Dozens of people are dead in the Northeast from floods and destruction caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. A toddler was among the victims.
In other news, search-and-rescue efforts continued yesterday for five military personnel who went missing Tuesday when a US Navy helicopter crashed off the coast of San Diego. One sailor was pulled from the ocean. And police have been searching this week for a woman who allegedly dumped a bag of suspected human remains in a Virginia store dumpster.
In an article on a Texas law restricting abortion, why am I beginning with these stories?
You could say that I’m “burying the lede,” which refers to “hiding the most important and relevant pieces of a story within other distracting information.”
But I’m actually not.
Abortion is the leading cause of death in the US
Our media focuses intensely and understandably on the victims of storms, military tragedies, and alleged crimes. However, since Hurricane Ida swept ashore in Louisiana six days ago, 14,172 babies have been aborted in the US (multiplying the rate of 2,362 per day in the US times six).
This works out to 862,130 abortions per year in the US, making abortion by far the leading cause of death in our country. (Heart disease ranks second, at 659,041, followed by cancer at 599,601.)
Here’s a related fact: the CDC reports that over 21,000 infants died in the US in 2018. This works out to fifty-seven per day, which is obviously tragic. But forty-one times more babies die from abortion each day than from all other causes combined.
If 2,362 babies were to die today from any cause other than abortion, Americans would be appropriately appalled and demand that our elected officials do something to end such a tragedy.
In Texas, with regard to abortion, they have.
What a preborn baby cannot say
Senate Bill 8 was signed by Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last May. The law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can occur as early as six weeks after conception.
As a result, the law would block approximately 85 percent of abortions in Texas. According to Texas Health and Human Services data, 53,000 abortions were performed in the state last year. This means Senate Bill 8 could save 45,000 preborn babies a year.
Texas abortion providers asked the US Supreme Court to freeze the law. However, in a five-to-four vote, the Court formally denied this request late Wednesday night.
The majority stressed that their ruling did not constitute a conclusion about the constitutionality of the law or limit other challenges to it. Rather, they cited “complex” and “novel” procedural questions that led to their decision. Chief Justice Roberts joined the three liberal justices in dissent.
Protests have already begun. For example, President Biden announced yesterday that he had directed his Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department to launch a “whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi also announced that the House of Representatives would vote later this month on a bill that would “enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America.”
In protests against the Texas law and other pro-life legislation, I have often seen people carrying signs declaring, “My body, my choice.”
Of course, a preborn baby cannot say the same.
A case study for effective cultural engagement
I believe passionately that life is sacred from conception to natural death. (For my arguments based on Scripture, reason, history, and culture, see my paper, “What does the Bible say about abortion?“) As a result, I am deeply grateful for Senate Bill 8 and those who brought it into law.
But I want to do more than report this historic news: I’d like us to make it a case study for effective cultural engagement.
Some conservative Christians have become convinced that since our secularized culture has degenerated so far from biblical morality, continued efforts to make a difference are fruitless. We’re wasting our time trying to change society, we’re told. Better to focus all our attention on protecting religious liberty from its enemies while protecting future generations from the rampant sexualization and secularization of our day.
Undoubtedly, we need to do all we can on both fronts. I praise God for organizations such as First Liberty, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and others who are defending religious freedom from its enemies. And I completely agree that we should not take for granted our children and grandchildren—many are surrounded each day by radical secularism and must be discipled strategically and effectively in biblical truth and worldview.
But Senate Bill 8 shows that we can do more. While protecting our families and defending our rights from those seeking to discriminate against Christians, we can also engage our secular culture in ways that make a dramatic difference.
Why this bill is different
In the decades since Roe v. Wade tragically legalized abortion, many have abandoned hope that it would ever be overturned. Numerous legal challenges have been attempted, but few have been sustained or made a tangible difference. When abortion advocates have filed suit against pro-life supporters, they have often won the day.
However, the Texas law we’re discussing is different from other attempts. Instead of having the government enforce the law, the bill authorizes private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. This person would not have to be connected to a provider or someone who had an abortion to sue.
Consequently, there is no state official enforcing the law, which means there is no one for abortion providers to sue. This does not mean that Senate Bill 8 will not continue to face legal challenges, as we noted above. But it does show that this unique feature is important to its success thus far.
Creativity is vital to cultural transformation. For example, a Chicago coffee shop owner who experienced healing from horrific trauma through therapy is using the proceeds from his sales to fund free therapy sessions for people in need. And the IRS caught an alleged dark web drug dealer by tricking him into sending more than $180,000 in cash to the agency in exchange for cryptocurrencies.
