A Kingdom Approach To Abortion


I do not know if there is a more hot button topic along the American political landscape than the issue of abortion. There are groups and organizations that fund-raise tens of millions of dollars a year to make sure their particular view on the subject is heard. There are protests, sign holders, marches, prayers, petitions, rallies and often times this is a issue that can be the sole reason why a person may vote for a particular candidate.

As a Christian I have struggled with this issue.
As a Christian leader I have struggled with this issue.
As a human being I have struggled with this issue.

For near sixteen years I have been looking for ways I might be able to give verbiage for how I believe and feel. I have never felt totally comfortable with the answers that those on the religious right have given about the topic, though over the years I have mostly identified with their views.

Recently I picked up the book “The Myth Of A Christian Nation: How The Quest For Political Power Is Destroying The Church” by Greg Boyd and within its pages he expressed his views on the issue of abortion in the way that I have been trying to do for over a decade.

This is from Chapter 7

“A Kingdom Approach To Abortion”

“To illustrate, consider the highly charged and divisive issue of abortion. Whether one should vote pro-life or pro-choice is clearly an important question for all citizens to consider. Because all kingdom-of-the-world issues come in complex political packages, numerous complex considerations will affect how one votes on this issue. There are, of course, many difficult metaphysical and ethical questions to consider. When does the fetus become a full person? When does it acquire a soul and take on the image of God?

Your answer to these questions will affect, and be affected by, your views on a host of other ethical questions. For example, do you believe that the morning-after pill is as bad as partial-birth abortions? Would your ideal society punish women who use the morning-after pill as severely as people who murder infants or adults? How should we weigh the rights of the unborn at various stages of development against the rights of the woman whose body it now inhabits? And to what extent do you believe government should legislate the answer to these questions as opposed to leaving the answer up to the woman and others involved in the pregnancy?

Related to these questions are a host of other complex considerations that will affect how you vote. For example, how does the party or candidate that most closely reflects your view on abortion fare on other issues you deem important: concern for the poor, economics, foreign affairs, war, the environment, and so on? How much weight do you put on each of these convictions? Also, what do you deem attainable at the present time in our culture? Is it more efficient to work to outlaw abortion outright, or is it better to minimize abortion by, say, voting for the candidate and party you think will best help the poor, since there is a demonstrable link between the rate of poverty and the rate of abortion in the U.S.? Even more fundamentally, do you think it more efficient to hold an uncompromising stance on this issue, or is it better for the unborn, and for society as a whole, for you to work with people who have different beliefs than yours to overcome our present polarization and find a middle ground? What do you believe is the best way to create a culture in which abortions are as unnecessary and rare as possible? How one answers all these difficult and important questions affects how they vote.

But kingdom people need to understand that none of these questions are distinctly kingdom questions.

The polarized way the issue is framed in contemporary politics is largely a function of various groups trying to gain power over each other for what they believe to be the good of the whole, and while we as Americans have to consider these questions before we can give an informed opinion (a vote) when asked, there’s no reason we—as kingdom-of-God participants—should allow this political way of framing the issue to define our approach.

Jesus never allowed himself to be defined by the political conflicts of his day, and neither should we. The distinctly kingdom question is not, How should we vote? The distinctly kingdom question is, How should we live?

How can we individually and collectively come under women struggling with unwanted pregnancies and come under the unborn babies who are unwanted? How can we who are worse sinners than any woman with an unwanted pregnancy—and thus have no right to stand over them in judgment—sacrifice our time, energy, and resources to ascribe unsurpassable worth to them and their unborn children? How can we act in such a way that we communicate our agreement with Jesus that these women and their unborn children are worth dying for? How can we individually and collectively sacrifice for and serve women and their unwanted children so that it becomes feasible for the mother to go to full term? How can we individually and collectively bleed for pregnant women and for unborn babies in a way that maximizes life and minimizes violence? We answer these distinctly kingdom questions not with our votes but with our lives. And, note, we don’t need to answer any of the world’s difficult political and metaphysical questions to do it. The unique kingdom approach to abortion isn’t dependent on convincing ourselves and others that we have “God’s knowledge” about highly ambiguous questions. It’s based on our call to love as Jesus loved. There’s a scared woman; there’s a growing life inside her, which, however it got there and whatever speculations one holds about its metaphysical status, is a miraculous creation of God. And the only relevant question kingdom people need to answer is, Are we willing to bleed for both? Voting and picketing costs us little. The kingdom approach costs us much. But it is precisely the costliness of the kingdom approach—which looks like Jesus dying on Calvary for those who crucified him—that makes it a unique kingdom approach. And because it manifests the beauty of Jesus, it glorifies God and has a power to change the world in a way that kingdom-of-the-world strategies never could.”

