"Ending Up"

Revelation 21

C.S. Lewis is one of the most well-known Christian fiction writers in the modern age. C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity and several other good think pieces about Christianity from a logical point of view. C.S. Lewis was unmarried the majority of his life. When he reached his sixties in 1954, he married a woman named Joy who was a bit younger than he. Strangely enough, he had begun his autobiography before he met this woman and the title of his autobiography was Surprised by Joy. He met Joy and she had some problems.

Joy was an American citizen living in England. Her visa had expired and the Ministry was not going to renew her visa. But her greater problem was that Joy had been recently diagnosed as having terminal cancer. She was in a hospital and very ill. And C.S. Lewis, for whatever reason, decided to marry Joy so that she could become a British citizen and wouldn't have to worry about being deported in her final days. After they were married in her hospital room, she underwent a kind of miracle and her cancer went into remission. Joy recovered so well that she was able to lead a normal life. C.S. Lewis and Joy became close and shared the joys of marriage and he was at peace in his life. He writes that he would never have imagined that at sixty that he would achieve the dreams he had when he was nineteen. After about three years the cancer came back again and there was nothing that anyone could do. Joy died after their brief marriage.

The chronicle of C.S. Lewis' grief, his anger, and his rejection of God are documented in the book A Grief Observed. C.S. Lewis died in 1960 but his works live on. Here is a passage that seem to touch the core of the grief that he felt right after his Joy died. He writes,

"It's hard to have patience with people who say there is no death or death doesn't matter. There is death and whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn't matter. I have no photograph of her that's any good. I cannot even see her face distinctly in my imagination. Yet, the odd face of some stranger seen in the crowd this corning may come to me in vivid perfection the moment I close my eyes tonight. No doubt the explanation is simple enough. We have seen the faces we know best so variously from so many angles in so many lights with so many expressions, waking, sleeping, laughing, crying, eating, talking. thinking. But all the impressions crowd into our memory and cancel out into a mere blur. But her voice is still vivid. The remembered voice that can turn me at any moment into a whimpering child."

Grief is Complicated by End Decisions

All of us come to know grief. And yet, today there is an added burden. As our ability to make people live longer increases, we find ourselves deciding when life is going to end. Now death is often by choice, either by our choice or the choice of people around us. Extraordinary measures can be used to keep all kinds of things from killing us. Not only isgrief associated with death, but often a lingering sense of guilt from a decision about when enough is enough. This guilt overtakes doctors, nurses, and family members. It is going to touch all of us as technology and medical research goes further into the midst of the unknown. Even now we are able to keep people alive even if they appear to be quite dead.

We are balancing our quality of life against the struggle to live. We are calculating the condition of our life: whether we are suffering, whether we are in pain, and measuring it against the fact that we are living at all. The fact that weighs against the tide of our desire to breathe one more breath is often unbearable pain. There is a balance that is continually going to be weighed out in the future, an ultimate decision that we make: dignity and peace versus the length of life.

When is enough treatment enough? Dr. Karnovsky of the Sloan Kittering Institute is an advocate of extraordinary means, doing everything we possibly can. He says that there is something about suffering and pain that is a part of the human condition. We just have to put up with that, he says. Doctors are called to do whatever they possibly can to keep the heart beating and that lung breathing, an advocate of extraordinary measures suggests. Because, he says, how else will we push that barrier of pain and suffering any farther? Won't we be giving up too easily? On the other hand, the Hippocratic oath that doctors take is to alleviate human suffering: not necessarily prolong life.

There is a balance in the values of life and death. Jesus talks about being too attached to our physical death so attached to our bodies that we fail to realize the higher things that are going on. Paul writes that there is something that goes on in baptism that represents our death, that there is part of us that dies in baptism, and that is our attachment to our bodies. We need to balance out the values of living against the values of death. If we are Christians, the value of death is not the void. is not the emptiness, but is something about reunion, is something about reconciliation, about acceptance into the love of God. We are making decisions about our physical disposition. But we are also making decisions more practically right now about our spiritual disposition.

There is a hurting percentage of us that faces decisions about the end of physical existence. But each one of us is facing decisions about our spiritual life because each one of us faces the death that is within us. As much as we try and push death away from us, we realize that there is a time when we all die. We realize that we are finite. We face the death within us just as we face the spiritual death within us. We know the spiritual death as we come to realize that there are times when we feel empty and burned out and cold, cold dark, unable to do much in the world at all because we are dead on the inside. It is when we face the reality of this spiritual death that we can face the joy of a spiritual resurrection, of a new life that can infuse us, of a changing, a repenting, where we can turn around and walk the other way into life, life in the sense that the New Testament uses it, life full of hope.

