Thursday, October 25, 2012

Redemption Through Suffering

Reflecting on the controversial theological topic that in our culture and time has wrongly become a mostly political topic, and the stances of three men running for office this election cycle whom I support politically, but (two of which) I disagree with in part on what is the complete pro-life priority, my heart is heavy.

As Christians not in the public sphere, we can be clear in a way politicians can't. This is the way of the world. So are we? Here is my attempt: What Satan means for evil (in the case of rape), God can mean for good (in the case of new human life). I hope that is as clear as it gets. The hardest question is not what is God doing in the act of rape that causes pregnancy, but what is he doing in a rape that doesn't? And as an aside, neither question is political at the core. There are political implications in society, to be sure, but we don’t expect any politician to be able to fully articulate the complexity of how they would work in our fallen world to everyone’s satisfaction, especially in the context of a campaign. Or, at least, we shouldn’t expect that. Lest we be na├»ve and even disruptive to the political process.

But the first question, namely, what is God doing in the case of a rape that leads to pregnancy, can be confidently answered at least in part from a biblical worldview. Among other things, most of which we will never understand in this life, in the case where this act leads to conception, we can unequivocally say that one thing God is doing, indeed one thing he already has done, is create life. And that is very good! The God of the universe said so. It is the same life at conception that is present in the case of a pregnancy in a woman who is contemplating abortion because of financial reasons alone, or no reason at all. It is the same life at conception that is present in the case of a pregnancy in a woman who has waited to have kids through several miscarriages, or in a woman who has been blessed with two other children already. It is the same life at conception that was present in your mother when you were in the womb. It is the same life. It is all very good! And defending the sanctity of life means defending all of it. This is the coherent biblical pro-life perspective.

Politically, that does not mean that we as Christians have to automatically abandon support for those who are pro-life but would make various rare exceptions, such as Governor Mitt Romney and apparently Congressman Mike Pence, who now are outspokenly pro-life except in the case of rape (and incest, which isn’t talked about much, and in the case when the life of mother is at stake, which everyone agrees is an “exception” because another life is at stake). But let’s not confuse what the coherent biblical pro-life argument is, or make ridiculous accusations of “insensitivity to rape victims” or “opposition to women” when this perspective is offered. Of equal priority, of course, is to support, care for, and grieve with, victims of rape. Anyone who says the pro-life without exception stance neglects this does not understand the argument or the person making it. Even the President of the United States has implied these things about recent events (on the Jay Leno show of all places), indicating his own naivety to the worldview, and reluctance to hear it simply explained and defended. There is a big difference between disagreeing with this worldview and implying that it is insensitive or unacceptable. So many today blur this difference to their shame. That is not only intolerant but ignorant.

It is not shocking that pro-life without exception is the stance of those who claim pro-life. It is more shocking (though not really “shocking”) to make exceptions while claiming pro-life. Life except in the case of....doesn't make sense in principle. David Weigel in Slate interestingly points out that Joe Donnelly, the Democrat opponent to Mourdock in the Indiana Senate race, is also pro-life and believes that life begins at conception. But he not only makes the exception for rape, but also foolishly accuses those who don't make this exception to be insensitive and unacceptable. Weigel says:

"You've got a Republican candidate who believes that life starts at conception and won't make allowances for abortion, and a Democrat who believes life starts at conception and HEY LOOK OVER THERE." 

At least the exceptions such as in the case of rape indicate real possibilities that need to be addressed, and are indeed unfortunate, and therefore delicate and complicated. Some just disagree that they should be exceptions. In principle, everyone that is "pro-life" should, but the fact everyone doesn't is not the end of the world. Better to defend life in the majority of the instances where abortion is performed when other options should be pursued. There is always a better answer than killing the baby. That is the core of what it means to be pro-life, and it is sensitive enough of a stance, even without the rare exceptions. When those who are pro-life are asked about these exceptions, it sure is nice to have this type of testimony to give us all real perspective and an opinion that really matters:

"My mother was raped at 17. She went to a back alley abortion clinic in 1972. She was so young, she was 17 years old. Her life had been changed, and all she wanted was her life back. I owe my life to pro-life advocates, for saying my life was worth saying. I don't deserve to die for the act of my father. 20 years ago, I was pro-life with exceptions. I never really looked at the child's point of view, I only looked at the mother. I stand behind Richard Mourdock 100 percent because if you're going to be pro-life, there cannot be exceptions, because we're not thinking about the child if there are exceptions."

Frankly, any politician or media pundit talking about this issue seriously without acknowledging and being sensitive to stories like this, hardly deserve your attention or your respect.

I read an article yesterday morning titled, Media's galling abortion extremism double standards, that makes a very interesting point; one that really should be reconciled by those who would consider pro-life without exception to be "extreme":

"It's worth noting that no debates ever ask any consistent pro-choice candidates why they think there should be no protection for unborn children whose lives are ended simply because they're female, or because they have Down syndrome, or because they're inconveniently timed, or because of the circumstances of their conception. Nope, even though the vast majority of Americans seek some or total protection for unborn children, these questions are never asked."

Boy would I love some debate moderator to ask the current President these types of questions. Too late I guess. 

Thankfully, the world is not yet requiring politicians who proclaim Christ to answer the second question I mentioned above, namely, what is God doing in the case of rape that doesn’t lead to pregnancy? What good is coming from that? But they will eventually.

Is the world asking us? If so, what are we saying? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God when it hurts? How could a good God allow evil and still be all-powerful and all-good? What are we saying to these very good, yet very common, questions? Are we ready to give an answer for the hope that we have?

In the meantime, we should rejoice in our sufferings for their (the world's) sake, because in our flesh we will be filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions, not by way of accomplishment, but by way of personal presentation. How? By showing others redemption through suffering that they might otherwise never personally see for themselves. Why? For the sake of His body, that is, the church! This is the gospel. All Richard Mourdock was saying is that God can and does bring good (not just better than bad, but ultimate good!) out of evil and suffering. He did this in Jesus. And he can do this in the life of a human being conceived in the horrific act of rape. We know this because he brought even better good than a baby (redemption in Jesus) out of even greater suffering than rape (crucifixion of Jesus). To not understand this is to not understand the gospel. We should not be surprised that the media and the secular world do not understand the gospel. Of course they don’t. It is foolishness. Worse, they hate it. That does not change our message.

If you are a Christian, you, like Paul, have become a minister according to the stewardship of God that was given to you for them (the world), to make the word of God fully known – not partially known – the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to the saints. To you God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you…the hope of glory! Him we proclaim, teaching everyone and warning everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (everyone!) - not immature, unable to explain and understand the word of God, and how it applies to life, suffering, and more; even politics - but mature. For this reason we toil, struggling with all his energy (not our energy!) that he powerfully works within us. – Colossians 1:24-29

Praying with you for our leaders, our country, and the unborn - without exception.

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