The Work of God’s Hands

Today is the 47th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade, a decision that made abortion legal across the United States and has resulted in tens of millions of innocent deaths. The ACLU tweeted today, “Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is a RIGHT.” Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) tweeted, “…we must redouble our resistance against attempts to take us backwards. Women’s health is not negotiable. Women’s bodies belong to no one but themselves.” Of course, those who are so adamantly committed to maintaining a woman’s right to kill her unborn child are celebrating today and reiterating their commitment to making abortion access even more available than it already is. Those of us who recognize that “pro-choice” is really just a more pleasant way of saying “pro-death,” however, mourn this anniversary.

I do want to address the evil of abortion specifically in this post, but before I do, I want to address abortion from a different—and necessary—other perspective.

Those of us who are pro-life are often very adept at articulating our commitment to the sanctity of life and our opposition to abortion. And I honestly do not know how anyone can claim to be a Christian and Bible believer and not be pro-life. At the same time, we do not tend to be nearly so articulate, or compassionate, when it comes to our treatment of those who have had an abortion. It is my commitment, and it should be the commitment of every believer and every church, that I will treat any woman who becomes pregnant, regardless of the circumstances of that pregnancy, with grace and compassion, not shame and rejection. Now, it is possible that someone is thinking that might serve only to condone or excuse sinful behavior, but that’s not what I am saying. Here’s what I am saying:

It is not sinful in and of itself to be pregnant. The actions that led to becoming pregnant may have been sinful. They may have been sinful on the part of the woman who is now pregnant and they may have been sinful on the part of the person who impregnated her. In other words, the woman who is pregnant may have sinned or she may be the victim of someone else’s sin. If her pregnancy is the result of her sin, there are biblical guidelines on how that is to be addressed. But there is nothing wrong with being a mother or with being pregnant. If we are to be a Bible-believers acting in accordance with the Scripture, then we must take that position that we love babies—unborn and born—and we hate it when any baby is killed.

I can tell you in no uncertain terms that I will not ever, regardless of circumstances, encourage a woman to have an abortion. ((And I am not going to go into the specifics here, but I can also tell you that abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother. An early delivery of the child might be, but abortion is not). All children are a gift from God and every child bears the image of God—and no child, born or unborn, deserves to be killed for the actions of his or her parent, even if the actions were sinful.

If the actions of the pregnant woman were sinful and the women is repentant, then we are instructed to come along side her and restore her. If she is not repentant, we have instructions from the Bible on what to do in that situation, as well. But no where in the Bible can we find direction or support for rejecting, ignoring, condemning or abandoning that woman.

Josh Brahm, from the Equal Rights Institute, tells this story, with the permission of Monique, the woman involved:

She grew up with an absent father and thus a mother who worked multiple jobs to support her children. One of her mother’s jobs was as an administrator for the black Pentecostal church that Monique grew up attending. At the age of 17, Monique became pregnant because of a guy who took advantage of her.

Nobody at the church asked how she became pregnant. Instead, the church leadership told her mother that Monique was to sit in the back pew until the pregnancy was over. She was no longer allowed to talk to her friends, as the parents assumed that Monique would be a bad influence on them. Monique’s mother didn’t intervene on her behalf because she was so embarrassed about the situation, and she didn’t understand what had really happened to Monique.

Monique recalled a particular Sunday morning when she was singing loudly from the back pew during the worship time. Monique is one of the most gifted vocalists I’ve ever served with on a worship team, and that love of singing began in Monique’s childhood. It was one of the primary ways that Monique connected with God. But on this day, as she was singing, a woman in the pew in front of her turned around and said, “Don’t you wish you could be singing to the glory of God?” Monique went silent. She said that she had never felt as lonely or shamed as she did during that pregnancy. She distinctly remembers thinking, “If this is church, then I don’t want to have any part of it.”

It is certainly my hope and my prayer that such a response would never come from me or from my church—or any church.

Now, having discussed how we are, and are not, to respond when a woman becomes pregnant outside of marriage, let me also make clear that we must respond similarly if we ever meet someone who we know, or we learn, has had an abortion or has paid for someone to have an abortion. I believe absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, that abortion is murder and abortion is sin. But I also know absolutely, 100%, without a doubt that I am a sinner, and so are you, and that Jesus loves sinners—and commands me to do the same.

If you are reading this and you have had an abortion, or you paid for someone else to have one—you need to know two things: God knows that…and God still loves you. And if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, that sin has been forgiven. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The Phillips translation says, “No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are ‘in’ Jesus Christ.” No condemnation means that—no condemnation, regardless of your past.

All of that was a necessary backdrop to the rest of what I am going to say about the evil of abortion. First, some basic facts…

According to the Guttmacher Institute (which, by the way, supports abortion rights):

• Eighteen percent of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) in 2017 ended in abortion.
• Approximately 862,320 abortions were performed in 2017. That is just under the current population of South Dakota and greater than the populations of North Dakota, Vermont, Alaska or Wyoming.

Can I put those numbers into some perspective for you? Using 2017 numbers…

• Abortion killed more people in five days than drunk drivers did in a year.
• The increase in suicide rates gets a lot of attention…as it should…but in 2017, abortion killed more people in twenty days than suicide did all year.
• Abortion killed more people in 65 days than lung cancer did in a year.
• Abortion killed more people in 8.5 months in the U.S. than cancer of all kinds combined did in a year.
• The leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2017 was heart disease, with 647,457 fatalities. Abortion killed that many in nine months. Do you understand what that means? It means that abortion was, by a long shot, the leading cause of death in the United States in 2017—and that was a year in which abortion reached its lowest number since legalization in 1973!
• The total number of deaths, excluding abortion, in the U.S. in 2017 was 2,813,503. If abortion were included in that number, it would be 30% higher.

Since 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided., more than 55 million babies have been aborted. That’s 1.4 times the population of California. It’s double the population of Texas as of the last census.

That number is larger than the population of the 25 smallest U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Consider the maps included here to imagine what it might be like if the people in those 25 states were gone.

The United States
The United States with the 25 smallest-population states removed

If we were to have a ten-second moment of silence for every baby killed by abortion since 1973, we would have to be silent for more than seventeen years! (If you find that difficult to believe, see the footnote for the math).

