A Pastor’s Perspective: Why God Is Pro-Life

Life is a precious gift from God, and the taking of an innocent life, whether in the womb or born alive, is murder against which the Church must take a stand, both to defend life and offer grace to those who have been scarred by it.

This month marks the 37th anniversary of a day that will live in infamy just as the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is also a date that will live in infamy. On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Roe v. Wade, made it legal for our nation to murder its own children by what doctors call an abortion. Here is at least one pastor’s perspective on the issue.

Since 1973, some 50 million lives have been snuffed out, without legal representation, without evidence of any guilt, without the opportunity to even speak in their own defense. Imagine a disaster where the entire populations of California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Washington are wiped out; that is 50 million lives! Abortion is the American holocaust, and it is a moral outrage that ought to make every Christian in this nation rise up in righteous indignation. But for some reason abortion has become a politicized issue, polarizing Democrats and Republicans. For people of faith, abortion should not be a political issue at all.

The Old Testament records God’s message in Deuteronomy 30:19:

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

Abortion is really not a political issue; it is a moral issue. Christians can be both Democrats and Republicans, because following Christ has nothing to do with a political party. God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican; but God is pro-life, and followers of Christ, both Democrats and Republicans, ought also to be pro-life!

I. God Creates and Values Life

As Christians, we claim to accept the Bible as the inerrant (or perfect) word of God and therefore the final authority on all subjects that it addresses. Of course, the Bible doesn’t address all topics, but where the Bible does speak clearly on an issue, we, as followers of Christ, must take that as the ultimate authority.

A. Unborn Human Life in the Old Testament: Psalm 139:13-16 says:

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. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

These verses tell us that God creates life in the mother’s womb, and that the unborn child is the object of God’s love and concern. Look at the pronouns in these verses: I, me, my, etc. This is not an “it,” a “thing,” or a blob of tissue that can be removed from the woman’s body like a tumor. Look at Jeremiah 1:5. Jeremiah was a prophet, and God told him: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I consecrated you (or set you apart).” God doesn’t consecrate a growth or a blob of tissue to become a prophet; He consecrates a person.

B. Unborn Human Life in the New Testament: In Luke’s Gospel, chapter one, we read that Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, went to visit her relative Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Listen to verse 41: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” When an unborn baby kicks in the womb, you never hear the expectant mother say: “A blob of tissue leaped inside me” or “Gee! I think my fetal tissue just kicked me.” No, she says her baby kicked her. In fact, the Greek word brephos is used when it says that the baby leaped in her womb. That word can be translated, “an unborn child, embryo, fetus, a new born child, an infant, a babe.” It is the same term that is used to describe Jesus, the “babe” wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12, 16). In other words, there is no distinction made in the Greek New Testament between an unborn baby and a newborn child. An unborn child is therefore not an “it,” or a pre-human; in God’s eyes, an unborn child is a baby.

Some say that is just a fetus, meaning that this tissue is not a human being. Actually, the word fetus is merely the Latin word for unborn child. The fetal stage is merely one stage in a person’s life, as is the teenage stage, the young adult stage, etc.

Well, what happens in an abortion? I think most Americans do not know the truth, and I think that ignorance explains why so many American Christians continue to vote for pro-choice politicians. Because of the invention of sonograms, you can actually watch an abortion, almost like watching a television program. Some abortion doctors inject the womb with a saline solution that literally burns the baby alive. Other abortion doctors use a vacuum device that dismembers (cuts off the arms and legs of) the struggling child and sucks the lifeless body out of the womb. Others simply use forceps which, based on the sonograms, the baby fights to avoid. They rip off the limbs, crush the baby’s head, pull it out of the womb, and throw it in the trash; literally!

Thank God that Congress has at least outlawed partial-birth abortion, a procedure by which a living, full-term baby is delivered breech (or feet first) up the point of the head, and then a sharp instrument is stabbed into the base of the baby’s skull, and the brains are removed so that the skull can be collapsed and the baby removed. Unfortunately the other methods of abortion, which are no less inhumane and grisly, have not. I mean, we would expect this kind of gross brutality in the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz, not the hospitals, doctor’s offices and health clinics of America. Yet this barbaric destruction of life goes on daily in the state of Tennessee.

II. The Church Must Defend Innocent Life and Offer Grace

Unborn human life must be protected by all Americans, but particularly by Christ-followers. Proverbs 24:11-12 says:

Rescue those being led away to death, hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say: “We knew nothing about this,” Does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it? Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?