To me Greg Boyd nails it on the head.

The ultimate question isn’t how we vote, but how we live.

Are we willing to lay down our lives and love unconditionally the mother, the life that is growing inside her and those who might express a different belief or thought than we do when it comes to abortion?

Are we willing to put political rightness to the side so that beauty of Jesus can be manifest?

Please buy Greg Boyd’s book, it is well worth the $10 on Amazon.com.

Peace & Grace

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Black Friday & The Christian Consumer


It seems like advertisements for Black Friday started very early this year.

Promises of large sales and great deals starting on the night of Thanksgiving or on 12:01 AM on Black Friday have taken over the airways, tv channels and Pandora and iTunes radio.

Companies and corporations have poured untold billions into advertising, so that in return folks buy their products this holiday season.

No doubt in the next few hours we will read about folks standing outside of stores for hours on end, we will read about people being injured or killed because of a stampede at a Big Box store, we will see videos of people fist fighting over the last in stock hot ticket item of the year.

Buy.

More.

Things.

Isn’t that the corporate message of this season?

Go into debt, spend what you don’t have, buy, buy, buy!

In light of the teachings of Jesus, what is a Christian consumer to do?

How should a Christian respond to the consumer drive of Black Friday?

In a portion of Jesus’ most famous sermon he said this:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And

“You cannot serve both God and money”

Jesus gave his followers a clear warning to avoid consumerism and greed.

People who follow him are to avoid the trappings of earthly treasures and instead are called to focus upon heavenly efforts and service.

During this holiday season let us put people above corporate profits, let us place heavenly efforts above hot ticket items and in the name of God let us serve those around us.

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Shame & Storytelling


Every human being has a story.

Every mom and dad, every grandmother and grandfather, every son and daughter, every person in your place of work, every person you bump into on the street and every person who sits beside you at your place of worship has a story.

Our stories are made up of our experiences, those events we have gone through, our struggles, our celebrations, our achievements and our secrets.

Our secrets.

Those things we did, or happened to us, that we would rather not make public or talk about.

Or think about for that matter.

Those experiences which are attached to shame.

Shameful and shame-filled events.

Growing up in a traditional northern New England home I learned at a young age that it was best not to talk about family secrets or give recognition to events that might bring shame. Better to ignore, better to keep silent, better to keep secrets and to sweep the ugly things under the rug.

I am not placing any blame on my parents as they are both amazing parents and pretty special human beings; but there is just something in the culture that I live in that pushes people away from telling their “whole” story.

That is what shame does, it keeps us from telling our story. It forces us not to be open and authentic with one another with our stories.

In my last blog “Shame & The Christian Church” I showed how shame is a thief and a cancer, how it robs from us and can cripple us.

Telling your “whole” story is a good tool in the battle against shame.

James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, wrote this in his letter to the early Christian community,

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for one another so that you can live together whole and healed.” *

Within the context of telling our story, that verse could be re-wrote to say this,

“Make this your common practice: Tell your whole story to each other and pray for one another so that you can live together whole and healed.”

James,under the influence of God, reminded the early Jesus followers, and reminds us today, that as we tell our stories to others and as we engage in divine communication (prayer), it opens the door for wholeness and healing.

Telling your story to someone will not fix all your problems and it may not bring total wholeness to your life, but it will open the door.

It will plant seeds of wholeness, healing and love where once trees of shame grew.

Within the next seven days purposely and intentionally tell your whole story to someone.

It will take courage, and all sorts of fears will try to get you not to do it, but believe me, it will be worth it.

