cells that will become the heart are beginning to pulsate at 110 times per minute.

6th week: arms and legs and taste buds are forming.

7th week: Cartilage is beginning to become bones.

8th week: All major organs have developed.

10th week: Arms, hands with fingers fully formed and nails beginning to grow; same with feet and toes.

12th week: The circulatory, digestive and urinary systems are working- creating urine.

16th week: The baby can hear her mother’s voice and will also respond to light.

From this point on, the baby will grow and gain weight to prepare for his/her birth. That, in a nutshell is a snapshot of the miracle and the wonder that happens when two cells- an egg and a sperm- fuse to become one new living organism!

Imagine, if David could have known, what we now know about the wonder when two cells become a new, living organism- another person growing in its mother’s womb.

The debate over abortion ought to be when is a baby a person deserving protection- a wonderful miracle not just a piece of tissue to throw away.

If you agree, please add your voice.

When is a Person a Person?

Can a sheet of paper change property into a person?

A recent episode of the TV show Finding Your Roots, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., helped a popular black entertainer discover how just one sheet of paper—and a few words written with ink—forever changed her family’s trajectory.

Decades before the Civil War or the Emancipation Proclamation, a slave owner wrote a few sentences on a sheet of paper, declaring that her female slave would be set free the next day at a specific hour. At that almost magic moment in time, the ancestor ceased being “a piece of property” without legal rights. She became a person with full legal rights to pursue life as she pleased.

That piece of paper changed the direction of the emancipated slave’s descendants forever. They would also be born as free persons, not as slaves. But there was one thing the sheet of paper did not do, nor could it ever accomplish. It did not transform a piece of property into a person—a real person—not three-fifths of a person. No piece of paper can do that. Only our Creator God can make that call.

Human laws may err; God’s laws do not. The Dredd Scott Decision and Roe v Wade were wrong-headed. Each became the law of our nation; each needed to be expunged and, thankfully, were declared to be unconstitutional.

Today there is controversy over the issue of abortion—over the question “when does a baby deserve protection in the womb of its mother?” Each of the 50 states have laws specifying such a date. Some states choose 20 weeks gestation. Others, 28 or 36—or perhaps when the fetus can survive outside the womb. Regrettably, almost beyond imagination, a few states essentially provide no legal protection even up to the moment of birth.

How can this be? Why the confusion? Why so many different laws determining if or when a baby can be aborted, and his or her life terminated?

Why the race, in some states, to place the right to abort a baby at any time for any reason as a constitutional right? If abortion is a matter of life or death—and it is—why all this subjectivity? That is exactly the reason some people today have chosen the title abolitionists. Like the bold people in the 19th Century that called for complete eradication of the evil of slavery throughout the nation. Today, those abolitionists remain heroes.

Where are the voices of those who, when polled five years ago, said they believed abortion was wrong? How can the issue of taking the life of an innocent person no longer be a moral issue to oppose? Abortion is either right or wrong—evil or just. There is no middle ground if the life of another human being is being terminated.

So the issue remains: When is a baby a person? Answering that question is all-important. Is it at conception? Is it when it reaches an embryo or fetal stage? Or does it become a real-live baby when it gasps for its first breath? Or maybe somewhere in between the above options?

Since abortion involves premeditatively killing something or someone that is alive, dare we subjectively choose a date during gestation to insert the scalpel or to drink the poison?

If I am a deer hunter in the forest seeing something move—something obviously alive—but I can’t determine if it has antlers, should I pull the trigger? What if in that instant I realized that the movement might also be my son, hunting with me and moving through the trees? Should I take a chance and pull the trigger? Of course not! How then can we justify subjectively setting an arbitrary date to terminate a human life in the womb?

It isn’t just senseless. It’s evil. And words on paper inserted in a state constitution can never make it right.

Now a personal note about God’s grace:

I realize that what I have written in this post sounds harsh. However, I am not suggesting that abortion is an unpardonable sin.

David committed murder to hide his sin of adultery, yet was forgiven. Saul of Tarsus, prior to encountering the resurrected Jesus, pursued physical violence against Christians including the death of Stephen. Paul would later write that where sin abounds, God’s grace is greater. Paul would also call himself the greatest of sinners, yet he had experienced overwhelming mercy.

