I just learned with sadness of the passing of Dr. Bernard Nathanson. Nathanson’s life was a bit reminiscent of that of Paul of Tarsus. In the early 1970s, he pioneered the ushering in of unlimited abortion in the United States. As this compelling and eloquent obituary states, he personally performed thousands of abortions, including that of his own unborn child. Say what you will, Nathanson was not in it merely for the money. He believed in what he was doing.
But at the appointed hour, truth unbidden barged in on Nathanson’s life. When he finally saw an ultrasound of a live abortion, a moment which he later immortalized in the Silent Scream movie, he realized the moral horror of what he had done. Unable to deny the truth, Nathanson turned completely around and became a forceful advocate on behalf of human life.
And more than that, his awakening opened up for him an issue he had previously been closed to – his own compelling need for forgiveness from a God he knew was morally perfect. Jesus said that everyone who seeks finds. Nathanson’s crushing weight of sin drove him to the only assurance of forgiveness we are given, Jesus.
While Nathanson’s passing is the end of an era, there’s encouragement in his life for us. Our God is so big that there is no sin He will not forgive, if only we come to Him with a sincere heart and ask. Paul the great apostle persecuted the church murderously, but when he finally saw the truth, he too could not deny it, and he converted. When God forgives, He forgives completely; it is a done deal. Despite Paul’s past, God chose him and commissioned him to be His vessel:
This man is My chosen instrument to take My name to Gentiles, kings, and the Israelites. -Acts 9:15
Later Paul would testify:
I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. -1Tim 1:16
So it is too, with so many of us, who early in our lives found the lies taught by our morally adventurous culture pleasing to our flesh, but who later discovered the terrible cost of sin, a cost that in many cases had been hidden from us.
Nathanson courageously embraced truth at great personal cost. There was a massive disruption of his professional associations and his friendships, to say nothing of his finances. For this reason, leaving his previous error behind, he went on to become a moral giant. Like Paul he earned the right to say:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. -1Cor 15:10
There is sadness in loss, but the grace of God marches on, collecting trophies such as Bernard Nathanson. He is an example for us of casting off sin and every weight of encumbrance, and pursuing grace and truth, even when it is costly to do so.
Having been in many ways a cultural dropout for years, I had no idea until just a few years ago who Anne Rice was. Then I came across her testimony, describing how a leading vampire genre author had turned to Christ. I picked up her book on her conversion, and I found it to be both curious and a bit perplexing.
Rice grew up as a Roman Catholic in New Orleans. Interesting for someone so masterful with words, she really is a visual person first of all. All her earliest memories are images – visual snapshots of the things that formed her. It wasn’t until much later that she discovered the ability to translate those images into language.
And it is interesting that her return to Christ, after a life lived quite away from Him, was also driven not by words but by images. As Anne was drawn to Christ, she began collecting religious statuary, even traversing the world to do so. She begins watching live Masses on EWTN, but again the key word there is “watching”: she is absorbing the essence of the whole thing, primarily through the visual aspect, more than ruminating on and struggling with the verbal content.After reading the book I reviewed it at Amazon, irenically congratulating Anne for her achievement. But though my review did well in terms of reader feedback, I eventually took it down because I had no peace about it. I finally had to admit to myself that I had serious questions about what I had read. I was uneasy about the lack of focus on repentance, the lack of doctrinal questioning and struggle, and the uncritical acceptance of the Roman church’s authority structure. It seemed to me that Anne had enveloped herself in the atmosphere of Christianity – or perhaps of Christendom – and I that was a foundation I was not prepared to trust.
That was pretty much that for a while, until sometime last year, when Anne dropped the following bomb on her Facebook page:
For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
Once again I was perplexed. Leaving church is one thing, but does one who is truly Saved ever really stop being a Christian? I wondered if maybe semantics were confusing things, but Anne being a master wordsmith, I had to conclude that she means what she says.
Now I want to make clear that I am not endorsing Anne’s statement. I’m not saying we should leave our churches, let alone leave Christianity itself.