Tell your whole story to a clergy person, to a family member, a friend, a loved one, or you might even have the courage to pull a Forrest Gump, and tell your story to a complete stranger sitting on a park bench while you eat your way through a box of chocolates.

You are not alone.

You are unconditionally, radically and scandalously loved.

And your story is worth telling.

I leave you with this quote from noted author and speaker Dr. Brene Brown,

“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

*James 5:16 MSG

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Shame & The Christian Church


Shame & The Christian Church


It has been one year and change since I  have blogged and boy has my life changed. I am no longer in relationships that I was once in. I am no longer in the career that I had spent the last ten years in. I am now living in a different community, I own less, and I find myself expressing my faith in a different way.

Despite some very hard challenges, I find myself at age thirty four probably living authentically for the very first time in my life.

For years I have allowed all different types of pressures to keep me from being “real”, from being the person who I am, and who the Creator created me to be.

As I allow for authenticity in my life, I realize that there are things in my life, in my soul, in my heart, in the inner parts of my being that are very painful, that have left some deep scars and that I would rather leave unexposed.

Let me pause and ask you (dear reader) a question, “Do you have something in your life that causes you shame? Do you have a story, an experience, a secret that if posted on Facebook or Twitter would drive you into a shame spiral and make you not want to leave your house or answer your phone for a while?”

Of course I know the answer, the answer of course is “Yes, I do”.

We all do.

Over the years I have listened to some folks stories and at the end I can only ask the question, “How are you functioning?”

I have been a Christian for twenty three years, I have been involved in some sort of Christian ministry for seventeen and I have served as a church minister for over a decade and if there is an area where as a faith community we have failed I believe it is in this area of shame.

There is something I have to just make transparent here;

Shame has been used as a tool.

Shame has been used as a tool on probably more than one person reading this in the context of a Christian Church or from the mouth of a misguided preacher in some sort of attempt of spiritual abuse or manipulation.

I am sorry if you can relate to shame being used in a church context.

Author, scholar and noted public speaker Dr. Brene Brown has said this on the subject of shame, “Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives; secrecy, silence and judgement.”

Secrecy.

Silence.

Judgement.

In my over twenty years in the Christian Church I have found these three things to be growing in abundance. As I take an objective view of my personal life I see these things growing or taking root at during different times and seasons.

“Let’s not talk about that…” Secrecy.

“Don’t talk about that…” Silence.

“Because you talked about that, I am now viewing you differently…” Judgement.

It is so much easier to not be authentic, it is so much easier not to deal with the things that hurt, and it is certainly much easier not to talk.

The problem with shame is that shame is a cancer.

If not dealt with, it will grow, and grow, and destroy more of your heart, and take control of your mind and soul, until it cripples you completely.

Shame is a thief.

And where the Christian Church has failed in its efforts, the Savior of the Christian Church has not.

Many years ago the Savior found himself dealing with a person who probably had some shame issues, and after shielding her from the religious leaders of the day, Jesus looked at her and said “Neither do I condemn you…”

Jesus didn’t tell her, “Why don’t you keep your hurts and pains a secret”.

Jesus didn’t tell her, “It’s probably better if you don’t talk about your experience”.

Jesus didn’t pick up a stone to throw at her in judgement.

Shame will convince you that because you are flawed, you are no longer acceptable. You are no longer acceptable to have healthy relationships. You are no longer acceptable to thrive within a faith community, and you are certainly not acceptable to God.

But the person who exists as grace personified says “even though you are flawed, you are cherished”.

There is a thought that exists that says “Because you have hidden shame, you are a second rate person of faith. If only you had true faith, than your shame issues would go away.”

This idea is rooted in hell.

The true thought is “You have hidden shame, you are like every other person sitting around you and faith tells us that although we deal with shame, we are cherished, God is with us and there is a process of healing that is available to us”.

In all of our efforts of trying to hide our shame, the voice of the Savior is quietly still saying to us “Neither do I condemn you…”

Moving forward in my journey I hope to never use the tool of shame again, and my prayer and hope for those around me in my community of faith, especially its leaders, is that they too would retire shame for good.

Even after following the teachings of Jesus for two thousand years, we still have much to learn.

I am sorry you went through what you did, I really am.

