What is a Repentant Church in a Holocaust? (1989)
Posted 23 June, 2017
The following was published 28 years ago. 1989. That was 16 years after the SCOTUS defiled the land with Roe v. Wade. It was the same year that I was released from jail following completion of four years imprisonment on a six-year sentence in connection with the destruction of abortuaries along the East Coast. And it was two years prior to the first edition the quarterly Capitol Area Christian News (1991 – 2002) – which was sued out of existence in 2003.
In as much as Planned Parenthood required, by means of federal court order, the list of all subscribers, we had a choice: terminate publication and avoid giving up the list or continue publication – refusing to comply – and be prosecuted for Contempt of Court and forcibly shut down through imprisonment or some other use of force. We ceased publication and so closed the leading publication which had championed the deeds of those who defended the children in the womb with force.
It must be noted here that it is my own testimony that our message was a necessary one to the unambiguous affirmation of the true and full humanity of children yet in the womb. They may and ought to be protected, as anyone else, by any means necessary, including the use of force. Any lesser position is a denial of their true humanity, an undermining of the Truth, and a retreat from battle in what is properly named, “The Culture War.”
This essay was included as a chapter in Actors in the Kingdom (Reformation Press, 1990), a collection of my writings in paperback which was sought vigorously by Planned Parenthood when they raided, with their hooks in the noses of the police, my home in Wilmington, Ohio 2003 soon after we relocated from Bowie, Maryland. In that raid, the police, with Planned Parenthood operatives guiding them and under the authority of a Supreme Court judgment known as Planned Parenthood v. ACLA (1995) – a judgment from a civil suit brought against me and several other Christians (anti-abortionist) under the cover of the newly decreed federal law (the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (a.k.a. FACE) – seized all my writings and any relevant anti-abortion papers. The essay is re-typed for posting at www.michaelbray.org in June, 2017.
Sadly, the underlying issues are as relevant now as they were then.
What is a Repentant Church in a Holocaust?
(A Third Reply)
Origin was the most influential and seminal theologian and biblical scholar of the early Greek Church. Writing in the first half of the third century, he was not uncontroversial. Nevertheless, in Jerome’s judgment he was the greatest teacher of the early Church after the Apostles.
It is not his scholarship, however, which ought to impress us. Origen was a disciplined ascetic whose passion for self-denial sowed he seeds for monasticism.
It is not the eccentric practices themselves which impress me: small diet, sleeping on the floor, going without shoes, etc. (although his act of self-castration stemming from Mr. 19:12 did wow me a bit; he later repudiated this youthful deed); it is his zeal to deny himself, his passion to live the live of Christian suffering.
Origen made many disciples of Christ. Eusebius says there were thousands, because “His deeds matched his words., as the saying goes, and his words his deeds.” He taught them how to die. At various times of persecution, his pupils were killed. And although he was providentially spared, he fearlessly encouraged them to be fearless.
Eusebius reports on Origen concerning the persecution under Aquilas, the governor of Alexandria:
. . . when he won a resounding reputation among all adherents of the Faith by his eagerness to lend a helping hand to all the holy martyrs, known or unknown. For not only when they were in prison, or were being cross-examined, up to the final sentence, but even when they were afterwards leg away to execution, he was at the side of the holy martyrs, displaying astonishing fearlessness and meeting danger face to face. As he boldly approached and fearlessly greeted the martyrs with a kiss, again and again the maddened crowd of pagans that surrounded him were on the point of stoning him, had he not found the right hand of God ever ready to help him, so that he escaped when it seemed impossible.
There is one event in the life of Origen which stands out in my mind. During his youth, persecution had broken out during the reign of Severus, governor of Alexandria. As many were “finding fulfillment” (as Eusebius repeatedly calls it) in martyrdom, Origen longed for the same. When his father was arrested and imprisoned, his yearning to engage the adversaries was so great that his mother hid all his clothes to keep him at home. He cold not remain silent: he wrote a letter to his father strongly urging him to keep his testimony, saying: “Mind you don’t change your mind on my account.”
It could not have been an easy choice for Leonides. He had six children younger than the 16-year-old Origen. And upon sentencing he was to lose his property to the imperial treasury, leaving his wife destitute. No small price for a Christian testimony.
There is much talk these days about the need for the American church to repent (certainly an acceptable thing to call for, even has a noble and prophetic ring; but from what to what ought the repentant church to turn?). Writing in his monthly magazine, The Counsel of Chalcedon in a special December, 1988 edition (“How to Stop Abortion”), Rev. Joe Morecraft declares:
The point is this: only the preaching and teaching and living of the gospel of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is able to awaken an apostate Church to repentance and faith. . . Unless the Church repents, the culture will not be transformed by the word of God[].