And neither am I saying that we should abandon political engagement. In an interview with Christianity Today, Anne goes on to decry Christian political involvement, specifically against the gay rights movement. But is there no place for advocating for “moral” law – say, for the protection of innocent unborn human life? After all, all law ultimately is based on morality. Where do we draw the line?
Anne’s position with regard to Christ and the church is ultimately something that she needs to decide on, and I can’t say that I fully understand it as it has been stated. But after considering the issues that she has raised, there are two things that need to be said.
Half a year ago, looking for fellowship, I joined myself to an online Christian community that was lively and looked promising. I enjoyed myself there for a season, and I dare say that I was able to help some people. Well and fine. But eventually I was forced out by the continual acrimonious doctrinal bickering that was going on. Never once did I see authority step in to curb it, yet they were quick to summarily ban several high quality posters for the mildest bit of independent thinking or for the unpardonable sin of questioning the use of authoritarian dynamic on others.
Now, if it were just one site doing this, we would not have a problem. But it is not just one site. I’ve been on the Net since 1983, and I don’t even want to tell you what CompuServe Religious Forum #2: Christianity was like back then. Let’s just say it was pandemonium, in the etymological sense of the word.
And over the years, I have seen the same thing time and again, to the point where I have to say that discord is a pervasive problem. Where then does one go for real online fellowship? For that matter, where does one go for real life fellowship? I have to agree to an extent with Anne’s evaluation that we are a “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group”.
In the Epistles, the Apostles exhort us to let brotherly love cover all. We are to overlook offenses, forgo our rights for the sake of others, accept those who are weak in the faith, and not argue about doubtful issues. And in His High Priestly Prayer, just before He was taken, Jesus prayed to the Father that we would be one, so that the world would know that He is the One sent for the salvation of the world. What kind of unity did Jesus have in mind? Consider this:
May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.
I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me. -John 17:21-23
That’s an organic unity so profound that we can only get glimpses of it. Yet if we are going to understand the fullness of the hope of our calling in Christ, if we are going to tap into its immeasurable power for overcoming the world, and if we are going to be effective witnesses to the love of God, we are going to have to press forward into the reality of this unity.
There is a time for taking a doctrinal stand. There is a time for disagreements, when core principles are involved. And in this fallen world there is even a time for separation. But we have a problem when contention and the splitting of doctrinal hairs becomes the dominant characteristic of our interaction. When that is the case we fall into the same judgment as the early Corinthian church, which though blessed with all manner of spiritual manifestations, was essentially loveless, divided and in need of rebuke and discipline.
The other thing I wanted to say is with regard to Anne Rice concerns her response to the problem – leaving the church. There are many, many Christians who are dissatisfied with the current state of the church. I saw an interview with noted Christian musician and worship leader Isaiah Hougton. He’s the guy who leads millions in worship each week on Joel Osteen’s TV program. He sells albums, he travels the globe, he performs for presidents. You might think that this guy is on top of the world, but surprisingly, even he admitted that he was tired of “just doing church”.
I visited a church once where the pastor got up and began thundering that we don’t need another sermon, we instead need to get out there and “do” the Gospel. Very true, I thought to myself, but let’s see where he goes with this. Sure enough, the church was treated to a forty-five minute sermon on how we don’t need another sermon. I wondered if I was the only one seeing the absurdity of it. The words were right, the spirit was wrong. And nothing was going to change. That pastor has continued preaching sermons for years now. What does that signify?
The world is looking for what is real, not for structures, hierarchies, rituals or formulas. Last year, Francis Chan, popular mega-church founder and best-selling author, left his pastorate in order to…. well, we don’t know exactly what he is going to do. He left to follow the Lord’s calling. He felt that he was falling into the trap of success. Was Francis right? I don’t know. But success can be a trap, even when it’s achieved within the Christian subculture. Francis at least had the courage to give up the plaudits of man and get out. One could say that he escaped the American dream. Last I heard, he was looking to start up a grassroots ministry in Asia.