As Christians we need to stand up and speak out because abortion is morally wrong! It is premeditated murder! It violates the Sixth Commandment in Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder,” and if Christians don’t stop it, who will? That’s why I’m writing on this today.

God is pro-life, and according to the plain language of Proverbs 6:16-17, He hates abortion: “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven are an abomination to Him,” among those are, “hands that shed innocent blood.” God hates the shedding of innocent blood! And His ears are filled with the cries of the innocent being slain in this nation, and, friend, there will be a day of reckoning!

Many churches will not address this issue from the pulpit for fear of offending or being accused of using the pulpit for politics. Saving human life is not a political issue. It is a moral issue. The people who sit in the pews every Sunday need the truth. But if we pastors will speak of the issue in a redemptive way that also extends grace to those who have been ensnared and wounded by the lie that abortion is just a “choice,” then we can leave the outcome of our speaking to God. Christ is both grace and truth. And abortion calls for us to speak both into our culture.

I believe God is calling out to his Church, the hands and feet of Christ, to get involved, save lives, and stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves! As a pastor, I pray we will respond.

Aftershocks from the Supreme Court Earthquake

The Supreme Court’s ruling that Congress’ prohibition against corporate contributions violates the free speech rights of those corporations may mean that the chains the IRS has placed on the First Amendment free speech and freedom of religion rights of pastors and churches may have been broken as well.

The political earthquake in Massachusetts with the election of Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate on January 19 was not the only political earthquake that took place last week. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court’s earthquake may have set free some political captives that no one is much talking about.

On January 21, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the campaign finance laws prohibiting corporations from making political contributions was an unconstitutional restriction on the free speech rights of corporations. Most everyone thought of the ruling in terms of huge corporations being able to make contributions and to buy elections. Others thought of it in terms of the “little guy” having his financial contribution being so dwarfed by corporate contributions that their contributions would become meaningless. But there may be another significant “aftershock” from the judicial earthquake that upset the campaign finance law apple cart.

A major issue among conservative evangelicals over the years has been the IRS’s never-challenged rule that prohibits pastors from saying what they want from their pulpits about political candidates. And, of course, many churches, also bound by those rules, are also corporations.

So the question is this: If the government cannot suppress political speech in terms of contributions by corporations, can it suppress the political speech of pastors and churches who, unlike corporations, also have a First Amendment freedom to practice their religion? And what about this: Can churches now make political contributions if they want to? Would not their “dual” constitutional rights—to free speech and to freedom of religion—not also give them even more of a right to make contributions than “big tobacco,” insurance companies and financial institutions?

For years, groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State have sent letters to pastors reminding them of the IRS’s rule limiting their ability to talk about candidates and threatening to report them to the IRS if they violated the rule. It’s been a huge stick that liberals have used to discourage pastors from informing their congregations about what is happening in politics and what their representatives are doing, thereby providing one fewer source of information to their people when they go to cast a vote.

Now, there are some pastors and churches that wouldn’t talk about a political issue or a candidate if they were paid to do so. For them, this ruling won’t make any difference. But to those who would if they were not concerned about protecting the tax status of their church, this political earthquake may be like the one that set free Paul and Barnabas when they were in chains.

Perhaps the chains the IRS has put around our nation’s pulpits have been broken.

Will Unrepentant Republicans Get Invited to TEA?

Washington Republicans owe liberty-loving, fiscally conservative Americans a huge public apology for their complicity in the national health care debacle because their fiscal irresponsibility undoubtedly contributed to the desperation for “change” that produced the current Congress. Republicans, if you want some of us to trust you again, then you had better admit your own wrongdoing. Otherwise, why should we not expect more of what we got the first time we trusted you in 1994?

The TEA Party movement is an interesting phenomenon, and it’s got both major political parties wondering what effect it will have in the upcoming elections. Democrats wonder if it will help Republican candidates. Some Republicans fear that TEA Party members will vote for an independent or, seeing Republicans and Democrats as merely different shades of gray, just not vote. So, as a former elected Republican, here’s some advice if Republicans want to get invited for “tea” during the next election season.

My ruminations on this issue come from what we’ve all just witnessed in Washington in connection with the Senate’s midnight and Christmas Eve votes on the national health care bill. To be blunt, it disgusted me.

