By Garret Kell
A great tragedy unfolded less than one week ago on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.
The tragedy was not found in the celebrations of elected officials or the concessions of defeat. It was not colored red or blue, and it wasn’t wrapped up in meaningless campaign promises.
The tragedy of the 2012 election is that in this land of the free and home of the brave, many people were not allowed to vote. Their voices were silenced. Their votes were not cast. Their opinions not expressed. Why?
Because they were dead.
The great tragedy of the 2012 election is that roughly 33 million would-be voters had been murdered. From 1973 to 1994, roughly 35 million babies were aborted. That’s roughly 35 million 18- to 39-year-olds who could not vote from the grave.
This is an unspeakable tragedy.
They did not have the chance to learn what makes our nation so great. They did not have the chance to watch the results roll in with their friends and family. They did not have the chance to rest their heads on a pillow in the land of the free.
But this tragedy is not over.
In 2016, roughly 5 million more voices will be unheard. Why? Because more than 3,500 babies will be killed today. And each day leading up to Tuesday, November 8, 2016. In the three minutes it takes you to read this article, seven babies will have been aborted in the United States of America. Their voices silenced. Their freedom robbed. Their bravery unknown.
Close to Home
This is a tragedy that hits close to home. When I was 19, I chose to end the life of my first child through an abortion. My friend and I were in a scary place, we didn’t plan to get married, and we had nowhere else to go. So we opted to end the life of our child.
That child would be 16 today. They’d be excited about driving a car and, in just a couple of years, they’d be excited about voting. But they won’t be doing any of that. We won’t be sitting down together as I explain how to think about policies and the candidates who represent them. I won’t be able to tell them about freedom and justice for all. I took that freedom away with my injustice.
I cannot undo what I’ve done in the past. None of us can. Only Jesus, who shed his blood for sinners like me, can heal those wounds. Jesus gives us great hope in the midst of this tragedy, and all the other tragedies we face in this life.
Refuge in Jesus
If you have committed an abortion, I want you to know there is a refuge in Jesus. He will heal your wounds. There is no sin so great that he cannot forgive and no sin so small that does not need to be forgiven. If you will confess your sins and turn to him in faith, he will wash away all your guilt and all your shame. Come to Christ.
If you support abortion, I encourage you to spend time in prayer and ask God to show you if abortion pleases him or not. Ask a Christian to help you learn what God’s Word says. I know you already have deeply rooted ideas. I did too. But I encourage you to take the time to read what God says about life and who has the right to give and take it away. I encourage you to start with Psalm 139.
If you are a Christian, be patient with those who view things differently. But also speak truth in love to those who are in need. Find ways to help those who are struggling through unplanned pregnancies. Investigate options for adoption and invest in the lives of those who are facing difficult choices.
I have on my wall a picture of a 3-year-old boy in cowboy boots. He nearly wasn’t with us today because his mother was in a difficult place. She was unmarried, pregnant, and scared. But my wife met with her, prayed with her, and took her to a Christian doctor who showed her the baby in her womb through a sonogram. That young mother had the courage to keep her child.
That young boy’s smile reminds me that God can save children, one at a time. He does this by using his people to come alongside the struggling to lovingly show them the Christ who can walk them through any terrifying situation—even an unplanned pregnancy.
I believe the only hope to turn the trend of this tragedy is for people to turn their hearts toward the God who made them through the way paved by his Son Jesus. Jesus changes hearts, and changed hearts can change a nation. May God give us grace as a country, and may God give us courage to stand up in the midst of this tragedy so that, if he tarries, many more will cast votes in 2030.
Lord Jesus, we need your help.”
