Not ambidextrous, just double-minded

Christians, pro-lifers, we have a heartbreaking problem. Yet again today I encountered a familiar name–a governor, one I’ve written about often. A proclaimed Christian. A pro-lifer. One of the good ones, who has signed incredible pro-life legislation. I have found myself writing stories about these folks and declaring “I LOVE YOU!” at the screen, meaning I love what they are doing and uncompromising truth that comes forth, rallying for LIFE.

And then.

Then the nation turned its focus to education. Hear me. Not to teacher greed and fights against administrators, but to the situations of students, classrooms, materials, texts, heating and air conditioning, mold. The nation has been focused on this–especially with Oklahoma’s recent outcry. Now we have Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, and West Virginia was before Oklahoma. More will be coming, by the way, just watch.

And then we have social programs, such as WIC, prenatal care, housing for the poor. These are lifelines for the women we plead with to keep their babies.

I could make this an incredibly long post. I could detail every pro-life legislator I used to respect, from our local state house, to governors across our nation. And I could show you how ANTI-life some of them are.

See, life is about more than being sure that baby is not aborted. That is the most urgent of crises because it’s happening this moment and waiting even a day could cost a life. I get that and stand behind that. But after she says okay, she will keep her baby, to cut her programs that help her, to reduce budgets for social services, to underfund and reduce funding year-by-year for schools, and to sign pro-life legislation with one hand and then sign away bills that support life with the other makes these leaders not ambidextrous, just double-minded. And the Bible has some things to say about that.

Here in my state, the strongest voice supporting a funded and equal education in our legislature, a hero to us all, is a Democrat. Sadly, he cannot run again due to term limits.  The entire Democratic platform states its pro-abortion rights stance. But then I found out–from a very reliable source who has worked with him–that this man is a practicing Catholic, and is genuinely pro-life. See, real pro-life is wonb-to-the-tomb. You can’t do one without the other. That is the reason we have accusations railed at us that “they only care about the baby being born.” How dare we? What a despicable shame if our definition of pro-life is simply to prevent abortion. That is step one! You cannot be pro-life and support any abortion. You simply can’t. It is never okay to say a child may die.

However, it is also never okay to say now that the child has lived, we’re done. I am ashamed of these leaders who I thought were on my side, who have signed good legislation, such as forbidding abortion because a baby is diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome. Of course no child should die because of this. But many parents of a special needs child will tell you if not for public school programs, their child would not have made as many strides. When you cut funding to schools, when you hire people who aren’t even real teachers and are so shorthanded, then that the one certified teacher you do have is doing all the IEPs and paperwork all day long (because legally she has to), and the children with profound needs are at the hands of someone who doesn’t have any real teaching skill, who is learning on the job with these precious children as guinea pigs. That’s one of a multitude of disastrous examples that should remind legislators they should stop being so proud they signed that important bill to help the child live, as if that were the end. Yes, that was good, but how are you helping the child live now? What sort of programs will you have in place when he turns 21 and can’t have those special services? If you cut those too, he’s stuck. Surprise, a parent can’t do everything for some special needs children without help, especially a parent without a lot of money. And those poor women are the ones who often go for abortions–and are recruited by Planned Parenthood, I might add, especially minorities. What promise of life can our state, our nation, give these people?

What about those kids in foster care? DHS is both underfunded and shorthanded? To call yourself pro-life and cut these areas that serve and help children is plainly immoral.

To be pro-life is to be pro-child.

We can say “the real answer is that state agencies need to be audited” (they do). Or that “school districts (DHS, healthcare agencies) need to trim the fat off the administrative costs and all that money will exist” (we could all use some trimming, just like the legislature, but that’s an exaggeration that all the money will reappear.

We have a tragic problem. I think it’s both political problem and a church problem; the church is in collusion with bad politics and calls it Jesus when He doesn’t endorse such practices either. I cannot in good conscience call myself a Republican based on what I have seen even in my own state. But I clearly cannot back a party who has abortion rights as a key area of its platform, so I am certainly not a Democrat. Nor do I care much about those labels. To me, the only reason to register under one is to vote in primaries.

We need to be genuine Christians who have a big picture of what it means to be pro-life. That means being pro-education, pro-state human services. Look, you guys, I realize that in some states being pro-education and pro-state human services then crosses the Christian’s moral lines. But looking at many of these conservative states that claim, fallaciously, to be Christian, we see that these moral issues don’t come into play–other than the immorality of what we do to children, the elderly, the school system, et al.

In the recent Oklahoma education battle, many Christians condemned the walkout because OEA was a leader of it,and OEA is the state affiliate of NEA. That much is true. But what no one who cried moral foul ever pointed out was that 1) OEA has no power over Oklahoma schools because they are not unionized. 2) There has been zero debate over issues that compromise Christianity in the walkout; this has been about basics, not sex ed, questionable curriculum, or anything else like that. 3) Thousands of the teachers and principals–and superintendents–these people who supported it–were not even OEA members or supporters. But some threw away the whole movement because NEA has some ideas of propagating perversion. Know what? It DOES. But NEA isn’t running these non-unionized schools. Are we so narrow minded that we cannot critically think and understand the real issue? I read ministry letters that discussed the walkout and had the facts wrong! Things I knew first hand were reported inaccurately and a whole argument was based on it.

Christianity is about truth, about living an upright life that emulates Jesus. That means not hindering children–in the womb or out. It means speaking truth, whether that is getting the facts, not hiding behind a ghostwriter that we never give credit to but “we always wanted to write a book” or anything else morally questionable. We are to be above reproach, not walking the blurry line of “how far can I go?” The whole WWJD movement wasn’t really a bad idea as far as how we should think. Would Jesus choose to support the oil and gas industry that gave top dollar in election donations over being sure kids who are educated in 105 degree heat are allowed a working air conditioner or books that actually discuss 9-11 because they were published after 2001? Really? Do we have to ask this?