Legal Bribery

Unless you’ve been in a coma, you know that a lot of “deals” were made to secure the votes needed to pass the Senate’s draft of the national health care bill. Nebraska’s Sen. Ben Nelson was just one example, but perhaps the most visible one, of what brings contempt on Congress. He agreed to vote for the bill because he got a $45 million deal that will exempt Nebraskans from paying their share of the bill’s increased cost to their state’s Medicaid program. In essence, you and I will pay for the extra $745 million the bill will cost Tennessee, but we will also pick up part of the cost that Nebraskans would have had to pay. Already his Senate colleague from Nebraska and his own governor have condemned him. Of course, that doesn’t change what he did or change the language of the bill.

And, of course, he is not alone to be blamed. As far as I’m concerned, whoever it was that offered the deal and signed off on its being offered is as guilty as Sen. Nelson of corrupt politics. Usually with bribery, both the offeree and the offeror are guilty.

Some would say it’s not corrupt politics—that is politics. In fact, Sen. Harry Reid said as much. As far as I’m concerned, apart from his substantive position on the matter, he needs to go, too, because of his attitude about the process, along with everyone else up there who shrugs and says the same thing.

Whom Does America Trust?

But I’m getting off track. The point really is about Republican legislators and the TEA Party members. An interesting national poll released at the end of last year showed that more Americans indicated a preference for a TEA Party candidate over either a Democrat or a Republican. That should particularly disturb Republican Party leadership—particularly ones like House Republican Leader John Boehner, who supported a pro-choice, pro-homosexual marriage Republican candidate for a recent special election in New York’s 23rd District.

Sen. McConnell Needs to Listen to Himself

But it was a statement made by Senate Minority (Republican) Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor the night the health care bill passed the Senate that caught my attention. He said, “I guarantee you the people who voted for this bill are going to get an earful when they finally get home for the first time since Thanksgiving. … My colleagues and I will work to stop this bill from becoming law.”

I think he’s right—those who voted for this are going to hear about it. Of course, if they only hear about it now and not when you vote in November, then don’t complain. Just pull down your electoral britches and expect to get paddled again with more of the same.

But what really got me was saying his Republican colleagues will work to stop this from becoming law. That is good. But if he thinks that means I’m going to trust him and his Republican colleagues to do the right thing if they are put back in charge, then he’s made a leap in his logic as far as I’m concerned.

As one person who is beginning to feel like I identify more with the TEA Party than the Republican Party, at least those in leadership in Washington, I think Sen. McConnell needs to get “an earful” too. In my opinion, the Republican leadership in Washington owes rank and file Republicans and liberty-loving, fiscally conservative Americans of every political stripe a HUGE public apology for their complicity in this bill.

Republican Complicity

You may wonder what I mean since no Republican voted for the bill. Well, here’s what I mean.

Had Republicans not done such a horrible job once they took over control in 1994, had they stuck to their platform position on limited government and fiscal responsibility, and had they not driven budget earmarks (political words for what normal people would call bribes and kickbacks) that have really gotten the federal budget in such a mess, then maybe not as many Americans, rightly knowing something was wrong, would have grasped for “change” in 2006 and 2008.

Had Republicans in Washington done their job from 1994 to 2006, we might not have had such a fiscally irresponsible, unconstitutional, liberty-and-property-seizing bill being crammed down our throats. Things did not go from good to bad with the elections in 2006 and 2008; they went from bad to worse. But things being worse does not make the bad better or okay. Bad is bad.

If the Congressmen (Senate and House) who were in Washington from 1994 to 2006 (Sen. Corker, you get a pass; you weren’t there) want my vote—want to get invited to my election year “tea party”—then I had better hear a sincere public apology from them personally or as a caucus or as a party, admitting that they had a hand in putting America where it is fiscally.

I don’t mind giving a person a second chance, and you know Sen. McConnell and his colleagues are hoping we’ll give it to them. But, if you ask me, why give someone another chance if they haven’t admitted their own wrongdoing first? Who takes back an adulterous spouse who is unrepentant and unapologetic?

Unrepentant Adulterers

And the fact is Washington Republicans were adulterous in their allegiance to their platform principles. They went whoring after votes (see Old Testament Hosea for the propriety of that word in this context), the same as Democrats do by giving things to everybody who could line their pockets with campaign cash and blocks of votes. To heck with being a statesman and standing for what is just and righteous or even just plain constitutional and fiscally prudent. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want an unrepentant person (or party) back in a position to do more of the same to me than they’ve done in the past. Better to be betrayed by a known opponent than a supposed friend and ally.

