The death of Dr. C. Everett Koop at his home in New Hampshire yesterday marked the loss not only of a public Christian of note, but one of Evangelicalism's most signifiicant leaders in the battle to uphold the sanctity of human life.
The Roman Catholic pro-life movement had its legion of stalwarts in the seventies and early eighties: Joe Scheidler, Mother Theresa, Father Paul Quay, Archbishop O'Connor; the list is impressive. And Evangelicalism? Who were her pro-life leaders? There literally weren't any, at least initially. But then God brought Everett Koop and Francis Schaeffer together and the battle was joined from the Protestant side. It's not an exaggeration to say that Dr. Koop and Francis Schaeffer were the twin fathers of the modern Evangelical pro-life movement.
So we praise God for the life and witness of Dr. Koop. He was there when almost no one else was. Some in the Christian Medical Society may lionize Dr. Koop at his death, but they will perhaps have forgotten Dr. Koop's disgusted resignation from an organization he helped found for its refusal to take an officially pro-life position--a stance he maintained even after Tim's and my father assumed its presidency for a few years in the early 80s. Despite their friendship, Dr. Koop refused Dad's request that he rejoin. Even after passage of a clear and forceful pro-life stance, he initially refused to rejoin an organization that, as he saw it, had been cowardly on the central moral issue of the day.
Dr. Koop's life took a number of unexpected twists and turns after he became surgeon general during the Reagan administration. Who would have thought that Dr. Koop would become a darling of the AIDS advocacy movement? Yet he remained a stalwart in opposing our nation''s culture of death until the end. He ran the race well, and for his life Tim and I praise God.
Dr. Koop was a friend to the Bayly family over many years. Having operated on our brothers Johnny and Nathan at birth, it was Dr. Koop who urged Mud to trust God to provide Nathan with a long and lung-impairment free life despite being born with cystic fibrosis. Indeed, Nate did survive to adulthood, becoming a pastor and father before dying from cancer a decade ago at the age of 39.
I remember showing Dr. Koop my chemistry kit once when he was visiting in Bartlett in the early 70s. My methodology was to throw chemicals in a test tube and hope for an explosion--or at least a little smoke. It never happened. But Dr. Koop's disgust with my methods came as a surprise to me. That's not the scientific way, he scolded. You have to keep notes and have a hypothesis. You should record your results. You're just playing like a child, he said. Well, I was discouraged until a week later when I received a package in the mail filled with slides, each labeled by Dr. Koop, containing samples of various cells, including blood and cancer varieties. I've still got those slides somewere.
An Evangelical father has departed. We will miss him.