The culture of LIFE

It’s is incredibly unfortunate that “pro-choice” people are now recycling a quote from Catholic nun Joan Chittister from back in 2004:

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
—- Sister Joan D. Chittister, O.S.B

It’s a huge mistake for “pro-choice” people and especially Christians who don’t like the 1980s version of the Pro-Life Movement. The reason it’s a mistake is it only puts the conversation back into the political trenches where it DOES NOT BELONG. We all go back to our trench warfare lobbing our bumper sticker grenades at each other.

So, the “pro-choice” answer to “pro-life” people who really seem to only be concerned with allowing babies to be born is: KEEP ABORTION. It’s foolishness.

What’s more, it fails to understand the deep underpinning of a true PRO LIFE ethic. It’s not a political answer alone. So, for my 1980s style “pro-life” friends, PLEASE don’t make this about “electing the right people so we get the right judges who will overturn Roe vs. Wade” and be done. Let’s not stop there.

And for “progressive” Christians who are hiding in the shadows and whisper oh so quietly, “Um… I’m pro-life,” but not too loudly, I invite you to a better discussion as well.

And let’s start here: Sister Chittister’s remark about tax money alone is stupid. I said it. STUPID. If you think all it takes is tax money… PUH LEEZE.

So, to my 1980s pro-life friends… it DOES take some tax money. And to my “progressive” friends hiding in the weeds, it takes MORE than tax money.

I beg all of us to get out of the bunkers as believers. QUIT the Republican and Democrat mantras! PLEASE!

It’s being horrified by these Planned Parenthood videos. PLEASE allow yourself, my progressive friends, to be horrified. Let something sear your spirit once again.

THEN… let’s get to work. For a true PRO LIFE ethic to work, we have to demand better use of our tax dollars. When it comes to “funding” I think it doesn’t just mean defunding Planned Parenthood. It means FUNDING another source.

For my progressive friends, think more broadly. Since you want to parrot back, “How many so-called pro-life people are adopting?” I will challenge you: more than you want to admit or research. And I ask this favor: YOU have the ear of the Democrats right now. And while you have it, why not lobby them for better adoption laws? Why not make lobby them for easier adoption procedures… and CHEAPER adoption procedures? Why does it have to be so doggone expensive to adopt a child in America?

For my 1980s pro-life friends, quit making the public schools your enemy. Get in there and help. To my “progressive” friends, quit squawking. There are PLENTY of true pro-life people IN the public schools slogging it out. It’s true. So, for ALL of us, let’s demand better education and let’s HELP with delivering better education. Mentor some at risk kids. Every week. Don’t just go for the big splash events or school rallies and feel good. Make a difference. One kid at a time.

This is way too long, but I am so tired of the trench warfare we’ve been engaged in for 40 plus years. It’s time for a better way, and it’s the CHURCH who should rise up and lead the way.

Please… let’s do this.

Culture of death

When I watch people say incredibly threatening things to a dentist who hunts a lion… (which, by the way, would be terroristic threats in some other situations)… and then say NOTHING when videos are shown of Planned Parenthood doctors talking of selling off body parts (or worse, defending the actions as “legal”)… and when I realize that many of the people doing these two actions would call themselves Christian…

It only confirms we have a culture of death. Not life.

Whether it’s being “pro life” politically and then not caring about the poor once they are born, or you care nothing for the unborn and are willing to look the other way why their body parts are being sold off… it’s a culture of death. Not life.

To cry out in supposed compassion for “reproductive rights” and then scream about killing a dentist for killing a lion (and then going and protesting a death row inmate being executed would be the next “logical” step) is hypocrisy at its highest.

We have made it an either/or world and in doing so all “sides” have welcomed in death… not life. We are not a culture that lifts up life any more. Not really.

The way forward is not to defund Planned Parenthood or kill a dentist (or even extradite him). The way forward is not to make killing animals a capital offense, and the way forward is not to make sure everyone is carrying a weapon. That’s all futile and only perpetuates a death culture.

