My reflections and musings on the struggle to leave a Christ-shaped impression on the world of law and public policy.


Monday, April 26, 2010

The Fear of the Lord

It is one of the top three things I hope to impart to my children. Our God is absolutely kind, absolutely loving, absolutely concerned about them and the smallest details of their little lives. And yet, He is no mere doting Grandpa. This God that we have the privilege of knowing is the Great Jehovah.

As J. I. Packer aptly stated, "We are modern people, and modern people, though they cherish great thoughts of themselves, have as a rule small thoughts of God. ... Today, vast stress is laid on the thought that God is personal, but this truth is so stated as to leave the impression that God is a person of the same sort as we are--weak, inadequate, ineffective, a little pathetic. Our personal life is a finite thing: it is limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power. But God is not so limited. He is eternal, infinite and almighty. He has us in his hands; we never have him in ours. Like us, he is personal; but unlike us, he is great. In all its constant stress on the reality of God's personal concern for his people, and on the gentleness, tenderness, sympathy, patience and yearning compassion that he shows toward them, the Bible never lets us lose sight of his majesty and his unlimited dominion over all his creatures."

I have been reading through the Old Testament, where the power, majesty and holiness of God occupy the forefront. What a convicting thing it is to be reminded and to really reflect upon the fact that the God we serve today is the very same God who stood the waters up like a wall, that His people might walk out of slavery--and then let the same waters swallow up the mighty armies of Pharaoh! He is the same God who is so aggrieved by human sin that Moses--dear, humble Moses who is the very model of patience as far as I am concerned--was not permitted to enter the promised land because he struck the rock (thus doing it his own way) rather than speaking to the rock as God had commanded.

What does this have to do with Virginia's pro-life movement? Everything. J. I. Packer points out that "Those who know God have great thoughts of God. ... [They know that] God . . . rules history and shows his sovereignty in acts of judgment and mercy toward individuals and nations according to his own good pleasure." When we know the God of the Bible well, giving full weight to His attributes of omnipotence, holiness and justice as well as His other attributes, I submit that we will not plot our courses based on deference to the powers of this world (think "political realities," "Supreme Court make-up," "polling data," etc.) , but rather by the conviction that we must follow our Lord and take up the battles to which He points us.

Of course, God gives us wisdom and the ability to reason so that we might use them for His purposes. The line between prudently choosing and planning your battles and shrinking back because of the fear of man and his institutions is a fine line, indeed. But it is a line that we must walk in order to be faithful to a mighty, awesome God.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

From Assent to Action

Some time ago, Scott and I were discussing my "activist" inclinations. He knew, of course, that I have believed that abortion should be illegal for as long as I can remember. He was surprised, though, to see me becoming so actively involved in the pro-life effort.

What happened to move me from passive pro-lifer to pro-life activist? I went from believing the situation was beyond hope to seeing a way that I could work toward fundamental change. Having assumed, for years, that there was simply nothing to be done to stop abortion so long as Roe v. Wade stood, I saw little point in participating in the chorus of impotent gripes against the Supreme Court.

Thanks to my friend, Daniel Woodard, who enlightened me on the personhood movement, three years ago I took several months to research Supreme Court abortion precedent and this idea of "personhood"--that a void remained in the law where states might define "persons" for purposes of state law to include those whom the Supreme Court had found excluded under the federal Constitution.

Now, I don't subscribe to all of the legal arguments propounded by some advocates of "personhood." But I do see real opportunity, through a series of legislative actions beginning with an inclusive definiton of "persons," for states to take back abortion law. And it is this glimpse of opportunity that has changed my position from passive assent to action.

Friends, where there is a good work set before us, let us not grow weary in doing good. Let us never be content to decry the muck in our culture with our megaphones while a shovel lies before us.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Rubber Meets the Road

Last night I attended a "Mass Meeting" for the selection of persons to fill certain positions in Rockingham County's Republican Party. I also had the opportunity to hear speeches from four gentlemen who are vying for Matt Lohr's seat in the House of Delegates. It got me to thinking...

I've heard it said that when considering our choices for elected representatives, we should not be "single-issue" voters. The abortion issue is only one of many important issues facing our nation, and there is much at stake on all of these issues. I agree with that assessment. And yet, knowing what I know now, I don't think I can ever bring myself to actively support any candidate who is only nominally "pro-life."

It is true that our nation faces a multitude of important issues, many of them economic ones. But no matter how many great economic ideas a candidate may have, if he or she is willing to turn a deaf ear and a cold shoulder to the crime being perpetrated against an entire class of human beings created in the image of God--a crime being sanctioned and even funded by our government--then how can I wholeheartedly support that person's candidacy?

