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Phariseevangelicalism

Straining at the Gnats of Introspection and Swallowing the Camels of Infanticide



upside-downFor those just joining the conversation, this is part four of a series calling the evangelical church to implement a “One-Minute Strategy” that could, conceivably, end abortion virtually “overnight.”

Here are links to the first three parts:

Part 1, "We Could End Abortion ‘Overnight’—If We Really Wanted To"

Part 2, "Louder than the ‘Silent Scream’: The Deafening Silence of Our Pulpits"

Part 3, "Silence is Blasphemy"

The first two pieces received thousands of affirmative responses from lay folk, but failed to elicit any significant responses from evangelical ministers. The third, for reasons perhaps not all that hard to guess, registered some responses from ministers on Facebook. These were not as affirmative.

The Charge of Blasphemy Elicits Two Whole Responses!

Here’s what a pastor in Illinois had to say: “Rolley Haggard and anyone else who supports his view has called Jesus a blasphemer.”

At last, a minister provides an implied explanation for pulpit silence: Since Jesus didn’t preach about it, why should His followers?

“It is a simple fact,” he continued, “that abortion was known and not an uncommon procedure in Jesus' day and He was (as far as we know) silent on the matter. You have indirectly called Jesus Christ a blasphemer.”

Salivating with eagerness to engage, I invited him to debate me at BreakPoint.

“I'm not looking to debate you,” he said. “I simply happen to dislike being called a blasphemer. I don't particularly value your opinion on the matter, mostly because I don't know you, but also because you are wrong. I'm a blasphemer because I don't preach enough sermons to your liking. B.S.”

Judging from the visceral tone of that response, I think it’s safe to say I touched a nerve.

I got a similar reaction from a Missouri pastor who said, “I speak out for life about twice a year. The author of ‘Silence is Blasphemy’ should not be surprised at the silence to his call. I get close to 100 messages per day. One that starts out by calling me and my ministry partners blasphemers is probably going to the ‘no time for this’ category. And how does he know ‘pulpits’ are silent?”

Absent from either response was any hint of introspection or soul-searching or the desire to consider the charge on its merits or lack thereof. Instead, offense was taken at the very idea that anyone would dare imply such an outrageous thing.

I say, fine. Debate me. Prove me wrong. I’m only looking to accomplish one of two things here: either implementation of “The One-Minute Strategy,” or delivery of a cogent explanation why not. It’s that simple.

Blasphemy’? Oh, Come On, Get Serious

That, I believe, is the kernel of what many ministers think: “There’s no way our pulpit silence amounts to anything resembling blasphemy.”

Okay, fair enough. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt. But I’d ask the same in return, measure for measure. Come, let us reason together.

Consider an analogy. Jesus gave analogies, often in the form of parables. I’ll do likewise and call what follows “The Parable of the Pastor Who Justified His Silence in the Face of Homicide”; or more simply, “Murder by Ministry.”

Murder by Ministry

There once was a pastor who hosted a Vacation Bible School in his home. Now this pastor had a house full of kids: 20-some-odd, ranging in age from eight to 10 years.

Midway through activities, the pastor overhears on the news that there is a serial child murderer in his neighborhood. He looks out the window, and lo and behold, he sees the very guy climbing the fence into his yard, machete in hand.

Instinctively, the pastor checks the front door. It is unlocked. He decides to leave it unlocked. He doesn’t so much as call 911.

Instead, he gathers the kids together and shares the Gospel with them. After all, he cares deeply about souls. He doesn’t want any of these precious children to die without having the chance to receive Christ and be saved from hell.

The door opens and the intruder rushes unopposed into the room and begins hacking off the limbs of the terrified, screaming children.

The pastor, witnessing the horror, reminds himself that unless God changes the hearts of people by His Gospel and Holy Spirit, there will be only temporary and external—rather than permanent and internal—change. So he faces the intruder and preaches to him, imploring him to be reconciled to God.

The murderer vaguely hears him making noise, but he’s more distracted by the sight of one VBS chaperone in the corner, bound and gagged, writhing for all he’s worth to get out of his ropes. This chaperone does manage to get the gag out of his mouth, and he yells, “Pastor! Do something to stop that guy! He’s murdering innocent children!”

The pastor turns to this person and explains that he is simply doing what God called him to do; simply being obedient to the will of God, no more and no less. He says that God has called him to preach the word, not get unduly involved in social action. (To date, that is the only “explanation” common to the handful of responses I’ve received).

End of parable.

Now, if what that pastor did isn’t blasphemy, what is it? Blasphemy is defined as the “intentional and defiant dishonoring of the nature, name, or work of God by word or action.”

