Coach Dave Daubenmire
February 28, 2013
Some Things Never Change
Many of you have never read Dr. King’s letter from the Birmingham jail. It is worth the read. The principles that he lays out in regards to slavery are applicable to day to the injustice of the pre-born. As he stated in the letter, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The unborn deserve justice.
In the latter half of his letter, Dr. King takes aim at the complacent church. I have taken the liberty of poetic license and have “edited” his letter in regards to the pro-life battle and the treatment by the “church” of those modern-day abolitionists who want only to see abortion end.
Remember, the words you read are those written from jail fifty years ago next month. His indictment of the church still rings true today. What follows is my “re-writing” of part of his letter with abortion and pro-life missionaries as the focus.
Abortion is the great moral issue of our generation. These are the words many pro-life missionaries would write today.
Dr. King from the Birmingham jail:
When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the pro-life movement a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the church. I felt that the ministers, priests and rabbis of America would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the pro-life movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.
In spite of my shattered dreams, I went to the streets with the hope that the religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.
I have heard numerous religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with the Roe v Wade decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear ministers declare: "Disobey this decree because abortion is morally wrong and because the unborn is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the pro-lifers, I have watched churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of child-sacrifice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
I have traveled the length and breadth of America. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of our political leaders call for tax-funding of abortion? Where were they when President Obama gave a clarion call for the defense of Planned Parenthood? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary pro-life men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"
Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being called intolerant.
There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "governmentally intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and slavery. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for life. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of America with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for personhood. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches; have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers.
But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of ending abortion all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, children were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, children were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country for liberty; they made America king. If the inexpressible cruelties of religious persecution could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will end abortion because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point about our clergy that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen the violent dismemberment of God’s precious children. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of pro-life missionaries here in the city jail; if you were to watch how they speak to gentle Christian women and young girls; if you were to see them mistreat men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on many occasions, refuse to protect us as we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your universal praise of our police departments.
It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently" in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil of segregation.
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I wish you would commend the pro-life demonstrators for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the Christian community will recognize its real heroes. They will be the Cal Zastrows, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, gentle Christian women who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her supporters decided not to sit silently in the pew, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently praying outside of Planned Parenthood and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day America will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down on the sidewalks, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”
Some things never change. Dr. King’s indictment of the church has stood the test of time. There is a human holocaust taking place in America.
50 years later…and the pulpits are still silent.
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