I think we need to take a watchful and prayerful, rather than judgmental, position regarding a lot of the unusual movement within the church today. While that movement can be very disruptive to the church itself, it is even more so to the individual doing the moving. But let’s face it, the Gospel record is clear that, if nothing else, Jesus was disruptive. He never compromised who He was, and He never compromised the high demands of discipleship. That’s why he let the rich young ruler walk away. The Kingdom of Heaven is voluntary. If you’re not willing to pay the price, no one is going to force you to do so. But we mustn’t expect Jesus to change in order to fit into our comfort zones.
As we study the Book of Acts, we see that there was much disruptive movement, and even confusion, in the early church. Jesus told the first disciples to preach the Gospel everywhere. Apparently that wasn’t happening well enough, so a persecution conveniently arose which widely scattered the church. And where the church went, the Gospel went too. God works in strange ways.
I wish Anne Rice well, and while I don’t endorse her position fully, I think we would do well to consider her criticisms, in light of what the Spirit is trying to say to the church at this late hour. The reality around us is changing, almost daily, with regard to technology, culture, politics and economics. Difficult times are coming. The church is going to have to change shape and methodology to adapt to the new reality, in order to survive and to be effective. We have a choice. We can remain stuck in the status quo, or we can face the challenging new reality and cooperate with what the Spirit wants to do. Persecution may come, but eves in it, we have the chance to see the greatest expansion of the kingdom in human history. It’s already begun in places like China.
The message that Jesus gave the churches in the book of Revelation was that overcomers will receive glory, but the lampstands of those who will not heed the Spirit will be removed. The challenge is before us. The Lord wants His church to come home and be fully reconciled, and indeed, to stop being a stumbling block. He wants to live among us, and to impart His character and glory to us. He wants to do this for our sakes, and for the sake of a world which at this point is clearly falling apart. He is looking for willing vessels to empower for this very purpose. May the Bride prepare herself for the coming of the King.
There is a moral revolution going on in this nation, and entrenched interests are doing their best to suppress it. Nancy Pelosi called the gathering TEA (“taxed enough already”) movement “astroturf”, meaning it was fake grassroots financed by dark conservative sources. But if you looked at the signs at the TEA protests, they were almost invariably personally designed and hand-made. Indeed, it was their opponents who were often bussed in, and who held mass-produced signs. The grassroots movement that Pelosi smeared went on to effect an historic wave election that took the Speaker’s gavel from her hands.
When Rep. Gabriel Giffords was tragically shot a month ago, the media was quick to blame aggressive rhetoric on the right for a hostile political culture, though there was not an shred of evidence that the shooter was politically motivated. There was a reprimand of the Right and a big call for a “new tone” in our civil discourse. But these last two weeks the media hasn’t been so quick to focus on the verbal and physical aggression of the union protests in Wisconsin. State senators have been spit on, their female aides have been roughed up, a female reporter was thrown to the ground by a thug, and depictions of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker as Hitler range wall-to-wall. But Big Media instead focused on affirmations of the protest, such as an endorsement by President Obama and the inevitable visit by Jesse Jackson, even while its interviews with those on the other side showed thinly-veiled hostility.
But the other side to the story will not be suppressed. America for decades has lost its way, culturally, spiritually, and now economically. That’s often how it works. We make decisions in the spirit that we think will not have practical consequences, but invariably down the line we pay the price of our choices.
When the greatest nation in history is brought to its knees by creditors, something is wrong. When it is subservient to cruel, two-bit tyrants who happen to be sitting on oil wells, it has made bad choices – all the more so when we have vast untapped sources of energy that our own radical interests will not allow us to exploit.
Giving public workers the right to unionize was warned against for decades, but the unions finally won. And since then the public employees unions have held the nation’s political system hostage. They feed the governing elite, the elite takes care of them at taxpayer expense. This is nowhere more true than with the teachers’ unions, whose pay and benefits are already far above that of the private sector people they serve. We spend enormous amounts of money on education, we have technology the world has never before seen, and yet our scholastic results are pathetic and getting worse. And still the establishment wants us to trust them and throw more money at the problem.