It’s not all that I have left… it is the way forward: It is the way of prayer. This is our grand invitation as believers… believers who see and understand LIFE in the Kingdom… PRAY.

William Wilberforce was a man of political action and prayer. Yes, he acted politically, but through his prayerful journey he was able to end the slave trade in Great Britain without firing a shot decades before the United States ended slavery by a bloody war.

The great invitation is prayer because there is an accounting God will bring to each one of us in a final day. So even if Planned Parenthood kills a million more unborn and sells off every part and the White House prosecutes anyone posting a video showing it… Planned Parenthood will stand before God on that day. And it’s not Cecil the Lion. It’s the Lion of Judah. They’ll only be wishing for Cecil the Lion.

The great invitation is prayer because it is changed hearts that will begin to make wiser choices. Life will start to mean something. All of life. Unborn and living. All can be sustained. God forgive us for our weak arguments! God forgive us for our vain efforts!

Let us PRAY.

Two bold prayers I have on my list every week now, and I ask you to prayerfully put them on your list:

1. End racism
2. End abortion

Call it a fool’s errand. No problem.

But my heart is challenged to pray… and keep on praying.

I weary of this culture of death and how many ways we can keep people from gaining life, and then how cheaply we take it. There is something so much more grand for us all. But we’re blind.

God help us.

The gods of our culture and the mark of the beast

I was listening to a teaching on eschatology given at a church camp by one of my favorite all-time teachers. Gordon Anderson has been president of North Central University for many years, but I was privileged to have him as a teacher when I was a student in my undergrad program before his appointment as president. Listening to his teaching on “end times” reminded me of his teaching as his student.

One thing he would constantly talk about in those days was the symbolism and how we get it wrong. We go around looking at our right hands and checking our foreheads saying, “Whew! No mark of the beast today!” But, he speculated, what if it wasn’t a “mark” but a selling out to the world’s system? We can go around all day long saying, “No mark yet!” and have sold out to the allegiances of the gods of this world.

I reflect on that today as I continue to be stirred by the insanity of our culture and what gets us upset… or not. And quite frankly, what gets us upset in one area often dictates we somehow can’t get upset in another area. And THAT, I would contend, is a sign we’re wavering in our allegiances and we may have a bit of the “mark” in us.

For instance:

Why is it we can’t be horrified by the actions of Planned Parenthood selling human body parts AND be upset by “Cecil the Lion” being killed?

Why is it we somehow have to “choose” between being ALL for the police or ALL for #BlackLivesMatter?

What is it we have to be ALL for Israel (as evangelicals) and never for Palestinians?

Why can we not be deeply concerned by poverty in our country and still desire people to earn a good living and live a good life?

Maybe the “mark” of the beast is seen in blind loyalty to such marks as “Planned Parenthood” and the “NRA” and yet we go around thinking we’re still somehow totally loyal to Christ at the same time.

Maybe the “mark” of the beast is seen in blind loyalty to a political party or being labeled “progressive” or “liberal” or “conservative” and that has become more of our “mark” than our allegiance to Christ.

We are really struggling in our Christian walk these days and it’s not because Christ is confusing. It’s because we’ve allowed marks to be applied to identities other than that what is the “mark” of Christ… and we’re confusing “brand” loyalty with “CHRIST” allegiance.

If we don’t get this figured out soon, those identifying too closely with any other allegiance than Christ will find themselves swept under in the next wave of whatever liberal or conservative garbage that washes ashore.

My greater fear is so many may have taken a mark and just not realized it yet. Then, the cost will come. Not a pretty day.

God help us.

The numbness of our culture

We are not a culture of life. We are a culture of death.

When we are not outraged by Planned Parenthood and instead work to defend these practices with weak arguments like, “Nothing illegal is done,” or work to discredit the ones who shot the videos… we are dead. We somehow can’t bring ourselves to be outraged by these practices and would rather divert the conversation to the rantings of Donald Trump.

