August 21, 2015

If We Do Not Repent (#PPSellsBabyParts)

Many of us thought it couldn't get worse than seeing a medical doctor swill her wine and crunch her croutons while speaking of "less crunchy" ways to dismember and murder a baby while still in utero. Then we saw video of Planned Parenthood employees digging through pie plates full of dead baby parts looking for the bits that would get the best price. Again, we believed it simply could not get worse. But we were wrong. Dead wrong. With the release of the seventh video exposing the barbarism of Planned Parenthood and its business partners, it got worse. Much worse. Now we know of the cruel violence done to a little boy with a beating heart outside the womb. They cut his face in half with a pair of scissors in order to harvest his brain and sell it for cold hard cash. His heart was beating. He had been born. He was alive. He was murdered. This cannot be denied. 

We know about this treachery because one of the guilty ones has come forward. In video #7, Holly O'Donnell, a licensed phlebotomist and former procurement tech for StemExpress, told us all the depraved and debased details. Make no mistake. She is no mere a witness or whistle blower telling us what she saw. As Doug Wilson observed, she is confessing her sins. She was a participant. She has blood on her hands. And yet she is seeking absolution. By confessing her sin to a global audience as part of the Planned Parenthood exposé, she is racing with all her might toward restitution. She wants to make it right. She wants to be clean. She wants it bad enough that she's willing to tell the world her greatest sin. The good news is that the blood of Jesus Christ is able to wash the blood of the unborn from her hands. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. 

My point here is simple: the confession and repentance of Holly O'Donnell stands as a model of the confession and repentance that we the people of the United States must humbly make. She is showing us what we as a nation have to do. We must confess our sin. We must acknowledge our guilt. We must throw ourselves on the mercy of God. We must repent and turn from our wicked ways. We must do it, as a people, as a nation. And if we do not, we deserve every bit of judgment that God sees fit to pour upon us. To be sure, we already deserve it. But God, in his great mercy and love, is at this time giving us an opportunity to see the evil that our nation has legalized, funded, and executed. He is giving us an opportunity to repent and sin no more. What we do know is that even now the souls of more than 50,000,000 preborn slain surround the throne of the God and of the Lamb crying out, "How long, O Lord, until you avenge our blood?" What we do not know is how long they've been told to wait.  

July 27, 2015

Sales get negotiated. Reimbursements? Not so much. #PPSellsBabyParts

You've probably seen the second undercover video of a senior Planned Parenthood executive haggling over the price of aborted baby parts (if you haven't, scroll down). Word is there are more such videos yet to be made public. In the second video, Dr. Mary Gatter, President of Planned Parenthood's Medical Directors Council, is seen negotiating the price of pieces from aborted babies. During the conversation Gatter suggests $75 as an appropriate price for organs. The actor posing as a buyer responds that she would expect to pay $100. Not sure why this didn't tip Gatter off to something strange. How often does a buyer raise the asking price? Gatter must have been blinded by greed because she went for it and at the end of the conversation even suggested that, if $100 is too low, they could always bump it up. After all, as she said, "I want a Lamborghini." 

Here's the point. Planned Parenthood can say that this is about reimbursements all they want. But reimbursements happen when you get paid back for the actual and documented costs of whatever it is you are doing, which, of course, means that reimbursements are non-negotiable. If you want to be reimbursed, you present the receipts or vouchers that show your costs, then you get paid for those exact numbers. No bartering involved. What Dr. Gatter says in the video is different because it sounds like she is trying to find the market price for baby livers. She's haggling. And when haggling comes into the picture, it sounds a lot like a sale is being negotiated, which is why so many of us don't believe it when Cecile Richards tells us that Planned Parenthood is not profiting from the sale of organs from aborted babies. But who can blame them? Everyone knows a Lamborghini costs an arm and a leg.