Please know that you are not alone and that you are loved, unconditionally and radically.

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Idols


“David Powlison writes:

… that most basic question which God poses to each human heart: “Has something or someone besides Jesus the Christ taken title to your heart’s functional trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear and delight? Questions . . . bring some of people’s idol systems to the surface. ‘To who or what do you look for life-sustaining stability, security and acceptance? . . . What do you really want and expect [out of life]? What would [really] make you happy? What would make you an acceptable person? Where do you look for power and success?’ These questions or similar ones tease out whether we serve God or idols, whether we look for salvation from Christ or from false saviors.”

Do we really have faith in God or do we place our hope in our idols?

Are we loyal to anything more than Jesus?

Is our faith reflected in our charity?

MTM

 

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John Calvin on evangelism


“It ought to be the great object of our daily wishes, that God would collect churches for Himself from all the countries of the earth, that He would enlarge their numbers, enrich them with gifts and establish a legitimate order among them.”     –   John Calvin

 

One of the most common charges raised against those who practice Calvinism or Reformed Theology is that it is not conducive to fueling a long term passion for missions and evangelism. Views of John Calvin’s attitudes towards outreach have ranged from hearty on the positive side to opposition on the negative side. Some go so far as to say that he is the father of the missionary movement.

To get Calvin’s views on evangelism correct, we must to look to and understand what Calvin wrote on the subject. Most of his views can found in Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Here is a list of six reasons for evangelism according to John Calvin;

1) God commands us to do so.

“We should remember that the gospel is preached not only by the command of Christ but by His urging and leading.”

2) We want to glorify God.

“True Christians yearn to extend God’s truth every where so that God may be more glorified.”

3) We want to please God.

“It is a sacrifice well pleasing to God to advance the spread of the Gospel.”

4) We have a duty to God.

“It is very just that we should labor to further the progress of gospel.”

5) We have a duty to fellow sinners.

“Our compassion should be intensified by knowing that God cannot be sincerely called upon by others than those to whom, through the preaching of the gospel, His kindness has been known.”

6) We are grateful to God.

“We owe it to God to strive for the salvation of others.”

May the Lord turn our hearts towards the spreading of the Gospel

+MTM

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On the Puritan family


“A holy family is a place of comfort, a church of God…Oh that God would stir up the hearts of people thus to make their families as little churches, that it might not be in the power of rulers or pastors that are bad to extinguish religion, or banish godliness from the land.” -Richard Baxter

 

The Christian’s relationship with his family is inseparable from personal sanctification, according to the Puritans. The Scriptures set for the ways in which we are to live righteously, and since the Bible takes great pains to tech how parents and children should relate to one another, these relationships are an index of sanctification. So it is of primary importance that Christians recognize that holiness begins at home and then extends to all of life.

Puritan pastors spent much time teaching fathers how to exercise spiritual leadership in the home. They also advised Christian mothers of their role in the biblical pattern, and they taught children to show proper respect for parents in service to God. In this family emphasis, they aimed to follow only the Bible, for, as they said, the Bible presents the family as the fundamental unit of human history.

Although much of the writing about Puritan ideas of child-rearing seems familiar with us, some of their ideas were revolutionary at the time. Here are just a few of their contributions that promoted biblical child rearing:

  • Child-rearing begins at conception: Prospective parents had two major tasks before a child was born. First, they were to pray daily for the salvation of their child, since the child was conceived in sin. They also were to pray daily for the protection of both mother and child.
  • Mothers have the major role in caring for newborns: The Puritans stressed that a mother’s responsibilities included breastfeeding, which ought not to be delegated to a midwife or nanny.
  • Baptizing infants is part of parents’ covenant obligation to God: Puritan child rearing was rooted in the conviction that children belonged to the covenant God makes with Believers, evident in baptism, which, being a sacrament, is a visible sign and seal of God’s invisible grace.
  • Children must be trained early in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: The salvation and godliness of children is the main purpose of their education.
  • Family worship is the most powerful means for child-rearing: Puritan families gathered for worship once or twice a day.

[Taken from Living for God’s glory: An Intro to Calvinism by Joel Beeke pages 333-340]

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