The anniversary of Roe v. Wade

I have let this week get by without acknowledging the dark landmark on our culture: the Roe v Wade decision.

It has come around again in intensity because of the exposure of Planned Parenthood and the immoral actions they take in abortion. That has quickly dissipated, however. Something I easily predicted last summer.

Here is the deal: I work from what I call a “pro-life” ethic. And I will NOT allow that term to be hijacked because I am tired of trying to come up with new terminology. When good terminology gets hijacked, there are times we need to yank it back.

This is something in my life that is not “Republican” or “Democrat.” Of course, I don’t have to worry about it being misconstrued by “Democrats” who have already checked out on me because I dared to use that nasty phrase: “PRO-LIFE.”

The pro-life ethic I work from is as close to “womb to tomb” as I can comfortably get it for me. (Which will alienate me from Republicans and Tea Party folks quickly.) And I keep working on pushing it out even further, but there are times when I see evil in this world and I want it truly snuffed out… hard. I’m a work in progress.

On this occasion, though, I do want to remember the horrific decision of this nation to allow the ongoing slaughter of unborn children.

AND, I want to pause in a somber moment to mourn how we just simply treat people in general. There is such a disdain for each other in our culture. In political terms, “pro-abortion” supporters will disdain “pro-life” supporters. And vice versa.

I long for a way to be so PRO-LIFE that young mothers trying to make difficult decisions gain a hunger for LIFE. It’s not a matter of “prosecuting” mothers who decide to have an abortion. It’s being a society that so values life we help people see the high value in key choices they need to make… and they see such value in LIFE they choose to walk bravely with the help of our culture in a life giving direction.

I long for a way to be so PRO-LIFE that we see young families AFTER the birth! We don’t kick the poor to the curb. We don’t just spout off, “Get a job!” to people because we think they are poor without considering what is going on in their lives.

For me, personally, I long for a way to be so PRO-LIFE that I can say one day, “The only person more pro-life than me (meaning womb to tomb) is the Pope!”

May my ethic continually move toward what is life-giving and not death inducing.

 

The obligation of the Kingdom

Reflecting on society, laws, cultural wars… and having a lot of time to think while I was driving across Iowa… I began to think on what I practice but do not articulate very well. I am not sure I can still articulate it well, but this is my attempt.

No matter what laws are passed or are not passed in this country or any country regarding how to treat (or not treat) another person, there is NOTHING in an earthly law that can surpass the obligation of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God dictates a far higher respect for human beings than any human law.

Regretfully, we do not live this out as Christians. As liberals, we will point out how to treat people, or not treat people, and then proceed to point out which specific groups we are talking about.

As conservatives, we will hear a list made and then unintentionally (or intentionally) rebel against that list.

One example is women. In my denomination (which is conservative theologically) we have ordained women into ministry since our founding. But when “women’s lib” came along, all of a sudden we have a move to be “more biblical” and “put women in their place.” We will ordain women, but we have a serious undercurrent that questions that process and balks completely at actually voting women ministers into significant offices in our districts or at the national level.

Beyond my denomination are conservative movements that will not ordain women into ministry at all. Ignoring key passages on key women ministers in the New Testament (like Romans 16), they make declarations like “not bowing to current cultural trends.”

But if we will ALL step back and evaluate, the truth of the matter is that the Kingdom of God obligates us, as believers, to treat women better than any culture could ever mandate. Whether it is in the church and discussing the issue of ordination, or OUTSIDE the church and advocating for things like better maternity leaves in the workplace, the Church should be leading the way in doing better.

There isn’t any law or cultural trend that dictates how I treat women. My obligation to the Kingdom of God calls me higher. It should call ALL of us, as believers, higher.

My obligation to the kingdom of God calls me to treat any human being with far more respect than any culture here on earth could possibly demand of me.

19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 26 So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27 but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:19-27)

A Pro-Life Ethic in a Sexually Charged Culture

This story really caught my attention for several reasons.

1. It’s in Iowa. I thought this might be something from New York or California or Florida. But this case happened in Iowa.