July 22, 2015

An Open Letter to @UnitedWay #UnitedWayHelpsPP #PPSellsBabyParts

Planned Parenthood is on their heels in light of the recent videographic evidence that they are engaged in the illegal and ghoulish activities of selling baby parts. Douglas Wilson has pointed out the importance of keeping them on their heels and intensifying the pressure, and one way to do that is to call upon organizations that fund Planned Parenthood to defend Planned Parenthood's devilish actions. One of those organizations is United Way. The President and CEO of United Way is Brian A. Gallagher. The U.S. President is Stacey D. Stewart. And here are the members of the U.S. Board of Trustees. 
Dear Mr. Gallagher, Ms. Stewart, and United Way U.S.A Trustees,
I write this brief letter to express both appreciation and grave concern. I appreciate the positive impact that your work has had on communities in the United States and around the world. Unfortunately, I fear that your positive impact will be tarnished by your support of Planned Parenthood. It has come to my attention that United Way gives money to Planned Parenthood. As you are probably aware, allegations have arisen that Planned Parenthood is illegally engaged in receiving payment for the distribution and transportation of fetal organs and other body parts. Additionally, it is alleged that Planned Parenthood has illegally altered its abortion procedures in order to obtain intact organs from preborn babies and to distribute them for payment. 
My questions are simple: Does United Way endorse the distribution of baby parts by Planned Parenthood in exchange for cash? If so, how do you justify that position? If not, when will United Way cease giving funds to Planned Parenthood? 
Thank you for your attention to these all-important questions. 
Sincerely,
Matt O'Reilly
There are three things that readers can do: (1) Send this letter or one like it to United Way. You can copy and paste it straight to the contact form on the United Way website. (2) You can use this page to find your local United Way and send it to them. You can also Tweet it out using the hashtags #UnitedWayHelpsPP and #PPSellsBabyParts. United Way supports Planned Parenthood. They must defend or defund. You can make a difference.

July 20, 2015

Why is @StemExpress a Legal Company? #PPSellsBabyParts @EdStetzer

Before last week, I had never heard of a company called StemExpress. But with the revelation that Planned Parenthood sells the organs of aborted preborn babies, more of us know about this company that acquires parts from the victims of abortion, processes those parts in their lab, and then sells them on their website. Here's how they describe what they do:
StemExpress is a multi-million dollar company that supplies human blood, tissue products, primary cells and other clinical specimens to biomedical researchers around the world to fuel regenerative medicine and translational research. Founded in 2010, we offer the largest variety of raw material in the industry, as well as fresh, fixed and cryopreserved human primary cells.
Ed Stetzer helped spread the word about StemExpress by posting screen shots from the company website where they sell fetal liver cells. Stetzer also posted an image of the tiered payment schedule for people who work to obtain "specimens" for StemExpress. In other words, they pay bonuses to "procurement technicians" based on how many baby livers they can get their hands on. Then they chop those livers up in their labs and sell the cells, which is how they became a "multi-million dollar company." 

Here's the thing. In the United States, it is illegal to acquire or sell fetal tissue for profit. Take a look at the relevant section of the U.S. Code:
“for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce” 42 U.S.C. 282g-2(a).
So, here's my question. And let me emphasize that this is a legitimate question. If StemExpress transfers fetal cells for profit, why are they allowed to do business as a legal company in the United States? What's the loophole? Is it because the livers are "donated" and then processed in such a way that they are not considered "fetal tissue" before they are sold? Are the fetal cells from fetal tissue not themselves legally considered fetal tissue? If not, how many cells does it take to come up with something that can be considered tissue? And if company employees are paid wages and bonuses (i.e., "valuable consideration") for transferring the livers, heads, and hearts of aborted babies from Planned Parenthood to StemExpress, why are they not prosecuted under the law? I guess you can get paid "valuable consideration" to traffic preborn baby organs as long as you don't take "valuable consideration" in exchange for those same organs. Yep, that makes sense. Wait...what? 

Well that turned out to be more than one question. Funny how one thing leads to another. Seriously, though, someone help me.
_____
Image credit: Ed Stetzer