All of this stems from the beliefs of what those who are in favor of the right to abortion call the “pro-choice” position. Of course, Ronald Reagan very succinctly and directly addressed the silliness of that terminology in a debate in 1980, when he said, “With regard to the freedom of the individual for choice with regard to abortion, there is one individual who is not being considered at all, and that is the one who is being aborted. And I have noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.”

If you pay any attention to the news, the odds are good that you have seen or read the speech that Michelle Williams gave when she won a Golden Globe award two weeks ago. In it, she said, “And I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose.” She was celebrating her professional accomplishment and announcing to the world that she could not have reached that accomplishment without the right to kill her unborn child.

Interestingly enough, in November of 2012 a woman named Jodi Jacobsen wrote an article entitled, “Life Begins At Conception. That’s Not the Point.” In that article she said,

Here is a startling revelation: I am a mother of two and a woman who earlier in her life had an abortion. I am unapologetically pro-choice. And I know life *begins* at conception (which itself is the product of a complex process), because I kinda already knew that having a child required, as a first step, the successful integration of a sperm and an egg, or fertilization. (emphasis hers)

She later writes, “The question is not when life begins. That just obfuscates the real issues.”

So, what are the real issues? Well, according to Jacobsen, the “fundamental” issues are:

• When does pregnancy begin?
• Does personhood begin at conception? Is a fertilized egg, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus a person with rights that trump those of the woman upon whose body it depends?
• Do women need “evidence” that if they are pregnant, odds are they are going to have a baby?
• Do women have the moral agency and fundamental rights to decide whether or not to commit themselves not only to the development of a life within their own bodies, but to a lifelong tie to another human being once a child is born?

Later in that article, Jacobsen makes the case that “life” and “personhood” are not the same thing. And Peter Singer would agree. Singer is a professor at Princeton, a philosopher and an atheist, and he has to be the most blunt pro-death individual I have ever come across. In 1979 he published a book entitled Practical Ethics, which was revised and reprinted in 1999. In it, Singer says that human worth should be determined by human capacity. Accordingly, he wrote this:

A week-old human baby is not a rational and self-conscious being, and there are many non-human animals whose rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity, and so on, exceed that of a human baby a week or a month old. [Therefore] the life of a newborn baby is of less value…than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.

I imagine that concept is troubling to you. I hope that it is. After all, I cannot imagine anyone who ever held a newborn child and thought, “This isn’t even a person yet!” I could give you other examples of similar ideas held by others. Sadly, they are not in short supply. But the truth, for those of us who believe the Bible, who hold a theistic worldview, is clearly summarized in this statement by Rebecca McLaughlin:

From a theistic perspective, there is such a thing as a child—who might make moral demands on us—only because God created children. … With a theistic worldview, morality and reality spring from the same source.

And that, of course, is what this entire thing really comes down to. “God created children.” God created each and every human being that exists, that has ever existed and that ever will exist.
In Isaiah 64, Isaiah is asking God to manifest Himself to the people of Israel and show His power in a very real way. And I do not generally like to handpick a verse to focus on without providing the full context, so forgive me for doing so this time, but I want to zero in on verse 8. Isaiah writes, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

I want to make three points from this verse about the creation and value of each human being. I want us to grasp the intimacy, the intentionality and the individuality of each human life.

Isaiah is using the imagery of a potter shaping clay. If you have ever tried your hand at pottery, or ever watched someone else do it, you realize that it is an intimate act. It is up-close and personal. The hands of the potter are working the clay, feeling the clay, shaping the clay… God’s design and creation of every human being is similarly intimate and personal.

A potter does not just haphazardly shape the clay on the wheel. He or she is intentional about the design—where to apply pressure, and how much pressure to apply; how tall to make it, how wide or narrow. It all depends on the intended design and purpose of the pottery being made at that moment. God’s design and creation of each human being is intentional.

And thirdly, a potter makes each piece of pottery individually. Even if making similarly designed pieces, each is special and unique. God designs and creates each human being individually, as well. He does not have an assembly line that cranks us out. We are each, in the words of the psalmist, wonderfully made.

We are each made intimately, intentionally and individually. We are the work of God’s hands. And we are made in the image of God. Every life is sacred. Every life has worth.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

60 seconds x 60 minutes = 3,600 seconds per hour
3,600 seconds x 24 hours = 86,400 seconds per day
86,400 seconds x 365 = 31,536,000 seconds per year

55,000,000 million abortions x 10 seconds = 550,000,000 seconds

550,000,000 seconds / 31,536,000 seconds = 17.44 years

My Year in Books – 2019

After missing the mark in 2018, I once again met my goal of fifty books for the year, finishing with 54 books read in 2019. Here’s the rundown…

As it always does, last year’s reading included a regular helping of fiction, including titles from authors I enjoy and read a lot of as well as new authors I decided to try. In that first category would be Mark Pryor’s The Crypt Thief, The Sorbonne Affair, The Reluctant Matador and The Book Artist. They are all part of his Hugo Marston series and I have now read all eight of that series. James Patterson’s Target Alex Cross, Ambush, The Inn and Mary, Mary provided a range of Patterson, with the first and last both being from the Alex Cross series (the first being the most recent and the last being from 2005 but one I had not read); Ambush being from the Detective Michael Bennett series and The Inn being (at least so far) a stand-alone novel. I have never read a Patterson book and considered it great literature, but they make for quick reads that give the brain a rest…and the good guys always win.  I read John Grisham’s latest, The Guardians, and, because I read all of Grisham’s books, Theodore Boone: The Accomplice, the latest in his series for young readers. The Guardians is a typical Grishamesque novel, but I am sure that it gives a fairly accurate picture of what some attorneys committed to ensuring that those on death row received fair trials and were justly convicted do indeed go through in their pursuit of justice. The New Girl is the latest in Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series; it is as enjoyable as all of Silva’s books, and it provides a unique story loosely based on the current Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but it makes some highly unlikely moves that strain credulity, even for a work of fiction. And, having completed his Clifton Chronicles, Jeffrey Archer launched the Detective William Warwick series with Nothing Ventured. If you have read Pryor, Patterson, Grisham, Allon or Archer then you know what to expect from their writing, and these books all follow suit.

