Dear friends of Vital Signs Ministries, April 2023
We have something quite different for you this month, a blast from the past that not only reminds us of how long Claire and I have been in the fight to re-establish a sanctity of life ethic in America, but which also shows that the same convictions, passions, and purposes which are at the heart of Vital Signs Ministries today have been there all along. For what we’re printing in this month’s letter is the lead article from the Omaha Christian Action Council Commentator that we sent out 40 years ago! That’s right, it comes from our newsletter of March 1983, the second one I had written for the pro-life work that Claire and I had started just months before.
Also in that OCAC newsletter (We changed the name to Vital Signs Ministries a few years later.) was an announcement of our next public meeting at Westbrook E. Free Church (featuring the slide presentation “Abortion Doublespeak” along with a panel discussion on “The Evangelical’s Role in the Pro-Life Movement”); remarks on the film “Assignment Life” I had shown to the whole student body at Grace College of the Bible; quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Jesse Helms; an appeal for OCAC church representatives; an invitation to our very first P.A.L. Night (Prayer, Action, Letter-writing); and more. Man, we really packed stuff in those early newsletters!
Anyhow, here you go — the lead article from that newsletter of 40 years ago. I made only a few edits (We apparently hadn’t proofread it as well as we should have!) and Claire updated the font so you could more easily read it. You see, the original was made on a typewriter!
OMAHA CHRISTIAN ACTION COUNCIL
“So suddenly did the Supreme Court’s decision burst on the world
— so without warning — so surprising was it even to the proponents of abortion-on-request, that it is small wonder that the decision exacerbated the backlash of the Right-to-Life group.
Future shock. The human mind cannot easily accommodate itself to fundamental social change.
We must [therefore] give reluctant minds time to adjust while endeavoring to limit backlash.
We must be patient — without abandoning our ideals.”
The above statement was made by pro-abortion author and activist Garrett Hardin. It is not only an example of personal arrogance and paternalism; it also serves to reveal Mr. Hardin’s comfortable assurance that the storm over the introduction of legalized abortion-on-demand will be a brief one, merely an understandable emotional reaction by the more old-fashioned citizens of the community. You see, Mr. Hardin and many of his anti-life colleagues see those who vigorously espouse the cause of the unborn as persons generally like themselves; that is, persons whose morality is determined by shifting sociological fancies rather than by absolute and eternal truths. The sole difference between the two groups, in this view, is only one of pace. Enlightened spirits like Mr. Hardin catch on quickly to the changes of the times while others, the dim-witted “reluctant minds” (like you and me!) take a while longer. How noble, therefore, is Mr. Hardin’s encouragement to his pro-abortion peers to be “patient” with those temporarily lagging behind — those unfortunate souls who have not yet jumped on the bandwagon of a brutish secularism, those thick-headed people who balk at the necessity of Nietzsche, the weak-minded whose outmoded sentimentality leads them to mourn over the extermination of human beings.
But is this, in fact, the real story? Has Mr. Hardin correctly prophesied the eventual fate of the pro-life movement? Will our righteous indignation be only a brief chapter in our social evolution, a mere interlude in which historic Christian-Judeo values are re-fashioned by those persons of vision among us (such as Mr. Hardin) into a flexible morality that more comfortably fits into the new order?
Several years ago, in a small Berean church in the metropolitan Denver area, Claire and I were challenged by the dangerous pervasiveness of this kind of reasoning even within our own evangelical circles as I listened to the convicting testimony of the congregation’s pastor. His was a fairly recent initiation to urban life because all of his former pastorates had been in rural areas. In beginning his time in Denver, he was overwhelmed by the depths and unabashed boldness of sin that he witnessed in this big city. The new pastor was horrified by this modern-day Gomorrah, a city he believed must be doomed to judgement because of its violent crimes, riots, the lurid immorality which paraded so unashamedly down East Colfax Avenue, and so on. His naive sensibilities were shocked as never before and yet he was moved, by the very vividness of the contrast, to stand more firmly than he ever had for the righteousness and compassion embodied in Christ.
