Do Christians Care?

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"It is hard to take pro-lifers seriously when they ignore the suffering of women and children in places like Sudan." That's the challenge from Barry Ronge in a prominent article  - "Life After Birth" in the Sunday Times.

Barry Ronge throws down the gauntlet and challenges Christians in these words: “I will know that the war on international bigotry has turned the corner when I see a major international awareness and fundraising campaign in support of the mothers and children in Darfur, Sudan, and other similar trouble spots that is spearheaded and paid for by the anti-abortion groups. That would convince me that they have a genuine humanitarian and moral concern about children's right to life…it would comfort me to know that they had some passion and some cash to spare for the living children who exist on what must seem like the brink of hell, if not hell itself. Such a campaign would dispel my anxious perception that they care a great deal about the rights and protection of an unborn foetus, but the moment that foetus becomes a child, it becomes someone else's problem. Sort of like 'Hi baby. Welcome to the world but from this point on, kid, your on your own'.”!

Christians in South Africa have become accustomed to hostility and prejudice in the media and the kind of sweeping generalisations and condemnation from secular humanists like Barry Ronge. However, this is a challenge which we need to answer.

PRO-LIFERS IN SUDAN

Delivering food to destitute Nubans in the Sudan.
Delivering food to destitute Nubans in the Sudan.

The fact is that South African pro-lifers have been spearheading campaigns in support of mothers and children suffering in Sudan and other similar trouble spots. Since 1995 Frontline Fellowship has conducted over 70 missions into Sudan delivering many tons of medicines, agricultural tools and seeds, Bibles and books and school supplies to some of the most remote and neglected parts of that war torn country.

Frontline Fellowship is a founder member of United Christian Action, now the Christian Action Network, which has co-ordinated many major pro-life events and initiatives in South Africa. Africa Christian Action (ACA), which since 1991 has organised pro-life prayer vigils and demonstrations, the Life Chains, Sanctity Life Sunday and the National Day of Repentance, is a ministry of Frontline Fellowship.

Christians deliver agricultural tools, seed and school supplies to the Nuba Mountains
Pro-life Christians deliver agricultural tools, seed and school supplies to the Nuba Mountains.

The very same missionaries who have presented pro-life submissions to Parliament, organised and led the Sanctity Life Sunday, National Day of Repentance and Life Chain campaigns for the right to life of pre-born babies in South Africa, have delivered an ambulance and tons of medicines and agricultural tools and seed to the destitute in Sudan.

SPEAKING UP FOR THE SUFFERING

However, Barry Ronge's challenge goes even further: “Would it not distinguish a pro-life organisation if, for just one week, they would use their religious TV networks, their numerous internet sites, their pulpits and media connections to motivate their supporters…apply whatever pressure they could to bring relief to the kids in Darfur and the other places of the world where suffering is great and the chances of survival are minimal…that's why I wonder about the silence of these groups who are so vocal as the defenders of children's rights and the protectors of new life from the very instant of inception.

Perhaps Barry Ronge is not aware that those who produced “Fight For Life - A Pro-life Handbook for Southern Africa” and “Make A Difference - a Christian Action Handbook for Southern Africa”, who produce the pro-life stickers, import the precious feet lapel pins, and have conducted over 1000 radio and TV programmes and public meetings in South Africa on pro-life issues alone; are the very same people who since 1995 have lifted the virtual news blackout on the colossal conflict in Sudan.

We are the ones who exposed the scorched earth tactics, the systematic terror bombing of civilian targets and the resurgence of the slave trade in Sudan. It was Frontline Fellowship's book: Faith Under Fire In Sudan (1996), and the Jeremiah Films documentaries Sudan the Hidden Holocaust (2000) and Terrorism and Persecution (2001) which Frontline helped produce which first alerted people to the plight of Christians suffering under the relentless Islamic Jihad in Sudan.

I have personally, on over 1000 radio and TV programmes and probably as many public meetings, on 4 continents, over the last nine years, exposed the horrific atrocities of the Islamic government and the inspiring stories of Christian faith under fire in Sudan.

If Barry Ronge would visit the Africa Christian Action website: www.christianaction.org.za he would see that indeed this pro-life ministry is using its website to also speak up for those who are suffering in Sudan. For the last nine years, ACA's weekly radio programme, Salt & Light, aside from frequently dealing with the right to life of pre-born babies, has also conducted numerous interviews with missionaries to restricted access areas such as Sudan and mobilised Box With Love projects to bring relief to suffering families, to support community schools in Sudan and recruit medical volunteers to establish hospitals and clinics to alleviate suffering in that troubled land.

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS

Praying for the sick in Sudan
Praying for the sick in Sudan

Barry Ronge questions whether we pro-lifers have “a genuine humanitarian and moral concern about children's right to life…” When our missionaries drive up overland from Cape Town to Sudan to deliver desperately needed aid and to minister to the suffering in Sudan, that involves an 8000km journey by road – one way.

