By: Rolley Haggard
For Millions, Our Steeples Are Smokestacks
Returning home from a recent business trip, I flew over the city purported to have more churches per square mile than any other in America. As I gazed down sleepily at the numberless steeples checkering the landscape and dimly pondered their equivocal significance, I was suddenly startled awake by a strange transformation occurring before my incredulous eyes: The spires of the church buildings had morphed into so many cruciform chimneys belching skyward an almost palpable, smoke-like darkness.
Only the darkness wasn’t smoke. What I saw ascending to heaven from each sanctuary was praise—the grotesquely incongruous praise of Christians worshiping a God they fancied demanded no remorse and no repentance for doing precious little to stop the extermination of the most vulnerable of His children.
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If you’re as old as I am, you will recall: We swore we would never forget the German death camps. We swore we would never let them be rebuilt. We swore we would never let such a monstrously evil thing happen again. Not on our watch. No, not ever.
But, effectively, we did forget the death camps. We let their equivalent be rebuilt in America’s 850 abortion clinics. We let the monstrously evil thing happen again, in spades. History has repeated itself by powers of 10. For where the Nazis had their 6 million victims, we have on our hands the blood of 60 million.
Not a day passes that I don’t ask myself, how, in the name of all that is holy, have we let this happen? How, from week to week, are we able to assemble in houses of worship and, with ostensibly clear consciences, preach and hear sermons and sing songs about the love of God, when we are so fantastically out of touch with what the love of God is all about? What happened to caring for “the least of these”? Where is our love forthem?
I know, you’re weary of hearing the now-almost-emptied-of-meaning comparison to Hitler’s systematic extermination of those he considered untermenschen: the “less than humans.” Believe me, I’m weary of drawing the comparison. Not because it doesn’t fit; it does. But because it no longer produces outrage. Witnessing Christian apathy on abortion makes me wonder if Auschwitz enraged us not so much for the depth as for the novelty of its evil. After all, we weren’t accustomed in the 1940s to mass-produced, assembly-line murder. These days we are.
I say “we,” because it is we—Christians—who could bring about a swift end to the abortion holocaust if we really wanted to. But 40-plus years of deafening pulpit silence argues we don’t really want to.
Christians are quick to say they believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, but most do little, practically, to incarnate that belief and help change ours from a culture of death to a culture of life. Most are pro-life in belief but not in action. Most do little to actually help abolish abortion.
Remarking on the failure of the church to do little more than deal with the effects of great evil after the fact, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We are not simply to bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
If we were serious about ending abortion, we could easily drive a spoke into the wheels of the machinery that drives Christian apathy and inaction. I’ve outlined an embarrassingly simple One- Minute Strategy to End Abortion that I believe would work—if only pastors would implement it.
But many American pastors and churchgoers are more offended that responsibility and blame should be laid at their feet than that 3,500 babies a day are being put to death. This, by itself, ought to be a potent wake-up call that there is something horribly wrong with a Christianity more upset by what it considers unfair defamation and wrongly placed blame than it is by the mass extermination of its little neighbors.
But is the blame wrongly placed?
In common jurisprudence, when you have a duty to prevent the commission of a crime but fail to make the effort, you are complicit in its commission. You are what’s known as an accomplice. Christ’s brother James put it this way: “The one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” We know the right thing to do.
Yet we persist in being willing accomplices to the evil of our age. We could end our silence on abortion, but we don’t want to pay the price for standing up and speaking out on behalf of those who can’t defend themselves. We prefer an “abundant life” Christianity that includes all the blessings but none of the suffering Christ promised His followers they would face if they were true to Him.
We have become expert at devising reasons why we can’t make the abolition of abortion a church priority. So expert, in fact, that if every baby aborted in America were Jewish, we would be the pride of Hitler’s SS for sanctioning their obscene “final solution” with our steadfast refusal to oppose it. What a testimony.
* * *
As my plane touched down on familiar soil, I found myself haunted by the opening words of a contemporary Christian song. I recalled, with no little irony, that it had been the theme song of the recent Missions Conference at my church, my own dear church:
Carry the light
Carry the light
Go and tell the children they are precious in His sight . . .
Suddenly, I was weeping bitterly for them.
But even more bitterly for the precious children.
[Editor’s note: Rolley Haggard is a feature writer for BreakPoint, where this article was originally published.]