Other fiction this year included two books about quiet heroism in WWII Paris. Charles Belfoure’s The Paris Architect is an intriguing novel about (surprise!) an architect in Paris during who winds up—first reluctantly and then devotedly—designing architecturally-brilliant hiding places for Jews seeking to avoid capture by the Nazis, and Kristin Harmel’s The Room on Rue Amélie tells of an American woman who married a Frenchman who, unbeknownst to her, was part of the French resistance. When he died and she discovered his role, she commits to continuing his work. This story interweaves the incredible risk and sacrifice of so many “everyday people” during war with a love story. Transcription, by Kate Atkinson, is another WWII-era story, though one set in England. It focuses on a young woman who winds up working for MI5, transcribing the recorded conversations of Fascist sympathizers, and interweaves that story with one that took place ten years later when the main character was working at the BBC. All three of these were interesting reads and I would recommend them all, probably in the order they are listed here for anyone wanting them in rank-order.

The Other Side of Silence is the second Philip Kerr novel I have read, and both have featured Bernie Gunther, a former homicide detective in Nazi Germany. This story takes place a decade after WWII and finds Gunther working as a concierge along the French Riviera. The tale also features Somerset Maugham and his work for the British Secret Service during WWII, though the details of the plot rely heavily on Maugham’s homosexuality.

Graham Moore’s The Last Days of Night is a delightful work of historical fiction that features young lawyer Paul Cravath and his work on a lawsuit filed by Thomas Edison against George Westinghouse over a lightbulb patent dispute. The story also features J.P. Morgan and Nikola Tesla, as well as an opera singer whose story is not what she presents. A fun and fascinating read that would also prompt interest in the real historical facts among many readers, I am sure.

The classic work of fiction I read in 2019 was James Fenimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer. It is a slow read, and there is a legitimate reason why Mark Twain said that Cooper “persistently violated” the rule to “eschew surplusage” with this tale, but all in all it was not as bad as Twain made it out to be.

Moving on… I read a number of biographies in 2019, starting with Maxwell King’s The Good Neighbor. I would call this a must-read for fans and admirers of America’s favorite neighbor, Fred Rogers. King provides an insightful look at the life of the man who committed his adult life to communicating kindly and truthfully with children. Randy Peterson’s The Printer and the Preacher is a dual biography of Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield that also tells the story of their mutually-beneficial friendship, and Jason Lane’s General and Madame de Lafayette is a dual biography of the Marquis de Lafayette, whom every good schoolboy and schoolgirl learned about from an early age while studying American history, his wife, and the interesting way in which Lafayette’s commitment to liberty and equality made him both a hero and a scoundrel, depending on the year and the one giving the verdict. Tim Hornbaker’s Fall From Grace is an engaging biography of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, one of the famous Chicago “Black Sox.” Susan Page provides a detailed, but not cumbersome, look at the life of Barbara Bush in The Matriarch and Scott Lamb gives an excellent biography of Mike Huckabee, and keen political insight, in Huckabee. Lamb gives readers a glaring reminder that the American evangelical community all but ignored Mike Huckabee in 2008 despite the fact that he was the most evangelical presidential candidate ever. If the fictional works about WWII mentioned above are of interest to you, then I strongly recommend Tilar Mazzeo’s Irena’s Children, the true story of the incredible work done by Irena Sendler and her colleagues in the Warsaw ghetto.

Nancy Koehn’s Forged in Crisis is a blending of biography and leadership study. Koehn looks at the lives of Ernest Shackleton, Abraham Lincoln, Fredrick Douglass, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Rachel Carson and offers insights from the way each handled “turbulent times” (part of the book’s subtitle) in their lives.

There were two autobiographies on my 2019 list, an old one and a new one. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs is the true story of a woman born in slavery, the abuse she endured from her owner, her escape—and subsequent seven years spent living in her grandmother’s attic—and the difficult decisions Jacobs made in her pursuit to be near, and do what was best for, her children. The new one was Gary Sinise’s Grateful American. It tells Sinise’s personal story, which is interesting, but also tells the story of how the part of Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump led him to start the Gary Sinise Foundation. The work that that organization has done on behalf of American veterans is absolutely incredible and incredibly admirable. How TIME has never selected Sinise as its Person of the Year is beyond me.

There is always a good bit of American history on my reading list, too, and 2019 was no different. Ben Macintyre’s The Spy and the Traitor is an intriguing story of Cold War espionage and a captivating spy thriller—and it is a true story! Ellen Wayland-Smith’s Oneida is a detailed look at the attempted utopian community by that name, including all of its strange ideas and living arrangements. Allen Guelzo’s Gettysburg is the best and most thorough single-volume look at that Civil War battle that I have encountered, despite the fact that Guelzo sometimes inserts opinion and commentary that is not really befitting the book’s overall approach. I always enjoy David McCullough’s writing, and he brought his usual style to the history of the settlement of the Northwest Territory in The Pioneers.  Bruce Chadwick’s I Am Murdered tells the story of the murder of George Wythe and the subsequent trial.

Due largely to taking a couple of graduate courses on the subject, I read a great deal about slavery during the past year, including these books in their entirety: Daina Ramey Berry’s The Price for Their Pound of Flesh, Heather Andrea Williams’s American Slavery: A Very Short Introduction, Calvin Schermerhorn’s Unrequired Toil and Educated in Tyranny, edited by Maurie McInnis and Louis Nelson. I would recommend all four. Berry introduces the concept of “soul value” in her work, a valuable approach to considering the lives of the enslaved; Williams’s work is indeed short but it is comprehensive too, making it a very effective overview and a great starting point; Schermerhorn’s book contains a chapter entitled “Geopolitics” that is the most insightful look at the causes of the Civil War I have probably ever seen; and Educated in Tyranny provides a fascinating examination of the role of slaves in the construction and early operation of the University of Virginia.

Some books do not really fit into any other category. For 2019 that would include Millard Seaman’s Gumbo, Gumption and God, a combination history of the founding of Sunshine Bible Academy, where I have served since 2011, and thoughts on the philosophy of Christian education. In Allow the Children Susan Cook explains how the ministry of that name was started and has grown to include the support of orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children in several countries around the world, as well as children’s homes and pastoral training. Another in that category would be Lauren Winner’s Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity was honest and thought provoking, and consistent with the assertion Winner made in a 2000 column for Christianity Today that many evangelicals did not take chastity seriously. The book certainly loses some of its value when considering that Winner is now divorced and an ordained Episcopal priest, and it is worth noting as well that Real Sex is not listed among her works on her faculty profile page for Duke Divinity School, where she is an Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality. Cal Ripken, Jr.’s Just Show Up applies Ripken’s approach to baseball to other areas of life and Hans Rosling’s Factfulness stressed the importance of accurately understanding the “facts” that we are confronted with on a regular basis throughout our lives.