Final Decisions Much Like All Others

The final decision that we make about our life, that is, when to end it, is no different than the decision that we make at every other moment in our life, the decision for joy, for the peace that comes through the involvement in the body of Christ or for a spiritual death. There is no difference between the decision about our body that we make to end it and the decisions that we make about our bodies to continue it. They are all to be held up to the light of God's grace and what is the will of God for our lives. At every instant we are choosing life and death, good and evil.

C.S. Lewis talks about the final time that he spent with Joy:

"Cancer, cancer and cancer. My mother, my father, my wife, I wonder who is next in the queue. Yet, Joy herself dying of it and knowing the fact said that she had lost a great deal of her old horror at it. When the reality came, the name and the idea were in some way disarmed. And up to a point, very nearly understood. This is important. One never just meets cancer or war or unhappiness. One meets each hour or moment that comes, all manners of ups and downs, many bad spots in our best times, many good ones in our worst. It is incredible how much happiness, even how much gaiety we sometimes had together after all hope was gone. How long, how tranquilly, how nourishingly we talked together that last night."

This is life, the life of sharing that lasts forever. This is the life that enabled Jesus Christ to have a celebration of living that we call communion even in the face of his approaching death. Faith, hope, and love even in the midst of the pain and parting of death. May we so celebrate that life that we need not fear death.

"Singing in the Dark"

Psalm 146:1-2 (NRSV) Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

"With a voice of singing, declare ye this and let it be heard: Alleluia." In Acts, Paul and Silas find themselves in a jail in Philippi and what do they do? They burst into song, like some crazy Broadway musical. When in a prison that was probably a cave, when in a situation that might cause despair and depression, they sing. But this should be no surprise. Singing has often been able to tap our deepest feelings. Whether you can sing or not, the sound of the human voice reaching strong heights or soft depths can reach us in ways the spoken word rarely does. There are many hymns that can make you tear up, while most folks don’t find sermons so moving.

Just as stutterers can sing clearly, so can folks who have trouble remembering their own names remember the words to their favorite hymn. From the first ultrasound to our dying moan, tones and rhythm fill our lives.

Even beyond the scope of individuals, songs and singing have a way of capturing the feelings of whole movements. When Paul and Silas sang in the dark with other prisoners, the earth moved. A coincidence?

When people of all colors gathered in the south and sang "We shall overcome" the icy crystal of racism was shattered.

When people marched through the streets of Washington seeking to stop the war in Iraq before it began, they sang "All we are saying is give peace a chance," hoping to topple the prisons of determined militarism.

When Africans on the outer islands of the Carolinas faced hunger death and tears, they sang "Kum Ba Yah"

When people who wonder if anyone can love them anymore gather and sing "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me." Hearts are melted and the earth shakes.

We gather here on Sundays often in the dark of ignorance about what is the problem or what to do about it. We gather in prisons of prejudice and jails of greed and yet we sing songs of a better more peaceful world. We use words about God we may not even understand, but we sing away.

Paul and Silas don’t break out of prison with violence. They just sing in the dark.

The disciples trapped in the upper room after Jesus’ death: they don’t give up the ghost, they sing in the dark

When David was in trouble he sang in the dark for us all and individuals for generations have found comfort in the songs we call psalms. Psalm 147:1 How good it is to sing praises to our God, for the Lord is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.

There will always be dark days when things go against us. But more than whistling past the graveyard, the songs of our faith help us to remember whose we are and who is in charge. They are the deep patterns of rhyme and rhythm that have patterned our lives in ways that will stand up to darkness.

Each of these choir members has faced trials and tribulations, and yet they show up week after week to sing songs, sometimes when they don’t feel like it sometimes when they don’t know what they believe and they feel better for the singing. We recognize them today because they are not only our worship leaders but our model for our common life: singing mostly in harmony, singing for joy, expressing their love for God, no matter what.

We all don’t sing in choirs, though. But even if we sing alone, even if we sing only in our own minds, we sing with the people who taught us the song. Singing is an act that brings us together in the chorus of all time and place. The book of Revelation is filled with singing Rev. 4:8 (NRSV) . . . Day and night without ceasing they sing, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come."

The verses of our challenges and pain change, but the refrains remain:

Glory glory halleluia, glory glory haleluia glory glory halleluia, His truth is marching on.

