Before the United States Supreme Court handed down the fateful decision that in effect legalized abortion on demand (Roe v. Wade, January 22, 1973; see CHRISTIANITY TODAY, February 16, 1973), opponents of easy abortion had warned that such a decision would be the first step in a far-reaching assault on human life. Not far behind, they said, would be euthanasia (first voluntary and then compulsory), forcible family limitation, and genetic Controls. The pro-abortion forces decried these warnings as unrealistic and hysterical.

Many Christian spokesmen, distracted by the rhetoric of religious liberty surrounding the court’s abortion decision, did not discern the anti-Christian militancy underlying the court’s rejection of our once dominant Judaeo-Christian ethical tradition in favor of “ancient religion.” On the other hand, some virulent anti-Christians recognized it for what it is and exulted (cf. Paul Blanshard and Edd Doerr, “A Glorious Victory,” The Humanist, May/June, 1973). Many discerning Christians, as well as others concerned with the dignity of man as the image-bearer of God, see the handwriting on the wall, and are anguished at the massive substitution of principles from pre-Christian paganism and post-Christian utilitarianism for those of the biblical heritage.

The thinking on abortion by the court’s majority reveals not only ethical and spiritual hollowness but also a lack of realism and reason. Many secular writers have noted this, such as law professor Philip Kurland, who wrote in the University of Chicago Magazine: “[The Supreme Court] has issued decrees but it has not afforded adequate rationales for them; it has attempted to rule by fiat rather than by reason” (July/August, 1973, p. 9). With neither ethics nor reason as its standard, the Supreme Court does not commend itself as a reliable guardian of those basic human rights now under attack.

Prior to the Supreme Court decision, militant pro-abortionists denied that there is any connection between abortion and euthanasia. Now Professor Joseph Fletcher, advocate of Situation ethics and a kind of spiritual father to what we might call the Watergate morality, writes as though it were the most obvious thing in the world: “To speak of living and dying, therefore … encompasses the abortion issue along with the euthanasia issue. They are ethically inseparable” (The Humanist, July/August, 1974, p. 13). Euthanasia bills are continually being presented in state legislatures, often under attractive language such as “the right to a meaningful death.” The attempt is being made to call the mere allowing of a dying patient to die, without attempting to prolong his life through extraordinary means, “passive euthanasia”; the implication is that “active euthanasia,” speeding the death of a terminally ill person by active means (e.g., giving increasing doses of a drug to relieve suffering until the dosage becomes lethal), is only a slightly more progressive form of something already universally acceptable. The Humanist, curiously enough, pleads for “beneficent euthanasia” although the word “euthanasia” itself contains the root eu-, good; thus it unwittingly admits that euthanasia, unqualified, might well appear maleficent.

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The media are currently giving a great deal of attention to euthanasia. For whatever reason, the treatment is largely positive, and consequently tends to weaken resistance to the idea. The ideas of zero population growth, and sometimes even of population decline, also receive generally favorable media attention.

But over and above this apparently spontaneous internst of the media in accustoming us to ideas that only a few years ago would have been considered outrageous or foolish, there are also government-subsidized programs intended to influence children on behalf of some of the more repressive aspects of the proposed population “control.” Since passage of the Tydings Family Planning Bill of 1970, $1.2 billion of federal tax money has been made available for “family planning projects.” The relations between the apparently innocuous advocates of voluntary population control and the more outspoken advocates of compulsion are complex. Among the primary recipients of Tydings Act money are the Population Reference Bureau of Washington, D. C., a non-government agency, and Planned Parenthood-World Population of New York City. The PRB organized the 1971 National Conference on Population Education in Washington, D. C., featuring the notable advocate of controls, Martha Willing, co-director of Population Dynamics of Seattle, Washington. From this conference was generated Planned Parenthood’s “Population Dynamics” curriculum, to be introduced in Pennsylvania public schools this year. Although the identity of name does not indicate that Population Dynamics is responsible for the Planned Parenthood curriculum, there is enough collaboration to warrant a look at the Seattle-based group’s program.

