How badly have we lost our way? It is an important question that many Americans, including this one, can no longer avoid asking just because we intuitively know we are going to be profoundly depressed with the answer.
Yes, we have lost our way as a nation in foundational ways. It will be difficult to find our way again without divine intervention. The moral compass of a significant number of our fellow citizens has been desensitized and demagnetized. Is it a plurality, a majority, or just a significant minority?
Does that really make much of a difference? I don’t think it does, really, because whatever the percentage is, it is enough to vitiate and blunt the basic Judeo-Christian morality upon which this nation was founded, and to which a majority of its citizens aspired to achieve. Eventually, even many of the blind spots resulting from their human frailty were confronted by the foundational ethos embedded in the founding document, their sine qua non as a nation, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”
That is indeed a revolutionary credo that has impelled the nation to an evermore expansive understanding of the depth and breadth of that truth.
Tragically, somewhere along the way, America veered seriously off course and we are now confronted with a collapse into full-blown paganism.
What triggered this lugubrious conclusion? I have seldom been both as shocked and saddened as I was after reading the Rev. Rebecca Todd Peters’ op-ed in USA Today, “Faith Guided Our Decision on 2 Abortions.” Rev. Peters identifies herself as a Presbyterian minister (John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and Peter Marshall, among others, would find that statement astounding considering the op-ed’s content.)
The Rev. Peters also states that she is “a wife and a mother of two” and that she has “also had two abortions.”
She immediately follows this by asserting, “I did not make my abortion decision despite my Christian identity and faith, but rather because of it.”
As my heart sank and my spirit was distraught, my mind immediately went to the first chapter of the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. There Paul describes the ever-downward spiral of human sin where one of the most distinguishable things about sin is its ability to generate ever greater sin and depravity (Rom. 1:18-32).
After all, the Apostle Paul confronted a Roman society that was as depraved, if not more so, than our own era. Even the pagans noticed and were offended. Seneca observed that it was an age “stricken with the agitations of a soul no longer master of itself.” Tacitus opined that “the greater the infamy, the wilder the delight.”
As the masterful New Testament scholar William Barclay so discerningly observed of the people of that time, “He has so erected an altar to himself in the center of things that he worships himself to the exclusion of God and man.”
Before we go any further, let us be clear — “Waterford crystal clear” — the Rev. Peters does not represent any historic form of the genuine Christian faith — Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant.
The Roman civilization into which the Christian faith was birthed out of Judaism was one in which the life of the child was discounted and devalued perhaps more than ever before or since until the modern pro-abortion era in the West. Abortion was common, as was infanticide.
Will and Ariel Durant in their multi-volume The Story of Civilization report that when a child was born it was placed in front of the father. If the father picked up the child and acknowledged it, the baby lived. If the father turned away, the child was legally abandoned. This abandonment was commonplace.
The only real difference between then and now in the extreme pro-abortion regime in America is that in Rome it was the father who had absolute power of life and death over their child, and in modern America, it is the mother who wields such absolute power. By the way, the Durants reported that after the first girl was safely delivered in a family, 99 out of every 100 subsequent girl babies were discarded to die.
The Jewish civilization was the only ancient civilization in the Mediterranean Basin which did not routinely practice infanticide and abortion.
It was into this pro-death, anti-child milieu that Christianity burst forth in the first century AD with a courageous and uncompromising pro-life message. As Michael J. Gorman has pointed out in Abortion and the Early Church: “Writers of the first three centuries laid the theological and literary foundation for all subsequent early Christian writing on abortion…three important themes emerged during these centuries: the fetus is the creation of God; abortion is murder; and the judgment of God falls on those guilty of abortion.”
In fact, the Didache, the first widely acknowledged post-Apostolic teaching of the early church (circa 134 AD) vehemently condemned abortion and declared that it was beyond the pale for those identifying themselves as followers of Jesus Christ.
For the Rev. Peters to assert that “without a doubt…the two decisions we made to have children were far more morally significant than the decision to end two pregnancies” is quite literally blasphemous. Morally significant for whom? The two babies she killed would undoubtedly have pleaded with their mother to let them live.
We are talking about two babies, her babies, and she says killing them can be “a moral good.” Every abortion stops a beating human heart. In this case — two of her babies’ beating hearts.
In Paul’s analysis of the moral degeneracy of Roman civilization, he describes the downward spiritual spiral of degradational sin produces people “without natural affection” (Rom 1:31). The Greek root of that phrase is Storgē (astorgos), a special word in the Greek language, standing for “mother love” or “family love.”
In first century Rome, as in 21st century America, the natural love a parent has for a child was in serious decline — a decline evidenced by the Rev. Peters’ proud declaration of her “moral” decision-making. The Christian church, in all its historic traditions, until the last half of the 20th century, would rightly have declared the Rev. Peters’ theology "apostasy."
In another part of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul warned of those bearing at least the name “Christian” and the consequence of teaching false doctrine leading to their consciences being “seared” or cauterized as if by “a hot iron” (I Tim 4:2).
I fear that the Rev. Peters is emblematic of far too many Americans who have had their consciences seared and deadened by the child sacrifice of at least 65 million of our unborn citizens.
The contrast with those who still have a sensitive and accurate moral compass was illustrated for me in a particularly dramatic way just a few days ago. Fox newscaster Ben Domenech was reporting on the resurgent pro-life movement while noting that America has one of the most radically extreme pro-abortion legal regimes in the world, keeping gruesome company with Communist China and North Korea.
In the course of his report, he began to relate an episode recounted by the remarkable Whittaker Chambers in his even more remarkable memoir, Witness. Chambers and his wife were Soviet Communist spies operating in the U.S. Chambers later became a Christian, turned away from Communism, exposed Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy, and authored a memoir, Witness, which had a huge influence on a large number of people, including Ronald Reagan.
Chambers records that in 1933 he and his wife discovered that they were pregnant. Realizing that this would be very difficult considering they were both Communist spies in America, Mrs. Chambers went to make arrangements to abort the child. When she came home a few hours later she was very subdued and quiet.
Chambers explained, “My wife came over to me, took my hands, and burst into tears.
“‘Dear heart,’ she said in a pleading voice, 'we couldn’t do that awful thing to a little baby, not to a little baby, dear heart.’”
As Domenech’s voice broke and he teared up, he quoted Chambers’ response: “A wild joy swept me. Reason, the agony of my family, the Communist Party and its theories, the wars and revolutions of the 20th century, crumbled at the touch of the child.”
Whittaker Chambers and his wife, while then atheists, had not had their consciences seared and neither has Mr. Domenech. The current struggle over killing our unborn babies at horrific rates will reveal just how cauterized and desensitized many Americans’ consciences have become as a consequence of having been submerged in the ever-burgeoning culture of death.
I pray to God that we have not been so fatally, morally crippled as a people that we cannot be convicted and moved “at the touch of the child.”
Aldous Huxley once observed, “The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that the other set of people are human.” Our unborn babies are human beings and God has a plan and purpose for each one of them and I tremble for my country when I think of the massive child sacrifice of our children which we have already allowed to be perpetrated.
Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.
Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.