How Long?

I don’t even know what to say. How to begin. There are too many words, too many emotions, flooding my mind right now. I want to be eloquent. I want to be winsome and compelling. But what is swelling in my chest is rage and sorrow and shame that it has taken me this long to feel this outraged.

O Lord, God of vengeance,
O God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O judge of the earth;
repay to the proud what they deserve!
O Lord, how long shall the wicked,
how long shall the wicked exult?
They pour out their arrogant words;
all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O Lord,
and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the sojourner,
and murder the fatherless;
and they say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob does not perceive.”

Today, the fifth undercover video in the growing Planned Parenthood scandal has been released. 

If your first reaction to that is to argue about editing and journalistic ethics and how much “good” that meat-grinder of an organization allegedly does, then you are morally blind, morally bankrupt, and/or morally complicit. Is that a harsh statement? Yes. Am I okay if you’re so offended that you never want to read another word I write after today? Yes I am. I will accept that.

Understand, O dullest of the people!
Fools, when will you be wise?
He who planted the ear, does he not hear?
He who formed the eye, does he not see?
He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke?
He who teaches man knowledge—
the Lord—knows the thoughts of man,
that they are but a breath.

You should know that I don’t count myself wholly innocent. No, I’m not in any way a supporter of abortion or Planned Parenthood. I have always viewed abortion as the barbaric butchering of an innocent child, no matter the circumstances surrounding that child’s conception.

But in some ways, I’m still guilty. I’m guilty of turning the channel. Of feeling bad and forwarding a link and sharing a post but not doing anything else. I’m guilty of living in a city that is home to one of the largest Planned Parenthood facilities in the nation and never once making my way there to raise my voice in defense of murdered children. I’m a citizen of Munich, and I have politely ignored the smell.

I am thankful for the mercy of God on cowards like me; but that mercy also must compel me to action.

Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord,
and whom you teach out of your law,
to give him rest from days of trouble,
until a pit is dug for the wicked.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;
he will not abandon his heritage;
for justice will return to the righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.

Some people are calling this a “William Wilberforce” moment—a moment when the bloody truth about this barbaric national practice is brought screaming into the light so that all are forced, at least, to acknowledge and own what we as a society have allowed for forty-plus years. I pray that this is true.

Even if the pagan culture around us clamps its eyes shut and covers its ears to the horror that it allows in the name of “choice,” if you are a Christian, I don’t think you–we–have that option anymore. We can’t just go about our business anymore. We can’t just cluck our tongues and shake our empty heads and move on to the next moral outrage.

This matters. This matters in a way that little else we Christians chatter about matters. We are knee-deep in the blood of a homegrown holocaust, and we cannot simply pretend it isn’t important.

If we care about justice, if we care about mercy, if we claim any certain kind of “lives” matter and yet we stay silent on this issue, we have surrendered all credibility on these grounds.

Who rises up for me against the wicked?
Who stands up for me against evildoers?
If the Lord had not been my help,
my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
When I thought, “My foot slips,”

your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by this. I’m feeling overwhelmed today. I don’t know what to do, other than cry and pound my fists against my chest. My hands are still trembling a little, and I feel myself fidget as I sit. So I’m going to pray. I’m going to repent of my silence, ask God for wisdom and discernment to know what comes next, and ask for courage to follow through.

But one more thing I must do is hold onto this feeling. I need to hold onto this rage and this sorrow, not so that it overwhelms me or buries me, but so that it gives me perspective and focus.

My fear is that, in a couple of months, after the last of these videos has been released and we are all appropriately shocked and horrified, we as the Church will go back to business as usual.

We can’t let that happen. I can’t let that happen to myself.

Can wicked rulers be allied with you,  those who frame injustice by statute?
They band together against the life of the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.
But the Lord has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.
He will bring back on them their iniquity
and wipe them out for their wickedness;
the Lord our God will wipe them out.

[Psalm 94]

I have never felt comfortable praying the imprecatory Psalms. I’m too aware of my sinfulness and my imperfect view of justice. But today, I’m definitely tempted.

Yet even as I consider this, I am reminded that the sin that should most horrify me is the sin that is found in my own heart.

Father, forgive me for my cowardice and silence. Give me grace to stand and speak and fight for the innocent, in the ways that you have given me to do so. Give me boldness in the face of opposition, and guard my heart against despair. Bring conviction and repentance to Your people, so that they may stand and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ our King, and those who are even now enslaved to sin and darkness can be set free and born again into the kingdom of your Beloved Son, who is praised forevermore.

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9 thoughts on “How Long?

      • No, you should think about this. You’re a citizen of Munich. Our greatest heroes laid down their lives to stop that genocide. Won’t God hold you accountable for the fact that you aren’t laying down your life to stop the genocide of thousands of people only a few miles away from you? I’ll cop to the airplane being hyperbolic, but you’ve got access to semi-automatic weapons. The government isn’t endorsing this effort, but Munich has shown us how wrong governments can be. I’m not sure why you haven’t taken to the streets already. From your language here, with thousands of innocent children being conveyer-belted into a meat grinder, it’s very clear what should be done.

