“The apostles turned the world upside down. They did so without any help from it.” —John MacArthur
California has entered a new age of barbarism – actually a very old one. Just down the road from me in our state’s capitol, Assembly Bill #2223 passed the assembly almost unanimously, which permits women to commit infanticide. You read that right – our legislature wants to allow women to leave their newborn, “perinatal” babies to exposure and death – without repercussions. In fact, the law allows the mother to sue any authority that even attempts prosecution.
We should begin by noting that fathers are not even in the equation – their role in the decision was aborted a long time ago, in the Roe v. Wade decision. The entire question is conceived in terms of what the woman will do.
The Origination of the Barbarism
Where did this idea of legal infanticide originate from? The ghouls of Planned Parenthood? Of course. The Democratic Party? Yes – this state’s party supermajority equates with the word “legislature.” Feminism? Check. A culture of self-centered lust for “having it all’? Indeed. And now we’re getting a little closer. But the real answer goes deeper. No one woke up last week and decided last week to leave babies to die. And until we see that deeper source of the barbarism, our response to this bloodlust will always be, in some way, superficial and sub-Christian.
We may get at the reasons by first asking ourselves why Christians in the first century made it their habit to go out in the morning and seek out unwanted babies, who had been left to be exposed and die. This was the norm in the ancient Roman Empire, rather than killing the baby in the womb. But why did the Christians do it? After all, they had no “pro-life” organizations, no blogging pastors, no email alerts. They had no political representation. They were citizens of a tyrannical autocracy, if they were citizens at all – some of them were slaves. So what prompted them to seek out these babies, and though they often had little for themselves, to take on another mouth to feed?
One wonders if they were just reading their Bibles. When you see the world afresh, with new eyes, the eyes of the grace of the gospel, you can’t unsee it. You can’t look at an exposed newborn and see anything but how I too was once dead in my trespasses and sins; helpless to do anything about it; alone in the world; alienated from my Parent; with nothing to earn my way into His graces; only bringing deficits to the equation, like more food to consume, diapers to change, and sleep to interrupt. In those exposed newborns, lying in the field, alone and helpless, those first Christians must have seen themselves, before knowing Christ.
But God, in His mercy, made us alive together with Christ. And so those Christians could not help but see in each and every newborn the whole storyline of the Bible: that though God would bring judgment on the world, He saved Noah and his family through the judgment; that though He would bring judgment on Israel through Pharoah, He would save a baby on the Nile and name him Moses; that though God would bring judgment on Egypt, that same Moses would lead His people through the waters to new life on the other side; that though God would bring judgment on the nations of Palestine, God would bring His people to that Promised Land, by means of His servant Joshua, whose name means “God saves”. And though Herod would kill the babies of Bethlehem, another baby named Joshua – in Aramaic, Jesus – would escape to Egypt. And out of Egypt, God would again call His Son.
God saves. That entire storyline reaches its pinnacle, in every one of those Roman citizens who were saved by the mercies of God. At every one of their baptisms, they were proclaiming this new life, this new way through God’s judgment. And so when they came upon these babies, they could not help but see the entire storyline of God’s redemptive plan, and they had to act.
After all, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” You must trust me as if you are as helpless as a child, Jesus is saying. THEN you qualify for the kingdom – when you know you don’t qualify. And these babies were a picture of the glorious truth of that gospel.
For Joy in Grace
From this perspective then, the Christians were not doing it “for the children”. I mean, they were, but what really moved them was God. They did it out of gratitude to Him, to glorify His grace. To put it another way: they were exercising “sympathy”, not “empathy”. Sympathy sees in another their true situation, according to reality, which means according to God, and then gives them what they need. Empathy, on the other hand, perceives the other person’s feelings accurately, and acts according to what we perceive would be psychologically beneficial to them, in their situation.
Today only a Christian can see that exposed baby, and relate to it with true sympathy. Because only a Christian can see what that exposed baby represents, in the scope of the whole cosmos. But what cognizant feelings does a baby have? Thus our whole world can only relate to the mother, and that not with sympathy, but only with empathy – only according to the fleeting and changing emotions of the mother, who was put in such circumstantial distress that she had to leave her baby behind, alone. What distress that must have been for her!, says empathy.
But you see the limits of empathy in its fruits: it still leaves the baby to die, while the sympathy of Christians brings life, and rescue. What kind of culture can revert back to the ancient Roman barbarism of exposing unwanted babies to die? To allow infanticide? Only one that worships nothing over and above the autonomous self – in this case, the pregnant mother. And empathy for the mother is the sweet veneer that frees our warped and seared consciences to give approval to the murder of her child. When the self becomes god, and belief in the one, true God disappears, it’s not that we then believe in nothing. It’s then that we will believe in anything, said Chesterton. It’s only then that we can believe that assuaging the mental anguish of a mother is worth more than the life of that baby.
Politics is produced by culture, and culture is produced by whatever that culture worships. Thus the culture that produces barbaric legislation worships a barbaric, bloodthirsty god. It’s not a matter of WHETHER you worship a G/god that demands blood sacrifices – all the gods do. It’s just a matter of which G/god that is, and whose blood it demands. Our culture’s god promises pleasures and freedoms and says that it demands nothing in return, and yet in the end it always requires a payment of blood – the blood of innocents.
Governor Newsom has proclaimed that California, by fiat and legislation and tax dollars, will become a sanctuary for those who want to have an abortion. By this he and all who serve in this industrial-scale abortion apparatus are only serving their god. Regardless of whether this legislation passes as-is, our state has become a den of death for the most vulnerable, because we worship the god of the autonomous self. Which is simply the base lie of the Garden, the only ploy of that old Dragon, who is destined for the pit. And so is this abominable practice.
In the end, what matters is what G/god the people worship.
The Christian God, the God of the Bible, the God Who is there, He too requires the blood of us all – not because we are innocent, but because we are all guilty of rebellion against him, in any number of ways. Yet in our place He has given us His own innocent Son – all by His unmerited favor, an undeserved gift. Our God in love rescued us, when we were as good as dead before Him. What God required of us, God gave us, as a gift, when we were dead to rights, helpless before Him.
Thus we now stand in the place of our first mothers and fathers in the faith. The church in California now must make itself publicly available as an alternative sanctuary for these babies. Instead of killing their babies, mothers or fathers can bring them here, and we will find a home for them. We will do our best to see to it that they are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Being on God’s Side
In the end, those first Christians’ acts of rescuing love exposed the Romans’ awful practice back to their faces, in a way that changing legislation never could. It shamed not just the practice of infanticide, but also the entire system of perversity that led to that practice. And I believe we are called by God to stand in that same gap once again, for our most vulnerable neighbors, fresh from the womb. And by God’s grace, this will display the shame of our state’s abortion program, and shine a bright light on the grace of the gospel. There is great power – more than we realize – in simply being on God’s side, and simply obeying the Great Commandment, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. To that exposed baby, that love will feel, eventually, like, well, love. To the barbarians in our legislature however, our love will feel like burning coals heaped on the head.
Those first Christians were not “fighting a culture war”, though the culture was shamed and fell before their feet. They were not “getting political”, though they upended an empire’s political system. They knew nothing of “social justice”, though they brought justice to those most in need of it. They were simply Christians, following their Lord, their hearts enlarged by His grace, proclaiming that there is a King of Kings, and He owns the land that empires simply rent for a time. And He will require an accounting from us all. Best to face that now, and repent, before the day of that Great Audit:
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;