PLAYGROUND FAITH In a Toys R’nt Us World

PLAYGROUND FAITH  In a Toys R’nt Us World

Our church took a step of faith this month, spending about $10,000 on a new playground that should serve us for another twenty years. But the faith had nothing to do with raising money. Being a frugal bunch, we had been setting aside funds for capital improvements for years. No, the faith had to do with spending it on play-equipment in the first place. The way things are going in America, playgrounds could become a thing of the past, relics of the baby-boom gone bust.

Consider the trends: Seventy-year-old icon of childhood, Toys R Us, just closed all 800 stores, blaming the Amazon insurgency along with Wal-Mart and Target for its market decline. They were also over-leveraged, but the root of the problem is declining demand. “Most of our end-customers are newborns and children,” they said in a statement, “and, as a result, our revenue are dependent on the birthrates in countries where we operate. In recent years, many countries’ birthrates have dropped or stagnated as their population ages, and education and income levels increase.”[1]

Bottom-line, men and women aren’t getting married as often or as young as they used to. When they do they aren’t having as many babies, if they have any at all. Breakpoint’s John Stonestreet reports that the U.S. fertility rate is near 1.77 children per woman, or below the replacement rate necessary to sustain our population at current levels.[2] Children are expensive to have and costly to raise, we reason, and that’s true. But the more we treasure our treasure the less we value life.

The roots of this lie in the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the advent of “the pill,” when we divorced sex from marriage and devalued children in the process. But it has greater ramifications than the closing of a toy store chain. The supply of young workers that keep an economy growing and social programs funded declines as the population grays and demand for social services increases. Financial crises loom as this population mega-shift occurs.

But there’s more to it than that. Having children pleases God and drives spiritual growth.

From the Genesis mandate to “be fruitful and multiply,” to Jesus’s command to “let the little children come to me,” the Bible is a pro-children book. “Children are a reward from God … a crown to the aged,” wrote Solomon.[3] Ask any grandparent and you will hear “Amen!”

Raising children from diapers to diplomas is the most demanding thing anyone can do, and the most spiritually rewarding. Kids expose our selfishness and call out service: will I buy that new boat or put money aside for braces? Volunteer to coach soccer or stay in bed on Saturday mornings? Children also challenge our moral inconsistencies: “Daddy, should you really be driving that fast … on the way to church?” Most uncomfortably, children reveal our character flaws just by sharing our DNA. It’s humbling to realize that those little ones who “look just like Daddy!” also share his penchant for show-boating, self-pity, arrogance, and mendacity.

Finally—and this is only a partial list—children teach us total dependence on God. Ask any parent who has ever said, “My child will never (fill-in-the-blank),” and they will tell you that there is only one God and we aren’t him. We have no ability whatsoever to control outcomes in the lives of our little ones. God created them, gave them free will, and allows them to use it. Sooner or later—and the sooner the better—we release them to him and pray, trusting when they fall that he will raise them up, and rejoicing when they succeed.

So, building playgrounds is an act of faith. But having babies is even greater. May God bless us all with more of both.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/03/15/toys-r-uss-baby-problem-is-everybodys-baby-problem/

[2] http://www.breakpoint.org/2018/04/breakpoint-toys-r-us-to-close-down/

[3] Psalm 127:3 & Proverbs 17:6

Can We Hear Them Now?

Can We Hear Them Now?

Facebook, 2018: A young father shared the moment he felt his daughter in her mother’s womb.

“I’d only briefly felt this baby move before. I tried to feel her move again and again to no avail. But finally, lying there last night next to her mom, snuggled up close because of the cold, I felt kick after kick. Long after my lady had gone to sleep, there was our little one still kicking away. There ain’t words to truly describe what my heart felt.”

I read that post and smiled, remembering what it was like to be a young father many years ago, when before my daughters had voices they spoke to us with kicks.

Another story I saw this week took me back even further, to the moment the world stopped hearing the voiceless words of children in the womb.

Dr. Richard Selzer, an enlightened surgeon, fully committed to the latest medical philosophies, and desiring to learn the best techniques, wanted to watch a new procedure. He’d heard of it, but never seen one performed so he asked a fellow physician if he could attend.

The patient was 19 weeks pregnant, lying on the table, prepped for the procedure. The surgeon took a syringe filled with a prostaglandin solution, sank the needle up to its hub into the woman’s belly, pushed the plunger down and left it there for a few moments.

Selzer described what happened next. ““I see something other than what I expected here. … It is the hub of the needle in the woman’s belly that has jerked. … Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish.”

Slowly, the desperate fight for life faded. The needle stopped jerking. The voiceless screaming ceased, but not in Selzer’s head. “Nothing can argue against the truth of what I saw that day.”

