Friday, February 23, 2007

A Stick in the Mud

I want to be a person who is open-minded. I fear being an old man who is so set in my ways that I am stuck. Yet, there are some things that just appear to be no-brainers -- I guess I will never understand the other view on.

Two of them came up last night. Beverly and I went to a gala benefitting Wise Choices -- the local pregnancy clinic (obviously pro-life). The whole issue of abortion reminds me of just how barbaric we humans still are. Since 1973's Roe v. Wade, there have been approximately 75 million abortions in America. How, as a nation, we could justify this is beyond me. I might be talked into making exceptions in the event of the mother's life being in danger (or rape). But how many abortions would that be?

Interesting: When these pro-life pregnancy centers can get the women to see an ultrasound of their babies, over 90% choose to carry their babies to term (compared to about 25% who do not have an ultrasound).

But last night, as they were presenting the information about their clinic, they mentioned how many young women had been led to a prayer decision for Jesus. I find it interesting that we in Churches of Christ receive so much criticism for our teaching on baptism. As I am reading and studying through Acts again, I am struck by the centrality of the baptism theme. And yet, we are marginalized by the religious community for pointing out what the Word says. Where is the verse about praying Jesus into your heart?

I realize that part of the problem is that we have have a few "squeeky wheels" who teach baptism as if it is a meritorious work. I realize that some people's approach to the subject has been legalistic. But none of that changes how cental it is to the life of the early church.

So, I guess on those two issues, I'm just an ol' stick in the mud (I wonder where that expression came from?)


Josh Ross said...

What is a "no-brainer" to you and to me might be a little more difficult when placed in poverty with no family, minimum wage job, already 2 kids, and 1 late night mistake with a guy that isn't even a boyfriend. This is the position that many people are in. In no way am I saying that abortion is okay, but for some people, even those that claim to be pro-life, this is a struggle. It is harder than 2+2=4 so just hold up the #4.

However, there are more people that fall into the categories of upper & middle class that have abortions than those in poverty.

In my opinion, the greater question isn't how to stand strong in our pro-life belief. The greater question is, "How should the church respond?" For the most part all we have are people that claim to be pro-life and their only actions are to put bumper sticker on their cars or they write senators to voice complaints. Uhhh...this method doesn't seem to line up with the Gospel--the good news of the Kingdom.

Do we have ministries that reach out to pregnant single women?
Are we supporting counseling centers with our money and time?
Are we supporting adoption agencies?
Are we inviting pregnant women out of wedlock to join us at our home tables or in restaurants with our families?
Are we befriending them?

Any other ideas of how the church should graciously respond?

I'll try to get to the baptism issue later.

Rick Ross said...


There are viable options to abortion available to anyone. In the United States there are thousands of clinics like the one I spoke of in my blog. They offer adoption assistance as well as parenting training and financial help. These are run mostly by Christian people volunteering their time to help the very people you described.

It is OK to stand strong in a belief. And standing strong in a belief should lead to action.

jross said...

I have heard horror stories about unwed pregnant women who have been shunned by the church - but have only seen it once. My experience has been that the church HAS reached out to these girls - especially those who admit making a mistake (I think that's key).

It is my opinion that more effort needs to be put toward educating the girls (women) PRIOR to their becoming sexually active. This goes beyond a youth minister talking about it in Wednesday night class (though that's good too). Ideas? Too many to share in this forum.

Baptism - stay stuck in the mud!

Josh Ross said...

I totally agree about educating people prior to sexual activity. We need to do a better job of this.
I have seen the horror stories, and I have seen the church respond redemptively.

Rick (Dad-e-o),
I didn't suggest that it isn't okay to stand strong in a belief. However, if our stance in a belief doesn't bring forth redemptive actions, it is wrong. Bumper stickers and petitions aren't the answer. Jesus didn't tell people to stand for peace, He told us to be peace-makers. Do something about it. All I'm saying is that we (the church) need to something about it. We shouldn't just say that we are against abortion; we should do something about it. (This doesn't mean to do something about it by burning down abortion clinics.)

I am fully aware of the clinics and agencies that are available to serve people by educating parents in parental skills and financial skills. I work in close relationship with some of these groups. I have been to their graduations. I am moved by these volunteers. I am fully supportive of these organizations.
However, our response to people in need shouldn't just be, "Let me send you to..." But it is how can we form relationships with people to join them on the journey. The church needs to act. We need to provide people with a community that they can rely on, depend on, and trust. We represent Christ on the earth.
Standing strong in a belief is great, as long as we act in redemptive ways.

Kyle R. said...

I was a little late getting to the blog site today. So, I guess I'll weigh in now.

Human Life:

Of course there is no disagreement among us on this site regarding the importance of human life. Even in most all of Christendom there is no disagreement over the importance of human life.

Where some will disagree is regarding this question: When does human life begin? Is it at conception? Is it at viability (when a fetus can survive outside the uterus)? Is it at birth when the infant takes his or her first breath of earthly air? Or some other time?