So, if you are struggling with guilt over an abortion, I encourage you to confess and to experience God’s forgiveness. Perhaps, also seek godly counsel with a pastor or a counselor at a Pregnancy Resource Center near you.

I am also writing to caution anyone who may be contemplating an abortion. Knowing that something is gravely wrong, and yet pursuing it, is to presume on God’s grace. Consider alternatives to abortion. Receive help and compassion at a Pregnancy Resource Center.

When Is a Baby a Person?

In the previous post, “Look Westley, It’s a Watermelon,” I shared a metaphor to illustrate that I believe the human life begins at conception. I realize this isn’t a popular concept today. I also expect there will some who will disagree and push back. That’s good. The one response I don’t welcome is apathy, because the issue is a matter of life or death for one person involved in an abortion.

The debate ought to center on this question: When is a baby in the womb a baby that deserves legal protection?

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) that debate began in the United Kingdom and the British Parliament after a woman aborted her baby that was seven months or more old in gestational age. See the excerpt below:

“A fairly one-sided ‘debate’ has been launched after a woman lied to medical professionals in order to kill her unborn baby, whose gestational age was between seven and eight months.”- Michael Curzon, Writer for The European Conservative- June 15, 2023

The incident involves a mother of three who claimed she was just seven weeks pregnant in order to secure the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. She was in fact 32 to 34 weeks pregnant. The woman had made a number of online searches, including “How to lose a baby at six months.”

After taking the drugs that she had dishonestly obtained, they triggered labor, as intended. Her daughter—that she had named Lily—died before being born.

Today, in Great Britain the debate is over appropriate punishment, if any, for deliberately taking the life of a baby. Caroline Nokes, a member of British Parliament is calling for overhauling The Offences Against The Person Act of 1861. The act has been adapted over the years but remains British Law.

Section 58 of that law states that “Every woman, being with child, who, with intent to procure her own miscarriage, shall unlawfully administer to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or shall unlawfully use any instrument or other means whatsoever with the like intent, and whosoever, with intent to procure the miscarriage… shall be guilty of felony, and being convicted thereof shall be liable…to be kept in penal servitude for life.”

Sounds harsh.

Section 59 of the Law deals with those who supply the poison or procure the instruments to cause the miscarriage. They are also considered guilty and are to be “kept in penal servitude.”

Closer to home, in the spring of 2022, a mother assisted her 17-year-old daughter who was nearly 6 months pregnant to abort the baby. The mother ordered the abortion drugs and gave them to her daughter who reportedly had said, “I can’t wait to get this thing out of my body so I can wear jeans again….”

Mother and daughter first attempted to burn the body before finally burying it to hide the evidence. Both now face misdemeanor and felony charges for an illegal abortion and for concealing a death and abandoning a body.

Just writing that account rips my heart over the cold, insensitive attitude toward and treatment of the “stillborn” baby. My shock and pain are increased because these are people from my home state of Nebraska, where people are “common, ordinary and decent.” At least that’s what it seemed like when I grew up there.

So, if it’s not a real baby—a human child–why did the British woman name her seven-month-old baby? And in the American case, if the baby was only a “thing to get rid of,” why try to burn the body and bury the evidence?

Yes, I am angry at the careless, cold, evil treatment of these innocent persons—discarded for the sake of “convenience.” Scripture condemns it. Laws forbidding abortion have been on the books for centuries in most nations and most cities and states in the USA. Common sense and just plain decency screams that it is wrong!

I am also angry at the lies being told to justify abortion. Every little baby is precious and is wanted by someone waiting to adopt. Every embryo, even a zygote—that first diploid cell that is formed when the sperm unites with the ovum—carries the genetic material or DNA of a real person. Its gender has already been determined, as well as the color of its hair, eyes and skin. Its potential athletic skills or mental capacity is all there, waiting, just like Westley’s watermelon seed was waiting to break through the soil and greet the sun. Just like Westley’s baby sister is waiting to be cherished and loved and protected. One day, Lord willing, she will greet the world with her first cry.

But no! Some people prefer to silence them forever.

