“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?” ~ Lawrence Durrell
Many assumed that the release of the Planned Parenthood exposé videos from the Center for Medical Progress would rouse a long-slumbering church at last to raise a sustained, united cry of virtuous outrage to help turn the tide of public opinion against the great evil of our age, abortion.
Such assumptions, it seems, were overly optimistic.
To be sure, there have been scattered accounts of awakening among Christian leaders and their congregations repenting of decades of culpable silence. But by and large, serious activity hasn't come from pastors and their flocks but, once again, only from seasoned sanctity-of-life advocates already passionately engaged in trying to resuscitate the moral sensibilities of a nation in the midst of upstaging the Nazis.
Just as when Kermit Gosnell's house of horrors went viral there was an initial flutter of shock and outrage, so it is again with the CMP videos. Initial indignation over the gruesome revelations has quickly faded and churches have lapsed back into “business as usual,” as if the much-publicized horrors never happened.
No one was really surprised to see again just how determined the mainstream media is to ignore the plight of the pre-born. But who would have thought the church would join in?
Yet most of the evidence—admittedly still largely anecdotal at this point—indicates that the overwhelming majority of evangelical and Catholic leaders are staying the infamous 43-year course of silence. Unofficial polling results from social networking sites suggest that since the Planned Parenthood videos broke, only a small percentage of church pulpits have made any mention of abortion at all, let alone launched any serious efforts to convert publicity into meaningful action.
In other words, nothing much has changed. While we all rejoice that Congress, under pressure from constituents, has finally mustered the courage to vote against taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, the lack of united concern about abortion among churches (which arguably paved the way for federal funding in the first place) still remains. Babies are still being killed, and the church is still doing pathetically little, at roughly the same rate as before. One is tempted to wonder cynically if the underlying sentiment of most runs along the lines of, “Abortion is an evil I will reluctantly live with forever—so long as my money isn't used to fund it.”
Whatever the case, our ongoing silence speaks volumes about us, the church. What does it say? At least these three things:
We're Not Planning to Do More, So Quit Expecting It
Whether it means to or not, church silence says, “We believe our plate is full. If you want abortion to end, that's your concern, not ours. We don't intend to do anything more or anything other than we are already doing. We've been saying this now for 43 years. How much longer, how much louder do we need to say it? Once and for all take the cue and read our lips: If Kermit Gosnell and the CMP videos can't move us, nothing can. So get off our case and quit wasting everyone's time. Learn the lesson we've been schooling you in since 1973: We're not about trying to end abortion. It's not our job. Our faces are set like flint. Nothing is going to change us.”
We Have Our Priorities Right
Church silence also says, “We believe we have more important things to do than trying to save tens of millions of babies. Our priority is simply to share the Good News. For us, talk is better than action, telling is better than doing. It is more important we tell those aborting their children that God loves them than it is we show those being aborted that God loves them. (Besides, we can't do both and still have time left over to enjoy the abundant life Christ gave us.) So quit shamelessly exploiting the torture-murder of infants in an attempt to guilt us away from the more important work of letting child killers know God accepts them just as they are. Dwelling on abortion will only upset them to the point they'll never want to accept Christ. And don't forget, 20 percent of abortions are had by Christian women who, if we simply continue to hold our peace, might stay involved and even start ministries of their own. So why would we want to hinder the good things God is doing by our silence? If we were to make a big deal about abortion we would quench the Spirit.”
God is Pleased with Us As Is
Again, whether it means to or not, church silence says, “We believe God approves of our agenda. That's not a claim to perfection, just to faithfulness. God called us to do one thing—fulfill the Great Commission—and we're sticking to that mandate hard and fast. He made it plain our job isn't to get people to quit killing children, it's to get them to come to Christ. Christ Himself, by His Spirit, will subsequently get people to quit killing—in His own time. And not in a legalistic way, either (like those who insist the church has a duty to browbeat people for their sins), but in a gracious way that attracts rather than repels. At the end of the day, the church doesn't need to change—except perhaps to better distance itself from self-righteous moralists who think the church's job is to turn this fallen world into a utopia by crusading against every sin.”
Intentionally or unintentionally, these are the kinds of things our silence says. And though it's been couched here in sarcasm to drive home the point, the fact remains that since the CMP videos, what we are not saying speaks more loudly than what we are saying.
But ours is not the only silence that speaks. There is also this, and those with ears to hear cannot shut it out:
It was Christmas, and the church was gathered for the candlelight service. The songs were sung, the prayers were said, the sermon was preached. But as the people bowed their heads for the benediction, there came from a dim corner the sound of one weeping, though no one could be seen.
Presently the people ventured to ask, “Who are you?”
“An unborn child,” came a trembling voice from the darkness.
Stunned but curious, they inquired further. “Why are you weeping?”
“Because my mother means to abort me.”
They conferred briefly and then replied in unison, “We are very sorry.”
The child pleaded, “Will you intervene on my behalf?”
“No, child,” they answered. “There is no such instruction in the Scripture.”
The child wept bitterly. “Why do you hate me? What have I done?”
The church replied, “We do not hate you, child.”
“You say you do not hate me, and yet in my need you will not love me.”
“We have no commandment from the Lord. Nowhere are we bidden to love those yet in the womb.”
“Then,” said the child through tears, “will you do this one thing for me?”
“What is it, child? What would you have us do for you?”
“Regard me as your enemy.”
“As our enemy? Why child, we do not hate you; why would we regard you as our enemy?”
“Because then you would have commandment, for the Lord said, ‘Love your enemies.’”
Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Rolley Haggard is a feature writer for BreakPoint.