When a society cares so little for the beginning of life and the end of life… we’re in HUGE trouble. Narcissism isn’t just about wealth. It’s about our own wants and desires trumping absolutely everything else. Maybe that’s why we like being obsessed with Donald Trump and want to avoid the tough conversations about harvesting the organs and tissue of unborn babies. Trump represents the narcissism we like to call out in others so we don’t feel so bad about our own personal obsessions. Talking about Planned Parenthood lands us too close to our own selfishness and callousness.

This is not a simple, run of the mill, 1980s pro-life argument I am trying to make. I have worked to develop a total pro-life ethic in my own life, but there isn’t any “side” who wants to “talk” about it because at some point in our political wranglings, each “side” has some semblance of a death policy that can’t stand the conversation of life. It’s not just about the opportunity to be born into this world. It is about being well in this world, and giving that opportunity to all. And then, not cutting that life off at the end simply because “it’s their time to die.”

But we don’t want those conversations. Let’s just talk about Donald Trump’s hair some more.

Lord, how we need an awakening of the soul!


Hitch your wagon to a political movement…

Hitch your wagon to a political movement and watch that party fly off, dragging you along, letting the wheels fall off, and you’re left barely hanging on.

Evangelicals did this with Republicans in the 70s and 80s. It took into the 90s and then early 2000s before the realization hit: “Hey, they’re not paying very much attention to us.”

It was too late, we had then raised another generation that saw that mistake… then went and made the opposite mistake. They have hitched their wagon to the Democrats and now the same thing is happening with them.

What is funny is that in both instance we all swore at the time, “Oh, no! I don’t vote lock, stock, and barrel for…” (insert political party here). But truth be told, we did.

So, when the GOP came knocking and gave serious air time and platform time to evangelicals because we were “pro-life” (which is a misnomer I will explain), we sucked it up. Power is heady stuff. Then… nothing happened. We would blame the Democrats. (“Well, if we had Republican majorities we would get things done!”) We got that in 2000 and guess what? Nothing.

The next generation saw the hypocrisy of that… and went right out and made the same mistake. This is where we are currently.

Correctly, the next generation saw that the “pro-life” movement gave all the attention to the unborn but did nothing for the poor and the marginalized. So… be born! And then… good luck!

The Democrats came calling. They let evangelicals into the national conventions. Pastors prayed at their big events. They weren’t so “anti-Christian” as they seemed before.

But then, evangelicals who really did still believe that unborn life was still life found out something: Democrats didn’t want to hear it. At all.

So, we’ve reached another dilemma.

We get these horrific stories like Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia who was an abortion doctor doing horrific things. It should have raised the flags then. While all this time pro-abortion (and that will be my label. I’m not bowing to the “pro-choice” moniker on this one) touted the need for Roe v. Wade to be held up as law in all cases so there wouldn’t be any more “back alley” abortions, here was Kermit Gosnell doing procedures that acted like back alley abortions. 

Then this week, the leaked video of the Planned Parenthood exec talking matter of factly about selling body parts from aborted babies.

The progressive Christians and evangelicals who have cuddled up to the Dems are now in a tight position. They truly hold a pro-life position, but if they speak up to the horrors of this particular issue, the PRESSURE from their liberal friends will be awful. The shaming on Facebook!

Here is the crux of the matter: social shaming is tough stuff. For the left to make fun of Christians and say, “Hey! You’re not being persecuted!” I agree. Not like in the Sudan or Syria. But the social shaming in our context is awful.

Don’t believe me? Fine. But on my Facebook feed I have friends all over the political and theological spectrum, and I have good numbers in all camps. I’ve had ONE friend post a blog post from someone else who was progressive and made a case for being pro-life. (And it was a good case.)

But friends I have who are quick on the trigger (and rightly so in my view) on racism… silence.

Friends who were quick to put the rainbow meme on their Facebook picture… silence.

Bigger progressive voices in the evangelical world? They’ll eventually figure out how to say something with all kinds of qualifiers. But for now, on this date… silence.