I considered running for state representative this year. My current representative is infamous in our state for being anti-education–despite coming from a family of educators. He likes to vote for positive teacher bills, but will never actually vote to fund these bills because “I have to do right by [the oil and gas industry”; he said that. But if I were elected, unlike some representatives, my job is such that it would be a conflict-of-interest, so I would lose it run for representative I would lose my job, and I know I am making an impact where I am as well and this is not the time to do that. But Christians, if you have a lick of political sense, and you can actually be wholly pro-life and defend the causes of Jesus, not of rich corporate executives, then please consider running. Whether it’s giant border walls that invest unreal amounts of money to keep the alien and stranger out, rather than simply dealing with lawbreakers as infractions occur, or whether it’s choosing to undertax big business, giving them tax breaks that are so high that the common resident actually suffers, these “Republican” and/or “conservative” ideals are anti-Jesus.

I honestly see that our testimony as Christians is suffering nationwide; no wonder other nations send missionaries to us now! A friend recently made a Facebook post of how we are so quick to overlook and forgive President Trump’s repeated sexual affairs, harassment, indiscretions–and foul language. Yet when we in the church make a negative comment about those issues–or even question the testimony we’re making by publicly supporting these things–we are not forgiven nearly as quickly; in fact, a majority seem to receive anger, criticism, judgement (“why are you persecuting him?”) and all sorts of negative responses–so that forgiveness only seems to extend to one side to most.

I don’t know who you hang out with or how much you see going on in the nation, but because of some unique experiences and perspectives I have, I see a lot. Additionally, I am well-read and well-traveled, with myriad friends on both sides of the aisles, as well as in the crevices. And I can tell you, with confidence, the Christian witness has been compromised, is being compromised. It is very easy for me to understand this “progressive” Christian movement. I disagree with it and know it undermines the gospel, but I see the power to draw people because the heart of Christianity is social justice–life more abundant. Salvation is step one, but we are meant to thrive. When we see leaders in bed with both big business, as well as with women who are not their wives–and we excuse it, many seek a more genuine Christianity. Sadly, some are deceived into thinking a progressive gospel is the answer. It’s not. The gospel is an uncompromising truth and must include an inerrancy of Word of God. But the gospel’s real focus on money is about giving it away and helping others. The gospel is founded on “God so loved that He gave.” The gospel is about letting children and families thrive, of caring for the poor, of loving the unlovable–all without compromising truth. The progressive church compromises truth, but an increasing large chunk of the rest of us compromise the spirit of the gospel. Jesus never put the focus on making more money above caring for people. But you’d never know it listening to my representative who is continually introduced as a “man of faith and family… teaches Sunday school….” It almost would be better not to mention our faith if our proclamations of faith causes others to stumble. I have watched person after person leave all organized religion and churches over the compromise. There is a significant difference between the old line of “They are all hypocrites” and expecting perfection out of imperfect people. That won’t ever happen. But that’s not the same as churches, pastors, leaders, elected officials who name the name of Jesus, saying and doing things, not as mistakes but as a justified lifestyle.

Look, people, I like money too. I am raising money right now–or am trying too–we’re stuck at the moment–for a pro-life trip to help orphans. I am paying down a bazillion dollars of student loans and would love is oil and gas could line my pockets. I work for a very poor state, but I am in a fringe group that does not get raises when there is a “state employee pay raise.” My own boss has been here almost 30 years and he makes only about 5K more than I do in base pay. We don’t get raises. I like raises. I need money. But never at the expense of compromising livelihood. I am not a Socialist. I want to keep what I earn. I don’t like taxes, but if I see that children are suffering and a small tax increase can change that, I care more about those children than I do my pocketbook.  To think that public education doesn’t impact us, when in my state alone 92% of all students are publicly educated is a short-sighted view. These are the people working in our communities, who are our society. Same with social services, Meals on Wheels, you name it.   It is not a Socialist ideology that votes for those who will do the most good for all of society vs. the rich. If the gospel is not about us and our wants, why do we change that when it comes to politics? We can’t–at least not if we think we’re walking in truth.

I challenge you: either be pro-life or don’t, but this lukewarm Christianity movement is making us taste like something the world wants to spit out of their mouth.

At the end of the day, when I try to look through this with the eyes of Jesus. I look long and hard at that Democratic legislator who is pro-life and votes for babies, participates in pro-life marches, etc. (it’s legit to be Democratic at the state level and be pro-life; nationally, it would be impossible to be elected and actually maintain that, sadly), who also supports schools, healthcare (no Planned Parenthood or pro-abortion issues in our state healthcare agenda, by the way, so that one isn’t in play). Sure, he probably has some views that need refining. He has flaws, perhaps flaws in how he upholds some areas of righteousness as we all do. But I think Jesus would see him as a flawed but righteous man trying to legislate. I also think Jesus, from what I know of Him from His own Word, would be much less pleased with the Republican who writes pro-life bills every session but votes against everything that would help other people, especially those moms–and doing so at the expense of profiting the rich, not only in legitimate ways since they worked hard for their money, but literally letting them pay less than anyone else so they will come running to our state–causing us to have the opposite of abundant life due to the catastrophic financial situations we end up living as a society.

There is a reason Jesus said it is easier to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And in American politics, I see it more than ever.

I am grieved to my core when I see leaders in our states who claim to love Jesus, speak of their faith, and then, apart from the “big two” issues of faith that merge with government, do everything to undermine the heart of God for the people they are elected to serve, lead, or minister to.

When the history books are rewritten and public schools can afford to buy them, which chapter will you appear in:

  1. Democrats and their rule in the land?
  2. Republicans and their rule in the land?
  3. Jesus followers and their rule in the land?

Hint: only one is eternal.

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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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God is good all the time—except if Hillary might be president?

