The conviction of an abortionist for murder in Philadelphia highlights a personal, private health care practice that took place more than 30,000 times at Chattanooga Women’s Clinic beginning in 1975. Evidence in the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell has shocked the public conscience, even among abortion’s friends. His jury next will decide if he deserves capital punishment for killing three babies.
The Chattanooga abortion clinic was closed in 1993 in a dramatic bankruptcy buyout of the clinic building by Christians. Its closure has been a providence for the middle-sized Southern city nestled in a picturesque bend in the Tennessee River.
The shuttering of CWC is blessing of first magnitude for the city, a victory for Christianity, which values life made in God’s image and which recoils in horror at the neck snipping of any baby, whether inside the womb or out.
Dead baby tally, still, is not pretty
According to the latest Tennessee government data, 306 boys and girls whose mothers reside in Hamilton County were destroyed in 2011. Invariably they traveled to other cities to have their surgeries. In Shelby County, home of Memphis, 4,595 children were destroyed. In Davidson, 2,161 were subject to ITOP, or “induced termination of pregnancy,” to use the bureaucratic vernacular with its hint of self-affirmation.
The rate of abortion among Hamilton County women is 3.9 per thousand people. In Shelby County, it’s double, 8.3. Knox County’s rate is 7.9 — also double. In Davidson (home of capitol city Nashville), it’s roughly triple (12.9).
How one looks at the death toll is a matter of perspective. In one, Chattanooga appears still mightily under God’s wrath. In another, blessed.
Depopulation should be understood theologically. In terms of God’s providence and government, a reduction of the number of people in the land by the hand of blood (in violation against the sixth commandment against murder) is a curse. Moses in Leviticus 26 takes up the question of blessing and judgment, enough to make a man weep.
Half the chapter describes rewards for people faithful to God. Half lists the woes of those who “do not observe all these commandments” and who despise and abhor God’s covenant terms. For a people who walk contrarywise, God promises to send “wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and make you few in number” (v. 22). And, as it were, state highways 153, 27 and I-75 will fall to a trickle of traffic; they “shall be desolate.” God promises that “you shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters” (v. 29). The judgments include other states of finance, public order and spirit. People under God’s wrath face the sword. Remarkably, they become fearful, subject to terror: “[T]he sound of a shaken leaf shall cause them to flee; they shall flee as though fleeing from a sword, and they shall fall when no one pursues” (v. 36). Regarding the rise of irrational fear, I offer two ideas. Hair-trigger police action of the national government against American dissenters is a sign of its being under spiritual darkness and judgment, as it fears innocent, harmless critics with their newsletters, websites and protest banners. Secondly, the hatred of the bigot today is intense, as he lives in irrational trepidation; he spares no effort or word to suppress the slightest peep of gospel people and deracinate his symbols. ‡
Rewards in spiritual terms are great
So the Christian scriptures are startling — and frightening — with their loving Jesus and the angry Jesus — “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations” (Rev. 19:15). On the other hand, when one considers the abortion toll relative to other cities, one should consider Chattanooga as the object of God’s protection from the spirit of despair and darkness that prompts women to abort.
The blessing is not something that Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies cares to note in its health report for Chattanooga a few days ago. It says people in the area overall are unhealthy — with high rates cited on obesity, cancer and mortality. It accounts for high mortality among black newborns, but says nothing about black boys and girls destroyed by what the Times Free Press euphemistically calls the “abortion doctor” (Page A1, May 14, 2013). No field has been created in Ochs’ database on baby killing. And while the HALF RATE of abortion may be suggested in local blessings tallied by social media entrepreneur Jon Moss (see his essay, “12 Reasons You Should Consider Chattanooga For Your Startup”), the reasons lie well beyond the exuberance of local economy.
Helpful theologians such as R.J. Rushdoony are right: Culture and law are the living out of religion. Think how this concept applies to Chattanooga. A city that has a HALF RATE of baby girl and baby boy deaths compared to the next city is, to some extent, living out the religious belief that newborn life is better than preborn death. In the end, it comes down to residents’ convictions about the future, about hope, about the providence of God. A connection with providence keeps these mostly unmarried moms from traveling out of town to liquidate their heirs. The number of resident preborns slain may appall. But consider these visible externals suggesting the blessing of God.
1. Body count could have been 600. God drew away the darkness in the hearts of 300 women as well as their fathers, husbands, boyfriends, lovers or friends. He gave them divine or maybe just natural light. They gave birth. Assuming the 2011 rate of 306 souls, that’s 3,060 souls in a decade. Prosperous. Rich. Inventive. Insightful. These terms describe the 3,060 people who, I will suppose, were born.
2. The work of the church in Chattanooga brings moderation of appetite. Look at how deeply local people went into the hole in real estate prior to the housing bust in 2008. Not as greedily as people in other cities. The closure of the Chattanooga abortion clinic was the work of Christian churchgoers almost exclusively. Since 1996, the city has been abortion-clinic free. Local doctors dare not slay babies in their offices. Religion affects culture.
3. Many Christian schools and universities are in the area. Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., Bryan College in Dayton, Covenant College atop Lookout Mountain, Temple University, others. Home education in Chattanooga has been gracious in its presence, the local chapter of Tennessee Home Education Association has an exemplary group of other-minded and gracious servant-leaders. Christian nonprofit groups and ministries (John Ankerberg, Changed Lives, AMG) dot the county.
4. The gospel is the origin of the “thinking-of-the-other” and the “put-other-people-first” conception undergirding the local free market. Chattanooga has one of the strongest local economies in the U.S., according to a Wall Street Journal report April 2012. This strength comes from a large group of corporate actors from real estate magnate Jim Berry to Christian-oriented capitalists and investors involved in Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, DeMoss Capital or Bridgepointe Capital Partners.
The quenching of the sword in Chattanooga
The God of scripture is antithetical. Black. White. Obey — be blessed. Disobey — stand judged. God operates in terms of His character upon the affairs of men, and his blessings are objective and measurable. They operate internally, but also in the public square in terms of capitalization. He will “rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.” Yes, in Tennessee, the sword cuts down 12,368 girls and boys a year; that’s the headcount from 2011. It swings with the protection of sheriff’s departments, police departments and state departments of safety and homeland security. Gov. Bill Haslam believes himself helpless to stop the bloodletting; though a man of Christian conscience, he dare not defy all who would become his enemies if he acted as the chief executive that he is.
But Christianity, its pulpits teach, promises that the child reaper’s days are numbered.
If people revere God and His Sabbath and His sanctuary (place and rule in worship), He promises in Leviticus 26 to give rain; “the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.” Peace will mark the land, “and you shall lie down and none will make you afraid.” I appreciate the part about confidence, which often I lack. “You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you.” Now, the Christian is a man of peace and accommodation; he negotiates, he talks, he cajoles and wins. He proposes settlements, and in many ways delights in compromise. (No Christian I know has said a bitter word against the gospel’s public enemies, such as county anti-prayer litigant Thomas Coleman). But if he cannot treat for peace, he fights, and does so confidently.
‡ Christianity has less trouble from bigots than it does in making itself interesting and compelling to post-moderns, who cannot comprehend its ethical categories nor the suggestion of an external source of law binding upon all mankind.