"Boredom: The Curse of Cain"

Summit Presbyterian Church, May 29, 2005

2 Corinthians 7:5-7 - Genesis 4:2b-14

I wish I were more interesting. I know that there are times in any sermon when your mind wanders. You may even feel some discomfort at being trapped in the pew when you would rather be doing something else, almost anything else. I would love to be able to fill your mind completely with stimulating and motivating ideas and images so that you would never be bored. This morning I’d like to examine our boredom as a spiritual need: it’s cultural manifestations, its self-centeredness and its positive possibilities.

Our cultural boredom.

A spiritual malady of the modern world is a sense of boredom, of ennui, of restlessness. We fidget at meetings, and doodle in class. Young boys long for the constant stimulation of video games, and men seek out other edgier games to quell their boredom. We wear out our remote controls, starving at the buffet of cable television. Our consumer society is fat because we eat when we’re bored, we shop when we’re bored, we buy things for ourselves when we’re bored.

For many kids and some adults, their idea of heaven is an eternal Dave and Buster’s. For those of you who have never been to one, Dave and Buster’s is a restaurant chain that has as its defining element a game room with dozens and dozens of pinball machines and skee ball alleys and simulations and stimulations to guarantee that you will never be bored. Upon arriving, you buy a credit card that enables you to play for paper tickets that can be redeemed for carnival like toys in a noisy parody of our economy. The big room is filled with flashing lights, clanging bells, and wide-eyed kids dashing from diversion to diversion, high on birthday frosting and unlimited stimulation. Very few other rooms can measure up to the expectations set by Dave and Buster’s, certainly not this on.

Our cultural restlessness is a perennial dissatisfaction, a sign that our heightened expectations are not being met. Our lives should be constantly stimulating, always entertaining, continually engaging. And when they’re not, we pace back and forth looking for the way out of our painful emptiness. We are restless poltergeists, moving the objects of our lives, but unable to find rest.

This sense of being trapped by our own expectations is never more present when listening to someone talk about something we don’t care about. We are trapped into a façade of interest while inside we are screaming for release. I see this on the faces of people I talk to all the time because most folks aren’t terribly interested in religion.

Let’s face it, church can be a boring place. Especially in Protestant worship, the sanctuary is not very visually stimulating. We say the same things over and over again. We say words that are hard to understand and we are forced to sit for long periods in the same place. You’d think it was designed to be boring.

But the church is not the only thing that brings a certain dissatisfaction. If we hold perfection as our goal, we can be dissatisfied, bored with the entire world because nothing will be perfect.

Boredom is often self centeredness.

Cain was cursed to restless wandering because his preoccupation was all about himself and his own unmet needs. In that, God just let Cain’s selfishness prevail. The curse of Cain is the dissatisfied self-pitying that we are stuck in a world that doesn’t give us just what we want when we want it.

We are more dissatisfied with our cars than poverty, more dissatisfied with our houses than foreign wars, more dissatisfied with our spouses than an economic system that causes people to die of hunger. Our own boredom judges us.

A high school English teacher I had at Joliet West high school made an impression on me once by saying, "Only boring people get bored." Boring people, are of course folks who talk about their own lives and concerns without any regard for the listener. Ambrose Bierce in his Devil’s Dictionary defines a bore as a "person who talks when you wish him to listen." It is people who are all wrapped up in themselves who are most likely to be dissatisfied with the wrapping. Our own boredom judges us.

Perhaps you are wearied by your surroundings not because of self-centeredness, but because you are just so smart that you exhaust the possibilities of your environment so quickly. You understand what is happening and even what is about to happen. There are no surprises, no depth of analysis you have not delved, no possibility you have not considered. Like a high powered computer adding a column of numbers, you idle restlessly in life, waiting for a task worthy of your gifts. This kind of boredom just turns out to be, as you can see, just another kind of pride.

Boredom can be positive.

Poverty is boring because year after year we participate in a system that pays people less than they can live on. Justice can be boring because year after year we use a system intent on punishment rather than rehabilitation. Working for peace can be boring because generation after generation of leaders continue to be proudly defending arbitrary boundaries of geography and economics.

Restlessness may not be all bad. There are some things we may be appropriately bored with. Isn’t there some nagging problem with the place you live? Isn’t there some issue you know should have been fixed some time ago, but you just haven’t gotten to it? Isn’t it rather annoying? Aren’t you even a bit bored with its lack of resolution? Wouldn’t you like to change that channel on that problem and just make it go away? Drippy faucet, cracked caulk, chipped paint, broken schools, governmental corruption.

