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Uniting for Life

Summer, 2002

National Pro-Life Religious Council
109 2nd St., N.E.
Washington, DC 20002

Familiarity Breeds Contentment:

Are Pro -Life Denominations Complacent?

By Rev. Jan Kirk Van der Swaagh,
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference

The NPRC press conference urging passage of S-1899, the US Senate bill designed to ban human cloning, had just ended. One of the NPRC board members, Rev. Paul Stallsworth of the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality, told us: "This is the first time in making a statement with the NPRC that I have been able to quote from documents of the United Methodist Church." This comment was both heartening and discouraging. At the press conference, Paul had quoted from the UMC's Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions which both advocate a ban on human cloning.

My colleague serves in a field with some very hard ground. While there are those within his denomination that are pro-life, the official stance of the UMC is decidedly pro-abortion. As a result, Paul and his like-minded constituents can rarely call upon the official documents of the denomination to speak in the cause of life. But this issue was an exception, and for that we can praise God.

I am grateful that I am not in a similar circumstance. The constituency from which I am a delegate to the NPRC, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC), has strongly articulated views in defense of life. In fact, in the CCCC Statement on Abortion it reads, "it the responsibility of the Church to insist that piety not adopt a policy that would deny the sanctity of human life and lead people to take life lightly The Church must advocate the protection of the freedom of those who cannot protect themselves." Consequently, I do not have the problem of my Methodist colleague. But as I reflected further, I wondered if denominations like mine did not face a different predicament.

Members of a denomination that is officially pro-life may face another problem: inaction due to familiarity. Ask just about anyone at the annual gathering of such a denomination, "Are you prolife?" and the response would be, "Of course I'm pro-life!" But if you would go one step further and ask, "What have you done with those convictions?" the response might not be so assured.

There can be a kind of contentment which takes over when one is on the right side of the issue: a comfort in believing the right thing and associating with others who believe as we do. But in our current climate just being on the right side of the issue is not enough. The creativity of the anti-life crowd seems to know no bounds. Human cloning and its profoundly troubling implications is just the newest front in the persistent demonic assault on the sanctity of life. We need to be just as vigilant and just as unrelenting as the enemy (1 Peter 5:8).

There is something about being in close proximity to the enemy which makes one more alert. Paul Stallsworth of the UMC might benefit from such a phenomenon (if we can call such a thing a benefit). But for those of us who operate among a friendlier crowd I suspect we might need to be goaded out of our complacency. To tweak a well-known idiom - familiarity breeds content(ment).

Thinking Theologically About Abortion

A collection of reflections on the spiritual crises that abortion is for the churches. A publication of the National Pro-Life Religious Council, edited by Paul T. Stallsworth.

To Order at discount price of 6.95 each plus $1.50 postage, call: 202-626-8800 ext. 155.

How to Build a Pro-Life Mentality by Encouraging Family Life

By Dennis Di Mauro, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

It is my opinion that one of the societal attitudes we pro-lifers should be willing to speak against is the idea that having children is not a very important cornerstone of marriage. More and more couples, even Christian couples, seem to have the attitude that having children is not an important element of marriage. This attitude, I believe, can only create a culture where children are given less emphasis, and will result in churches where abortion becomes more and more accepted.

I am not talking about couples that cannot have children of their own, and are suffering from the pain of infertility. Nor am I talking about a couple that chooses not to have children because of some serious problem or for health reasons. No, I'm talking about couples that can have children, but who decide, for trivial reasons, that children would be only a hindrance to their chosen lifestyles, instead of a blessed result of the marriage covenant.

But how biblical is this "childless by choice" attitude? Even though I made an extensive search of the scriptures, I never found a Bible verse confirming this attitude. No, in fact I found just the opposite, the Lord rejoices in His children and wants His people to be "fruitful." In Genesis 1:28 (NIV) God urges Adam and Eve to have children, "God blessed them and said to them 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it."' Likewise in Genesis 9:7 (NASB) God urges Noah and his sons, "As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it." Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also sees children as a blessing: "Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:13-14 NIV). Jesus did not think these children disrupted his ministry. Rather He shows how deep was his love for those little ones. It seems that our current attitudes that are so different from God's Word that they really highlight how far we've come from a truly godly attitude towards children.

Another trend I notice more and more is the outright disdain that many people have against large families. It is quite common these days for people to make wise cracks about families with 4 or more children. "They should buy a TV" or "They don't understand what's causing that" are common jabs. A friend of mine recently had her 6th child of whom I am a proud godparent. I couldn't have been more pleased with this honor, but most people don't see a 6th child as a blessing, but instead, even in our churches today, that child is more often seen as a curse. Is that child a curse? Does God love the first five more than the sixth? Does God love the unplanned child we call a "mistake"? You'd better believe it!