If pulpit silence on abortion by pastors is not blasphemy, what is it? Too many are implicitly attributing to God not only exoneration of personal responsibility to try and stop the virtually unprotested, murderous butchery of children, but also divine calling to do effectively nothing but “preach the Word” while the heinous crimes are going on in their midst.

How is this any different from—indeed, how is it not worse than—the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees upon whom Christ pronounced His most stinging rebukes and fearful woes? How is it not defiantly sinful neglect of “the weightier things of the law”—justice, mercy, and faithfulness? How is it not straining at the gnats of serious introspection regarding Christian responsibility, and swallowing the camels of sanctioned infanticide? How is it not blasphemy?

I am stunned beyond words that whereas no evangelical pastor would hesitate to call Andres Serrano’s plastic image of Christ immersed in urine “blasphemy” regardless of the artist’s intent, some still balk to call their own, deliberate silence “blasphemy,” though it results in man, the living flesh-and-blood “image and glory of God” (1 Cor 11:7) being desecrated by immersion in lethal, abortifacient saline. Their own silence is helping to enable the grisly murder of 150 human beings per hour, and it is being justified in the name of God. How is that not blasphemy?

How?

Image copyright Dennis Oppenheim, courtesy of Urban Travel Tales.

Rolley Haggard is an intractable advocate for the imperiled unborn because he loves people and fears the righteous wrath and indignation of Love Personified.


Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.

Comments:

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murder
Jesus did not speak about abortion because the sin is the murder. He did speak about murder. As part of the Trinity, HE wrote the whole bible and Ex. 21: 22-25 THEY write about the murder in case of a death resulting from the abuse of a pregnant woman.
Re - Republicans
Suzanne - I'm going to have to correct you on $3 Trillion on invading & Occupying Arab & other countries during the 2000's - The Bush Administration spent $1.5 Trillion on the entire War Against Islamist Extremism and Terrorism from 2001 to 2009. That figure includes everything from the Invasions & Occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq to the hunt for Bin Ladin and his Lieutenants to the costs of Homeland "InSecurity".
The Bipartisan deal to bail out the Banks & Big Wall Street Corporation cost the US Taxpayers $700 Billion in Largely Borrowed funds. Compared to that, the Auto Bail-outs were a bargain at $60 Billion. Meanwhile, our annual budgets under Barack Obama have all been well over $3 Trillion (nearly 24% of our nation's GDP).
The Republican Congress passed legislation which President Bush signed, which the courts then promptly declared to be "Unconstitutional" in 8 out of 9 cases. I want to make sure you understand this, the courts ovderturned 8 of 9 pieces of Legislation which would have materially reduced the number of Abortions , because the courts felt they would have placed an "undue burden on a women's right to choose".
We have to change the Courts. To do that, we need to control the House, Senate and Executive for more than 8 years, and we need to have people in charge of all of these who have the "Courage of their Convictions". We need to have Republicans who know that Abortion is the killing of an innocent child well enough that they will not compromise on that, and we need to support them no matter what the Lame Stream Media says about them. At the same time, we need to demand that our pastors, preachers and teachers preach and teach the truth about Abortion and the other sins of our society. We need to admit our sin before God and to each other, to repent and to be willing to do whatever is needed to stop this outrage, this abomination. If we aren't willing to do that, if we continue to compromise and to claim that those who spend Government money to help those we should be helping are "more compassionate" than those who help those in need themselves, we will continue to have the blood of the innocent on our hands, and we will have to answer to our Lord Jesus Christ for all of these sins when we come before Him when He comes in glory to judge the living and the dead....
Republicans aren't the problem - We are! Are we willing to be the solution??
Murder by Ministry
Rolley, I am glad that you posted this to me. I read it and then read all the responses. I was particularly impressed with the response by Melissa Colson. I am in total agreement with everything she posted. I am copying your article along with her response and sending it to local pastors.
I read in the Life Sight News about 491 babies in Canada last year who survived the abortion process and then were left to die without any help or attention. I cannot see how a human being could do that to anyone, PARTICULARLY a little, helpless baby.
My heart bleeds for them day and night.
Thank you for your diligent fight for the unborn.
God bless you and your efforts.
Mary Shew
Gordon, I had to take out your e-mail address. It's our policy not to run contact info of our commenters on the site. Thanks for understanding.
"too narrow a focus"
In a campaign there are strategic goals and troop goals. I'm a trooper. Troops have narrow goals - fight, protect your fellow troopers and citizens, and don't get killed. I see the enemy through these glasses:

1. Through the study of identical twins we learn that our very appearance occurs at conception (rather obvious). AND, a large portion of our personality.  
2. If your were aborted at any stage, you would not have reappeared somewhere else - you just wouldn't be.
3. If, in your fantastically large lineage, one of your predecessors had been aborted, you would not be here.
4. Killing is the issue. Humans justify killing, but it's still killing. (wars, self defense, ethnic cleansing, homicide, and hate crimes).
5. Whole societies can be manipulated by charismatic leaders into doing what would be atrocities to another society.