Hitler had great economic ideas for Germany, and he rose to power on a wave of nationalism and desire to return Germany to a place of prosperity. But I submit that most of us would condemn, in the strongest terms, those who continued to support his regime after his intentions with regard to the Jews were known. Likewise, I submit we would condemn those who held no personal animosity toward the Jews but simply allowed the slaughter to continue--no matter what their excuses may have been.

I'm certainly not trying to compare any particular person to Hitler, but the point is this: if we, as citizens, believe--if we REALLY believe--that unborn children are human beings created in the image of God, then how can we actively support any candidate who doesn't pledge to actively work to end legalized abortion? This is where the rubber meets the road. Do we believe what we say we believe? If so, I see no place for lukewarmness.

The other issues are important, too. An active opposition to legalized abortion is a necessary but not sufficient qualification, in my view. It's time to raise the bar.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

To Be "All In"

I sit in a beautiful, comfortable home. I'm healthy and have a wonderful husband who provides for me. I have two precious, healthy children, full of life and vitality. I have everything I need, and, truthfully, even everything I really want.

Today at church, Pastor Joe Slater admonished us to be "all in" for the Gospel. He quoted the following among the evidence that we are called to do exactly that:
  • "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Matthew 16:24
  • "...unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." John 12:24
  • "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." Romans 12:1

To quote German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer (whose life is worth studying if you're interested in this topic and want to be inspired), "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die."

Almost every day I have at least one moment when I am consciously struck by how incredibly blessed I am. I see clearly (although perhaps less clearly than I will one day) how utterly this charmed life I lead is a gift. I have not earned what I have through my "talent," "hard work" or a history of making wise decisions. Neither is it the result of happy luck. Like my salvation, these breathtaking blessings I enjoy are a product of God's lavish grace.

How I strive to be one of unfaltering devotion to my Savior even were all that I had to be taken from me. (I haven't yet reached the point where I can be confident of that.) But in light of my present reality, at least, how could I do anything less than to go "all in" for whatever work God should choose to put on my desk?

Of those to whom much is given, much is required. And yet how often does my own laziness, my own love of comfort and pleasure, stand in the way of my being "all in?" I do believe that God wants His children to enjoy the blessings He bestows. But may my enjoyment of these gifts never become an opiate. Where there is a good work before me to do, may I never choose lounging on the couch watching a beloved, but mindless, t.v. show instead.

One of my deepest desires is to be "spent" for the good of the Kingdom of Christ. Of course I desire for myself and my family to be blessed with many long years of good health in which to love and enjoy one another. But I do pray that when I finally breathe my last, I will be as a zero balance, having spent all of the time, talent and treasure lavished upon me--everything He made and invested in me--in His service and for His glory.

Thanks for the reminder, Joe.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I know that many of you are shocked, outraged and discouraged about the headlines today. But remember, friends--the God of the universe is sovereign over nations and men.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Loving Them Both

Pro-lifers who devote time and energy to gaining passage of laws that restrict abortion are often accused of turning a cold shoulder to the plight of the woman facing an unwanted pregnancy. This is an unfair generalization.

I care deeply about the plight of these women, and I also see their predicaments as a unique opportunity for the Body of Christ to reach out to them with the love of a compassionate Savior. I am a huge fan of organizations like the Harrisonburg Pregnancy Center, where those trained and gifted in the art of counseling and the science of medicine provide practical help to women who suddenly find their lives in crisis.

I also care deeply about the other human being involved in the "decision." The other human being who was created by The Great Creator and in His image.

So with regard to unwanted pregnancies, I submit that the Body of Christ is confronted with two obligations: to love, counsel and assist the pregnant woman, and to work toward passage of laws that prohibit the killing of the unborn child she carries. We must love them both. God, in His great wisdom, has equipped some of us for one work and some for the other, but our work toward one goal does not imply lack of concern, conviction or support for the other goal.

I challenge those who argue that we should focus our attentions solely on the woman facing the unplanned pregnancy. How can we justify caring for one and not the other?

"Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, oh hold them back. If you say, 'See, we did not know this,' does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?" Proverbs 24:11-12

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Struggle

I have recently been confronted by someone who would call herself "pro-life" and yet opposes efforts to limit or ban abortion. Surprisingly, there are many in this camp. They would say that while they believe abortion is wrong and would never choose to have one, they still believe that each woman should retain freedom to make the decision for herself. They are found among those in our society who argue that it is wrong to "legislate morality."

