Rob Schwarzwalder

A response to Evangelical calls to disengage from the political fight

Rob Schwarzwalder
By Rob Schwarzwalder

As explained by my friends Tim Dalrymple and Mark Tooley, it has become fashionable among some young evangelicals to call upon social conservatives to disengage from the political fight. Instead, they urge their peers to serve our neighbors with Christian affection and anonymous quietude. Matt Anderson, Jon Shields and John Mark Reynolds have commented on essentially the same phenomenon.

The disaffection of some younger believers toward political action seems animated by two factors: the reality that more has not been accomplished, despite decades of evangelical political activism, and the perception that evangelical social conservatives are an angry and bumptious lot characterized more by enflamed rhetoric than compassion or effectiveness.

The first issue reflects more a naiveté about politics than anything else. Political change is incremental. Only on rare occasions (e.g., the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s) does massive social change occur. The great majority of the time, it is a matter of slow, deliberate and prudential action.

For example, the ruling legalizing unrestricted access to abortion, Roe v. Wade, remains the law of the land nearly 40 years after it was issued by the Supreme Court. Those who look with despair on the failure of conservatives to correct Roe say that we should admit legal and political defeat and simply concentrate on pro-life and pro-adoption ministries.

Those ministries are essential, but incomplete: As long as Roe is the law, however generous and effective Christian efforts to save the unborn and help their mothers might be, they will fail adequately to end abortion’s culture of death.

Since 1973, myriad pro-life measures have been passed at both the federal and state levels (See examples here and here). Abortion is being restrained, gradually, through these partial victories.

In addition, the ground has shifted beneath the feet of those who believe in “a woman’s right to choose” an abortion above the right of the unborn child to live - according to a recent Gallup Poll, more Americans than ever before identify as pro-life (50-41 percent). Changes in public opinion usually lead to political action. In this case, that action will (continue to) be pro-life.

Progress can be slow. That does not mean it is unimportant or that noble efforts should be discarded. It means thinking tactically and strategically, persuading and voting and running for office and putting up yard signs and a thousand other large and small political tasks. It means taking what victories are possible now and laying the foundation for more victories in the future. That’s the very nature of politics. I believe these younger evangelicals may very well come to grasp this concept as they mature and gain experience.

Insofar as the stereotypes of “the Christian Right:” it is easy to caricature, much harder to evaluate honestly. Those younger believers who have accepted the narrative offered by critics of Christian conservatives often will win the accolades of the “elites” who insist that evangelicals are uninformed, frightened and reactionary.

The rare flippant remark, the episodic rhetorical overreach, the infrequent but stinging criticism: yes, evangelical leaders in political and social action have occasionally made them. Yet they reflect neither the Gospel nor the remarkable, even historic work of those same leaders - men and women who, sporadically, say things they regret (and, unlike most of their critics, for which they often and quickly apologize).

That such verbal mots are used by those who denigrate Christian activists to generalize about the social conservative movement is intellectually disingenuous; such generalizations are inaccurate and unfair.

To reiterate: Socially conservative evangelicals are fallen, like everyone else. Sometimes we overstate, say things in the heat of the moment, etc. But these isolated comments are not characteristic of the generally irenic language or compassionate actions we seek to bring to the public arena. Verbal gaffes are noticeable - citable - because of their relative rarity.

Undeniably, political triumphalism is an idol. We will never inaugurate the Kingdom of God until the King Himself rules on earth. The battle will never be fully won; as long as our culture is occupied by sons and daughters of Adam (that would be all of us), social evil will exist and merit resistance. Wrong ideas never die but only lapse into episodic somnolence. Agendas of power, slaughter and cruelty wait calmly in the wings of human affairs.

Yet secession from political engagement because it is hard, its success impermanent and its achievements incomplete, is more a form of self-comfort than moral conviction. As Carl Henry wrote me in a personal letter years ago, “not to oppose a Hitler, a Stalin or a Mao would have been an act of Christian lovelessness” - in other words, passivity in the face of evil is acquiescence to it and, in some cases, even partnership with it.

Paul enjoins us to not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:13) for a reason: It is hard to persist in doing good when the results of our labor seem modest. Battles are wearing, and trenches are discomfiting. The overconfidence of some conservative Christians in politics as the means by which to “change the world” was misplaced.

But abandonment is a poor substitute for uninformed striving. Enthusiasm for an immodest aim produces frustration, or even bitterness, since that aim can never be reached. Withdrawal is a welcome alternative, surely, in the short term: It is always easier to rest than fight.

It is then that the faithful Christian remembers we are citizens of an eternal commonwealth, that doing right in all spheres of life is pleasing to - and required by - God, and that small, incremental victories can build momentum such that substantial and more climactic victory becomes possible. For example, Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, but it took another 26 years to end British slavery itself.

Evangelicals should stand for justice and righteousness (our English terms both stem from a common Hebrew word, tsehdek) wherever such a stance is needed. This means defending marriage, the unborn and religious liberty wherever they are endangered.

