Why both Abortion and Racism are Blasphemous (3)
Racial prejudice cannot be quantified in the way abortion can. So how do we get a grip on the horror and wickedness of racism? Perhaps listening to Martin Luther King himself will help. Continue reading . . .
Racial prejudice cannot be quantified in the way abortion can. So how do we get a grip on the horror and wickedness of racism? Perhaps listening to Martin Luther King himself will help. [N.B. MLK was and is a controversial figure. Elements in his personal life are deeply disturbing. But my focus is on the work he did as a public figure.]
At one point, a number of white pastors and religious leaders urged him to be more patient and not to demonstrate for the sake of racial harmony and justice. To that suggestion, MLK wrote the following (please remember that he wrote this in the mid 1960’s; the language and circumstances reflect that time):
“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policeman curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your 20 million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she's told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking, "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "Nigger," your middle name becomes "Boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" - then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience (Letter from Birmingham Jail, with an introduction by Paul Chaim Schenck [no place, no date], p. 8-9.)
To the charge that he was an extremist he responded like this:
“Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you"? Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll to down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream"? Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus"? Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God"? And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "Thus this nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremist we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? (Letter, p. 14)
So how do we measure the presence and influence of racial prejudice in our land? We can’t. We can only measure it within our own hearts. So permit me to ask several probing questions:
Are you instinctively suspicious of the motivation of another person simply because their skin is a different color from yours?
Do you draw conclusions about the moral integrity or honesty of another person based solely on the fact that their skin is a different color from yours?
Do you doubt the intelligence of another person because their skin color is different from yours?
Do you question the initiative and work ethic of another person because their skin color is different from yours?
Do you immediately become concerned about the safety and value of your home when a person of a different skin color moves into your neighborhood?
Do you find yourself avoiding direct social and verbal interaction with a person because their skin color is different from yours?
How many people whose skin color is different from yours can you honestly say are close personal friends?
I could go on asking questions like that for quite some time, but I trust that we are all sufficiently uncomfortable by now.
Can abortion become a racial issue? You tell me. Since 1973, 13 million black babies have been aborted. That is more than 2 ½ times the total number of deaths among African-Americans during the same period from AIDS, cancer, accidents, heart disease, and violent crime combined. Think about it: more than 1/4 of all abortions are performed on black women, even though blacks make up only 13% of the U.S. population. Let’s move beyond the African-American community. When you combine African-American and Hispanic women you have only about ¼ of the female population in our country. Yet these two groups account for 57% of the abortions performed.
Every day approximately 1,300 black babies and 700 Hispanic babies are killed in America. Every day in America nearly 3,300 babies of all races are killed.
So what does the Word of God have to say about this? Two texts will help us answer that question: Psalm 139:13-18 and Revelation 5:9-10.
Psalm 139 is all about God, simply and solely. More specifically, it is all about celebrating the majesty of God as he is revealed in his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.
Psalm 139 is a glorious celebration of the multi-faceted splendor of God and the imminently practical implications that it bears for you and me. The psalmist focuses on God’s omniscience in vv. 1-6., God’s omnipresence in vv. 7-12, and finally divine omnipotence in vv. 13-18. Our concern today is solely with the latter.
To this point in Psalm 139 David has focused on two of the so-called “Omni’s” of God: omniscience in vv. 1-6, and omnipresence in vv. 7-12. But the question might be asked: How do we know that God truly knows us? On what grounds do we embrace the notion that he is always and ever with us?
The answer is found in what follows next in vv. 13-16. In fact, the answer is wrapped up in the causal particle with which v. 13 opens. I’m referring to the word “for”. Don’t overlook this word or fail to grasp its significance, for in it we find an answer to our question: “How is it that God knows David so intimately? What accounts for his immediate involvement in the affairs of David’s life?” The answer, quite simply, is that it is God who formed him in his mother's womb and ordained all his days. David’s point is simply to assert that no one has a truer, more accurate, or more exhaustive knowledge of a person than the Sovereign God who has made him and fashioned his days in advance of their occurrence. Thus he writes:
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139:13-16).