Last, but not least, would be those books that fall into the categories of Christian living and the practice of Christianity. Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Worship explains how the gospel message should shape corporate worship. Daniel Henderson’s Old Paths, New Power focuses on the importance of praying and preaching the Word of God. It had some good reminders and interesting personal accounts but also seemed to stray at times from what I would personally be comfortable with. In It’s Time to Pray, Carter Conlon emphasizes the importance of prayer, as well, personally and corporately, and he also tells personal stories of seeing the power of prayer at work in incredible ways. Eugene Peterson’s The Jesus Way describes the way Old Testament figures prepared the way for the coming of Christ but also shows how often we, in contemporary America, emphasize things that have very little to do with the “Jesus way.” Jeremy Walker’s Life in Christ is a short book on discipleship, and Dallas Willard’s The Great Omission addresses both being a disciple and making disciples. Balanced Christianity by John Stott emphasizes not veering too far one way or the other in various areas of tension in the Christian life. Your Victory in Christ is the only book by John Bunyan that I have ever read other than Pilgrim’s Progress, and there is a reason that the former is not anywhere near as well known as the latter. It uses the same style as Pilgrim’s Progress and the message is worthwhile, of course, but it is not nearly as effective. In The Secret Battle of Ideas About God Jeff Myers provides an update to the various worldview ideas presented in Summit Ministries’ Understanding the Times materials while interlacing accounts of his personal struggles. Stop Loving the World, by Puritan William Greenhill, addresses the problem of worldliness—and even greater problem now than when Greenhill wrote in the seventeenth century—and the biblical antidote to that sin. Joseph Stowell’s Radical Reliance is adequately summed up in the book’s subtitle, “Living 24/7 with Christ at the Center,” and his Simply Jesus is a concise book with much the same theme.

So, there’s another annual recap. When I ended last year’s Books in Review post I said that when it came time to write the next one I would hopefully have once again exceeded my goal of fifty books—which I did—and would maybe even have posted more than three times during the year—which I did not. Well, .500 is not bad, is it? And there’s always next year…

Monopoly Miss

A week ago Saturday I was at one of my least favorite places. It need not go named, but you probably have one not too far from you. (Indeed, proximity to these super stores seems to be how many Americans measure how far they are from civilization). While there, my son and I, as e often do when we are there, wandered around a bit. Our wanderings took us to the aisle with board games. As someone who enjoys board games, I will often look to see what new games might be out. On this particular visit I did, in fact, find a new game. Or a new version of an old game, to be precise. It is called Ms. Monopoly.

This latest installment in the Monopoly franchise features the cartoon version of a young woman on the cover. She is wearing a shirt with the iconic Monopoly “Go” space on it and even supporting “M” earrings. She is holding a coffee cup with “Boss” on the cup’s holder. The caption on the cover reads, “The first game where women make more than men.”

Elsewhere on the box I discovered that Ms. Monopoly is Mr. Monopoly’s niece. She is a “self made investment guru” and she has arrived to “change a few things. (It’s about time).” That’s what the box says. “It’s about time.” About time for what, one might logically ask? Well, apparently time for women to be paid more than men, I guess.

The back of the box says, “Without women we wouldn’t have wi-fi! Or chocolate chip cookies!” Underneath it says, “Buy these and other essentials invented by women.” Let’s set aside the implications that (1) chocolate chip cookies are essentials, (2) that chocolate chip cookies are on the same level of importance as wi-fi, and (3) that neither chocolate cookies nor wi-fi would exist if women had not invented them. That third point is tantamount to saying that anything invented by men would not exist if men had not invented them, and that’s just silly. The Los Angeles Times, by the way, asserted in its headline that a woman invented the Monopoly game in the first place. I did not know that. Nice to know, maybe, but not really relevant.

In a statement on the release of the game, Hasbro said, “The Ms. Monopoly game marks the first time in the franchise’s history where a new character will grace the cover — and while Mr. Monopoly is a real estate mogul, Ms. Monopoly is an advocate whose mission is to invest in female entrepreneurs.” Investing in women entrepreneurs would be great. Is great. But that is not really the message the game presents. CNN said, “Ms. Monopoly is meant to celebrate women’s empowerment by giving women a head start in the game.” Interesting…. The game also, supposedly, addresses the pay gap between men and women. Again, interesting….

Why do I find this all interesting? Because creating a game in which empowerment is defined as a head start is to undermine exactly what empowerment is all about. Go to educategirls.org and read their page “What is Empowerment?” You will find that it reads, in part, that empowerment “is an act of building confidence and strength in others to enable them to obtain basic opportunities and maximize the quality of their lives.” In other words, giving someone a head start or an unfair advantage is the antithesis of empowerment.

Why do I find this interesting? Because the pay gap between women and men has always emphasized the problem of men being paid more than women simply because they are men. Go to the web site for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and you will find that, “In 2018, female full-time, year-round workers made only 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 18 percent.” IWPR explains that there are a variety of reasons why women earn less than men—none of which are really legitimate reasons—and that explains that if the change in wage disparity continues to proceed as it has been that it will take until 2059 for there to be true wage parity. Check out the web site for the American Association of University Women and you will see that they proclaim, “No matter how you analyze it, the gender pay gap is real, persistent, and harmful to women’s economic security.” No one is suggesting that different jobs should have different wages. The suggestion is that men should not be paid more than women just because they are men.

I am not generally a proponent of these sites I have cited, nor do I by any means agree with everything that they promote or assert. I reference them here to point out that this game is a foolish concept. This is why Ms. Monopoly is a complete failure at doing what it allegedly is intended to do. It undermines the very arguments for empowerment and equality by creating a game in which women earn more just because they are women. In Ms. Monopoly, women get $240 when they pass go; men get the standard Monopoly pay day of $200.

