July 1, 1998
"The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence...And God said to Noah, 'The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them...'" (Genesis 6:11, 13 NKJB)
It seems to take a lot to shake or sicken us in this violence-saturated culture, but the appalling account of a black man, James Byrd, of Jasper, Texas, being tied feet-first to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to his death did so. Intensifying our reaction was that in the brutal process the victim's head and arms were dismembered, and left scattered. People everywhere condemned the inhuman act, calling for the three men charged to receive the fullest punishment under law.
Other recent violence has also shaken us, notably school shootings where youngsters have gunned down classmates and teachers in communities like Springfield, Oregon; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Pearl, Mississippi; West Paducah, Kentucky, and other places.
We shake our heads, asking "What is happening to us?"
"These are more than isolated incidents," the President said, speaking of the school shootings. "They are symbols of a changing culture that desensitizes our children to violence." He noted the influence of video games, movies and TV in introducing children to violence at a very early age.
Connecting our "changing culture" to "violence" is very right - our changing culture has become an environment of violence. However the roots of our changing culture go much deeper than video games, movies or TV. We are experiencing something much, much more fundamental.
We are reaping the consequences of our devaluation of human life.
Or more to the point, we are seeing the effect of not instructing our children on a wonderful subject of what, historically, goes to the very heart of who we are as a society: The worth of every human life!
Our permissive age has avoided instructing our children on the intrinsic value of human life. And one reason is that it believes in abortion, in killing human life in the womb. You see, a child who has been taught the value of human life has difficulty squaring that position with such a procedure. He or she will ask questions, sometimes tough questions - try explaining to such a child the morality of why an unborn baby can be killed for any reason the expectant woman decides! Some of our children wonder why they were not killed.
Abortion is of course the defining manifestation of our devaluation of human life. But sadly we are in denial of this. We're trying to have it both ways: perpetuate violence on the one hand, and reap joyous, fruitful living on the other. Our world is deadly proof that it doesn't work that way.
Our toleration of partial-birth abortion is an example of our double-mindedness. You know the procedure: An unborn baby is pulled feet-first from the womb until only part of his or her head remains in the mother's body-the baby is 7/8th born; then scissors are plunged into the base of the skull, a hole is reamed for a tube, and the brains are suctioned out?
There are several thousand such abortions each year. President Clinton has vetoed a ban on this inhumane procedure twice, and he bears enormous accountability with our society for allowing this barbaric practice to continue. Is this not desensitizing to our children-to all of us?
However, compare a partial birth abortion with the grievous violence against James Byrd in Jasper, Texas.
Then quietly ask: What is the moral difference in the two killings?
No discussion of anything else, like rights, pro-choice and the other non-issues; only the question, What is the moral difference in the two killings?
Let's understand that one reason why at least some of the body of the baby in a partial-birth abortion must be kept in the womb-in this case just a few inches of the head-is because if his or her body were completely out and then the brains were sucked out, it would not be abortion, it would be homicide, like the killing of Mr. Byrd.
How do we explain this to our children?
Actually our children are figuring it out, and realize we are hypocrites.
What will it take for us to discern that we cannot devalue human life as we are doing, and then find ourselves standing tall as a noble society, highly principled on the worth and dignity of human life?
What will it take for us to fathom that killing our unborn is not a mark of societal progress, but a signpost of societal degeneracy?
Will it take increased judgment?
Judgment is what we do face. Our time is like the days of Noah: filled with violence. And, like them we face judgment, judgment of our own making-we will bring down on our own head the things we have done. (Ezekiel 22:31 NIV) Again, of this we are in denial.
There is one bright spot, one place of hope: Repentance. If we are shaken, and sobered, by all that is happening as we see the consequences of our violence, and this leads to our repentance and our turning to our Lord, this will be good.
Such repentance is our only real hope.
There are two things that we must hear from our pulpits: The INTRINSIC VALUE OF EACH HUMAN LIFE, made in the image of God.
Let us pray together: Our Father we thank you
that you are a loving yet just Lord. May we always remember that you
are never mocked, that we reap what we sow. Today we are sowing
violence by killing our unborn, we sow violence even by how we are
entertained; and we are seeing our children kill each other. Oh our
gracious Lord, we pray that the pulpits of our land will once again
teach us the value of life made in your image, and will call us to
repentance. May the happy consequence be that our beloved land again
experiences a mighty spiritual awakening.
John Anderson has been in ministry over 34 years, including 24 years serving three churches. Since 1988 he and his wife, Esther, have been in traveling ministry across the world. Recently they have based their CRY OF THE INNOCENTS MINISTRY near Washington, D.C. John is editor of Pastor's Alert, a publication of The Alliance for Revival and Reformation, from which this article is taken. He is author of two books, CRY OF THE INNOCENTS and THE CRY OF COMPASSION.