Let’s end the week with some good news, depending on your point of view.
The bad news is that astronomers did not know an asteroid the size of a refrigerator existed until it came within 1,800 miles of our planet last week, closer to us than some satellites. The good news is that it missed us.
The bad news is that contractors working on a pipeline in Texas discovered a massive alligator in a concrete drainage ditch. The good news is that a deputy and a game warden were able to secure and relocate it to a wildlife refuge.
The bad news is that Sudan is once again dealing with political conflict after a military coup. The good news is that staff workers with Youth for Christ were able to share the gospel with a thousand Sudanese students, 80 percent of whom indicated that they were giving their hearts to Christ that night.
The bad news is that hunger is a daily problem for millions of Americans. The good news is that 48 percent of US congregations either have their own food-distribution program or support efforts run by another organization such as a food pantry or food bank. That’s over 150,000 congregations.
The bad news is that many people are pessimistic about finding jobs that provide the same pay and benefits as the pre-pandemic positions they lost. The good news is that Christian ministries are helping many find “a paycheck with a purpose.”
As Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker, “You will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” We think the glass is either half full or half empty, when actually it is both.
“The US abortion rate continues to drop”
I say this as a preface to a deeply urgent topic that is making headlines as either good news or bad news, depending on your point of view.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion advocacy group, “the US abortion rate continues to drop.” Between 2011 and 2017, the number of abortions fell by 196,000. The abortion rate (the number of abortions per one thousand women aged fifteen to forty-four) fell from 16.9 percent to 13.5 percent. And the abortion ratio (the number of abortions per one hundred pregnancies ending either in abortion or live birth) fell from 21.2 percent to 18.4 percent.
Such declines are obviously good news to all of us who believe the biblical declaration that life is sacred from conception to natural death. But even one abortion is too many. If nearly 20 percent of US pregnancies end in abortion, then this tragic issue is far from resolved.
Now the issue is back in the headlines as the Supreme Court considers a Texas abortion bill and is scheduled for hearings on another case that could lead to the overturn of Roe v. Wade. However, as with so many other debates over morality in our relativistic culture, this conflict quickly devolves into opinion. I believe life begins at conception and abortion is wrong; the other side believes I am part of a “war on women” that threatens their physical autonomy and personal rights.
“We leave one womb for another”
The good news is that there is another way forward.
I have followed and commended the work of ethicist Russell Moore for many years. His latest article is especially relevant to this conflict. In it, he notes the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe that provides legal protections to unborn children only when they become “viable” outside the womb.
Dr. Moore responds: “A pro-life viewpoint contradicts the social Darwinism that sees human value in inverse proportion to human vulnerability.” While the law views “viability” as “the ability to live on one’s own, independent of the womb and the life of another,” none of us are viable in these terms: “We leave one womb for another: that of our mother to that of the biosphere around us, all of us dependent on oxygen and water and nutrition and on each other.”
I would add that if legal protections are available only to those who are independently “viable,” what of those with severe developmental challenges? Those suffering from debilitating disease? The elderly infirm? The worldview embraced by Roe and its advocates potentially threatens every human being at some point.
Dr. Moore warns: “If human dignity and the sanctity of human life are replaced in priority of passion with the will to power, the unborn will suffer. And they will not suffer alone. Every vulnerable person whose dignity isn’t justified by his or her power will suffer too.”
“Struggling with all his energy”
As a result, the sanctity of life is not just a subjective Christian opinion or a claim relative only to abortion. It is based in the clear logic that life must not be categorized as “viable” or “unviable,” else all lives are threatened. On this matter, Obi-Wan Kenobi is wrong: the objective sacredness of all life foundationally defends and enables us to have “our own point of view” on other subjects.
Ronald Reagan observed, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.” Paradoxically, to oppose abortion is to protect those who support abortion.
Two practical conclusions follow.
One: The defense of all life is a noble and urgent calling centered in our status as God’s sacred creation (Genesis 1:26–27; Psalm 139:15–16). The question is not whether you should intercede and use your influence on behalf of life, but how.
Two: The sanctity of all life means the sanctity of every life, including yours. Ask God to lead you into his purpose for your life today, then say with Paul: “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). As you work, he works. As he works, you work.
Henri Nouwen’s prayer offers us a powerful way to make this commitment to our Father:
I am full of wishes,
full of desires,
full of expectations.
Some of them may be realized, many may not,
but in the midst of all my satisfactions
I hope in you.
I know that you will never leave me alone
and will fulfill your divine promises.
Even when it seems that things are not going my way,
I know that they are going your way
and that in the end your way is the
best way for me.
O Lord, strengthen my hope,
especially when my many wishes are not fulfilled.
Let me never forget that your name is Love.
NOTE: What gift could we possibly give to the One who abandoned his throne in paradise to be born in a feed trough and die on a Roman cross for us? All we can give him is our gratitude for his mercy and grace. That’s what motivated my wife Janet to write her book of daily Advent readings called He Came to Change the World. And you can request your copy today.