The irony in all of this is that Monopoly in its original form was a perfect example of empowerment and equality. Everyone was able to “obtain basic opportunities” regardless of their gender. Everyone received the same level of pay regardless of their gender. The only advantages or disadvantages in Monopoly that are not based solely on skill and shrewd investing are literally the result of the roll of the dice. So Ms. Monopoly may mark a significant milestone by putting a female character on the cover of the game. But other than that, Ms. Monopoly is a complete miss.

The Illegitimacy of “Identification”

In 1972 the United States Congress passed education amendments that included Title IX. Title IX prevents discrimination against females in federally-funded education, including in athletics programs. The impact of Title IX on sports is hard to argue with. According to the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), “Women who were under 10 when Title IX passed have much higher sports participation rates than women who grew up before Title IX. Fifty-five percent of the ‘post-Title IX’ generation participated in high school sports, compared to 36% of the ‘pre-Title IX’ generation.” Despite that, the FMF also states that “progress women and girls have made under Title IX falls far short of gender equity.”

It is on that note that I wish to comment. Any and all progress made by Title IX and other efforts to ensure that females have equal opportunity to participate in athletics is being negated by the current transgender nonsense that is sweeping the country.

In August, Juniper (June) Eastwood, formerly known as Jonathan, became the first transgender athlete to compete in Division I Cross Country. Eastwood runs for the University of Montana. According to an article on Runner’s World by Taylor Dutch, “Eastwood, now a 22-year-old senior, says she has identified as female since middle school and made the decision to transition during her third year competing on the men’s track team at Montana.”  Dutch also wrote that Eastwood’s hope was that making this move would “be a step forward for trans athlete inclusion and an important phase of self-discovery.”

Keep that term “self-discovery” in mind as I will return to it shortly.

The NCAA has a lengthy policy on transgender inclusion for athletics. In fact, it runs to 38 pages. It begins with this statement about inclusion:

As a core value, the NCAA believes in and is committed to diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators. We seek to establish and maintain an inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.

The policy goes on to define what transgender means. “‘Transgender’ describes an individual whose gender identity (one’s internal psychological identification as a boy/man or girl/woman) does not match the person’s sex at birth.” It goes on to state, “It is important that all people recognize and respect the transgender person’s identification as a man or a woman.”

The policy requires that trans females must be treated with testosterone suppressing drugs for at least a year before they can participate in women’s sports. Be that as it may, males—even with testosterone suppression—often have physical advantages over females. Eastwood is a case in point. In the August 31 race referred to above in the Runner’s World article, a 4K, Eastwood finished seventh, 19.3 seconds behind freshman teammate Beatrix Frissell. But on September 21 Eastwood finished third in a 3M race, just one second behind Frissell. On October 4 Eastwood finished first, besting Frissell by one second. They finished nearly thirty seconds ahead of the third place finisher. Then in a 6K on October 19 Eastwood finished in second place, just under one second behind first place finisher Jenny Sandoval and seven-and-a-half seconds ahead of the third place finisher. Frissell, by the way, finished more than fourteen seconds behind Eastwood.

Last week the Big Sky Conference names Eastwood the Big Sky Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week. According to the press release, “June Eastwood finished second in a field of 204 runners at the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale, Calif. Eastwood clocked a time of 20:18 in the 6k race to help Montana place seventh as a team.”

At the high school level the problem is usually even worse. Connecticut has been getting significant attention in recent months, since the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference allows students to compete based on the gender they identify with. Transgender runners Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood have been cited in a Title IX complaint that essentially alleges that they are denying biological females the opportunity for fair competition—and this for scholarships. Yet, the CIAC stands by its policy, with its executive director Glen Lugarini even stating,

The CIAC is committed to equity in providing opportunities to student athletes in Connecticut. We take such matters seriously, and we believe that the current CIAC policy is appropriate under both Connecticut law and Title IX.

So what is my point? Simply this. Allowing male athletes who have gone through “self-discovery” to determine that they do not identify with the gender they were born to compete against biological females is unfair and flies in the face of the intent of Title IX. The Feminist Majority Foundation, of which I am not fan, asserts that Title IX has not successfully corrected the gender inequalities it was crafted to address. Allowing biological males to run as women, with women, serves only to increase the inequality.

Notice, by the way, the vagueness of the terms “self-discovery” and “identification.” The NCAA policy states that it is important to recognize and respect someone’s identification as a man or a woman. Self-discovery and identification leave the canvas wife open. If we have to include people based on their self-discovery or their identification when it comes to their gender, why not when it comes to their race? Their age? Where do we draw the line? Suppose a teenager, or even an adult, through the process of self-discovery, chooses to identify as a 12-year-old. Do we allow them to play Little League baseball or Pop Warner football? Of course not. But that is the track down which we are headed. Once people are allowed to self-identify, and everyone else is forced to accept that identification, we eliminate the possibility of any restrictions of any kind.

Since we are talking sports here, next time you go to a professional sporting event buy whatever ticket you want and then try to sit in the really expensive seats. You know—the sky box, or the 50 yard line, or courtside. If denied entry to those seats just tell them you identify with those seats. Then let me know how that goes over. I feel quite certain that it will come down to what it says on your ticket—regardless of how you identify.

My Year in Books – 2018

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen eventually, and it did in 2018. I did not read fifty books during the year. It is the first time since 2007, when I started keeping track, that I did not make it. I finished the year with forty-five. As you can probably tell by the fact that I only blogged four times during 2018, and not at all since March 8, I have been a little busy.

But, as always, my reading for 2018 was mostly in the categories of theology and Christian living, history, politics/current events, autobiography/biography and fiction. My summary thoughts here will be classified by category and not by the order in which the books were read.

The first book I finished in 2018 is one I had started in 2017 and even mentioned in my 2017 book review post, Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s The Perils of “Privilege”. I certainly do not agree with everything that Bovy said in the book but it is an enlightening look at the utter ridiculousness that is the ways in which we have endeavored to sanitize our own language and interactions (even our lives) in order to avoid possibly offending anyone. Everett Piper’s Not a Daycare and Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult also offer glimpses of the direction America has taken in recent years. Piper writes from the perspective of a college president and focuses on the trigger warnings and other such stupidity on college campuses. Sasse writes as a homeschooling parent who is also a U.S. senator and who wants his children to become responsible, capable adults. Some of his ideas are almost radical and will likely make parents with even a hint of cautiousness say, “No way!” but he has a lot worth considering.