In Acts 14, Luke sets forth for us the events that took place on Paul’s first missionary journey, a journey on which Barnabas accompanied him. We’ve seen this pattern emerge over and over again. The apostles would come into the synagogue or the public square known as the agora. They would proclaim the gospel openly. And there would always be some people who responded in faith by the power of the Holy Ghost while others in attendance would stand up in outright hostility and oppose them. Indeed, it was through great tribulation that the gospel bore fruit in places like Antioch and Iconium. And everyday Paul and Barnabas were subjected to threats, insults, hostility and even physical danger. We can see how things degenerated to such a degree here in the latter part of chapter fourteen: the Jewish leadership actually convenes a kangaroo court and imposes the death penalty upon Paul! A rioting mob is gathered and begins to throw stones at Paul with deadly force. Paul is knocked down by the repeated blows to the face, arms, torso, and head. His would-be executors then drag him out of the city, leaving him for dead.
Now ladies and gentlemen we can’t read that and say, “Ho-hum, isn’t that interesting?” Passages like this speak to the truthfulness of the adage “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” These sorts of things happened to a multitude of Christians who did not recover as swiftly as Paul did on this occasion. Indeed, many in the Christian community of the first century became human torches in the gardens of Nero. Others were thrown into the arena to go against professional gladiators, or to be fed to the lions while crazed emperors and a depraved public watched the spectacle with perverted glee. That’s our history as Christians. And down through the ages every time the gospel has been preached openly in the public square, it has been met with some degree of hostility, violence and persecution. And no doubt such things continue in our day in various pockets of the world.
Now one of the things that I think about in terms of my own ministry is why I’ve never been cast into jail. Why has no one ever thrown a stone at me because of the boldness by which I preach the gospel? Well, I preach it in a safe zone, I suppose—a zone that has been declared something of a reservation. The church has been banished in our day from the public square, and a deal has been made. The deal goes something like this: If we confine our preaching and teaching to spiritual matters (matters of the world to come) and keep our mouths shut about what’s going on all around us in the culture in which we live, then we will be protected by the powers that be. But if we venture off the reservation and intrude our opinions into the public square, then we will feel the full measure of the wrath of the culture and indeed of the government itself.
That government today perpetuates a myth which is totally ungrounded in American history. This myth is articulated every day under the rubric of the “separation of church and state”. But I defy anybody in this room or in this nation to find such a concept anywhere in the Constitution of the United States of America or in the Declaration of Independence. The phrase originated in some private correspondence from the pen of Thomas Jefferson where he spoke of erecting a wall of separation but it never become part of the fabric of the law of this land historically. And I say today in our age that the concept of the separation of state and church that even Jefferson had in view in the 18th century has also been changed dramatically in its public understanding. What was meant in the 18th century even in the informal way in which Jefferson spoke of it was the division of labor between the church and the state. In other words, it is not the state’s responsibility to do the ministry of the church and it is not the state’s responsibility to preach the gospel or to administer the sacrament. Those duties have been given to the church that God ordained and to the Christian ministers whom God has called and appointed. But on the other side of the coin God also instituted government for the safety and well being of the people who live in its midst. And the government has been assigned by God the responsibility of preserving, protecting and maintaining the sanctity of human life. The government has been ordained by God to protect those areas of life in the realm ofcommon grace—blessings that God gives to all people—not just Jews or Christians or any other group. I’m referring to blessings such as the sanctity of marriage. That’s why the church recognizes marriages that take place in the secular world. But it is God who ordains the state and before whom the state is ultimately responsible and to Whom it will be held accountable at the end of the age for how it exercised its responsibility.
A few years ago I was invited to give the address at the inaugural breakfast of the newly elected governor of the state of Florida. And on that occasion I said to the governor elect, “Good sir, today is your ordination day. You have received your mandate to govern not from the will of the people, but from almighty God, who Himself establishes government and calls you His minister, not the minister of the church, but His minister as a guardian of the affairs of the state. And I remind you that you will be judged by Him in how you carry out your duties.” But in our time the separation of church and state has come to mean the separation of the state from God. It is one thing to say the state is not accountable to the church, it’s another thing to say the state is not accountable to God. And when the state assumes its autonomy and declares its independence from Almighty God it is not just the right but the duty of the church to call the state to task: Not to ask the state to be the church, but to tell the state to be the state under God.