Such attitudes have made me search for ways we can emphasize children and family. I recently had the opportunity to speak at a Lutheran Pastors conference about my pro-life ministry. After my presentation, a pastor came up to me and told me that in his church's worship service they always pray specifically for each pregnant mother by name and for any recent births. This is a smart pro-life practice in which a congregation can emphasize the importance of each child, born or unborn, while rejoicing as a Christian community for these precious gifts God has bestowed upon us.

One of my favorite bumper stickers is one that quotes Mother Theresa in which she states, "How can there be too many children? That's like saying there are too many flowers." You see, Mother Theresa realized what a precious gift from God each of these children are. Let's try to learn a little from this humble servant of God. Each of us should rejoice for every child, the first or the fifth, planned or unplanned, healthy or disabled, because they are all loving gifts given to us by Christ.

The "Sacrament" of Abortion

By Rev. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life

The Sacrament of Abortion is the title of a book written by Ginette Paris and published in 1992. In this short book, the author claims that abortion is a sacred act, a sacrifice to Artemis (known to the Romans as Diana).

Artemis is both a protector of wild animals and a hunter who kills them with deadly aim. How can these contradictory roles be found in the same female deity? The view proposed in this book is that a mother properly cares for life only if she possesses full power over life and death. Death is sometimes preferable. The one who can provide death, in order that one may escape an unfriendly life, is really loving the one who is being killed.

Abortion, then, is seen as "an expression of maternal responsibility and not a failure of maternal love" (p.8). "Artemis stands for the refusal to give life if the gift is not pure and untainted .... As Artemis might kill a wounded animal rather than allow it to limp along miserably, so a mother wishes to spare the child a painful destiny" (p. 55).

Artemis, of course, is the same goddess whose worshippers felt so threatened by Paul's proclamation of the Gospel in Ephesus, where a riot nearly broke out and a vast crowd shouted for two hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" (Acts 19:34). The worshippers of Artemis today should likewise feel that their beliefs are threatened, because the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ is that He alone has authority over life and death. Neither the mother, nor the father, nor the state, nor the individual herself, can claim absolute dominion over life. "Nobody lives as his own master, and nobody dies as his own master. While we live, we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die, we die as His servants. Both in life and death, we are the Lord's" (Rom. 14:7-8).

The fact that some defend abortion as a sacred act should alert us to the depth of the spiritual warfare that is going on. Abortion has never been merely or even primarily a political issue. It is a false religion. When pro-life Christians, for example, pray in front of an abortion mill, it is not simply a matter of pro-life people opposing false medicine. It is the true Church in conflict with a false Church. One former clinic security guard, after being converted, admitted why he was angry at pro-life sidewalk counselors: "You were coming to protest in front of our church. That clinic was where we conducted our worship."

May all believers, and their clergy, take renewed strength to speak out against abortion. Not only is doing so consistent with the proclamation of the Gospel; it is the proclamation of the Gospel.

Women Deserve Better Than Abortion!

By Georgette Forney, Executive Director, NOEL

What activities can a pastor organize to reach out to post-abortive parents and families and to help his people to be active in the pro-life movement?

To address this question, let me share some strategies NOEL is using. We want to bring people who are pro-choice, or who are apathetic, step-by-step, to the pro-life cause. We want to win people's hearts over for life, not win a debate. But changing people's hearts takes longer than winning an argument, and it takes a lot of love as well as patience. Much like working with people, it takes patience. It also means meeting people where they are at in their stand on abortion, and bringing them a little bit closer to being pro-life.

The example of Ann illustrates this method. Ann, a post-abortive woman, called the NOEL office and expressed shock because she had just been informed of the Episcopal Church's position of acceptance of abortion. She was considering leaving her local church out of disappointment and disillusionment. But I suggested that she seek God's guidance and consider the possibility of staying there to make a difference in her church community.

We outlined a plan where she shared her post-abortion pain with her clergy, as well as important statistics. She pointed out to her priest that according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood) 43% of American women will experience an abortion by age 45. Not only that, but 73% of those women identify themselves as Christians, thus illustrating the need to address this topic in their own congregation.

Ann's priest was reluctant to permit pro-life literature in her church, but she was willing to allow Ann to hold a post-abortion Bible study. Through Ann's educational efforts, her priest was able to let down her defenses and took a step towards becoming pro-life.

Ann got the opportunity to announce the Bible study at her church and talk about forgiveness and reconciliation available to those who have had an abortion. That is worth celebrating! People in that church will experience God's healing, and this will lead more members of the congregation one step away from abortion and one step closer to life. She has done all this without having her clergy completely change her opinion of abortion!