Fortunately, we cannot continue. As Scott Walker says, we are broke. The choice to continue in our irresponsible, profligate and ineffective ways has been taken from us. In our supreme self-indulgence, we have already saddled future generations with a lethal, immoral debt burden. The time has finally come to say NO.
I said fortunately, above, because perhaps our fiscal crisis will force us to finally get our runaway culture under control as well.
I am encouraged by the new breed of leader that is arising to meet the challenge before us. They are dynamic, articulate, fearless, and they are speaking the truth. Some are young, but they are acting more grown-up than the long-entrenched corrupt leaders that have gotten us into this mess.
And so I’m posting this video of Scott Walker, in case you haven’t heard the other side of the story. Hopefully it will give you something to think about. And if you already have seen the light, and know that America must mend her ways in so many areas, you are going to love this presentation.
At this point, I’m wondering what America stands for. And I suspect I’m not alone.We have a brutal dictator, who also happens to be criminally anti-American, at the first time in four long decades vulnerable to overthrow. We see him using mercenaries to cut down peaceful citizens, helicopter gunships and air force jets to strafe them. We see bodies lying in streets, victims of mortars and bullets powerful enough to penetrate concrete walls. And we do nothing.
All it would take would be one phone call to dispatch NATO jets to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Then let the people decide for themselves. With Quadaffi’s unfair advantage gone, perhaps the army would abandon him quickly.
But all we get is a few pathetic empty words from our secretary of state, and silence.
Did not the same thing happen a year and a half ago in Iran? It was a golden moment for the lovers of freedom there. Millions took to the streets. As with Neda Soltan, they began to be wantonly cut down. They were imprisoned, they were tortured, they were systematically raped. They were killed.
And what did we do? Nothing. Our leader was “willing to talk with Iran without preconditions.”
And then, Egypt. Instead of strongly identifying with the forces of freedom, we stood off to the side, incoherently contradicting ourselves with every statement. Now that Egypt has thrown off its dictator, who will get the credit? It will not be us, and it probably won’t be the forces of real democracy. It will be the Muslim Brotherhood.
President Obama campaigned on the promise to restore America’s respect among the nations. One doesn’t do that by making articulate speeches. It is done by taking right stands on critical issues, even when those stands might be costly. America is finding herself on the wrong side of history, and that’s an expensive place to be.
In the past weeks, Obama has found time to give us his radical left opinions on a defacto teachers’ strike in Wisconsin (favorable), and on Planned Parenthood, in light of video revelations of its pervasive willingness to aid and abet child prostitution (also favorable). Yet he has not found the time to weigh in on the issues he was elected to deal with.
Jesus warned us that to whom much is given, much will be required. We are going to be judged based on what we were able to do vs. what we actually did. He also warned us that he who does not have, even what he does have will be taken away.
In short, that boils down to use it or lose it. I fear that our nation is losing something very precious. And what begins in the spirit eventually becomes manifest. The Old Testament record is clear that whenever Israel strayed from the Lord, she fell into the hands of cruel enemies. Watch what happens now to the price of energy. Understand that these situations are of vital importance to the whole world, and wrongly handled they have to power to bring our economy to its knees. And maybe on our knees is exactly where we need to be.
I’m closing by including a short opinion by a noted political commentator.