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Cor. 6:14

I hope you’ll read my disclaimers before you read my post. Most of all, I hope you will prayerfully read my post even if you ultimately disagree with me. But first the disclaimers:

  • My ultimate concern with Donald Trump has always been the issue of LIFE. I made a vow before God on this matter that I take more seriously than my need to keep friends or anything else. That concern has not changed.
  • I hesitate at posting this not because I hesitate at any of my words, but because I am human—a person who likes to be liked, wanted, accepted. And I know the risk of a post like this means some won’t. That happened to me four years ago when I discovered Mitt Romney’s ties to the abortion industry and declared that pro-lifers should reconsider him. “You can’t say that. He’s the nominee; he’s the only chance we have now,” people told me. Thus, I began losing friends—on Facebook and in real life. Four years later I find myself in a happy place. I have friends and family, a home I love, a stability I’ve not had in ages. I have a new church I cherish. And I have a multitude of friends supporting Mr. Trump. Many support him because he is a better chance for Republican ideals, economic gain, and social issues most aligned with Christianity. I fully understand that. But I can’t.
  • This piece is not my personal “venting” about a man. My feelings are not what matter most, though certainly they are mixed in. This post is not to convince you to change your vote (the fact is, a Bible-believing Christian cannot equally justify a vote for the other three candidates placed on our ballots. My own state forbids me from writing in a candidate). I respect the right of the American people to cast their own private vote. My friendship and love for others is not contingent upon their vote or my agreement with any other aspect. In other words, you may vehemently disagree with every word in here and I can love you the same as I did before. My love is not conditional. That said, I hope you will read on.

The fire in my bones

I spoke out vocally during the primary season and made no secret of my support for Ted Cruz. I still believe he was the best man for the job, but Mr. Trump secured the nomination. That didn’t change my mind, but I chose not to speak very loudly after that because what’s done was done, and I didn’t have an option to present. Today the election fire burning in my bones is less about the selection on November 8 as it is about considering the will and permissiveness of God. Thus, I want to present two ideas in this piece. One is about our theology in this culture and the other is about morality in leadership. They are not mutually exclusive, of course, but they are also issues with some separate points. My audience is traditional, Bible-believing Christians. Anyone, of course, is welcome to read what I write, but I am addressing the church here.

We say we’re praying for the election, saying we trust God to accomplish his will, reveal what is hidden. What if this latest scandal–among many–is an answer to prayer? Do we have faith to believe that what we see and understand might be different from what God sees and understands. Do we really mean we are praying and seeking His divine will? Or does that subtext actually say, “We need to pray that people vote for Trump because Hillary is bad?”

We excuse this man’s repeated and public sins because we see him as our only hope to have a sort-of conservative in the White House, and hang on to our Supreme Court seats for the next generation. There’s some obvious truth to the Supreme Court argument, but is that enough to justify the defiance of the word of God?

And about those words. I can tell you that for every word that “Trump is God’s chosen man,” there have been words that Cruz, Rubio, and others have been. Repeatedly I see people say, “I believe the word of the Lord about Trump being God’s choice.” By whose authority do we receive the word of the Lord? A word should be confirmed by scriptural truth. To blindly receive the word of the Lord because someone well-known or respected says it is a slippery slope. We are to test the spirits. Many well-meaning people have given false words; we are human; we prophesy in part. If the sole reason we have supported Mr. Trump is “the prophet said so” then we need to look at our own theology.

But he said it a decade ago, says the argument. That he did. This one. This is not the first instance of his vulgarity, by far–it’s a pervasive pattern–and it probably isn’t the last, unless he chooses now to repent and become the different man he claims he is.. That’s the issue here. If our faith compels us to support him as our God-chosen leader, we have some questions to ponder.

While Mr. Trump issued an apology, it was not the apology of a strong leader. It lacked both contrition for the act and repentance for the sins. Trump is said to have converted to Christianity, but makes no mention of this as he apologies. In fact, it’s been others who have reported he “accepted Jesus.” (The leader who reportedly led him to the Lord is one who has publicly justified her own sinful choices, incidentally, which doesn’t mean she couldn’t have led him to the Lord, but it would be helpful to hear a confession of faith from the one proclaiming it). Trump himself previously stated he didn’t need to ask Jesus for forgiveness. Later, he backtracked some and said he hoped he wouldn’t have to ask for much. His description of who Jesus is to him was telling:

“Jesus to me is somebody I can think about for security and confidence. Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage and, because I consider the Christian religion so important, somebody I can totally rely on in my own mind.”

But maybe he decided sometime after that statement in June that he needed Jesus as more. Some say since he has surrounded himself with Christian leaders, it’s a sign of his purity of heart. However, that doesn’t make him a fruit-bearing Christian anymore than a twig surrounding itself with apple trees produces apples. I cannot judge the depths of Trump’s heart, but I can judge what the fruit tastes like, and it is bitter much of the time.

Trump’s sex tape apology was mixed and poorly received by many Republicans. Trump says, in part:

“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize…. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down.

“Let’s be honest, we’re living in the real world. This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re facing today. We’re losing our jobs, we’re less safe than we were eight years ago. And Washington is totally broken. Hillary Clinton and her kind have run our country into the ground.”

In the midst of these words are some notable problems. He apologizes almost as necessity, as if to say “oh crud! I better apologize this time.” He expresses no remorse for his attitude, his demeaning comments, and his perversion. He pledges to be a better man tomorrow, implying he is not yet. He doesn’t say anything more than “I was wrong.” Wrong about saying it in an interview? Getting caught? Discussing sexually abusive comments? The lack of specificity is tantamount to a child who apologizes because he was caught and doesn’t want to be grounded.

Further disturbing in his apology, however, is his conclusion. Calling such perversion a mere “distraction” is bad enough, but to then deflect back to Clinton is inappropriate. Whatever Clinton has or has not done is irrelevant to Trump’s actions at issue here. This is not a war of who committed the worst sins (and frankly, it wasn’t Mrs. Clinton caught with her pants down anyway).

Because this happened on the brink of the Sunday night debate, I decided I should watch and give it one more chance. What I heard appalled me. Trump reiterated, numerous times, that while he “regretted” his words, “This is locker room talk. It’s just locker room talk.”  But the jock in the locker room isn’t running to be the leader of the free world, running on a platform of conservative faith values–and isn’t 59 years old, which is how old Trump was in this recording. After being pressed by Anderson Cooper about the actions he describes in the tapes, such as groping women and forcing them to kiss him, he backtracks and says he didn’t do those things. Thus, he announces himself as a 59-year-old boy who brags about sexual conquests that didn’t exist (assuming he is telling the truth).

Additionally, after the first mention of the tapes, he briefly answered with his catch-all “just locker room talk” statement, and then launched into a litany of how ISIS was doing awful things and we should be focusing on that. ISIS was the buzzword for Trump’s deflection, but dealing with ISIS and dealing with the perversion are not mutually exclusive. It is inappropriate to hold ISIS up as a reason to ignore the continued patterns of perversion.

