Last Sunday in church we sang song after song about the sovereignty of God-- His reign, His kingship, His power.
And I realized how much those proclamations are acts of faith and hope every time we make them, because from where I sit it doesn't always look like God is King.
Look, I know the women who have abortions suffer. And I know abortion isn't the only evil in the world. But it's the thing that, for whatever reason, has snagged my attention lately. I think it started when I read Jennifer's two excellent posts on the subject over at Conversion Diary. Then I spent a significant amount of time last Saturday night reading this post, and this one, and this one, and this one at Church of the Masses, and then, tipped off by a commenter, browsing Jill Stanek's blog (WARNING: most of those links contain graphic and disturbing images, not to mention unapologetic political right-wingedness). For those of you who don't know, Jill Stanek is the nurse who was fired from Christ Hospital for her whistle-blowing regarding the blatant infanticide going on there.
It's just so big, you know? Such a hulking monster. And we get up and trip cheerily through our days, or maybe trudge groggily through them, for the most part either refusing to acknowledge the wickedness and terror of it all, or acknowledging it and then pushing the awareness away, because after all, what can we do against such a tsunami of torment and death?
Why are we not driven mad by the horror of it?
The bald truth, plainly stated, about massive evil is not easy to read, and probably not just the thing to read right before going to bed. I lay in my husband's arms and cried for what seemed like hours before finally drifting off into nightmares.
A couple of weeks ago in my Bible study we talked about the widow of Zeraphath. She is the woman who took in the prophet Elijah and fed him even though she and her son were on the brink of starvation. Elijah promised her that if she took him in, the little bit of grain and oil she had left would last them until the famine was over. She believed him, and took him in, and sure enough they were preserved from starving to death. Then, after this miraculous deliverance, the woman's son fell ill. When the breath left his body, Elijah carried the boy up to his rooms and threw himself across the boy's body and begged God for the child's life. When the widow saw her son alive again, she said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth."
The persistence of the grain and oil was an undeniable miracle, but it did not draw from the widow the acclamation she finally delivers to Elijah. It was the miraculous return to her of her child that caused her to say, "Now I know..."
Our God is a God who conquers death. He is the God who gives our children back when it seems all hope is gone.
Here is a thing I found comforting-- in reading an interview with N.T. Wright the other day, I came across this:
One of the things that distinguished early Christians in the Roman Empire was that they didn't practice abortion and they didn't practice infanticide. This is why there were so many more Christian women than pagan women, which is one of the reasons Christianity spread. There were all these Christian women who, when they got married, insisted on bringing their children up as Christians. The Romans tended to expose female children after they'd had one daughter.
What comforts me about this is not that abortion and infanticide has been around almost as long as there have been babies-- if I think too long on the millions of children thus murdered throughout history, I start to lose it a little bit-- but that it has always been part of our identity as the body of Christ that we do not kill our children. And as long as we have been the church, it has been part of our job to resist this monstrous evil, this spirit of Moloch, wherever it is found.
But abortion is not going to go away. Even if it were illegal everywhere, people would find a way. I think this is the main reason I am fairly listless about the idea of changing laws. Changed laws are not changed hearts, and our hearts are desperately wicked.
We can and should fight it, of course, and do what we can to save what children we can, but ultimately this battle belongs to the God who has conquered death-- and that is another comfort. N.T. Wright uses a phrase I love: "putting the world to rights." This is what we are called to participate in here and now, however we can, and it is what we hope for when Christ returns, fully and finally to establish His perfect rule.
This is why Advent throbs not only with joyous expectation but also with a terrible yearning. Advent echoes not only with praises but also with desperate cries for deliverance.
He is coming, and He is going to put the world to rights.
He is coming, and He is going to fix all the broken shit.
I cannot conceive how the brutal and gruesome deaths of millions of children will be fixed-- no matter what happens in the future, what has happened has happened. But I know we have the promise of the resurrection, and I am sure that all those little humans are at rest in paradise, awaiting that day when their humanity and ours is fully and finally restored.