Sunday, May 23, 2010

What I Did See at a Pro-Life Conference

I blogged a few days ago about my experience at a ministry conference put on by Heartbeat International. Heartbeat is an international organization that provides materials, resources, and support to pregnancy help centers all over the US and elsewhere. The blog discussed things I did not find at this conference that might surprise some people who weren't there. But I didn't only want to focus on the things I didn't see, but I also wanted to share some of the great things I did see at this conference. Here they are.

1. Catholics and Evangelicals working side-by-side. While everyone there was representing their respective pregnancy centers, these were all people of faith who attend their own churches and whose centers are supported by local churches. The overwhelming majority of attendees were Roman Catholic or Southern Baptist/evangelical. I was a little suprised to see that I did not meet many people who were of mainline denominations (Episcopal, Methodist, etc.), and maybe this is for political reasons. I realize the issue of women's rights is a politically divisive issue.

2. People who had been through the heartbreak of abortion and/or unplanned pregnancy and were now serving in this wonderful ministry. I suppose I expected that a lot of people there would be people who had never been through some of the major issues presented at the conference. It was comforting to know how many people in the pro-life movement were not just "goody-two-shoes" Christians who had never been through unplanned pregnancies, but these were people who had been in the very shoes of the clients they are trying to reach. Whether it was before an abortion or after, God showed them the value of human life at all stages and gave them a passion to communicate that with others.

3. Story after story of God's amazing grace. Whether it was women who had experienced personal miracles or God's overwhelming blessing poured out on a pregnancy help center, it was clear that God has been doing a work in these people and their organizations.

4. Bristol Palin is a working mother. The famous daughter of America's most well-known former vice presidential candidate was one of the speakers at the conference. Of course her pregnancy could not have come at a more inconvenient time for her or her family-during the presidential campaign- yet she chose to keep her son, Tripp. She shared with the group that she works 40 hours a week at a medical clinic in Anchorage while going to school part time. If you've seen the overwhelming success her mother has had as an author and speaker, you know she could have easily lived off her mother's success. I found it admirable that she (and her family) has chosen to deal with the responsibilities of raising a child.

5. Proof that Christians working together can accomplish great things. The conference was basically a huge network of Christian publishers, inspirational speakers, experts in fund-raising, technology-media experts, adoption specialists, medical professionals, and pregnancy center staff members, board members, directors and volunteers. All of these people were coming together under the banner of Christ. The theme of the conference was "Better Together." We as Christians are better together. This conference was Ephesians 4:10-12 in action.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What I Didn't See at a Pro-Life Ministry Conference

This week, my wife and I got to attend a ministry conference put on by Heartbeat International, an organization that helps pregnancy help centers like the one my wife works for with networking and resources. The mission of these centers is to help women with unplanned pregnancies by providing them with information, support, and resources and helping them to either choose to parent their children or place them with an adoptive family. This was my first time at a conference of this nature. And since our country's political climate is more polarized than ever, I've heard lots of rhetoric demonizing people with conservative values (i.e. pro-life) as radicals and extremists.
But regardless of how you vote (Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative) or regardless of whether you are pro-life or pro-choice. I wanted to share my experiences of what things I did not find at this conference.

I did not find...
1. People instructing others how to lead protests at abortion clinics. There was no discussion of any effort to curtail abortions through any direct dealings with these clinics, save attempting to provide counsel and resources to women with crisis pregnancies prior to their decision to enter an abortion clinic.

2. People bashing liberal values or politicians. While many attendees of the conference strongly disagree with the pro-choice stance of our President and many of our prominent politicians, nothing was said to put down any of these figures. One speaker, an African-American pastor encouraged us all to pray for President Obama DAILY that God may change his heart on the issue of abortion, but nothing was said to portray any of our elected officials in a negative light.

