Intimations of Insurrection

Recently in BreakPoint I mentioned the Barmen Declaration--the decision by German theologians to proclaim independence from both the Nazi state and a church that had sold out to Hitler. My reference to the Barmen Declaration was deliberate, because America is rapidly approaching the same point of moral disintegration faced by the German church. And today's believers will face the same choice between conscience or submitting to laws they know are evil. Father John Neuhaus recognized this dilemma in a recent issue of First Things. Neuhaus points out that a growing number of believers are finding it impossible to remain faithful to our laws in the wake of court cases that are, quite simply, destroying our country's traditional moral fabric. Neuhaus makes particular reference to the Ninth Circuit Court's decision legalizing assisted suicide and inviting euthanasia. If that decision stands, Neuhaus warns, "our public life will move from widespread alienation and protest to open insurrection." Is Neuhaus overreacting? I don't think so. Consider what happened following President Clinton's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. In an extraordinary act of witness, two Catholic cardinals joined a protest in front of the White House. The president's own envoy to the Vatican publicly sided with the Catholic Church. Even Billy Graham, who has never once spoken out publicly against abortion, criticized the veto during a recent private visit with the president. Perhaps most incredible of all, the Vatican itself condemned President Clinton, calling his veto shameful. The Holy See stated: "The fact that this presidential decision legalizes this inhuman procedure morally and ethically imperils the future of a society which condones it." In my address before Congress on the National Day of Prayer, I agreed with the Vatican that partial-birth abortion is "more akin to infanticide than abortion." But even as I was doing that, some 30 Christian leaders had the audacity to say that President Clinton was right to veto the bill. "We are convinced," they said, that ". . . none of us can discern God's will as well as the woman herself." It's a clear example of the difference between being faithful in a fallen world and presenting the notion of God as a "little voice" in each of us--one who would advise a woman that it's all right to kill a baby four-fifths delivered. That's God remade in man's image. American Christians today are at a critical juncture. And it's why the parallel between America and Nazi Germany comes so vividly to mind. The signers of the Barmen Declaration, to their everlasting credit, parted company with the Nazis. But they also parted company with many of the established church leaders. They asserted the truth of the gospel as the rest of the German church sold its biblical birthright for a mess of Nazi pottage. I hope the significance of what I'm saying is not lost upon you. Think--and pray--this crucial issue through. Because before long American Christians--like the German church before them--will be forced to choose between conscience and accommodation.    


Chuck Colson


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