And that has been the task of the church throughout the ages, throughout the pages of the Old Testament and into the New. I know there are people in Christendom who believe that the church should never say anything about the public square or what happens in the political realm. But given our biblical history I wonder how anybody can come to that conclusion. You read the pages of the Old Testament and you read the history of the prophets. You see a king like Ahab using the power of his secular authority to confiscate the personal private property of neighbors. And nobody says a word until Elijah risks his life to declare it unjust and call him to task. Isaiah was raised and anointed to go into the palace and speak to king after king after king, bringing God’s criticism to the nation. Amos was the one who cried in the marketplace “let justice roll down like an ever-flowing stream.” And for calling the culture of their day to righteousness every one of those prophets faced hostility, bodily harm, and death. Why was John the Baptist beheaded? Because he called attention to the immorality of the king, and the unjustness and illicit basis of his marriage. Jesus criticized Herod as well, calling him a fox. And when He called the nation of Israel to righteousness, corrected the Sanhedrin, and criticized the leading authorities and their corrupt practices, He was arrested and executed. He was not executed because he said, “Consider the lilies, how they spin.” He was executed because He said, “Consider the thieves, how they steal.”
Jesus took His message to the public square. But Uncle Sam has cut a deal with us, and here’s the deal: They’ll give you and I a tax exemption whereby we can deduct from our income taxes our tithes and offerings that we give to the church. But on one condition: that we not speak out on the political issues in our day. Ladies and Gentlemen that’s a compromise that the church can never afford to make. I’m not allowed by law at this point to tell you who to vote for, to recommend or endorse a particular candidate, and I’m going to obey that law because I’m called to obey the civil magistrates even when I disagree with those civil magistrates. But at the same time I’m going to protest against that condition and say to the church if it means that we have to give up our tax deductions so be it. Because we shouldn’t be giving our donations and charitable gifts to the church just so we can get a tax write-off. Our responsibility to tithe to the Kingdom of God is there whether we receive any benefit from the secular government or not. Surely we must all understand that. And I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but I am going to tell you some things you should be concerned about when you go to the voting booth.
But here is what I’m going to tell you to do when you vote. As a Christian you have obligations opposed upon your conscience that in some sense other people don’t have, although they should have. And the first thing is this: You have to understand what a vote is. The word vote comes from the Latin votum, which means ‘will’ or choice. And when you go to the ballot box and you vote, you are not there to vote for what’s going to benefit you necessarily. Your vote is not a license to impose your selfish desires upon the rest of the country. You only have the right to vote for what is right. And not only do you have the right to vote for what is right, but when you vote you have the duty to vote for what is right.
I’m reminded of the work of William Wilberforce in England. You may recall that in debate after debate after debate, and in election after election after election, Wilberforce was soundly and roundly defeated when he sought the abolition of slavery in the British Commonwealth. But if ever there was an exercise in perseverance, it was by Wilberforce. Wilberforce refused to give up. He simply would not walk away from being the conscience of the English nation. And he publicly testified that slavery was wrong and he promised to oppose it as long as he had breath in his body. And finally in the providence of God, Parliament woke up and abolished this unethical practice that was a plague on the English speaking world.
We’ve gone through the same plague in the history of America, and thanks be to God slavery has finally been abolished in America. But I believe that slavery is the second most serious ethical issue that our country has ever faced. From my perspective the number one ethical issue that this nation has ever faced is the issue of abortion. Abortion is not a matter of private choice—not for the Christian who understands anything about the sanctity of life. The first century church made it very clear in their day, explicitly stating that abortion is murder.
I’ve written over 70 books. The book that had the shortest shelf life of all of my books was my book on the case against abortion. I talked to pastor after pastor and sought to understand why they weren’t using this material (for which we also made a video series). They told me, “Well, we agree with it but we can’t do it in our church.” And I said, “Why?” They responded: “It will split the congregation.” And I said, “So be it!” A million and a half unborn babies are slaughtered wantonly in the United States of America every year in the name of women’s rights. If I know anything about the character of God after forty years of study, I know that God hates abortion. And I could never vote for a candidate who supported abortion—even if I agreed with that candidate on every other policy position. If he supported abortion I would not vote for him and I urge you to do the same.
