The darkest day in American history

Genesis 1:26-31.

Forty Long Years

Perhaps you’ve heard the old saw that goes like this. A man turned to his friend and said, “Do you know that the two greatest problems in our country today are ignorance and apathy?” To this his friend replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

That is, perhaps, a most fitting assessment, and especially on this day. This day marks, among all others, the sins and failures of mankind. In this regard, it is not unlike other days. But this day marks a great darkness, a great evil, a great forwardness, a rebellion of the hearts of men against their Creator. This day marks what is most assuredly the darkest day of all in our American history.

Forty long years were God’s people in the wilderness after Moses led them out of Egypt. In fits and starts they followed him and obeyed his commandments. Sometimes, they honored him; sometimes, they complained against him, accusing him of injustice. At least once, they turned to worship a false God.

Likewise, for forty long years, the Church in America has largely ignored the darkness of the murder of innocents in our land. Too many Christians sit comfortably in their churches without regard to the blood of the unborn being shed around them every day. In fits and starts has the Church, too, honored the Lord’s commandments. At times, Christians have spoken plainly of God’s truth and honored him in deeds. At other times, and in critical times, we have preferred our own convenience.

Those of you who are older than I may remember the political struggle over abortion in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The argument was that abortion was a medical necessity. A handful of states began to legalize abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court declared it to be legally acceptable to murder children in the womb. Since that time, the argument for medical necessity has virtually disappeared, while we kill children in the womb for the sake of our convenience.

For 40 years, the courts have declared acceptable that which God has condemned. Since 1973, more than 50 million children have been murdered in the womb. Our chief executive, before he took office, stated that he was in favor of killing children after they were born. (source) This is the state of our nation after 40 years. We have embraced a culture of death.

The culture of death brings about disrespect for human life across the breadth of our society. You may remember the death of Terri Schiavo in 2005. She was physically and mentally disabled, and her husband sought to have her put to death because she was an inconvenience to him. A state court ordered that food and water be withheld from her. After fourteen days without food or water, Terri died of dehydration. This is the culture of death we have in this country.

Every day, the disabled and elderly are neglected because they are inconvenient. I think of the nursing home where I lead service each month, of how many of the elderly are dumped there by their families. They are abandoned because they are inconvenient. Children shuttle off their parents to a place where they can die because it’s inconvenient to deal with them. This is the culture of death.

Murder Condemned, Life Affirmed

Abortion is an old sin that has been with us since the early days of mankind. It was spoken of in the Old Testament. References to it have been found in ancient texts.

Elsewhere in the book of Genesis, the Lord said unto Noah, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:6). Here the Lord made plain to Noah that the life of every man is sacred. It is sacred because man bears God’s image.

From the time of the early church, abortion was condemned as murder. In the Didache, the oldest known catechetical document of the Church, written sometime around 100 A.D and intended as a summary of the Apostles’ teaching, are these words: “You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill one who has been born” ([tooltip tip=”Didache, c. 80-140, as quoted in A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, edited by David W. Bercot (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1998), 2.”]source[/tooltip]). We see that this sin has been around for a long time, and it is practiced with impunity in our own time. The Church has always looked upon this act as an offense against both God and man.

Tertullian, in about 210 A.D., wrote this, “Life begins with conception, for we contend that the soul also begins from conception. Life takes its commencement at the same place and time that the soul does” ([tooltip tip=”Tertullian, as quoted in A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, edited by David W. Bercot (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1998), 172.”]source[/tooltip]). That is to say, at the moment when God causes two cells to combine–in that moment when he creates the body–he also animates the body with his own breath. Into a man fashioned from clay, the Father breathed life. Therefore, we honor life, not only because it came from that first receiving of God’s breath, but also because it is that continued receiving from God, that continued imprint of his image upon men.

Christ affirmed the value of mankind throughout his ministry. He did so when he declared them to be made whole by speaking words of healing or laying his hands on them. He did so when he called them to repentance so that they might be saved from destruction. He did so when he said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

Likewise, when he said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10), he was affirming the value of life. He was affirming the value of human life in his eyes, both the life of that first breath and the new life that comes through the saving work of Christ our Savior. This is everlasting life given to those who repent of their wickedness and follow after Christ.

Instead of taking life, Jesus gave his life, saying, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He showed the value of men in God’ eyes: not that men are worthy, but God has made them worthy through his first Creation and his New Creation.

