Recently I did something that is rare for me. I turned my social media platform into a soapbox and deluged my long-suffering friends and family with post after post highlighting the atrocities of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia physician who provided illegal late-term abortions and who is now standing trial for the murders of eight people—one woman and seven infants.
Here’s the status I posted just prior to the full-out blitz: FYI: I don't usually get invested in "issues" on FB, but I intend to devote space and attention to promoting the Gosnell trial here, on my twitter feed, and perhaps on my blog for the simple reason that this is not an issue. This is not about where you stand on abortion. This is about the inalienable right to life. This is about a man who psychotically and systematically stole that right, murdering children for decades. This is about the media who won't cover it, and an American conscience that can't be troubled to hear about it.
The reason I chose to do this was because the story had been largely ignored
by the mainstream media; but thanks to the leadership of people like Kirsten Powers
and Mollie Hemingway
, men and women of conscience were leveraging the power of the internet to bring the story to light.
Trust me, that was the easy part.
Now it’s time for us to do something much more difficult. Now that we’ve exposed the horrors that were found in that inner-city clinic, it’s time for us to speak as vocally and as passionately about the healing that is found in Christ. Because the only thing more dangerous than ignoring evil is acting as if evil were stronger than grace.
One of the reasons I normally hesitate to post and write about sensitive issues like abortion is not because I’m afraid of push-back but because I know that for many men and women, abortion is not theoretical. It is not a political issue. It is the shadow that dominates their lives. And when stories like this hit their newsfeeds, that shadow darkens and their silent prisons begin closing in, suffocating them in clouds of shame, sorrow, and brokenness.
If you’ve never cried with a woman as she finally unburdens her greatest secret--if you’ve never been the one holding onto that secret--you may not understand what I’m talking about. I’m talking about an overwhelming sense of shame that can set the stage for a lifetime of brokenness. I’m talking about an event so formative that it can make every setback after it seem like judgment from God. I’m talking about a pain that can make men and women spiral out of control in a desperate search for redemption and healing. I’m talking about the fact that if we’re not careful, we can add to that pain and lock the prison down even more.
You see, when we talk only about the evils of abortion without also talking about the superior grace of Christ, we essentially tell these men and women that what they believe about themselves is true—we tell them that they are beyond redemption. We tell them that their sin is stronger than Christ Himself.
This danger is so great, so likely, that often I’d rather simply avoid the conversation altogether. But that is no longer an option. Over the next few weeks, we will undoubtedly talk a lot about what happened at 3801 Lancaster Avenue; but as we do, we must be careful to talk MORE about the power of Christ’s death to free us from sin and the power of Christ’s resurrection to conquer death. Even the death that we inflict on our own children.
We must not for one minute speak in such a way that leads our brothers and sister to believe that this sin is more powerful, more definitive, more captivating than our beautiful Christ. We must tell them that Christ is stronger and that not only does He have the power to forgive,
He has the power to give back
. We must tell them that He has the power to restore, to bring beauty from ashes, to bring life from death. We must tell them again and again until they believe it.
Yesterday, a friend who has worked with post-abortive women sent me a link to this film
produced by Piedmont Women's Center
in upstate South Carolina. In it, a mother gives testimony to finally finding healing and experiencing the power of grace. And when she did, when she was finally free, she was also finally able to love those same children she had lost. “God said, ‘It’s okay. They’re your children. You can name them, and you can love them now.’”
So my dear friend--my dear brother who flinches every time you hear the word, my dear sister who cannot function for the guilt even these decades later, hear me and hear me well:
Because there is no condemnation in Christ, you are free to love those little ones that you once did not. Because there is nothing more powerful than Christ, He can restore what you lost. Because there is no death that is stronger than Christ—even the gruesome death that reigned in a squalid, inner-city abortion clinic—you can finally find life in Him. Because this is the gospel: Christ does not simply forgive, He restores. And He gives back, He gives back, He gives back.
So we will sing—we will sing for you, dear brothers and sisters, because you cannot yet sing for yourselves—we will sing so all can hear,
This past week, news broke that a Mississippi pediatrician has found a “functional cure” for AIDS. When I first saw it in my Twitter feed late one night, I wasn't sure what to think.
My generation has never known a world without AIDS. The first officially recognized case in the United States occurred in 1980, and it has been a growing part of our consciousness ever since. I remember learning about it at 10 when I watched a made-for-TV movie about Ryan White
, a young teenager who eventually died after he contracted it through a blood transfusion.