        Why exactly did you write this post? Was it to stave off guilt? Was it to convince yourself that holding a hand-made sign is an ethical response to Auschwitz?

        And so I don’t sound like a complete troll, it’s just that I want you to own to the fact that you recognize, deep down, that this situation is more complicated than what you’re making it to be. It might even be the Holy Spirit giving you that pause…

      • Violence would be the only sensible response to stopping such bloodshed, IF it weren’t for the fact that I believe the Gospel of Jesus. I’m a citizen of His Kingdom, a Kingdom where Peter is told to put away His sword–a Kingdom where evil is overcome by good, not by more evil. A Kingdom that is not brought about through armed conflict and forced conversion, but through loving sacrifice and the proclamation of the Good News of redemption. I know you’re trying to provoke thought by using exaggeration and pushing rhetoric to perceived conclusions, but it seems like you didn’t even read the second half of my post. My stopping point in this thought process was *repentance,* not vengeance. If you think my arguments here put me on the path of a religious fundamentalist or mass-murderer (even if you’re simply exaggerating as a rhetorical tactic), that demonstrates how little you actually know me.

        Why did I write this post? I was trying to process through emotions and create dialogue. That’s what bloggers do, sometimes–yourself included, as memory serves. And I have successfully done both. I wanted to document how this national discussion is hitting me personally and how I’m trying to wrestle through its implications. And hopefully, as a result, that honesty and struggling will inspire others to start wrestling with it as well.

        While some of the circumstances of abortion *can* be very complicated, there are also fundamental facts that are unmistakably clear. Every day, between 2,000 and 3,000 babies are killed in the US, for a variety of reasons and justifications. Since you brought up terrorism, that would be almost a “9/11” a day. Even the language of the people doing these procedures betrays the common-sense understanding that these are “babies,” boys and girls. When the child is dead, they call it a “cadaver” (Latin for “dead body”). They sort through the wreckage of ended life in buckets and trashbags and pie plates, holding up tiny arms and hands and feet and eyeballs–not blobs of indeterminate tissue, but actual recognizable organs. And then they sell off the chopped-up human remains, whether to profit or simply “recoup expenses.”

        So here’s the fundamental question, my friend: Is that “blob of tissue,” with its unique DNA and beating heart individual fingerprints and nervous system that reacts to painful stimuli, a human being? Is it a person?

        You don’t have to answer that question on this blog or anywhere else, but you have to answer that question in your heart, and then you and only you are responsible for what you do with that answer.

        As for what I’m going to do now, it’s a fair question–one that my wife challenged me on yesterday, before you commented. That post is coming up next week.

      • No one is saying these fetuses/babies don’t possess the capacity of developing personhood and viability. I don’t know why people are surprised when bodies are referred to as such. (And you know very well a body does not a person make.) At this point in history there is simply no way to know when this happens, this possession of personhood and agency, and so we err on the side of letting people grapple with that for themselves, in their own hearts, rather than erring on the side of defining what cannot be known: of saying what is growing in a person’s body at any stage during the growth is just as individual as the person growing it. I think I can speak for others in my camp when I say I am concerned with honoring personhood and it is in fact my highest concern. I wish the situation were as unambiguous as, say, one adult turning to another adult and killing them.

  1. Jaimie: Thank you for your patience in waiting for a response (though, if you’ve forgotten about all this and moved on, I wouldn’t blame you). We left off right as I was going out of town, and then I realized a little while back that I hadn’t actually responded to this last comment. I’d like to do so, if I may, and then give you the last word, if you want it.

    I agree with your comment that body is not necessarily a person. If the body has no life, it is a shell, and the person is gone. But outside of non-reproductive tissue grown in labs for the purpose of medical research, I believe every body that is formed is given the spark of life. A soul. Personhood. And thus, dignity.

    And I’m glad you agree that fetuses/babies inherently have the capacity of viability in development. I learned recently about the idea of cell potency. Once the egg is fertilized, those first cells are totipotent–they possess the capacity to produce an entire living organism (in this case, a human being), based on the complete DNA contained therein. Beyond those first few generations of cell division and reproduction, the cells become pluripotent, and then more specifically specialized. While this may seem a bit esoteric, the implication here is that, if given time, nutrition, and protection, the fertilized human egg will eventually become a fully-formed human newborn (barring the chance of disease). Curiously, a newborn human being needs the same things (time, nutrition, protection) to become a toddler, child, adolescent, and eventual adult. (I’m oversimplifying a bit, admittedly, but I think the analogy works on some level.) In each stage of development prior to maturity, the human being needs the same things, just in different ways. The pre-born stage is no different than the 1-year-old stage in that regard.

    As to your final comments, I heard an interesting analogy (from the theologian John Frame, I believe) on the question of when we recognize personhood, which I’d like to share: If you are a hunter in the woods, and you hear a rustling in the bushes and hear unidentifiable sounds, you assume it’s either a fellow hunter or an animal. The question is: Do you shoot first, or wait to make sure it’s not another hunter? Obviously, if you value human life, you want to avoid involultary manslaughter, so you hold your fire. Shouldn’t the life in the womb be given the same benefit of the doubt? If it really could be a person, why wouldn’t you want to protect it, knowing that time will only confirm your assumption (because the unborn baby will grown into maturity and viability outside the womb)? What I’m suggesting is, “shooting first and asking questions later” is a poor approach to take, if one is trying to honor human life.

