Friday, May 22, 2020

Defining Terms

With this election coming up, even in the midst of this pandemic and all of the uncertainty it creates, I'm seeing the same rhetoric and fervor popping up all over, and it reminds me of the 2016 election in some scary ways. Once again, I'm hearing people complain, and with reason, about the quality of the candidates, especially from some people who are disillusioned with Trump, and might be wiling to use their vote to oppose him, but are not necessarily all the way into "Blue No Matter Who" territory.

The main thing I hear from my Christian brothers and sisters is that they feel the conviction to vote pro-life, no matter what, and that voting for a candidate who supports laws that allow women to get abortions is too much for their conscience, regardless of whatever else that candidate might stand for. For a lot of Christians, the pro-life stance is the sine qua non for any candidate or any platform, and everything else falls away in importance when they step into that voting booth.

Before I get too far, let me begin by saying that I am absolutely anti-abortion and in favor of any reasonable measures that can not only reduce the number of unborn babies that are killed, but also protect them and their mothers throughout their lives.

However, as Christians, we rarely ever have conversations about what a pro-life position is, or what it means to say "I'm pro-life." Even thinking about writing this, and doing a simple search for Bible verses about life, or protecting life, or the sanctity of life, the only lists I get are ones connected to abortion and life in the womb. For a lot of outsiders, there's a lot of inconsistency in our definition of pro-life. And by outsiders, I mean not only non-believers but also believers who feel like they are pushed to the margins when their (often Biblical) beliefs in justice and peace are rejected by the majority of Christians. For many, our definition of pro-life only covers unborn life, and leaves the breathing, walking, and talking out in the cold.

But pro-life and anti-abortion are not the same thing. Here are some (hopefully) helpful illustrations of the difference.

If you vilify Democrats for supporting so-called euthanasia, but support politicians who say that senior citizens should be "willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren," or pundits who say that it's okay to open the economy without meeting basic safety criteria, because most of the people who die from it were "on their last legs" anyway, the you might be anti-abortion, but you're not pro-life.

If you can watch the death tolls from Covid-19 break right on through 80,000 without slowing down, but still insist on opening the economy and putting more people at risk, just because you want a haircut or you miss free refills on Diet Coke, you're not pro-life.

If you can hear about the state execution of a convicted criminal, whether or not you support the death penalty, and your heart is filled with the urge to rejoice and post funny memes about the electric chair instead of lamenting the fact that another life has been taken by sin and it's offspring, you're not pro-life.

If you oppose free birth control for everyone, for whatever reason, whether you think it encourages premarital sex, or because people should be responsible and buy their own, or because those are your tax dollars and you hate freeloaders, you're not pro-life. You might not even be anti-abortion.

If you can hear, with callous indifference, requests for house arrest or other accommodations from thousands of inmates in prisons across the country where the Covid-19 infection rates are above 70%, because you figure that they deserve what they get for committing simple assault or misdemeanor marijuana possession, you're not pro-life.

If you can cite our favorite Bible verses to oppose abortion, like Psalm 139:13-14, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well," but forget that it also means Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, and Ahmaud Arbery are fearfully and wonderfully made in God's image, you're not pro-life.

If you can see video evidence of a man or woman, usually Black, beaten or killed by a police officer, or by a random white man who thinks he has the right to command citizens like police officers and attack them like Batman, and you need to withhold your sympathy and lament until you ...

... find out the victim's criminal history going back to elementary school, or ...

... get a drug test on the victim, or ...

... see the victim's resume and examine their work history, or ...

... know for sure what happened in the fifteen minutes before the video that shows the victim being hunted and killed, or ...

... confirm their citizenship status, or ...

... take a look at the victim's birth certificate, green card, church attendance record, photo ID, high school diploma or equivalent, work references, or any other credential other than the image of a Holy God indelibly stamped on their body and soul, or ...

... ask Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" ...

... you're not pro-life.

Sunday, May 10, 2020


Lord Jesus,
Heal our souls now, the souls of the saved and angry, the souls of the lost and hopeless, the soul of our church, of our nation, of our world.
Comfort Maud’s family and friends now, give them sleep and nourishment for their bodies, rest and sustenance for their minds, and comfort and life for their spirits. Replace the loss of love that was created in their lives by the forces of evil, with your perfect and eternal love. Bind them to your heart and will now, no matter how much they might question you. You’ve done it for people less worthy and less needful, and we know you can do it for them.
Work your mercy in the hearts of Maud’s killers. Break their will and pride and make them reckon with the murder they have committed. Give them the courage and decency to confess and plead guilty, and spare their neighbors and countrymen the pain of a broken justice system.
Inspire our churches to preach the whole gospel, the good news that you have given us the keys to the kingdom. Move us to unlock the doors to peace and justice for all, to truly have all things in common, to use our riches and power - financial and social - to right the wrongs around us. And indict us, convict us, and, Lord, punish us when we ignore them. Focus our minds and hearts on justice, not only cosmic justice that requires only faith in you to accomplish, but temporal and earthly justice that requires us to put our faith to work.
Heal our nation. Gather the remnants of your people here, your children in this land, some true, some scattered and misguided, some apostate and needing repentance, and mobilize us into an army, much smaller that we would expect, but much stronger than we could ever imagine. Use us as your tools, your weapons, your agents, to tear down the idols of racism and superiority and preach your holy name to the lost and hurting by loving them with a love that only you possess. Selah.
And Lord Jesus, please, please, with all my heart and everything I have, please, run alongside my son while he’s in these streets, run with my nephews, with my students, my neighbors. Give them boldness and courage, but also wisdom, and keep their eyes focused on you, never looking to the right or the left. Run with them through the valley of the shadow of death, because there is evil all around them. Give them courage to stand up to evil, Lord, but please don’t let them do it alone. Bring forth your people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to stand with them. Protect them from harm and hatred and use their lives for your glory.
In Jesus’ name and for His sake,