Abortion

Why are men so involved in what women do with their bodies?

With the nomination by President Donald J. Trumps of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the question of abortion once again comes to the forefront.  Will she reverse Roe v. Wade?  Will she make significant changes?

We need to understand that infanticide and abortion have always been around.  The first biblical example we have is in the Book of Exodus 1:15-22. Here, Pharaoh instructs the midwives to kill all the Hebrew boys. The midwives feared God and tell Pharaoh an excuse as to why this is not happening.

We seem to forget how bad it was before Roe v. Wade, with illegal abortions taking place in back street clinics or at the hands of a so-called midwife using unsafe practices or strange potions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in those countries where abortion is still illegal, botched abortions account for eight to eleven percent of all maternal deaths, about 30,000.[i]

Abortion issues were never really a concern of the evangelical church.  Almost all the anti-abortion activism came out of the Catholic Church. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.[ii]

After the Roe decision, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”[iii]

Race, Manipulation, and Control.

Without a doubt, the evangelical church in the United States was predominately white, privileged, and racist. Fear of the Black community had been a uniting force in the white church.  With the advent of the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and the desegregation of schools in Brown v. Board of Education, churches closed ranks, white parents refusing to send their children to mixed-race public schools, many churches opened their own schools, thus excluding minorities.

The final blow came when in 1983, in the IRS v. Bob Jones University, the university lost its tax-exempt status because of its segregation policies.[iv] Private Christian schools also came under scrutiny.

The conservative movement saw itself losing the battle. It was not until Paul Weyrich, a religious conservative political activist and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, saw abortion as a call to action for the evangelical church. Weyrich recruited Jerry Fulwell and James Dobson, carefully wording everything in moral terms, and the fight for the unborn began.

In 1992 another case came before the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. President George H. Bush, following on from Ronald Reagan, had loaded the court with conservative justices.  The president was confident that this would be an opportunity to strike down Roe v. Wade. However, in a landmark 5-4 decision, the court upheld Roe v. Wade.

So, what made the patriarchy of the evangelical church so passionate about Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey? Surprisingly, it has little to do with the unborn, and more to do with the mother. Having lost the battle for racial segregation, they now saw themselves losing control over womanhood. In Roe v. Wade, the woman, under the Fourteenth Amendment, had the right to privacy, and in the Casey case, the court gave the woman the right to choose. She no longer needed to ask the man for permission or his opinion.

Patriarchy had now lost dominance over minorities and control over women; all that was left was manipulation and misinformation, much of which has little to no foundation in the religious texts.

Will the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade? Unlikely, due to stare decisis. Stare Decisis is a judicial precedent.  The court believes that there should be stability in society and that once laws are in place, a citizen should know what the law says. However, amendments may happen.

Conclusion.

Pro-life and pro-choice are not opposites.  As a pro-life Christian, it is imperative that life is sacred from birth to the grave. The very fact that God allows us a choice is a mystery and a wonder.  Decisions made are not always perfect and may have consequences, but it is a choice.


[i] https://give.guttmacher.org/

[ii] http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/baptist/sbcabres.html

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._A._Criswell

[iv] https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3527&context=faculty_scholarship#:~:text=On%20May%2025%2C%201983%2C%20the,with%20racially%20discriminatory%20educational%20policies.

Did You Hear That?

“Blow the trumpet in the land; Cry, ‘Gather together,’ and say, ‘Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the fortified cities.’ Set up the standard toward Zion. Take refuge! Do not delay! For I will bring disaster from the north, and great destruction.” (Jer 4:5-6)

This text is similar to the warning issued by the prophet Joel, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the LORD is coming, For it is at hand.” (Joel 2:1) Joel issues a warning, calling everyone to prayer and fasting, even the newlyweds, who were generally excluded from religious duties.

Unfortunately, they neither heard Jeremiah or Joel and did not heed the warning. Why should they? The temple was open, service numbers were up, the economy was doing well.  The problem was that under the carpet were all the sins of Israel and Judah, swept there, so that they couldn’t be seen, but God sees everything, and hold them to account.

Is America any different? Racism has once again raised its ugly head on the streets of America.  Because we have never adequately dealt with racism, it continues to raise its ugly head like a boil festering under the surface.

Justice and Righteous Required

“If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.” (Jer 4:1-2)

Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:22-24)

God, as the lover, continues to call for his adulterous bride to return, despite her refusal thus far. Only now, it becomes conditional.

If you return, if you remove, if you swear,

They were going to have to turn back to the Lord. They are to renounce any allegiance to all idols. They must swear that God was the only true God, but there had to be evidence of change.

Justice and righteousness were the traditional prophetic formula and seen in the books of Amos, Isaiah, and of course, Jeremiah. Covenant relationship requires that participants see justice and righteousness as the norm. The third element, truth, becomes the way that everyone around is blessed.