This viewpoint puzzles me, and I struggle with how to respond. If legislators aren't legislating morality, what are they legislating? Surely all of the most fundamental laws of a civilized society concern morality. So it seems that the real objection is perhaps not so much to the passage of laws that impose some sort of moral order upon society, but to the basis that these laws have in religion. And yet, unless we are to prohibit Christian individuals from holding public office, how can we possibly demand that laws not be rooted in religious faith? For the true follower of Christ (and perhaps followers of other faiths as well), the Word of God informs every aspect of his or her life--including vocation--and is the basis for every moral belief.

The response to this is generally something like, "Well, Christians shouldn't impose their beliefs upon others." But the question remains, at what point do Christians become disqualified to participate in our government because of the basis of their moral beliefs? Is it when they become a majority?

Of course, legislation should never purport to regulate matters of conscience, which cannot in any event be compelled and should not be constrained. However, I submit that our government can--and indeed must--"legislate morality" where behavior is concerned. It is certainly a sense of "morality" that produces laws that protect the weakest among us from physical aggression by the strongest. Would anyone truly suggest that such laws are illegitimate?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Amazing Grace

I recently began reading Amazing Grace, the biography of William Wilberforce written by Eric Metaxas. Wilberforce dedicated his career in Parliament to ending slavery. I'm not usually drawn to biographies, but this one has had me riveted since the first page of the Foreward. It's impossible to miss the parallels between the campaign to end slavery and the campaign to recognize the human rights of unborn children.

This paragraph spoke volumes to me:

"At the time of the [historically black college's] establishment, there was polite conversation in America's parlors and colleges about the basic humanity of African Americans. Even more unrealistic for many in that conversation was the ability of African Americans to learn, contribute to society, and exist beyond the pale of forced servitude."

Then the author's Introduction states, "The opposition that [Wilberforce] and his small band faced was incomparable to anything we can think of in modern affairs. It was certainly unprecedented that anyone should endeavor, as if by their own strength and a bit of leverage, to tip over something about as large and substantial and deeply rooted as a mountain range. From where we stand today--and because of Wilberforce--the end of slavery seems inevitable, and it's impossible for us not to take it largely for granted. But that's the wild miracle of his achievement, that what to the people of his day seemed impossible and unthinkable seems to us, in our day, inevitable."

It is my hope and prayer that one day, this will be said of legalized abortion. Today it seems ingrained in our society and nearly impossible to reverse. May it one day be unimaginable to us that our laws ever sanctioned the destruction of human life as a matter of personal "choice."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Letter from Mother Teresa to the United States Supreme Court

This letter was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court as an amicus brief in the 1994 cases of Loce v. New Jersey and Krail et al. v. New Jersey:

I hope you will count it no presumption that I seek your leave to address you on behalf of the unborn child. Like that child I can be considered an outsider. I am not an American citizen.

My parents were Albanian. I was born before the First World War in a part of what was not yet, and is no longer, Yugoslavia.
In many senses I know what it is like to be without a country.
I also know what is like to feel an adopted citizen of other lands. When I was still a young girl I traveled to India.
I found my work among the poor and the sick of that nation, and I have lived there ever since.

Since 1950 I have worked with my many sisters from around the world as one of the Missionaries of Charity. Our congregation now has over four hundred foundations in more that one hundred countries, including the United States of America.
We have almost five thousand sisters.

We care for those who are often treated as outsiders in their own communities by their own neighbors—the starving, the crippled, the impoverished, and the diseased, from the old woman with a brain tumor in Calcutta to the young man with AIDS in New York City.
A special focus of our care are mothers and their children.

This includes mothers who feel pressured to sacrifice their unborn children by want, neglect, despair, and philosophies and government policies that promote the dehumanization of inconvenient human life. And it includes the children themselves, innocent and utterly defenseless, who are at the mercy of those who would deny their humanity.

So, in a sense, my sisters and those we serve are all outsiders together. At the same time, we are supremely conscious of the common bonds of humanity that unite us and transcend national boundaries.

In another sense, no one in the world who prizes liberty and human rights can feel anything but a strong kinship with America. Yours is the one great nation in all of history that was founded on the precept of equal rights and respect for all humankind, for the poorest and weakest of us as well as the richest and strongest.

As your Declaration of Independence put it, in words that have never lost their power to stir the heart: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” A nation founded on these principles holds a sacred trust: to stand as an example to the rest of the world, to climb ever higher in its practical realization of the ideals of human dignity, brotherhood, and mutual respect. Your constant efforts in fulfillment of that mission, far more that your size or your wealth or your military might, have made America an inspiration to all mankind.