Andy Crouch’s The Tech-Wise Family presents some interesting ways families can minimize the infiltration of technology into every aspect of their lives. Some people would likely find many of Crouch’s ideas akin to torture given the nearly inseparable way in which so many cling to their phones. Worth a read, for sure, if you sense that you and/or your children are finding it harder and harder to look each other in the eye and have an actual conversation. In The Flipside of Feminism Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly provide a conservative counter to feminism, arguing that women have actually become less happy despite all of changes that have come about through the feminist movement.

The first history book I read in 2018 was The Golden Age of Piracy. In it, Benerson Little seeks to debunk many of the most familiar images of piracy (walking the plank, flying the Jolly Roger, etc.) that we see in film and fiction and tell, instead, the true stories of some of the world’s most effective pirates. A recommended read for anyone interested in knowing more about pirates that Johnny Depp and friends will ever tell you. Liberty’s Torch by Elizabeth Mitchell is a fascinating look at the process which culminated in the installation of what we now know as the Statue of Liberty. Jack Kelly, in Heaven’s Ditch, weaves together accounts of the building of the Erie Canal, the founding or Mormonism and the devoted secrecy of the Masons in an engrossing read. Presidential Courage by Michael Beschloss looks at courageous acts and stands by two hundred years of American presidents, while David McCullough puts together decades of his speeches in one volume entitled The American Spirit. As someone who has enjoyed everything I have ever read by McCullough, I enjoyed this thoroughly.

In Defiant Brides Nancy Rubin Stuart simultaneously tells the life stories of Peggy Shippen, who went on to become Mrs. Benedict Arnold, and Lucy Flucker, who married Henry Knox, an important figure in the Revolutionary War and the Secretary of War under President George Washington. In A Kingdom Strange James Horn offers his take on Sir Walter Raleigh’s Roanoke Colony, more commonly known now as the Lost Colony, including his thoughts on what happened to the colonists who disappeared before Governor White could return.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo sat on my shelf for years before I finally read it. There is a reason why it was a National Book Award winner. It is a compelling look at life in a slum (what Boo calls an “undercity”) of Mumbai, just steps from an international airport and luxury hotels.

Susan Orlean, in The Library Book, simultaneously provides a look at the inner workings of a massive library system and tells the story of the 1986 fire in the Los Angeles Public Library that damaged or destroyed more than one million books. This was a captivating read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

In biography, I first read Jon Kukla’s Patrick Henry. Kukla and I used to be neighbors, while he was the director of Patrick Henry’s Red Hill, and I had been anticipating this book for some time. I had actually forgotten about it, though, until I saw it while browsing through a bookstore in Corolla, NC. It is well researched, well written, and a solid contribution to the expanding scholarship on one of America’s lesser-known founding fathers. I have fascinated by the story of Alvin York ever since I saw the Gary Cooper film as a child; thus, John Perry’s Sgt. York: His Life, Legend & Legacy was a delightful read. It tells the story of York’s heroism in World War I, but goes far beyond that, telling the story of York’s work after he returned home and the legacy he left for the people of the Tennessee hills.

After a visit to Hershey, PA, last summer I found myself wanting to know more about Milton Hershey. Michael D’Antonio provided that for me in his book Hershey. It is an intriguing read about an intriguing life. Meeting Sue Thomas last spring, and then visiting her last summer, caused me to want to know more about her story, as well, and her autobiography, Silent Night, provides an unvarnished look into her life. If all you know of Sue Thomas is the television series Sue Thomas: FBEye, you don’t know Sue Thomas!

Having watched the series Castle, I decided to finally try one of the books supposedly written by Richard Castle, Driving Heat. The book reads like the show. Somehow, that worked for me as a television show but not as a book. Breaking Point is part of Dana Haynes’ series on airplane crash investigators, though it is the first one I have read. It was interesting overall, though parts of the conclusion were like the ending of so many movies—taken too far. The Promise by Robert Crais is a typical Crais novel, but it has the irritating feature of including a number of chapters told from the perspective of a police dog. In Under a Silent Moon Elizabeth Haynes (no relation to Dana, that I know of) introduces Louisa Smith, a Detective Chief Inspector tasked with solving two seemingly unrelated murders. Nadine Gordimer’s The House Gun is another book that sat on my shelf for years. Set in South Africa, it shows how a single act, in a moment of passion, impacts so many people. Jhumpa Lahiri, in The Namesake, tells the story of immigrants from India making successful lives for themselves in the U.S., and how the definition of success for their children looks different than that for their parents.

The People vs. Alex Cross by James Patterson is exactly what you would expect from a James Patterson Alex Cross novel. Likewise, The Blood Promise and The Paris Librarian are just what you would expect from Mark Pryor’s Hugo Marston novels.  The Reckoning by John Grisham was one of his better books, I thought. It is very different from most of what he has written before, though it takes place in a familiar setting. Like The House Gun it clearly shows the impact a single decision can have on so many lives. Jeffrey Archer’s Heads You Win was another good read in typical Archer-style. It could easily become a series; I guess we’ll see. Daniel Silva continues to impress me in the second of  his books I’ve read, The Other Woman. And of course, The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux, is a story many people think they know. Suffice it to say that if you have only seen the musical and/or the recent film adaptation, you do not really know the story.

Sing! By Keith and Kristyn Getty is a short book, easy to read, but does a wonderful job explaining the importance of singing in giving praise to God. I would recommend this book for every pastor and worship leader. Jonathan Leeman’s Word Centered Church is a good reminder about the singular importance of Scripture in churches. Donald Whitney’s Family Worship is also a short, easy to read book with good tips for developing family worship times. The Imperfect Disciple by Jared Wilson has some good parts and some good reminders for those who may struggle with frustration when they just cannot seem to get the Christian life “right” consistently, but I am not a fan of the smug, smart-alecky, and even sometimes snarky asides that Wilson felt it necessary to include throughout the book. I find this to be an unwelcome trend among too many contemporary, “next-generation” Christian authors.