There is nothing more important than sharing the good news that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave. Yet as central as this is to the church’s proclamation and ministry, it cannot stand in isolation from works of compassion and working for social structures and political initiatives that protect the unborn and their mothers, bolster marriage and the family, and supporting religious liberty.

To herald the Gospel without actions commensurate with it is insufficient. These actions include works of charity and works of public initiative. To jettison either facet of our witness and work would be, to use Dr. Henry’s phrase, “loveless.”

May the church resist such a self-satisfying and thoroughly unbiblical practice and such a dangerous temptation.

Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Christian Post

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A Planned Parenthood facility in Denver, Colorado
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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Colorado judge tosses suit alleging Planned Parenthood used state funds to pay for abortions

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By Dustin Siggins

Alliance Defending Freedom "will likely appeal" a Monday court decision dismissing their suit alleging Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains illegally used state funds to pay for abortions, an ADF lawyer told LifeSiteNews.

The ADF lawsuit claims that $1.4 million went from state government agencies to a Planned Parenthood abortion affiliate through Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Denver County District Court Judge Andrew McCallin dismissed the case on the basis that ADF could not prove the funds paid for abortions. But ADF maintains that funding an abortion facility is indirectly paying for abortions, which violates state law.

ADF senior counsel Michael Norton -- whose wife, former Colorado Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton, filed the lawsuit – told LifeSiteNews that "no one is above the law, including Colorado politicians who are violating our state’s constitution by continuing to fund Planned Parenthood’s abortion business with state taxpayer dollars."

"The State of Colorado even acknowledges that about $1.4 million of state taxpayer dollars flowed from Colorado government agencies through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate. The Denver court seems to have agreed with that fact and yet granted motions to dismiss based on a technicality," said Norton.

According to Colorado law, "no public funds shall be used by the State of Colorado, its agencies or political subdivisions to pay or otherwise reimburse, either directly or indirectly, any person, agency or facility for the performance of any induced abortion." There is a stipulation that allows for "the General Assembly, by specific bill, [to] authorize and appropriate funds to be used for those medical services necessary to prevent the death of either a pregnant woman or her unborn child under circumstances where every reasonable effort is made to preserve the life of each."

According to court documents, the Colorado law was affirmed by state voters in 1984, with an appeal attempt rejected two years later. In 2001, an outside legal firm hired by Jane Norton -- who was lieutenant governor at the time -- found that Planned Parenthood was "subsidizing rent" and otherwise providing financial assistance to Planned Parenthood Services Corporation, an abortion affiliate. After the report came out, and Planned Parenthood refused to disassociate itself from the abortion affiliate, the state government stopped funding Planned Parenthood.

Since 2009, however, that has changed, which is why the lawsuit is filed against Planned Parenthood, and multiple government officials, including Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

According to ADF legal counsel Natalie Decker, the fact that Planned Parenthood sent funds to the abortion affiliate should have convinced McCallin of the merits of the case. "The State of Colorado and the Denver court acknowledged that about $1.4 million of state taxpayer dollars, in addition to millions of 'federal' tax dollars, flowed from Colorado government agencies through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate," said Decker.

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"Without even having the facts of the case developed, the Denver court seems to have granted motions to dismiss filed by the State of Colorado and Planned Parenthood on grounds the term 'indirectly' could not mean what Ms. Norton and Governor Owens said it meant in 2002 when they defunded Planned Parenthood."

"That, of course, is the plain meaning of Colo. Const., Art. V, § 50 which was implemented by the citizens of Colorado, and the reason for Ms. Norton’s lawsuit."

Decker told LifeSiteNews that "Colorado law is very clear," and that the state law "prohibits Colorado tax dollars from being used to directly or indirectly pay for induced abortions."

She says her client "has been denied the opportunity to fully develop the facts of the case and demonstrate exactly what the Colorado tax dollars have been used for." Similarly, says Decker, it is not known "exactly what those funds were used for. At this time, there is simply no way to conclude that tax dollars have not been used to directly pay for abortions or abortion inducing drugs and devices."

"What we do know is that millions of Colorado tax dollars have flowed through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that those tax dollars are being used to indirectly pay for abortions."

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains did not return multiple requests for comment about the lawsuit.

The dismissal comes as Planned Parenthood fights an investigation by the state's Republican attorney general over a video by Live Action, as well as a lawsuit by a mother whose 13-year old daughter had an abortion in 2012 that she alleges was covered up by Planned Parenthood. The girl, who was being abused by her stepfather, was abused for months after the abortion.

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Fledgling high-tech pro-life group marks 2,000 babies saved: 2-3 saved per day

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Online for Life, the Dallas-based pro-life marketing agency, saved its two-thousandth unborn baby earlier this year and is well on its way to saving its three thousandth by 2015.

“We are getting better all the time at what we do,” says founder Brian Fisher. “It used to be one baby saved every four to six weeks and now its two or three a day.”

But the most significant save? “It was the very first one,” he says, recalling the phone call from a crisis centre a month after OFL’s 2012 startup.  “And for me personally it was just a massive turning point … because [of] all the work and the money and testing and the volunteers and everything that led up to that moment. All the frustration of that was washed away in an instant because a child had been rescued that was about to be killed.”