But Trump is not alone in his deflective defense. Many others have joined him. One popular defense says, “We must defeat Hillary no matter what.” This tactic says we are deciding to overlook all the red flags about Trump in order to defeat someone we know better is actually worse. Believers, this argument says we don’t trust God enough to believe that He would or could allow Clinton into office. Worst of all it says that God Himself could compromise His own standard for the sake of defeating Clinton.

Another defense says, “we are all sinners who need Jesus.” This statement is true. The implied result is not. As believers we are all sinners who have repented and turned from our sins. We would all call a pattern of pervasive sin an “unrepentant lifestyle.” Except when Trump is the issue. Yes, these tapes were a decade ago, but these tapes are not an isolated incident. There have been incidents in the past few weeks back to well before these tapes. Time and again, Trump is perpetuating deep offenses and degrading comments.

Finally, the most prevailing defense against him indefensible goes like this, “Well, they haven’t been in a locker room if they think that talk is shocking. I have heard worse in____.” “What about the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, which was much worse?” “If you think that is bad, how about Bill Clinton…” And all of those have only one answer: They are not the issue at hand. They are real and legitimate issues, but guess what? That talk is not okay in the locker room either. There is always worse somewhere, but the Oval Office should be some of the best. No Christian should be filing his or her mind with porn anyway, but maybe the popularity of that porn novel explains our tolerance for open perversion. And Bill Clinton isn’t actually running for president, so that comparison isn’t about this. Whatever his wife has done or not also isn’t the issue. Her issues are reasons to reconsider voting or endorsing her. These false equivalency arguments are just that, false. The issue at hand is the issue at hand.

Sometimes trusting God and leaning not to our own understanding means doing what’s right even when the obvious cost is high. We cannot claim we trust God is we are paralyzed with fear over Clinton being our president.

Resurgent author Erick Erickson writes in a compelling piece that while Clinton would be bad for America, Trump would be bad for the church. You can read his piece here, but sufficient to say, I agree with him. He asserts:

More importantly, while I think Hillary Clinton will do long term damage to the country, I believe Donald Trump will do far more damage to the church, which must be my chief priority. A Clinton Administration may see the church besieged from the outside, but a Trump Administration will see the church poisoned from within.

Read his whole piece for the details, but the facts he lays out are troubling. Detailing the justification Christians are making for Trump, Erickson notes:

So many pastors who email me to beg me to reconsider and so many others who write do so because they think this is the last best chance to get this nation right. They think we will turn a corner after which we cannot turn back. While I concede they may be right, what I see is a level of desperation causing them to place their trust in one strong man instead of God. And, in truth, I do not concede they are right, but have concluded we are already past the point of redemption when the best either party can do is offer up Clinton or Trump. We are beyond the point of looking to five black robed masters to save us from ourselves when we put up either a Clinton or a Trump. The seriousness and virtue of the voter is in the grave already and my Christian brethren for Trump yearn for an idolized past that never existed in a future that is not theirs, but God’s, to shape.” (Emphasis added).

Lastly, for those who compare Trump to Cyrus, God never asked his people to support Cyrus’s cause, only to accept him as their ruler. God never asks his people to choose between the lesser of two evils. God uses all men, from pharaoh to Trump. And he can do so without making Christians endorse the person’s sins. God did not tell the Jews to throw open the gates of Jerusalem for Nebuchadnezzar. God did that himself. God shut the door of the ark and brought the rain and dried again the land. God raises us from the dust of the earth and he stitched us together in our mothers’ wombs. He holds the entire universe in the palm of his hand. God can see us through all things if we aren’t so busy pretending his will and exercising pretended divine authority. His will be done. If God wants Trump in the White House, he does not need my vote or a violation of my conscience to get Trump there. To think otherwise is to think God is not God.

On being unequally yoked

To endorse a person is to be yoked with him. I would argue that there is a line between the average Christian just trying to make a tough choice and a leader charged with standing for truth and righteousness actually yoking him or herself with a man who practices unrighteousness. Is this not an unequal yoking?

Our fawning love affair with Trump is like a woman trying some evangelism dating because she’s getting older and hasn’t found the right man among her Christian group. She meets a guy she really likes and decides since he says he believes in God and talks to Him sometimes, he will grow in his faith and be a man of God. Perhaps he will. But he is not then ready to be her Christian husband prepared to lead his family. The woman, we all recognize, is deceived and just wants the man she thinks is the best chance she has, so she compromises while justifying herself it will work out. Instead, she spends years unequally yoked, bonded to a marriage that produces no fruit. And her husband? Why does he need to pursue Jesus more deeply? His wife married him after all, and she loves Jesus, so he’s obviously good enough to remain on his complacent laurels.

Erickson notes our fears are similar. Christians are equating Clinton in office as their own destruction:

They seemingly argue that if the nation falls, the church falls and for the church to rise the country must rise. But Christ has already risen so the true church is in no danger of falling. The gates of hell shall not prevail.

Leadership apart from Christianity

If Trump were not enmeshed in the religious side of things and endorsed by a rousing round of Evangelicals, there would still be valid concerns about his leadership abilities. A leader has to be the front man (or woman) the model for others. In my job we are sometimes charged with doing minutiae that is really not related to our job. It’s time consuming and, frankly, annoying. You know the first person to start working at it? My boss. He starts, does the most work, and takes the fall as the leader if upper level management is displeased. He faces it head on. He is a pleasure to work for because he leads us by example. We never have to wonder if he will back us if we do things correctly, and help us if we do them incorrectly. We also never have to worry he will do something wildly inappropriate that would put us all under a lens. This is what good leaders do; they lead with integrity and strength. They don’t yell, blast pomposity, or insult other leaders they think do a worse job. They focus on their jobs and the people they are charged with leading. My boss and I share some differing political views, but I could much easier vote for him as our president because he leads well.

Another point that Sunday’s debate causes me to add on the subject of leadership is this: Trump asserted, addressing the sex tapes and his comments, “They’re just words.” Considering my own career, I am horrified. Professionally speaking, those “just words” can easily get someone fired for sexual harassment. Those types of comments to women or about women can actually be illegal, in addition to being immoral and assaulting. They are not “just words.” And putting faith aside as a factor, words such as these and the 17 years of recordings to shock jock Howard Stern, further propagating sexual deviance, are enough to get some people fired or sued.