But there is nothing smug or snarky in R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God. There is a reason this is considered a classic work and perhaps Sproul’s best out of the scores of books he wrote. It is recommended reading for every believer. In The Great Omission Dallas Willard addresses the importance of making disciples of all nations, the last command Jesus gave before His ascension. John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to God is a magnificent exposition of Isaiah 53. Discovering God’s Will by Sinclair Ferguson provides some helpful guidance for those seeking to know God’s leading in their lives. Barnabas Piper’s The Curious Christian is a wonderful reminder of the importance of wonder in our lives. If you have read anything by Ken Ham before then not much in Gospel Reset will be new to you, but there are good reminders in the book about the importance of foundations. In Expository Exultation John Piper clearly explains that preaching is worship and he provides terrific guidance for preachers on sermon preparation and delivery. Highly recommended for any pastor.

That’s it for my 2018 recap. I hope you enjoyed my quick overview of my year in books. If you have book recommendations I would love to hear them; please write a comment or send me a message. Hopefully, when the time comes to write next year’s post, I will once again have surpassed my annual goal of fifty books. And just maybe I will have posted more than three times in the interim!

Lesbian Weddings and Assault Rifles

“We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view.”

“We don’t want to be a part of this.”

“We deeply believe….”

No doubt you have heard about Melissa and Aaron Klein, the couple that owned a cake shop in Gresham, Oregon, refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, and was fined $135,000 for their refusal. According to a December 28, 2017 article by Whitney Woodworth in the Statesman Journal, “When Aaron Klein found out the cake was for two brides, he told Bowman-Cryer he and his wife did not make cakes for same-sex weddings because of their religious beliefs.” After the lesbian brides-to-be filed a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries claiming that they were denied public accommodation by the Kleins due to their sexual orientation, an investigation by that bureau determined that the Klein’s refusal to make the cake for them “constituted unlawful discrimination.” As a result, the Kleins were ordered to pay a $135,000 in damages. The Oregon Court of Appeals unanimously upheld that decision.

The lesbian couple, which is now married, “said the case was not simply about a wedding cake, their marriage or their wedding. It is about whether it is OK for a business to refuse to serve people because of the owner’s religious beliefs,” Woodworth reported.

The Kleins have since closed their cake shop. Melissa Klein said, “I was happy to serve this couple in the past for another event and would be happy to serve them again, but I couldn’t participate in the ceremony that goes against what I believe.” She said the government violated her freedom of religion and, in essence, told her what to believe. According to Woodworth, the Kleins attorney, Adam Gustafson said, “The Kleins did not discriminate based on sexual orientation; rather, they chose not to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony because they believe marriage should only exist between a man and a woman.”

According to Carson Whitehead, the Oregon Department of Justice attorney who represented the Bureau of Labor and Industry, “the case turns on two simple facts: The Kleins refused to provide the exact same service for a same-sex couple that they would with a heterosexual couple, and the denial of services was based on sexual orientation.”

Woodworth ended her article this way:

In a statement issued Thursday, the Bowman-Cryers [the lesbian couple] said now all Oregonians can go into any store and expect to be treated like any other person.

“It does not matter how you were born or who you love,” they said. “With this ruling, the Court of Appeals has upheld the long-standing idea that discrimination has no place in America.”

I hope you noted in the above how many times the word “believe” appeared. And I hope you also noted that the beliefs of the Kleins were not considered a legitimate reason for them to decline making a wedding cake for the lesbian couple. Lastly, I hope you noted that the lesbian couple proclaimed that now anyone in Oregon could go into any store and expect to be treated like any other person because discrimination has no place in America (emphasis mine).

But I would like to point out that the three quotes I led this post with were not made by the Kleins and had nothing to do with homosexual marriage.

Instead, I would like to direct your attention to another story that has been in the news of late: the decision of Dick’s Sporting Goods and Wal Mart to no longer sell firearms to anyone under the age of 21. Why? According to the statement released by Dick’s on Twitter, “We deeply believe that this country’s most precious gift is our children.” And, because children are the future and must be protected, Dick’s also stated, “We believe it is time to do something about it.”

Did you notice that word “believe” again?

Dick’s CEO, Edward Stack, said, “We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation.” And one other thing he said? “We don’t want to be a part of this any longer.” (See this article in the New York Times to read more of Stack’s thoughts and comments).

Here, then, is the real issue: if a small business owner in Oregon cannot refuse to make a wedding cake for a lesbian wedding because of the owner’s beliefs, then a huge business cannot refuse to sell guns to 18, 19 and 20 year olds just because the companies’ executives “believe” that it is time for them to restrict guns getting into the hands of those individuals. If a baker who believes that homosexual marriage is wrong cannot “take a stand and step up and tell people” their view, then neither can Dick’s or Wal Mart. If Aaron and Melissa Klein cannot say “we don’t want to be a part of this” and run their business accordingly, then neither can Edward Stack.

Jeff Jacoby wrote an excellent piece in the Boston Globe entitled, “The same-sex wedding cake case isn’t about same-sex marriage.” His article is not about Aaron and Melissa Klein but about Jack Phillips, a cake baker in Oregon who also refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and whose case was heard by the Supreme Court this past December. You can read Jacoby’s article in its entirety if you would like, but here is his conclusion: “One needn’t share Phillips’s opinion of gay marriage to support his right to unmolested freedom of expression.”

No cake baker should be required to make a cake to celebrate a marriage that he or she believes is wrong. No company should be required to sell guns to anyone under 21 if that is what the company leadership believes is right. A wedding cake can be purchased elsewhere by a homosexual couple, just like a rifle can be purchased elsewhere by an 18-year-old. At least, that’s how it should be. How the Dick’s and Wal Mart lawsuit turns out (oh yes, they’ve already been sued) and how the Jack Phillips case ends are still to be determined. What is not still unknown, though, is this simple truth: if we, as a nation, allow some companies to choose not to comply with some laws based on their beliefs we cannot disallow the same privilege to other companies. If we do, we will soon find that we have contradicted ourselves into an absolute disaster.

A Lesson for the Church: The Other Example We Have Been Given by Rachael Denhollander

Rachael Denhollander is a name probably not many people knew until a year and a half ago. That is when she became the first person to come forward and publicly accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. Even then her name was not nearly as well-known as it is now. After her victim impact statement on January 24, it is probably fair to say that not many people have not heard of her.