It’s a little perplexing looking at the White House today. There was a statement on the horrible earthquake in New Zealand, and certainly our hearts go out to all those affected by this horrible natural disaster. But nothing on the slaughter in Libya? The protests in many places in the Middle East affect regimes that have cooperated with the U.S. on issues from peace with Israel, fighting al Qaeda, hosting our military forces, or cooperating against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Gaddafi’s Libya is different. For four decades, this tyrant has held power. Gaddafi was Osama before Osama hit the scene. He ordered the bombing of a disco in Germany to kill Americans. When he paid the price for that – after President Reagan rightly ordered retaliation – he directed his agents to blow up Pan Am Flight 103. They did, and more than 250 innocent people died. Gaddafi tried to come in from the cold in 2003 – scared by the demonstration effect of Iraq. But we should have no illusions. Gaddafi is a brutal killer and Libya – not to mention the world – would be better off if he were out of power. Now is the time to speak out. Speak out for the long-suffering Libyan people. Speak out for the victims of Gaddafi’s terror. NATO and our allies should look at establishing a no-fly zone so Libyan air forces cannot continue slaughtering the Libyan people. We should not be afraid of freedom, especially when it comes to people suffering under a brutal enemy of America. Here’s to freedom from Gaddafi for the people of Libya. – Sarah Palin
Our friends the Afghanis are set to hang a Christian brother for the dread crime of turning away from Islam, which he did eight years ago. We have spent precious blood, much toil, and a whole lot of money to bring this nation out of Seventh Century tribalism, and what have we gotten?
Basically, Seventh Century tribalism. With little confidence that America is going to stay the course, the population is turning away from us. The Afghan government so many had put hope in is turning out to be increasingly weak and corrupt. And we are reduced to negotiating with the Taliban.
The abominable apostasy and blasphemy laws are how Islam keeps it reign of fear and coercion intact. They also are used to destroy others for strict personal gain.
That after all we have poured into Afghanistan, an innocent Christian man has been imprisoned, badly abused, and is in immanent danger of being executed is simply unacceptable. That the government of our nation has not pressed strongly for human rights in this case is a cause for national shame. We see people clamoring for freedom all over the world, and spilling their blood to get it. And from the White House we hear…. nothing.
Christian Post reports on a tweeting campaign for the freeing of Said Musa. This is a good thing, as evidently the only thing our leaders hear is political volume. Perhaps it will draw Obama away from opining on the situation in Wisconsin.
I’m enclosing below an article from Open Heaven on Said. It is dramatic testimony of what the Lord is accomplishing through him. Our brother is a physiotherapist with six children, and he has held faithful through a hellish experience. Let’s pray that he is saved from this tribal injustice.
And here’s a link to an encouraging report on how with all this repression and upheaval Muslims are looking for something that will take them out of their tragic centuries-long rut of futility and backwardness. They are open, like never before, for the liberating truth of Christ. Please pray. Here’s the first article:
Afghanistan: Jesus appears in prison
A brother in Christ and an employee of the International Red Cross, Said Musa, was arrested in Afghanistan in late May 2010 after footage was nationally televised of Afghan Christians being baptized and participating in prayer gatherings. The broadcast triggered protests throughout the country and calls to execute Christians, including from a deputy leader in parliament. Musa, a father of six and an amputee with a prosthetic leg, explained in a letter written from Oullayat prison in Kabul that he had been beaten, forcefully sleep deprived, and sexually abused by prisoners. He added that Afghan judicial officers granted him no protection and at times encouraged the abuse.
On December 11, 2010, he wrote from his jail cell that he rejoices in the Lord amidst great suffering. “I saw a vision during my sleep one night. I saw the heaven opened and a person, his cloths like snow, his face in dazzling light. He came to me and put his hand on my shoulder and on my head, and told me: ‘Please he happy, I am always with you in this jail. I chose you and you should announce my good news to the people of Afghanistan and all over the world.’ On that moment I was shaking and trembling with fear. I fell down and could not stand on my feet. He took my hands and I woke up.”
“In my dream a very light person told me: I am Jesus Christ.”
Five days later, on December 16, he wrote again about an unusual occurrence, this time involving a Taliban prisoner: “A person who is accused of murder is sleeping in front of me in the corridor of the jail. He’s a hundred percent extremist, a Talib person. One night he wanted to kill himself. I prayed for him and told him: ‘Please be patient, believe in Jesus Christ, he’s the only person to forgive you and save you and release you from this jail.’ At first he began screaming and insulted me. He told me: ‘You’re not clean, you’re not a Muslim!’ But I told him: ‘Oh my friend and brother, please think about my word.’ Then I prayed for him throughout the night.”