Though increasing market savvy has led Online for Life to expand offline, the core of the non-profit, donor-financed operation remains SEO -- search engine optimization -- targeting young women who have just discovered they are pregnant and gone onto the Web to find the nearest abortion clinic.

Instead, they find the nearest crisis pregnancy center at the top of their results page. Since OFL went online it has linked with a network of 41 such centers, including two of its own it started this year, in a positive feedback loop that reinforces effective messaging first at the level of the Web, then at the first telephone call between the clinic and the pregnant woman, and finally at the first face-to-face meeting.

“Testing is crucial,” says Fisher. “We test everything we do.” Early on, Online for Life insisted the clinics it served have an ultrasound machine, because the prevailing wisdom in the prolife movement was that “once they saw their baby on ultrasound, they would drop the idea of having an abortion.” While the organization still insists on the ultrasound, its own testing and feedback from the CPCs indicates that three quarters of the women they see already have children. “They’ve already seen their own children on ultrasound and are still planning to abort.” So ultrasound images have lost their punch.

OFL has had to move offline to reach a significant minority who have neither computers, tablets, or cell phones.  Traditional electronic media spots as well as bus ads and billboards carry the message to them.

As well, says Fisher, “unwanted pregnancy used to be a high-school age problem; now that’s gone down in numbers and the average age of women seeking abortion has gone up to 24.” By that age, he says, they are “thoroughly conditioned by the abortion culture. Even before they got pregnant, they have already decided they would have an abortion if they did get pregnant.”

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What they need—and fast, in the first two minutes of the first phone call—is sympathy, support, and a complete absence of judgement. Online for Life is always gathering information from its network on what responses are most effective—and this can vary city to city. The organization offers training to clinic volunteers and staff that stresses a thorough knowledge of the services on tap. “Any major city has all sorts of services—housing, education, health—available,” says Fisher.

The problem that OFL was designed to address was the crisis pregnancy centers’ market penetration. Three percent of women with unwanted pregnancies were reaching out to the CPCs, and seven per cent of those who did reach out were having their babies. “So about 2.1 children were being saved for every 1,000 unwanted pregnancies,” says Fisher. “That’s not nearly enough.”

So Fisher and two fellow volunteers dreamed of applying online marketing techniques to the problem in 2009. Three years later Fisher was ready to leave his executive position at an online marketing agency to go full-time with the life-saving agency. Now they have 63 employees, most of them devoted to optimizing the penetration in each of the markets served by their participating crisis centers.

The results speak for themselves. Where OFL has applied its techniques, especially with its own clinics, as many as 15-18 percent of the targeted population of women seeking abortions get directed to nearby crisis pregnancy centers. “It depends on the centres’ budgets and on how many volunteers they have to be on the phones through the day and night,” he says. “But we are going to push it higher. We hope to save our 2,500th child by the end of the year.”

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Shock: UK mom abandons disabled daughter, keeps healthy son after twin surrogacy

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By Pete Baklinski

A UK woman who is the biological mother of twins born from a surrogate mom, has allegedly abandoned one of the children because she was born with a severe muscular condition, while taking the girl's healthy sibling home with her.

The surrogate mother, also from the UK — referred to as "Jenny" to protect her identity — revealed to The Sun the phone conversation that took place between herself and the biological mother over the fate of the disabled girl.

“I remember her saying to me, “She’d be a f****** dribbling cabbage! Who would want to adopt her? No one would want to adopt a disabled child,’” she said.

Jenny, who has children of her own, said she decided to become a surrogate to “help a mother who couldn’t have children.” She agreed to have two embryos implanted in her womb and to give birth for £12,000 ($20,000 USD).

With just six weeks to the due date, doctors told Jenny she needed an emergency caesarean to save the babies. It was not until a few weeks after the premature births that the twin girl was diagnosed with congenital myotonic dystrophy.

When Jenny phoned the biological mother to tell her of the girl’s condition, the mother rejected the girl.

Jenny has decided along with her partner to raise the girl. They have called her Amy.

“I was stunned when I heard her reject Amy,” Jenny said. “She had basically told me that she didn’t want a disabled child.”

Jenny said she felt “very angry” towards the girl’s biological parents. "I hate them for what they did.”

The twins are now legally separated. A Children and Family Court has awarded the healthy boy to the biological mother and the disabled girl to her surrogate.

The story comes about two weeks after an Australian couple allegedly abandoned their surrogate son in Thailand after he was born with Down syndrome, while taking the healthy twin girl back with them to Australia.

Rickard Newman, director of Family Life, Pro-Life & Child and Youth Protection in the Diocese of Lake Charles, called the Australian story a “tragedy” that “results from a marketplace that buys and sells children.”

“Third-party reproduction is a prism for violations against humanity. IVF and the sperm trade launched a wicked industry that now includes abortion, eugenics, human trafficking, and deliberate family fragmentation,” he said. 

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