Abortion, "prophetic rhetoric," and "over-the-top condemnations"...

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(Tim) In another forum, there was a discussion of a certain gentleman's latest book--this one addressing the subject of the Christian's pursuit of justice. There were fifty comments under the post and the author of the book himself had shown up to answer several questions.

What I found instructive was the absence of any discussion of abortion. The one billion slaughtered babies of the past couple of decades didn't make the grade in a discussion of the Christian's pursuit of justice among Reformed luminaries.

I posted a comment calling attention to that silence, and my comment received the following response. I post it here because I believe this brother's criticisms are representative of many who read this blog and are too polite to say the same, publicly. I appreciate this brother raising these matters.

So first the criticisms, followed by my own limited response. What I'm really after is to seed others taking up the keyboard to answer his questions and judgments. I don't have time to do more, but I know among our readers are many who can post temperate and cogent answers...

for the permanent record on this blog. Would you please help?

 

I understand and appreciate your hatred for abortion and this isn’t merely lip service to what follows, it is a hateful and ugly reality that colors the dark underbelly of our culture. I used to use the same sort of rhetoric as you, but there is a problem with it. It has been utterly ineffective in stopping abortion. If it were effective, I would be the first to stand up and applaud you for your bravery in addressing such a grotesque evil. However, the reason why it doesn’t work is because you are trying to indict a culture that is utterly inoculated to your rhetoric. You can picket abortion clinics, hold up graphic images of mutilated bodies, speak of the ills it inflicts on the whole of society, and you know what – they do not care!!! However truthful your message might be, it falls on deaf ears. What makes this worse is that you assume that if someone, a minister, a historian, a theologian, or an average Joe like me doesn’t match your level of “commitment to the cause” they are willingly complicit of the crime. It is borderline bullying and it’s not convincing.

I have read enough of your blog to know you are adamantly against abortion, and feel free to correct me if I misrepresent you here since that is not at all my intent, but you seem to leave little room for other modes of dissent. The problem is that there are other valid ways to be against abortion. One can support alternative pregnancy centers ...which actually saves lives. Others realize that this secular problem can only be overturned by secular means. The task of establishing arguments for personhood and human rights for the unborn have to be won in bioethical and legal arenas. These venues will likely have no tolerance for prophetic rhetoric or over-the-top condemnations, it is already an uphill battle to begin with. This involves persuading the very people you are burning at the stake with your rhetoric. It might appease your conscience to be shouting mad over abortion, but it isn’t saving lives and it hasn’t been since the inception of Roe v. Wade. From my own limited perspective, those who are making the most progress are comparatively making the least noise.

I wonder, if indeed abortion is such a burning burden for you, which it is clear from what writings of yours I have read, maybe it is time to step down from the pulpit and into a more active role in seeing it addressed. But you will still face the same balancing act between passion, practicality, and reality. Maybe this could mean short term compromises, or achieving smaller victories in order to save lives before the whole problem is solved. This is just one guy’s opinion (and not a very important guy at that), but heaping a whole lot of guilt upon those here, who with little exception oppose abortion, even if differently from how you do is quixotic at best and a fools errand at worst and it ends up being wasted words to us and to the unborn that you are so intent on saving. But accusing your brothers of blood-guilt because we don’t apparently hate this evil as much as you do seems over the top, and frankly unproductive.

To which I respond:

Dear Brother,

>>If it were effective, I would be the first to stand up and applaud you for your bravery in addressing such a grotesque evil.

The men who preach against abortion aren't brave. They're utterly safe and secure. It's pastors and elders who are silent who take the real risk.

>>you are trying to indict a culture that is utterly inoculated to your rhetoric.

It's the Church that needs to be addressed--particularly pastors and elders. I'm not addressing the culture.

>>You can picket abortion clinics, hold up graphic images of mutilated bodies, speak of the ills it inflicts on the whole of society, and you know what – they do not care!!!

The fruit of the faithful women and men who speak for the voiceless as their mothers enter our local slaughterhouse is crystal clear. In fact, if you read Baylyblog recently, you would have seen the picture of the latest child at Church of the Good Shepherd who lives today, and is held in her mother's arms during each worship service, because of that godly work. But more, this same work has brought the baby's mother to the teaching of the Apostles, the breaking of bread, fellowship, and prayer.

This is the ministry of the People of God I've advocated for years now on Baylyblog and it's fruit is undeniable. If you come to Church of the Good Shepherd, I'll introduce you to much fruit and they'll be free to glorify God as you listen.

>>However truthful your message might be, it falls on deaf ears.

That's always the temptation that hits preachers: to think the Word of God falls on deaf ears and won't produce fruit. Yet God promises His Word will never return void, so we preach on.

>>What makes this worse is that you assume that if someone, a minister, a historian, a theologian, or an average Joe like me doesn’t match your level of “commitment to the cause” they are willingly complicit of the crime. It is borderline bullying and it’s not convincing.

I've never written or spoken about my own level of commitment, let alone condemned others who don't match it. It's silence I oppose.

>>you seem to leave little room for other modes of dissent.

Little room for other modes? Must I list my work with members of the academy, the judiciary, and legislative assemblies; with physicians, musicians, publishers, pharmacists, and lawyers? Really, it's embarrassing to have to respond to this charge. But for the record, you're wrong. Contact me privately if you remain unconvinced.

>>One can support alternative pregnancy centers ...which actually saves lives.

Yes, and I've recently worked with a Manhattan attorney who has written a stellar defense of the crisis pregnancy centers there currently under the attack of legislation before the New York City Council. Crisis pregnancy centers are a key part of the witness of the Church and our congregation has always supported them. Yet there's still the negative work to do and it saves even more lives. It's not enough to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness; we must expose them.

>>Others realize that this secular problem can only be overturned by secular means. The task of establishing arguments for personhood and human rights for the unborn have to be won in bioethical and legal arenas.

Whatever happened to the pulpit? The Church? Minsters of the Word and sacrament? It's my basic premise that heresies and sin run rampant because of the silence of ministers of the Word and sacrament. And over a lifetime of work in that calling, I've not seen a single piece of evidence to the contrary.

>>These venues will likely have no tolerance for prophetic rhetoric or over-the-top condemnations...

Actually, it's the Church that has no patience for prophetic rhetoric. The phrase says it all. The Church today is filled with souls who condemn any living expression of the godliness they claim to honor as it's recounted in the Word of God.

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As readers see, I've left much of what our brother wrote unaddressed. Any helpers?

Thanks, and love.