COVID-19. Or Coronavirus is a blessing in disguise, in that it has shown us our short-comings, revealed the true nature of our society, and revealed to us that though we claim ‘in God we trust,’ nothing could be further from the truth. We are a society of injustice and self-righteousness. This has to change, and it should start with the Christian.

  • Our immigration policy.
  • Separating immigrant children from parents is immoral.
  • NASA spend on average $152 million per launch, when we have average Americans out of work, and 30 million children food insecure.
  • Healthcare, the benefit of the rich. The poor are excluded because of the cost.
  • Education, employment, the judicial system, shall I continue……?

The Ugly Sisters

The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.  And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord.

This is the story of the two ugly sisters. Israel goes off to play the harlot with the false gods of Baal and Asherah.  God calls her to repent and come back, but she refuses.  So, God issues a certificate of divorce and sent her off into exile. Judah is portrayed as a treacherous sister, having seen what happened to Israel she doesn’t repent; instead, she looks for ways to fool God, playing the religion game, as if God could be fooled.

Paul writes about the difference between religion and Spirit; he says,  “And we have such trust through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,  who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (1 Cor 3:4-6)

God is looking for people that will give their whole heart in a love relationship, not just Sunday-only Christians that play the field for the rest of the week.

Come back! I love you.

“They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife, And she goes from him And becomes another man’s, May he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me,” says the Lord. (Jer 3:1)

The Lord said to me, “Go. Show your love to your wife again. She is loved by another man. And she has committed adultery. But I want you to love her just as I love the people of Israel. They turn to other gods. And they love to offer raisin cakes to Baal and eat them. In spite of that, I love my people.” (Hosea 3:1)

Jeremiah seems to be a contradiction to the Torah in Deuteronomy 24. In the Torah text, it is prohibited that a twice-married woman may return to the first husband when rejected by the second husband. For our purposes, the three essential phrases in Deut. 24:4 are:

  1. “may not take her again,”
  2. “she has been defiled,”
  3. “bring guilt upon the land.”

Now I have a problem with the patriarchal, strong prejudiced language used here against women. But, that being said, in Jeremiah, and Hosea, the love for the unfaithful wife (Israel) is so strong, that the husband (God) wants her back.

We often focus on the judgment God inflicted upon Israel. Still, if we read the prophetic scripture thoroughly, we will see, time and time again, a God that is portrayed as a lover calling the people of God to repentance.

Sometimes we don’t want to see God as an unconditional lover because of our own prejudices.  We want to judge others that don’t fit into our image of what God should be like, and yet, we expect grace and mercy ourselves.

God is loving and giving to an undeserving world (Jn 3:16), running to greet and hug a smelly, wayward son (Lk 15). So, it should no surprise to see God, the lover, crying and calling back his unfaithful wife.

How Stupid Can They Be?

“Therefore I will yet bring charges against you,” says the Lord, “And against your children’s children I will bring charges. For pass beyond the coasts of Cyprus and see, Send to Kedar and consider diligently, And see if there has been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, Which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory For what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, And be horribly afraid; Be very desolate,” says the Lord. “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jer 2:9-13)

God will take Israel to court for its inconsistency. The charge is idolatry, God even looking at the nations around to see if anyone had swapped their gods for another, even though they were just dumb idols. He found no one. Israel, however, had exchanged the only true living God, the source of all life, for an idol. The judgment would be for three generations, with heaven and earth bearing witness.

Not only is Israel an adulterer, leaving behind her husband, but she refuses the gift of living water. Instead, she prefers to dig her own well and store it in a tank full of holes.

In today’s world, like Israel, we have walked out on God and gone after other things to try and fill the vacuum; new phone, new car, new house.  They only satisfy for a time, because there is always something new coming down the road.

Any relationship takes time and effort. Prayer, reading and studying the Word, meditation, and contemplation all take time, but the benefits are life-changing.

Lawsuit for Divorce

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel.  Thus says the Lord:

“What injustice have your fathers found in Me, That they have gone far from Me, Have followed idols, And have become idolaters? Neither did they say, ‘Where is the Lord, Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who led us through the wilderness, Through a land of deserts and pits, Through a land of drought and the shadow of death, Through a land that no one crossed And where no one dwelt?’ I brought you into a bountiful country, To eat its fruit and its goodness. But when you entered, you defiled My land And made My heritage an abomination.

