The Indescribable Gift

Adoration of the Shepherds, Rembrandt van Rijn

Since my brother has apparently reached the point where he is too good to actually write on his own blog, I decided to borrow something he wrote last Christmas which I really liked:
I love the story of the woman in Mark 5 who had a hemorrhage of blood. She had gone to many physicians of her day and spent all of the money she had but the problem had only grown worse. In her desperation she turned to Jesus. She only touched His cloak (vs. 27), but this was enough to instantly heal her.

It seems, from reading the text, that Jesus did not purposefully heal the woman. Think about that! What the human experts of her day could not do no matter how hard they tried, Jesus did without even trying.

It is doubtful that Jesus was born in the month of December, much less on December 25th. In a sense then, the association of his birth with this season is unintentional on His part, much like His healing of this woman’s issue of blood was unintentional.

And yet, just as He brought healing to this desperate woman in Mark 5, so too He brings love and peace and goodwill to this season.

Because we associate this time of year with His birth, this is a time when family ties are strengthened and when gifts of love are given—an imitation of the presents brought by the magi given so long ago.

But the ultimate gift associated with the birth of Christ was not the gold, nor the myrrh, nor the frankincense. It was the child Himself.

I like the way the Amplified Version renders 2 Corinthians 9.15: “Now thanks be to God for His Gift, [precious] beyond telling—His indescribable, inexpressible, free Gift!”
Our culture can get awfully mixed up about Christmas and sadly, as Christians, I think we sometimes don’t do much better. Be mindful of God’s indescribable Gift—even if today doesn’t really mark the anniversary of His coming.

Merry Christmas.


Two Halfs Posts Make One Whole Post

I had two things I briefly wanted to mention which I didn’t want to dedicate a whole post to:
  • I sent in my last car payment back in November, and last week in the mail, I received the title from the bank that gave us the loan. I bought Jeeves (my car) about a year and a half ago, and under our five-year loan, was supposed to have him paid off in 2012. We’ve been paying aggressively on the loan ever since, and I’m glad that we managed to pay it off roughly 3 1/2 years ahead of time. Dave Ramsey would be proud (except that he would chastise us for buying a car in the first place that we couldn’t afford to buy with cash).
  • In other news, I almost switched The Doc File over to Wordpress this week, but ended up not doing it. I’m having a hard time finding a template that I really like, and while there are some things about Wordpress I like, it’s not as user-friendly as Blogger is and doesn’t allow for as much (free) customization. I don’t know, I still might end up switching, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it the other night. I know, I’m a coward.


Pondering Snow…And Michael Crichton

Once again, it is winter.

For me, the winter weather pattern is the same every year: based on the predictions of local and national weather services, I get my hopes up over and over again that we’re going to have snow. And over and over again, my hopes come crashing down with the realization that no snow has accumulated and that meteorologists really have very little idea what they’re talking about.

Which reminds me of this great quote from Michael Crichton on the computer models used in the global warming doomsday forecasts:
Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we’re asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?
He makes a good point.


Maddux Calls It A Career

Greg Maddux announced his retirement from Major League Baseball on Monday.

I grew up watching Maddux and the other members of Atlanta’s Big Three, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, baffle hitters and win lots of games.

Maddux was my least favorite of the three (he arrived in Atlanta last and always seemed somewhat like a hired gun), but he was also the best, and he put up some historically shocking numbers in the mid 1990s.

Really, Maddux was also most representative of the great Atlanta teams of the 90s and early 2000s—an absolute terror over the long course of the season who suddenly became mortal when the playoffs rolled around (Maddux was just 11-11 in the postseason during his 11 seasons with the Braves).

Maddux retired with 355 career victories, 8th on the all-time list and one ahead of Roger Clemens, which I think is significant, and appropriate.

Significant because I think Maddux wanted to finish ahead of the Rocket, and appropriate because I think he deserved to.

For much of the two pitchers’ careers, the debate raged about which was the greatest pitcher of the era. Over recent years, the argument had tilted in favor of Clemens, who continued to be one of the best pitchers in the game while Maddux increasingly looked like a 40 year-old who used to be good (eerily similar to what happened with Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr.).

Of course, then all the allegations of Clemens’ steroid use came out, and Roger joined the ranks of Bonds, Mark McGwire and the rest of the baseball stars who have fallen from grace.