2. The court’s decision was 7-0. No dissenting votes. The boss could actually fire his employee because she was too attractive.

But beyond that, I thought about the design of a “pro-life” ethic (an ethic for true living) and how that should look in the real world. The boss, who has a profession of faith, fired his employee because she was too attractive.

Beyond the “constitutional” rights of the employer or employee, what does a Kingdom ethic have to say in this kind of environment?

If the boss is a Christian, did he do the “right” thing in a Kingdom perspective?

If the boss is a Christian, would a true “pro-life” ethic say anything about thought life? Personal control? Acting in a different way?

Or, does he just go ahead a fire a long-term employee because he thinks it threatens his marriage?

Again, beyond a constitutional argument, what might be a “pro-life” ethic?

This is the stuff I think we SHOULD be challenged with in our daily world. The Kingdom of God should say something to us as believers in daily work like this. The question is… does it?

A Pro-Life Ethic and Avoiding Bumper Sticker Theology

Over the past few months I have worked at what I am calling a true “pro-life” ethic. This is an ethic I believe can be sustained as a Christian. It is also an ethic that I believe cannot be labeled “liberal” or “conservative,” “Democrat” or “Republican.”

In the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut, I have been working through this ethic again.

In a conversation last night with good friends we also talked about the “DNA” of our American culture. Truly, the argument cannot be about “gun control” alone. It can’t be about “mental health” alone.

The deeper question we are all afraid to ask is, “What has made us this way? What has made us this culture that thinks a violent response is a legitimate way to solve an issue?”

We are afraid to ask because the blame game has to stop at that point. We can’t blame politics or political views. We have to look inside ourselves and we quite frankly don’t like that thought.

A true pro-life ethic, I believe, needs to cut through the divisive arguments to the core of what makes us tick. I think we need a conversation on “DNA” of cultures.

Two things I thought about from our conversation last night:

1. From our founding, this nation has always resorted to violent solutions much quicker to solve big issues. For instance, Britain ends the slave trade decades before the United States, and without firing a shot in civil war. We go to war.

2. From our founding we seem to have the motto of “rugged individualism.”

There are times when that seems appropriate. There are times that just doesn’t work.

So, let me demonstrate how I think a true pro-life ethic can help understand the core of our issues, even if we don’t want to talk about them. I will do so by offering up something I truly despise: A bumper sticker thought. But I do so to try to elicit response. (I’ve also buried it way into this post so I can make sure you’ve at least read my thoughts to this point.)

Here we go: rugged individualism is in the DNA of our culture and is evident in two extremes: On the “left” it is the radical commitment to abortion. On the “right” is the radical commitment to gun rights.

Both, I submit, are prime examples of rugged individualism.

Of course, I have lost 90 percent of everyone who has bothered to read this far. Conservatives are mad because I want to take away their guns. Liberals are mad because I want to tell a woman what to do with her body.

Both sides would be wrong.

I am not saying either thing.

I AM saying they are examples of us being more selfish and thinking we have “our own rights” and they come from the “right” and the “left.” To me, that is what shows the DNA of our culture truly is “rugged individualism.” If “rugged individualism” were just about things like gun rights, then you could argue it’s just a conservative mantra. But it’s not. It’s in our cultural DNA.

So, the question should be at this point: What do we do?

But this is the point we have “epic” fail. Because we don’t want to talk about our individual conditions.

I don’t want to talk about my selfishness… I want to talk about your selfishness.

So, we’re stuck.

Without the Kingdom of God and looking to the true King… we will remain stuck.

But we desperately need conversations like this. We need to go beyond bumper sticker theology and talk. We need to wrestle together. We need to reason together.

I want to come out of my theological trench for more than just a time of singing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve and then going back to my theological trench. I want to stand out here in “no man’s land” and DARE anyone to have a conversation!

The Sermon on the Mount and a Pro-Life Ethic

Jesus was serious about the Kingdom bringing a righteousness back into play that would exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. The goal of a true pro-life ethic in the Kingdom of God should be to move away from the emphasis on the regulations of the Law and return to the character of the Law.