It must be recognized that your model was never one of realized perfection, but of ceaseless aspiration. From the outset, for example, America denied the African slave his freedom and human dignity. But in time you righted that wrong, albeit at an incalculable cost in human suffering and loss of life.

Your impetus has almost always been toward a fuller, more all embracing conception and assurance of the rights that your founding fathers recognized as inherent and God-given.
Yours has ever been an inclusive, not an exclusive, society. And your steps, though they may have paused or faltered now and then, have been pointed in the right direction and have trod the right path. The task has not always been an easy one, and each new generation has faced its own challenges and temptations. But in a uniquely courageous and inspiring way, America has
kept faith.

Yet there has been one infinitely tragic and destructive departure from those American ideals in recent memory. It was this Court's own decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) to exclude the unborn child from the human family. You ruled that a mother, in consultation with her doctor, has broad discretion, guaranteed against infringement by the United States Constitution, to choose to destroy her unborn child.

Your opinion stated that you did not need to “resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” That question is inescapable. If the right to life in an inherent and inalienable right, it must surely exist wherever life exists. No one can deny that the unborn child is a distinct being, that it is human, and that it is alive. It is unjust, therefore, to deprive the unborn child of its fundamental right to life on the basis of its age, size, or condition of dependency.

It was a sad infidelity to America's highest ideals when this Court said that it did not matter, or could not be determined, when the inalienable right to life began for a child in its mother's womb.

America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships.

It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society.
It has portrayed the greatest of gifts—a child—as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered domination over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters.

And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners.

Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.

The Constitutional Court of the Federal Republic of Germany recently ruled that “the unborn child is entitled to its rights to life independently of acceptance by its mother; this is an elementary and inalienable right that emanates from the dignity of the human being.” Americans may feel justly proud that Germany in 1993 was able to recognize the sanctity of human life. You must weep that your own government, at present, seems blind to this truth.

I have no new teaching for America. I seek only to recall you to faithfulness to what you once taught the world. Your nation was founded on the proposition—very old as a moral precept, but startling and innovative as a political insight—that human life is a gift of immeasurable worth, and that it deserves, always and everywhere, to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.

I urge the Court to take the opportunity presented by the petitions in these cases to consider the fundamental question of when human life begins and to declare without equivocation the inalienable rights which it possesses.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Truth About Delegate Marshall

It looks like many in our community have fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book: the use of one ill-conceived sound bite to demonize a politician. In the case of Delegate Bob Marshall, this is more than unfortunate.

First of all, to read or hear what Marshall really said, go to The media reports of Marshall’s statement conveniently omitted the fact that it was made in reference to a 2008 study by Virginia Commonwealth University published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. This study pointed to higher risks of premature birth and low birth weight in children born to women who have had an abortion.

Second, I propose that a responsible alternative to crucifying the man based on one misconstrued statement is to judge him by his record. This record includes bills to provide healthcare for autistic children, to ban partial-birth abortion, and to authorize courts to require counseling about the effects of divorce on children.

I wonder how many of those who are quick to attack have ever thanked Bob Marshall for championing these just causes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Shout Out to the Legislators

"It's not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

If you have 5 or 10 minutes today or tomorrow, please take the time to thank the legislators who were "actually in the arena" for us on H.B.112. You don't need to say anything extraordinary--a simple thank you will show them that you care about the bill and appreciate their support of it. You could just say, "Thank you for supporting H.B.112." E-mail addresses for those who supported the effort are as follows: - Delegate Bob Marshall - chief patron - Delegate Ben Cline - co-patron - Delegate Todd Gilbert - co-patron - Delegate Clay Athey - co-patron; voted for the bill in subcommittee - Delegate Jackson Miller - voted for the bill in subcommittee - Delegate Charles Carrico - co-patron - Delegate James Morefield - co-patron - Delegate Brenda Pogge - co-patron

Monday, February 22, 2010

Virginia Catholic Conference

I just spoke with Jeff Caruso at The Virginia Catholic Conference. It was so encouraging to me to have a reasonable conversation with a reasonable man who shares my passion for protecting the lives of the unborn. Of course, details will need to be hammered out, but I am excited about the prospect of working together with this organization to achieve our mutual goals.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Is Believing In the Sanctity of Life Enough?

I had the privilege to attend a Sunday School class taught in the style of a "Last Lecture" today by doctor, author and missionary Harry Krauss. He quoted a "really smart guy" (name not given) who said, "I don't care what you believe. I care what you believe enough to do."