But what about Hillary?

“But what about Hillary?” is not an appropriate response to our concerns with Trump. In a court of law, when someone is accused and his counsel tries to talk abut another criminal, the opposing counsel objects. “Sustained!” the judge says, “Irrelevant. Counsel, keep your arguments to the case at hand.”

Ask yourself if Trump were before you as nether Democrat or Republican, but simply a man running for office about whom you knew all you know now, would he be a viable option for you in that anonymous presentation? Is he only viable because of the opposition?

In the book of Job, Job is dealt what seems to as an unfair hand. His life is pulled out from under him—under God’s permissive will. God allowed Satan to do what he did, and his friends can’t see the reasoning so they have to make some theology up to fit their paradigm. They offer justification for Job’s suffering that is well-intended but unbiblical. Understanding a confusing situation is not a prerequisite to seeing God’s hand in it.

“God is good,” we say, chanting back in unison, “all the time.” (“And all the time, God is good! Amen!”) We say it when we find a parking space up close on a rainy day, get a promotion or when we pass a test by one point. We say it when things go well for us. Sometimes, those with deeper understanding of the Lord, say it when things don’t go well. I have had friends with cancer say “God is good” and mean it. They know something not every Christian knows: God is good, but His good may not look like our good.

Our perception is earthly perception. It is flawed. I think of the most tragic and painful events of my life, events that even caused me to question God. Had I not been orphaned, dumped again, tossed aside, I would not have the parents I have now. Was God good when I was abandoned? Was He good when I was “unadopted”? Or is He only good now that I have parents? Was the same God not God in it all?

What if we vote apart from our fears and Clinton becomes our president? What if our religious liberties truly erode, our taxes skyrocket—and abortion becomes more widespread (heaven forbid) than it is now? What horror just the last point would bring.

But what if, in the midst of that, the church then realized its calling, and the true believers rose up out of apathy and silence en masse this time? What if we thrived and became the mighty remnant of the Lord, filled with signs, wonders, miracles, power, hope? What if multitudes came to the saving grace of the true Jesus because of the state of the nation and our witness? What if the entire face of the nation changed in a way like that? What if a declined national climate, even persecution, brought the revival we say we want at any cost?

A fact few note when fighting for pro-life issues is that under Barack Obama’s administration, there have been more restrictions on abortion than anytime since Roe v. Wade. The reason certainly isn’t our pro-abortion president. The reason is the army of people who got either awakened or just plain scared by his leadership and fought back. Now, hear me clearly: In no way am I suggesting he was the best choice for LIFE. He was not. But God used his election to lower the abortion rate. Never have I seen such a powerful prayer movement against abortion, coupled with action by believers to end the atrocities. When it was obvious the government wasn’t going to take the lead from the executive branch, the church stepped up to the legislative branch.

Listen, folks, I get it. I really do. If anyone understands the gravity of the Supreme Court seats, it is I. I wept when Justice Scalia died because I knew in that moment what it meant for us on issues of Christian conservatism. After Trump was nominated, I prayed more. I asked God if I was to vote for him, and my covenant with God made that answer pretty clear. But neither did I wish to tear him down. In the back of my mind I had a light hope that he would be elected and at least I would still be able to afford to pay my taxes, get rid of the Obamacare mandate—and have more conservative justices. I wanted it to be okay. This is the reason I have said very little since he secured the nomination. I conceded inwardly that he was probably the best chance, though I could note endorse, or even vote, for him.

Unlike some of my #NeverTrump friends, I did not get angry with my pro-life leader friends who joined his national advisement team. Advising and endorsing are different. I would advise a Satanist to turn to Jesus and fill her with reasons why, though I would never endorse her worship. I believed, perhaps, even though he really wasn’t equipped for the job, as a businessman, he was smart enough to surround himself with those who were. Like many, I supported his VP choice in Mike Pence, one of the most pro-life leaders in our nation whose work as governor I know well, though I could not turn my endorsement for Pence into one for the double ticket. What I am trying to emphasize here is that I have not been hostile in these months; I have prayed and been open to Trump being our president. I have actively looked for the best. But it’s not there.

Mr. Trump is a man created by God whom Jesus adores with every iota of who He is. Jesus is love and loves Trump as much as he loves Billy Graham–and you and me. That’s the gospel, folks. His death was for both and all of us in between. Trump is not beyond redemption, salvation, or hope. He is not beyond repentance for his decades of sexual perversion, often publicly detailed. Whether the tapes that broke this story or his 17 years of talking to Howard Stern about sexual escapades and things I would not mention even in this blog, it’s clear there are issues. At no time has Trump offered repentance to the people he claims to be equipped to lead. But if one claims to be a Christian and is endorsed by people of faith, linked, locked, yoked to faith leaders and catering to people of faith, then there should be fruit. No, we are not electing a Sunday school teacher or pope, but we are electing a leader of a nation that is mired in issues of racism, sexual perversion, and other problems, which are furthered by Trump, out of his own mouth in recent weeks and months.

We say “I’m not Democrat or Republican; I’m about Jesus.” Jesus died on a cross to show the goodness of God. Is it so far beyond us to think that maybe this is the turning point for our nation and it’s not the pretty one we hoped? Do I know God’s plan exactly? That answer is obvious. But I know God’s character. God doesn’t have to stoop and settle, nor should his people.

I spent years as a part of ministries that taught me something I retained deep within me: Voting is a prophetic act. It is my duty to vote, but my vote is first and foremost before the Lord. I am making a statement to God of what I am doing with the honor He has given me to vote. I live in this world, but I live under the law of God. I can neither vote for Clinton nor Trump and the reasons are similar. The differences, however, are that one is claiming to represent people of faith, and is endorsed by leaders who name the name of Jesus. When you add Jesus into the mix, the implications are serious. Jesus asks us to be hot or cold—and has harsh words for being lukewarm.