And his sudden distancing of himself statistically from Maddux late in their careers made a lot more sense.

Clemens (like Bonds) was a great player who possibly could have been the best of his era, but Maddux (like Griffey) came by his numbers cleanly and deserves the distinction instead.

And really, maybe that would be the most fitting legacy of all for the Steroid Era.


Abortion, Part 4: Why Abortion Is A Deal Breaker

The original question that got this series kicked off (well over a month ago—I really am sorry it has taken me so long) was, “What makes abortion a deal breaker as opposed to the other moral issues?

I’m really just now getting around to answering that question, but in order to really do it justice, I thought it was necessary to first lay some groundwork about what I believe abortion really is, and about how I vote.

To succinctly sum up what we’ve discussed so far, I firmly believe that life begins at conception, and that abortion is, therefore, nothing less than the taking of an innocent human life. I realize that some people disagree with me on this, but in order to reach the conclusion that an unborn infant isn’t a human being, I think you have to reject Scripture, science and logic.

Having established (at least, in my mind) exactly what abortion is, the next question is how that should affect our voting behavior. Abortion is a moral issue, and when it comes to voting I think moral issues are the most important, but as we discussed in the last post, there are a bunch of moral issues.

Neither major party lines up perfectly with my views on the many different moral issues, which should leave me gridlocked, unable to decide how I should vote—unless one issue overrides all the others. And that brings us to this post.

So why does abortion trump other issues?

The Severity of Abortion

To start off, I’m going to ask you to attempt to do something which is actually quite difficult.

I said in an earlier post that abortion is an important issue because it is either the equivalent of brushing off skin cells, or it is the equivalent of shooting your next door neighbor. Since I believe that human life begins at conception, I think it is the latter.

And yet, here’s the scary part: while I can intellectually equate abortion with killing a next door neighbor, emotionally, even to me, it doesn’t seem as bad. Why is that?

It’s because of the culture we live in. Our values, our opinions, the way we look at things are all tremendously influenced by the culture that surrounds us. For a moment (and this is the difficult part), I want you to try to step outside of that culture.

Step outside of the word fetus. It’s a word which really just means baby. An unborn, human baby, with a beating heart, and a world of potential. It’s a word that our culture likes because it sounds so scientific, and because it helps us avoid the annoying problem of granting personal rights to the object in question.

Step outside of the word abortion. It’s a word which really just means murder1. It is the act of intentionally ending a human life. It’s another word that we like because it sounds so clean and clinical—it becomes just a medical procedure from which any question of morality is removed.

These words are euphemisms. Toss them aside.

Now think about the procedure. The methods differ significantly2, but really, the same thing happens each time—a mother goes to see a doctor for the purpose of ending the life of the child she is carrying inside her.

Two lives enter the doctor’s office, but only one leaves. A baby has been killed.

That’s what abortion is. No other issue exceeds the severity of abortion. It’s a matter of life and death.

The Magnitude of Abortion

You may argue that there are other “matters of life and death,” and you’d be right—but all of them pale in comparison to the damage to human life caused by abortion. I’ll apologize in advance for all the statistics, but sometimes numbers really do tell the tale.

First of all, consider that there are 17,000 murders each year in the United States3. That may seem like a large figure, until you compare it to the number of U.S. abortions each year—approximately 1,200,0004.

That’s the equivalent of the Holocaust every five years—and we’re legally doing it to our own children.

Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, over 48,000,000 infants have lost their lives via abortion in the United States. That’s roughly equal to the combined total populations of the states of California and Illinois, or the population of Texas two times over.

Those are staggering numbers. However, I don’t think you can fully grasp the magnitude of abortion (I know I didn’t) until you compare it with the other leading causes of child deaths worldwide (these are yearly totals):
  • Number of children who die of HIV/AIDS: 290,0005
  • Number of children who die of easily preventable diseases: 8,000,0006
  • Number of children who die of hunger and malnutrition: 6,000,0007
  • Number of children who die as a result of war: 2,000,0008
  • Number of children who die of abuse or neglect (widely considered under-reported): 53,0009
  • Number of abortions: 45,000,00010
It isn’t even close—abortion kills far more children each year than all the other main causes combined.

