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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Kermit Gosnell considers himself a ‘martyr’: Gosnell filmmakers

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By Ben Johnson

HUNGTINGDON, PA, May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Spending life in prison without parole for murdering several newborn babies, Kermit Gosnell spends his days listening to music and thinking of himself as a “martyr,” according to the makers of the forthcoming Kermit Gosnell film.

Producers Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney, and Magdalena Segeida interviewed Gosnell for hours at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania – and they came away saying the doctor is remorseless, self-pitying, and enjoying far more liberty than they thought would be granted to a mass murderer.

The producers visited the central Pennsylvania penitentiary and spoke to the the late-term abortionist up-close – a little too close, they say. McElhinney said Gosnell sat uncomfortably close to her throughout the multihour session.

“We have just come back from Pennsylvania where we were the first journalists to sit down in prison to interview Gosnell,” the producers said in a mass e-mail to their supporters. “The two hours we spent interviewing the former abortion doctor were two of the most disturbing hours of our journalistic careers.”

“The interview was one of the creepiest we have ever conducted,” the mass e-mail continued.

Gosnell, they recounted, “is thought to have murdered hundreds if not thousands of babies in a 30 year killing spree.” Yet he has access to music, a subject he discussed at length. At one point, McElhinney said, Gosnell burst out into song.

Ann McElhinney told The Daily Signal, “I’m amazed at how pleasant his life is, the freedoms he has.”

Far from having repented of his crimes, Gosnell continues to justify his actions, they said.

“In his own version of the story, he’s a martyr – he’s part of a hounded class,” McElhinney said.

That assessment corroborates the views of others who interviewed the onetime proprietor of the “house of horrors,” where newborn babies had their spines severed, untrained staff administered fatal doses of drugs to poor women, and aborted fetal remains were found stuffed into every available crevice.

In September 2013, Steve Volk interviewed Gosnell for Philadelphia Magazine. Gosnell, he wrote, “sees himself as having performed a noble function in society.”

"It's not as if he feels guilty about what he did,” Volk said. "He believes he was a soldier at war with poverty.”

By plying his trade in poverty-stricken West Philadelphia, in a majority minority neighborhood, Gosnell believed he helped reduce the city's low income population.

“In this larger spiritual sense, he believes he was performing a service for people,” Volk said.

After his conviction, Gosnell sought to work with Hillary Clinton's embattled charity, the Clinton Global Initiative or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on issues of "prison and justice reform.”

"He believes that he gained insight into what it's like to be pushed into the system, without the capacity to explain himself," Volk said.

Gosnell's self-confidence has seldom been questioned, from the dismissive way he treated police who searched his home – playing Chopin on the piano as they searched his flea-ridden basement – to the way he carried himself in court. Defense attorney Jack McMahon had also told reporters after the guilty verdict that the mass murderer “truly believes in himself.”

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

The filmmakers, who have produced several right-of-center documentaries, plan to make a big budget, big screen film about Gosnell's life. They continue to raise funds for their efforts at GosnellMovie.com.

But they may need a breather after encountering Gosnell himself.

“I’m still recovering, actually,” McElhinney told the Signal.

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Josh Duggar apologizes, admits ‘wrongdoing’ as young teen amid molestation accusations; resigns from FRC

By John-Henry Westen

Editor's Note: This is a developing story.

May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In response to allegations in the media that he molested minor girls when he was in his early teens, Josh Duggar has admitted in a public statement that he acted "inexcusably" at the time, and has resigned from his position at the Family Research Council.

A 2006 police report leaked to the media states that Josh was investigated for sex offenses, including "forcible fondling" against five minors.

According to the report, the first allegations surfaced in March 2002, the same month he turned 14. At the time the family dealt with the allegations internally. A year later, however, when further allegations were made, the family sent Josh to work with a family friend for three months, after which his father took Josh to see a state trooper.

According to the report, the trooper gave Josh a "stern talk" about what would happen if he "continued such behavior," but no formal action was taken at the time.

The issue emerged again in 2006, after a family friend had written details about the allegations in letter and placed it in a book, which was subsequently loaned out. This resulted in a call being placed to a child abuse hotline, which in turn led to a formal investigation being opened. By this point, however, the statute of limitations had expired, and as there had been no new allegations or evidence that the abuse was ongoing, the case was dropped.

Although Josh was never charged, his now-wife, Anna, says that he confessed his actions to her and her parents two years before he asked her to marry him.

"I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions," he said in a statement today. "In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption."

Anna said she was "surprised" when Josh had voluntarily admitted what he had done to her and her parents two years before proposing to her. "I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it," she wrote today. "For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes."

"I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis," she added. "If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right."

LifeSiteNews is continuing to investigate this developing story. Following are the Duggar family’s statements responding to media reports about the incidents.

From Jim Bob and Michelle:

Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.

Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday.

It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.

From Josh:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. 

We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life.

I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.