3. People speaking hate towards women who have made the choice to have abortion. Many of the conference speakers and attenders are women (and men) who are recovering from a choice that was made long ago. For many, guilt and shame came without the voice of a preacher or other religious person condemning the issue of abortion. But regardless of what it was that made them feel remorse, it was still there. These people were not vilified at this conference. Everything at the conference spoke to the grace and forgiveness of God who is "faithful to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." People even gave instruction on how to help people deal with the remorse of an abortion and how to accept God's forgiveness and forgive one's self.

4. People criticizing the media for attempting to curtail a pro-life message. One of the conference speakers was Pam Tebow, mother of Heismann Trophy Winner Tim Tebow. A pro-life ad that she and Tim had done for the Super Bowl last year came under much scrutiny and had to be re-worked to fit with the wishes of the Super Bowl broadcast carrier, CBS. But she made very little about the changes they asked. She did not encourage everyone to boycott CBS or any other media outlet, but she gave God the praise and glory that their message got out.

5. People having a political pow-wow. As much as people might want to think this was a politically motivated conference, it was not. There was no mention of nationalized health care, Arizona immigration law, how great President Bush was, how we should vote in the coming elections, or any other political discussion. People were encouraged to get in touch with their congressmen concerning the value of pregnancy help centers and what they do in their communities, but this was not a political convention.

So regardless of how you vote. Regardless of when it is you feel that "life begins." Regardless of whether you feel it is more compassionate to save an unborn baby or give a woman the right to choose--just know that there are people out there who are giving countless hours and dollars in time and resources to show the love of Jesus Christ to women of all ages, from all backgrounds, with all types of stories about their pregnancies. I am proud of what my wife does at her center and the ministry she has to each woman (and boyfriend/male partner) that comes into their center.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Should Our Lives Line Up With Scripture, or Vice Versa?

I've said it before and I'll say it again. This is not a political blog. But there have been some recent events in our government that make for some great fodder for discussion. The main event of which I am speaking is the ping-pong match that has come from the debates of what to do with terror suspects, including how they should be tried and whether or not they should have legal rights and even where the trials should take place. In March of 2010, as discussion arose about the trial of 9-11 terror suspect
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Attorney General Eric Holder originally wanted the accused terrorist, who was on trial for an act of war, to be tried in a civilian court in, of all places, downtown Manhattan, NY, just blocks from Ground Zero. It has been the policy of the Obama administration to read Miranda rights ("You have the right to remain silent...) to any and all criminals, regardless of the nature of their crime. No less than two months after the March discussions of where to have the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, stating that KSM should be tried in a civilian court, Attorney General Eric Holder is now saying thatMiranda rights should be withheld from U.S. citizens who are suspected of terrorism. This stance escalated from the recent failed Times Square bombing attempt by Faisal Shahzad, who is a US citizen and reportedly was trained by the Taliban in Pakistan. To read about the constitutionality ofMiranda rights, click here.

This post is not to debate our government's policies on Miranda rights, terror suspects, or anything else. But it is a clear case where in one instance, someone wishes to change the policies laid out in the Constitution to benefit what they are feeling at the time. As most Americans, I believe our Constitution is a great document. It's made our country the strongest power in the world for the last 200 years. That being said, the Constitution was not developed to be changed on a whim because that's how someone feels that day. But the greatness of the US Constitution pales in comparison to the Bible. While the Constitution is great, it's not the divine inspired Word of God.

As I watched this situation play out in the news, I thought of how we interpret the Bible. While the Bible is full of difficult sayings, ideas, and cultural nuances that seem foreign to 21st century Americans, it is truth. And that truth is absolute. But I'm afraid in our interpretation of it, we try to make the Bible match our lifestyle, rather than making our lifestyle match the Bible. And yes, two Christians can read the same Bible, interpret it completely different ways, and come out with two different viewpoints. As I've discussed politics in Christian circles, I've always said that our faith should influence our politics rather than our politics influence our faith. In Psalm 119, the writer tells the reader that there is security in following the laws of God. It is my hope and prayer that we strive to line our lives up with Scripture, rather than making Scripture line up with our lives.