That story, “What I Saw at the Abortion,” originally appeared in Esquire in January 1976, and appeared most recently in Marvin Olasky’s World Magazine interview with pro-life feminist Frederica Matthews-Green.*

The trajectory of Green’s life was changed by that brief paragraph in Esquire. Up until then she sported a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t labor under a misconception. Legalize abortion.” Now she is known by her most famous quote: “No woman wants an abortion like she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion like an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

Would that the trajectory of the world had changed with her.

Ideas have consequences and, as John Stonestreet says, they also have victims. The two greatest victims of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s were women, who lost the protection long afforded to them by traditional mores and the covenant of marriage, and children, who lost the protection not only of a two-parent home, but of the womb. Both suffer in abortion. Both need our help.

The women were voiceless until 2017, stifled by fear, or powerful men, or both. Now they are speaking and the nation is listening. Maybe in the context of so much truth-telling those other heretofore voiceless victims will also speak.

Can we hear them now?

*Marvin Olasky, “Path to Pro-Life: Overcoming Pro-Abortion Peer Pressure with Facts.” Interview with Frederica Matthews-Green by Marvin Olasky in World Magazine, January 20, 2018. https://world.wng.org/2018/01/path_to_pro_life

TRUMP AND THE DECLINE OF ABORTION

The inauguration of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth president of the United States is just two days away and many Americans still cannot believe it’s happening, or how he won in the first place. Some say, “The Russians did it!” Others point to corruption in the Clinton camp that predated any FBI investigation. Most, however, miss a critical moment in the last debate when Mr. Trump described late-term abortion, and called it “not acceptable.”

Clinton’s connection to and unconditional support for the abortion industry were pillars of her campaign. Trump’s statement, connected to his promises to repeal Obamacare– which promoted, mandated, and funded abortion at every turn–and to nominate conservative justices to the Supreme Court, who will no doubt hear more challenges to abortion rights, probably did more to persuade conservative evangelicals to hold their noses and vote for him than anything else.

Regardless of Mike Pence’s and other notable evangelicals’ support, whether or not conservative Christians have made a deal with the devil remains to be seen. I give it a fifty-fifty chance of being just that. What is clear is that the cultural winds are shifting away from abortion and in favor of life.

Some notable facts are worth mentioning:

The callousness and corruption of the abortion industry have been exposed in stories like that of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, and Planned Parenthood’s sale of baby parts for profit. Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who catered to immigrants and minorities in a grimy inner city clinic, was convicted on three of eight counts of murder for taking the lives of infants who survived birth in his facility. A documentary movie about Gosnell and the abortion industry, American Tragedy, has been produced and is now making its way across the country.

Planned Parenthood representatives were filmed making deals for baby parts, and bragging about how careful their abortionists were to preserve vital organs for research during the process. The mammoth abortion provider viciously fought back against the producers, The Center for Medical Progress, managing to have them arrested and charged for tactics developed by news organizations like 60 Minutes. But all charges were dropped and, most importantly, the truth got out.

The Freedom of Choice Act, which Mr. Obama promised to sign in his first term, and would have made it illegal and actionable in all fifty states to restrict abortion in any way, never made it out of committee.

Twenty states have passed incremental restraints on abortion and more are on the way.

Obamacare and its onerous mandates requiring all insurance plans to fund and all healthcare providers to offer abortion, have been resoundingly rejected in a national election.

Most encouraging of all, abortions in the United States dropped below one million for the first time in over forty years.

Those of us who have prayed, paid, and worked to end abortion for the past forty-four years have much for which to give thanks. But we dare not put our hopes in this, or any other, president or politician. We need to keep praying, keep paying, and keep working until every human life, inside the womb and out, is equally valued.

WELCOME TO THE MAD HATTER’S TEA PARTY

Andrée Seu Peterson, commenting in the April 30 edition of World Magazine on the Strange Sympathies of voters who supported Donald Trump over Ted Cruz because Cruz was “pompous,” wrote, “If Cruz is rejected and Trump accepted on the grounds of pompousness, then we are truly living at the Mad Hatter’s tea party.”

Well, welcome to the Mad Hatter’s. Cruz is out, Trump is in, and there is no one left to keep him from winning the Republican presidential nomination.

No one predicted this, and no one can predict the outcome of the November elections, but some veteran reporters are beginning to believe that Trump can, in spite of polls to the contrary, beat Clinton in a national referendum. Ben Carson believes that 2016 is, “the year of the outsider,” and if the anger in the electorate over healthcare, immigration, the economy, homeland security, and the political status quo is what I think it is he, and they, are right.

