Yes, Mr. Blogger, LifeWay most certainly is pro-life

If you know me, you know that people joke I can make the Pope look pro-choice. I am pro-life to the nth degree, so much I irritate other pro-life Christians sometimes. There are places I won’t shop and things I won’t be involved with because of abortion ties. I research, read, write, and breathe LIFE. I say all this to say that the last thing you will ever find me doing is covering up for anyone in this arena.

That said, I am disturbed by a blog that is going around social media, in which the writer, Mike S. Adams, asserts that LifeWay’s book division is not pro-life. In his critical blog, Rightly Offended, Mr. Adams details his shopping trip to buy the new book on late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, entitled, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. After his attempt to order the book on Amazon was met with a lengthy shipping delay, he goes to Barnes and Noble to purchase it. Critically commenting on the store itself, he remarks his journey to a far corner of the store that held only one copy of the book, which was not discounted like other new releases (since it is on the main B&N site, he doesn’t say if he asked for the discount in case it was a store mistake). Upset, he headed to his local LifeWay store, which is the real subject of his blog—using the missing book to make a parallel with the church’s silence on abortion. He says:

After looking through the small section and not finding Gosnell, I approached the woman working at the register and asked her to direct me to the pro-life section. I was disappointed when she told me Lifeway doesn’t have a pro-life book section. All they have is a section called “current issues.” She assured me that I could find the pro-life books there.

I took a look through the entire “current issues” section. There were a few books on homosexuality and a few dozen by authors telling us they were sure the world was about to end. But there was no Gosnell and only one book on the issue of abortion. It was on how to share the gospel with a woman after she had an abortion. It was only about 100 pages long. Just to the right of the book, I found a “finance” shelf with close to fifty different selections.

That pretty well sums up the state of the American church. For every Christian committed to defending the unborn, there are fifty “Christians” who are only committed to defending their 401k.

I wish Lifeway would make a statement by putting a pro-life apologetics section in all of their stores. But they are a just a business that serves and reflects the interests of churchgoers rather than proactively shaping the Christian culture.

Regardless, the book selection at Lifeway is a crude reminder of the indisputable fact that abortion only exists with the consent of the church.

Some of you may be surprised to hear me counter this blog because I absolutely agree that the church, overall, is silent on the issue of abortion. But LifeWay isn’t. Let me take you back to the day I made history without even trying. LifeWay had published a Here’s Hope Breast Cancer Awareness Bible, but it donated some of the proceeds to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who funds the nations number one abortion provider, a fact LifeWay, like many at that time, did not know. I wrote an article about this—and suddenly it was on the front page of every major media outlet in the nation (and some outside the nation). So horrified was LifeWay to realize they were funding a direct abortion connection that the pulled the Bible off every retailer and ceased the sales taking a heavy financial loss. LifeWay head, Thomas S. Rainer issued an apology:

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That action became a catalyst for Komen making a decision to defund Planned Parenthood. The head of Komen at the time Karen Handel wrote about it in her book Planned Bullyhood, saying that article was one of the last straws. (Eventually Komen caved to the bullying and reinstated the abortion giant’s funding, and Handel left and wrote her book).

I have to admit, I was stunned that LifeWay did what they did because Adams is right that usually even Christian businesses can tend to focus on the bottom line of the almighty dollar in cases like this, but not LifeWay. I realized then that this was a corporation that was truly Christian. The moment they realized the connection with abortion they apologized and reversed the action—true corporate repentance.

But the story didn’t end there. Many months later, it turned out that some employee in a Walmart warehouse found a box of the Bibles that were to be sent back and somehow got overlooked—and he put them on walmart.com for sale. I can’t even recall how I came across it, but I did. I was shocked. I ordered one (with the intention of returning it for a full refund) to be sure it was a legitimate order and not leftover. It shipped, and I contacted LifeWay, ready for a fight if they went back on their word. But there was nothing to fight about. They got to the bottom of it, the employee error, having those Bibles sent back, as they were supposed to be. I had managed to come across it the very time the rogue employee found them, so the Bibles were never sold. Except the one that got through to me.

During this time, I had a conversation with one of the heads of LifeWay. I had left the company a voicemail the night I found the Bibles, and he called me back at 10 a.m. the next day—apologizing for taking “so long” to get back to me. Of course, it wasn’t long at all, but that’s how urgent he saw it. When he received my message—which had to be sent from whomever checked the voicemail on to him, he headed to meeting of the leadership team at LifeWay who would be the ones to contact about the issue. He explained he finally found the leadership team and they were in a prayer meeting so then he had to wait longer while they finished. He was offering this by way of apology for his “delay” in returning my call. Then he explained how they had tracked down the Walmart mystery and there would be no sales of that Bible. Either way, they had pulled out of Komen, so the pink organization wouldn’t be getting anymore blood money, Bible or not.

