— Friday, February 1st, 2013 —
New York City’s iconic former Mayor Ed Koch died early this morning from congestive heart failure. Many things came to mind as I thought about the ebullient Jewish politician, who described himself as a “liberal with sanity.” But one anecdote sticks out, and even though I haven’t read the account since I was a high school senior. That story, recalled from Koch’s memory, is the tale of the pro-life activist who sent the pro-choice politician flowers.
Koch discussed his abortion position in a fascinating co-written book on faith and public life with John Cardinal O’Connor. As a man who likes a good title, this one works for me: “His Eminence and Hizzoner: A Candid Exchange.” In the book, Koch described his commitment to legal abortion, using all the standard arguments. He commented on the “shrill” tactics of some pro-lifers in marches and demonstrations.
But he took a very different tone when he described one prominent right-to-life activist: a nurse named Jean Head.
— Friday, February 1st, 2013 —
A couple of weeks ago marked the 45th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s performance at Folsom Prison. In commemoration of this concert at the California prison the BBC ran an interesting article that connected Cash to prison reform.
Johnny Cash and then later the late Chuck Colson changed the way many Christians thought about prisons and prisoners. They didn’t idealize prisoners, the way some social progressives did, and they didn’t downplay criminal justice. But they called us to think anew about what Jesus meant when he said “I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt. 25:36).
By way of joining in the remembrance of Cash’s historic performance, I thought we’d listen this week to both “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Mercy Seat.” As we listen, let’s think afresh about what it means for us as Christians to join Jesus in his mission of reaching out to the guilty and the hardened with the news that is intended to set the captive free.
— Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 —
As today marks the fortieth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, most Christians recognize, and rightly so, the loss of millions of unborn human lives. What we often forget is the second casualty of an abortion culture: the consciences of countless men and women.
Too often, pastors and church leaders assume that, when talking about abortion, their invisible debating partner is the “pro-choice” television commentator or politician. Not so. Many of the people endangered by the abortion culture aren’t even pro-choice.
— Sunday, January 20th, 2013 —
January 22 2013 is the fortieth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. But, on a much happier note, it’s also the 100th birthday of the late evangelical theologian Carl F.H. Henry. I think the two are related. If 21st century Christians are to love our vulnerable neighbors, including women in crisis and unborn babies, we could do worse than to listen to some things taught to us by this centenarian, now in heaven. Keep Reading…
— Thursday, January 17th, 2013 —
One of my earliest memories is of a substitute Sunday school teacher chastening me for putting a coin in my mouth. “That’s filthy,” she said. “Why, you don’t know if a colored man might have held that.” It might just be my imagination playing tricks on me, but it seems as though she immediately followed this up with, “Alright children, let’s sing ‘Jesus Loves the Little Children, All the Children of the World.’”
Now, this lady probably didn’t consciously think of herself as a white supremacist. She almost certainly didn’t think of herself as subversive of the gospel itself. She never thought about the hypocrisy of holding the two contradictory worldviews together in her mind. She probably didn’t see how her dehumanizing of African-Americans was a twisted form of Darwinism rather than biblical Christianity.
She wasn’t alone. Keep Reading…
— Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 —
As we approach next week’s fortieth anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, churches in my tradition will observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. I hate that we have to. Let me explain why.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a joy to preach the whole counsel of God. And I love the truth of human dignity and the image of God in all persons. But it makes me sad.
I don’t hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I think it, somehow, unbiblical. No, indeed. The entire canon throbs with God’s commitment to the fatherless and to the widows, his wrath at the shedding of innocent blood. Keep Reading…
— Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 —
Most Christians don’t look to Chris Rock for marriage advice, and that’s probably a good thing. The comedian is known, after all, for his sexually-explicit, profanity-laced humor, which is geared to shock more than to enlighten. Even so, I think, at least on one point, he has something we should hear.
In the January 2013 issue of Vanity Fair, Rock is interviewed by fellow comedian (and the magazine’s guest editor of the issue) Judd Apatow about how his comedy has changed over the years. Apatow asked Rock whether having a wife and kids alters his comedy, since Rock is no longer a young single man anymore, but a guy with family responsibilities moving toward middle age.
Rock said his family transformed his comedic instincts, “but only in the best way” since his life as husband and father gives him “weight and authority” and makes him “closer to the audience because the audience is married and has kids.” But, most interestingly, Rock declares that now that he is married he knows more about women than do single men. Keep Reading…
— Thursday, January 10th, 2013 —
President Obama kicked up some controversy by announcing that evangelical pastor Louie Giglio would be praying at the inauguration. Sexual liberationist groups quickly identified Giglio, as they did Rick Warren under similar circumstances in 2009, as “anti-gay.” After a couple of days of firestorm from the Left, Giglio announced this morning that he would withdraw.
Here’s why this matters. The statement Giglio made that was so controversial is essentially a near-direct quotation from the Christian Scriptures. Unrepentant homosexuals, Giglio said (as with unrepentant sinners of all kinds) “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” That’s 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Giglio said, “it’s not easy to change, but it is possible to change.” The Bible says God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30), the same gospel, Giglio says, “that I say to you and that you would say to me.”
— Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 —
This week’s TIME magazine cover story announces that, forty years after Roe, the pro-life side is winning the abortion debate. I say, “Not so fast.”
On the one hand, yes, as the article points out, there have been some real gains in protections for the unborn in some important arenas. And public polling data does demonstrate, rather consistently, that younger people are more willing to identify themselves as being “pro-life” than are their mothers’ generation. This is due partly to sonogram and other technologies that make it harder and harder to maintain that the “fetus” is a clump of impersonal tissue. Whenever evangelical Christians see polls like this, we tend to see some triumphalist rhetoric about how “we’re winning.”
I think it’s more complicated than that.
— Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 —
Christians talk a lot about premarital sex. And I think that’s a mistake. I don’t think it’s a mistake because the issue is unimportant but because the grammar is skewed. The word “fornication” is almost gone from contemporary Christian speech. It sounds creepy and antiquated. Instead, we talk about “abstinence” and “premarital sex.”
In the most recent issue of Touchstone magazine, I argue that the loss of the words “fornicate” and “fornication” implicitly cedes the moral imagination to the sexual revolutionaries because the words “fornication” and “premarital sex” aren’t interchangeable.
Fornication isn’t merely “premarital.” Premarital is the language of timing, and with it we infer that this is simply the marital act misfired at the wrong time. But fornication is, both spiritually and typologically, a different sort of act from the marital act. That’s why the consequences are so dire.