I’ve been carefully watching, and actively participating in our nation’s politics for thirty-six years, and I’ve never been so disappointed with our options. But they tell us more about ourselves than anything else. We have repeatedly chosen style over substance, corruption over character, provocation over peacemaking, and the tyranny of the few over the freedom of the many. We have become a nation so obsessed with sexual license that we rip up religious freedom with spiritual fervor, and snooze through sales of aborted baby parts. We are such committed materialists that we care not about national bankruptcy as long as cheap dollars keep coming.

We used to be a Christian culture. We are a Casino culture now.

How are Christ’s followers to respond? I’m not about to suggest who you should vote for, but I will remind you of one thing: all politics is downstream of culture. If we want to improve our political leadership we have to improve ourselves. No earthly king can achieve through policy or force what Christ can accomplish in the hearts of men and women if his people will obey him. He is our King and his agenda has always been the same: “Love your neighbor as yourself and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

American culture has been in an historic slide ever since I was born. We were never perfect. There will never be a perfect culture outside of Eden. But if we measure ourselves by the stability of two-parent families, by educational achievement, by economic opportunity, by crime rates and imprisonment, by drug abuse and sexually transmitted disease, by the number of children born to unwed mothers, and by many other metrics, we are a culture in decline.

Some of us have been politically opposing that slide for 30-40 years. It hasn’t helped. But we’ve learned something. Oppose the dominant culture, criticize and critique it, and you may be crushed. You certainly won’t fix anything. Build a better culture and, “the world will beat a path to your door.”

It is time for the followers of Christ to stop complaining and start building. We need to concentrate on being the Church, the pillar and support of the truth, in the world, and on creating good culture.

WILL THE REAL LEADERS PLEASE SIT DOWN?

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35.

John Kasich, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio all have credible Christian testimonies. All four take their faith seriously and care deeply about this country. It is time for three of them to sit down. The question is: who among them will accept the responsibility to lead by serving? Who among them will volunteer to be the very last?

Neither alternative to one of these men is desirable for anyone who thinks from the Biblical Worldview. One is a serial liar whose career of corruption reaches back to the seventies and who stands a very good chance of coming under FBI indictment before the show is over. The second is a ruthless business man, bully, and political opportunist whose positions change depending on which microphone he’s speaking into. And the distant third is a Socialist Pied-Piper whose major policy positions would make America Greece again. All three of them could be counted on to continue to strip Americans of their religious freedom and second amendment rights, promote Planned Parenthood’s death-mills, double-down on the disaster ironically named The Affordable Care Act, and fertilize geo-political destabilization.

Yet that is what we will get if Messieurs Kasich, Carson, Cruz and Rubio continue to put winning ahead of leading. All four of them have enough of the right principles to lead this country well. All four of them claim to follow Christ. All four know what is at stake if they continue to split the vote of Constitutional conservatives. Three of them need to sit down now and throw their support behind the fourth in order have enough nominating delegates to stop this train wreck.

What can you do? Pray, of course. But do more than that. If you are a conservative, write the candidate you support, as I have already done for mine. Be honest and straightforward about the situation. Tell him, if you’ve sent money, that you are sending no more. Ask him to put the country ahead of his pride and his personal prospects, to listen to the Lord instead of his advisors, to put leading ahead of winning, and to please sit down.

If we do that perhaps, in the providence of God, the nation will be treated to something it hasn’t seen in a long time: men who lead by serving.

 

YOU CAN MAKE THE CASE FOR LIFE

Do we believe the case for life is really true? Are we willing to share it with others? Do we believe that our voice can make a difference?

Megan confidently took the stage and presented her case. This was no easy audience: 500 young men and women at a New England Catholic high school. Many of these students were Ivy League bound, and already skeptical that a case for life could even be made.

Later, Megan got this email from Alex, president of the student philosophy club:

“I want to thank you again for speaking. I’ve gone to Catholic school my whole life, and I as well as my classmates have been fed the same argument against abortion for years: that God and the Bible say that it’s wrong, so it’s wrong. As a result of this, discussion on abortion became almost binary. Most regarded it as simply opinion, and never bothered trying to make a case of their own or debate the other side.

I’d like you to know that you changed that. This was the first case against abortion I’ve heard that does not require a leap of faith. You proved your points with science and philosophy.

I’ve checked out prolifetraining.com, and I look forward to listening to the podcasts and reading the resources that are provided there. Thank you for your time, and thank you for changing the way the students see the battlefield of moral dilemmas.”

Do we believe the case for life is really true? Are we willing to share it with others? Your voice can make a difference!

How To Pray for Life:
You may never be asked to speak to a group of cynical teenagers like Megan, but you may be asked to have a conversation with a friend, neighbor, or family member who is not pro-life. Pray that you will have courage when that time comes.

Many people, like Alex did before Megan’s presentation, think that the question of abortion is one of opinion, not fact. Pray that pro-lifers will learn to thoughtfully and lovingly present a compelling case for life that changes hearts and minds.

