January 24, 2011
I managed to find my hardy group of Lutherans for Life. They were late to our noon rendezvous at 7th St. and Independence Ave. NW. How un-Lutheran of them not to be punctual for the annual March for Life! There, we assembled under the big blue-and-white banner of LFL.
I spoke with Clark, who had come in from nearby Baltimore. His home congregation, he told me, was Martini Lutheran Church. Martini? I was surprised. I thought Lutherans were supposed to like something else. You know: Bibel, Bach, und Bier. Well, no, Clark said, Martini Lutheran congregation is 143 years old, founded in what was then a largely German-speaking city. It was named after St. Martin of Toursfor whom Martin Luther himself had been named. It was a strong reminder that the roots of these Lutherans go way back and are, in many senses, joined with their Catholic antecedents.
This little flock braved the cold17 F. this morning, but rising to the balmy 20s by the time of the March. A Lutheran pastor told me he had come with his congregation from the Upper Peninsula of Michiganby bus. Tens of thousands of the largely Catholic crowd had been on the road since last night for this annual event on the nations Mall.
Rev. Jim Lamb, the Executive Director of the national Lutherans for Life organization, hailed me. It was hard to recognize each other, swathed as we were in hats, gloves, and scarves. Pastor Lamb had come in from Iowa for the March for Life. A number of staffers came from the International Center of The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod, all the way from St. Louis.
Jim Lamb told me that LFL had achieved an important goal under the new president of the LCMS. President Matt Harrison had extended official recognition of the LFL organization. That meant that this 2,400,000-member church body would be increasing its pro-life presence and witness.
Jim Lamb reminded me of the work of Dr. Jean Garton, the late Rev. Richard Neuhaus, and Rev. Jack Eichhorst in the 1970s. These and other Lutherans (yes, the illustrious Richard Neuhaus was a Lutheran back then) together made a strong statement that Lutherans are for Life. And they gave their biblical reasons for it.
Why was that important? After the initial shock of Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973, the pro-abortion forces tried to dismiss all opposition to abortion-on-demand as only a few right wingers. The adamant refusal of the Catholic Bishops of America to be put in that media box is justly famous. Millions of Catholics continued to bear faithful witness to what Pope John Paul the Great would call The Gospel of Life. Well, then, the media insinuated, its just a Catholic issue.
Lutherans for Life proved it wasnt just a Catholic issue. At this point in the struggle for life, the thousands of churches represented in the National Association of Evangelicals had not yet had a chance to weigh in for life. That would take several years and the widespread distribution of the video series called Whatever Became of the Human Race with Francis Schaeffer and Dr. C. Everett Koop. Soon, the Evangelicals would become a powerful force defending unborn children in America.
So, too, would the 15-million member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The fight to reclaim the SBC would extend into the 1980s. But when this great ships course was righted, no one gave more eloquent expression to the sanctity of human life than the Southern Baptists.
What that little flock of Lutherans did in the mid-1970s was to help in an important way the efforts of the Roman Catholic community. Catholic pro-lifers could always point to the Lutherans and say: See, were not the only ones who understand the need to protect innocent human life.
And the pro-life Lutherans could speak to the mainstream Protestants and say: We are pro-life on solely biblical grounds. Sola scriptura. Perhaps youve heard of it. It was a most happy and mutually reinforcing alliance.
I was in Washington, D.C., on January 22, 1973. I remember the Washington Posts reporting on the Roe v. Wade decision. I was miserable about it. But I thought the fight was over. As an unchurched young man, I thought when the U.S. Supreme Court spoke, you had to genuflect and obey.
It was not until I lived in the Midwest that I learned otherwise. Those common sense folkCatholic, Evangelical, and, yes, Lutheranlawfully but firmly pushed back. Their effective grassroots efforts taught me that so great a wrong could never be a right.
I didnt realize on that gray and dreary day of the infamous Roe ruling that the fight for the lives of unborn children would consume the rest of my life. Two years ago, when we saw the election of a strongly pro-abortion president and Congress, Ill admit my heart sank. It seemed that all I had worked for the past 25 years had gone up in smoke.
But a month after election day, our daughter and her beloved husband presented us with a grandson. They named him Samuel. It means God hears. And from the moment I heard that name, I felt a resurgence of strength. Now, I feel I can fight for another 25 years if I have to. GrandSam deserved that birthday. Doesnt everyone deserve a birth day?