The Case for the Sanctity of Life
Dear LifeSharers, April 2012
In recent contacts with long time pro-life colleagues from other parts of the country, we’ve been reminded once again of just how unusual is the very existence of Vital Signs Ministries, let alone the fact that, after 30 years and counting, we are busier than ever and still in the very thick of the culture wars. So many of the local pro-life groups that dotted the American landscape in the 1980’s have disappeared altogether – even several of the national ones. And remember how VSM started as a Christian Action Council chapter back in 1982? There were eventually over a hundred active chapters in the U.S. but, alas, we know of no CAC chapters that are yet around.
Why has Vital Signs survived? With all of the coarsening of American society, the compassion fatigue, the disillusionment, the declining economy, the general failure of evangelical leadership (especially the clergy) to effectively engage the life issues – how has Vital Signs managed to navigate all of the troubled waters and stay on course? The short answer is the blessing of a great and gracious God. And the long answer too is underscored in each enumeration with the same grace. Among those would be: a singular focus; terrific friends and mentors; efficient use of limited resources; courage to confront the culture; the energizing power of a strong marriage; a firm commitment to first principles while allowing elasticity in method; and the inclusions of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible among our ministry priorities.
And, of course, we’re not forgetting the faithful prayers and financial support of a handful of generous, visionary friends who understand the crucial need to keep voices like Vital Signs in the public square. You are a foundational part of our ongoing service and we want you to know how deeply grateful we are for you all. And, by the way, this appreciation for your support of Vital Signs is felt by those pro-life friends around America that I mentioned at the outset. They too wanted me to pass along their thanks to you for keeping Vital Signs in the fight.
Okay, let me move on now to a brief review of our activities since last month’s letter. Along with the regular tasks of blogging, sidewalk counseling at the abortion mill, preaching at Faith Bible Church, and our 11-every-month schedule of “When Swing Was King,” we’ve had our quarterly VSM Board meeting, a conference call with CPC leaders in Missouri and being part of the program of the Rally for Religious Freedom in Omaha. I also was part of the FreedMen Conquest conference in Lincoln, spoke on “The Case for the Sanctity of Life” at an “ethics luncheon” for a Christian group at UNMC, and we sent out to many other pro-life groups an invitation to join our “3 for 5” prayer program against Planned Parenthood. Finally we sponsored a letter-writing event in which 17 people (many of them doing their first P.A.L. Night) produced 76 letters and cards!
Any one of the above activities (and a few others I didn’t have time to mention) deserve a fuller description but I will have to let just a couple suffice for now. I take them from the pages of the Vital Signs Blog where I posted them last week. One concerns the UNMC speaking engagement and the other an incident relevant to “When Swing Was King.”
Vital Signs at UNMC: "The Case for the Sanctity of Life"
On Monday I had the honor of addressing an audience of 25-30 medical students on "The Case for the Sanctity of Life." The event was just one of several ministry events that are sponsored by a Christian student group at UNMC but these hour-long "ethics luncheons" are open to anyone on campus.
In my introductory remarks, I had explained the difference between the debates over the reality of human life in the womb and the value of that life. The first debate is, except for Neanderthals and numskulls, already over. The basic findings of embryology, the development of ultrasound technology, and the startling revelations of DNA research have made the question, "But is it really a baby" sound awfully dumb. So the battle now swirls about the second question; namely, "So what?"
As a Christian, I find the answer to that crucial second question in the Holy Scriptures. Life matters because man is created by God, for God and in the express image of God. That's the basis for the sanctity of life ethic. I told the audience, "This is my foundation. For those of you who are Christians, my remarks here will be a reminder to you of our common philosophical convictions. And you may even learn a few things along the way. For those of you who are not Christians, I'd invite you to listen in too. At the very least, you will better understand why it is that Christians have such passion on this issue and why we make it a moral priority. You'll be better able to appreciate why, even after 40 years of legalized abortion in America, abortion and related life issues remain our nation's most intense and sustained controversy."