I know that abortion is not the number one issue in this campaign because it has become acceptable. Just like slavery became acceptable. But it cannot be acceptable to ethical people. The people of God have to rise up and say ‘NO’! We are not asking the state to be the church but we must say to the state, “Please be the state. God ordained you to protect, maintain, and preserve the sanctity of life, and you are not doing it.” So that has to be on your mind when you walk into that voting booth.
And a second ethical issue that you need to keep in mind before you vote is this: Don’t be a lobby group of one. I read in the Sentinel that they did a poll of athletes, asking them for whom they were going to vote. And one said it straight out. He said “I’m going to vote for the one who’s going to give the most money away.” How many times have you heard the phrase ‘I’m going to vote my pocketbook’? I’m going to go to the trough of the public and drink as deeply as I can. Alexis de Tocqueville, when he came and examined the great American experiment of democracy, said two things can destroy this experiment: One is when people learn that their vote is worth money, that you can bribe people to get their vote or that you can use the vote to somehow shelter yourself from financial or other obligations imposed upon others. Have we taken the blindfold away from lady justice? Are we not all equal under the law?
On the contrary, we have an income tax structure today that is inherently unjust. We almost never hear anybody discuss this injustice. But when God set up a system of taxation, He did things differently. God said I’m going to impose a tax on my people and it’s going to be ten percent from everybody: The rich man and the poor man are not going to pay the same amount. The rich man’s going to pay much more than the poor man, but they’re both going to pay the same percentage. They’re both going to have the same responsibility. That way the rich man can’t use his power to exploit the poor man, saying, “I’m going to pay five percent, but you’re going to pay fifty percent.” The rich weren’t allowed to do that. Nor were the poor allowed to say, “We’re going to pay five percent and the rich are going to pay fifty percent because they can afford it.” What that is ladies and gentlemen is the politics of envy that legalizes theft. Anytime you vote a tax on somebody else that is not a tax on yourself, you’re stealing from your brother. And though the whole world does it and though it’s common practice in the United States of America, a Christian shouldn’t be caught dead voting to fill his own pocketbook at the expense of someone else. Isn’t that plain? Isn’t that clear? And until we get some kind of flat tax, we’re going to have a politicized economy, we’re going to have class warfare, and we’re going to have the whole nation’s rule being determined by the rush for economic advantage at the polls. Don’t do it. Even if that means sacrificing some benefit you might receive from the federal government. Don’t ask other people at the point of a gun to give you from their pockets what you don’t have. That’s sin.
It is, of course, the American way. But we Christians should not be involved in that sort of thing. Rather we should be voting for what is right, what is ethical. And our consciences on that score need to be informed by the Word of God, not by our wallets. And so I plead with you: When you enter the voting booth, don’t leave your Christianity in the parking lot. And be bold to speak on these issues, even if it means somebody picks up a rock and throws it in your head. Because it is through tribulation that we enter the Kingdom of God. I pray for you, beloved, and for our nation in these days to come.”
Often even when towns laid in ruin after a bombing raid from the Germans, the British in World War II drew great comfort from seeing Winston Churchill raise his two-finger symbol: the sign for victory. In a similar way, when things seem dark, Jesus Christ holds out His own victory sign to His people: the symbol of an abandoned cross and empty tomb.
It’s easy to feel impatient about the small part we play in God’s Providence. If we are students of the Great Commission, then we sense the immensity of our mission from God even as we realize our own frailty. It seems things are not progressing as fast as we would like.
