Friday, March 11, 2016

Abortion 3

(Abortion 1 and Abortion 2 are here, in case you're wondering.)

After World War One, the Treaty of Versailles required Germany to repay what the war had cost the Allies. The point was to punish Germany, and it was short-sighted and disastrous. The hemorrhage of money, followed inevitably by hunger and desperation, paved an easy path for Hitler and the Third Reich.

In 1943, in Warsaw, a number of Jews confined to a ghetto managed to get their hands on weapons and stage an uprising that lasted just under a month, from April 19 to May 16. Fewer than three hundred German operatives were killed, and the uprising contributed nothing discernible to toppling the Nazis. It's arguable whether it was worthwhile for its own sake, as a last act of defiance, but it indisputably had nothing to do with putting a stop to the larger problem that put the fighters in the ghetto to begin with. Defeating Hitler's Germany took a systemic war prosecuted on all fronts: military, economic, informational, and perhaps most importantly of all, backstopped by a carefully designed plan for reconstruction. If all we'd done was battle Germany into collapse, we would've blotted out the symptoms, left the infection untouched, and cleared the battlefield for a third go.

We didn't. Instead, in 1948, under George Marshall's oversight, the United States began the project of helping Europe, and specifically Germany, rebuild. We spent thirteen billion dollars, nineteen-forties dollars, to restore infrastructure and institutions that been bombed into ashes and dust. It was farsighted and wise. Between the Marshall Plan and the European Union, we've gone more than seventy years without a European war involving Germany, something that at one point would have seemed as improbable as seventy years without a suicide bombing in the Middle East. Marshall won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953, and deservingly so.

This morning, a member of my church's leadership posted approvingly about a bill in Oklahoma which would define abortion as first degree murder. There are two ways to think about the project of reducing the number of abortions: there's the impulse to lash out and punish harder, harder, harder, thinking that at some point the punishment will flip abortions off just like a light switch. Maybe if we pass laws declaring abortion a war crime! Maybe if we drop nuclear weapons on the abortion clinics! Hydrogen bombs! Maybe if we grind Germany under our heel until they teeter on the brink of bankruptcy and starvation, they'll just vanish and never be a threat again!

Or, maybe if our resources go into cutting down unwanted pregnancies, and providing material support to women who feel cornered, then all those efforts will pay off richly in fewer abortions. And if there are women who abort flippantly, then maybe we should try something radical like, oh, I don't know, relational ministry. Preach the Gospel. Pray for them, love them, teach them, introduce them to their Creator who promised to give them a new heart and a new spirit. Stop me when any of this sounds un-Biblical.

The un-Biblical part is responding to it by lashing out in anger and trying to extinguish behavior with punishment. God will judge, but our part is to love. God doesn't need our help judging or punishing. He doesn't need our help keeping the galaxies in the right orbits, and frankly I'd be terrified of piloting one of those monsters. He similarly doesn't need our help responding to evil with justice, and frankly I'm terrified of the part of my soul that wants control over that.

I do fully understand that what underpins the motive to punish is a desperate wish to protect the innocent. I do get that stubbornly irreducible number of abortions each year, each week, each day, is heartbreaking. But the sin of meeting force with force, of meeting violence with violence, is such a ready tool in the hands of our Adversary that we have to use all our wisdom to steer clear of it. It's no excuse before God that we committed our own sins in opposition to others' sins, no matter how much their sins sicken us. Jesus wasn't pleased when Peter cut off Malchus' ear; He praised the centurion whose faith was entirely in His word, His provision. I'm all for fewer abortions, but unless we do it the right way, we do wrong. Simple as that.

Want fewer abortions? Pray for that. Then get up and go share the Gospel with someone. The rest is God's, so get your grubby hands off it.

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