Boredom is a human response to a situation that may be uncomfortable for a number of reasons. People yawn when they are nervous sometimes. When a touchy issue comes up in discussion in your house, you may want to just leave the room. "Do we have to talk about this again?" "Haven’t we been through this before?" "Are you finished yet?" Any of this sound familiar? Restlessness may be a signal actually that something important is happening. Restlessness may be a signal that something important is happening.

There are some tedious, time consuming details that build a new world. Henry Cabot Lodge, a great ambassador to the UN, once said, "The fact that the talk may be boring or turgid or uninspiring should not cause us to forget the fact that it is preferable to war."

We shouldn’t stop being bored or dissatisfied. We should just be careful about what we are bored about. Careful about what we are avoiding. When we are bored or restless with out spouses or our God, we may be approaching a tough issue that needs to be faced, or we may be facing our own selfishness. In any case, the pervasive restlessness of our lives is a signal to be taken seriously, a sign of an unresolved tension that calls us to a deeper relationship with our God.

In the passage from Second Corinthians, Paul has been wandering the world in much the same way Cain might have. He is weary and restless. Yet he is refreshed and nourished by his co-workers and the stories of the church. His restlessness is me by the Spirit of God and he finds peace and purpose. We can be either Cain or Paul. Our restlessness can be a numbing self-centeredness or a tiredness that can be refreshed.

A life with God is not all sweetness and light. It is, at its best, however, a richness that fulfills us completely. Jesus said that he came so that we might have the "full measure" of his joy. Sometimes this might mean that we are a bit uneasy with the ways things are. Not in a self centered way, to be sure, but in a way that calls us to the kingdom of heaven.

I hope I haven’t bored you.

"Facing Rejection"

June 27, 2004

Rejection is a painful fact of life. One of the hardest things we learn as a child is the word "No." We stomp our little feet in defiance, we run away to our rooms, we cry. "No." is hard to hear from anyone.

I’d like to talk about rejection today, I’d like to scope out its effect in our lives, look at some possible responses, then try to get a bigger picture.

Rejection begins at birth, when our mother’s body pushes us away. From experience, fast forward to the existential fear we have when we present our credit card at a cash register. There is always a small trembling that something has gone terribly wrong and our card, our social soul, will be rejected.

We face rejection when we seek credit; we face rejection when we apply for a job. Friends, lovers, families, churches, and clubs can reject us. We turn Groucho Marx’s saying on its head and want to be a member of any club that won’t have us. If you’ve ever submitted anything for publication, you know what a rejection slip is. It’s a photocopied note that says your work isn’t being considered. No explanation, no signature, no appeal. Beat it. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Don’t let the door hit you in the back. Don’t leave mad, just leave.

People lose elections all the time, friends don’t return phone calls, the promotion doesn’t pan out, the client turns down the proposal. We don’t get into the school we want to. We get cut from the best team. The spouse has a headache. We all have our cherished rejections that haunt us. Perhaps it’s Sheryl Larson’s rejection from first year of college. Maybe it’s that our father didn’t have much time for us. Depressed yet?

Depression certainly is one of the responses to rejection. In 1998 Dr. Andrew Nierenberg did large study and found that the most common type of depression was, ironically called atypical, and that the most common reason for this depression was "rejection by a lover, boss, or close friend. People with atypical depression tend to overeat and oversleep, whereas people with (more general) melancholia often are characterized by weight loss and insomnia."

If overeating is a symptom of atypical depression, most in our country do not know how to deal with rejection.

We get depressed by rejection not only because someone told us "no," but because they reinforced some idea we have of our own worthlessness. The child in us takes any rejection as a total rejection.

Anger is also a common response. Road rage is the result of someone cutting us off. Anything from traffic rejections to romantic denials can be seen as personal insults, causing anger and violence.

In the passage we read today, a town of Samaritans doesn’t warmly receive Jesus because he was headed for the Passover in Jerusalem and they didn’t believe Jerusalem was the place to offer acceptable sacrifices. Jesus’ very march to Jerusalem seemed to judge their understanding of things, so they shut him out. He probably couldn’t get a permit. This defense enraged the close disciples of Jesus and they offered, comically, to rain fire down upon the town like Elijah did in the Old Testament.