Surprising examples of God’s surprising ways
Such examples of surprising but effective strategies are found throughout Scripture.
Joseph interprets his fellow prisoners’ dreams, the Egyptian Pharaoh hears of him, and Joseph interprets the ruler’s dreams, saves the nation from famine, provides for his family, and preserves the Jewish people through whom the Messiah would come.
God calls Moses, a fugitive from Egyptian justice, to lead his people out of Egyptian slavery. He uses the Red Sea to destroy the Egyptian army. He destroys the fortified city of Jericho after his people march around its walls. He elevates an unknown shepherd to be king of Israel. He saves his servants in Babylon from a fiery furnace and a lions’ den.
Jesus calls not rabbis or priests in Jerusalem but fishermen in Galilee to lead his movement. He restores a thrice-failed apostle and uses him to preach a Pentecost sermon that brings thousands to faith. He chooses a Jewish Pharisee to be his apostle to the Gentiles. He gives his Revelation to a prisoner on an island of exile.
When you think about it, it’s hard to find biblical examples that are not surprising and even shocking.
Here’s the point: if we will be led by the Spirit of God, we will fulfill the purposes of God in the power of God to the glory of God. He has creative plans for us we cannot imagine: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT).
Our sovereign God will use us to engage and transform our culture for his glory and our good if we will trust him and follow his Spirit.
An evangelist magician makes the AGT finals
A putter used by Tiger Woods in 2002 sold at auction last Sunday for $393,300. It is believed to be the most expensive golf club ever sold. I can buy a similar putter for $399.99 today, but no one will consider it to be more collectible because it was mine. The putter sold at auction was valuable not because of what it was but because of whose it was.
If Jesus is your Lord, you are the child of God (John 1:12). This is your unchanging identity, a fact no power in this world can change. In addition, you are made by God for a purpose that is distinctively yours. Your spiritual gifts, abilities, education, experience, and opportunities combine in ways that are unique to you.
For example, Christianity Today recently interviewed Shoaib Ebadi, the founder of SAT-7, a Christian ministry that began broadcasting in Iran in 2002 and is now one of the few ways to reach people in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Ebadi was born in Afghanistan but became a Christian in 1999 as a refugee in Pakistan. Today he heads a company producing Christian media in various languages around the world. His experiences and capacities have prepared him uniquely for this moment in history.
A magician named Dustin Tavella has advanced to the finals of America’s Got Talent. He is a Christian who uses magic for evangelism: “We want to be a bridge between the church and the not-church—to get the people not in church into the church, and to get the people in the church, outside of the walls.” His unique skills have garnered a national platform few could have imagined a few weeks ago.
Stefen Wisniewski, an NFL kicker who won Super Bowls with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs, is retiring to become a pastor. He explains: “The absolute best part of my life is my relationship with Jesus Christ, and I can’t imagine a better full-time job than teaching people the Bible and sharing the love of Christ with others.” His former career is giving him a platform for his next career.
David Klingler made the cover of Sports Illustrated as a quarterback at the University of Houston and played several years in the NFL. As the new football season begins, the current edition of Texas Monthly is profiling Klingler—not for his athletic exploits, but because he is now an Old Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. What he did makes what he does more appealing to the larger culture.
What Fred Rogers said at Dartmouth
If you and I will abide in Jesus, he assures us that we will bear “much fruit” (John 15:5). That’s because the love that changes hearts and lives will flow through us to touch those we are called to influence. Such love is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22), not a product of human effort.
Frederick Buechner observed: “Love is not really one of man’s powers. Man cannot achieve love, generate love, wield love, as he does his powers of destruction and creation. When I love someone, it is not something that I have achieved, but something that is happening through me, something that is happening to me as well as to him.”
Are you so yielded to God’s Spirit that God’s love is “happening” through you?
David testified: “God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes” (2 Samuel 22:25 MSG). Have you “opened the book of your heart” to your Father today? Can he write the next chapter of your story in any way he chooses?
Asked differently: Is there a place he cannot lead you? A task he cannot assign you? A person you won’t forgive? Someone from whom you won’t seek forgiveness? A person with whom you won’t share your faith?
In his 2002 commencement address at Dartmouth, Fred Rogers concluded: “When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see, or hear, or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate. Peace that rises triumphant over war. And justice that proves more powerful than greed.
“So, in all that you do in all of your life, I wish you the strength and the grace to make those choices which will allow you and your neighbor to become the best of whoever you are.”
Will you ask God for such strength and grace right now?