I forget some of the details of our talk, but for some reason he had to email me something related to it later in the day. I will never forget that afternoon. It was a Wednesday. I was in the prayer room at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, laptop open, getting some work done, but enjoying the atmosphere. I can recall where I was sitting and the “feel” of the room based on the Wednesday regulars I would always see at the 4 p.m. intercession set. I have such sensory memories of that day because of the email exchange between the LifeWay leader and me. We had a brief email conversation the afternoon of our phone call, and then at the end of it, he added something I will never forget. He thanked me. He thanked me for writing the first article and exposing the connection because they would not have known otherwise. Because of that, he said, they were able to get that book off the shelves and not be a party to funding any place connected with abortion.

The man who is a leader in a business thanked me for costing him money and horrible publicity. I wrote an article that got them criticized and had the media descending on them. My article was quite critical, though it was also quite true. It cost them publicity, popular opinion—and cold hard cash. And that afternoon one of the heads of that organization thanked me for doing it because they had more interest in the truth and being no part of abortion than they did money.

And I cried.

Right there in the prayer room, with happy music coming from the stage, and intercessors pacing as they prayed, tears flowed from my eyes. They thanked me. They loved truth.

I’d just come out of a season of losing friends and even ministry because I had been so determined to stand pure in the area of abortion that I eschewed eating or drinking foods connected with its funding. I had refused to be associated with compromise, and it cost me (by the way I don’t regret that either). And people were upset with me because they felt “judged” or that I was too “self-righteous.” In truth, I could do nothing else because the Lord had drawn me into the pro-life movement with a powerful and unmistakable call. And then He gave me both a voice and a pen to speak. But it costs you to do that. And on that day, here was a man whom I had cost thousands of dollars, and he and his organization loved truth more than cash. He helped heal some of that pain with that thank you.

Let me be clear: He got nothing out of it. The stories had been written; the tale was complete. It was all after-the-fact conversation. He wasn’t thanking me to get good spin on a new story, for there wasn’t one left. In fact, this is the first time I have publicly written about that event.

Since then I have gone out of my way to buy from LifeWay when I am in areas that have their stores. Every time I see a LifeWay store my spirit soars a bit as I remember the bold witness they took for LIFE.

So tonight when I saw that blog from Mr. Adams, I felt righteous indignation. I don’t know all the facts. LifeWay may not be carrying this book, but I assure you the reason is not that they are afraid to take a stand for LIFE. The publisher of the Gosnell book is Regenry, a conservative book publisher, but not an overtly Christian one. Maybe Lifeway doesn’t have regular connections with them or a distribution contract. Maybe they only sell Christian or inspirational books since they are a niche store and not a general bookstore. The Gosnell book is an important work and a best seller already. But a Christian bookstore doesn’t always carry secular best sellers. I actually would not expect to find it at a Christian store. That doesn’t even make sense to me.

I am also troubled by the fact that Adams’ n=1. He went to one store and then wrote a blog. Did Mr. Adams call LifeWay? I can assure him that LifeWay is responsive to bloggers’ inquiries.

Mr. Adams is correct about the lack of books on abortion. But that’s not LifeWay’s fault, nor should the Christian company be the scapegoat for Adams’ frusrating shopping experience. A few years ago, I was in a private meeting with the publisher of a major Christian imprint and a Christian speaker who is a household name in the church world, who wanted to write a book about abortion. I was going to help write it. The major publisher (whose name you would also know) told us that people don’t want to read books about abortion. And while I found that a sad fact, it was not surprising to hear.

Indeed, our pulpits are all-too-silent. I was in Christian ministry before I ever heard a sermon about abortion. It surely did not happen in my local church, though my churches would acknowledge abortion was bad, but that was the extent of it, usually. Last year I was privileged to be part of a pro-life apologetics class at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. I read multiple books on abortion for that course—and none was easily available in the mainstream. This crisis of knowledge does not exist because of isolated incident like one LifeWay store not selling a secularly published book.

I agree with the indictment of the church’s silence and have said as much many times, but I vehemently disagree with singling out a business of great integrity in the pro-life arena over one incident that probably has more to the story than he sought to discover.

My friends, LifeWay is not the problem, and Mr. Adams is not “rightly offended,” as the title of his blog says. LifeWay most certainly is pro-life. Its leaders have great integrity and love Jesus more than money. Someday I hope to meet them in person because the last email with that man was an invitation to contact him if I were ever in the Nashville area so he could give me a tour of LifeWay and meet me in person. Know why? Because LifeWay loves LIFE.