We have also flown far behind enemy lines into the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan in no-fly zones where the government maintained a shoot-on-sight policy.

The Nuba is an island of Christianity in a sea of Islam. For over a decade the Nuba Mountains were the target of the most vicious scorched earth campaign. Almost every village was burned down, most of the crops were razed. Most of the livestock were looted by government militia. Almost every church was destroyed. Hundreds of Christian men were crucified. A million Nubans were placed in concentration camps, where they were forcibly Islamised and Arabised. Children were separated from their parents, compelled to learn Arabic, beaten if they attempted to speak their own language, deprived of food and water if they failed to learn the Quran fast enough. Many of these children were later trained to go and fight their own people on behalf of the government of Sudan.

Yet, 300 000 Free Nuba successfully resisted the Islamic Jihad, holding out in their mountain sanctuaries, eking out a precarious existence while the Sudan Air Force bombed and rocketed them, and government of Sudan forces sowed landmines in their areas. Despite raids by slave traders, aerial and artillery bombardments, and scorched earth tactics, these Free Nuba continued to stand fast. It was to these courageous Christians that we smuggled in many tons of agricultural tools and seed, school supplies and Bibles. We also had to take in landmine clearing equipment, metal detectors, to help these long-suffering people remove the tools of terror sown amongst their crops, on their paths and around their wells.

FAITH UNDER FIRE

A Sudan Air Force Hind-24 strafes Christians in Sudan
A Sudan Air Force Hind-24 strafes Christians in Sudan

While ministering in Sudan, our teams have been strafed by helicopter gun ships and bombed by the Sudan Air Force. I have personally come under artillery and aerial bombardment while preaching in church services in Sudan, including getting bombed on Sunday in church. The community which included the Frontline Fellowship mission base, school, chapel and clinic was bombed ten times by the Sudan Air Force, including by MIG-23 jets.

WHAT AID HAVE YOU GIVEN?

It is encouraging to read that Barry Ronge has developed a concern for those suffering in “Sudan and other similar trouble spots”. What I would like to know is what he has actually done for these persecuted people?

CHOICE IN CHINA

I accept Barry Ronge's challenge. It is hard to take pro-lifers seriously if they ignore the suffering of women and children in places like Sudan. But, surely, it is just as true that it is very hard to take pro-choicers seriously when they ignore the suffering of women and children in places like Sudan. In fact, what are pro-choicers doing about the suffering of women in Red China who are not even allowed a choice? The one-child-policy in China has included forcible sterilisations, forcible abortions and infanticide. What have pro-choicers done to oppose the absence of choice for parents in Red China?

CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS

What about the choices of doctors and nurses in South Africa who choose not to pervert their healing profession and be pressured into killing babies? Do pro-choicers in South Africa respect the conscientious objections of the vast majority of medical professionals in South Africa to participate in the taking of life through abortion?

Actually, NO, pro-life doctors and nurses in South Africa are finding themselves under increasing pressure to have no choice at all. Far from respecting the sincerely held religious and ethical convictions of these medical professionals, pro-choicers are seeking to deprive such principled practitioners of positions in state hospitals and promotion prospects. They even attempt to force medical professionals – against their will – to kill babies through abortion.

LOVE IN ACTION

Barry Ronge's Sunday Times article “Life After Birth” asks what Christians are doing for “unwanted” children after they are born. The answer is that pro-life Christians worldwide maintain and fund thousands of crisis pregnancy centres, unwed mothers' homes and adoption agencies. Literally hundreds of thousands of Christians worldwide have adopted babies. No one is doing as much as pro-life Christians to care for street children, orphans and the destitute.

HOSTILITY TO CHRISTIANITY

Not content with his over- simplifications, generalisations and condemnation of all pro-lifers, Barry Ronge in his “Life After Birth” article goes on to vent his hostility and prejudice against Christians in general. “I can't help remembering the times in history when the same line of thinking called for the execution of doctors who tried to perform autopsies to learn how the body was built and functions. The same mindset led the pious to denounce the discovery and introduction of effective treatments for venereal disease because it would encourage immoral behaviour and who can forget those that believed that a heart transplant was blasphemy…!

More and more we are seeing this kind of blind prejudice against Christianity in Hollywood and the mass media. There is a tendency to either ignore the positive contributions of Christianity to the world, or to stress, or invent, negative aspects of Church history. The overwhelmingly good contributions of Christianity to civilisation are all too often overlooked, obscured or even denied.

