The news clips and Monday morning newspapers report on President Obama’s Sunday visit to the Notre Dame campus to speak and receive an honorary doctorate. They all have him appealing to both sides of the abortion issue for calmness and reason. Okay, I’m for that.
Obama told how in his presidential campaign his website mentioned the right-wing extremists (ideologues?) who oppose “a woman’s right to choose.” A medical doctor called him to task for the language, saying he’s not a right-winger, but believes that abortion is wrong. He wanted the president to use more temperate language and to recognize there are good, reasonable people on that side of the fence. Obama told how he had his staff clean up the tone of the website. In his Sunday speech, he called for good will from pro-lifers as well as pro-choice people. “We ought to be able to respect one another’s position and have a thoughtful conversation about it,” he said (not the precise words, but that was the thrust).
No problem here. I’m all for that. But it seems to me the president is missing one big thing, the “elephant in the living room,” as the saying goes.
When a pro-lifer has his way, a child lives. When a pro-choice person has his, a child dies.
It’s very difficult to keep cool about that.
There’s too much at stake here.
Over the weekend, I had a lengthy visit with Michael and Kellie Folks of Springfield, Louisiana. He’s the chairman of deacons at the First Baptist Church there, where I preached Sunday morning. My counterpart for that section of Louisiana, Director of Missions Lonnie Wascom, was the Folks’ pastor when they lived in Hammond. Lonnie says there is not a finer, godlier young couple anywhere than Mike and Kellie. Saturday night, they took me to dinner at Catfish Charlie’s in Hammond and I got to know five-year-old Claire and six-year-old Evan Folks. What winners these children are. I have been charmed before, but rarely as completely as those two worked their spell on me.
The last time such children captivated my heart so totally was…well, Tuesday, April 21, to be exact. (You might gather I’m not exactly difficult for a child to charm.) I was traveling toward Ridgecrest North Carolina and spent the night with Tim and Brandi Bryant in suburban Atlanta. Brandi’s step-father and my dear friend Jim Graham had prepared me for meeting his grandchildren: “Joe, get ready to fall in love.” Well sir, that’s what happened. The three Bryant daughters are Graham, 9, Bishop, 7 perhaps, and Merritt, about 5. What bright, incredible children. (I was already at their home visiting with Tim when the girls arrived from swim practice. They bounded down the stairs, calling out, “Dr. McKeever! Dr. McKeever!” and threw their arms around me, welcoming me into their home. That, believe it or not, was the first time I had laid eyes on these girls. But it will not be the last, I can assure you!)
The thing is — in case you wonder why these two paragraphs found their way into this discussion — these children were at one time fetuses. They were in their mothers’ wombs and as vulnerable as any endangered species on this planet.
And look at them now.
It’s not as simple as you want it to be, Mr. President. You can’t just say, “Let’s sit down and have a reasonable discussion on this matter and agree to respect one another’s position” when one side is killing unborn babies and the other wants to save them. Where is the reason in that?
I’m trying to be cool and dispassionate, believe it or not. It’s hard.
Suppose, by way of illustration, we have two people who are discussing euthanasia, the practice of putting to death elderly or handicapped, infirmed people who are considered a dead-weight on society. Suppose the two are on opposite sides of the fence, that one supports euthanasia while the other opposes it. But suppose the one supporting it occupies the power position and has made it the national policy, meaning that even as they have their discussion, people are being systematically “put down,” then hauled to the morgue. And suppose the guy in the power position grows upset at the rantings of the fellow opposed to euthanasia and calls on him to cool off and speak rationally. “After all,” he pleads, “why can’t we just get along?”
The answer is because millions of lives are at stake. The longer we maintain the present practice, the more people will die.
History students will recall that after he invaded Poland in September of 1939, Hitler was surprised to learn England had declared war on Germany. “We have no evil intentions toward the British,” he insisted. “Why are they declaring war on us?We are peace-loving people.”
In fact, the German representatives kept trying to make peace with the British. The British, on their part, would respond, “All right. Withdraw from Poland and we will believe you.”
Oh no, they couldn’t do that, Germany protested. But this has nothing to do with you, the British.
The Germans were asking for a cool, reasonable discussion and wanted peace to prevail. What they did not want was to give up what they had taken by force from other nations. They wanted to do what they wanted to do and for critics to be happy about it and tend to their own business.
A poll just out shows that the American people for the first time are declaring themselves pro-life (something like 51 percent to 41 percent).
Not that that matters.
Right is never a matter of popular opinion. It’s much steadier than that, far more important.
One more thought.
Sunday night, a nature program on television showed the birth process in the kangaroo. (Is there a person in the civilized world who has not seen images of this tiny fetus crawling the 12 inches toward the mother’s pouch and inserting itself inside, then attaching itself onto the teat? It’s one of the marvels of the natural world.) I sat there watching and reflecting upon the human baby growing inside its mother’s stomach.
Could it be that God in Heaven has given us the image of the kangaroo fetus for all to see in order to make a point about the life of the human unborn?
I have a theoretical question or two: if we were to try to curb the kangaroo population by capturing the mother and taking the fetus inside her pouch and exterminating it, what kind of hue and cry would erupt? And who would be crying the loudest? Is it possible the loudest cries would come from the pro-choice people, who — it seems to me; I don’t have any information to bear this out — want to honor all kinds of life on the planet except that of unborn babies?
I really do want to be cool and unpassionate and reasonable about this discussion. But it’s just so hard.
There’s so much at stake.