But because it is a sexually transmitted disease, AIDS has also been a highly controversial one. For a long time—and even today—those infected with the virus were stigmatized and misunderstood. After all, AIDS is God’s judgment against drug use and sexual promiscuity, right?
A judgment that has often fallen on the heads of millions of innocent victims worldwide.
Because of this, no other health concern has marked my generation like the AIDS epidemic. When we think of AIDS, we don’t associate it with promiscuity alone; instead, we associate it with the 16 million orphans who have lost parents because of it; we associate it with the millions of women who have unknowingly contracted it from faithless husbands; we associate it with the current 34 million cases—of which 3.5 million of are children. We associate it with the 2 million people who will die this year alone. In response, we host benefits to raise both funds and awareness. We wear red ribbons on the first of December, and we buy coffee
in the hope that a few extra cents might just turn the tide.
So last week, when I read that Dr. Hannah Gay of the University of Mississippi Medical Center had successfully treated an infant known to have been born with HIV, I could help but think, “This is the moment we’ve been waiting for.”
And yet, as the details emerged, it got even better. For me, at least, the most surprising part of the story isn’t that someone may have finally found a cure for AIDS, it’s how it happened. For me, the significant thing is the story behind the story
—a story that only a generation steeped in irony can truly appreciate.
The funny thing about us Millennials is that despite hearts of largess toward the less fortunate, despite our desire to see peace and justice reign in society, despite our commitment to find a cure for AIDS, we are also some of the first to draw up battle lines and construct paradigms. And the wonderful thing about Dr. Hannah Gay is that she doesn’t fit any of them. The wonderful thing is that God used a person that none of us would expect in order to find the cure that we all were looking for.
We thought that the cure would come from the halls of academia, from a research scientist who finally conceived and executed the perfect experiment in the perfect petri dish. In God’s wisdom, it came from a pediatrician loving her patients well and having the guts to try something out of the ordinary.
We thought that the cure would come from the places where we had invested vast amounts of money, places of prestige and knowledge, somewhere like New York or Washington D.C. In God’s wisdom, it came from Mississippi, the state with the lowest math and science scores in the nation.
We thought that the cure couldn’t come from a person of religious values because we all know that those
kind of people are close-minded, judgmental, and don’t care for the less fortunate. In God’s wisdom, it came through the hands of a woman motivated by her faith—a conservative faith that propelled her to teach children to memorize Scripture, be an overseas missionary, and attend a church that unabashedly proclaims that Christ is the way to God.
We thought that the cure would come from someone who would dedicate themselves exclusively to their career--who if she were a woman, would have (as statistics predict
) no more than 1.67 children. In God’s wisdom, it came through the hands of a woman who is the mother of four.
And some of us thought that the cure couldn’t possible come from a mother because being a mother meant never working outside the home. In God’s wisdom, it came through the hands of working mother who worked to save the life of a child who wasn’t even her own.
The irony of Hannah Gay is that she didn’t feel compelled to leave the church to work for the good of society. The irony of Hannah Gay is that she didn’t leave her work to focus exclusively on her children. The irony of Hannah Gay is that she didn’t abandon motherhood to pursue her career. The irony of Hannah Gay is that she didn’t care about the spotlight and was simply faithful to what God had called her to do.
As human beings, we tend to live in categories, to compartmentalize ourselves, to line up behind ideologies and lob invectives against anyone who doesn’t fit our paradigm. But it is just like God to come along and knock them all down.
He slashes through our presuppositions; He destroys our established notions; He brings to nothing the wisdom of the world.
Of course, there is still a long road ahead as other men and women build on this breakthrough. It will require long hours in the laboratory; it will require more funding. As Dr. Gay said of her work recently, ‘It may take a long time, but I hope it will point us in the right direction to come up with a cure we can consistently apply to other babies worldwide."
But for this moment, while the world is basking in the hope that we might just beat this terrible disease after all, I want to bask in the wisdom of a God who uses the foolishness of men to praise Him
. I want to bask in the power of a God who works outside established paradigms. And I want to bask in the good nature of a God who might just be more ironic than the hippest hipster among us.
Every year, an ironic thing happens during the third week of January. During this third week of January, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday immediately precedes Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The day dedicated to the Right to Life Movement that was formed in response to Roe vs. Wade falls one day before the day dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement that was formed in response to countless similarly unjust rulings. And every year, these first two days of the third week of January pack an emotional punch.