A HERITAGE OF HEALING

Dr Louis Pasteur
Dr Louis Pasteur

The world before Christianity was a world without hospitals, charity or respect for the sanctity of life. Hospitals were an innovation of Christianity (hence the universal healing symbol of a cross to represent hospitals). The nursing profession was founded by Christians such as Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton, out of devotion for Christ. One of history's greatest humanitarian movements, the International Red Cross, was founded by Christians in response to the Scriptural injunction to care for the sick and suffering. Christians such as Dr. Louis Pasteur have fuelled some of the greatest practical advances in medicine. Pasteur probably saved more lives than any other individual in history through his inventions.

CHRISTIAN CHARITY

The whole concept of charity was a Christian innovation. Benevolence to strangers was unknown before Christ. The teachings and example of Jesus Christ have inspired the greatest acts of generosity, hospitality, self-sacrifice and service for the poor, sick and needy over 2000 years.

THE SANCTITY OF LIFE

Before the advent of Christianity every culture practised slavery and human sacrifice – even the highly esteemed Greek and Roman civilisations. Child sacrifice was common among the pagan religions. The Aztec Empire in Mexico and the Inca Empire in Peru engaged in slavery, ritual rapes and mass human sacrifice. Suttee, the burning of widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands, was common practice in Hindu India before the missionary William Carey arrived.

ABOLISHING SLAVERY

David Livingstone
David Livingstone

Slavery was eradicated as a result of the tireless efforts of Christians such as William Wilberforce and David Livingstone. Respect for life and liberty are a fruit of Christianity. Those promoting abortion, euthanasia and pornography are not offering us progress, but only a return to pre-Christian paganism.

A FAITH OF FREEDOM

The positive impact of Jesus Christ on Western culture cannot be overstated. The fact that today's market place of ideas fails to recognise the Christian foundation on which it was built is ironic. Christianity is popularly discredited by our humanistic society. The overlooked truth is that from education to women's rights to public health to economic liberty, the things we cherish most and many of the blessings we take for granted can all be traced to the spiritual and cultural revolution begun by Jesus Christ.

REWRITING HISTORY

The pervasive tendency of academics and Hollywood film producers to either ignore the Christian contributions to our world, or to stress the negative failings in church history, has obscured the massive positive impact that Christianity has had upon civilisation. We need to set the historical record straight.

RONGE IS WRONG

Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon

Ronge is wrong when he characterises Christians as anti-science. Modern science is a fruit of the Protestant Reformation. As Francis Bacon, the father of the scientific method, once put it “there are two books laid before us to study; to prevent us falling into error; first, the volume of the Scriptures which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the creatures, which express His power.

PIONEERS OF SCIENCE

Historian Robert G. Frank pointed out: “The predominant forms of scientific activity can be shown to be a direct outgrowth of a Puritan ideology.”

Johannes Kepler
Johannes Kepler

The great astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630), the founder of celestial mechanics, declared: “My wish is that I may perceive the God whom I find everywhere in the external world in like manner within me.”

Kepler was a “brilliant mathematician and astronomer, he contributed to the scientific revolution with his work on the planetary orbits, laws of motion and the scientific method. Kepler's accomplishments formed the foundation of modern theoretical astronomy.” Kepler argued: “Truth in religion is based on the Word of God in Scripture, while truth in natural science is based on evidence and reason.” Kepler viewed all of science as man attempting to “think God's thoughts after Him.” Kepler was the father of the modern satellite and of modern space travel.

Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727), the father of calculus and dynamics, was a scientific genius and a dedicated Christian. Newton formulated the theory of gravitation and the laws of motion. He made vital contributions to mathematics, astronomy and physics. Newton maintained that there were two key sources of knowledge one revealed in the Bible and the other revealed in nature. Newton dedicated his life to know the Word of God (the Bible) and to know the works of God (Creation).

Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662) made vital contributions to mathematics and technology that helped with the development of the computer. Pascal invented the first adding machine. In his honour, a computer language is named after Pascal.

Charles Babbage
Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage (1792 – 1871), the father of modern day computer science, described the world as a great computer, and God as the programmer. Babbage was essentially a mathematician and regarded mathematics as the best preliminary preparation for all other branches of human knowledge. He believed that the study of the works of nature, with scientific precision, was a necessary and indispensable preparation for understanding and interpreting their testimony of the wisdom and goodness of the Divine Author.

Joseph Lister in surgery
Joseph Lister in surgery

Joseph Lister, the English surgeon who developed antiseptic surgery and the use of chemical disinfectants, stated: “I am a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.”

James Simpson (1811 – 1870), the founder of gynaecology and anaesthetics, was inspired by the Scriptural passage that God made Adam fall into a deep sleep before taking the rib from him, to develop chloroform, and pioneer the beginnings of modern surgical anaesthetics. Before this, operations were conducted at hazardous speeds on conscious patients!

CHRISTIANITY CREATED SCIENCE

The irrefutable fact is that Christianity gave birth to modern science. The scientific revolution began in the Protestant Reformation and the Bible played a vital part in the development of scientific discovery. Every major branch of science was developed by a Bible - believing Christian. The Bible essentially created science.