The Kingdom ethic demands more of us. A true pro-life ethic may require more out of us, but we have more power available to walk in that ethic. The Kingdom power is at our disposal.

 

Israel, Palestine, and an Effort Toward a True Pro-Life Ethic

I began some thoughts on what it means to have a “pro-life” ethic (HERE), and on that same day the United Nations voted to allow provisional recognition of Palestine as a “state.” This came over the loud objections of the United States and Israel.

This is a perfect areas to try and hash out a true “pro-life” ethic. It’s a messy situation. As a Christian growing up in a very conservative home, I was always taught to be “pro-Israel” (as a geo-political nation) no matter what. As I grew older I realized the complexities of that position.

Jonathan Martin has written an excellent piece on the issue of Palestine, Israel, and being Christian HERE. It’s an article to disagree over, to be sure. I hope there IS discussion over this issue.

But the larger ethic of being radically pro-life stands out to me as Jonathan wrote this sentence:

5.  Loving people on both sides of this conflict does not make a person “anti-Israel” much less anti-Semitic.

THIS is the place I am trying to get to in my pro-life ethic. To be radically pro-life means you reach beyond the political arguments to actually see people, and realize bringing Kingdom blessing to people takes us beyond political posturing.

This is a loaded issue among conservative Christians, and at this point I am hoping there is enough disagreement to actually cause a discussion. My point is we need to work more toward a true pro-life ethic rather than just becoming more entrenched in past political positions. We need to think. 

Source: Carnegie Council

An Attempt on a Life Ethic

We have passed the election season and are now in “fiscal cliff” season. We’ve had about 48 hours of feel good talk (about two weeks ago), and since that time Democrats and Republicans alike have re-trenched their positions.

Politics, culture, and religion are such hot topics. When I try to work my way through this mess, I’ve tried to articulate all along that the Christian in America needs to live prophetically. We need to live with a Kingdom agenda which cuts against the grain of both parties in some areas.

My current thinking about all of this has landed me in a place that I want to call a pro-life ethic. 

It is an ethic I want to put forward to demonstrate just how loaded that phrase in and just how desperately we need to think harder as Christians in this culture.

For instance, if I were in a conversation with someone who is typically “Democrat” in their voting, I am automatically out of the conversation. One can possibly run for dog catcher in Cleveland as a supposed “pro-life” Democrat (which would be the loaded term for someone’s view on abortion) and barely win. But to be a player on the national stage in the Democratic Party, don’t ever utter those words unless it is to deride the position on abortion.

So, in a typical Democratic circle, if I were to actually be able to say, “I have a pro-life ethic,” the conversation doesn’t even get to the next question, which might be, “What do you mean by that?”

But on the Republican side, there is also too much assumption. The question might be, “Well, if you’re pro-life of course this is your party!”

To which I would say, “No. It’s not. The GOP is not consistent with its pro-life ethic, either.”

This is the type of conversation I wish we were brave enough to have in our culture, especially within the church world.

My pro-life ethic is based on the desire to honor all of life. It’s not about “abortion” alone. It’s about what brings life, sustains life, and helps life succeed. It is also about not taking life in any way if we have the control to do so. That isn’t a “hard and fast” rule at all times because I understand the real world in which we live. But my own pro-life ethic is far more to the “pacifist” side than most “Republicans.”

As Christians, I think we should be able to articulate a much better pro-life ethic than we typically do, whether we would lean “Republican” or “Democrat.”

My contention at this point is that as believers living in the United States we should do all we can to strip those labels away and work on the life ethic of the Kingdom of God. Then, we can have meaningful conversations with Democrats at times, and Republicans at others.

I’m tired of being mad at Republicans for some reason, and then being mad at Democrats for some other reason. I would rather work to live out a true pro-life ethic and re-define what that truly means in the life of the Kingdom of God.

This is rudimentary, but I wanted to start someplace. Might as well be here.