Rev. Matt O’Reilly is pastor of First United Methodist Church of Union Springs, Alabama, a Ph.D. candidate in New Testament at the University of Gloucestershire, and an adjunct member of the faculties of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary and Wesley Biblical Seminary. Connect at www.mattoreilly.net or follow @mporeilly.
Sometimes silence is deafening. In the case of major media silence on the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is charged with mass murder of defenseless newborns, it is also sickening. The horror is only amplified as it comes on the heels of the defense of infanticide by a Planned Parenthood representative in testimony before the Florida House of Representatives, a story that also received little coverage. Despite the lack of media coverage, word has spread about these events by means of social media sharing and commentary. These events and the media’s silence provide a valuable learning opportunity for the Church. Here are few key lessons we need to learn.
It will not stop.
Abortion and infanticide are two stops on a single road, and the road has a downhill slope. Make no mistake. The current situation in which abortion practitioners are engaging in infanticide is the result of our desensitization by the decades long effort to devalue and destroy the lives of the preborn. Sin and death always look for new territory to conquer, and having eradicated the safety of the womb, they now proceed to do violence against the newly born. They will not stop until infanticide is canonized as a basic constitutional right of free choice. Then they will move on to wreak havoc and destruction elsewhere.
Don’t believe me? It’s already happening. As I’ve indicated above, a representative of Planned Parenthood has argued that ending the life of a child born after a botched abortion should be a decision left to the woman and her doctor. Sound familiar? The exact same language that was used to normalize abortion-on-demand is now being applied to infanticide. In 2011, two bioethicists argued in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Ethics that ending the life of a newborn, which they nonsensically call “after-birth abortion”, is moral and should be permitted under law. Sure, there is outrage now, but give it a little time. Congressional testimony and the scholarly opinions of allegedly respected ethicists are significant steps down the path to what will one day be horrifically called safe, legal, and rare infanticide. It would take only a single lawsuit heard by the Supreme Court in which the petitioner claims an undue burden in maintaining the life of a newborn baby to change the law of the land. We aren’t there yet, but we are closer than we think. Let me be clear that I’m not suggesting that every pro-abortion advocate is also in favor of infanticide. Many are horrified by Gosnell’s crimes. I am simply calling on the Church to recognize that there is a greater power at work, and that power is on the offensive. The people of God must understand this and stand against it.
It’s our job to speak
We must stand against that power with our voices. We need to learn something we should’ve learned a long time ago. When it comes to matters of morality, we cannot count on the media to be the watchdog. It’s the Church’s job to call the nation to righteousness. It is our job because our God commissions his people to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Prov. 31:8), for he “has pity on the weak and the needy” and “From oppression and violence he redeems their life” (Ps 72:13-14). Who has less voice than these little ones on whose tiny tongues lingers the aftertaste of amniotic fluid? Who will speak up for them? At the end of the day, the media will focus on stories that advance their agenda. Stories that do not, no matter how newsworthy, will receive little or no attention. God will hold us accountable for whether we’ve used our voices to speak up for righteousness by taking up the case not only of the preborn but now also the newly born.
It’s a Gospel issue
We also need to remember that as we speak to the gross immorality of abortion and infanticide, we must speak in the context of the gospel. Christ died to purchase forgiveness for sin, including the sin of ending the life of a preborn or newborn child. By imputing to us his righteousness, which is the basis of our acceptance by God, Christ sets us free from guilt, shame, and condemnation, including the guilt, shame, and condemnation that come from ending the life of a preborn or newborn child. Christ was raised on the third day in order that we might share his new life. It is certainly true that those who have been a party to the death of the preborn and the newly born need the new life that Christ gives as much as any of us. Like us all, Dr. Gosnell needs the gospel. The gospel shines the light of God’s extravagant love to redeem us from the horror and darkness of our sin. Abortion and infanticide are gospel issues because they are sin issues.
We’ve got a lot to learn as we watch our society react to the lack of media coverage on these important events. We also have a great opportunity to live into the gospel by speaking justice, mercy, grace, and redemption to the twin issues of abortion and infanticide. Let’s pay attention, and let’s learn our lesson well.