Ann's example is great because no one can deny the pain she has gone through. But not everyone has a testimony like hers. We can still present abortion in a persuasive manner to others by pointing out how abortion hurts women. We now have physical as well as emotional documentation about abortion and women's health. There is a great new book out called Women's Health After Abortion: the Medical and Psychological Evidence by Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy and Ian Gentles. It is an excellent resource, compiling a vast amount of data into one book, and you don't need a scientific background to understand it all.

Since abortions in the U.S. total about 1.3 million a year, the immediate complication rate in abortions is approximately 11%. That means 144,000 women have complications from abortion every year. This does not even account for long-term complications such as infertility, which may not be discovered until years later. The most common immediate complication from abortion is infection, but other complications may occur such as uterine perforation, hemorrhaging, cervical trauma, and even possibly death.

Abortion also increases a woman's risk for breast cancer and cancer of the reproductive organs. It can lead to infertility or complications in future pregnancies--and it is minorities who seem to suffer with the most serious complications.

Women need to have this information in order to make informed decisions and parents need to seriously consider this when abortion seems like the solution to an unplanned pregnancy.

Not only does abortion threaten women's physical health, but it devastates her emotional health as well. Women who elect to have an abortion experience a loss of self-esteem, intense feelings of loneliness and anger, have difficulty in their relationships, often resort to drugs and/or alcohol to deaden the pain, may develop eating disorders, suffer from insomnia and nightmares, and may seriously contemplate suicide.

Whether it is clergy getting people involved or people getting clergy involved, the studies confirm what we have known all along. Abortion is lethal for the baby, and devastating for women. Women deserve better.

NOEL offers a tract that summarizes these health risks. To order a copy, you can call 800-707-NOEL or go on-line at www.NOELforlife.org.

Does Jeremiah Have Anything To Say to our Abortion Culture?

By Rev. Ben Sheldon, Presbyterians Pro-Life

Pro-life people have always found that the Bible has a great deal to say regarding our belief that all life is sacred, including unborn life. Many citations from the Scriptures have filled the pages of Pro-life publications and articles. Recently, a study of the ancient prophecy of Jeremiah has brought again to my mind the truth that the shedding of innocent blood is an offense against a holy God and will surely earn his wrathful judgment.

Chapter 19 of Jeremiah relates how God directed the prophet to take a clay pot and use it as an object lesson to the people of Jerusalem. With the fragile clay vessel in his hand, Jeremiah solemnly proclaimed the Word of the Lord, reminding them of their sin of shedding innocent blood by "sacrificing their sons in the fire." This was a reference to the Israelites' offering their children in sacrifice to Baal and other Canaanite deities, something that God called the detestable practices of the nations he had driven out of the land. Then Jeremiah smashed the clay pot and warned the Israelites that God would smash them and destroy them because of their sin.

The parallel to our present abortion culture, where unborn children are routinely being sacrificed on the altars of "convenience," fear, prejudice, and selfishness, is painfully clear. The abortion mentality sadly, is worshipping at the altars of materialism and sexual promiscuity, and it is the innocent blood of unborn babies that is being offered. Will God not wield his rod of punishment and judgment on our culture, too, as he did on ancient Judah? In His mercy, may he turn us to repentance and contrition for this enormous sin!

God is Good--In All Circumstances

By Rev. Jim Lamb, Executive Director of Lutherans for Life

The second verse of Amazing Grace begins, "The Lord has promised good to me." Do you believe that? We know what the answer should be, but there are times when we may really wonder if God is being good to us. Bad circumstances can cause us to doubt that God is good. That is why it is not circumstances that we use to gauge the goodness of God toward us. The hymn writer knew the source of the true measure of God's goodness for he continues, "His Word my hope secures. " The certainty of our hope lies securely in the certainty of the promises of His Word. "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all -- how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)

Now let's get practical with this. The pregnant teenager whose whole life has just come crashing down around her can expect good from God! She does not have to turn to death. The 47 year old wife who is pregnant and is told her pre-born child probably has Down Syndrome can expect good from God! She does not have to turn to death. The family whose doctor wants to remove grandma's feeding tube because her quality of life is not very good can expect good from God! They do not have to turn to death.

One of the things Lutherans For Life tries to stress, especially with pastors and seminarians, is that pro-life preaching is more than just standing in the pulpit warning people not to turn to the idols of death because they are bad. Pro-life preaching is also proclaiming to people that they do not have to turn to death because God is good. They can expect good from Him in any and every situation. He who brought the greatest of all good -- forgiveness and eternal life -- from the greatest of all suffering -- the cross of Jesus -- is able to bring good from any of life's difficult circumstances.

Therefore, we can conclude as the hymn writer concludes in verse 2, "He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures."

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