Made in God’s Image

What does it mean to be made in God’s image? That has been an important question throughout human history, and it is no less important to us now. The answer to this question have tremendous implications for our understanding of God, of man, of how God has revealed himself to man, and, especially, our understanding of Jesus, the incarnate God, God in human flesh.

In seeking to explain this impression of the image of God upon the soul of man, we use a variety of terms. We speak of being made in God’s likeness, made in his image. We talk of the sacredness of human life, the dignity of men. The American Founders spoke of it in the Declaration of Independence in those words that are familiar to most of us: “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.”

We speak of the inalienable nature of the right to life. This means that the right to life is inherent to our identity as humans. God made us such that this right is essential to our being. This right can neither be taken from us nor can it be given up; it is inalienable–we cannot be separated from it. This is the value that God gives mankind. We have value because he has deigned to leave his fingerprints in the clay with which he made man and woman.

What might we learn from the passage we read in Genesis 1? Firstly, that God has given man dominion. He gave mankind authority over every creature, every creeping, flying, or swimming thing. He gave man authority over the trees and other plants.

Insofar as this authority of dominion is practiced by man with uprightness, he reflects the image of God. Just as the Lord rightly exercises his authority over all things, so man rightly exercises his authority over those things placed under his control. Man may use the things of Creation for good purposes, just as the Lord has made them all for his good purpose. As God has exercised his creative power, man may exercise the power of creativity bestowed upon him by the Creator.

Secondly, we bear the image of God in our moral nature. That is, we are formed according to his character. The Lord has endowed each man with conscience, with some ability to discern right and wrong, to seek goodness. Certainly this desire for goodness, this ability to discern what is pleasing to God, has been marred by sin. We see with dimmed eyes; we stumble in the darkness because we have shut out the light. Our consciences are seared by sinfulness such that our minds are faulty and our wills given to that which is evil. Certainly, our natural tendency is toward sin and all that is displeasing toward the Lord.

Yet, however dimly we may see, and however vainly we may grasp at goodness without the illumination of God’s Holy Spirit, mankind is not entirely divorced from the goodness of God. Because of the mercy of the Lord, it is this indelible likeness of the Father upon us that gives us any inclination to do that which is good. It was of this impression of the Father’s character on us that Christ spoke when he said to his disciples, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11).

Take Up the Tools at Your Hand

How do we address this sin of the devaluing of human life? How do we act in such ways as to affirm life?

Some years ago, I was seeking work through a temporary staffing agency. Reviewing the agency’s advertisements for jobs, I discovered one that was a bit cryptic. As I carefully read over the words, it became apparent that the temp agency was seeking a nurse to work in the abortion clinic in town. I spoke with the local manager of the service, who referred me to the corporate office. I spoke with the president of the company, who dismissed my concerns about the murder of the innocent, stating that they were supporting a business engaged in legal activity.

I called friends in the area and asked them to pray and to participate in an effort to stop the supply of nurses to the abortion clinic. After several days of standing on the sidewalk in front of the employment agency, greeting the folks who came in and out of that business and explaining to them what sort of services it supplied, we were able to impact the abortion industry in our town. People who sought help in finding a job through this agency were shocked to learn that it was working for the abortion industry in this way. Some learned for the first time that an abortion clinic even existed in the area.

Eventually, we were able to have an impact on the staffing of the clinic, and its hours were reduced after the prayers and faithful witness of many in the pro-life movement. Its sister clinic in another city was shut down by the state.

I think also of my friend who heads a ministry dedicated to teaching Ukrainian orphans about Christ and showing them compassion. He and his wife help coordinate the adoption of scores of children each year. These are children who would be abandoned; those who make it to adulthood often turn to prostitution and other crime to support themselves. Now, instead, they have the love of adopted parents. They have the love of Christ shown to them through the acts of men and women who understand the value of human life.

These are only some of the things that we can do when we take up the tools that are at hand. Perhaps the most important and the most expedient thing you can do to honor the sanctity of life is to teach it to your children. We so often spend time seeking magic solutions that we neglect the work before us. We do not live in a fairy land; there are no magic beans. Let us teach our children about the sanctity of human life.

Men who are not taught love as children will seldom love when full grown. We must speak the message of truth in our homes and in our churches. We must teach children about the dignity of all men. We should teach them how we are fearfully and wonderfully made–by God, in his image. We should teach them how to love others, that humiliation and ridicule do not show our appreciation of human worth. We should teach them that children are a gift from the Lord, not an inconvenience to be avoided or disposed of. We should teach them that God will hold us accountable for all our deeds, both good and bad. We should teach them that, in honoring the value of men, we honor the Lord.

