by Gary Bergel
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born
I set you apart…” —Jeremiah 1:5
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.” —Ephesians 2:10
Andrea Bocelli, one of the best-known operatic singers in the world today, sat down at the piano during a charity performance for Haiti on June 1, 2010 and started telling a “little story.” He shared how a young pregnant woman went into the hospital with appendicitis. Doctors put ice on her stomach, and later suggested she have an abortion, since they believed the baby would be born with some disability. “But the young brave wife decided not to abort, and the child was born,” Bocelli recounted, sitting at the piano. “That woman was my mother, and I was that child.”
Bocelli then publically thanked his mother for not ending his life. “Maybe I’m partisan, but I can say it was the right choice,” the singer said. “I hope this could encourage any mothers who sometimes find themselves in difficult situations, in those moments when life is complicated, but want to save the life of their baby.”
Bocelli was born partially blind with congenital glaucoma. When he was still a boy he lost his sight completely. Yet, at 53, he has sold more than 70 million records.
Attorney Rebeccca Kiessling travels internationally and tells her story of how, though adopted as an infant, at 18 she learned that she was conceived out of a brutal assault at knife-point by a serial rapist. After meeting her birth mother she discovered that she had barely escaped death at the hands of illegal back-alley abortionists. Many people tell Kiessling that she was lucky. “I wasn’t lucky; I was protected,” she replies.
Rebecca reports encountering sincere individuals who believe that abortion is the only appropriate solution in every case of rape. At times she is accused of being “pro-rape.” Some have even looked her in the eye and said they believe she should have been aborted. “I remember feeling like garbage because of people who would say my life was like garbage—that I was disposable,” Kiessling states.
Rebecca Kiessling expresses deep gratitude for her life and walks in her calling encouraging society to value and protect human life and to help women avoid debilitating and destructive lifestyles and choices. Who can deny that she was protected for purpose?
Matthew Law, 17, lives near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. During a bus trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in a second March for Life, he found out for the first time that he was nearly aborted. Sitting next to his adoptive mother who went with him on the trip, Christine Law sensed it was time for her to share how she had reached out to his biological mother, a woman who had lived on the streets and was sexually active. Christine had counseled her and tried to persuade her to carry Matthew to term and to let her adopt him.
But, at six months in her pregnancy, Matthew’s biological mother went to an abortion clinic that, unbeknownst to her, did not perform late-term abortions. A nurse telephoned Christine who Matthew’s biological mother had listed as an emergency contact. It was during that phone conversation that Matthew’s birth mother decided to forgo the abortion.
“When I found out that I was a baby saved from abortion, I was amazed by the power of God,” Matthew states. “My life has come full circle in a way, because now, here I am fighting to save lives the way my mother fought to save mine.” As a result of being born prematurely with resultant medical issues, Matthew’s birth mother also came near death while delivering him. Mathew’s birth mother recounts that her own mother was told that she would be brain damaged and that she should be left at the hospital to die. The anguished mother instead took her struggling premature baby home.
Matthew Law, 17, has founded a Teens4Life chapter in Baton Rouge and was recently presented with a youth award “for his Christian leadership and witnessing of gospel values.” “I want people to know that we are survivors and that our lives mean something—something powerful in the sight of God,” Matthew declares.
In combing through Internet trails of comments posted with accounts of abortion and rape survivors, one finds angry notes claiming that “pro-lifers” only like talking about “famous” people, like Bocelli. A fan of another popular singer, Josh Groban, was quick to respond, “Not so!” He shared that Groban’s gifted but little-known vocal trainer, David Romano, has adopted a son who is a rape survivor. “Almost famous, huh?” Groban’s fan quipped. He went on to say that he knows the baby’s birth mother and that another friend’s fiancé is a rape-conceived survivor, a man now defending our nation as a U.S. Marine. God’s prevenient grace truly works in marvelous and mysterious ways.
These snapshots are only a few out of multitudes that could be presented as living evidence that unborn human beings are precious in the eyes of God. All are of innate worth and carry profound potential. While called and set apart to differing callings and stations of life, all are of equal value as “image-bearers.” (Genesis 1:26)
Ultimately, every child conceived is a potential “witness” to God and to the power of His love, mercy and Redemption.
The earth and creation were intended as the matrix and grand stage for the playing out of His unfolding plan of Redemption—His-story. Even in a fallen state, subjected to corruption and death by the disobedience and sin of man (Genesis 2:17, 3:17-19), the creation was designed to sustain, nourish, shelter and protect, satisfy and enable the human family to flourish—to experience redemption and the Shalom of God in life, relationships and enterprise. This was articulated by the apostle Paul in Athens:
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation [ethnos] of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would see him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have out being. As some of your own [Greek] poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:24-28)
It was carried forth by early church fathers, such as “golden-mouthed” John Chrysostom (347-407):
“The creation is beautiful and harmonious, and God has made it all just for your sake. He has made it beautiful, grand, varied, rich. He has made it capable of satisfying all your needs, to nourish your body and also to develop the life of your soul by leading it towards the knowledge of himself—all this, for your sake.”