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The LifeWay leader pointed out to me that I could keep the Bible from Walmart.com because Komen wouldn’t be getting “one more cent” from them. So I ended up with a memorial stone from the Lord Himself. The book reminds me every time I see it that one blog can make a difference and alter many things, and the Bible reminds me that there are bold witnesses of truth and LIFE who care more about Jesus than money.

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The kangaroos have left the zoo: Supreme Court chooses bloodshed again

Today was the kind of day where food pictures were making me angry. Sometimes there’s a heaviness in the land that can’t be dismissed by hamburgers and heart emojis. Sometimes we have to stop and cry out in repentance, cry out for mercy, and stop pretending it’s all going to be okay when we have refused to take up our call to make it so. Today was that day.

It was Saturday night as I was processing with a friend about the pending Supreme Court decision. I had been telling people it was unusual of me to not have a feeling of which way it would go. With all the big SCOTUS decisions the past few years, I wasn’t always happy, but I was never surprised. Often the questions the justices ask in the oral arguments give us an inkling of where the ruling will go, and that was the case here. As I processed with a friend, I suddenly knew what was going to happen. It made sense. Not sense to a pro-life mind, of course, but sense as I put myself on that bench with their questions and views. They didn’t see proof the law had benefited women, so it would be an “undue burden.” I had 36 hours to prepare myself mentally. It always helps, but it never lessens the blow when you see the words. “Supreme Court strikes down Texas law.” That was all it took. I inhaled sharply. That was it.

Now to be fair, the entire law was not struck down. Only the two parts in question in this case—hospital admitting privileges for abortionists and ambulatory care center requirements for the surgery itself—were struck. But it was about more than that. It was the biggest challenge to abortion in many years; it was the first real indicator that this nation might take a hard look at the crime of child sacrifice again. In 1973 when Roe was decided, we didn’t have the knowledge and technology we have today. Back then people didn’t get 4D sonograms where they could see their babies’ faces in the womb a few months into pregnancy. There was still some mystery in pregnancy. But now we can see through the uterine veil, and yet we still destroy what’s inside it.

In this case we have decided that being an enlightened and progressive society means not making it difficult for women to kill their babies, nor to inconvenience the abortion clinics too much to get it done. As usual I have a few observations and opinions, so here goes.

  • I’ve noted for years that safety regulations like those struck down are standard for most surgical procedures. Abortion is a surgical procedure. Arguing that it is a safe one is irrelevant. Appendectomies are safe. Hip replacements are safe. Hysterectomies are safe. Just because the surgery might be one with a high success rate doesn’t mean it’s not a risk. If I were a supporter of abortion and thought I needed one, I would consider myself a fool to entrust my entire reproductive system to a doctor who would not even be able to admit me to the hospital if I had complications, whose office did not even have the right sized doorway to get me through it if I were needing to be moved in an emergency. It is a terrifying reality that the abortion industry has so manipulated women into thinking an abortion is as simple as getting your teeth cleaned. It is a risky procedure. Granted, not many women die having abortions (though all their babies do), but many have had terrible complications, sometimes resulting in emergency surgery for those complications. What a travesty of justice for everyone to say having safety regulations in place is an “undue burden.” If all medicine were run like abortion, we’d have a land filled with maimed and dead people. Striking down such safety regulations is like saying it’s an undue burden to have to swallow penicillin four times a day. Why the heck would you not want as much safety as possible in a procedure that affects your uterus, for Pete’s sake? It’s astounding to me how afraid people are to regulate a medical procedure with risks.
  • Justice Kennedy has proven he is not a conservative anymore. Whatever happened to shift him, we may never know, but his track record for a season now has been to side with the liberal justices. We have believed that we had a 5-4 conservative court, prior to Scalia’s death. In fact, we now have a 5-3 liberal court, and what hangs in the balance does not bode well for the future of this nation.
  • Scalia’s death did not affect this ruling. Had he lived and voted, the ruling would have been 5-4 rather than 5-3. In some ways that helps me digest it, knowing his death did not impact this, but it’s still a bad ruling that glorifies abortion above life and health.

Beyond these facts, here’s what really concerns me: This is bigger than two parts of a law that became a political game. Spiritually, it’s a disaster. The shedding of innocent blood is a big, big deal to God. If you have never read the Bible for the phrase “shedding of innocent blood” and considered abortion as one of the main ways that happens, I challenge you to do so, but be prepared to have your spiritual life shaken—as it should be, for this is vital to God. One of my favorite authors, John Ensor, has this to say in his book Innocent Blood:

God always presents the shedding of innocent blood to his people as a matter of the highest priority. It comes to us in a way that knocks us off stride (or ought to). It messes with our schedules. It is arresting. It interrupts our normal patterns, at least temporarily. When life-saving actions are required to prevent the shedding of innocent blood, it falls particularly upon us, who believe, to suffer the imposition and take whatever preventive steps are necessary, lest innocent blood be shed and bloodguilt stain us all.