From Anna:

I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock. It was not at the point of engagement, or after we were married - it was two years before Josh asked me to marry him.

When my family and I first visited the Duggar Home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it. For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes.

At that point and over the next two years, Josh shared how the counseling he received changed his life as he continued to do what he was taught. And when you, our sweet fans, first met me when Josh asked me to marry him... I was able to say, "Yes" knowing who Josh really is - someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended. Someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right.

I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis. Your investment changed his life from going down the wrong path to doing what is right. If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right. Thank you to all of you who tirelessly work with children in crisis, you are changing lives and I am forever grateful for all of you.

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Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

Dutch court acquits man who euthanized his mother after doctor refused

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits

May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- A Dutch appeals court acquitted a 74 year-old man earlier this month of the murder of his mother in 2008, because he acted in an “emergency situation”: the woman wanted euthanasia and had not obtained it from her family doctor.

The decision is a surprising one, even in the Netherlands, and will probably be followed by an appeal from the public prosecutor, who has already published a communiqué reminding the public that euthanasia and assisted suicide “are and remain, in the eyes of the prosecutor, exclusively to be performed by a doctor.” But as it stands, it marks a new step down the slippery slope of euthanasia in that it justifies an act of euthanasia contrary to the letter of the law on the grounds that the accused, Albert Heringa, was careful to act in compliance with the law’s provisions, the court ruled.

Albert Heringa acted in accordance with his conscience of his own duty and he was right to do so, ruled the Arnhem-Leeuwarden appeals court, because his sense of duty “justly” carried more weight than the legal prohibition of the act, which in theory can only be decriminalized when performed by a medical doctor under strict conditions.

The accused said he was “very happy” about the decision. The Netherlands Right to Die Society (NVVE) hailed it as “a step in the direction we want to follow.” “Many people who consider their life complete wish to be helped by loved ones,” said its spokeswoman, Fiona Zonneveld.

The judges did not take into account the fact that Albert Heringa’s mother, “Moek,” was deemed ineligible for euthanasia by her doctor.

In 2008, Moek was 99. She had no grave illness; she was just old and blind and did not feel like living any longer, calling her suffering “unbearable” and “without hope of improvement.” When her doctor refused euthanasia on those grounds, she turned to her son who decided to help his mother die. He was later to explain that his mother started hoarding her medication in order to kill herself through an overdose. The pills she was taking would not have been able to bring about her death, he argued, but would have made her health much worse. This was confirmed during the subsequent judicial enquiry.

Heringa decided to go to work “transparently,” filming his every gesture in view of the killing of his mother. He used an overdose of his own malaria pills together with sleeping pills and anti-emetics to poison her. The films were later used to illustrate a documentary on “Moek’s last wish,” which was aired in 2010 on Dutch TV. The appeals court judges took this “transparency” into account in their decision to acquit him.

The public prosecution was not so lax. Despite the “rectitude” of Heringa’s intention, it accused the man of not having acted in compliance with the law. In 2013, he was judged guilty but exempted from punishment. The prosecution appealed that decision, demanding a three months suspended prison sentence in order to underscore the illegality of his actions. But the Arnhem-Leeuwarden appeals court went even further than the first judges in exonerating him completely.

They invoked the euthanasia law, which decriminalizes euthanasia when no other “reasonable solution” is available to alleviate a patient’s suffering and thus avoid euthanasia, but in this case they equated the potential “reasonable solution” with the ability to find a doctor who would be willing to perform the act, as if euthanasia were a patient right. Heringa could not find one, therefore he was justified in taking the law in his own hands, the judgment says in substance.

This marks a double revolution. Firstly, the court overlooked the legal requirement that a doctor should perform euthanasia, and no one else. Secondly, it justified euthanasia on a woman who was simply “tired of living,” a situation for which the euthanasia law definitely does not provide.

But this is just another element of the Pandora’s box that was opened when the Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002. Increasingly, regional control commissions, which verify all declared acts of euthanasia retrospectively, have cleared “mercy-killings” of elderly people who had multiple complaints but no single life-threatening disease. “Intolerable suffering” is being interpreted more and more widely. In Heringa’s case, it is simply his mother’s plea for euthanasia that justified the act in the eyes of the court.

The court even went so far as to say that Heringa would have had to live with a “sense of guilt until the end of his life” had he not taken measures to end his mother’s life.

In 2011, the Dutch medical association KNMG changed its position on “intolerable suffering,” declaring that “unbearable and hopeless” suffering can result from other causes than physical illness. Also, the End of Life Clinic founded in 2012 caters to euthanasia requests that have been refused by patients’ family doctors on conscientious or medical grounds. Would Heringa have found a doctor willing to perform euthanasia on his mother in this new situation?

Whatever the answer to that question – and no one will ever know – the fact of his acquittal is a definite sign that euthanasia is being treated more and more as a right and an acceptable option in the Netherlands. It is also good news for unscrupulous family members who might find it expedient to push their relatives towards the grave.

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