I believe the voices of the victims of abortion have not been silenced. Perhaps they may join the prayers of the martyrs whose blood cries out to be avenged. Someday, that same gentle Jesus who tousled the hair and held little children in His lap—no longer a lamb but the Lion of Judah—will avenge every innocent life that has been taken since that of Abel.

If you believe there is no God, there is also no right or wrong. Life is not sacred. It’s the survival (and pleasure) of the fittest. Let the powerful destroy the weak. But if there is a God, a Creator who made us in His image, then all life is sacred, and the reality of “right” and “wrong” can never be buried, cancelled or glossed over with politically correct terminology.

We can ignore God for a while, but not forever.

Look Westley, It’s a Watermelon

The demise of Roe v Wade has not ended the public debate over abortion. In fact, it has motivated those who favor abortion. Millions of dollars have been invested to influence elections in several states. Some are trying to place “abortion on demand” as a guaranteed right into their state constitutions.

My concern is that the debate over the issue of abortion has been derailed. It seems that the most basic issue regarding abortion is no longer being debated in the public forum, or for that matter in the halls of justice: “When does an embryo or a fetus become a baby—another human being?” That is the question. Or should be.

The metaphor below is written by a great grandfather that has two great grandsons, Calin and Westley. Both are filled with life and curiosity. But great grandfather has used Westley in the story because his name begins with a W as does watermelon and because his mother is pregnant with Westley’s baby sister.

Imagine, my great grandson, helping me plant a watermelon seed asking, “Papa, what is that little black thing? Why are you putting it into the dirt?”

“Westley, it’s a watermelon seed.”

“But, it’s so little! It doesn’t look like a watermelon.”

“Just wait, you’ll see. Inside that little black seed is something that’s alive. It’s just waiting to grow into a watermelon.”

Several warm, sunny days pass. Westley and Papa go out to the garden.

“Papa, look. What is that little green thing?”

“Westley, remember when we put that little black seed into the ground? It was alive. Look at those little green leaves popping out of the ground. It is a watermelon plant. It will grow bigger and bigger and become a long, winding vine.”

Weeks pass. Westley comes to visit again.

“Papa, look! There’s a big yellow flower on the watermelon plant.”

“Yes, Westley. That flower will become a watermelon. Just wait, you’ll see.”

Weeks pass. Days filled with sunshine and plenty of water. “Westley, come look at our watermelon plant.”

“Papa, what is that little, round ball where the flower used to be?”

“Westley, that’s a watermelon.”

“Papa, you’re teasing me. It’s too small to be a water melon. It’s no bigger than a pea.”

“Yep. But, just wait. It’s a watermelon. It’s going to grow and grow, and one day it will be a delicious watermelon.”

The melon is now big and green. Ripe and ready to pick. Westley comes to visit again.

“Oh, Papa, look at that watermelon! It’s so big!”

“Yes, it is big, Westley. Remember that little, black seed that we put it in the ground and covered with dirt? Those first little green leaves pushing their way up out of the soil. Remember that first big, yellow flower on the vine and that tiny little pea-sized ball? Now, here it is a big, round watermelon. It was always a watermelon. Even when it was a little, black seed buried out of sight in the ground. Later, when it was a flower and then a little round ball it was always a watermelon.”

“Westley, this watermelon reminds me of what is happening in your mommy’s tummy. One day your daddy helped plant a seed inside your mommy’s tummy. In a very special way that God has planned, your little sister began to grow like that watermelon seed that we couldn’t see because it was in the ground. But it was alive and was growing until one day we saw the first leaf of the watermelon plant.

“Now your tiny baby sister is growing bigger and bigger inside your mommy. Her tummy will get bigger and bigger. One day your mommy and daddy will go to the hospital and when they return, they will bring your baby sister home with them. You’ll get to see your sister for the first time. She will finally be your little sister to hold and to love. But, Westley, remember she was always alive. She was always your little sister even inside your mommy’s tummy.”

Today, the debate over the issue of abortion has been derailed. We have changed the narrative to a woman’s right over her own body or reproductive health, but the question remains: is it ethical to ignore the plight of the innocent life within a womb? Is it right—not whether it is legal—to take the life of another human being?