July 17, 2015

Animal Rights vs. Human Rights: An Unfortunate Juxtaposition #PPSellsBabyParts

I came across an article last night reporting on a letter from Brad Pitt to the CEO of Costco calling upon the company to stop selling eggs from caged hens. Pitt articulated his deep concern about the horror of keeping chickens in small cages for the duration of their lives, and he expressed his disappointment that Costco was a party to such cruelty to animals. I wouldn't have taken the time to write a post about such a letter had it not been reported only days after the videotaped release of a senior Planned Parenthood official callously discussing the way her company sells the body parts of aborted babies to companies like StemExpress. Consider these contrasts between excerpts from Pitt's letter and the sorts of things that happen in abortion:
"In these cruel cages, the animals' muscles and bones atrophy from years of immobilization" (Pitt)
In the cruel hands of the abortionists, the muscles and bones of preborn human beings are ripped from their bodies and crushed by the cold sharp teeth of the physician's forceps.
"As you know, these birds producing eggs for your shelves are crammed five or more into cages that are not large enough for even one hen to spread her wings" (Pitt).
As you know, these slaughtered children produce organs to sit on the shelves of companies which then sell them for "research." 
"In short, cramming hens into cages for their entire lives constitutes cruelty to animals, and animals deserve better" (Pitt).
In short, dismembering children so as to rob them of life constitutes cruelty to human beings, and these babies deserve better, much better.
"You've shown great courage and integrity on a range of issues. Won't you please extend that sensibility—and basic decency—to chickens?" (Pitt).
Won't you please extend that sensibility - and basic decency - to preborn human beings? Won't you?
Now don't think I'm advocating cruelty to animals. I've seen Food, Inc., and I eat eggs from humanely raised birds. However, when we expend more energy fighting for the rights of chickens than we do the preborn, then our priorities are very, very out of order. Our culture and our sensibilities are backwards. Our ethics are inverted. So, eat your cage free eggs, but be sure that you spend far more time fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable people in our society, the preborn. 

July 16, 2015

Does the Devil Blush? 5 Points on the #PlannedParenthood Video

You've probably seen the widely shared video of a Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Medical Director at Planned Parenthood, nonchalantly discussing the way Planned Parenthood traffics the body parts of aborted preborn babies. If you haven't seen it, stop reading, scroll to the bottom of this post, and watch it. Then come back and finish reading. I've included both edited and full versions. In response, Planned Parenthood has defended themselves saying that (1) they are only being "reimbursed" for specimens donated for scientific research, and (2) the group that recorded Dr. Nucatola is really a dastardly and dishonest and you shouldn't believe them. Most people who see the video are horrified, as well they should be, as was I. So, here are five points characteristic of what's been rolling around my head since first seeing the video.
  1. It's worse than we thought. Let's begin with a reminder that selling preborn baby bodies is not the worst thing that Planned Parenthood does. The worst thing they do is kill preborn babies. That is their greater sin, and that is bad enough. This week we learned that it is not their only sin. They also turn around and exchange the organs and extremities of aborted babies for money, which means it's worse than we had previously known. So, let's be disgusted at what we've seen, but let's remember to keep perspective and not lose sight of the bigger issue. It's wrong to kill babies.
  2. You should be outraged, but not surprised. We should be horrified by the practice and the attitude of the power players at Planned Parenthood. What we should not be is surprised. These are the folks who make their living by ripping the arms and legs off the most vulnerable and defenseless people on the face of the planet. That their consciences are so seared as to be unbothered by the thought of selling the bits and pieces they've sliced, diced, hacked, and whacked is not much of a stretch. After all, they are in the business to make money, and they've found a way to make more of it. So, be angry. Be frustrated. Be horrified. Be furious. Be disgusted. But don't be surprised. Don't even begin to be surprised.
  3. Please pass the dressing. The cavalier attitude with which Dr. Nucatola discussed the harvesting and pricing of preborn baby bodies is stunningly reprehensible, not to mention alarmingly reproachable. What's that? How much is a head? That'll cost you $30. Lungs? Let's call it $50. If you want an intact heart, it'll run you a little more. Please pass the dressing. Oh, and how 'bout one more glass of Merlot. Callousness like that is enough to make the Devil blush, just before swelling with pride at the success of his merchants of death.
  4. Let's talk dollars. As indicated above, Planned Parenthood insists they are not making money off these preborn baby organs. They are simply being "reimbursed" for the shipping and handling costs incurred in the delivery of "tissue" donated for "research." My first thought upon reading their response was simply: how stupid do they think we are? Even if they post a loss or break even, they are still exchanging the pieces of infant corpses for cash. Make no mistake. They tinker with language in order to sanitize their sins, desensitize our consciences, and deflate our indignation. Don't fall prey to their Newspeak. Watch the video. They have "buyer(s)" whose demand they supply. There is a price range in which dollar amounts are set per "specimen". A menu is available. They are in the business of sales. 
  5. The idols of our age. I've long said that abortion is the child sacrifice demanded by the false gods of convenience and sex without consequence. This episode has allowed us to see that the pantheon is more crowded than we realized. There's another idol demanding not only allegiance but the lives of our children. This one has been around for a long time; that presence just became a little easier to perceive. What is its name? You can call it mammon. This new information is surprisingly beneficial, however, because if you want to tear down the high places, you need to know where they are. 