The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me; The prophets prophesied by Baal, And walked after things that do not profit. (Jer 2:4-8)

The first part of this poem speaks like a wounded lover that has been left for another.  Israel has left God and gone after idols.  They have become what they follow. Bruggemann, in his commentary on Jeremiah, says, “Loyalty one has toward any god is decisive for the shaping of human life. We become like the god we serve. Pursue a bubble and become a bubble. The object of love determines the quality of love.” (Bruggemann, 1998)

Having lost their first love, they have taken what was given to them and destroyed it by their wanton lack of respect. Because their action will allow Babylon to enter the land, take what they want and destroy the rest. Even the social, civil, and religious leadership has gone after idols and refuses to stop the rot.

We have faired no better today.  America worships sex, money, and power, following a pseudo-Christianity, we destroy the earth in which we live, the very creation that God said was very good.

Walter Bruggemann. A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming. Eerdmans Publishing, MI. 1998.

Israel, the unfaithful wife

Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me, saying,  “Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord:

“I remember you, The kindness of your youth, The love of your betrothal, When you went after Me in the wilderness, In a land not sown. Israel was holiness to the Lord, The firstfruits of His increase. All that devour him will offend; Disaster will come upon them,” says the Lord.’ (Jer 2:1-3)

At the start of chapter 2, the prophet is told to lament, loudly and in public, so that the people of Israel will hear that God’s heart is broken.

We often associate poetry with the verse found in a birthday or anniversary card, but poetry is very common in the prophetic books and the wisdom literature. Poetry was often used to express resistance to a societal wrong in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and formed songs in the 60s and the Vietnam era.

So, Jeremiah writes this poem of lament, written by the husband (God) about his wife (Israel). He thinks back to their courtship and the honeymoon, how that Israel, a virgin nation went after the Lord in the wilderness, and enters into a covenant relationship, symbolized by a betrothal.  As a new bride, she was dedicated and set apart for her husband, and he blessed her.  However, it is clear that she has gone after another, unspoken here, but relating to the evil of idolatry we mentioned yesterday. The poem ends with a warning to those who harvest what they did not sow. Having offended Yahweh, disaster would come upon them.

Because they were experiencing a time of revival, the princes, priests, the people, and the prophets laughed at Jeremiah, and refused to hear his words, or harken to his cry.

Jeremiah–What do you see?

And the word of the Lord came to me the second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, and it is facing away from the north.” Then the Lord said to me:

“Out of the north calamity shall break forth on all the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I am calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north,” says the Lord; “They shall come and each one set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around, and against all the cities of Judah. I will utter My judgments against them concerning all their wickedness, because they have forsaken Me, burned incense to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands. “Therefore, prepare yourself and arise, and speak to them all that I command you. Do not be dismayed before their faces, lest I dismay you before them. For behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,” says the Lord, “to deliver you.”

This first vision God gave to Jeremiah is not a political analysis, but a poetic promise of judgment.  This boiling pot is about to pour over and consume Judah because of its evil.  Evil attracts evil. Their sin was one of idolatry, breaking the first commandment to love only the Lord God with all their being. The judgment was upon the kings, princes, priests, and people; nobody would escape.

Jeremiah would soon find out that coming against such evil would result in a counter-attack against him, so much so, that he would feel discouraged. God warns Jeremiah not to bend in the face of adversity, ‘for behold, I have made you this day:

  • a fortified city
  • and an iron pillar,
  • and bronze walls.’

They will fight against you but will not win; God will deliver Jeremiah.

As Christians, it is easy to pick one thing that we might be doing wrong as a nation but think back to the text.  Judah wasn’t about to be judged; for one thing, they were being judged because they have given over their heart, soul, body, and mind to a false ideology, philosophy, and worshipped. Is your faith in God authentic, real, and transforming? Anything else is idolatry.

Call of Jeremiah

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” Then said I: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.” But the Lord said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord. Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant.” Jer 1:4-10

Jeremih came from a priestly, his father, Hilkiah was the High Priest that found a copy of the Law, during the reign of Josiah, spurring a revival in the land. So, Jeremiah was a PK, a priests kid, and being a part of the Kohen, it was expected that Jeremiah would follow in the family business—BUT GOD!

God steps into Jeremiah’s life, even before that life had begun, setting a mantle for the future. A call of God that would bring a great deal of heartache, the call to be a prophet.

Jeremiah’s initial reaction was that he was too young. Thought to be seventeen, it was thirteen years before he would have taken up his traditional role as priest. However, for Jeremiah, his time was now. In the past, the people had broken covenant with God, and judgment was coming.  Though Judah was experiencing a revival under Josiah, God doesn’t forget the sins of the past. Jeremiah’s call was sixfold:

  1. To root out
  2. To pull down
  3. To destroy
  4. To throw down
  5. To build
  6. And Plant

Everyone likes the positive of building and planting. Still, sometimes you have to take away the old, to start again.

What did God speak over you in your mother’s womb? Release it now, in Jesus’ name.