Because even as we are celebrating the self-evident truth that all men are created equal; even as we continue to dream the dream that one day “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls as sisters and brothers;” we also mourn the fact that many of those little children never even had the chance to live. And to make it all the more poignant, this year, these two days—Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and Martin Luther King Jr. Day—happened in coordination with the inauguration of the first black President… who just also happens to be staunchly pro-abortion.
It’s been a very confusing week.
And like many of you, I find myself trying to parent through it all. Because as much as I’d like, I cannot shield my children from the world they live in. Within a matter of day, they have been confronted with our history of slavery; they’ve learned about the racism that up until fifty years ago was institutionalized in our governments, schools, and churches; and they’ve heard about a society that allows women to kill their unborn children. (And just to round things out, we also had a conversation about the restaurant Hooters this week too.)
This past Sunday as we celebrated the sanctity of human life, I finally began to fit the pieces together. Our history of racism, our present struggle against abortion. And I began to wonder if it wasn’t time that we needed to recognize that we
created this. As much as we like to believe that abortion is simply the fallout of the sexual revolution, as much as we like to blame radical feminists, it’s not that simple. Because when--for over two hundred years--we chose to see minorities as less than human, we created a culture that would one day allow us to view our own children the same way. When we refused to see the image of God in our African-American brothers and sisters, we lost the ability to see the image of God in our unborn sons and daughters.
We have sown the wind and we are now reaping the whirlwind.
When we speak about the sanctity of human life, we must remember that we are not simply speaking about abortion. We are not simply speaking about euthanasia. Honoring the sanctity of human life means embracing God’s image bearers where ever they may be and whatever they may look like. True sanctity of human life means understanding that all human life--every man, every woman, every boy, every girl—is precious to God and should also be precious to us.
So that when we take a stand for the sanctity of human life, we are also taking a stand against all racism, all sexism, all elitism, all sectarianism—any ideology, any prejudice that would say that another human being is somehow inferior or somehow unworthy of our love, somehow unworthy of Christ’s love. When we celebrate the sanctity of human life, we are saying that because of Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female."
There is no born or unborn.
The work of fighting abortion doesn’t begin with legislation. It doesn’t begin with marches or protests, and it doesn’t even begin with crisis pregnancy centers. The fight to sanctify human life begins in our own hearts; it begins as we root out the vestiges of pride and hatred and selfishness. It begins as we accept the fact that young minority women (who are disproportionately affected by abortion) will be hesitant to trust us when we offer them alternatives to abortion because for the last two centuries we have judged them simply by the color of their skin. It begins when we recognize that our own daughters chose abortion because they didn’t believe they could come to us without feeling this same weight of judgment.
The fight to end abortion must begin with grace. The grace to believe that all of us are made in God’s likeness. The grace to believe that none of us have any righteousness apart from Him. And the grace to believe that no matter what we have done—whether our sin is racism or promiscuity—that the power of Christ is great enough and the love of Christ is strong enough to reconcile each of us to Himself and to each other.
Over the last couple of weeks, my husband and I have been remodeling our basement. When we bought the house, it was “finished” in that classic combination of wood-grained paneling and burnt orange carpet. And while we really do appreciate vintage, we also accept the reality that we’re simply not cool enough to pull it off. On a hipster scale of 1-10, we’re an ironic 3.1415…. So a bit of rewiring, several gallons of paint, and twenty-eight boxes of laminate later, we’re close to having a space that’s hopefully more Pottery Barn and less Brady Bunch. Part of it will be a den and the other half will be devoted to, what I like to call, the creative urge.
In the past when we dreamed of our ideal (then non-existent) house, we always envisioned a room devoted to creating--whether it be crafting, sewing, drawing, writing, or simply playing with play-dough--we wanted a room that invites you to find your inner creative muse and let lose. Instead of fussing at my daughter for yet again cluttering up her room with odd bits of construction paper and glue, I want to be able to point her to cupboard of paints and glitter and chalk and say, “Go for it.”
I don’t know if other people dream of rooms like this, but I have noticed a trend among my generation. More and more of us are devoting our time and energy to things like crafting, cooking, and frugal living. You only have to hop on etsy, pintrest, or any number of DIY blogs to know that this phenomena is larger than any one subset and isn’t contained to the SAHMs among us. Women everywhere—from university-educated vegans to crunchy conservative homeschooling moms—are embracing the domestic.