Again, what shape should this repentance take? Rev. Morecraft argues against Operation Rescue’s antiabortion methods, saying:
We must not allow resources and energies to be drained away by exciting and dramatic methods to stop abortion which would require the laying aside or discounting or subordinating to second place of these divinely powerful weapons of God.
-by which “weapons” he means prayer and preaching.
Well, there has been plenty of prayer and preaching since 1973. Apparently Rev. Morecraft would have us repent full circle from prayer and preaching to prayer and preaching.
What, really, does repentance mean? What does “living the gospel” mean when one is living in a holocaust? What resources are we willing to spend? And can’t Christians preach and pray in jail, too?
Summarily, I think repentance in these times means turning from lethargy, luxury, and pleasure to vigilance, sacrifice, and suffering. These are the times of Leonides and Origen.
Suffering and death was not the destiny of Jesus of Nazareth only; the followers of the Lord were to learn to die. A distasteful doctrine, but our Lord made it clear: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it” (Mt. 16:24-25). The Savior announced that He would lead the way with his own death. And when Peter objected, an astounding rebuke proceeded from the Lord’s mouth: “Get behind Me, Satan! . . . for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s”
The number of antiabortionist Christians willing to suffer reverberates throughout the land. Pastors confronted by the jailing of some of the flock are forced to comment: “Ahem” . . . Ah, but it is tough for pastors. If their sheep are penned up, how will they go out and work to pay their tithes? Moreover, pastoral approval of such radical behavior might displease the majority and result in desertions from the fold. Yet, if they fail to support these zealous martyrs who want to block the “clinic” doors, they may lose the respect of these dedicated members.
We are all confronted with decisions to make. The fulcrum upon which all important decisions rest is the death question: Shall we be dead in Christ? There are Satanic forces which would dissuade God’s people from dying. And sometimes the tool used by evil spirit to tempt unto self-reservation is the clergy.
How shall God’s people act in these times? What kind of suffering is expected?
The biblical doctrine of repentance calls for a change of mind. It is an abandonment of hope in our life and a placing of trust in Messiah’s death. We have no real or lasting life apart from death in Him. (There is another kind of “repentance” which we call apostasy. When put to the test, some Christians have abandoned the Faith, preferring the safe life of the world – even the church world.) Repentance in our time means to turn from the love of safety; it means to turn to the suffering which comes from attempting to rescue the innocent. Repentance means intervention at “clinics.” Let me illustrate with some instruction from Isaiah.
To the people who are called by His name, who are living in sin, God said through Isaiah:
When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean.( 1:15,16)
And what was the sin of His people? It was omitting to do justice. Blood was on their hands. Instruction for repentance was this:
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow (1:15-17)
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (58:6-7)
George Grant has called the church to greater social action beyond participation in electoral politics.
The Church must reassert its priestly and prophetic roles, guarding and guiding the land in the schools, in the media, in local government, in the legislatures, in the courts, and in the bureaucracy. Anything less is just not enough.
But Mr. Grant sends us a conflicted message. He exhorts his readers not to fail in removing the “high places” – the idols of our culture. He illustrates his point by referring to the kings of Judah did good, but left idols in the land. Yet, he does not point us to Jehu, who destroyed Baal worship in Israel by slaughtering all the pagan priests unto the good pleasure of God (2 Kings 10:18-30). (A little to hot for publishers to handle, perhaps.) Rather, he calls us to work within the system, selecting Obadiah as his model, rather than Elijah (1 Kings 18:3-16).
There are, indeed, ambiguities proceeding from the mouths of many Christian leaders; they arouse the people by inveighing against the indignities and blasphemies of idolatry and then defer the call to sacrificial action. Grant says:
Until the tactics of the wise appeal, lawyer delay, lobbying, legislative reform, suffering, servanthood, and public protest have been exhausted and entirely frustrated, civil disobedience is not a live option. Again, we must say civil disobedience is a last resort. There is no ground whatsoever in the Biblical narrative for skipping ahead to the drastic when the mundane might just as well do. To advocate civil disobedience before the exhaustion of alternative resistance is to thwart God’s redemptive program and the rule of law.
Of course, once every alternative has been exhausted – and in many cases they have already been – then we have to go the way of Peter, James, and John, and stand for the truth of God regardless of the costs: rescuing the perishing, protecting the innocent, defending the defenseless, exposing injustice. . .
At what body count will the alternatives be “entirely frustrated”? How much longer must direct action be deferred before exhaustion of alternative tactics?
This type of obstructive rhetoric is akin to premarital petting. The people of God are aroused, then forbidden to take reasonable action. Rescuing the innocent is either right or it is wrong. (For simplicity’s sake we are talking about non-violent direct action by the community. The subject of removing the “high places” by means of rapid combustion can be take up on another literary bandying session.)