    Please hear me: I’m not attacking your honor, but I am questioning your thought process.

    Thank you for engaging. These discussions are always sticky, but I appreciate the back and forth. If you like, I’d like to give you a chance to respond.

    And I’ll also give you a challenge: if you haven’t watched any of the CMP undercover videos, I would challenge you to watch at least a few. We can debate all day whether or not they are unfairly edited to make the people sound worse than they are, but by their own mouths, Planned Parenthood and Stem Express (who is procuring the bodies of the aborted babies) acknowledge repeatedly that these are *babies,* not tumors or growths or blobs of tissue. Little hands and arms and legs and heads and hearts. Discernably, distinguishably human. To paraphrase William Wilberforce, we the people may choose to look the other way, but we can never again claim we didn’t know what was going on.

    Thanks again for your time.

    • … but at what point does the cell develop totipotency, Dave?

      Not an actual question. 🙂

      I’ve thought about this some, mostly because I “stooped” to use strong rhetoric in light of your strong rhetoric. But at least it evolved into a nice discussion, so I don’t have regrets. (I’m not saying you were stooping in the first place. It’s obviously not that simple. Also I made way more of a snap judgment than you did, no matter the end.) I actually came here out of morbid curiosity as to whether anyone else had commented and wasn’t expecting a reply from you.

      The deer analogy is interesting and I will continue to think about it, and even ask some people what they think about it, because it’s definitely clarifying. What I wonder if it’s justifiably clarifying: if it’s an apt or problematic metaphor. If it’s amassing meaning or leaving meaning on the cutting room floor…

      It would be an interesting sci-fi concept that people, because of some conceit, are given the choice between having a lot of present pain and torture (or however you prefer to think of parenting) or having, 200 years in the future, the option of having sex taken away from a couple. You might be causing the non-existence of a person who would have otherwise existed. In fact, someone 200 years ago made the choice to endure pain so that you could be born. And yet, how much are we really indebted to the multiverse? Which multiverse carries precedence? The one where everyone lives? Or if we don’t want to allow a multiverse, because I sense that’s convoluting it some, how much are we indebted to the future, period? At one point does ‘the future’ infringe on the territory of ‘the present’?

      That’s what I think about when I think about that deer thing. The choice to not shoot a rustling bush is dealing only with the possibilities that exist in the present. It’s adding another element to impose a future possibility upon it. That’s what I think, anyway. I’m going to pose this to someone else and see if they come up with that discrepancy.

      Yes, bodies have dignity, but this is my point. All the time in the medical profession you hear people speaking callously of corpses when they think they aren’t being overheard. The ‘language of dignity’ we use for corpses is intentionally vague and not conducive to getting anything done. Example: I was trying to think of a more respectful word than “corpse” but none are readily coming to mind… And I remember all the awkward moments in film or real life where people struggle with what to call the body around the bereaved. It’s the same with scientists. I could go on with this, but ultimately it’s like, either you’re going to understand this or you won’t, and that’s fine, but I think I’ve explained it as much as I can without repeating myself. TL;DR: Whenever people are communicating with a perception of privacy, outsiders need to be careful about making assumptions about what meaning was intended or relayed.

      • Oh, and I realize you would say, “It’s not a possibility, it’s an inevitability,” about my response to the deer thing. Yet, it’s really not. To say that is ignoring the fact that none of this happens in a vacuum. The plant needs sunlight, water, nutrients to “inevitably” grow larger. The fetus/baby needs another human being to eat and drink enough to sustain both itself and the fetus/baby to “inevitably” birth it. There aren’t a lot of other factors, but there are enough that it feels dishonest thinking of it as an inevitability.

        It’s interesting that you talked about the stages of infancy and how, using the same reason, we might impose “viability” on that too. To that I would say, yep! In ancient times, babies were not named or celebrated until they had reached a certain age. Egypt for sure; that’s the one I’m currently studying. Even God told Moses in Numbers 3:15 to only count the babies who were older than 1 month. It’s because of the high infant mortality rate. Babies were not considered worth numbering or naming before there was more “inevitability” of their survival. Similarly, many people today don’t name or even announce their fetus/baby today until after the 1st trimester because of the high rate of miscarriage. It’s 1 in 3. This shows how technology has moved viability way, way up. If/When we start growing our offspring in tubes, then I can see viability as inevitable and therefore superior to other factors. The parasitic aspect is gone, we can ignore the rights of any host, and the growing of the child is a 100% intentional act that should not be undone.

        By the way, I’m not like, wanting to stop talking about this. You can email me if you want; I know at some point it should leave this comment thread, lol. But I want to clarify I think it’s been really useful to me to explore what makes our “sides” different. Thanks.

      • I should say “the choice to grow a child” not “the growing of a child” for clarification. No one’s reading these anymore so I have no shame about edits!

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