Let us not forget prayer, that most important discipline of Christian life. Pray for the safety of children in the womb. Pray for the hearts of men in authority, that they will respect the value of life. Pray for doctors and nurses, that they will seek to preserve life, not to destroy it. Pray for all who suffer from abortion, the childless mothers and fathers who need the forgiveness of the Father. Pray for those in the nursing homes, the elderly and the disabled, that they will be comforted by the Holy Spirit in their moments of loneliness and distress.

Take up the tools that are at your hand and work in the Lord’s kingdom. Work to affirm the sacredness of human life. Work to glorify God by honoring his Creation.

Embracing Life

In exercising dominion, we do not seek dominion over others. We do not seek to control them, to limit their freedom, to make them slaves. All of these things attack their dignity and show that we have no value for them. We do not dominate or subjugate others or murder them. We are to exercise dominion in goodness, in all that pleases the Lord. When we offend the dignity of men, we offend the majesty of God.

We may embrace the fullness of life by following after Christ. We show this by speaking and acting in accord with his word. We show this by affirming human life in all its forms, in all its locations, in all its conditions. We show our reverence for God by our respect for men–men who are created in the image of deity.

May we honor all men and so honor God.

Phillip Jauregui

Constitution for Congress

Phillip Jauregui wants to restore our governing document

There’s a congressional candidate from Alabama who’s a little out of the ordinary. His oddity comes not from the fact that he’s an attorney or a well-known figure in recent national events. It’s his commitment to the Constitution that makes him a rarity among congressional candidates and current members. That and his commitment to action: “The courts have literally betrayed their oaths to the Constitution and, … [members of] Congress are not keeping their oaths if they simply stand around and watch the Constitution being destroyed.”

Phillip Jauregui, 34, is campaigning in the Republican Primary for the 6th District of the U.S. House of Representatives. He hails from Birmingham, has two children and is married to Jennifer. Jauregui has been in private practice since 1998. Prior to that, he served as Deputy Attorney General for the Alabama Department of Public Safety, Assistant Legal Advisor to former Governor Fob James, attorney for former Chief Justice Perry Hooper, and was a clerk with the Alabama Supreme Court. He graduated from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law.

Familiarity with Jauregui in Alabama and across the United States stems from his involvement with the legal cases of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and the well-known Montgomery Ten Commandments monument. Jauregui first began working with Moore in 1995, when he was a legal advisor to James in the earlier Ten Commandments case when Moore was a circuit judge. He also served as Moore’s campaign manager in the 2000 chief justice race in which Moore was elected. In the recent cases, Jauregui served as Moore’s lead counsel, arguing the appeal of Moore’s removal from office before a specially-selected Alabama Supreme Court.

Jauregui serves on the Prison Fellowship of Alabama Council, part of a national ministry headed by Chuck Colson. He also serves on the Sav-A-Life board, a pro-life ministry that provides counselling and other assistance to women who might otherwise undergo abortions. Jauregui is a member of the Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, where he also serves as a trustee.

The campaign Jauregui runs is focused on constitutional restoration. He wants Congress to take responsibility for its role as the legislative body–and to fiercely protect that authority from federal judges. He says that, if Congress is acting only as “an ad hoc body that makes policy recommendations to the Supreme Court, then Congress is not being Congress.” The Constitution must be restored to its place as the primary governing instrument of our nation. He fears that existence of Americans as a free people is threatened by judicial tyranny.

Congress must be true to the Constitution. Jauregui points out that congressmen don’t take oaths to get themselves re-elected or to keep their majority party status in Congress; instead, their oaths are to protect and defend the Constitution. In order for congressmen to uphold their oaths to the Constitution by limiting judicial abuse, Jauregui advocates four steps.

The first thing he says Congress must do is to simply “limit the court to its constitutional jurisdiction.” Instead of taking direction from the Supreme Court and lower federal courts, Congress should act as a separate body, making its own decisions about law. When the courts overstep their authority, Congress can also further limit their jurisdiction.

The second thing Congress can do to restrict abuse by the courts is to restrict funding. Jauregui suggests that the resolution the House of Representatives passed in the Montgomery Ten Commandments monument case is a good method of blocking enforcement of unconstitutional rulings by courts. In that case, the House said that it would not allocate any funds to the enforcement of the federal judge’s order to remove the monument. Similar restriction of funds in other cases could render out of control judges powerless to enforce their rulings. Jauregui said, “Congress has the authority–and, as a matter of fact, has the duty–to restrict funding” in cases where the courts try to tell Congress how to do its job.