I went on to mention a few specific Bible references relevant to the sanctity of life but took most of my initial time to describe the most compelling evidence of all -- the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
I took them through a timeline of Luke Chapter 1 which tells of the Annunciation to Mary ("The Holy Spirit will overshadow you and you will conceive" -- pay attention to the future tense used there) and the visit to Elizabeth's home in which John (in utero) leaps in his mother's womb and Elizabeth proclaims the present pregnancy of Mary. So, sometime after the angel's announcement to Mary and sometime prior to her entering Elizabeth's home, the Holy Spirit did overshadow the virgin Mary. The conception of Jesus was conceived.
It was the true Emmanuel ("God with us") moment.
How long a time was that? Well, the passage describes Mary as leaving immediately for "the hill country" which is Jerusalem. From Nazareth (68 walking miles away), that's a 5 to 8 day trip. That means that when the preborn John the Baptist "leapt for joy" and Elizabeth is moved by the Holy Spirit to rejoice in the appearance of the One she calls "my Lord," the tiny body of Jesus may not have even attached to the uterine wall! How important a revelation is this that the sanctity of human life needs to be applied rigorously to the very beginning of the human person's existence.
I concluded by reviewing some of the ways that Vital Signs Ministries (and Christians in general) try to live out this ethic. From CPC work to sidewalk counseling, from political advocacy to peaceful protest, from championing adoption to championing sexual purity, from education to prayer, from opposing experimentation on human embryos to mercy ministries for the elderly and needy -- it is the biblical ethics taught by the order of creation, the Law of Moses, the royal law of Jesus, and the Incarnation itself that bid Christians engage in these good works in Christ's Name.
And then I opened it up for questions. Capital punishment, civil disobedience, end of life issues, quality of life, human exceptionalism, partial birth abortion, contraception...we covered a lot of ground. But the audience was respectful and well engaged. Even when they found some of my answers controversial (and a lot of them were -- big surprise) or when the answers were entirely new to their experience or different from what they believed, the students were open and positive.
One of the organizers wrote later, “Thank you again for speaking. I'm so glad you enjoyed coming and we'd love to have you again! I personally enjoyed your discussion on the human sanctity of life and we received a lot of positive feedback from students. A comment that I remember in particular and agree with is that you shared the truth with boldness and gentleness at the same time. I thank you again for going above and beyond in helping our ministry at UNMC and for personal blessings on my future career as a PT.”
Final Prayers at the Bedside
Following yesterday's "When Swing Was King" presentation, one of the nursing home's officers informed me that one of the hospice residents seemed to be very near death. She had been trying to find a minister (preferably a Baptist) to say a prayer with the resident but had been unsuccessful. Then she remembered that I was a preacher. "I hate to put such a burden on you and I know you guys are awfully busy but could you please just take a minute to see her? I know it would mean so much to the family."
I told her I was honored with the request and we headed down to the hospice room. To all indications, the resident was comatose. But I also know that sometimes, even in such cases as this, there's a lot more awareness than what is imagined. So before I prayed for the person, I introduced myself and spoke to them of the cross, God's love and heaven. And then I prayed aloud for awhile. Then a little bit more conversation and a final prayer.
The family wasn't in the facility right then but I was joined in the room with the nursing home officer and a nurse. It was an emotional experience for all of us. But it was an important moment too -- perhaps in ways we'll not know until we cross the Jordan ourselves.
Later in the evening, after returning from another hospital visit, I received an e-mail from the nursing home officer thanking me again for helping out. She also wanted me to know how pleased the family was, especially since the resident had passed away about 20 minutes after I had left.
"When Swing Was King" is sometimes about a lot more than music.
P.S. As a final note, I thought I’d include a letter that came to Vital Signs after having taken a phone call from a young pro-life activist in Washington State. It’s an indication of the ongoing effect of one of our lesser known activities. You’ll find it on the other side of this page.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today about the excellent dramas posted on the Vital Signs Ministries website! As we discussed, the Abortion Education Center (which is only about a year and a half old) is starting a new pro-life drama team called Life Action. Drama is a key method we will use to educate our culture about the truth that life begins at conception, abortion is the taking of a human life and there are valuable alternatives to abortion such as adoption.
We like the dramas posted on your website and especially we like "The Dickens Scholar." Thanks for allowing us to perform the dramas...I hope we can film the dramas and post them on the web so you can see them and if we write more dramas it would be great if we could share them with you...Thank you again and God bless you, your family and your ministry.
Stephen R. Geringer
Abortion Education Center Project Leader
Human Life of Washington Education Foundation