I believe human life begins at conception. Without writing a long essay on my views on this amazingly intricate, wonderfully complex subject, suffice it to say that I believe, morally, ethically, socially, philosophically, biologically, biblically, the preciousness of life begins at the instant the male spermatazoa (seed) unites with the female oocyte (seed) and forms a zygote (one celled person). From that very instant, at least from a biological standpoint, the genetic blueprint is set forth and that one tiny cell contains every single piece of genetic information to form that person, such as color of eyes, hair, shape of nose, cowlick in the hair, whether or not he is going to 6'6" or she is going to have a beautiful singing voice, etc. (I just have to stop right there and ponder that for a brief moment and say, "Wow!") If an amazing genetic blueprint is laid at that one instant determining physical traits , is it not plausible that a spritual soul is being formed that longs for his/her creator?
Believers' Stance and Response to this amazingly intricate, wonderfully complex issue:

On one hand, people must take responsibilty for their actions. On the other hand, none of us has it in us alone to take complete responsibilty for our behavior. This is why we all need Jesus. Jesus obviously calls us to love people. How we do this in real time, I am not precisely sure. Prevention seems to me the place to start. Redemption seems the place to end.

For the life of me I cannot comprehend entirely how one cannot read the New Testament and cannot see that immersion in water is the appropriate faith response to what God has done through Jesus on the cross and at the tomb.

I cannot entirely understand how a substantial portion of Protestant Christianity believes one's response to the gospel message is just a prayer decision or confession of faith. Isn't that what the Bible says that baptism is? Doesn't the Bible teach that baptism (immersion in water)is a prayer to God and a verbal, physical, spiritual confession of Who Jesus is and what He has done? In other words, "Oh Lord, I am a sinner! Please wash my sins away, only you are able to and you said you would in the watery grave and raise me to be a new creation." It is what the book of Acts would say is "Calling on the name of the Lord."

But maybe I just answered my dilemma. The key word being "Protestant." Not until some time in the 1500's was baptism debated or perhaps even questioned.

And isn't that what we humans tend to do? Protest? React? We see an error or an injustice and we protest and react.

The catholic (universal) church is corrupt. We must protest, react... reform. The church is offering indulgences for a price, emphasize righteousness by faith.

Fast forward just a few short years, emphasizing righteousness by faith, one's ability to read the Bible for himself/herself thanks to the printing press, and even selfish desire, among other reasons has led to a myriad of splinter churches with a variety of beliefs and creeds.

Let's protest, react...restore Now we must restore. Restore new testament Christianity. Let's get back to the Bible down to the perceived letter. Let's use commands, examples, and don't forget the necessary inference... let's be the masters of inference. And let's part company if my inferences do not match up to yours.

If the Baptists and the Methodists, Anglicans, Catholics, etc, are organized improperly, let's emphasize church organization. If some are emphasizing confessions of faith and sprinkling, let's protest, react, restore and emphasize baptism--even at some points of forgetting why we are immersing. They're talking about Jesus, we don't need to really talk about Him. Let's react to what is wrong. (Of course I am being overly dramatic).

My point is this: humans tend to react and really probably over-react more often than not.

Cannot all who look to Jesus for salvation humble ourselves and start our outlooks from the foot of the cross, where the ground is said to be level, even, the same?... "for all have sinned and fall short."

Can we not start and dialogue at what we have in common rather than at what we do not?

Can we not just open God's word and read and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us? What it says is what it says, and what it does not, it does not.

Jeff said...

I guess I have been blessed to be in churches that were full of fallible people but people that, by and large, tried to reach out to people, tried to help those who needed it.

I get the impression from reading some of the posts that the churches of Christ must be an easy target for not doing what churches should. I have seen the opposite, churches that did try to find avenues to reach people who were lost and hurting. None have been perfect and all could do more, I dare say that could be said of anyone of us at any time. Yet, a church full of stumbling people will not always be perfect in it's effort to do what it should. Maybe we see what we look for.

I certainly don't think you are a stick in the mud regarding baptism. It's what the Bible directs us to..all of us, whatever our state. Being rich or being poor, having a house or being homeless, we are all called to the same thing.

The Bible tells us that few will accept the way of God. We won't reach every one and not everyone will choose God but I believe I must teach what I understand the Bible to say and to teach without apologizing for it. In the end, God will make the decisions I cannot make (and I am thankful for that).

Josh Ross said...

I am not trying to make the Churches of Christ an easy target. I'm assuming your comments were made toward my 2 posts. I love the Churches of Christ and I serve in the Churches of Christ. Maybe I am wrong with saying that I think we could do more. I have seen churches that have reached out to the hurting, lost, and "sinners," and I have seen churches that haven't. I've seen more of the former than the latter.
I am not a negative critic. I am trying to explore ways to use our imaginations to do more. A call to survivor and to stay afloat just doing what we have always done--is a call to defeat. I have yet to see any church that has had an intentional ministry to help pregnant women out of wedlock. I'm just making some observations and trying to prompt imaginations.

Jeff said...

I agree with you completely, standing still is really moving backwards.

A church my wife and I used to attend had a ministry (I don't know if it still exists) that reached out to single mothers who were victims of abuse. This included women getting off drugs or other types of abuse. Many of these women also happened to have children and/or be pregnant at the time, almost always not married at the time. It was fascinating and a true blessing to see the difference that was made for these women.

I hope we will all take the attitude that you assert and will never be content to sit and watch but to always be challenged to live as our example lived, loving and serving others.