I posit that God will do more with a sincere and seeking church subjected to a corrupt government than He will with a compromised church under a so-so government. My idealistic self hopes for a Pollyanna dream, like Trump and Pence switching places and Clinton defeated. But that likely won’t happen, as much as I can dream. So my Christian self has to ask, “do I trust the Lord enough that I believe even if publicly proclaiming his name and fighting against innocent bloodshed becomes illegal I can declare He is good and we are in his will?”

The Bible is filled, absolutely filled, with God moving mightily in the face of persecution. We have it so good in our nation that we seem to think a threat to our liberty can’t be the will of God. Can God use Trump, Clinton or anyone else? Absolutely. Absolutely without question. But His ability to use someone in spite of His desire is no the same as His endorsement. For what fellowship has light with darkness?

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

UMC decision doesn’t remove abortion culpability

This is an update to a blog many of you read on the support of the United Methodist Church for abortion rights. In my blog, I detailed the longstanding connection with the despicable Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), an abortion group who uses the name of Jesus to justify its sin. At the UMC General Convention 2016, the UMC voted to leave the RCRC, and this is, indeed, worthy of cautiously optimistic celebration. But it’s not a reason to go sign a roll at a UMC church. Since this decision, many have asked me what my thoughts are. This short update is to express that and make it clear that we should not be celebrating a pro-life UMC denomination.

Leaving the RCRC is good. I will be curious to see what happens officially to the many UMC leaders who have been enmeshed with RCRC leadership, and I will be watching the RCRC closely. But make no mistake: The UMC has NOT stopped supporting the right to abortion.

umc.org

The church voted to leave the RCRC; however, there was another opportunity they had that was rejected.  At the 2016 General Conference, one of the bills that was on the table was 60698, a bill to make the language in the UMC Book of Discipline more pro-life.

First, a refresher on what the church’s guiding document says:

While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born.

This, my friends, is what the UMC believe about abortion–that we have the power of life and death.

The bill that was proposed would have strengthened the pro-life language of the Book of Discipline, though it did not fully make its case as 100% pro-life. The entire text of the proposed bill can be found here.  The purpose of this bill is stated at the bottom of its proposed text:

The current wording of ¶ 161.J has been treated by some United Methodists as a means for one-sidedly advocating for public policies advancing elective abortion. These amendments to ¶ 161.J would more clearly align our church with biblical, historic Christian teaching that defends unborn children and their mothers from abortion.

As you can see here, the bill was not even considered, let alone heard and voted upon.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 11.02.20 PM.pngThe delegates of the UMC would not even consider discussing changing their Book of Discipline as it relates to abortion.

I conclude this update with a statement I made in my original blog, which is a statement that I don’t need to change at all, even in light of the RCRC decision. The bottom line is that the UMC supports the rights of human beings to choose when we live or die, and that is at odds with the Word of God. There is no grey area. Here’s my original statement and citation from the Book of Discipline. It would behoove any sincere pro-life Christian reevaluate his or her involvement in a church that elevates man over God.

This ideology isn’t limited to one faction of the UMC. It is in their Book of Discipline, which is the guiding document for the denomination. In fact, their statement on abortion is fraught with a troubling lead (emphasis mine):

“The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born. Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion.

“But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child”

In short, the UMC believes that we have the right to be god and decide who lives and dies. It’s a stunning statement that should elicit the fear of God in any believer. God, the very Creator of human life, has taken a back seat to the ideology that makes us creators and destroyers; we are little gods in this term of thinking. But our God will have no god before Him. He is not mocked.

Incidentally, the RCRC’s statement indicates that it expects many UMC leaders to remain with them because

The United Methodist Church General Conference does not make binding policy for Methodist congregations and individuals. We welcome Methodists who share our views to stand with us and to use our resources and programs to benefit their churches and communities. In doing so, they will join a broad range of other denominations speaking out for women’s reproductive freedom on religious grounds.

Meanwhile, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, remains a key part of RCRC and is mobilizing UMC members all over. The ties are officially cut, but not really gone. It is still not sufficient to say you want your money out of the RCRC related areas, however. Your money matters, but so does your heart. Do you want to be connected to a church that promotes, in its key guiding document, that it’s okay to take a baby’s life sometimes?

United Methodist Church—and its members— swimming in the blood of aborted babies

“The Devil feeds the poor.”

This is the kind of post that costs me friends, but it’s also a reminder of where the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” emanates. So if you are a United Methodist Church (UMC) member, keep in mind, the issue isn’t with me, the writer.

I’ll begin by saying that I have several friends who are part of the UMC. They are real Christians. Some simply have been deceived by their own leadership; still others have not understood the magnitude of the blood money in their own congregations. This isn’t my first public comment on UMC and abortion. But despite writing about it for several years, I learned something new this week that causes the fear of the Lord to come over me. I would rather lose friends than stay silent on this issue of Kingdom importance. The UMC is directly tied to the burgeoning abortion rights movement post Roe v. Wade. It is, in fact, part of the reason the church is divided on abortion and cannot find a unified message.

It is impossible to reconcile abortion to Christianity. Abortion advocates would have, unquestionably, told Mary that she should consider terminating her unplanned pregnancy and go on and marry Joseph—to start a family when she was ready—as if we are our own gods and get to decide God made a mistake when He let a baby be conceived. I don’t think I need to explain how the Bible makes it clear a life is a life in the womb. Actually, before he or she is in the womb, the Lord says He formed each of us. (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139). Therefore, this post is not to argue whether a baby is a life until a certain stage. And even if the Bible weren’t enough evidence, which it ought to be for anyone who claims to be a believer, science has reconciled with the Bible. We know that a baby’s heart beats by about three-weeks after conception—which is before virtually any woman even knows she’s pregnant. If your heart stopped now, you’d die. Life in the womb is unquestionable. It is wholly impossible to reconcile abortion to a Christian life. Period.

That said, I have been writing about several mainline denominations that are part of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) for years. These include the Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), the Evangelical Lutherans (ELCA), The Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ (not to be confused with Church of Christ), Disciples of Christ (usually the local “First Christian Church,” but not always), and, of course, the UMC. Because UMC is generally the largest and most well-known and often seems the most conservative of these groups, it’s been more of a focus for me as a pro-life journalist.

