"Lutherans for Life" Against Hate
11/21/1996 12:00:00 AM
SAN DIEGO (ELCA) -- "When we die, will we leave obituaries telling people how important we were? Or, will we leave people whose lives were touched by what we said and did?"
With those questions, Lutherans For Life (LFL) President Linda Bartlett challenged members of the pan-Lutheran pro-life organization to "demonstrate what we believe by what we do." Nearly 200 Lutherans attended the organization's 14th national convention here Nov. 1-3.
About 300 members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are among the LFL's 6,600 members. Members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod make up a majority of LFL's membership.
"The Christian pro-life community has a rare opportunity to challenge society to think," Bartlett said. She added that "we will not be effective if we just declare truth. Instead, we are called to discuss it. We will not be effective if we try to manipulate people by way of emotion. Instead, we are called to persuade."
In a separate message, Bartlett commented on the convention theme, "His Banner Over Life Is Love!" She said, "Our banner identifies us as pro-life Christians who neither shrink from the word 'abortion' nor speak words of hate to those who embrace it."
Sharing the pro-life message -- regarding abortion, euthanasia and other issues -- with confidence, but without rancor for opponents, was a thread that ran through many of the weekend presentations.
Syndicated editorial cartoonist Chuck Asay, for example, told his audience that "we wrestle with ideas. ... We don't wrestle with people." Knowing this, he said, helps pro-life volunteers to love people even when they don't love their ideas.
Dr. Jean Garton, LFL co-founder and former president, acknowledged that the Lutheran volunteers and their efforts are widely misunderstood.
"In the East we're called 'a Catholic effort,'" Garton said.
"In the South, we're called an 'evangelical crusade.' In the
Bible Belt, we're called the 'radical religious right.'
Elsewhere we're called 'fanatical fetus lovers,' and everywhere
we're called 'mean-spirited.'"
Yet volunteers, she said, should care enough to "tell people what they don't want to hear" -- that pre-marital sex, abortion, condom distribution, assisted suicide and euthanasia are wrong.
"They're not wrong because a church convention resolution says so," she said. "They're not wrong even if the Supreme Court one day says so. They're wrong because You-Know-Who says so."
Garton also reminded her audience that as Christians, it's not up to them which "neighbors" they choose to help. "No, we have them chosen for us: those neighbors on the far margins of society; those neighbors in the ditches on the side of the road; the littlest and the least -- the unborn, victims of assisted homicide; and the oldest and the loneliest -- victims of assisted suicide."
Dr. Matthew Conolly, associate professor of medicine and pharmacology at UCLA, warned that if euthanasia is legalized, "we will open a door that will never close." He said that "Dachau and Auschwitz did not begin with Hitler and the 'final solution'" but with 19th century German philosophers Georg Hegel and Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote about life that was not worth living.
"We've begun to walk down that pathway," Conolly added.
Garton encouraged the volunteers not to lose heart.
"The media claim their research warrants writing the obituary of the pro-life movement. Not so fast, guys!" she said. "We are certainly tired. We are overworked and under-numbered. But we are not dead!"
During the convention, Bartlett presented LFL's Dominus Vitae Award to pro-life speaker Dinah Monahan, founder of a crisis-pregnancy service for rural communities. The annual award recognizes the pro-life efforts of someone who is not an LFL member.
Lutherans For Life has 14 state federations, 250 local chapters and 676 "life-ministry coordinators" nationwide. Its national office is in Nevada, Iowa.
*The Rev. David L. Mahsman is director of news and
information for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
For information contact: Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service,
(312) 380-2958 or AHAFFTEN@ELCA.ORG; Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir.,
(312) 380-2955 or FRANKI@ELCA.ORG