Many Christians in America are right now feeling very discouraged about the next four years. Neither of the two presidential picks from the two major parties are anything to get terribly excited about. Laurence Vance of LewRockwell.com assessed a good bit of the problem fairly well recently when he wrote:
Prediction 1: If Romney wins, in four years we will have a higher national debt, and still have a drug war, a police state, troops in 150 countries, and a national security/warfare state.
Prediction 2: If Obama wins, in four years we will have a higher national debt, and still have a drug war, a police state, troops in 150 countries, and a national security/warfare state.
I would add that regardless of who wins, it is very unlikely that either candidate would make any progress on eliminating the federal subsidization of abortion, the legalization of abortion, or the federal protections of sodomy.
It’s at moments like these when many Christians get depressed and are tempted to lose hope of advancing Christ’s Kingdom. We are tempted to run away or hide in the hills, to abandon the fight, to become mere spectators from a safe distance. If we stop caring about the setbacks, we reason, then maybe it won’t hurt as much when they come. We pick an eschatology to fit our surrendered outlook. Our attitude is summed up in a poem one of Teddy Roosevelt’s friends wrote while he was at Harvard, an Ode to Complacency:
We deem it narrow-minded to excel.
We call the man fanatic who applies
His life to one grand purpose till he dies.
Enthusiasm sees one side, one fact;
We try to see all sides, but do not act.
. . . We long to sit with newspapers unfurled,
Indifferent spectators of the world.
We lose the gusto to excel in the work of the Lord because we have forgotten that it is the workof the Lord, not the work of us. If the advancement of the Kingdom depended on the heart and hands of such feeble ones as us, we would have good cause for depression. But it doesn’t. Having begun our walk with God by faith in the work of Christ, we somehow have thought that we would take it from here. Salvation was something Jesus did, but the Great Commission is something that we do, we have mistakenly assumed. The Apostle Paul rebuked this notion in Galatians 3:3. In a sense, it is true that we are performing the Great Commission, but we are not accomplishing the Great Commission. Jesus is accomplishing that because “all power is given unto [Him] in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). We are vessels, 2 Timothy 2:21 tells us, but we are neither the oil that goes into the vessels nor the hands that carry the vessels.
“It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). So even our work, to whatever extent it is holy and effective to the advance of God’s Kingdom, is accomplished not by crafty politicking and scheming, but by the power of the work of God in the redeemed saint and through him.
After facing many setbacks in his life, Robert E. Lee observed in 1870:
“The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”
This is why at American Vision so much of our ministry involves pointing Christians back to history to see the hand of God in the past so they have hope for the future. How often has it seemed that the people of God were nearly defeated, only to rebound to enjoy great victories?
I have sometimes wanted to ask the Lord, “God, don’t you know how I would be able to glorify you more if you just took away this impediment? Don’t you know that I would be able to advance your kingdom in greater ways if you would just remove this obstacle?” The Apostle Paul wrote of a similar struggle in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 when he told about his “thorn in the flesh” God had sent that led him to depend more on the grace of God. “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God doesn’t need our feeble efforts to advance His Kingdom. He is gracious to use feeble instruments as He wisely chooses. He is far more interested in conforming us to the image of His Son.
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
God is far more interested in glorifying His name as He blesses us than He is in having me help Him. He is not so impoverished that He would need to call on me to advance His Kingdom. God owns the cattle upon a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). He is so glorious that He can advance His Kingdom even through so impoverished a vessel as me. He will handle history.
Oh, for grace to have the perspective of Joseph! That servant of God was somehow able to grasp the essence about which General Lee wrote. He could see God’s over-riding purpose in his personal setbacks. “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:19-21).
So we observe that God controls the advance of history in spite of our setbacks and even through our setbacks. This providential power is amazing enough to consider, but then add to that the wonder that he works through feeble vessels such as us in His history. He does this not by pressing us into a monolithic organization (such as an institution like the Roman Catholic Church) nor by drafting us into a Holy Civil Empire because “there is power in numbers,” but by going inside our hearts, and transforming that heart so that we might “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
The wonder of God in history is that He will never allow the human race to ruin the advance of Christ’s Kingdom. America may pass like Rome but Christ’s Kingdom will increase. An evil man may stand in the White House, but Christ won’t leave His Great White Throne. He will indeed even work through His elect in things so simple as teaching our families the Word at home, loving our wives, honoring our parents, providing for our homes, witnessing to the lost, and discipling new saints. These things involve an on-going surrender to the Lordship and wisdom of God.