I could go on, but I'm not a wordsmith and would just dilute my main points.

Peace, and love one another, even as you are loved. Gordon

Thank you so much Rollee for your wonderful effort to save that which will be lost.
Your article has truly given me encouragement today. In light of the election and the state we find ourselves in as a nation, my husband and I were just having a conversation where we wondered if there were many other Christians who felt like we do. Where are the Christians who are deeply grieved for our country, as it continues to spiral downward? Surely there must be other Christians with a passion to defend the unborn! Where are the pastors preaching repentance and that God would have mercy on our nation as we turn back to Him? We should not be hearing from fellow Christians, "no matter who wins the election, may God bless America," or the old standby, "Jesus wasn't a Republican or a Democrat." How long can we naively expect to be blessed in spite of ourselves?

There are too few pastors who are willing to call abortion evil and preach consistently and directly on this issue, especially as it relates to a call to action for the Church. People need to be led and inspired by their pastors and they need specifics, not just platitudes and lip service. Sadly in many churches, those who support abortion wouldn't be challenged much, if at all, by what they hear. But I suspect, that's entirely the point. Preach just enough of the Word to ease the conscience but water it down enough so as not to offend either side. It's the sacred duty of a pastor to clearly teach "Biblical issues" on a regular basis. If protecting innocent life isn't Biblical, I don't know what is. Pastors must explain why abortion is wrong. It is the taking of innocent human life made in the image of God, uniquely created by God, and therefore this violent act grieves the heart of God. Many people are not going to hear this anywhere else. Christians have to really be informed before they will be convicted and challenged to act! Those in the Church should be the most passionate defenders of innocent life because God loves both the unborn and women in crisis pregnancies. Where are the true champions who will enthusiastically speak truth in love and lead their congregations to do the same?

I first became involved in pro-life work when I was 15. Over the years one of the greatest sources of sadness for me hasn't been the opposition from non-Christians. It's been the lack of support, never mind leadership, from the Church. After all, we have the Spirit of God living in us-the unbeliever does not. We should know better. We are called to be in the world and not of it. It's been my observation that the problem with the modern-day Church is that there are too many "Christians" of the world and not really in it.

Many think politics and Christianity must be kept separate. That we shouldn't get involved in controversial cultural or social issues, we should just preach the Gospel and all will sort itself out. Nothing could be further from the truth! The question for the Christian is not, "Do I have to get involved?" But rather, "How can I NOT get involved in light of what the Word of God says?" James 2:14 says, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" How does silence or indifference in the face of evil reconcile with the Christian faith? It doesn't. Our moral failings as a nation point squarely back to an apathetic, cowardly church. Blasphemy-there is no other word for it!

Unless the Church is willing to take up its sword along with its cross and fight in the battle waging all around us-fight for the innocent, fight for the hearts and minds of the lost in our culture-I don't believe there is any hope of our country turning back once again to the Lord. We need to be Christians who will run toward the battle, not shrink away or deny its existence, all the while claiming some false sense of spiritual superiority. We need to stir up each other's faith-encourage the Church to be who we were created and called to be! Thank you for your moral courage. I am so grateful for the work you do.
"Too Narrow a Focus"
.
You’re right, Joel, my focus in these essays is narrow. I’m not trying to present a comprehensive approach to this issue. That would require a book. I’m trying to do just two things, really: 1) make the case that Christian sensibilities are breathtakingly jaded to one of the most horrific evils imaginable largely because of pulpit blindness and silence, and 2) issue the call for a proportionate corrective in church preaching and practice.

But for that very reason – i.e., because my focus is narrow – I welcome and appreciate constructive input like yours because it complements what I’m saying and fans the flames of much-needed dialogue. The LAST thing we need is more slience!

So my sincere and hearty thanks for your thoughtful, sensitive remarks. You make many very good points.

