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slavery

August 03, 2010

Over the past few weeks I spent a good deal of time studying the life of General Stonewall Jackson. He is one of the more complex individuals I’ve studied—a man who had a strong sense of God’s sovereignty yet was something of a hypochondriac, a man who exhibited a great deal of Christian character who nevertheless also owned slaves. The tension between these things is what makes him so interesting to me. He was by no means a perfect man and this makes him all the more fascinating.

As I was reading about Jackson I also read a new book by John Stott—one I reviewed yesterday. In this book Stott points out eight areas in which he thinks Christians need to rediscover obedience if they are to be radical disciples of Jesus Christ. In Jackson I was looking to the past through twenty-first century lenses and in Stott’s book I was looking forward through those same lenses. One book showed what Christians have been, the other book suggests what one man says they ought to become.

Between these two books I have been given a lot to think about. One thing I found myself pondering is the areas in which Christians of the future will judge the Christians of today. You and I look to the southern Christians of the mid-1800’s and marvel that they could somehow believe that slavery was anything less than abhorrent. We look even to those who disliked slavery and wonder how they could have been so complacent, so passive in the face of such evil. “I am against slavery but feel we should let it die a natural death” does not impress us. But only outright arrogance could lead us to believe that we have no blind spots, no areas in which future generations of Christians will shake their heads and marvel that we could have been so blind.

So I spent some time thinking about those things, wondering where our blind spots may lie. And here are three possibilities, three suggestions.

Abortion

Christians hate abortion. We believe that God is the creator of life and believe that life begins at the very moment of conception. We believe that each life is a gift, whether it is a life that is wanted or unwanted by the mother, whether it is a life that will be “normal” or one that will be marked by profound disability. All humans are created in the image of God and, therefore, all life has intrinsic value. And if all of this is true, then of course we despise abortion and long to see it abolished. We hate it so much that we do…well…what do we do? If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that most of us do not do much of anything.

What have you done in the past week, the past month, the past year to actively combat abortion? If you are like me, you’ve done very little. You may have prayed that God will change hearts and change the laws of the land. And this is good, of course. If there is to be any change, prayer will be instrumental. You may have spoken to some friends or neighbors or family members, trying to convince them of the value of life. But very few of us have done anything substantial, anything that could possibly one day appear in a history text. Few of us move beyond the “I hate it” stage into some form of active combat.

If we imagine Christians a century in the future, or perhaps two centuries, how will this kind of action, or inaction, appear to them? What will the verdict of history be? How will we be able to explain our complacency? They will read our words, all perfectly preserved in digital media, and they will know that we wrote and spoke about our hatred for abortion and our desire to see it abolished. But will they see actions to go along with all of those words? Maybe we are just waiting for it to die a natural death.