From our vantage point in the year 2005, we can now see that the twentieth century was a time of tremendous contrasts. Great advances were made in the fight for freedom. The century ended with millions liberated from enslavement to communism, fascism, and other ideologies of terror that marked the last one hundred years. Yet, at the same time, we recognize that the twentieth century was among the most barbaric epochs in human history. Millions were slaughtered in two world wars, in the ovens of death camps, in the killing fields of genocide, and on the altar of convenience.
Technological advances were matched to moral degeneration and reversal. For many, the twentieth century ended and the twenty-first century began with neither a bang or with a whimper--but with a silent scream.
- Our nation celebrates financial abundance, but devalues human life.
- We have experienced an economic expansion, but a moral recession.
- We are obsessed with personal safety, but have made the womb a place of great danger.
- Our concerns for personal "rights" have eclipsed our understanding of what is right and what is wrong.
- Great advances in medicine have prolonged life for many, but we accept the most barbaric forms of the murder of the unborn.
- We have elevated convenience over conviction, and comfort over compassion.
- We have treated the blessings of parenthood as a burden.
- We have rejected the gift of life, and have claimed this as a "right to choose."
We are living on borrowed time. A nation cannot long prosper in its economy when it has sold its soul for personal choice. A nation is not strong when it destroys its weakest members. Americans demand rights rather than righteousness, and we are reaping a harvest of unrighteousness unparalleled in its magnitude.
Over the past three decades, Americans have aborted nearly 40-million unborn children. We have allowed an entire industry of murderous clinics to rise in our midst, and many politicians stand ready to defend, if not to celebrate, these abortuaries and their operators.
In an unprecedented reversal, even our language has been debased. Unborn infants have become "unintended products of conception," or "unwanted biomass," or even "uterine contents." The murder of unborn siblings is called "selective reduction." Abortuaries are called "reproductive health centers." Our euphemisms betray our moral cowardice.
It is not as if Americans are unaware of the abortion industry. Millions of citizens have been brought face-to-face with the reality of partial birth abortion--the most horrible, barbaric, and grotesque technique of legalized infanticide--and yet it took years to outlaw the practice. Then, within a matter of months, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 was invalidated by the federal courts. And so, the losses mount.
The Nazi regime based its race policies on the claim that some human beings are unworthy of life. The Nazi concept of Lebens unwerten Lebens led to the death camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, and Treblinka. Jews, gypsies, and others identified as "inferior races" perished in the ovens of the concentration camps. The disabled, the sick, the mentally ill--all these were murdered at the order of the regime, and they were murdered by the millions.
Looking back from the vantage point of half a century, one of the most perplexing and troubling questions is this: How could the cultured, educated, and supposedly Christian citizens of Germany have allowed, participated in, and cooperated with this regime of murder? This is perhaps the hardest question.
At the end of the war, when the camps were liberated and the ovens were opened, Allied officers forced German citizens from cities and villages near the camps to walk through the gates, walk through the corpses, see the ovens, and know of their own guilt.
I firmly believe that a day is coming when American citizens will be forced to walk into the abortion clinics, hear the suction machines, see the dismembered children, face the little corpses, look into their own hearts, and know their own guilt.
I am convinced that America now faces one of the great decision points in her history. We have reached the point that the atrocities pile one upon the other. Americans tolerate and support a vast killing machine murdering the unborn--and we push it out of sight and out of mind.
- Sex-selection abortions are now routine.
- Genetic engineering promises designer babies. If the fetus is not what is wanted, simply abort and try again.
- RU486--the human pesticide--is increasingly available in western nations, and in America.
- Euthanasia is now legal in some nations, and "assisted suicide" is protected by law in Oregon and will spread across the nation. This movement cloaks its embrace of death by calling it "good death" or "pleasant death." It turns doctors and friends into murderers. The old, the sick, the weak, and the costly will be the first to fall victim.
- Millions of unsuspecting Americans--many opposed to abortion--use oral contraceptives that may be abortifacient in effect, and undergo chemical abortions without any knowledge.
Thousands of unborn lives are terminated each day, and are hardly missed. The over 40-million abortions performed in the United States since 1973 represent a missing generation. The oldest of these would now be just over 30 years of age, and many would have children of their own. The true scale of this loss can never be measured.
We have endured years of political setbacks and judicial reversals, but there also have been noteworthy successes. Each amounts to a small step forward after many steps backward. The passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act is a cause for hope, as is the slow transformation of the nation's conscience. Subtle shifts in the national mind indicate the promise of more fundamental changes to come. We must nurture this hope.
We must not be deterred by those who warn us against "single issue politics," for this is the singular issue of our times--the most significant and urgent issue before our nation.
Some claim that it is always darkest before the dawn. We must hope that this is more than a cliché. We must hope that it is true.
On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down the infamous Dred Scott decision that gave legal justification to slavery and declared that black persons have no rights or legal protections. In the words of the decision, the black man has "no rights which any white man is bound to respect." The court further ruled that the Congress has no power to prohibit slavery in the respective states.
The decision was devastating, and March 6, 1857 was one of the darkest days of American history. The abolitionist movement appeared to be defeated, and their spirits were almost broken.
Nevertheless, within ten years of the decision, slavery had been abolished and Dred Scott was a bad memory. This reminds us that a nation's memory can be changed.
Roe v. Wade is the Dred Scott of the twentieth century. There is reason for hope. We must pray that the time will come when Roe v. Wade is remembered only as a horrible reminder of what we as a nation once did, and once accepted.
Another ray of hope comes in the increasing recognition that the fetus is a person--a human being--deserving of rights. I recently read the testimony of a young feminist who stated that she could not have an abortion, nor would her friends do so. Why? Because they had seen the sonograms and the images of the fetus in the womb. As her friends put it: "The fetus beat us."
The sonograms and ultrasounds reveal the lies of those who claim that the fetus is not a person, not a human being.
This is the time for a new abolitionism--the time to abolish the horrible practice of abortion. We must contend for the right to life, for the born and the unborn.
What should we do? We should educate, agitate, organize, and keep this issue before the nation's conscience. We must keep the issue before the culture, and we must not settle for silence.
We must support and elect leaders and elected officials who are advocates for life, and remove all those who defend abortion.
We must work for progress on all fronts--supporting parental notification laws, outlawing partial birth abortions, and working for the legal recognition of the rights of the unborn. We must press ahead step by step.
Once the conscience of the nation is kindled, the consuming fire of judgment will follow. The public will demand an end to abortion and will celebrate again the gift of life.
We must not lose heart!
In Deuteronomy chapter 30 the Lord addressed His own people with a word of promise and of judgment:
But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you might observe it. See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life and live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days . . . .
[Deuteronomy 30: 14-20a]
The choice was put before the children of Israel, and it is put before America as a nation. We are told to embrace life, to choose life, to protect life, and to preserve life. The most important choice we face is the irreducible and unavoidable choice between life and death.
There is another important dimension to this text that demands our attention. A nation that rejects God will embrace death. We believe that life is sacred because God created human beings in His own image. A nation that rejects God will inevitably, if progressively, devalue life and embrace death--however it is disguised. A nation that rejects Christ is eventually a nation without a conscience.
The challenge presented to the children of Israel is presented now to the children of a new American century. By God's grace, let us lead America to choose life.
[Editor's note: This article is based on an address Dr. Mohler delivered to commemorate the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.]
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to [email protected].