It is with the assurance we have that God governs in the affairs of men that we can boldly echo the resolute remarks of D.V. Cooke in his poem How did you die? Duty is ours. The outcome is God’s. He cannot be defeated.
Did you tackle the trouble that came your way
With resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce,
Or a trouble’s what you make it.
And it isn’t the fact that your hurt that counts,
But how did you take it?
You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what’s that?
Come up with a smiling face,
It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there—that’s disgrace!
The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts,
It’s how did you fight—and why?
And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could;
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or it comes with a pounce,
And whether he’s slow or spry,
It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,
But only, how did you die?”
“What shall we call the unborn in the womb?
If the entity is a living thing, is it not a life? If your person began as a single cell, how can that fertilized egg be something other than a human being? Isn’t it more accurate to say you were an embryo than that you simply came from one?
So when does a human being have a right to life?
Shall we say size matters? Is the unborn child too small to deserve our protection? Are big people more valuable than little people? Are men more human than woman? Do offensive linemen have more rights than jockeys? Is the life in the womb of no account because you can’t hold him in our arms, or put him in your hands, or only see her on a screen?
Shall we make intellectual development and mental capacity the measure of our worth? Are three year-old children less valuable than thirteen year-olds? Is the unborn child less than fully human because he cannot speak or count or be self-aware? Does the cooing infant in the crib have to smile or shake your hand or recite the alphabet before she deserves another day? If an expression of basic mental acuity is necessary to be a full-fledged member of the human community, what shall do with the comatose, the very old, or the fifty year-old mom with Alzheimer’s? And what about all of us who sleep?
Shall we deny the unborn child’s right to life because of where he lives? Can environment give us value or take it away? Are we worth less inside than outside? Can we be justly killed when we swim under water? Does where we are determine who we are? Does the eight inch journey down the birth canal make us human? Does this change of scenery turn “its” into persons? Is love a condition of location?
Shall we reserve human dignity only for those humans who are not dependent on others? Do we deserve to live only when we can live on our own? Is the four-month old fetus less than human because she needs her mom for life? Is the four-month old infant less than human when she still needs her mom for life? What if you depend on dialysis or insulin or a breathing apparatus? Is value a product of fully-functioning vitality? Is independence a prerequisite for human identity? Are we worth only what we can think, accomplish, and do on our own?
If the unborn life is human life, what can justify snuffing it out? Would it be right to take the life of your child on his first birthday because he came to you through sad and tragic circumstances? Would you push an 18 month old into traffic because she makes our life difficult? Does a three year-old deserve to die because we think we deserve a choice?
What do you deserve now? What are your rights as a human person? Did you have those same rights five years ago? What about before you could drive? Or when you used training wheels? Were you less than fully human when you played in the sandbox? When you wore a bib? When you nursed at your mother’s breast? When your dad cut your cord? When you tumbled in that watery mess and kicked against that funny wall? When your heart pounded on the monitor for the first time? When you grew your first fingernails? When you grew your first cells?
What shall we call the child in the womb? A fetus? A mystery? A mistake? A wedge issue? What if science and Scripture and commonsense would have us call it a person? What if the unborn child, the messy infant, the wobbly toddler, the rambunctious teenager, the college freshman, the blushing bride, the first-time mother, the working woman, the proud grammy, and the demented old friend differ not in kind but only in degree? Where in the progression does our humanity begin and end? Where does life become valuable? When are we worth something? When do human rights become our rights? What if Dr. Seuss was right and a person’s a person no matter how small?
Why celebrate the right to kill what you once were? Why deny the rights of the little one who is what you are?”