That raises a greater question: If an embryo or fetus is a living person, or a potential person, can it be just or moral to premeditatively take another life? I realize that I will be accused of being crude and insensitive to use the word, murder. But isn’t that what our legal system calls the premeditative act of taking another person’s life?

So, the narrative ought to return to when is a baby really a baby? Does passing through the birth canal suddenly make it a baby? Does the first gasp for air make it a baby? The first cry?

Was it a baby at 26 weeks gestation when in some states, just three days ago it was legal to kill? Did something magical happen on the 182nd day to make it a person? A person deserving legal protection?

That’s the true narrative! Not “women’s health care” or the right of a woman over her own body while ignoring the plight of another little body—a living person.

That should be the debate.

The Influence of One Man to Transform an Empire

“A picture,” as they say,” is worth a thousand words.” That’s how I introduced a blog on November 19th.

A picture can raise public awareness of injustices. Pictures on the evening news or in Life Magazine of blacks marching across the bridge in Selma—being bloodied by police batons and dogs—raised awareness and fueled the struggle against segregation. Last year, the picture of a police officer’s knee pressing against a black man’s neck unleashed public anger. Unfortunately, it became an excuse for rioting and anarchy. The injustices have always been present, but one picture pushed the simmering anger to the boiling point. 

Such is the power of one picture. 

Today, here on Front Porch Swing, I want to consider what one man or one woman taking up the cause against an injustice can accomplish. That man, in this case, was William Wilberforce.

Wilberforce, a member of the British House of Commons, led the cause to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire. He began the struggle in 1788, while gathering meticulous information about the brutal realities of slavery. He introduced bills that were defeated in the House of Commons in 1791, 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804 and 1805. In spite of each rejection, Wilberforce continued his mission relentlessly. Finally, on Feb. 23, 1807, the House of Commons voted to abolish the slave trade by 283 to 16. His persistence paid off. Yes, others were also part of the cause, but it took one man in a strategic place, fully committed to the cause, to lead the charge. 

Wilberforce and other abolitionist turned the tide of public opinion by exposing slavery for what it really was. Pictures of field workers under the harsh whip of white plantation owners and living examples of emancipated slaves displaying the scars on their backs began to open eyes. Taking wealthy merchants, with wives in tow, to visit ships where up to 700 slaves were chained in tight quarters below deck in filthy conditions also had an influence. 

What they saw—and smelled—and experienced—they could never forget. 

They witnessed the iron shackles. They learned that half the slaves torn from their homes and villages in Africa would never survive the trans-Atlantic crossing, but would fall victim to disease, torture, and suicide. The stench in the slave quarters of the ship burned nasal passages, but began to open eyes and hearts and mouths to cry out against exporting human beings like cargo.

The actual institution of slavery, however, was not abolished in the British Empire until July 26, 1833. 

Why? Why 26 years? Why did it take so long to eradicate something so obviously evil? Simply speaking: money. There were fortunes to be made, and slave labor sustained the sugar and cotton industries. The British loved sugar in their tea. What’s more, slave trade generated tax revenue, and bankers, merchants and politicians benefited. Britain became wealthy through the trade of products produced on the backs of slaves. The injustices of slavery remained out of sight (by choice) since it was across the Atlantic in the Americas. Not in enlightened England.

The same motivations drove and sustained slavery in our Southern States. Huge plantations depended on cheap (free) labor in their tobacco and cotton fields. Sadly, money spoke louder than Scripture. In fact, Scripture was twisted to defend slavery in southern churches. In later years, it was also used to justify the evil of segregation and Jim Crow laws and the Klu Klux Klan. On a visit to a southern state in the heart of the cotton industry, I visited the Museum of Cotton. Watching videos about cotton production, I was somewhat stunned to hear the narrator suggesting that the poor blacks actually benefited and loved their gracious masters.

Thank God slavery and segregation is forbidden by law today. But just making something illegal doesn’t mean that it stops. Racial injustices continue. Humans are being sold and transported around the world and in America today. More often these days, they will be young girls or women sold into sexual slavery. Or they may be poor immigrants smuggled into the country and forced to labor in sweat shops where they will never escape poverty.

