Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reflections from 3am

I had trouble sleeping last night from sharp pain in my left ribs from what I am assuming is a baby foot pushing and pushing until I became bruised and it hurt every time I exhaled. At one point I was up, waiting for the Tylenol to kick in and I was looking over my bookmarked blogs and wanted to share something.

Over at Conversion Diary, Jen spoke to the parents of an adorable little girl named Sunni who was born with Mitochondrial Disease, which has stalled her development at less than one year of age. Sunni cannot sit up on her own, feed herself, or talk. She is blind, diabetic and suffers from seizures. And yet her life converted her parents from being staunchly pro-choice to being avid pro-lifers and even brought them into the Catholic Church. It is a wonderful story and I heartily recommend reading the whole thing. But there were two parts in particular that caught my attention, even at 3am.

Jason and Angie Berger explained the change in their abortion position like this:
The best way I can explain it is this: Our dear little girl is probably one of the best arguments for abortion available. She is completely dependent, with a low quality of life that represents a tremendous burden to her parents and society in general. We were fortunate to have received a small revelation of sorts. It became clear that she was a powerful witness to the beauty of life, and certainly didn't deserve to die. If she should not be aborted, then to argue for killing a beautiful, healthy child is a monstrosity. When asked how he created such stunning works of art, a famous sculptor once said that he instills in his mind a clear image of the form and then removes everything that is not a part of it. In a way, God has shorn from Sunni nearly all of the adornments that would be considered part of a basic human life. She cannot act on her own, communicate, or possibly understand even simple concepts. She is left as a nearly pure example of human life without anything to distract us from its elegant beauty.

"A nearly pure example of human life without anything to distract us from its elegant beauty." This struck me. What is a pure example of human life? Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the Blessed Virgin or Jesus Christ. What made them pure human beings? Jesus is God and Mary is a pure reflection of God. The image of God is neither hidden nor scarred in either of them. Certainly, Sunni is a fallen creature like the rest of us, but the fact she cannot talk or care for herself creates a lens for those around her to see God all the more clearly in her. She is completely dependent on and vulnerable to everyone around her removing any element of disguise, manipulation, or even distraction from that pure beauty that is the Image of God in each of us.

The second part that struck me pertained to their conversion to Catholicism:
We could no longer stay in the Lutheran church, because they did not stand out against abortion. When you make the decision to leave the mainline Protestant churches behind, you are left with the two major, pro-life groups: Roman Catholic and Protestant Evangelical. I had been part of an Evangelical church (Assembly of God) in my youth, with the laying of hands, speaking of tongues, gifts of the Spirit, etc. It has become clear to us that the "born again" churches can offer no guarantee that they will not drift in the same direction as the mainline Protestants. I honestly don't know what they will believe in another 20-30 years. There is no authority or hierarchy that is empowered to conserve the truth. ... Catholics aren't simply submitting themselves to an all powerful, out of touch Pope with a list of antiquated rules. There are not only highly developed reasons for everything they believe, but they fit together into this seamless garment.

The seamless garment of the Catholic faith is something, I think, I tend to take for granted. I honestly hadn't thought about it. Maybe it is because I'm not a convert, but what the Church taught and why it professes to believe what it does always just made sense to me. I never needed to compare it to any other religion where beliefs could be or seem conflicting. Such a reflection could be priceless to those who find themselves disagreeing with the Church on some issues. The teachings of the Catholic Church, whether anyone likes them or not, are consistant in a beautiful seamlessness. I love that image.


  1. Wonderful testimony to the sanctity of life -- and a further example of the Holy Spirit working in a couple's hearts in God's time.

    As a lifelong Lutheran, I did feel compelled, however, to respond to the statement, "We could no longer stay in the Lutheran church, because they did not stand out against abortion." While we pray for unity in belief and practice among all Christians, the fact is that the Church has splintered through the millenia. There are 3 dominant synods (i.e., denominations) of the Lutheran church in the United States -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Wisconsin Synod. The ELCA is far and away the largest (and the most liberal) with the LCMS and Wisconsin Synod both being much more conservative -- the latter two confessing the beliefs and practices as outlined in the Book of Concord (The Lutheran Confessions) in whole. The LCMS and Wisconsin Synod are not in pulpit fellowship with the ELCA.

    On personal knowledge, I can assure anyone reading this blog that my church body, the LCMS, most certainly confesses, preaches, and upholds the sanctity of all life and abhors the destruction of innocent life by means of abortion. George Tiller, once an LCMS Lutheran, was excommunicated by the LCMS for his unrepentent abortion practices before joining the ELCA (BTW, we also certainly do not condone the assassination of Dr. Tiller, either). I do not wish to suggest by any means that ELCA Lutherans do not respect the sanctity of life. But, I do believe it to be true that the ELCA as a church body, has not been as steadfast in its church discipline on this point. Lutherans of all synods have been active in the protection of life through the Lutherans for Life organization for over 30 years.

    Christians around the world share a common faith -- belief in Jesus Christ as their savior. We disagree on various points of doctrine -- and those differences are important and should not be diminished or dismissed out of hand. To be Catholic is to confess, believe, and practice the Catholic faith in whole, just as to be Lutheran is to confess, believe, and practice the Lutheran faith in whole.

    Respectful dialogue is always important. If nothing else, it challenges one's own beliefs and hopefully strengthens their Christian faith. It certainly continues to do that for me.

  2. domesticaecclesiaJune 12, 2009 at 7:53 AM

    John, thank you so much for explaining the differences among Lutherans. I don't know where all the different Christian churches stand in terms of abortion or the sanctity of life. Is there any way to tell, just driving by a Lutheran Church and seeing its sign which denomination of Lutherans it is? You said the ELCA is significantly larger than the LCMS and Wisconsin Synod - how large are the LCMS and Wisconsin Synod? I'm just curious since you seem to know so much about the differences and I haven't a clue.
    I don't know the couple who made the statement, but they may have had a very negative experience in whichever Lutheran church they attended when it came to the sanctity of life. Maybe they had been in the ELCA and familiar with their more liberal tendencies of some of its members, such as Dr. Tiller. While I'm sure there are many Lutherans who are very pro-life, I likewise also cannot pass judgment on the couple who made the statement.
    I'd just like to see anyone who professes to believe in the Creator and Savior of Life stand up for it, regardless of their particular creed. If that happened, abortion would not be a legal issue in this country.
    Much thanks for your comment!

  3. Oddly enough (to me at least), one of the easiest ways to tell which synod a Lutheran church belongs to is the logo that is often present on the sign out front. You can see the ELCA logo in the upper left-hand corner of their website ( Likewise, the LCMS logo is in the upper left-hand corner of its website ( I'm not 100% sure if the same convention follows on Wisconsin Synod church signs, but their logo is in the upper left hand corner of their website ( as well (surprise!). At least we all follow the same design convention on our websites!

    Sometimes, if a logo isn't present you can see a synodical reference in the "fine print" on the sign. It's been my experience that LCMS and Wisconsin Synod churches tend to indicate their affiliation more often than not somewhere on their signs.

    As far as exact sizes, I can't swear by these numbers (I looked them up on Wikipedia), but they seem accurate... The ELCA has 4.7M baptized members. The LCMS has 2.41M baptized members. And the Wisconsin Synod has 390,000 baptized members.

    I couldn't agree more with your call to action -- this is such a foundational issue that we can all agree on, regardless of denomination.

    As always, I appreciate your posts.