In 2000, Denhollander was a club level gymnast when she met Nassar at the age of fifteen due to a back injury. Nassar was, in the words of the Boston Globe, “the despicable doctor who systematically, for decades, used his position as a renowned, sought-after, and respected physician in the gymnastics world to sexually abuse countless young athletes under the guise of medical treatment.” Only at that time, no one knew—or, I should say, no one acknowledged—that Nassar was a predator. Others had complained about Nassar before 2000, but nothing had been done. By the time he was arrested his victims numbered in the hundreds. One hundred fifty-six of them spoke at his sentencing hearing, which resulted in a sentence of 40 to 175 years in prison.

Denhollander’s courage in coming forward and opening the door that gave voice to so many other victims has received plenty of attention in the media and I am not going to focus on that here. I would simply echo what Tara Sullivan wrote, that Denhollander is “Larry Nassar’s most important victim, his loudest and bravest opponent in the fight to expose his depravity as a serial pedophile disguised as a respected physician.”

What brought perhaps the most attention to Denhollander was her impact statement, nearly forty minutes long, in which she clearly spoke of what Nassar had done, the physical but, more importantly, emotional, damage it inflicted on Denhollander and others, and then shared the gospel with Nassar. Writing on The Gospel Coalition site, Justin Taylor said, “What she said directly to the man—who gratified himself off of her innocence and abused countless other girls in a malicious and manipulative way—is an incredible testimony to the grace and justice of Jesus Christ.” I agree. When I first heard it later that same day I described it as “an extraordinary presentation of the gospel to someone Rachael Denhollander has every human reason to hate and wish eternal condemnation in hell upon!”

Her bold stand against Nassar and her equally bold statement of the gospel to Nassar—and a watching world—has drawn tremendous attention, and rightfully so. In his edition of The Briefing the day after Denhollander spoke, Albert Mohler said,

…what so many in the world missed is that the moral clarity that was so evident in that courtroom yesterday cannot really emerge from a secular worldview. It can only emerge from a biblical worldview. And yesterday it wasn’t just the witness to good and evil that appeared. In the voice of Rachael Denhollander, there was a powerful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel that speaks so honestly about sin, and the Gospel that so honestly promises in Christ salvation from sin.

Denhollander has, indeed, set a beautiful example of what it means to be like Christ. To hate the sin but not the sinner. To extend mercy and forgiveness when it is not even remotely deserved—and never could be. Evangelical Christians are sharing her statement and celebrating her testimony and all of that is good. It is as it should be.

Sadly, there is something else about Denhollander’s experience that Christians seem to be overlooking, and we must not do so.

In her statement, Denhollander said,

Even my status as a sexual assault victim has impacted or did impact my ability to advocate for sexual assault victims because once it became known that I too had experienced sexual assault, people close to me used it as an excuse to brush off my concerns when I advocated for others who had been abused, saying I was just obsessed because of what I had gone through, that I was imposing my own experience upon other institutions who had massive failures and much worse.

 

My advocacy for sexual assault victims, something I cherished, cost me my church and our closest friends three weeks before I filed my police report. I was left alone and isolated. And far worse, it was impacted because when I came out, my sexual assault was wielded like a weapon against me.

 

In her op-ed for the New York Times, Denhollander wrote, “I lost my church. I lost my closest friends as a result of advocating for survivors who had been victimized by similar institutional failures in my own community.”

 

As incredible and beautiful as Denhollander’s courage to come forward and willingness to share the gospel with Nassar may be, that she “lost her church” through coming forward is just as incredible and hideous. I do not know exactly what transpired between Denhollander and her church, but the details here are not important. For her to say, twice, that she lost her church as a result of taking a stand against Nassar says all that we need to know. There is no justification anywhere in Scripture for abandoning a victim. Quite the contrary, in fact. Romans 12:15 says, “When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow” (Living Bible).

 

In Matthew 25:40 Jesus said that whatever is done “to the least of these my brothers, you have done it to Me.” Commenting on that verse Matthew Poole wrote, that charity, or love, “must be chiefly shown to those of the household of faith.” Denhollander is clearly of the household of faith, yet her church abandoned her. Take note, fellow Christian: that means her church turned its back on Christ.

 

I do not focus on this to condemn Denhollander’s former church alone. I do not even know the name of the church she attended. I emphasize this to bring attention to such behavior that has gone on for far too long, and has been far too tolerated, in the Church in general. How can we claim to follow Christ if we abandon our brothers and sisters who are hurting? John Tillman wrote the following in a devotion on The Park Forum:

 

As the #MeToo movement sweeps around the world, Jesus stands with the victims, claiming their pain as his own, identifying with their feelings of powerlessness, of isolation, and of being silenced for so long. …

 

No environment, from Hollywood offices to the sanctuaries of our churches is untouched by the culture of degrading sexual manipulation and abuse. Christians have an opportunity to drop partisan loyalty, abandon “what-aboutism,” and step into this cultural problem with the perspective of the Gospel.

Christians can uniquely offer condemnation for abusive actions and the systems which allowed them, while offering compassion and protection for victims, and even forgiveness and redemption (though not necessarily reinstatement) for perpetrators.

 

Compassion for the victims is precisely what Christians should be offering. Compassion and support and encouragement. There is no room for abandonment or rejection or judgment of victims. In an April 2016 blog post entitled “4 Common Ways Churches Fail Abuse Victims (And What to Do Instead)” Ashley Easter states that the Church must take accusations of abuse seriously, whether made against someone inside or outside of the church, and “recognize how difficult it is for a victim to come forward.” Furthermore, the Church, and those within it, need to “believe and reassure the victim that there is nothing they could ever do to cause someone else to hurt them.”  In July 2015 Boz Tchividjian wrote of his own abuse as a child and the way churches so often respond inappropriately to abuse victims. “A primary reason why victims are afraid of the church is because of the level of immaturity and ignorance they have experienced in how they are treated or handled by the community and leadership of a church,” Tchividjian wrote. He continued, “There is now an entire generation that has left the church and might not ever return because of the negative impact that the church has had in the lack of understanding and compassion for the broken and the wounded.” Abuse is horrific and cannot be tolerated. But just as wrong and intolerable is this kind of response within the body of Christ.

 

I pray that Rachael Denhollander will be embraced and encouraged and prayed for by the Church even though she was not treated that way be her local church. I pray that she will remain a passionate and articulate voice for abuse victims and for the gospel. I also pray that she will prove to have taught us a significant lesson about abuse and how not to respond to it.