The exhortation to work within the system to the deferment of direct action is an amusing proposition. Which contradicting authorities shall we obey? State laws (still on the books) prohibit abortion. The President issued a proclamation affirming the humanity of the preborn and calling for their protection. A renegade band of seven reprobate judges decreed a new law of the land: Abortion is hereby decriminalized.
What, then, does it mean to be a good citizen under the laws of the land? To pick the path of least pain? Christians who rescue innocent children from “clinics” in 1989 may be inflicted with the pain of imprisonment, fines, and loss of job; but they cannot be charged with civil disobedience or rebellion.
So what is the guiding factor for behavior? Pain? Freedom from suffering?
We have overcome the arguments about Personhood, When Life Begins, Reproductive Rights, and Overpopulation from without. Now, we must over come an intramural obstacle: pusillanimous pastors cautioning against Civil Rebellion. Literary leaders in love with lofty logomachy would rather refine their politico-ecclesiastical theories from the comfort of their studies than from a cacophonous, squalid, overpopulated prison. “Reform, yes; suffering, no.” And in their zeal to preserve their luxury, they serve the people sloppy pabulum.
We are in need of sound doctrine, not schizophrenic calls for reform without suffering. We are lacking pastors and teachers like Origen who till teach the people how to die right. Those who call for a fast when it is time to do justice are held in divine disdain. They are obstructing God’s call to His people in these times.
There are, indeed, different political times and seasons. We must discern the times and know how to function in them. We must be able to say with St. Paul, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well bed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philip. 4:12.13). When God brings times of judgment and suffering upon His Faithful, we must not be unfaithful, knowing that the Scriptures say:
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made one s well as the other (Ecc. 7:14).
God has brought a time of adversity upon us. And when sin flourishes and the unrighteous rule, the people mourn – Christians suffer. Do no look away from it. Face and go through it victoriously.
Eusebius briefly records the execution of Priscas, Molchus, and Alexander under the persecution of Emperor Valerian (c. A.D. 253):
It is said that these men, while living in the country, at first accused themselves of apathy and indifference: they scorned the prizes which time offered to those who craved for them with a heavely longing, instead of grasping the martyr’s crown with both hands. So when they talked it over, they set out for Caesarea, where they presented themselves before the judge and [became] . . . food for beasts . . .
They recognized the times and the suffering ordained in them. They repented from shrinking back. We also live in a time of resistance and a time of suffering. It is not the roaring 20s or the frolicking 50s. We are reaping the fruit of what was sown in the God-is-Dead 60s. The price for weeding the guarden goes up as time goes on and the roots grow deeper. It is time for so-called disobedience. Better that we suffer a small price now than that our children reap a civil war later.
The job of pastor includes the encouragement and support of the people as they suffer. Eusebius records the faithful pasturing of Theotecnus, bishop of the diocese of Caesarea, during the reign of Gallienus (A.D. 261). Marinus, a soldier, was one of his church members. When he was about to be promoted, a competitor declared that Marinus was a Christian and therefore by law was disqualified. The judge gave him three hours to think over his confession. Eusebius records the rest of the story as follows:
As soon as he left the court, Theotecnus . . . came to him through the crowd, drew him aside, took him by the hand, and led him to the church. Inside, he place him right in front of the altar, and drawing aside his cloak a little way pointed to the sword at his side. They he fetched a book containing the divine gospels, placed it before him, and invited him to choose whichever of the two he preferred. Without a moment’s hesitation, he put out his hand and took the divine book. “Hold fast, then,” said Theotecnus. “Hold fast to God. May you obtain what you have chosen, inspired by Him. Go in peace.” No sooner had Marinus gone back that an usher called on him to present himself before the court. He stood erect before the judge and displayed still greater devotion to the Faith. Instantly, just as he was, he was taken to execution and thus found fulfillment.
Thus does a real pastor teach his sheep how to die. And in losing his life for Christ, one saves his life (cf. Mr. 10:39; 16:25)
One of the great benefits of Operation Rescue in Atlanta was the forcing of pastors in the vicinity to address the issue of direct action (and, of necessity, the related doctrine of suffering).
In The Counsel, for example, Rev. Meyers denied that “our responsibility [to] the unborn children of pagan women” should include the sacrifice of our own families through going to “jail or worse.” He calls us, indeed, to the “radical stuff” of prayer, fasting, and preaching.
Rev. Gunn, in the same issue, expressed his worry over how far direct action will go: “they could splatter the building with chicken blood. If legality is no longer an issue, then the possibilities are endless . . . I came to doubt that any Christian should be involved in these direct action efforts.”