In this Washington Post piece
, Julia Rothman worries that this “new domesticity” will lead to obligation and foster a whole batch of June Cleavers trying to one up each other, not necessarily with our meatloaves and kitten heels, but with knit scarves and cheese making. And while this is definitely a possibility, I think the new domesticity can actually teach us something deeper about ourselves, if we let it.
Because whether it’s being motivated by a case of burn-out in the boardroom, a commitment to staying home with young children, or simply trying to make ends meet in these difficult economic times, this renewed interest in the creative process is really about reclaiming something very fundamental to our humanity. Whether you realize it or not, it’s about reclaiming the image of God in us.
In the case of my peers, generally young Christian women, the return to crafting and baking and decorating has accompanied a renewed emphasis on the importance of family life. We see marriages crumbling around us, children struggling through cookie-cutter schools, and so for many, the solution comes by devoting themselves full-time to their families. They’re educated women with more than a heaping of gifts, but they choose to become SAHMs because they really believe that, at least in the early years, they can best care for their families there.
But the truth that many are learning the hard way is that staying at home isn’t without sacrifice. In the eight years that I’ve been at home, I’ve discovered that little ones don’t often want to discuss French existentialism or world events, and major life accomplishments have been reduced to having everyone clean and fed at the same time. It doesn’t take very long to realize that staying at home can be less than stimulating.
In her breathtaking essay “Are Women Human?,” Dorothy L. Sayers argues that this is one reason why so many women pursue professional careers in the first place (a novelty in 1938 when she first gave the speech that would eventually be published as an essay). She says: It is all very well to say that woman’s place is the home—but modern civilization has taken all the pleasant and profitable activities out of the home, where the women looked after them, and handed them over to big industry, to be directed and organized by men at the head of large factories…
It is a formidable list of jobs: the whole of the spinning industry, the whole of the dyeing industry, the whole of the weaving industry. The whole catering industry…the whole of the nation’s brewing and distilling. All the preserving, pickling and bottling industry, all the bacon-curing. And (since in those days a man was often absent from home for months together on war or business) a very large share in the management of landed estates…
Now it is very likely that men in big industries do these jobs better than women did them at home. The fact remains that the home contains much less interesting activity than it used to contain… It is perfectly idiotic to take away woman’s traditional occupations and then complain because she looks for new ones. Every woman is a human being—one cannot repeat too often—and a human being must have occupation, if he or she is not to become a nuisance to the world.
Sayers concern was not really to define what constitutes a “woman’s” job or a “man’s” job but to emphasize that every human being—of which half the species are women--MUST be engaged in creative, productive work because they are made in the image of a creative, productive God.
So I’m wondering, especially in the case of my peers, how much of the return to domestic creativity has less to do with our need to care for our families and more to do with caring for our own souls? How many of us craft and sew not primarily because we can do it better or cheaper, but because we simply love to do it? And for women who don’t stay at home, how much of your drive toward the new domesticity comes from the fact that the modern workplace has forced us to become mechanistic, unimaginative robots, spending most of our days processing bureaucracy and paperwork, without ever seeing tangible progress for our labor?
This is why we’re seeing the resurgence of creativity, especially in the home. Ultimately, we create because He did. We love beauty because He does. And when those things are less and less present in our lives, we are driven to find a way to recover them—whether we realize that’s what we’re doing or not.
This is not a problem. Domestic arts do often allow us to better care for our families. And creative pursuits do fill a need and enable you to return refreshed to the humdrum of work on Monday. It’s also not a problem if your creativity doesn’t take the form of traditional domesticity—feel free to go rebuild the engine of that ’57 Chevy this weekend—because ultimately what’s at stake isn’t that we all become June Cleavers; it’s that we all become like our God.
In the end, we must recognize that we pin and we plant and we bake and we knit, not simply because we are women or mothers, but because we are human beings
made in His image. And all the mechanization, all the industrialization, all the assembly lines in the world can’t remove that part of us that needs first to create, and then to step back with satisfaction and declare, “That’s good.” Just like He once did so very long ago, just like He continues to do every day.
Here's some helpful advice for those moments when you feel like blowing your top and screaming at a person you disagree with. Remember..."...there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner--no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment... your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden."C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory