Jan. 23, 2009
I knew the late Richard John Neuhaus when we both served on the national board of Lutherans for Life. As is widely known, Richard began his public ministry as a Lutheran pastor, serving in a mostly black congregation, St. John the Evangelist, in a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn. From there, Richard Neuhaus became a national leader in the civil rights movement, even marching at Selma with Dr. King. It was as Father Neuhaus, a Catholic priest, that Richard coined the famous phrase "welcomed in life and protected in law" to describe our pro-life goals for unborn children. Richard-may God bless his memory--never wavered in his defense of life. He said we were enlisted in the pro-life movement when we were baptized. Amen!
I thought of him yesterday as I attended a worship service at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alexandria. Dr. Gerald Kieschnick came all the way from the headquarters of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in St. Louis to deliver a powerful and moving sermon for life. It meant a great deal to us here in Washington as we face the dread prospect of all three branches of our U.S. Government united to promote the slaughter of the innocents. In fact, Immanuel's young Pastor Esget used a Reformation-era woodcut of Herod's soldiers wielding swords against the soft flesh of babies. It was the cover of the church bulletin.
Dr. Kieschnick is the president of the Missouri Synod, a 2.4 million-member church body with more than 6,000 congregations nationwide. His presence among us showed his determination to stand firm on God's Word, "though devils all the world should fill..."
Interestingly, Immanuel also welcomed a pleasant young man from the Washington advocacy office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Andrew Genszler. ELCA has been the largest Lutheran denomination in this country, with more than 5 million members. Many of the good folks in ELCA-pastors and people-are strongly pro-life. But the denomination itself is pro-choice. Worse, ELCA co-owns a Chicago hospital called Christ. It was there that nurse Jill Stanek discovered little victims of live-birth abortions who had been placed in the broom closet in cold metal pans-there to gasp out their young lives in the darkness. Jill held these suffering children as they died, praying for them and singing to them. For her pains, Jill was fired by the administrators of this hospital. As we now know, a famous former Illinois state senator heard her testimony but would not agree with Jill that these dying newborns should be welcomed in life or protected in law.
Andrew Genszler certainly seemed sincere in saying that his large denomination would oppose the so-called Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) as "too extreme." Such opposition, should it be expressed publicly and strongly, could be a great help. Genszler said ELCA is committed to "reducing abortions." Our legislative team, however, thinks fatal FOCA is not the most immediate threat to life. They think an incremental strategy of federal funding for abortion and inclusion of abortion in the stimulus package, in national health care are the more real and present dangers.
I certainly hope ELCA will weigh in against these threats, too. During this grand Inaugural week, however, I recalled John F. Kennedy's eloquent words: "Civility is not a sign of weakness and sincerity is always subject to proof." I am glad my fellow Lutherans greeted the ELCA representative with civility. ELCA should prove its sincerity by stopping abortions at a Chicago hospital called Christ. We would all then bless them for this act of justice and mercy.