If followers of Christ really believe, based on God's infallible Word, that life begins at conception, shouldn't we be doing all we can to protect that life? I submit that it is our duty to do so. I believe that we must continue to work for laws that chip away at the practice of abortion. Some of these include laws that mandate stricter regulation of abortion clinics, the provision of better information to women seeking abortions, parental and spousal notifications, etc.

I also believe that it is time for us to raise our voices and demand laws that define unborn children as "persons" who are possessed of fundamental, unalienable rights. Let it be clear that when an abortion happens, it happens not to a meaningless blob of tissue, but to a human being who was knit together and "known" by the Creator of all.

While we must continue to fight this battle on the abortionists' turf by placing piecemeal limitations on the "right" to destroy unborn children, it's time to claim some turf of our own by recognizing the humanity of those silent victims. Let's require that the arguments about fundamental rights be played out in the framework of the Truth.

I hope you're wondering how you can show that you believe in the sanctity of life enough to do something about it. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Questions

Truly, one of the most exasperating things to me throughout this process has been the way "questions" have been used, at best, as excuses for not supporting this bill and, at worst, as weapons against it. Don't get me wrong--it's good and appropriate to ask questions, but only if you're willing to stick around and hear the answers. So many questions have been raised about the bill's potential to have "unintended consequences." Some of the questions are asked in good faith, and some are not. [Would you believe that it has been seriously suggested that treating unborn children as persons possessed of fundamental rights would give embryos the right to vote?]

But the point is this: every question I've been asked so far has an answer. If you have questions about this bill, please click on the link (near the top of the page) called, "Questions and Answers." It covers everything from oral contraception to census data. If you don't find the answer to your question, please let me know, and I'll get back to work to get it for you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Happened to H.B. 112 - My Take

The members of the Constitutional Law Special Subcommittee voted not to report the bill, with a vote of 5 opposed and 2 in favor. Going into the hearing, we were pretty sure we would not pick up any of the 3 Democrats on the Subcommittee, but we were hopeful that the Committee Chairman (Del. Dave Albo) and Del. Kilgore would vote for the bill, as they are both Republicans and both pro-life.

I knew that Chairman Albo had questions about possible unintended consequences of the bill (effects on oral contraception and in vitro fertilization), so I provided him with a full brief on those topics well before the hearing. While it is true that this bill may have moral implications that lead future sessions of the General Assembly to consider further regulation of the discarding of unused embryos by IVF clinics, my brief explained why, as a legal matter, HB112 would not affect any of those practices. It is simply a rule of construction that would construe the word "person," for purposes of Virginia law, to include all human beings.

During the hearing, I pointed out that none of the horrible results feared by some members of the subcommittee have occurred in Missouri, where the statute after which HB112 is modeled has been on the books for over 20 years! Illinois and Louisiana also currently recognize unborn children as legal "persons" from conception.

Many of the questions were fierce, but I honestly cannot think of a question that was left unanswered. Even the Solicitor General of Virginia testified in support of the constitutionality of the bill. Representatives of Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the ACLU gave their predictable statements in opposition.

At the close of the testimony, renowned attorney Pat McSweeney rose and gave an incredibly moving, eloquent statement in support of the bill. I could never do it justice, but his point was this: the General Assembly has a responsibility to define who is a "person" for purposes of Virginia law. That is the issue. If other laws must be altered to fit with the fact that all human beings have human rights, so be it.

Nonetheless, the vote was 5-2, and so the bill failed. However, Chairman Albo and Del. Kilgore stated during the hearing that they both would have voted for the bill if it had been identical to the Missouri statute. Which is good information to have on hand for next session....

What Happened to H.B. 112?

I'll give my own take on that soon, but in the meantime, check out this post from American Life League's Judie Brown:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why I'm blogging

Thomas Jefferson wrote, in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men."

During the past two months, I have had the great privilege of working with elected representatives on a bill that would recognize the human rights of unborn children under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was an honor to stand behind a true statesman, Del. Bob Marshall, in this effort. (Go, Bob!!!)

It was sometime late last week when Thomas Jefferson's words came to mind: it is for the purpose of securing these fundamental rights that "Governments are instituted among men!" That's the whole point of government!

Throughout my intellectual, legislative and literal journey, I have had an army of faithful friends supporting me through prayer, encouragement, and practical assistance. I'm writing this blog for those who want to continue to follow the progress of this effort. There is much yet to be done! It is my hope that by providing periodic updates here, I can empower you to join with me in praying for this work, and, when the time is right, maybe even to enter the fray by contacting those in positions to influence the outcome.