There may be other issues that are literally a matter of life and death, but none of them even approaches the scale that abortion is on. No other issue matches the magnitude of abortion. It is the great evil of our time.

A Historical Perspective: Slavery

My basic premise—the notion that one particular issue can be more important than all others—is derided by a lot of people as being inherently flawed. However, when you look through the lens of history at the issue of slavery, I think it’s clear that the premise is perfectly sound—sometimes an evil can be so widespread and prevalent that it dims other issues by comparison.

It took a Civil War, but eventually, we got the slavery issue right, and looking back with our 21st century eyes, it’s hard for us to imagine that people could have ever justified it in the first place.

Yet interestingly, the issues of slavery and abortion bear striking similarities.

Consider that in both cases, the suffering of the victims was allowed on the basis that they were considered to be sub-human. This thinking was furthered by the use of words like slave and fetus.

In both cases, the victims were treated as the property of others, without rights of their own.

In both cases, an evil practice was justified because of its economic benefit. Slavery was the backbone of Southern economy, considered by many to be a necessary evil. Similarly, proponents of abortion often describe it as a necessary evil, sometimes the “only option” for impoverished mothers.

And in both cases, good but misguided people made the mistake of refusing to condemn the unacceptable behavior of others. Slavery continued for as long as it did because too many people who would never consider owning a slave themselves refused to take that “right” away from others. Think about the typical Pro-Choice bumper stickers and protest signs you see and translate them to the slavery issue: “Opposed to slavery? Don’t buy one!” It seems ludicrous to us today, but until we as a culture can realize that with abortion—as with slavery—humans are being denied basic human rights, such flawed thinking will continue.

One last similarity between the two issues that I’ll mention is that the road to abolition was a long and tough one, with many setbacks. Sometimes I grow very discouraged about the state of abortion in America. I think that laws and opinions will never be changed, and that most politicians (even Pro-Life politicians) don’t really care about changing them.

But on my better, more optimistic days, I believe that some day, long after abortion has been outlawed, we’ll look back as a culture and shake our heads in shame at what we once allowed (as we now look back at slavery).


This is the reality of our world: currently, U.S. law allows mothers to legally kill their own children via abortion. It happens 1.2 million times each year, or once every 26 seconds. Worldwide, abortions kill more children each year than all the other leading causes combined.

The original question was, Why is abortion a deal breaker?” In all humility and sincerity, my response is, “How could it not be?

1 In a few instances, I guess you could argue that abortion isn’t exactly murder. For example, if the life of the mother was endangered, then maybe it would be self-defense. Or in the case of a woman who had been raped, maybe her emotional state would lessen the charges. But these are exceptions which just help to prove the general rule that abortion is murder.
2 Sometimes drugs are taken which kill the infant, other times the tiny growing child is sucked out of the mother via syringe, sometimes harmful chemicals are injected into the amniotic fluid, and sometimes the baby’s head is crushed and then manually removed. See more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion#Abortion_methods
3 http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm
4 http://www.nrlc.org/ABORTION/facts/abortionstats.html
5 http://www.unicef.org/aids/
6 Easily preventable diseases includes things like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, polio, tuberculosis, hepatitis A & B, yellow fever, mumps, malaria, diarrhea, respiratory infections, etc. (Source: The Lancet).
7 http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2005/1000151/index.html
8 http://www.unicef.org
9 http://www.unicef.org/sowc06/
10 http://www.wpro.who.int/sites/rph/data/abortion.htm

Thanks to Jonathan Reinhardt for help with many of the statistics and their sources.


Mere Christianity

So I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I just finished reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis for the first time.

I was disappointed with parts of it, and completely blown away by other parts of it. It certainly is a very quotable book, and I thought that rather than offer any sort of in-depth review, I would instead share a good quote from time to time.

One of my favorite quotes in the book actually comes from the preface, where Lewis explains that his purpose in writing the book isn’t to get people to join a particular church, but rather to accept the basic tenets of Christianity. To make his point, he describes Christianity as a hall with several rooms, and says that his goal is to get people to enter the hall, and to figure out which room to enter on their own.

On choosing which “room” to enter into, he says:
“And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which one pleases you best by its paint and paneling. In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this?’ When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”
I like that a lot.

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