The third thing Jauregui wants Congress to do is to “discipline members of the court who are refusing to confine themselves to their constitutional role as judges.” The Constitution provides for the impeachment and removal from office of judges who do not serve under good behavior. Jauregui said, “Judges are not behaving well when they defy their oaths and anoint themselves as legislators over Congress.” “… If they don’t … respect congressional action which is gentle, then maybe the only thing they’re going to respect is removal from office.” He said that impeachment is a discipline of last–but real–resort that should be used judiciously and strategically.

Jauregui’s fourth idea for accountability is the passage of laws by Congress to deal with particular court cases. Such a law would identify Congress as the lawmaking body, state that the court’s purpose is to decide controversy–not to make law–and identify rulings in specific cases as void. Jauregui said, “According to Chief Justice Marshall in 1803 in Marbury v. Madison, if a ruling is repugnant to the Constitution, it’s void. The same way with a statute. If Congress does something that’s repugnant to the Constitution, it’s void. If a federal judge issues an order that is repugnant to the Constitution, that order is void. Judges, too, … take an oath to the Constitution and they are bound to it. … Accordingly, other officers … who have taken oaths to the Constitution … are bound to the Constitution, not to federal judges who have unbound themselves from their oaths to the Constitution and are now declaring war against it.”

Jauregui sees the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004 as one means of reigning in runaway federal judges. If the act doesn’t pass in the current class of Congress, Jauregui would make it his first priority, if elected. He said, “I feel so strongly about it that I would have to talk with the leadership in Washington–congressional leadership–and I would tell them, ‘This must be our number one priority.’ And I would say that very respectfully and I would want them to make it the number one priority but if they did not, then I would have to say, ‘Then you’re not leading.’ And, I would then look for other leaders in Congress who would then make this their number one priority.”

On other issues, Jauregui is similarly conservative. He opposes the continuation of “most favored nation” trading status for China: “The main reason is that they’re persecuting the Church…” Jauregui also opposes abortion: “Life begins at conception and the taking of that life is wrong.” He is against stem cell research on materials from aborted babies because the children haven’t given their consent and also because using fetal tissues creates an incentive to kill children. “There are plenty of other ways we can do medical research without desecrating the bodies of innocent babies,” Jauregui said.

One issue on which Jauregui differs from many other conservative leaders is his position on the Federal Marriage Amendment. The proposed amendment would define marriage as solely between a man and woman. Jauregui doesn’t believe this is enough. He says all the blood, sweat, and tears needed to pass such an amendment wouldn’t be well spent if it simply allows homosexual marriage to go forward under the name of civil unions.

He is even more adamant that this issue doesn’t require such an amendment at all. “The whole reason we’re dealing with this crisis in marriage today is because of what the US Supreme Court did last summer in Lawrence v. Texas. And what the court did in Lawrence v. Texas was absolutely unlawful and unconstitutional.” Jauregui believes what the Supreme Court did was illegitimate and that, because it was illegitimate, it should be ignored. Instead of the knee-jerk reaction of a constitutional amendment, Congress should “…stand up and be Congress and say, ‘No, we won’t allow you to do that.'” He also said, “I think it’s ridiculous if we allow the courts to do something illegitimate and then we treat it as legitimate and force ourselves to correct it through this long process, it’s the wrong way to go. The best way to handle it is to recognize what they’ve done is illegitimate, period.”

While others have been talking, Jauregui has been doing. We know very well that talk is cheap these days. But, Jauregui has actively worked to assist justice in Alabama and the nation. Many a congressman can introduce or co-sponsor a good bill, but making sure the right thing is done by fighting for the passage of that bill is quite another. We’ve long suffered the games of politicians who promise the moon and deliver nothing more than muck. Jauregui’s a man who is committed to doing the right thing whether he loses re-election, is expelled from Congress, or is vilified by the unsavory elements of the American Civil Liberties Union or Southern Poverty Law Center and their lot. He’s counted the cost and he’s willing to pay the price. He’s not interested in a political legacy–a godly one will do just fine.

He’s a leader committed to submission to the Supreme Ruler of the world. Jauregui understands that no judge, no president, no legislator can make right what God has declared wrong.