But today I want to revisit the issue of abortion. Perhaps one day, soon I hope, the generations that follow may look back at the present brutal and horrific practice of abortion on demand. They may write books about the cruel injustices heaped upon the unborn and defended by politicians and judges using the very amendment intended to eradicate slavery. Will those who follow us criticize preachers and professors of ethics who shamelessly defend abortion on the basis of a woman’s “right to privacy”? Will they be shocked to discover that abortion became a profitable industry (I cringe to even us the word), and that tax money supported an institution responsible for millions of abortions?

How can this be in our “enlightened” 21st century?

Maybe we aren’t as enlightened—or “woke”—as we imagine ourselves. Are we as blind, by choice, as those British bankers and businessmen and housewives dumping sugar in their tea, while human beings were bought and sold and abused like livestock? Surely not! Of course, we are more cognizant of injustices around the world. Aren’t we? People living in the 2020s are more empathetic and compassionate than those 17th century aristocrats. Aren’t we? We would never value sugar more than another human being.

I wonder. I wonder if we have simply chosen to look the other way. 

Will it take a picture, like that of the cop’s knee on the neck of a black man? Will it take one or two or more citizens dedicated to becoming a voice defending those without a voice? Each of these little ones has a brain, a heart, lungs and stomach, and can feel pain. But in the womb—no voice. No legal protection.

Let me illustrate. Perhaps you’ve seen something on the Internet about the penalty for killing an eagle or destroying a marine turtle’s nest. Eagles have been protected by law since the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, because they were in danger of becoming extinct. Thankfully the eagles have rebounded under protection of the law and we can enjoy their majesty today. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 added protection for other species threatened by extinction. Today, killing or possessing any part of an eagle can bring a misdemeanor conviction and fine up to 5,000 dollars, or a felony conviction and fine up to $250,000 or 2 years in prison. A construction company in Florida was convicted of destroying a tree where eagles nested and fined $356,125. The individual worker most responsible was fined $5,000 and put on a 3-year probation. That’s because we value eagles, and rightfully so.

Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act permits fines of $100 per egg destroyed and up to $100,000 for destroying a nest or killing a turtle.

Pro-lifers have used the above information to demonstrate the incongruity in our culture. One of the strangest, almost ludicrous, responses that I have ever heard appeared in a debate on the internet: 

Turtles are in danger of extinction. Humans are in danger of overpopulating and destroying the planet. Turtle eggs aren’t a part of a woman’s body, and many women don’t die in the process of giving birth to turtle eggs.

The turtle mom wants her babies.

The most unfair argument in that absurd and wildly inaccurate internet post may be the final sentence: “The turtle wants her babies.” I wonder if the mother would even recognize one of her 100 or more offspring if they bumped into each other in the ocean one day. She will never come back to check on the batch of leathery eggs in the warm sand. But I assure that every aborted baby was wanted. Wanted by somebody. Wanted by a family waiting to adopt. Wanted by a church eager to welcome them to the Sunday gatherings.   

 What perplexes me is that the penalty for destroying a protected animal is greater if a corporation or an institution is involved in the crime. Yet the U.S. Government includes Planned Parenthood (an institution) in the annual budget! No law against killing a baby. In fact, they are rewarded with tax money.

I do not write to condemn any woman who has chosen to abort her offspring. That is not my prerogative. That is God’s. Hopefully, someday, it will once again be the government’s task. 

I believe abortion must be the most painfully difficult choice a woman can make in good conscience. I am grateful that God’s grace is greater than all or any sin. He is the God of mercy and second chances. 

I am not the judge, but I am responsible to be the voice—the Wilberforce, if you please—to cry out in defense of the most vulnerable among us.

The Silence for the Lambs

No, that’s not a typo.

It’s a play on the title of a very intense movie starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. But I wanted to grab your attention, because our topic today is truly a matter of life and death.