Oh, I want change now, too. But I want change I can really believe in. And I assure you right now I’m skeptical of both parties.

I’m waiting for my apology. And I doubt I’m alone. Is there anyone else holding a tea party like mine?

Will Education Session be ‘Special’?

Whether the legislature comes up with a teacher evaluation process that qualifies the state for extra federal funds or not, the special session will indeed be “special” if there is also some reform in teacher tenure. Reforming tenure will improve public education.

The Governor is calling a special session to discuss education reform, in particular, an increased level of teacher accountability so as to qualify for a few hundred million federal dollars for K-12 education. Here’s what would make it really special.

Having a special session on education is a great idea. Its improvement is certainly needed. And it’s hard for legislators or the public to really focus on it when there are 1,500 or so other bills clamoring for our attention. A session just on education is certainly unique, but unique doesn’t mean it will be special. That designation will depend on what they accomplish. Rearranging the chairs on the deck on the Titanic didn’t do anything “special” in the face of the huge tear in the ship’s underbelly.

Beware the Strings Don’t Hang Us

The first thing I think legislators need to consider are the strings with which the package of federal money will be wrapped. There are always strings with federal money. And even if the strings are acceptable now, that doesn’t mean they won’t send next year’s installment or the installment 10 years from now wrapped with different strings. After the way the health care bill was handled and all the control it extends to the federal government, should we expect this Congress and President to not want the same control over education?

About 10 years ago I carried a bill that changed the whole way child support was collected in Tennessee. Were there widespread problems with our collection system? No. We changed it because Congress decided to withhold several hundred millions in funds for the Aid to Families of Dependent Children if we didn’t. Changing our collection system was not part of the “deal” when Tennessee “signed up” decades ago. So, I’m not yelling wolf when I say, “Watch out.”

I’m not saying we couldn’t use the money. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take it—somebody’s going to get it whether we take our share or not. But it would be “special” if the legislature took pains to make sure the money wasn’t used to start some new recurring program we couldn’t afford to discontinue or to continue with our own state tax dollars if the strings become too onerous or offensive. If it can be used for nonrecurring expenses, so much the better.

Improvement Tethered by Tenure

A second thing that would be “special” is seeing reform to teacher tenure. There are many good teachers out there, and many who do not walk lockstep with the state teacher’s union on every issue. But tenure is an idea out of time. It has become an expensive, cumbersome obstacle to removing teachers who aren’t getting the job done. It’s easier and less expensive than litigation to move an ineffective teacher to another grade or another school. Or, if necessary, move them into administration. Protest all you want, defenders of tenure, but you know it happens.

Tenure Ignores Human Nature

But the law is problematic because it’s built on a premise that ignores the reality of human nature. And laws that do that, in time, will prove to be a bad.

Human nature is such that if we can get something for nothing, we’re inclined to take it. People will compare effort required with reward to be gained, and if we can give less effort and get enough of what we want, we’ll give less effort. Please understand, this is not true only of teachers; it’s true of all of us, but it’s not less true because a person is a teacher. And tenure has given license to this kind of thinking for too many people in education.

And please don’t give me the old idea that we need to protect teachers from politics. Unless you are self-employed, there are politics on every job. And, even the self-employed person has to play “politics” with his or her customers or lose them to someone else. And though it may be a shock to some, there are even politics in the church. Just ask someone who has been a preacher or minister of music for a few years.

Accountability with Reward Is Needed

But tenure is not the only problem. As stated, we naturally evaluate effort compared to reward. And in public education, there is not much reward for effort. Only a self-motivated person of real integrity will do their best regardless in a rewardless system year after year.

So, let’s put the two together: reward and accountability. For example, treat principals like a CEO. Hold the principal responsible for the progress of the school he or she leads. No progress, no job; good progress, then above-average pay.

With that kind of system in place, then tenure for teachers could be more easily modified. If a principal’s job and income depends on educational achievement, then it would make sense that the principal is not going to fire a good, effective teacher for petty reasons. I have had law partners with whom I strongly disagreed on a number of political and social issues and who often rubbed me the wrong way (as I know I probably did them), but they were good lawyers and profitable, so we pressed on. Only a foolish, shortsighted principal whose job depends on the success of his or her school would fire a teacher who is producing. Could it happen? Yes. But if the teacher is good, don’t you think another principal desirous of keeping his or her job and getting paid better would hire that teacher? And if good teachers were constantly leaving for another school, that in itself becomes an evaluation of that principal.