Rev. Charles Stanley, of the 10,000 member Southern Baptist congregation in Atlanta, came out against Operation Rescue in a public statement which was published throughout Christendom in America, via the major Atlanta newspaper. (There is, however, some good to come from this. His church put together – perhaps penitentially – an organization which will assist aborted women in bringing tort claims against their doctors.)
As pastors have been forced to speak on the direct action issue in particular, along with abortion abolition in general, the people are illumined as to what kind of leadership they have. They can then exert a corrective influence or find good leadership elsewhere. (Either way, God will build His Church and it will be mobilized.)
Time will reveal the fruit of Operation Rescue in Atlanta. By God’s grace non-violent mass direct action will increase rapidly and patulously. And, Lord willing, instead of worrying about how far direct action is going to go, we shall do something before it gets that far.
Rev. Gunn wonders about awesome limits: chicken blood on a building?!? The real object of his fear is something more drastic; too fearful to print, perhaps. (One never knows but that some covenant, theologizing Christian might follow the lex talionis and go about the land drawing and quartering abortionists. And upon being arrested he might point to all those theologians of “Theonomy” and “Reconstruction” as his source of inspiration.) Shall direct action escalate to the assassination of abortionists or civil war?
Maybe. Will the possession of military might lead a nation to the use of weapons and war? Does opposition to international communism lead from cold war to subversion of tyrants, to assassination, to war?
(Does participating in ice hockey include possible fights and brawls and riots?)
The call has gone out for mass, not-violent, direct action. Whether or not this restrained response to the holocaust will be sufficient depends upon the cooperation of God’s people. Rev. Gunn, along with American Christians, all have a choice to make. At such time in the future when Rev. Gunn hears a call to bear arms, he will have another choice to make at that time. Life involves not only choices, but certain risks for those who choose to live life actively and obediently.
Again, the call has gone out for mass, non-violent, direct action. Revs. Morecraft, Meyers, Gunn, et al have not issued it, nor does it seem likely that they will lead supposable escalated action in the future; however, they may yet respond positively in answer to our prayers. They have a choice to make. By God’s grace the present decision to censure Operation Rescue will be repented of. It is time for suffering and we must not shrink back. There are fears, but we can overcome them.
In the mouth of the revenant Virgil, his tour guide through Hell, Dante, puts these words: “They soul is hurt by cowardice, which often-times encumbers a man so that it turns him back from honorable enterprise.” Of the many scenes in the drama of history in which the church has the lead role, this one – the American Abortion Holocaust – is a major one. The roles in which we are cast are fearsome at times: there is tragedy and death. But there is nothing truly to fear! We are playing out a drama ordained by God. Our real life is hidden in our Savior. Our real life is not here, but is in Him, who died, was buried, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come to judge the living and the dead. There is nothing in this life to fear, but disobedience of Him. Let us do as the Director would have us do. We have our parts. Let us play out our macabre yet joyful roles; and by the grace of God, after we have been faithful, there will be a time of peace for our children.
The last book of the Old Testament ends with a warning; First John Concludes: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols”; Paul closes his first epistle to the Corinthians saying, “If anyone does not love the Lord – a curse be upon him . . . “; James ends his epistle with “whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins”; The Revelation ends with a warning about the abuse of Scripture: adding or subtracting from it. It is appropriate to close this essay/homily with a warning – especially to pastors.
Will the leaders of God’s people censure whose who obey Him and then presume to approach Him in prayer? Will they scorn God’s servants and then call upon Him? Those who preach prayer in place of doing justice and showing mercy shall themselves offer prayers in vain. We repeat the words of Isaiah:
“I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. . . So when you spread you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you. Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood” (1:13-15).
These are God’s sentiments toward the prayers and worship of those who call upon Him while neglecting duty.
The very specialty which some pastors think themselves competent to speak and exhort upon – prayer – will be utterly fruitless. God will not hear their prayers.
The call to action went out. Christians were summoned to Atlanta, to the back yards of huge evangelical congregations with their Bible-believing pastors. The call went to these pastors. Were they innocent before this time? Uncertain of what action to take against a colossal foe?
There were called and given direction. They rejected the call; they despised it.
Well it might have been – had they personally abstained from the action of rescue while teaching others to participate. But they have brought guilt upon themselves by scorning the call, hiding behind the skirt of Good Christian Citizenship. They have retorted with a call to prayer and fasting, but God does not hear them: “I will hide my eyes from you . . . I hate your assemblies . . . Is this not the fast which I chose, to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke . . . ?”
Grace be unto the churches of God who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.
 Georg Grant, Grand Illusions, (Wolgemuth & Hyatt Publishers, 1988), p. 264
 Ibid., pp. 261,2