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Norwegian TV Comes to the House

Dear VSM LifeSharers,                                                                    March 2010                                                           

            We had one of those days last week, unusual and interesting enough that I made it the topic of a Vital Signs Blog post that ended up getting a lot of attention.  It was even listed on the front page of Lucianne.com, one of the most popular conservative sites on the internet.  And unusual enough that several have suggested I make it the subject of this month's LifeSharer.  I've acceded to that request – even though it seems to imply that not all on our Vital Signs LifeSharer list are regular visitors to the blog!  Could that possibly be?

            Before that unusual day occurred, I had thought of a few other subjects for this month's letter.  Among them was the inspiration and encouragement we experienced when hearing young pro-life heroine Lila Rose speak in Lincoln a couple of weeks ago...or the purposes behind my presentation on “Omaha's Christian History” which I've now delivered 3 times in the space of a few weeks...or such other items as sidewalk counseling, President Obama's “health care” boondoggle, important letter writing projects...or perhaps the remarkable blessing it is to be the teaching pastor of an evangelical church that turns out more than a third of their congregation for the Walk for Life in Lincoln.  Good subjects all – but I'll go ahead and describe that unusual Thursday from last week.

            There were some things pretty normal about the day really.  I had my routine breakfast (peanut butter on toast with a cup or two of Early Grey tea) and there was the morning blogging, the correspondence, and checking in with Mom. But we rarely get a chance to have lunch with Sister Rita Jane and other friends (Karin Coker, Quint and Carol Coppi) from our GK Chesterton group over at the Lithuanian Cafe. That was the first unusual item in our day – and it was delightful.  Sister Rita Jane is now in a wheelchair mostly and so the nurse in charge where she lives thought it best to send her along by a special van.  Great. We therefore invited Sister's van driver (one of the staff at the facility) to join us and we all had a wonderful time catching up and talking about literature and life, families and faith history and heaven.  And, oh yes, there was the goulash, the pastrami & Swiss cheese sandwiches, the cabbage soup...and that incomparable apricot torte that Claire and I agree is the best dessert in Omaha.

            Later that evening Claire and I experienced another rare social treat and that was having dinner out at Ralph and Carol Kramper's lovely house north of Omaha.  Ralph is our physician and both of the Krampers are our very dear and longtime friends.  They are also two of our earliest and most enduring heroes.  We had a sweet time with plenty of stimulating conversation, good food and  laughter.

            And then, in between these two fellowship meals, was yet another unusual part of our day for, until that particular Thursday, we had never had a Norwegian television crew come to our house to conduct an interview. Imagine that.

            Jan, Pavel and Leif (the lone Swede in the group) were in town from NRK, Norway's public (and most popular) TV network to do a story on abortion in America, a story in which Omaha's infamous late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart would be featured. I was to provide "the other view."  It was but the latest opportunity that came my way from Julie Schmit-Albin's recommendation.

            The guys were professional and friendly. We served coffee and spent almost an hour and a half talking and then doing the interview itself. We covered a lot of ground in the on-camera interview but they were particularly interested in our sidewalk counseling (both motives and methods), the pro-life movement's emphasis on pregnancy center ministry, the controversy over sex education, my opinions of Leroy Carhart, my work abroad, the history of the pro-life movement, and my religious motivations to engage in such work.

            The one question that most perplexed them, however, was "Why, after so long a time, is abortion still such a desperate controversy here in the United States?" Their experience in Europe gave them few clues. After all, abortion had come to most Western European countries, been rapidly accepted and was now off the political agenda altogether. So they were sincerely trying to figure out why four decades had elapsed since abortion had begun to be legalized in the U.S. and yet abortion was still, as Jan described, "issue number one for America's people."

            My answer, given in 20-30 second bursts as we explored this issue, centered on three things: 1) The deep religious faith of a large section of the American people. I explained that for these Christians (Catholic, evangelical, Orthodox), defending the sanctity of life is a biblical command. It is our Christian obligation. Therefore, no matter what politicians or judges or celebrities or the opinion polls may say, we have a motivation for our pro-life activity that is transcendent. They seemed to like my biological illustration in which I explained that though secularists tend to be like amphibians, that is, cold-blooded animals whose body temperature adapts to that of their surroundings, genuine Christians exemplify quite human qualities; namely, their blood runs warm until it ceases to run at all. Christians seek a higher goal, accept the fact of a higher judgment and depend upon a higher power. Thus, the pro-life movement in America remains strong, vibrant and uncompromising because of its starkly religious nature.

            2) Technology has proven to be a tremendous ally of our movement. No one with any sense of responsibility or honesty (make that any sense, period) still tries to say that the unborn child is just a clump of cells or mass of undifferentiated tissue. And the stubborn fools who still do talk like this have been marginalized to the nutty fringe of the debate. Fetal photography, fetal surgery, techniques and equipment which are used to help earlier and earlier "preemie" babies and, most of all, the development of ultrasound has given the pro-life movement, which always held the higher moral ground (i.e., justice, compassion, opposition to barbaric violence) the higher scientific ground as well.

            And 3) I told the interviewers that though Europeans might have a harder time identifying with this third foundation, it was of critical importance to their question. It was simply this -- Americans have always held as ideals the right of self-determination, liberty, equality, democracy. It is why most Americans still treasure the Declaration of Independence with its heralding of the God-given, unalienable right to life and the Constitution with its separation of powers. Thus when an unscientific, unjust, wildly unpopular law is forced upon all Americans by a mere 7 people in black robes (which thus, in one swipe, uprooted every abortion restriction ever passed by any of the 50 states), it is bound to generate enormous and long-lasting antipathy. Tyranny doesn't set well with us.

            No, I confirmed to the TV crew, because of these three things (the depth of our religious faith, the ever-advancing power of technology, and the incontrovertibly unconstitutional nature of legalized abortion), the pro-life movement will only become stronger in the years to come.

            The interview went well and we were confident that God had answered our prayers. But I've learned a few things from 3 decades of doing media interviews besides technique -- and one of the most important is that the ultimate fate of the on-air presentation rests with those doing the editing. So our prayers (and yours) are still very much in order.

            Like I said, it was an unusual day.

            Now, before I close this month's letter, let me also drop in here that the two days after our time with the Norway TV crew  were also rather unusual days for us.  How?  Well, as you know the traffic to Vital Signs Blog has continued to grow and as the year began, we were averaging 350-420 “hits” per day.  But with a few very recent developments (especially becoming one of the blogs featured in Blogs Lucianne Loves, a very hot spot on the web) that traffic has increased still further.  For instance, on the Friday previous to the unusual day that I've just described, we had gone over 700 “hits” in one day. Quite a jump. But in the two days after the NRK interview, that record was really smashed. With the Norwegian interview post being chosen for Lucianne's front page and another post making an even “hotter” conservative web site, Vital Signs Blog went over 1800 “hits” on Friday and then stayed over 1000 the next day. Wow.

            We are so grateful for your prayers and support that are making these things possible and for keeping Vital Signs Ministries a “vital” force in re-building a culture of life. Thank you so much.

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            P.S. A special word of thanks to all those who passed along your appreciation for last month's LifeSharer letter and its imaginative descriptions of how people respond to the presence of Christians outside abortion clinics. It meant a great deal to know you found it of value.

            See you on Vital Signs Blog.