In Dread of Dred Scott and Death Camps
In 2009, after 20 years of having Life Sunday, a crisis of sorts lead to me eventually marking Life Sunday with the Church festival of Holy Innocents historically observed December 28th. Now another crisis has arisen for me that has been brewing for at least 40-45 years. It's living in dread of Dred Scott and death camps.
It started with the death camps and being in dread of being on the wrong side of history. It was either in high school or college that a teacher pointed out how many people had to be complicit and silent in order for the Nazis to do to the Jews what they did. He said he wasn't talking about officers in the chain of command, killers in the death camps, or even the guards there. He was talking about everyday citizens who passed by the death camps. People who saw packed train cars going into them; people who heard screams while passing by; people who smelled the odor of burning flesh.
I've never been to Germany or Poland. I know nothing about the proximity of the death camps to ordinary housing. I have no idea if everyday citizens did pass within seeing, hearing, or smelling distance. In my youth, all I could think was, "What would I do if I had? Would I go on my way turning a deaf ear, a blind eye, and a stuffed-up nose? Would I pretend I didn't see, hear, smell? Would I act like I didn't know what was going on in there? Would I be on the wrong side of history? Read how the famed aviator, Charles Lindberg, before America entered WW II supported Germany and thought America should back Hitler over Stalin. Read what being on the wrong side of history did for his reputation.
Long after being in dread of death camps, I became in dread of Dred Scott. He was slave who sued for his freedom and the Supreme Court held that black people weren't intended by the Constitution ever to be citizens and so they didn't have its protections. I didn't really think about whether I would'veturneda blind eye to this till I read Uncle Tom's Cabin and then biographies of Jefferson and Washington. The novel bought home the pathos of the plight of a slave because though fiction it was a first-person account of slavery at that time. What struck be about the biographies was how much stock was put in with how and when Washington did what with the slaves he inherited from his father-in-law and whether Jefferson did or didn't whip an escaped slave and was the slave male or female. Would I have passed by nonchalantly as people were sold publicly? Would I have not been bothered much by people being whipped because that's just the way it was and besides the law said it was okay?
Well, I don't have to worry about being on the wrong side of history in regard to abortion because history shows no signs of being anything but Pro-Choice. A Woman was awarded $244 thousand dollars for a wrongful birth. She said she would've aborted her son if she knew he had Down syndrome. That was in Britain. In the U.S. 75% of mothers who get a positive test for Down syndrome chose to abort (disrn.com/news/woman wins-more-than-200k-in-lawsuit-because-she-wanted-to-abort-her-son-with-down-syndrome). The Population Research Institute says the number of girls aborted in India since 1990 is 15.8 million (World, August 17, 2019, 9). You have to look hard to find numbers like these. They aren't headlines. You won't find them in the AARP Bulletin. But you will find this. In response to new research that the risk of death associated with eating red and processed meats is low, 1 in a 1,000, the Bulletin says alarmingly that adds up to 325,000 deaths in the U.S. per year. "That's like two jumbo jets crashing every day" (The Truth About Meat in Your Diet, Dec. 2019, 33). Read 20 years' worth of my Life Sunday sermons; some are crammed with such comparisons. For example using number of abortions in US in 2017, 862,320 (https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-) that's like 3 jumbo jets crashing every day.
Big yawn. The state billboards on the interstate through the year are going to keep you up to date on the number of highway deaths in Texas climbing to around 3,700 in 12 months. But the sign will never tell you, neither will a newspaper, nightly news, or radio spot, that we murder that many unborn babies in Texas in less than a month. You don't have to worry about being on the wrong side of history in regard to abortion but what about the wrong side of God? Pro- or anti-Nazi, pro-slavery or abolitionist, pro-choice or pro-life, we're all born on the wrong side of God. When David tracks down the source of his adultery and murder, he traces his sin back to being sinful from the moment he was conceived (Ps. 51:5).
That's where we all start and that's where we all stay naturally, and we would be content to live here, die here, and be damned on the wrong side of God, but God wasn't. He sent His Son to our side. Though true God begotten from the Father from eternity, He sent Him to our side, all the way to our side, into the very womb in which we were conceived. But the flesh and blood He took on from the Virgin Mary were without sin because He had no human father. He went that far down because that's how deep the problem is. In order to redeem life in the womb, Jesus had to start there. From conception on, the Man Jesus takes our place under the Law, under all its duties and under all its debts.
