The spiritual revivals in America over the past two centuries have always occurred during times of the greatest despair: spiritually, politically, economically and internationally. The revivals have also been followed by periods of great societal change. The light has always shined brightest when contrasted to the increasing darkness. Peter exhorted us, “…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to give an account (evidence) for the hope that lies within you…” (I Peter 3:15)
The Second Great Awakening, which began circa 1790, gained slight momentum until 1820 when it began to grow exponentially. This revival reacted against skeptism and deism and resulted in the formation of the American Bible Society in 1816. The church also began to question the practice of slavery and caused tremendous growth among the Methodists and Baptists.
The Finney revivals beginning around 1840 conveyed even stronger language woven with abolitionist sentiments. The political actions of man were flawed, so abolition came, but at a major cost. Although slavery was abolished, racial prejudice and discrimination persisted for over a century and continued to exist in the hearts of far too many people.
The Azusa Street Revival of 1905 was the harbinger for the World Pentecostal Movement. The revival was short-lived due to the motives and efforts of man to gain control, but accomplished some lasting results - one being women’s suffrage. Coupled with women’s rights came the philosophy of sexual freedom, WWI, and the Great Depression. We also learned through the Prohibition period that morals could not be successfully legislated. Social change only resulted in the changing of peoples’ hearts.
Although the Korean Conflict (we learned not to call them wars anymore) was on-going, nationalism and nostalgias reigned in the early 1950’s. America was depicted as baseball, apple pie, flag waving Fourth of July parades, and all that was good. Although a sample of Americana might have been portrayed by Father Knows Best, Leave It To Beaver and Normal Rockwell, we were seeing the rewards of another revival that had more spiritual substance than these depictions.
The Evangelical Movement of 1940-1950 saw the beginning of the ministry of Billy Graham, the emergence of Fuller Theological Seminary, Christianity Today magazine, Gordon-Cromwell Theological Seminary, and the National Association of Evangelicals. We also saw the Red Scare and McCarthyism, with the threat of Socialism hanging onto the spiritual and political movements. We then saw the turbulent sixties and Civil Rights Movement, proving that Abolition did not end racial prejudice.
Then came the Jesus Movement of the late sixties (for which millions of baby boomers can claim God’s call on our lives) offset by sex, drugs, rock and roll, and Viet Nam. The early seventies brought Roe v. Wade. Has abortion become a political football? Yes. Presidents from both political parties, sometimes with their party controlling both houses have voiced opinions about abortion, but have rarely made any progress in legislating change. The one exception was outlawing partial birth abortion, a practice which did not blur the fine line between “killing a baby” and “aborting a fetus.”
One lesson we have learned from history is that for man to commit atrocities against other human beings, the perception of the human had to be changed and the people had to be dehumanized. With the flawed motives and solutions of man, Native Americans had to be viewed as “savages” so our ancestors could burn them out, shoot them or round them up and march them to a “reservation.”
Slaves had to be viewed as chattel (any article of tangible property other than land, buildings, or anything annexed to the land). In order to suppress women, they were viewed as possessions, and not as totally mindless, but depicted with limited emotional and mental capabilities. Finally to abort a human baby, the unborn child had to be classified as a “fetus.”
Leslie J. Regan, who wrote When Abortion Was a Crime, said, “Dr. Schumann went to the heart of the matter: physicians were apt to be too hyperconservative (sic) and think too greatly about the fetus.’ If pregnancy threatened ‘disability or death’ to a patient or family member, he would ‘have the small inconsequential fetus removed without concern.’” (When Abortion Was A Crime, Leslie J. Reagan, University of California Press, 1997, pg. 181)
Leslie J. Reagan argued that any abortion could be classified as “therapeutic” and granting of such by hospital review boards was used capriciously, arbitrarily and punitively to actually reduce the number of abortions. She further stated, “These doctors did not doubt the primacy of the pregnant woman’s life or the legitimacy of therapeutic abortion. Their views, however, were out of (motivated by?) power.”
Was there much difference in the death rate with or without the legalization of abortion? No, according to Leslie J. Reagan, just as many babies were aborted before abortion became legal. She used that perception in her argument to justify continuing abortion practice. She also justified abortion as an expression of “sexual freedom.”
Surprisingly, the abortion rate was lowest during the Clinton years, due to programs to which women could turn for assistance. The numbers have also turned around. (Leslie J.) Reagan stated that in a 1940 study, 80% of women receiving abortion were married and attempting to control family size. Her latest study indicated that 80% of women seeking abortions were single and attempting to finish high school or college. This group was most likely to be in a position to opt for abortion alternatives.
What can we do? Pray for spiritual revival. Hearts have to be changed. Laws will not change perspective, attitudes or practices. Join pro-life organizations and become informed and involved. Invite pro-life speakers to your church or organization. Become a proponent for adoption, day care, paediatric assistance programs, and other pro-life programs; individually, through church, and with governmental assistance. Pray and organize against the use of tax dollars being used for abortion.
What political or monetary value do we place on a human life?
Prior to ultra sound and neo-natal intensive care units, the practice of abortion was referred to as “restoring the menses” which meant abortion was perceived as keeping menstrual flow constant. They thought life began at “quickening” or when the baby could be felt to move by the mother in the womb.
Do you want to risk your immortal soul in determining the fine line between the time the baby receives an immortal soul or remains a “fetus?” Jeremiah states, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born, I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5, NAS)
Jesus loved all life and every human. He exhorted us to pray for our enemies. He instructed us to not prevent the little children from coming to Him. He did not mean sending them to Him prior to ever living. He also condemned the Pharisees for killing the prophets sent to show us the way. How many Jeremiahs and other children have we killed directly or tacitly by doing nothing to preserve life?
Jerry is a retired school teacher. He published Woodcutter’s Revival this past year. He also published Revived: Story of Publishing A Christian Novel, which is on Kindle at Amazon.com.
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This is a fine article. The history you shared and your insight into how man has assuaged his conscience in order to perform atrocities essentially against himself by dehumanizing his brothers and his children are spot on. Well done. Let us pray for revival and for God to once again show His glory!