All for the sake of each human’s destiny with God! All, really, for the original intent behind the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” phrase embedded in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In 1772, four years before the Declaration was formulated and signed, Samuel Adams penned a short piece entitled “Rights of the Colonists as Men.” It included: “Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly to liberty; Thirdly, to property…. As neither reason requires nor religion permits the contrary, every man … has a right peaceably and quietly to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience.”
The “dictates of conscience” held by a person, hopefully informed by scripture and the gospel of Christ, were deemed to be a citizen’s most sacred “property.” It was widely assumed that under the protection of the state, and in an atmosphere of liberty, an individual’s dictates of conscience would work to draw them into revelation, redemption and relationship with God. The Pilgrims, Puritans and most colonial Christians understood that it was in knowing and serving God that they would know true “happiness.” All are to be afforded the freedom to seek their destiny and callings in Christ—the “good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV) Walking out God-appointed destiny is the greatest happiness possible this side of eternity.
Unlike the custom in Europe, no one sect of Christianity, no one form of worship, was to be instituted as a state church in the Colonies. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution put additional restraints on the state from establishing any one expression of religion or sect and from impeding the “free exercise of religion.” Every individual, church and community is free to passionately pursue God.America’s eighteenth century founders were sermonized from the Old and New Testaments, steeped in the gospel of Christ, and learned in world history, Greek philosophy and systems of law of government. Their “grand experiment” in establishing our Republic was grounded in a profound understanding and respect for life—they were authentically pro-life!
Acting on Aristotle’s working belief that “the state comes into existence that man may live,” Thomas Jefferson went on to declare that “the care of human life and not its destruction … is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” Government, to be legitimate and good and just, must protect the unborn.
The earliest drafts of the Declaration of Independence show that Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, authored in the abolishment of slavery. Others in the Continental Congress, after intense debate and arguments that abolition needed to be “delayed,” unfortunately crossed out Jefferson’s intent.
In 1968 Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. She has astutely observed that, “When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom profit that loses.” This corrupt dichotomy was at work in our founding and is at the core of our battle with today’s dirty coal utilities over the emission of mercury and other toxins harming the unborn, polluting our air and water, and undermining the health of families and communities.
My wife and I recently moved near Charles Town, West Virginia. Besides grossly polluted waterways, including the beautiful Shenandoah River, our coal-mining state if rife with legal battles concerning mine deaths and safety, wanton mountain top coal removal, and the toxic effect of coal sludge which has contaminated water supplies and is causing serious illness in multitudes of children and adults.
With the recent push toward releasing pockets of natural gas from shale through a complex process called “fracking,” the drinking water of entire counties and communities is are now threatened from “the toxic brew of chemicals” used under high pressure (compounds which the natural gas executives are reluctant to identify). Why?
Fracking a single well, sometimes miles-deep, takes an average of two million gallons of water a day, drawn from local aquifers. Roughly half of the fracking water comes back up the well, rife with chemicals and sometimes carrying traces of radiation. Morgantown and many other West Virginia cities, towns and jurisdictions are urgently petitioning the courts to help them protect their wells and water reserves. Some of these petitions are coming before biased judges and are being dismissed.
Literally, at this stage in the push for quick supplies of natural gas, only God knows how great the risk really is, and how many unborn and living children and adults are in jeopardy. All too often, the mining industries have deemed the poor of Appalachia to be expendable.
Each day the news corroborates that corrupt government, agencies, institutions, companies and yes, a corrupted Christianity, are preventing the protection of the unborn from prevailing. The matter of protecting the unborn, in all ways possible, must be of priority concern to all professing Christians. Why?
Because the unborn not only represent the continuance of the human race, they represent, and in actuality are, God’s future in the earth—they are His “offspring.” There is “one God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4:6; Job 31:15) “Has the Lord not made [husband and wife] one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.” (Malachi 2:15) God is ever seeking His own heirloom “holy seed.”
Abortion-on-demand has been legal in the U.S. since January, 1973—almost 40 years, or about a generation. The rate of terminating the unborn remains steady at about one every thirty seconds, some 4,000 a day, or one out of every four children conceived. Picture a recent graduating class with every fourth young graduate missing.
Each year in the U.S. only three-fourths of God’s potential redemptive agency, the Church, and only three-fourths of our nation’s potential citizenry and work force escape death in the womb. It is important to seriously consider the strategic impact of this “rip-off.” It is time to reflect and repent as we ponder how many potential pastors, evangelists, entrepreneurs, engineers, statesmen, civic leaders, teachers, artists, doctors, scientists, inventors, problem-solvers, and godly mothers and fathers have been lost.