When we get into a car, start the engine, turn on the lights, drive to a hospital, receive an anaesthetic before an operation, and have an effective operation done in a germ free environment, we need to remember that we owe it all to Christianity.

It has been pointed out that science could not have developed among those who worship Allah, because of Islam's fatalism. Nor could science have been birthed from Hindus or Buddhism, because of their belief that the world is an illusion. Neither could modern science have arisen in our modern humanistic culture, because of the humanist's belief that life is irrational and illogical. By rejecting the notion of absolutes, humanists reject the very foundation of science. If there are no absolutes in nature, then results in experimentation can only be relative. If everything is relative, then engineering, and other branches of science, become impossible.

A proper, philosophical base for investigating the universe was needed, and only the Christian doctrine of creation has provided that base. The Creator established laws for people and laws for the natural world. A created universe was expected to have design, order and purpose. Man, using his created, rational mind, would study this ordered universe in a rational way and seek to discover its laws. Modern science is based upon this assumption of scientific law. In addition, the moral laws given by the Creator establish the ethical basis for science.

WHO IS ANTI-SCIENCE?

Sir Michael Faraday
Sir Michael Faraday

Scientists must be honest and truthful. If this universe were not created, if it is merely the “product of chance”, then no intelligence would be involved. There could be no reason to expect such a universe to operate in a rational or consistent way. Man's mind would also be a product of chance and would not be capable of reason or logic. Hence, a materialistic philosophy could not provide any foundation for science. Many ardent atheists dominate science today, but they are working off the foundations and presuppositions laid by Christianity.

In the realm of physics, Sir Michael Faraday is acknowledged as one of the greatest scientists of all times. He discovered electro-magnetic induction, without which we could have no motors or engines. He invented the generator. Faraday was a devoted Christian who declared: “The Bible and it alone, with nothing added to it nor taken away from it by man, is the sole and sufficient guide for each individual, at all times in all circumstances. Faith in the Divinity and work of Christ is the gift of God and the evidence of this faith is obedience to the commandments of Christ.”

Barry Ronge's “Life After Birth” article seeks to characterise the “pious” as anti-science, and anti-medicine. Yet, it was the “pious” who pioneered every branch of science and medicine.

WHEN DOES LIFE BEGIN?

Ronge concluded his article with these words: “If…their beliefs could translate into acts of compassion for living and breathing human children, their ranting and their beliefs will be less easy to dislike.”

Yet, even if Ronge seeks to be blind and ignorant to the many millions of acts of compassion performed by pro-lifers worldwide, he should not be ignorant of the scientific fact that babies in the womb are in fact “living”. At 3 weeks after conception the baby's heartbeat can be detected. Electrical brainwaves of pre-born babies can be detected at 6 weeks after conception. If the absence of a heartbeat is considered a sign of death, surely the presence of a heartbeat has to be accepted as confirmation of life? Similarly, if the absence of a brainwave is considered a sign of death, why then is the presence of this brainwave not accepted as a confirmation of life?

Birth is not a magical act that turns a non-human into a person. Birth is only a change in environment for a life that began many months before. Every abortion stops a beating heart. Every abortion is the murder of a helpless and innocent human being. And this really is at the heart of the matter.

In his attempt to justify the killing of pre-born babies, Barry Ronge has chosen to attack the messengers - because he does not like the message. The two key questions are: When does life begin? and What is abortion? As any biological textbook will inform you: Life begins at conception. And whether we like it or not, we have to admit that abortion is the killing of a pre-born baby.

DO YOU CARE?

Nevertheless, his challenge that pro-lifers cannot be taken seriously when they ignore the suffering of women and children in places like Sudan cannot be ignored. Speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, putting feet to our faith and exercising compassion for those in the most desperate need has always been a Christian priority. “Let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

Only those ignorant of history could fail to acknowledge that Christianity has made more positive changes on earth than any other force or movement. The Christian Church has been the supreme (and often the only) force restraining man's inhumanity. It's easy for opponents of Christianity to criticise, but what are our critics doing for the lonely, the widows, the orphans, the sick, the aged and the refugees?

But more important than this the question is: Do you care? and what have you been doing to love God and to love your neighbour as yourself?

Dr. Peter Hammond is the author of the Discipleship Handbook, Faith Under Fire in Sudan, Holocaust in Rwanda and In the Killing Fields of Mozambique.

Recommended reading:

What if Jesus Had Never Been Born by James Kennedy and Jerry Newcomb
What if The Bible Had Never Been Written by James Kennedy and Jerry Newcomb
Under The Influence - How Christianity Transformed Civilisations by Alvin Schmidt 

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa info@christianaction.org.za - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
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