Our Reich of indifference...
(Tim) This piece ran in Eternity magazine back in June of 1984, in Dad's (Joe Bayly's) monthly column, "Out of My Mind." The sin of indifference Dad was condemning is the sin of reformed pastors and elders today. Some of us hide behind missional concerns and talk of contextualization; others behind talk of the spirituality of the Church; others two kingdom theology; others redemptive historical preaching; and there are those who make no effort at all to hide it. If nothing else, readers may understand David and I haven't fallen far from the tree. Dad was ordained to the Gospel ministry.
I should add that, when he wrote this, Dad had just served several years as Executive Director of Christian Medical Society, the national professional association of physicians with evangelical doctrinal commitments.
* * *Our Reich of Indifference
"We castigate the apathy of Christians in Nazi Germany-and ignore our own silence on today's holocaust of abortion..."
There is a sin of indifference. It is the sin that binds evangelicals as the Lilliputians bound Gulliver, preventing us from exercising the influence that God has given us in these years-years that are destined to come to an end and may never be repeated.
To me, the outstanding example of indifference is in our reaction to the great sin of abortion that is the shame of our nation...
Each year, one-and-a-half million humans who bear the image of God are murdered, many, perhaps most of them, with accompanying great pain to which a group of non-Christian physicians recently attested. The pain is that of poisoning by a saline solution or dismemberment, being torn apart and removed in pieces from the uterus. (In the latter part of the second and in the third trimester, this is now the procedure of choice, since it removes the possibility of delivering a viable infant.)
Many Americans who protest Canada's annual seal hunt, in which baby seals are clubbed to death, are the most vociferous in defending a mother's right to have her not-yet-born child killed, with greater pain than the baby seals suffer.
We Christians are indifferent. After all, the Supreme Court of the United States by an eight-member majority condemned these millions to death (by some estimates, thirty-one million since Roe v. Wade in 1973). As good Christian citizens we accept this as the law of the land.
Our Christian physicians will be judged for their indifference. With notable exceptions the United States medical establishment, including Christians, has been silent about our great national sin.
Why this silence?
According to Father John Powell, Roman Catholic spokesman for the anti-abortion movement, the answer is money. "I have heard many doctors say that even if the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade and declares abortions illegal, they will continue to perform them. I have never heard a doctor say that he will continue to perform abortions if he is not paid for them."
We blame Christians in Germany during the Third Reich for their indifference to the murder of Jews. "Why were you silent?" we ask.
Some day we will be asked the same question. And a righteous God will not judge the German nation without also judging our nation.
Ironically, in 1975 (two years after our own Supreme Court's decision that a fetus is not a person) Western Germany's Federal Constitutional (Supreme) Court firmly stated the unborn child's right to life. Thus the heirs of the Third Reich alone among Western nations that ruled on abortion statues during a two-year period (United States, Austria, France, Italy, Western Germany, and Canada) affirmed the historic, Judeo-Christian position.
Why are we silent, indifferent to the anti-abortion movement? (I prefer this to pro-life, just as I'd have preferred an anti-gas oven movement in Germany to a pro-Jewish life movement. We like to turn horrible matters into more pleasant positive statements.)
One reason for our indifference, I believe, is the silence of our preachers. Few are crying out against this great evil, pronouncing judgment on a nation of killers. "After all, we don't want to make a young woman in the congregation who has had an abortion feel guilty."
Maybe a woman should face up to the fact that her action has destroyed a human life-a life totally independent of her own-that is growing within her.
I think another reason is that our priorities are skewed. We emphasize growth in the congregation's size, new buildings, exciting programs; these are the test of our effectiveness. Yet how we'd scorn a German Christian who said, "Let me tell you about the new building we put up and paid for during 1938-40," or "We had such a great singles program."
Still another reason is the identification many make of the American government, including the Supreme Court, with the Kingdom of God, or at least an Old Testament theocracy. The lines have been blurred between God and Caesar. We have a knee-jerk reaction that Caesar's decree is morally and ethically right; this determines our evangelical ideas of morality and spirituality. We're really convinced that God is only concerned about personal morality, and that only as it is related to narrow areas of life. Let the state handle the big issues.
In 1948 I was in Europe for a Christian student camp. One night we were discussing the recently ended war. The group of 10 included French, British, and German students, all of whom, except for me, had seen active duty. A German student told about the crucial experience that stood out for him. He had taken a stand against dancing. (Afterward another German student, from the same small evangelical denomination said he had taken the same stand.)
"I ruined my chances for officers training," the German student said, "because I refused to participate in social dances, which was required of officers. But I had been brought up, in home and church, to believe that dancing is wrong."
"'Dancing is wrong'-but what did they teach you about the murder of Jews?" I remember how the thought raced through my mind. Perhaps to my shame, but out of concern for Christian unity and peace in the cabin, I didn't say it aloud.
Are we giving moral training to the teens and young adults-and older adults--in our evangelical churches? Or are we silent as government and television train them--while we're satisfied to guard them from dancing and other similar perils to the soul?
God, forgive our indifference. Make us burn with white heat against injustice, especially the destruction of the weak and totally vulnerable, who bear Your Divine Image.
-Joe Bayly, "Out of My Mind," Eternity magazine, June, 1984.