I can picture Jesus, walking away from the town, listening to his disciples talk about revenge and bitterness. He’s rolling his eyes and then turns and yells at them. "Cut it out. Let’s get going." And they sheepishly follow.

Elsewhere, Jesus gives traveling gospel salespeople similar advice: "Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet." There is a small coating of dirt that could cake on our souls if we let negative experiences bog us down. So shake off the dust and move on. Don’t linger plotting revenge, don’t become paralyzed in analysis or guilt.

The bigger picture here is that rejection usually happens in the context of initiation. We get the answer of "no" only if we ask a question. Employers, girlfriends, and VISA cards turn us down only when we fill out the applications. After a few "no’s" we could easily get discouraged and stop trying.

All the stories about Abraham Lincoln losing elections before his win may not help. Joanne Rowling getting many rejections on Harry Potter may not be relevant. "If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again." Is this the best we’ve got?

Actually, I can’t tell you how to deal with each of the disappointments of life. I have trouble enough when a sermon isn’t received well. If you look at life from moment to moment, it is filled with rejection and grief. There is no one strategy that will deal well with them all. There is no way for me to appreciate how badly you feel about some of them.

On the other hand, not only are there "yes’s" galore that we can pay attention to, but there is an ultimate "yes."

As people of faith, we gather to gain perspective on the disappointments of life and to affirm the acceptance of God. Again and again we say that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. We approach God again and again without fear. It is this acceptance that gives us the perspective and power to face the rejections that will certainly come.

The cycle of rejection and depression and more rejection and more depression can only be broken by the inkling that in all that truly matters, we are not cast out. No one will remember whether your Visa card got rejected at the ACME. The world will remember if you lose your soul. Does it really matter if Hortense Magillicuddy dumped you? It is God who loves you.

At some point in this sermon, you reviewed your pet rejections. You brought them back into your mind like a fine aged whine(!) and still they intoxicated you. Why? Do we enjoy remembering these things? Are they impossible to let go? God calls you to a future of fullness and life.

It is the power of God’s love for us, not some aphorism or historical anecdote, that can give us the strength to ask someone out again, to get out of bed again, to send off the article again, to submit an application again, . . . to love again.


Let's all take a deep breath, shall we? There are people here who are a bit on edge about what I am about to say. There are thirty or forty here who have been closely involved with an abortion and their hearts are beating a bit harder now. There are those who have made up their minds about the subject and are prepared to be angry. There is a person here with a long black robe on who is worried about your reactions.

Lest any of you who are younger get confused later on in the sermon, I want to make it very clear that abortion is never something that we would normally want to do. It is not something that makes us feel good. It is when a woman decides not to have a baby and that always involves a great deal of turmoil and pain and questioning.

I have four brief points. First, that our basic Christian concern when talking about something as significant as this is a pastoral concern, a concern that is graceful, that is full of the gospel. Second, that even when we do turn to the ethical disputes after facing the pastoral issues, we will disagree about our conclusions. Third, that there is danger in legislating ethical decisions for which there is no consensus. And fourth, that we have avoided dealing with the roots of the problem.

I. Pastoral issues more important than doctrine

Primarily, we must realize that if we look at the Gospel that we as Christians are called to consider people over issues. That is, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel expressed to specific individuals in specific instances and his specific response to them was care. No matter how we view the facts of the issue or no matter how we define certain things, we must value people over issues. Jesus' example every time he finds someone in trouble is that he pastors them. He ministers to them as individuals and not as people who can be represented totally by the sin that they have committed. You will remember the story of the woman accused {notice not guilty or convicted, accused )of adultery. People asked Jesus, "Well, what are we supposed to do?" And Jesus says, "The one of you who is without sin, cast the first stone."

Again and again, we get the message of grace of gospel. It is evidenced most clearly in a passage of the gospel lesson that we have before us, "For God sent his son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."

Halford Luccock, a great preacher of our time says. "Religion without grace is hypocrisy." Jesus exposed it in his time. He saw the beautiful faith of the ages being emptied by the sterile rules of the Pharisees and made fraudulent because of a lack of grace.

A girl in her late adolescence writes about finding the church as a place of rules and the destruction of this lack of grace. "I was fifteen when I became pregnant. I knew I had to turn to my parents. I could never turn to my preacher or anyone else in my church for this kind of help. Even today, I couldn't discuss my abortion with my preacher. Abortion has never been a topic in our church to my knowledge; but if it is, they keep it from the teenagers. I believe half the congregation would faint from shock if I were to stand up and say I had an abortion."