You know why? It’s not “persecution” but it’s unbelievable pressure.

And THAT is what we’re left with when we hitch our wagons to political movements lock, stock, and barrel. We lose our PROPHETIC voice… and we have only become PATHETIC.

I will readily confess it.

I am far more “pro-life” in my ethic than most conservatives. I am womb to the tomb pro-life. But there was a time when it meant more to be pro-life in the Republican sense. So, when I hitched my wagon to that issue and voted, I was rabid.

Then, I began seeing the poor. I began talking about the poor. I began asking about how to meet the needs of the marginalized. And things got quiet on the GOP front.

Since even saying the label “pro-life” (and not getting an opportunity to explain it) gets me sniffed at with derision by any Democrat, I’m a man without a party.

And I don’t care. It may not make voting easy, but I have found an uncomfortable place in the prophetic where I can raise a voice for justice on many issues… and get accused of being liberal… or conservative… or Green Party… or Tea Party… at just about any given moment. I have lost “friends” on Facebook with regularity because of all kinds of things. I’ve spoken against actions Israel took, I’ve raised questions on the changing of the meaning of “marriage,” I’ll say something about gun control… you name it… it just doesn’t fit neatly into any one party.

That’s not a comfortable place to be. But when a young white man walks into a black church and starts firing away, I call for justice and a conversation on racism. I want to learn more. And when a Planned Parenthood exec is caught on tape spewing out their basic philosophy of death and it’s finally exposed, I am calling for justice again.

Dear friends, we have lost our way. To the right… to the left… we have lost our way. Years ago, it was my turn to walk away from the “right” politically. I am making a desperate plea to my friends “on the left” to PLEASE make your move away from the Democrat Party. Don’t allow their death agenda to mute your heart’s cry. You KNOW what you saw in that video was wrong. You KNOW how valuable life is… even in the womb. You KNOW the unborn are as marginalized.

YES, there is a greater conversation to have that goes beyond “Well, you guys don’t care about them once their born!” Let’s quit the bumper sticker politics. We need a deeper conversation.

But it will only start when WE as BELIEVERS rise up above the political trench digging and call for JUSTICE.

Let us LOVE GOD! And, dear friends, let us love one another. 

I plead with you.

The gods of our culture

NT Wright and Richard Foster both nailed it long ago. Our three biggest gods are money, sex, and power.

Try to say something against those three behemoths, and see how quick you get knocked back. It’s not a cultural war.

It’s just war.

Planned Parenthood doesn’t represent the “rights of women.” They represent the power of greed and sex. The manipulation they can pull is astonishing.

A couple of years ago the Susan G. Kommen Foundation mentioned they wouldn’t give a grant to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings. Within hours, 1. Planned Parenthood had double the money given to them than what the Kommen Foundation had promised in the grant, 2. Planned Parenthood had completely demonized the Kommen Foundation and sounded like this withholding would bankrupt this great work for women, and 3. the Kommen Foundation restored the grant.

Now, it’s the “revelation” of Planned Parenthood selling off body parts for profit. You would THINK that would be a tipping point moment, but my best guess is it’s not.

Here’s why: there isn’t ONE Democrat crying out for an investigation. And, quite honestly, I’m going to call out my liberal Christian friends on this one. I haven’t heard ONE of them… and I mean NOT ONE… decry this revelation. So much for “justice.”

When there is that much STUNNING silence in some major segments… you know something is truly up. We’re bowing to different gods.

There will be cries for defunding Planned Parenthood, etc. That is not really the battle. The battle is in repentance. There needs to be some tipping point where the horror of this action gets so overwhelming, so sickening, that people finally wake up to the atrocities of abortion and realize what is happening to human life.

I pray this may be that day. Quite honestly… I doubt it.

Kermit Gosnell couldn’t turn our stomachs as a nation. In a few days, this won’t raise an eyebrow.

We allow the allegiances of other gods blind us. And we offend the One we SHOULD be worried about the most.