Martha Willing proposes first tax disincentives for parents who have more than two children (a suggestion taken over by the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, which has not, however, adopted the further steps Ms. Willing recommends). Then the state should proceed “to penalize deliberate violations of a small family norm, and set up controls which prevent such violations.” To be specific:

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After the third child is born, both mother and father will have to present themselves at the hospital to undergo sterilization procedures. If the couple does not appear, or if only one appears, there will be no birth certificate issued to the third child, but instead a third child paper. The mother can be tattooed or marked to signify a third birth to any subsequent doctor. Instead of the missing parent, the child can be sterilized on the spot, insuring that this undue share of the gene pool will not be carried forward [Martha Willing, Beyond Conception: Our Children’s Children, Gambit, 1971, p. 1741.

Southern Baptists and others who have incorporated the first step of Population Dynamics’ “disincentives” into their own educational programs should take a long look at the second stage, “penalization” and “controls.”

Finally, we should point out that serious population “experts” are eager to take the next step after abortion. The Willing proposal is that third children be sterilized, but at a population-control Conference in Washington, D. C„ as reported by Norman Podhoretz, one speaker saw “no reason why anyone who accepted abortion should balk at infanticide” and another urged that “no newborn infant should be declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding its genetic endowment; if it fails these tests, it forfeits the right to live” (Commentary, May, 1972, p. 8). Of course, these are the views of an extremist faction, but unfortunately they are being presented again and again and taken a little more seriously each time.

Abortion on demand is with us. Now we are being prepared for the idea that ordinary dying is “passive” euthanasia; in time we will be asked to accept “active” euthanasia, first “voluntary,” then, perhaps, on the orders of “competent authorities.” We are now being accustomed to the idea of “disincentives” to large families; next on the agenda, one fears, are “penalization,” “controls,” sterilization, then “forfeiting” of the right to live. Ultimately, perhaps no life without a license, obtainable no doubt from the appropriate authorities. A bit difficult to accept? Don’t worry; skilled opinion-makers will help you get used to the idea. You are already paying for many of their campaigns through tax money, so you can be sure that they are well financed.

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Have you ever wondered how Germany’s Christians could have remained silent and indifferent when Hitler began his far-reaching scheme of racial “improvement”? If you are not actively opposing what is going on in our own country, in the direction of total control of human life, you have the answer. God made man, the Bible tells us, in his own image. Modern man, it seems, is determined to remake himself. And unfortunately all too many Christians are even willing to pay the bill for it—not only as voiceless taxpayers but as pastors and educators who blithely join in teaching us to welcome our coming servitude.

Allende’S Venture

Elsewhere in this issue Current Religious Thought contributor Dr. René Padilla comments favorably on Salvador Allende’s attempt to introduce a peaceful Marxist revolution in Chile and refers to a “common opinion” that Allende’s fall was provoked by the encouragement of the United States Department of State. Dr. Padilla represents a considerable body of opinion among evangelicals and for this reason should be taken seriously.

At the same time, his essay might serve to perpetuate certain misapprehensions and mistakes that are unfortunately becoming widely accepted, even among evangelicals. First, that Allende was deposed as a result, at least in part, of United States machinations, and second, that his cause was doomed from the start by the fact that “no small nation in the Third World is truly free today to follow its own course.…” The first statement cannot be supported by evidence; the second may be true but is not the principal reason for Allende’s failure. As Paul N. Rosenstein-Rodan, director of the Center for Latin American Development Studies at Boston University, has pointed out in a recent article (“Why Allende Failed,” in Challenge, May/June, 1974, pp. 7–13), U. S. policy toward Allende was “extremely unobtrusive and to some extent surprisingly non-aggressive.” Rosenstein-Rodan determinedly refutes the idea that Allende’s fiasco came because socialism cannot be imposed by democratic, non-violent means (and, by implication, the corollary that those committed to socialistic reorganization of society have no alternative but to resort to violence): “The downfall of Allende had nothing to do with socialism. It was caused by poor leadership, poor planning, and a lack of economic realism.”