What I didn’t realize, probably from simply reading too fast when I first read the history page of the RCRC, is that the UMC was instrumental in creating this pro-abortion organization that uses the name of Jesus to justify shedding innocent blood for the sake of a woman being her own god. According to the RCRC: “1973 | Mainline Protestant and Jewish leaders meet at the United Methodist Building in Washington, DC, to discuss the Roman Catholic Church’s pledge to overturn the new U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. This meeting, called by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, leads to the formation of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR).” (emphasis mine). In 1993, the organization, “broaden[ed] its mission and change[d] its name to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC).” You can read the timeline of the history of the RCRC here.

First, I want to share a bit of what the RCRC does, and then I will explain some information on why you cannot be UMC and separate yourself from complicit bloodshed.

The RCRC can be colloquially described as Planned Parenthood’s voice with some Jesus mixed in. In fact, sometimes correspondence from Planned Parenthood seems tame to the RCRC’s communication and its vehement stand that women of faith deserve abortion rights.

The RCRC suggests churches do various things to further the cause of abortion rights and social justice. The list includes some good stuff—an HIV ministry at a church, protecting people from abuse. That’s the thing with social justice Christianity; there is always enough true justice that people feel like jerks by opposing the false justice. However, it’s a fallacy of logic to imply that one cannot minister to HIV victims and protect abused girls without promoting abortion rights. These are different issues.

But the main issue of the RCRC is abortion, aka “reproductive justice”:

At RCRC, we believe the decision to become a parent or become a parent again, when and under what circumstances are deeply personal decisions best left to a woman to discern for herself… abortion is irrevocably intertwined with one’s ability and desire to parent.

In 1973, Roe V. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case, ruled that a woman’s reproductive decisions are a matter of personal privacy…. if sex serves purposes beyond reproduction, then a woman has the legal right to both prevent and interrupt a pregnancy. In addition to supporting a woman’s right to control her own body, this decision affirmed the separation of religion and state. There is no religious consensus on when life begins and, as such, codifying one ideological viewpoint into public law undermines the validity and religious freedom of others.

With reverence for each woman’s autonomy and agency …. We call on the government to partner with us in ensuring all women have equal access to safe, legal and moral abortion care.

Rev. Harry F. Knox, RCRC President and CEO, wrote a column as he took helm of the RCRC. In his piece, he details the importance of the UMC in forming the abortion rights organization, as well as sustaining it today. In fact, this article appears on the UMC General Board of Church & Society page, not RCRC,s who simply link to their president’s column.

Knox writes:

It is no surprise that RCRC’s United Methodists have had a big influence on our new direction. Reproductive justice is a very Wesleyan framework for studying, thinking, praying and talking about God’s gift of healthy and responsible sexuality.

United Methodists also understood that justice recognizes the good of the community relies, not on draconian rules by which few can abide, but on personal empowerment and sustained local support for people doing the best they can under heavy pressure.

As I have begun reviewing the history of RCRC, it has become increasingly clear to me that leaders of our organization, from the very beginning, have taken seriously Wesley’s admonition that controversial issues like access to health care, women’s self-determination and moral agency, and comprehensive sexuality education require all the benefits of attention to scripture, tradition, reason and experience.

RCRC, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2013, is proud that the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society and United Methodist Women were among its founders and continue to be some of its most engaged members.

In the best tradition of Wesley in 18th century England, RCRC has worked to develop a variety of congregationally based education and support programs to help men, women and families in the process of making life choices relating to sexuality and pregnancy. These programs promote sustained good health, and improve chances to create full and meaningful lives.

Few will buy that Wesley was parading around England in the 1700s advocating abortion, but the RCRC and UMC members have to make that framework fit so they have taken righteous social justice and twisted the truth to make it into their own image, which is the oldest trick in the book.

Time and space limitations are prohibitive to presenting all the evidence of the troubling abortion ideology in the UMC, as viewed through their lens in the RCRC, but take some time and read over the information on RCRC.org.

So the UMC endorses, supports and promotes abortion, but how does this affect that sweet couple you know at First UMC who give money to the pregnancy crisis center, had an unwed girl in their home until she had her baby and was able to place him for adoption? Well, a Methodist couple that sincerely pro-life would probably weep to discover the bloody ties in knowing their faithful tithe, which supports their church, also supports abortion. That sweet couple is complicit in the shedding of innocent blood.

The most common argument I hear from UMC members is that “my congregation doesn’t send money to that fund.” Sometimes I hear, “I told the pastors I didn’t want a penny of my tithe going to any national UMC programs.” I appreciate the heart behind these statements, but they are impossible actions to remove complicity.

In response to the protest that we don’t support that fund, the first question I ask is, “which one?” Because more than one UMC fund supports the RCRC, and it’s all the same overall organization; united under one governance. But let’s say they don’t support one fund. So what? If you’re a UMC member organization you have financial ties to the main UMC governing board. If you give them money, you support what they do. Period.

Practically speaking, if you financially support a church in the UMC denomination, you are helping to financially support the propagation of abortion. The most primary reason for this is fungibility of funds. The word fungible means: “(especially of goods) being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind” (Dictionary.com).

Its history is a good explanation of why you can’t limit your money.

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People try this one with Planned Parenthood all the time. It sounds like this: “Planned Parenthood does a lot of good things, and it’s okay for that, just not abortion.” Nice try. If you donate $400 to Planned Parenthood and specify it for cancer screenings, it will put your $400 toward the cancer screenings fund—and then turn around and take $400 from its cancer screening budget and put it in its abortion fund. See how they legitimately and legally honored your request and you helped pay for the abortion of a first trimester baby? Because that’s exactly what happens when you try to keep your money given to the UMC, and other RCRC churches, within the church itself so you don’t support that “abortion stuff.” You still do, but now you’ve been conned. Legally. Worst of all, you’re living in deception.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, was the fifteenth of nineteen children, and a godly man who taught repentance from sins. The current UMC structure not only avoids teaching repentance, but would advocate telling Susanna Wesley that 19 children were probably too many and it would be okay to choose not to birth some of them. Like John. Or Charles.

Lest you think that the abortion thread of United Methodism isn’t really that thick, you need only to look at the history. The UMC jumped into promoting abortion rights just after the Supreme Court ruled abortion was legal. For 43 years now, the money running through one of the largest denominations in the world has been red with the blood of innocent children. This ideology isn’t limited to one faction of the UMC. It is in their Book of Discipline, which is the guiding document for the denomination. In fact, their statement on abortion is fraught with a troubling lead (emphasis mine):

The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born. Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion.