July 10, 2015

Seneca's Tough Love for Book Lovers

If you are like me, and take great joy in curating your personal library, then this excerpt from Seneca's Epistle 2 may be a little disappointing. The translation is from Gummere's volume in the Loeb Classical Library: 
The primary indication, to my thinking, of a well-ordered mind is a man's ability to remain in one place and linger in his own company. Be careful, however, lest this reading of of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady. You must linger among a limited number of master-thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind. Everywhere means nowhere...And in reading of many books is a distraction.
Accordingly, since you cannot read all the books which you possess, it is enough to posses only as many books as you can read...So you should always read standard authors; and when you crave a change, fall back upon those whom you read before.
This reminds me of a critique I heard some time ago of the way we assign reading in University courses. The argument was made that by requiring lengthy reading lists in our classes, we condemn our students to remembering very little of what they hurriedly skim through. Instead, it was suggested, we should assign fewer books of great importance and have our students read them deeply and repeatedly over the course of the semester. Sounds like Seneca would agree. As would I suspect Dr. Bancroft, who taught me Great Books and a great deal more, not least the importance of reading a book slowly and more than once.

Which two or three books do you go back to over and over? Which authors do you tend to read more than others? How might digital media forms relate to Seneca's warning against disorderly reading? Do feed readers epitomize "discursive and unsteady" reading? 
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Photo credit: Yahoo! image search

July 1, 2015

Read This Book: Awakening Wonder by @DrTurleyTalks (@ClassicalAcadPr)

"There is no argument against beauty." -Peter Kreeft

It has become increasingly clear to me in recent years that North American evangelical Christianity suffers from a lack of confidence in and appreciation for Beauty. We pursue and call for the Good and the True, yet our strategy has centered primarily on syllogistic rationalism. We're not all that apt at aesthetics. We love Truth, but we've forgotten that whatever is true is also beautiful, and we've forgotten that Beauty itself is deeply persuasive. There is no argument against beauty. 

Given my growing interest in the role of theological aesthetics in pedagogy and apologetics, I was very excited to see Stephen Turley's new book from Classical Academic Press (CA), Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty (2015). I've been following the work of CAP for several years now and have found their resources invaluable. This book is no different. 

Turley's book introduces the reader to the role of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in shaping human life through a distinctly Christian education. The book opens in dialogue with C.S. Lewis to survey the way contemporary Western culture has redefined what it means to be human by removing objective value from our common life (chapter 1). This is followed by a look at the birth and development of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty as objective values in the classical world, and Plato's role in that development receives focused attention. (chapter 2). Turley then traces the development of these values by the Christian Church in the Greek East (chapter 3) and the Latin West (chapter 4). All of that then serves as the foundation for his argument that the recovery of objective aesthetics by classical Christian educators provides the necessary tools to redeem the senses (chapter 5), sanctify the imagination (chapter 6), and reform education (chapter 7) in order to provide an environment in which our children grow up to embody the objective values of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. The strength of the book is the author's ability to synthesize and communicate a significant amount of material across a variety of disciplines and apply it to the contemporary classical Christian education project. The coherence of the argument embodies the values it promotes.

The God who raised Jesus from the dead is perfectly beautiful, and his beauty beckons us. Turley has provided a framework for developing our ability to perceive the divine beauty which calls us with joy to himself. The result is the recovery of that which we have neglected in the modern period, and the rediscovery of full human life that faithfully incarnates the sacred vocation to shine forth the beauty of the glory of the triune God in whose image we are made. Take and read. 

May 19, 2015

In biblical theology, human life is embodied life.

No gnostic anthropology around here. A thoughtful reminder from Robert Gundry that full humanness requires embodiment:
The separation of spirit from body affects the spirit as well as the body. In the Biblical perspective, the physical body is just as essential to life which is life indeed as is the spirit. Barring the effects of sin (which touch the spirit, too), the body as such does not shackle the spirit. It provides the spirit with an organ of expression and action, just as the spirit provides the body with animation and direction. By total separation, then, body and spirit die together. The whole man dies. 
The Biblical touchstone for truly human life is not consciousness of the spirit, let alone the material being of a physical object such as the body. Rather, man is fully himself in the unity of his body and spirit in order that the body may be animated and the spirit may express itself in obedience to God. Both parts of the human constitution share in the dignity of the divine image. That dignity lies in man's service to God as a representative caretaker over the material creation. For such a task, man needs a physical medium of action. Neither spirit nor body gains precedence over the other. Each gains in unity with the other. Each loses separation from the other.
From Robert H. Gundry, Sōma in Biblical Theology: With Emphasis on Pauline Anthropology, (SNTSMS 29, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1976), 159-160. 