I write, first of all, as a confession that my voice on behalf of those without a voice has become very passive. Almost a half century has passed since Roe vs. Wade opened the door for legalized abortion in America. Back in the 70s and 80s, the issue of abortion was front burner in the Christian media and in many churches. Every January on the anniversary of that Supreme Court decision (at least in Christian periodicals), the issue of abortion is still revisited. Otherwise, with the exception of a few protests near Planned Parenthood facilities, there is little discussion about abortion in Evangelical churches.

In some cases, this silence may reflect surrender to a perceived lost cause, but I fear that more often it is a desire to be politically correct—or simple acquiescence to a corrupt status quo. One thing seems certain: the issue isn’t going away, and may very well have arrived at a tipping point.

First, the positive news: The number of reported abortions in America has been dropping consistently since 1996 when 1,225,937 abortions were reported. Today there are almost 25 percent fewer abortions being reported. I believe this significant drop is to the credit of those who have consistently and carefully stood in the gap defending those who have no voice. Pregnancy Resource Centers and the use of ultrasound have helped turn the tide by changing public awareness to the fact that fetus in the womb is not simply a mass of tissue. Everybody agrees that something alive will die in every abortion. And I would say someone, not “something.”

Even with a more conservative lineup in the current Supreme Court, we are witnessing a surge in efforts to preserve or even advance a woman’s “right to choose” if and when to abort. The line dividing those who recognize the life of the unborn as human, deserving protection, and those who display little or no concern for the innocent is becoming wider than ever before.

On January 22, 2019 (the 46th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade) New York State passed the Reproductive Health Act, allowing for late-term abortions, in specially defined situations, even up to the child’s birth. There are discrepancies over the details of what the law permits. It seems the national debate is now entirely about a woman’s right to choose to end a life. Where, I ask, is the debate over an innocent child’s right to live?

Regretfully (no, rather shamefully) Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Catholic, not only endorsed the bill but celebrated its passage by directing One World Trade Center to be lit in pink the day the bill passed!

Meanwhile, illustrating the chasm over abortion, conservative States such as Louisiana have passed laws severely restricting abortion only to have the laws struck down.  The volume and the vitriolic spirit of the debate over a woman’s right to abort will only increase. Many are shouting at each other; few are listening. Even fewer are speaking compassionately for the unborn.

We don’t need people screaming at each other while angrily waving signs. We don’t need divisive words like “murder” to win the debate. It is, after all, a simple question of justice. Everybody should want justice for the vulnerable, whether they have a voice or not. We value those like Martin Luther King Jr. who cried out against the injustice of segregation, even losing his life in the struggle. We write books and make movies of men like William Wilberforce who fought for justice on behalf of men and women trapped in the chains of slavery.

The dispute over abortion should not be a debate between liberal and conservative, or Christian and secularist. It really shouldn’t be a struggle between Democrat and Republican—but here I tread lightly because one party has made abortion part of its platform.  Abortion is a struggle between justice and injustice.

The challenge today is this: Who is crying out for justice on behalf of the innocent? Why this silence for the lambs in many of our churches?

I regret my silence. While it’s true that I no longer serve on the board of our local Pregnancy Resource Center, and no longer have a Sunday morning platform, I can still write and speak out in defense of the defenseless.

Let’s stop shouting at each other over the abortion crevasse. Perhaps our voices will be stronger and more effective when we gently but firmly pursue justice for those without a voice. Let us speak with integrity, compassion, and courage while offering support for the woman struggling with an unwanted pregnancy. Let every local church, like Foundry Church in Bend, have an adoption ministry that supports families seeking to adopt a child.

The truth is, no child is unwanted. Let’s volunteer to support efforts to place foster children in Christian homes. While seeking justice for the unborn, let’s continue to offer God’s grace and mercy for men and women who struggle with residual guilt and pain from an abortion.

It’s time to break out of our passivity, demonstrating through our deeds and words that we believe all human life bears God’s image. In place of silence, let’s use our voices to speak on behalf of the innocent, the silent lambs among us.

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.

Before you were born I set you apart.”

(Jeremiah 1:5, nlt)

Have you considered ordering a copy or two of my book, God in His Own Image? It is available as pre-published through several sources including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I have been advised that it is advantageous for an author when books are ordered prior to actual publication. I would appreciate your support in this way. Thank you.

What I am reading: The Essential Jonathan Edwards