The session would be special if we could figure out a way to pay those who perform better than those who do not. Unfortunately, too many leaders in the teachers union prefer security to success and count some reward better than risk with great reward. And we wonder why so many students can accept mediocrity?

Will Republicans Lead or Follow?

It would be special if we had enough legislators say “enough” and stand up for students and for better education instead of the campaign cash and “votes” that teachers unions promise to deliver. And Republican legislators had better be careful they don’t succumb to the union’s newfound fondness for them like their Washington counterparts did with tax-and-spenders once they got control of Congress in 1994.

Remember, Republican legislator, the union wouldn’t endorse even an unopposed incumbent Republican candidate (maybe a true RINO every once in a while) before Republicans took control. My advice: Take their money, just don’t take all they’re selling. And if you feel you have to take their opinions if you take your money, remember you got where you are without their votes or their money. Politicians who forget where they come from need to be sent back to where they came from.

Stay tuned with us, and let’s hope for something special that will improve education and maintain our state’s educational and fiscal freedom.

Religious Freedom Sunday in Tennessee: January 10, 2010

The words “separation of church and state” appear nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution. So what does this oft-quoted phrase mean, and where does it come from?

An important day for Americans is just around the corner: Religious Freedom Sunday, January 10, 2010. The importance of this day of remembrance is driven home by just how much we, as Americans, have forgotten about our heritage.

When it comes to the issue of religious freedom in America, often the phrase “separation of church and state” comes to mind. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution plainly forbids the creation of a national church, because that would be an “establishment of religion.” However, the Constitution says nothing about the so-called “separation of church and state” that is referred to so often in the public discourse today. That phrase simply does not exist in any of our nation’s founding documents. It is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson in a personal letter to some pastors from the Danbury (CT) Baptist Association of Churches in 1802, responding to their concern that the federal government might establish a national denominational religious preference.

Nowhere in the Declaration or the Constitution

Not only is the term “separation of church and state” not in any of America’s governing documents, but the fact of the matter is that even into the early 1800’s, some of the original and early states had churches sanctioned by state government, usually requiring public officeholders (not individual citizens) to be members in good standing of a church. But that was acceptable because throughout the colonial period and most of American history, religion was widely treated as a state matter, with each state determining its own preference. The First Amendment only prohibited the U.S. Congress from establishing a national religion; it said nothing about the states.

In addition, the Christian religion, in some form or fashion, was held by all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Framers of the Constitution. Their own writings prove this, and author David Barton has shown that even the two “least Christian” of these men, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, were far more religious than what we would describe today as the “Religious Right.”

Indicative of the thinking of the time is the following statement by John Quincy Adams, our sixth president:

Our political way of life is by the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, and of course presupposes the existence of God, the moral ruler of the universe, and a rule of right and wrong, of just and unjust, binding upon man, preceding all institutions of human society and government.

A Phrase Popularized in the 1940s

However, in 1947 the U.S. Supreme Court used the phrase “separation of church and state” in ruling on a First Amendment issue and, over time, the general public has erroneously been led to believe that the “separation of church and state” somehow requires the church (the body of Christ) to stay out of matters of the public policy. And, unfortunately, too many church leaders have either accepted this historical revisionism or used it as justification for being silent on cultural and political issues.

The “political correctness” movement has even gone so far as to “preach” that the separation of church and state means that Americans should erase all references to God from this nation. Such nonsense was clearly never the Founders’ position, but it has become the position of millions of Americans today.

In 1952, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote:

We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. We guarantee the freedom to worship as one chooses. We make room for as wide a variety of beliefs and creeds as the spiritual needs of man deem necessary. We sponsor an attitude on the part of government that shows no partiality to any one group, and that lets each flourish according to the zeal of its adherents and the appeal of its dogma …

To hold that government may not encourage religious instruction would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe … We find no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence.

Thank you, Justice Douglass! He was right, but his words are hardly ever heard anymore. We have allowed irreligion to become the dominant religion. So, let’s take the opportunity given us by Religious Freedom Sunday to “correct” this deficiency and proclaim the truth about America’s history.