Over 40 million intentional abortions have been recorded since 1973. In truth, we have extinguished one-fourth of an emerging generation. We have grossly depleted their full potential, their generation’s “pool of genius,” as some of our Founders and various historians have termed it. How could the future of the church and of the nation not be affected?
Should we really wonder why so many of the next generation are anxious, confused and full of angst? Or why so many of all ages are now deeply troubled and depressed? We have willfully destroyed one-fourth of God’s potential godly offspring. We are ripping God off, practicing injustice, and still naively expecting to feel good and “be blessed.”
Professing ourselves to be wise, we have become foolish at heart. Emptiness and futility, a payback for idolatrous living, now drives and drains us. The early church father, Clement of Alexandria (died c. 215), warned the early followers of Christ against luxurious Greco-Roman lifestyles and abortion. “Our luxury has deranged us,” he exclaimed as he exhorted his disciples, often struggling against the decadent pagan culture, immorality and injustices of their day. Decadent luxurious living is deranging us today.
With God’s intent for “holy seed” so clear in scripture, and knowing that “to the crooked and devious” God can show Himself “shrewd” (Psalm 18:26), I find myself musing about the following scenario: Might it be that God is replacing the slaughter of millions of innocents via an abortion-for-profit industry, crafted primarily by Anglos, by permitting more than 22 million immigrants of color to enter the land and trouble us? Truth is, a lot of these new immigrants demonstrate a better work ethic and family regard than do many of today’s white children. God always honors meek, industrious, respectful individuals. They will inherit the earth. When you are served fast food, quite often now by a smiling Hispanic or Asian or Arab, realize that you are actually looking into the face of the inheritors, stewards and future governors of these dis-United States.
Not first for our sake, nor for the benefit of our nation, but for the reality of God’s redemptive future in His earth, must we value and protect the unborn. As the earth’s appointed vice regents, we must look out for the investments and future interests of our Sovereign, Christ Jesus, Creator/King.
Yet, an even more compelling reason why the unborn in the womb are sacred and demand our advocacy and protection exists; they reflect or “echo” the reality of the pre-existence of Christ in the triune Godhead.
The gospels and historic Christianity teach that Christ pre-existed before Creation and before his Incarnation as the eternal Logos or Word. In His essential being Jesus Christ never began to be; God the Son existed with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit from eternity. In theological terms, three distinct persons coexistent in One Being, three hypostases in one Ousia. Think of “peach” comprised of peel, flesh and seed, yet all peach; or “egg” being shell, white and yolk, yet all egg.
John presents this doctrine at the beginning of his gospel account and reiterates it near the close in Chapter 17, Jesus’ “farewell address.” Jesus references the glory He had with the Father “before the world was,” and speaks of the Father loving Him “before the foundation of the world.” (John 1:1-3, 17:5,24) The “goings forth” of this Eternal One “are from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2 NKJV)
Jesus angered the Jews as He laid claim to His eternal nature by declaring: “Before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58) As students of the Torah they understood; He was claiming to have existed prior to Abraham. He was claiming to be pre-incarnate, pre-existent, eternal! He was claiming to be “very God.” Their response is recorded, “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him.” (John 8:59)
At the Incarnation, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Jewish Virgin Mary, the eternal Logos or Word “became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) God “stoops” in redeeming love: God the Son enters the time/space earth realm as the Son of God, Messiah. In the words of the Nicene Creed drafted in 325, Christ “for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate.”
“Before you had a being, God loved you. Before your father or mother was born, God loved you: yes, even before the creation of the world, he loved you. And how long before creation has God loved you? Perhaps for a thousand years, or for a thousand ages. It is needless to count years or ages; God has loved you from eternity.” —Alphonsis Ligouri (1696-1787)
For the sake of Christ, the Eternal One, it is time “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly” with our God and with one another. (Micah 6:8)
Glen H. Stassen and David P. Gushee point out in their study, “Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context” (InterVarsity Press, 2003), that “Jesus had a prophetic rather than a legalistic understanding of the content of righteousness. For the prophets, true righteousness consisted of deeds of love, mercy and justice, especially to the most vulnerable.”
The authors note that Jesus said our righteousness is to go beyond the rabbinic ritualistic righteousness prescribed by the Scribes and Pharisees. In his “inaugural address” (Luke 4:18-19), Jesus quotes Isaiah and embraces the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed. In subsequent teachings, Jesus emphasizes that we must expand our circles of love by including strangers and even enemies. Christ repeatedly called his followers to turn from empty, outward forms of self-righteous religiosity “toward an awareness of the inner wellsprings of real moral purity or defilement as they are expressed in behavior to others.”
Please join us in following Jesus of Nazareth and in protecting the unborn, the most vulnerable in our midst today.
Gary Bergel, President Emeritus of Intercessors for America, partners in the Creation Care work of EEN, directs Heritage Harvest International, operates Bergel Art/Media, and teaches at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College. A version of the above was first published by Creation Care Magazine. Gary and his wife Susan reside in Charles Town, WV.