One of my favorite short stories that I read in school was “The Lottery.” It tells the fictional story of a festival on June 27th in what seems to be a small, Middle America farming town. The story describes the townspeople gathering in the square while children play, women gossip, and the men talk about farming and the weather. Then, as is the annual custom, a lottery is performed where the heads of the families draw a slip of paper out of a black box. One husband draws a slip with a black spot on it. Then, slips are put back into the box for him and all of his family to draw one more time. On this occasion, Mrs. Hutchinson is the one who finally draws the slip with the mark on it. This story ends with a dreadful twist as the townspeople pick up stones and begin pelting Mrs. Hutchinson in the head until she dies.
This story kept my attention in school because of the striking end to it. The serene picture of a town festival in 20th century Middle America is shattered by a brutal and barbaric tradition. It is a shocking piece of fiction because the end reveals a fertility cult that practices human sacrifice in 20th century Middle America. Old Man Warner tells why they do this annually, “Lottery comes in June; corn will be heavy soon.” They do this to ensure the harvest will happen. They do this to ensure economic stability.
This barbaric practice is actually deep in human history. Ancient pagan fertility cults would sacrifice their children to the gods because they thought that would guarantee the harvest. In Leviticus 20, the Lord spoke through Moses to prohibit the Israelites from doing this sort of thing. They are forbidden to sacrifice their children to Molech the way that the peoples around them did. These people would plant the blood (seed) of their children in the ground to appease the gods so that rain would come and the crops would grow.
What is striking is that ancient, pagan fertility practices aren’t ancient at all. Miles from where I write this there are babies being brutally slaughtered so people can ensure economic stability (and a host of other stabilities). We in America are sacrificing our children by the millions to false gods like Molech (money, sex, comfort, career status, etc.). And, what is more shocking is that those who are pro-abortion are finally admitting that child sacrifice is taking place. In a scandalous article by Mary Elizabeth Williams entitled, “So What if Abortion Ends Life?” she says at the conclusion of her article, “She understands that [abortion] saves lives not just in the most medically literal way, but in the roads that women who have choice then get to go down, in the possibilities for them and for their families. And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing” (emphasis mine).
A friend of mine, Dean Inserra, who is the Pastor of City Church Tallahassee, tweeted the Williams article and called abortion the #1 social justice issue of our day, and I think he is right. Fighting the cause of social justice is all the rage among young people, especially young evangelicals. But, I fear that some young evangelicals love social justice issues that are seen as hip and cool in the mainstream and shy away from the social justice issue of abortion because it is so controversial. By the thousands we will raise our voice and wear a T-shirt for the 27 million slaves worldwide, and we should, but where are the T-shirts for the 42 million babies aborted every year worldwide?
The church needs to engage in this social justice issue, and that means more than voting records and bumper stickers. It means teaching our people that parenting is more important than self-fulfillment. It means sacrificing our time to volunteer in the nurseries and children’s ministries of our churches. It means Christians investing their time in tutoring programs and after school care. It means championing adoption and foster care. It means the community of faith adjusting our lifestyles even if we don’t have kids to help others adopt or to provide for single moms. It means fighting against poverty. It means recognizing that abortion is not just a women’s issue, but it is also a men’s issue. Many women would raise a child if they weren’t abandoned by the biological father. Churches need to train young men in how to man up. It means this and much more.
The Church also needs to minister to those who have had abortions. Fertility cults and child sacrifice may seem barbaric and distant, but they are not. According to Williams’ article, one in three women will have an abortion. That means this issue and the people affected by it are everywhere around us. They are in our homes, in our schools, in our workplace, and in our churches. Yes, we need to take up the cause of the most helpless of our society, but we also need to minister to the women who have chosen to abort (and the men who encouraged it). We don’t need to ostracize or demonize them. Instead, we need to share with them the story of a Father who sacrificed His Son on the cross to end death, end sin, end oppression, and end all that curses this world. We need to share that for those who believe in His sacrifice there is NO condemnation!
Great piece. I wonder, if use of force is justified to protect a child who has been born, then why isn’t use of force justified to protect a child prior to being born? I ask because you mention the church’s need to engage social justice, and sometimes, regardless of laws (think Nazi Germany) the justice requires force. I think the church should do all the things you mention, but I also wonder when are Christians justified in use of force given the mass murder of unborn children. This is a sort of moral dilemma, but I’ve been thinking about this as the gun debate has raged. Generally Christians believe in use of force in self defense or defense of innocent lives. So, what mitigates against use of force in regard to the unborn, is the issue I have been deliberating. Any thoughts on this?
I think you’ve asked a good but certainly controversial question that requires serious discussion and wisdom. As I see it I would NEVER justify force in this situation against Abortion clinics or abortion doctors or anyone else. I think we need gospel responses.
I understand the logic in terms of what Bonhoeffer said about his attempt at Hitler’s life “If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystander, then I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe…I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.” But, even that logic isn’t consistent b/c he didn’t say kill the driver.
Here are a few reasons why I think force is never the answer here:
1. Bonhoeffer lived in a totalitarian state with no voice for the people and no recourse to change things. We don’t live in that state. In some sense the US is by the consent of the governed and we have recourse through peaceful political processes to try to change things.
2. I think the example of MLK Jr is instructive for Christians in how to address social justice issues like this in the right way and see the right results.
3. Biblically, I don’t think there are any examples of violent civil disobedience in the Scriptures. In fact, it seems that God’s people are disobedient to government in terms of worship, prayer, and evangelism (Daniel 3, 6, & Acts 4). If you are being forced to not worship God or obey Him, then there is recourse to disobey the government, but not by violent means in any of those instances.
4. Finally, using force might save a few babies or stop a few clinics but it will never address the issue long term. The answer for the problems of the human heart is not ultimately more laws or forced conformity, but rather being born again with hearts made new by the gospel of Jesus.
I hope that helps answer your question. It is a difficult issue, but I think the Scriptures would lead us in a different direction than force.
“Biblically, I don’t think there are any examples of violent civil disobedience in the Scriptures.”
Curious. How would one categorize Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt against Pharoh’s will?
The Lord fights for the Hebrews thru plagues and parting of Red Sea. They don’t fight for themselves. They don’t rise up and wage war against the Egyptians.
Thank you for such a well reasoned response. I’ve been thinking about point (1) regarding the nature of a government playing a part in one’s decision making. I agree that this should be part of a proper deliberation on the matter. You are right that democracies have the right to peaceful deliberation. And yet, force is still necessary at times. While a person can call 911 to report an armed intruder, he may also need to take violent action in the defense of innocent life. After all, the police may not show up soon enough. In international affairs, we have the United Nations. There is a channel for peaceful efforts, but at some point, we see a need for action and the by-processing of such peaceful efforts especially when there are immediate and significant numbers of human lives at stake. So I’m unconvinced that the existence of peaceful channels of action prohibit the possibility of more aggressive channels of action when there are significant lives at stake and a sufficiently low probability that the killing will stop anytime soon. I appreciate your thoughtful conversation on this matter, Jon.
I’ve thought about the same things before. My questions, though, are:
1. What are the types of actions we would take?
2. How would we carry these out?
3. What is the stopping point?
4. Against whom are these actions taken?
Those are the questions i’ve pondered for several years and of course the moral right we would have to carry them out.
my church discussed on our Sunday morning Bible Study. I would love to learn more about children sacrifice and cults that carry on the practice today.