But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child

In short, the UMC believes that we have the right to be god and decide who lives and dies. It’s a stunning statement that should elicit the fear of God in any believer. God, the very Creator of human life, has taken a back seat to the ideology that makes us creators and destroyers; we are little gods in this term of thinking. But our God will have no god before Him. He is not mocked.

In fact, so married to abortion rights is the UMC that the denomination even made a resolution in 2004 and 2008 that issued support for the RCRC. Here are some excerpts of its reaffirmation in 2008:

WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church was a founding member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in 1973;

WHEREAS, these Coalition member organizations hold a wide variety of views regarding policies relating to specific issues of reproductive choice such as when life and personhood begins but, nevertheless, share common religious values, have official pro-choice policies, and are committed to working together to ensure reproductive choice for all persons through the moral power of religious communities; and

WHEREAS, the Religious Coalition supports the right of all persons to have access to a wide range of reproductive health services including… abortion services…

WHEREAS, factions within the United Methodist Church whose stated goal is to have the General Conference go on record in opposition to all abortions regardless of the reason are working towards the goal of severing all United Methodist ties with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice;

Therefore, be it resolved, that the United Methodist 2008 General Conference go on record in support of the work of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and

Be it further resolved, that the 2008 General Conference affirm the continued membership of the General Board of Church and Society and the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Last November, the UMC commented further on its abortion stance. That article sought to present that abortions should be rare and never used as birth control, but goes on to remind readers of the resolution on “Responsible Parenthood.” This resolution says, “We believe that continuance of a pregnancy that endangers the life or health of the mother, or poses other serious problems concerning the life, health, or mental capability of the child to be, is not a moral necessity” (Resolution 2025 “Responsible Parenthood”).

The resolution then says:

In such cases, we believe the path of mature Christian judgment may indicate the advisability of abortion. We support the legal right to abortion as established by the 1973 Supreme Court decision. We encourage women in counsel with husbands, doctors, and pastors to make their own responsible decisions concerning the personal and moral questions surrounding the issue of abortion

Advocating abortion when the “health” of the mother is at stake is the catch-all loophole that means a woman can get an abortion for any reason. It includes mental health and justifies abortion if the woman is scared or feels her life would be too altered by being pregnant and she can’t handle it. It’s the oldest loophole in the book for late-term abortion consent, used by doctors who commit partial-birth abortions saying the need was the “health of the mother.”  To say abortion is sad and we discourage it, but, “hey, since some women need them we will just keep running this organization that promotes abortion in the name of Jesus.”

(Have a look at more of the UMC take on abortion with this search from their website.)

Finally, I’ll point out what is probably the greatest irony I’ve seen in an RCRC email. It came a couple Christmases ago in a letter from its leader, Knox. I’ll let his words speak for themselves:

The Christian tradition says that Jesus advised his disciples to, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you dressed like sheep, but inside they are vicious wolves. You will know them by their fruit.”

These laws, and the anti-abortion legislators that promote them, are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They say one thing that sounds very nice, but we know them by their fruit. They want nothing more than to deny women the right to decide to have a child on her own terms.

They’re telling a lie. In biblical terms, they’re bearing false witness. Where I come from, that’s a sin.

These false prophets – these vicious wolves – are tearing women’s rights to shreds. And they need to be stopped.

This is who the RCRC is—people who think those who oppose abortion are tearing women to shreds, forgetting the person who is literally torn to shreds. False prophets, they call us, for speaking life in the womb is sacred. That they would call those who uphold the right to life as bearing false witness is an irony too tragic to stomach.

Currently over 800 UMC delegates are in Portland, OR for the United Methodist Church’s General Conference. Much ado has been made over whether the church will formally permit same-sex marriage and ordination of homosexual ministers, practices not allowed in the current Book of Discipline (though many UMC ministers have married homosexual couples and the churches are generally “open and affirming,” meaning homosexuals may worship without fear of being judged for their lifestyle, but instead welcomed regardless of what sex their partner is). This debate will produce national headlines later this week and has been the topic of many news articles, such as this one from the Washington Post last week; however, it almost doesn’t matter what that outcome is because a bigger issue is hovering that would still leave the denomination in a practice of unrepentant sin of innocent bloodshed. You see, the UMC has been swimming in blood money from a practice that goes against the heart of the gospel since the time that abortion became legalized. Whatever the delegates decide this week in Portland, unless they disavow abortion and pull all ties to the RCRC and all affirmation of abortion, they will drown in their own blood money.

My hope, which is a yucky word for it, is that the current debate over other issues that seems to elicit more response from the average believer, will actually split the church so that the true believers will rise and create a church where the Bible is upheld rather than used as a justification to kill babies and put the name of Jesus on the blood. There are millions living in either deception or willful disobedience to the Word of God by being complicit in the shedding of innocent blood.

Jesus has shed His blood once and for all. No other innocent blood ever needs to be shed for a person to live an abundant life.

I began this article with a quotation from a leader; it has impacted me for years. “The devil feeds the poor,” he said. His point was that the antichrist spirit that is in the world today (I John 2:18, 4:3) will entice and engage people with a mantle of social justice. The devil does “good” things to get people in his court of compromise. “Oh, you’re starving and need a home? Here’s a feast and a condo. You’re still going to hell, but you don’t know it because you’re comfortable.” The church needs to do good works; faith without works is dead (James 2:17), but that good must be truly in the name of Jesus. It’s not helpful to feed the poor and heal the sick and lead them to hell. Social justice is good—in the name of the real Jesus. A true Christian will love the mother in a crisis pregnancy. It certainly is our responsibility to care for her, counsel her, financially support her, help her forge a plan for adoption or raising her child. It’s our job to love her through it all. It’s our job to feed and clothe her if she needs these things. But it is not our job to justify the shedding of the innocent blood of her baby to bring some temporary relief. This is what the United Methodist Church has been doing since the decision in Roe v. Wade was rendered.

We are either pro-life or we’re not.

We are either Christians or we’re not.

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!- Jesus (Revelation 3:15-16, NLT)