There is much here, but I want to restrict our focus to vv. 13-15. There the Psalmist declares that God has altogether shaped and fashioned him in his mother’s womb (vv. 13-15). The word “formed” in v. 13 literally means “to possess,” and “inward parts” is a reference to one’s kidneys, which in Hebrew thought encompasses the most secretive, and sensitive locus of the personality. “You knitted me together” actually means “to weave” or “to embroider” and would include not only David’s physical features, such as hands, toes, ears, legs, etc. but also the psychological characteristics of his personality and temperament.
Here the mother’s womb is described not merely as the secret place but “the lowest depths of the earth.” Perhaps this points to the remote and hidden place of fetal development. But others have seen here a retrospective reference to the formation of the first human body out of the dust of the ground, i.e., the creation of Adam himself.
But how are we to understand vv. 17-18? David declares, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.”
Many argue that these “thoughts” are not all that God thinks about in general but primarily his intentions toward David in particular, which understandably would be extremely “precious” to the psalmist. If so, then David is referring both to God’s pre-ordained plan for his life (now inscribed in God’s book, v. 16), as well as the on-going implementation of that purpose in the present. According to this view, v. 18b means something along the lines of, “When I wake up from sleep I discover that nothing has interrupted your design for my life or put a distance in our relationship with one another.”
Psalm 139 is talking about all human beings of all races and of all colors and nationalities. Each and everyone, whether black or white or brown or yellow or red, are shaped and fashioned by their Creator and thus bear his divine image. They are of intrinsic worth because God has made them.
Several points should be noted about Revelation 5:9-10 (I’m dependent here on the insight of Piper) – “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Three observations are in order.
(1) God’s purpose in sending his Son to die was to redeem people from every ethnic group: white, black, red, yellow; all shades and shapes of people from every tribe and language and nation. God delights in diversity! It is at the very heart and core of his saving purposes in Christ.
(2) Not only does God delight in racial diversity but he also has it in his heart to unite these diverse groups into one kingdom of priests. White Christians are one kingdom of priests with black Christians who are one kingdom of priests with Chinese Christians who are one kingdom of priests with Arab Christians. And you cannot have a functioning, God-glorifying kingdom of priests if they despise one another because of racial differences or live in suspicion of the worth and value of the other based on racial differences.
(3) This purpose of God in redeeming a racially diverse people for himself came at great personal cost: it was with the blood of his own Son, Jesus Christ, that he redeemed them. If nothing else, this ought to convince even the most skeptical among us that racial diversity and harmony is something profoundly important to the heart of God.
When you endorse or permit the killing of an unborn baby or permit feelings in your heart of dislike and suspicion and disdain toward a person of a different skin color, you are blaspheming the majesty of the Creator God. You are denouncing the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. You are despising the shed blood of the cross. You are slandering the power of God in shaping men and women of all races in his image. You are denigrating and denying the purpose of God in redeeming men and women of all races and colors and making them a kingdom of priests. Abortion is blasphemy. Racism is blasphemy.
You cannot worship and glorify the majesty of God or embrace his redemptive purposes in Christ while treating his supreme creation with contempt—whatever color or whatever age that creation might be.
John Piper put it best:
You cannot starve the aged human and glorify the majesty of God.
You cannot dismember the unborn human and glorify the majesty of God.
You cannot gas the Jewish human and glorify the majesty of God.
You cannot lynch the black human and glorify the majesty of God.
You cannot treat human pregnancy like a disease and glorify the majesty of God.
You cannot treat the mixing of human races like a pestilence and glorify the majesty of God.
You cannot worship and glorify the majesty of God while treating his supreme creation with contempt.
That is why both abortion and racism are blasphemy.
One final comment is in order. As evil as both abortion and racism are, there is forgiveness for both in Jesus Christ! The woman who has had an abortion as well as the man who paid for it are not beyond the forgiving grace of God. Acknowledge the sin, repent, and flee to the cross for the cleansing and redemptive power of Christ who died for people who not only commit such sins as abortion and racism but all other sins as well. If you struggle to overcome racial prejudice in your heart, there is power to bring victory through the Holy Spirit whom Jesus has sent. Seek him now, and he will draw near to you!