And thanks also to the rest of you who have commented here. I read everything.
The Cowardly Mega Church
My wife and I discussed leaving our church of the past 8 years at the beginning of this year, because the demographics had changed drastically (very few kids there now and we have 5) and it was a long drive for us. It was a huge step since we're friends with one of the pastors and we love the church. We looked around for what we thought would be a fit and found a very large church that some might call a "mega church". While it claims it has no real membership list, it seats about 1000, has 5 services per week and fills the house for every one. It has several local campuses in our metro area now and the main campus is going to expand. We were enjoying our time there until a week ago. The pastor was giving what I call the "pre-election pep talk". At our old church the pastor would not get directly involved by endorsing a candidate, but would make it clear that we needed to be prayerful and vote with life in mind as well as upholding traditional marriage. That was enough for me and I respected that, since going any further would put the tax exempt status in jeopardy.

When my wife and I went to a newcomer's dinner in late September at the new church we were part of a large crowd. The pastor was very reassuring that the church stood on the principles of protecting all life and that it didn't approve of homosexual marriage. It seemed like they were going to be firm on those things. We were wrong and they weren't telling the truth.

The "pre-election pep talk" went something like this..."Jesus wasn't a Republican or a Democrat, so we aren't going to tell you what to do." Now, that's a simplistic and very abreviated version, but that's it in a nutshell. Then they had us sing "I Have Chosen to Follow Jesus". The problem was that they must not have gotten the memo about that. Cowardice is a sin. I can't imagine that throwing Jesus under the bus is winning the church any points in Heaven either. That's how I see it and also how I put it to them in a letter I emailed to them. They threw Him under the bus for a few pieces of silver. They're so worried about how this might affect their standing with the IRS and also that they might offend someone that they're willing to ignore scripture. Why on earth do they even exist as a church??? Why would anyone want to go there? The music is wonderful, the pastor is usually very engaging and the place is lively. But if there is no courage, there can be no truth. Now we're back to square one, looking for a church.

I look at this much like I did the election and its aftermath. So many have said that I and others should just calm down and not be so irritated and that we need to compromise. Hogwash! I'll paraphrase (ironically) an atheist, Ayn Rand, who wrote Atlas Shrugged among other novels. She said "A compromise between bread and poison is still fatal." I completely agree. There are still some absolutes left. Abortion is murder and cowards shouldn't be pastors are just a couple of them.
I realize I'm going out on a bit of a limb here, by the way, and I'm very much open to reasoning together on these matters. But I've been burdened lately by what messages the church sends by its actions and voices, and inactions and silences. Much as you have, I think, though with a different focus. And while I can't rule out growing or shifting in my position given fresh viewpoints I have not yet considered, this is where I've come to rest for the moment.
I agree with your passion and your purpose, but I fear your proposed solution has too narrow a focus. Here's where I stand on the whole thing, and it may be too academic but it's clear to me, anyway.

I believe in terms of our society and culture, abortion is a great evil. In terms of individual people, it is a great sadness. I agree that biologically speaking it is obviously ending a life. The question is how we should think about that and what we should do about it. We have all manner of nuanced views expressed in our laws and mores about how we view the different kinds of circumstances that lead to the premature end of life, from first degree murder on one end to law enforcement acting in defense on the other. In general I do not believe abortion is akin to the mother committing first-dgree murder. I don't know where on that spectrum it should be, but part (or most) of the problem is I don't think it's a one-size-fits-all answer. For the woman who felt trapped and had no support and didn't feel she had a choice (despite the "pro-choice" moniker), first of all we as a society failed her by allowing that perception to stand and in many cases be reality. Secondly she should get nothing but compassion and support in physical and emotional recovery, and those who wish to beat her with the Bible of Doom should mind their glass houses before they start throwing. On the other hand those who engage in what President Obama somewhat glossily termed "risky behaviors" and simply view abortion as another available option to "take care of it" with no moral struggle or compunction whatsoever I think need an education, perhaps a forcible one. I'm actually referring more to the guys than the girls here, btw, as it's often the guys who provide the callous pressure to "take care of it", along with socially self-conscious family. Choice? I think not. In general I believe that people view it as an option, and often the only "responsible" one, simply because our culture has encouraged viewing it as such, and has actively encouraged doing so without moral struggle. As such I hold our society at large more responsible than any given woman (with a few exceptions) who is simply acting as she's been taught within the social framework in which she finds herself.

I also believe the Church has failed so far on this issue, primarily by allowing its well-meaning opposition to sexual promiscuity to come across as on par with its vehement opposition to abortion. Neither position relies on religious teaching, btw; there are plenty of logical, rational reasons to view widespread casual sex as harmful and abortion as wrong. But the Church is the biggest and most visible actor, which makes its failure have that much more of an impact. I see this failure as two-fold: a failure of (mostly) omission by leadership and a failure of commission by laity, but in reality they're two sides of the same coin -- the people act in a way because they have not been properly taught otherwise. Let me explain.