See the picture: Jesus is in the womb redeeming, sanctifying, and saving the unborn child by His holy human life that begins there. Then by what He suffers under Pontius Pilate, being stripped, whipped, crucified, crushed and damned He pays for the sins of all. That includes the sins of the unborn and of the mothers letting their babies be killed in the womb and even for all the men and women involved in actively murdering the unborn child. Jesus the God-Man came to the wrong side of God to bring us all back to the right side. All includes the unborn, defective, demented, aged, and terminal, even abortionists, slaveholders, and Nazis.
Do you know that you are on the right side of God now? That's what the resurrected Jesus proclaimed: peace to you, forgiveness to you, no condemnation to all that are in Him. Jesus being raised from the dead proves that God the Father accepted His innocent life and guilty death as payment in full for all your sins and sinfulness. So, I ask again, are you on the right side of God now? Well, that changes everything. It means guilt-free living. What else does Paul mean by saying there is no condemnation to those in Christ (Rom. 8:1)? What else does John mean saying: if our hearts condemn us God is greater and overrules their condemning us (1 Jn. 3:20)?
Do you know the freedom of a guilt-free life? It led the Early Church, even while they were an illegal religion for which they could be imprisoned and killed to speak out? Clement of Alexandria who died 100 years before Christianity was legal said that Christians were not "'hastening abortions and applying abortifacient drugs'" (We Look for a Kingdom, 315). 200 years before it was even legal to be a Christian the Didache said, "You shall not slay a child by abortion (Ibid.,314-5). A letter to the tutor of the emperor Marcus Aurelius by a Christian over a 100 years before it was legal to be a Christian describes Christians this way: "They marry like all other men and they beget children; but they do not cast away their offspring" (Diogenites, 5:8).
Guilt-free living changes everything. Even history? Clergyman Johnathon Swift 200 years before Ireland was granted Home Rule wrote A Modest Proposal. The proposal was to use Irish children for food. It shocked people but it stirred them to think about how Britain was mistreating Ireland. A full century after the Emancipation Proclamation racism was entrenched in many facets of American life. Who would have thought one black clergyman speaking out could do so much? The niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. says "'My uncle would have been very Pro-Life' (https://www.dailysignal.com/2018/01/12/martin-luther-king-jr-s-niece-shares-his-legacy-of-unity-reconciliation-non-violence-and-respect-for-life/). I have this King quote but I can't independently find him saying the 2 sentences together: "'The Negro cannot win if he is willing to sacrifice the futures of his children for immediate personal comfort and safety. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'" (quora.com/ Was-Martin-Luther-King-Jr-pro-life-or-pro-choice Brian Bergstrom, Apr 14, 2018).
In this election year, you can clearly see the Democrat platform and candidates remain solidly Pro-Abortion and though you can hear candidates and feminists groups speak proudly of this choice and even of the foul, evil deed itself, you smell a Pro-Life change in the air. More than half the states have made the killing of an unborn child a crime without regard to the age of the unborn child. 37 states treat the killing of an unborn child as a homicide when done by means other than an abortion (Forsythe, C, "Protecting Unborn Children Is No Cosmic Question', WSJ, 9/23/19). But aren't the numbers against us? Biblical Christianity has never put faith in numbers. There was only 8 in the Ark; only 3 escaped Sodom. There was 450 prophets of Baal and one Elijah. There was no one faithful Easter morning. In the video 40 I showed for Bible class, the women who organized the first Washington D.C. March for Life said there was only 7 people for the first one.
The only number Biblical Christianity is focused on is one: One Lord, one Savior, one God, one faith, and one Prodigal Son, one Lost Sheep. In the Old Testament Lesson today it begins with one Rachel weeping for her lost children. It stands for God's people suffering under divine judgment. They had fallen into the very sins for which God had spat out from the land the nations before them. Likewise, the acceptance of abortion, LGBTQ-ism, and gay marriage is punishment for our rejection of God and persecution of His Gospel. But the prophecy doesn't end with the tears of Rachel but quickly rushes to proclaim the hope and promise of forgiveness, and it ends with the New Testament itself: the Lord saying, "I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Jer. 31:13-34)
The sins of people, even world leaders like King Herod, will not have the last word even in this world. The Baby born at Bethlehem does (Gibbs, 144). And He says, both : "Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread" (Is. 8:13). And, "Dred naught; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness" (Is. 41:10) and who else is the right hand of His righteousness but Jesus? The Jesus who comes among us again today for good, for blessing, for courage and encouragement. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Holy Innocents, Martyrs (20200119)