A father of an unwed mother-to-be writes, "As a father who has experienced more than one pregnancy with unwed daughters at ages between fifteen and twenty, I have had much time to dwell on the problems of abortion. Each instance of unwed pregnancy among our daughters was one of great personal sorrow and crisis. It was distressing that in our time of need, neither by the congregation or pastoral expression, did we feel free to handle our problem within our local church. One of the most serious post abortive problems that we have had is to be sitting in church and have our pastor lash out at abortion. This has caused grave repercussions among our daughters."

We are called to care, to love and form a supportive community around all people however we feel about the moral issues they struggle with. We primarily start off with caring for people. Only secondarily can we consider philosophical issues. After we have taken care of the human dimension of any problem, we can indulge in philosophy. The church however, has not taken care of the human dimension.

II. The diversity of opinion on moral issues

There are many moral issues all wrapped up in the abortion question: conflict of rights, questions of autonomy, the question of the morality of sexual activity, and, perhaps most clearly, the question of the definition of the beginning of human life.

Probably many of you might be surprised to know how great the differences of opinion of what defines when life begins. Joseph Fletcher says that human life does not begin until three or four days after birth. Thomas Aquinas drew upon work by Plato when he said that life begins forty days after conception for a male and eighty days after conception for a female. Augustine and British common law felt that life began after the fetus had quickened or after it had moved, which was somewhere in the second trimester or second third, usually. Until 1869, Augustine stood for over a thousand years as the almost universal interpreter of the Christian position when, in an explication of Exodus 21:80 he wrote "The Law does not provide that the act (of abortion} pertains to homicide. For there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body not endowed with sense."

Contemporary pro-life literature contends that whenever the right number of chromosomes are present, human life exists. When at the instant of conception, the two parts are joined and the chromosomes get together human life begins.

III. Dangers of legislating uncertain morality

I am not going to say that life begins on the forty-second day or the eighty-eighth day or whatever day. Different reasonable people will reach different reasonable conclusions and those conclusions will change as science leads us to greater insights as to what's going on. But whatever decision we come to about when human life begins and. what is life in general. we must realize that legislating our conclusions without national consensus always going to be dangerous.

Barry Goldwater. no friend of has noted that "legislating morality is outrageous, especially when national consensus is not clear." The famous Roe vs. Wade, the decision of the United States Supreme court which loosened the restrictions against abortion, acknowledged this lack of consensus not only in the population, but in the so-called experts: "When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine. philosophy. and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus. the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge is not in a position to speculate as to the answer."

IV. Our role in the solution

Whatever we, in of our prayer life and our conscience, decide about the issue, we must acknowledge our own role in the problem.

Mario Cuomo. a devout Catholic, gave an address to the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame:

'We cannot justify our aspiration to goodness simply on the basis of the vigor of our demand for an elusive and questionable civil law declaring what we already know, that abortion is wrong. [O]ur work has barely begun: the work of creating a society where the right to life doesn't end at the moment of birth; where an infant isn't helped into a world that doesn't care if its fed properly, housed decently, educated adequately; where the blind or retarded child isn't condemned to exist rather than empowered to live.

"While we argue over abortion, the United States infant mortality rate places us sixteenth among the nations of the world. If we want to prove our regard for life in the womb, for the helpless infant - if we care about women having real choices in their lives and not being driven to abortions by a sense of hopelessness and despair about the future of their child - then there is work enough for all of us. Lifetimes of it.

The call to the Christian church is always the call of the larger vision. A covenant community open enough to talk to people about responsible sexuality. A community willing to talk to people about consequences of behavior. A covenant community willing to talk to young people even when we are uncomfortable because we have not been taught to talk about these kinds of things. We may even feel uncomfortable listening to talk about these issues. But we must start talking about them if we are to solve the roots of the problem instead of the fruits of the problem.

The father of an unwed mother writes. "One of my strongest feelings about our church today is that in this area, as in many areas, the church is attacking the condition, abortion, divorce, drugs, alcohol and so on, rather than the cause. Specifically the church is not offering people, especially the young, alternatives. It's like doctors lashing out at patients with cancer, strokes and broken bones, rather than curing, and more importantly, working with and seeking preventatives. I feel strongly that many in our church feel that by taking strong stands against the problems, they have fulfilled their salvation. I feel that when the church offers to people tangible programs and motivations that are more positive and welcomed than the drugs, alcohol, casual sex, rebellion and violence, then, and only then, will the church be fulfilling its mission."