There is Biblical teaching against rampant sexual promiscuity, yes, and combined with the aforementioned rational perspectives it is only to be expected that the Church should teach against it, and against public policy that would encourage it in light of human nature. But here's where that reasonable teaching falls flat: there's no balancing compassion for those who agree but find themselves unable to keep it. Let's say you have a 16 year old girl, well known in her church and youth group, who goes farther with her boyfriend than she intends. Because the church has not actively taught compassion (no matter how much it's assumed), does she face the music knowing what people are thinking and saying behind her back, knowing she'll lose friends, knowing her parents will feel ashamed? Or does she get a quick and quiet abortion even though she feels it's also wrong (as taught by her church), and hope that two wrongs can at least keep the peace if not make a right? I say that church has failed her, and is complicit in her abortion. Yes, I said that, and I really believe it. It's cultural pressure, just from a different angle: not to have the abortion, but to be perfect, with no release valve, no out when you fail.

What should happen? The church should teach against promiscuity with the Biblical basis backed up by real-world teaching based on cause and effect, choices and consequences, and helping guide kids to make wise and prudent choices for their lives. It should neither be in the position of teaching or actively encouraging safe sex (as that would be a little like "you shouldn't rob banks, but if you must, here's how to do it"), but nor should it try to pretend such knowledge and teaching doesn't exist and try to suppress it.

But here's where it gets real. When that girl gets pregnant, she should know that she can go to her church and the overwhelming response will be, "Congratulations! We love you. Children are awesome, and we will help you make this work. And if you want to talk about adoption, we will help with that too" (side note: the barriers to domestic adoption have little to do with culture or demand/desire, but that's another soapbox). But that kind of church-wide culture doesn't happen automatically just because we teach about God's love. No, that has to be an intentional, focused effort on the part of church leadership to cultivate and grow that kind of environment and then make it known to the community around it.

I know the usual response to this will be that many churches do just that in the form of supporting and often staffing crisis pregnancy centers. I say that's awesome, but not enough. It's not the church. It's a form of initial support, and it's guidance and assistance and counseling. But it's not the church, because it's almost never IN the church. It's down the street, or across town, and that's fine because it can still help folks who want to stay away from the church for whatever reason. But no, I'm talking about people walking into _the_church_building_, and being surrounded by a community of love and support.

Because without love and compassion, we're just a bunch of resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.
Re: Suzanne
I see that you feel like that if we had pro-lifers voting, the Republicans would control both Houses of Congress and then we would have pro-life legislation.

From 2003 to 2007 (four years), Republicans had control of the House, Senate, and White House.

There was no significant pro-life legislation. The inescapable conclusion is that Republicans are not pro-life. You will know a tree by the fruit it bears- and not the tales it tells.

I voted for Mitt Romney in this election, but even I know that we need to get the most 'life' victories we can- and the Republicans are not going to give us a victory on unborn human life protection even if they have all the power.

Voters aren't dumb. We've given the republicans a huge opportunity to do something pro-life for the unborn from 2003 to 2007, they failed.

I do seem to recall 700 billion given to bankers and car makers, and 4.3 trillion given to occupy and kill arabs. That doesn't feel like a pro-life victory to me, ma'am.

That feels more like the republicans are snake oil salesmen trying to say anything to get into office even though we already know the last time they did they didn't give us even a reversal of the DC abortion law which Tricky Dick- a Republican- signed into law.
Thanks for plainly telling the truth. I have been extremely disheartened by the election results. We are a nation of believers, for the most part. If all of us who believe in the Word of God (Christians and Jews) voted for a culture of life, then Romney would have won the election in a landslide and Republicans would control both Houses of Congress. I share similar views about the Catholic Church as far as preaching the pro-life message from the pulpit. I don't think mos Catholic Bishops speak out strongly enough either. When we have an image of President Obama and Cardinal Dolan yukking it up at a benefit dinner just before the election, then the message is that the Church accepts Obama's policies. Anyone who voted for Obama and any pro-abortion senators and representatives has the blood of innocents on their hands.
Excellent article that goes along with the other 3. When are the church leaders going to stop worrying more about their members comfort than their character. Many Christians last Tuesday voted for Obama, one of the most pro-abortion politician around and then say they are pro-life. Jesus said whatever you do for the least of these you do to me. You can't get any least than an unborn child who, sadly, has to fear their own mother today.
Now is the time for Christians everywhere to decide are they for God or for man. If they are for God then give what is God's to God and quit giving it to men.
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