However, things had changed, the pastor humbly confessed to his audience. For after those first few weeks in the city, the pastor admitted that his initial zeal for confronting the lawlessness around him had weakened dramatically. His commitment to be a lighthouse had faded into a disinterested dedication to routine church tasks. Indeed, the fact that Denver’s violence and moral degradation was so…well, so ordinary, that his sensitivity to the sins had become diluted. The pastor explained how reading the newspaper no longer alarmed or horrified him. And he could drive down Colfax almost oblivious to the sad evils of strip clubs, prostitutes, open drug dealing, and so on. Familiarity had bred anything but contempt. Rather, it had bred indifference. The pastor had become “used to” the sin of the city. He had, in fact, proven to be a perfect example of what Garrett Hardin had predicted; namely, the “reluctant mind” that only needed a bit of time to “adjust” to the changing world.
However, the pastor’s sermon continued. “My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I beg you not to fall into the same trap I did. Instead, I want you to remember a basic truth of our faith, one which I failed miserably to remember.” He then leaned across the pulpit and with increased emotion in his voice and tears in his eyes, he made these concluding remarks. “Friends, God’s ways are not our ways! The Lord’s laws are fixed and they are eternal. Truth and righteousness do not co-exist, let alone compromise with the immoral fashions of men or devils. In short, my friends, God never, never gets ‘used to’ sin! And, as people called by His Name and empowered by His Holy Spirit, neither should we!”
The words and example of our Berean brother should stand as an inspiration to us to categorically reject the scenario of Garrett Hardin for, despite Hardin’s beliefs to the contrary, the foundation for justice is the revelation of God Himself — immutable, gracious, holy, enduring, and powerful beyond measure. Christianity is anything but a tired theology, anything but a mere echo of an earlier era. Oh, no; it is a historic and continuing faith in the living Christ Who is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” And it is we, of all people, who must steadfastly refuse to “adjust” to the blasphemous doctrines of the age, no matter how pervasive or popular they may be. Indeed, the Christian must be more than “reluctant” to follow the deceptions of devils; he or she must be resolutely determined to fight back against them with energy, innovation, and perseverance.
So what about the accuracy of Mr. Hardin’s description? Well, I should tell you that his prophecy was made in 1974, only a year after the infamous decisions of the Supreme Court legalized the killing of American babies. Therefore, it must therefore have been a frustrating surprise to Mr. Hardin and his cohorts to realize as the years went by that the resistance to the “social change” which ushered in abortion-on-demand was a lot more than merely “reluctant” for the pro-life movement, far from surrendering, only became stronger and stronger. Men and women of conviction stayed in the battle, beleaguered and bruised, to be sure, but they stood strong and kept praying that God would raise up like-spirited warriors. In the exact manner of the repentant Berean pastor, these souls understood the alluring temptation to “lie down and rest easy.” But they resisted that temptation and fought on instead. May God in His mercy count all of us among such a company.
Make no mistake; God is securing victories even in this dark shadow. Untold numbers have been converted by the massive pro-life evidence. Women are being persuaded every day to forsake abortion and choose life for their babies through pregnancy aid centers, sidewalk counseling, educational ministries of various kinds, the advice of friends who care for both mom and baby, and more. Prayers are being answered. But yes, there is still plenty of room for you in the ranks. There is still much work ahead of us. Let us not tire. Let us not get “used to” this horror. Together in God’s Name, we must become ever more able soldiers with an unquenchable thirst for ultimate victory; that is, the unlimited protection by both law and social practice of all human life.
Okay, that’s the challenge from way back in 1983. It’s a little wordy, I’ll admit (and I sure hope my writing has improved over these last 4 decades!). But I think you’ll agree that the charge from that distant time remains very relevant today. So, Lord Jesus, I thank You once again that Claire and I were there visiting family in Denver so that we could hear that pastor’s humble, inspiring testimony that morning. We thank You also, Lord Jesus, for these 40 years that You have led us in this crucial ministry and all the wonderful friends you have allowed us to serve alongside. Please help us stay the course until You call us home.
Of course, our thanks also go out to all of you who have been such excellent teammates and supporters. We treasure your friendship more than we can say.