April 9, 2015

Easter Means Mission

Our celebrations of Christ's resurrection at Easter tend to be narrowly focused. The focus, all too often, drills down onto the individualistic issue that the resurrection makes personal salvation possible. Christ has been raised so that you can go to heaven. Now don't get me wrong. I happily affirm that the salvation of each person depends on the historical bodily resurrection of Christ: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (1 Cor 15:17). The problem comes when we fail to consider how the implications of the resurrection extend beyond individual salvation. And in doing so we don't have to worry about overlooking or neglecting the personal saving power of the resurrection. To the contrary, we establish it. 

So, what is the resurrection about? If we turn to the Gospel of John, we soon discover that the resurrection of Jesus is the basis for the Church's vocation in the world. Easter means mission. Consider the words of Jesus to his disciples on the evening of the day of his resurrection: "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John 20:21). The first thing Jesus does is set before his closest followers the task he intends them to fulfill. He is sending them out into the world with a mission, a mission that flows out of and is similar to the one for which Jesus himself was sent into the world. And what is this mission? John has at least two things in mind: reconciliation and new creation.

Mission as Reconciliation

Twice during this first post-resurrection meeting, Jesus tells the disciples, "Peace be with you" (20:19, 21). His mission to them is a mission of reconciliation. And rightly so, for all human beings come into the world estranged from God. To draw on John's own language, "No one has ever seen God" (1:18). God is light. We stand in darkness. Jesus comes to make peace between God and us so that we can become the children of God, so that we can experience the pure and unqualified joy of seeing God's glory. 

And he does this reconciling work in his own body. This is why the incarnation is so important. This is central to the significance of the Word made flesh. Because he is fully God and fully human, he brings the two disparate parties together in his body. God and humanity are reconciled in the very body of Jesus that died on the cross and was raised from the dead. Without the incarnation and bodily resurrection, there is no reconciliation between God and humanity. This is what the Father sent Jesus to do, and Jesus says, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." If the Father sent the Son to work peace between God and the human race, then Christ sends his Church to be agents of that peace making mission to the rest of the world. 

Mission as New Creation

But the mission goes much deeper than any initial reconciliation between God and humanity. John also gives us a few clues to help us understand that our mission is to cultivate the new creation that God is working through Christ and the Spirit. We know John likes Genesis. No first-century Jewish writer starts out a book with the words, "In the beginning," and does it on accident. He is intentionally drawing on the creation narrative in Genesis 1 to inform our reading of the Gospel. And if Genesis 1 is telling the story of creation out of nothing, then John 1 is telling the story of new creation out of the old. John 20 offers a couple more clues that Jesus has been sent to work new creation. Ever notice that John is telling us about the most important day in the history of the world and never says a word about anything that happens while the sun is up? The story starts in the dark of early morning only to jump forward to the dark of evening. Morning, evening; evening, morning. That John is drawing on Genesis 1 ought to be clear. If it isn't, John repeatedly reminds his readers that this is the first day of the week. If Genesis 1 tells story of cosmic creation structured by seven days of evenings and mornings, John 20 sets up the story of the resurrection as the work of God on the first morning and evening of the new creation. And as the Spirit hovered in the darkness over the face of the primordial waters, so now the Spirit is at work in the darkness of that first Easter morn raising the dead as the first act of God's new creation. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." If Jesus has been sent by the Father to inaugurate the new creation, the Church has been sent by Jesus to cultivate it. 

The Whole Easter Package

If our job, then, is to be agents of reconciliation between God and the world and to cultivate the new creation everywhere we go, then personal salvation is obviously included in that along with much, much more. And our vision of salvation is enlarged way beyond the old "go to heaven when you die" sort of "fire insurance" that has so often characterized American Christianity. The mission is to facilitate peace between God and the nations. That peace is part and parcel to personal salvation, but it is neither a salvation of mere forgiveness nor is it a salvation of escape. Rather, it is salvation in which we are made new creatures for life in the new creation. It is incarnational. It is transformational. It's the whole package. Easter is mission.