Musa continued: “While all the prisoners were at sleep, he woke up and sat on his place. He came near my bed and told me: ‘Please forgive me, brother. You’re really a true person. I have seen wonderful dreams. A very light person spoke with me. He was an amazing person. I fell down on my knees and to the ground. He told me, please believe in your friend Said Musa. I am the Lord Jesus Christ. I forgive you now. I was shaking in my body from fear and then I woke up.’ He told me he now believes in Jesus Christ.”
Various human rights organizations have taken up Musa’s case and call for prayer for him and his family.
I’ve been deeply impressed lately that evil is on the march in the world. Jesus told His followers to watch and pray. Both are necessary. If we’re not watching, we cannot pray effectively. If we’re not praying, we will be either oblivious to or overcome by the evil so extant in the world. The Christian walk is as on a balance beam. Go to either side too far, and you’re in trouble.
When the soviet empire came crashing down a couple of decades ago, some brilliant guy came up with the premise that history had reached its end. For some reason he thought all the big stories had been told. The world now was going to learn to live in peace, or something.
Welcome to something. We had a decade-long hiatus in the Nineties, but only because we chose to ignore the signs, such as the embassy bombings and the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1996. David the king of Israel made the biggest mistake of his life when he got involved with Bathsheba, and he fell to that temptation because he stayed back during the season when he should have been at war. He wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing, he indulged himself and paid the price.
I wonder if this nation will ever wake up. I wrote here recently that the current wave of Arab uprisings was a missed opportunity for us to spread human rights. The administration that the American people elected with such idealism stood off to the side, confused, incompetent and impotent. And it had done the same a year and a half ago, when the brave Iranian patriots were left twisting in the wind during their window of opportunity.
The Muslim menace hasn’t gone anywhere. And we are only getting weaker. Bankrupt schemes of paternalistic government have placed us far in the debtor’s corner, mortgaging our children’s future and making us the slave of cruel international creditors. There is an immense leadership void at the very top, and still the majority of the electorate stands behind their man.
Hey, turn American Idol back on. The Superbowl is over, and Lady Gaga won’t be on til later.
One horrendous event came to light this week, in which a female chief correspondent was brutally assaulted during the reveling in Cairo. Just before that, a teenager in Pakistan, who had been raped by an uncle, was found guilty of unchastity and sentenced to ninety lashes. She collapsed and died after eighty.
I thought about all the darkness in the world, so dark that even religion gives men sanction to behave like beasts. And then I turned back to our nation, and when I saw the snide and vulgar comments our own people were making about the Cairo story, I realized that we were no better. If we don’t turn around, we are going to collapse from the weight of our own moral filth.
There are hopeful signs. One after another, the major European leaders have come forth with surprising pronouncements that political correctness’s malformed offspring, multiculturalism, is nothing but cultural and national suicide. The heroic work of a few watchmen there, who told the truth despite great personal risk, may be beginning to pay off.
And in the states, the revolution continues. A Virginia school district puts the Ten Commandments back up on the wall. The fallout from last November’s elections continues, and when Republican leadership begins to vacillate on its commitment to rein in government, its own freshman class takes it to task.
But it’s an uphill battle. We fight a defeated foe, but he seldom gives up ground without a fight.
In all this, I am pursuing peace. I am convinced that nothing of eternal worth gets done without abiding in the peace of Christ. We can gain the whole world, the Lord tells us, but if we lose that one thing – our precious relationship with Him – we truly have gained nothing.
Strong defense, freedom of worship, smaller government and lower taxes – all these are good and important things. But we must guard that we do not become like Martha, consumed with worry and care. Jesus commended not Martha, but Mary, for simply sitting at His feet and taking in His presence and His words. He wasn’t saying that work and responsibility aren’t necessary. But there’s a time for everything, and when Jesus shows up and starts talking, it’s time to sit and listen. The rest will work itself out somehow.