The truth is on the side of life. Pray that God will provide opportunities for the message to spread person-to-person. Pray that God would raise up more pro-life apologists like Megan, and grant them opportunities to persuade audiences.

This post, along with the previous two weeks, was provided by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Posted by permission. I’ll be back next week. DS.

PRO LIFE SUMMARY 2

“A woman has the right to determine what happens to her own body.”

“The pro-life view is religiously based, and religion shouldn’t have anything to do with public policy.”

Ever heard those statements and wondered how to respond?

This Friday, January 22nd marks the 43rd anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Since then over 58 million babies have been killed by abortionists in America alone.

This scourge can be stopped, but not by staying silent about it. The tech-savvy millennial generation is already inclined to think outside the box of pro-abortion arguments handed down to them from 1970’s liberals. We need to continue to feed their skepticism with truth. The more confident we are as we talk with friends and family, especially the millennial generation, the more likely they will be to end it.

Here then is part 2 of the article Why Pro Life? by Stonestreet and Klusendorf. Find the link to the whole document, titled 21 DAYS OF PRAYER FOR LIFE, here at http://www.colsoncenter.org.

Watch for the summary TAKE AWAY TRUTHS at the end. DS.

WHY PRO LIFE? A SUMMARY part 2
By Scott Klusendorf and John Stonestreet

Reason #3: Logic Affirms Life
Either you believe that each and every human being has an equal right to life or you don’t.

Pro-life Christians contend that although humans differ in their respective degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature that bears the image of their Creator. Humans have value simply because they are human.

Secular critics like David Boonin provide a radically different perspective: Although you are identical to the embryo you once were, it does not follow you had the same right to life then as you do now. For Boonin, being human is nothing special:

On my desk in my office where most of this book was written and revised, there are several pictures of my son, Eli. In one, he is gleefully dancing on the sand along the Gulf of Mexico, the cool ocean breeze wreaking havoc with his wispy hair. In a second, he is tentatively seated in the grass in his grandparents’ backyard, still working to master the feat of sitting up on his own. In a third, he is only a few weeks old, clinging firmly to the arms that are holding him and still wearing the tiny hat for preserving body heat that he wore home from the hospital. Though all of the remarkable changes that these pictures preserve, he remains unmistakably the same little boy. In the top drawer of my desk, I keep another picture of Eli. This picture was taken…24 weeks before he was born.

The sonogram image is murky, but it reveals clearly enough a small head titled back slightly, and an arm raised up and bent, with the hand pointing back toward the face and the thumb extended out toward the mouth. There is no doubt in my mind that this picture, too, shows the same little boy at a very early stage in his physical development. And there is no question that the position I defend in this book entails that it would have been morally permissible to end his life at this point.

But here’s Boonin’s problem: If humans only have value because of some characteristic they possess in varying degrees, those with more of it have greater rights than those with less. Human equality is a myth.

Pro-life Christians have a better explanation for human equality. Our value is grounded in our common human nature, not a degreed property like self-awareness that none of us share equally and may come and go in the course of our lifetimes. When did you get that human nature? You got it the moment you began to exist—conception.

Reason #4: Our Founding Documents Affirm Life
Pro-lifers are often told the pro-life view is “religious,” and religious ideas should not determine public policy. But this is merely a dismissal rather than a refutation.

As Francis J. Beckwith points out, arguments are true or false, valid or invalid. Calling an argument “religious” is a category mistake on a par with asking, “How tall is the number five?”

Also, nowhere in the constitution does it say that believers are prohibited from bringing their ideas to the public square and arguing for them like everyone else. It’s one thing to say the state should not establish a church. It’s quite another to disenfranchise believers from participating in their own government. Some of our country’s most important documents – like The Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” – have their roots in the biblical concept of the imago dei. If prolifers are irrational and unconstitutional for grounding basic human rights in the concept of a transcendent creator, these important historical documents—all of which advanced our national understanding of equality—are irrational and unconstitutional as well. If God doesn’t exist, where do human rights come from? If they come only from the State, the same government that grants rights can take them away. If human rights are to be absolute, they must come from a source higher than the State. That’s what the authors of our founding documents believed: that every human being is “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” The first of these rights is the right to life.

TWO TAKEAWAY TRUTHS:
“A woman has the right to determine what happens to her own body.”
“True. But she doesn’t have the right to determine what happens to someone else’s body. I am the same genetic person I was in my mother’s womb, and so are you. Should you have the right to end my life because I’m inconvenient to you? Should I have the right to end yours?”

“The pro-life view is religiously based, and religion shouldn’t have anything to do with public policy.”
“False. Calling an argument “religious” is a category mistake on a par with asking, “How tall is the number five?” Some of our country’s most important documents – like The Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” – have their roots in the biblical concept of the imago dei.