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Padilla’s closing query, “Will Christians ever learn not to try to enlist God under the political banner of their preference?,” is a good one. It should be taken seriously by those who tend to see capitalism in the Gospel, and also by the growing company of those who seem to find Marxism there.

Confounding The Critics

Here was the White House tough guy, the one who had always been assigned the dirty work, the one who had said he was willing to walk over his own grandmother to reelect President Nixon. Now he was being sentenced to prison for his part in the Watergate scandals, and what did he say?

“I’ve committed my life to Jesus Christ. What happened today was the Lord’s will and the court’s will, and, of course, I accept that fully.”

Many, understandably, are skeptical of the conversion of Charles W. Colson. Even some Christians find it hard to believe. They are like Ananias, who, when told by God to go to Saul, answered, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem.” Even when Saul started to preach in Damascus, the Scriptures note that “all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound into the chief priests?”

The devil can use scoffers to unnerve new converts. Many Christians encourage Charles Colson with the further biblical comment, “But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is [the] very Christ.”

How Much We Need

The sport of backpacking is growing. Hiking outfitters are expanding. Backpack frames, rucksacks, freeze-dried foods, and other impedimenta of the sport have an increasingly prominent place in sporting-goods stores. And even the Sears and Ward catalogs proudly proclaim that their nylon tents are backpackable.

In backpacking, a species of the genus camping, one carries on his back everything necessary for a moderately comfortable existence—shelter, food, fuel, and sleeping gear.

It suggests a question. If a man can carry on his back all that’s necessary for a week’s healthy existence, what is the meaning of our mad scramble to acquire so many extra things?

Slow Down And Live

The lowered speed limit on major highways has proved to be a positive by-product of the energy crisis. Of course, not everyone scrupulously drives below fifty-five miles per hour, but then not everyone kept below seventy when that was the limit. The average speed has undeniably dropped, and, not surprisingly, so has the number of highway deaths.

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During the recent four-day Fourth of July weekend, 549 people died from road accidents; the figure for the comparable period in 1972 was 760. Even though there is still much needless slaughter on the roads, this substantial decrease is a cause for thanksgiving. Granted, there is less car travel now. But the death rate is down even more than the driving rate. For the first five months of this year the National Safety Council reported an all-time low of 3.4 deaths per million miles traveled.

Christians, as part of their concern for helping their fellow men, should do what they can not only to drive safely themselves but also to support government actions designed to promote safer driving and driving conditions for all. If people used seat belts regularly and if stiff penalties were meted out for driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs, the highway death rate could be reduced still further.

Even if gasoline becomes plentiful again, the speed limit should not be raised. If everyone takes a little longer to get where’s he’s going, more of us can make it.

Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr.

It is difficult to know what to say about the atrocious murder of Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr., that will adequately express our horror over what happened and the sympathy we feel for her husband and family. Indeed, the dead who die in the Lord are blessed (Rev. 14:13), but still the anguish of those who loved them is deep. Two sons and a wife have died suddenly, leaving behind a father and husband who will surely show that Jesus Christ is sufficient for all these things. It was certainly extraordinary for Dr. King to visit at the jail the man accused of killing his wife and to tell him he bore no enmity or bitterness toward him.

Our prayers ascend to God for Mr. King in these lonely days as well as for the young assassin, who apparently is mentally deranged.

Dismal Doings

Economics, which has been called the “dismal science,” seems more dismal than scientific these days. Economic experts hold views that are widely divergent, even contradictory. It almost seems as if the uninformed could hardly have done much worse than the experts in recent months.

“Dismal” is an apt enough word for the most prominent economic factor of our day: the worldwide spiral of inflation. No respecter of ideology, the inflationary spiral has caught up Communist and capitalist nations alike. It bids fair to produce a depression far worse than that of the twenties.

As yet no one seems to have an adequate explanation for why it is happening, and no one seems to have any real notion of how it can be stopped. We are bold to suggest that economists make a serious effort to find out what Scripture has to say about economic matters. It may be unrealistic to hope, however, that nations would be willing to follow the biblical principles even if economists espoused them. The price would be great, and the character required to pay this price seems to be in short supply today.

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