Bloodguilt? Seriously? Yes. Very seriously. God didn’t change his views in light of current culture. Ensor says:

“Bloodguilt” is a blunt, almost vulgar term. It hits rudely, like a slap in the face. It is God’s chosen term to arouse godly fear and compel decisive action. It is a word of awakening, forcing us to recognize an unbreakable linkage: God’s image is debased and his wrath justly incited every time a person made in God’s image is unjustly destroyed. There is no debasing of God’s image without consequences.

Bloodguilt requires God’s vengeance and vindication. It stands as an indictment against the sin of shedding innocent blood, but it is also a promise, of sorts, to victims. These are they who cried out to God and received no immediate answer. To them, it may have seemed either that God did not care or was powerless to intervene. Psalm 9:11-12 reminds us that neither of these options is true—this is a false choice: “Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.” … And while he has his own reasons for delaying avenging wrath, he will not pardon it—he still has ample time to repay, and there is no statute of limitations.

Indeed, Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” And in Revelation, Jesus says of Jezebel, “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds” (Rev. 2:20-21).

We are fools who do not understand the ways of God if we think His mercy means no judgment will come. His mercy gives us time to repent, to turn and save ourselves and others, but God would not be a just God if He did not bring justice to those who are oppressed, and of all the people who need justice, no one is more innocent or helpless than a child who cannot speak. All these babies can do is squirm and try to get away from the vacuum that has come to suck them from the womb. And as that child shrinks back, to no avail, Jesus weeps and aches. He must avenge these innocent ones. Or He’d be a liar. If I may, I’d like to leave you with one more Ensor quotation to explain why we can reconcile the love and mercy of God with the justice and vengeance of the shedding of innocent blood:

Love is moral in nature. If this is still hard to grasp, consider this: If I come across a man raping a woman, I cannot love them both in the same way: in that circumstance, love to the woman will look like rescue while love to the man may look like violence. This is because love is inherently moral in character.

Suppose I approach the terrorized woman and her brutal assailant and say, “I love you both equally and must express that love in the same fashion. God does not want you to violate this woman, but please do not think he is angry: because God is love, he does not get angry. Isn’t that amazing!”

The woman would denounce my faith as cowardly, irrational, and evil. So would you. Love must love righteousness and hate evil. Love must be passionately committed to right over wrong. It must pick sides. It must fight for the weak and the innocent and oppose the violent and the wicked. Therefore, I must scream my lungs out, push the man off of her, shout for a neighbor to call the police—do something. If the rapist turns on me with his knife and I lose my life in the process of defending the woman, what will they say? There is no greater love than to risk your life for another (cf. John 15:13).

You see, if the unborn baby is a person that God created, whom He knew before He formed him or her, then His love for that person must also be expressed by dealing with those who would destroy him or her. It would be unloving for the Lord to not deal with that.

We have been silent too long. We have let abortion be a back burner issue, a political issue. We have cared too much about who we might offend, rather than caring about offending God Himself who will not be mocked.

On January 22, 1973, this nation turned on God in a blatant and despicable way as it sanctioned the shedding of innocent blood on a national level. On June 27, 2016, this nation had the opportunity to reverse some of that course by offering a token of restraint, a voice that says “anything goes is not okay.” Today’s decision would not have reversed abortion, though the many shuttered clinics would have saved lives. Don’t let the back-alley abortion lies fool you. And frankly, to not put common sense and ordinary safety standards on abortion clinics doesn’t make them much better than back alley abortions anyway.

The bottom line, however, is that bloodshed sanctioned on the national level has far more harsh consequences than the individual choice of one person to kill her child. Remember this: people are eternal, but nations are not. A nation that kills its own and refuses to regulate any part of that process in the name of progress has actually become a nation of barbarians who have chosen being their own god while acting like Satan.

Is it too late? Of course not! But it’s time to get serious, Church. It’s time to stop sidestepping an issue that God has under the spotlight. Joel 2 says it far better than I could begin to when he writes:

“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
13 So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
14 Who knows if He will turn and relent…

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
16 Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes;
Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
And the bride from her dressing room.
17 Let the priests, who minister to the Lord,
Weep between the porch and the altar;
Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord…

In short, stop your ordinary lives and pray. Churches, pray. Cancel the tea and call a prayer meeting. For real.

This is serious stuff. It’s not a political issue, and while good laws and righteous politicians help the cause, it is our responsibility as a church to take up our mantle and do the job with which God has entrusted us