Deliver Us From Evil, Part 17
June 21, 2019
Last week, we talked about responsibility and consequences of choice. One of the things that goes with "a woman's right to choose" is the consequence of that choice. The Spirit of Abortion, of course, always hides the responsibility that goes with choice, and particularly the consequences that follow our choices. The deception for Christians who get contaminated with this same spirit is that they think that because they protest and take a stand against something so obviously hedonistic -- something which so clearly violates the Word of God -- they can avoid the consequences when their protests also violate the laws of the land.
During the late 1980's and early 1990's, I was Chief Engineer for the Fox television station in Anchorage. I also happened to be filling in for the praise and worship leader at the Grace Brethren Church there. I was called to jury duty to serve in a case where one of the defendants was active in that church.
My recollection is that this took place in 1989. Both radio and television news accounts – not to mention all of the major newspapers in the state – were focused on a story in which 26 individuals were arrested and charged with criminal trespass for interfering with the operation of an abortion clinic run by NOW and (what has since become) NARAL.
To say that the case was a political hot potato would be understating it. Oddly enough, I was barely aware of the fact that these protesters had been arrested. I knew that I drove past the abortion clinic every morning on my way to the TV station, and that rarely a day went by without protesters walking up and down the sidewalk in front of the place. Frequently, I would roll my window down and stick my hand out the window, honk my horn, and give the protesters a thumbs up sign.
Two of the protesters were prominent Roman Catholic priests, both of whom I considered as personal friends. One of the protesters was the Postmaster for the Anchorage Main Post Office. Several of them were folks I knew as committed Christians, and although I was not particularly affiliated with their churches or church activities, we had a deep respect and appreciation for each other.
One morning as I passed the clinic, it caught my attention that there were no protesters waving signs out front; and the thought briefly passed my mind as to why they weren’t there. For whatever reason, I was so focused on resolving some technical issues at the TV station that the news of the arrest of some abortion protesters barely caught my attention. I never really gave it a whole lot of thought.
Some weeks later, I received the aforementioned summons for jury duty, and was pleased to respond. Throughout the past 35 or 40 years, I’ve served many times on various juries, hearing cases that ranged from murder to rape to homosexual crimes to robbery – you name it! I’ve always considered it my civic duty to serve, and have been pleased that in every case – with one exception in which the case was settled by a compromise between the defendant and the D.A. – we had been able as a jury to arrive at a unanimous decision. In two of those cases, I was picked to be the jury foreman.
You can imagine my surprise when I realized who the 26 defendants were. It wasn’t that I knew them all. As noted, I was acquainted with some of them. I was absolutely certain that I would be dismissed under questioning from the D.A. or the Attorneys for the Defense. The questioning was sure to include a question as to whether I knew any of the defendants personally, and that would preclude me from serving – or so I thought.
There was a fairly large jury pool from which to select prospective jurors, but to my surprise, many of those prospective jurors eliminated themselves from consideration by making bold anti-abortion statements or bold pro-abortion statements. The questioning ran on for something like three days until the three or four attorneys began with me.
The first question was, “What do you do for a living?” Easy answer. “I’m Chief Engineer for the Fox TV station, KTBY.”
“OK,” was the response, “So you’re a member of the media?” Had to think about that for a second. “I’m not a reporter, or news anchor, or anything like that, but, yes, my work certainly supports the media.”
Next question. “How much do you know about this case?” My answer was a whole lot easier this time. “Not a lot. You might think that my work in a TV station would make me very aware of current news events, but the fact is because I work around it all day long I probably watch a whole lot less TV than you do. I almost become insensitive to what is being aired. I’m barely aware of the fact that these folks were arrested, but I honestly have no idea what the circumstances are.”
OK so far. Next question. “Do you think you can listen to the facts and the evidence presented and make a clear and fair decision based on the facts alone?”
“Absolutely,” I answered.
The Assistant District Attorney – a woman of some repute as a hard-nosed prosecutor – had been doing the questioning. She nodded her head and turned to the Defense. “I’ll accept this juror,” she said.
WOW! That was it? No questions on “where do you stand on the abortion issue?” No questions on “do you know any of the defendants personally?”
The Defense attorneys simply nodded their heads and said, “We concur. We will accept this juror.”
For whatever reason, I could only assume that the Lord wanted me on this jury. I didn’t volunteer any information they didn’t ask for, and sure enough, I was accepted for the jury, and subsequently chosen as the jury foreman.
The case, as presented to the jury, was simple enough. Whereas the defendants had previously limited their protests to walking the sidewalk in front of the abortion clinic with signs, and speaking to young women who obviously were coming to the clinic for the purpose of getting an abortion, and encouraging them to choose to either carry the child to full term and keep him or her, or – in the alternative – putting the child up for adoption, they now chose to block access to the doors and refuse entrance to women seeking abortions.
NOW’s and NARAL’s involvement with the clinic brought the wrath of the liberals and leftists down on the heads of the protesters with a public campaign waged in the news media painting the protesters as hate-mongers and anti-women’s rights. What a sack of manure!
As I noted when I ran for Congress in 2004, I absolutely supported (and continue to support) a woman’s right to choose. The problem isn’t her having a choice in the matter. The problem is making the choice and then trying to ignore the consequences of that choice and not shoulder her responsibility for making the choice. When a woman makes the choice to go to bed with a guy and then flippantly decides to murder an unborn child conceived in her womb because she doesn’t want to live with the consequences of her choice, that is nothing less than cold, calculated, heartless irresponsibility. It cheapens her, it cheapens the whole sexual act, and it ignores the purpose behind the way God created us.
Our society has become contaminated by an effort to destroy the moral fiber and spiritual backbone our founding fathers had when they agreed to this nation’s creation and its constitution. There is no inherent constitutional right for any person, man or woman, to cavalierly ignore their responsibilities as beings created in God’s image or escape the consequences of actions they knowingly take with malice aforethought.
That underpinning of responsibility also comes with Christians who knowingly break the law – even if it is a bad and unjust law with horrific spiritual consequences. Hebrews 13:17 tells us, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves.”
Add to that Paul’s admonition to the Romans (13:1-2) “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
We DO have the right, both as Christians and as Americans, to protest against unjust laws and unjust circumstances. That said, there may well be legal consequences for our protests; and if we choose to protest or take action in the face of laws forbidding such protest or action, we must do so KNOWING full well that we MUST bear the consequences for our actions. The series I've done in previous years on the American Covenant clearly spells out the fact that our founding fathers knew the potential consequences for their actions, and many of them died for what they believed and did in the forming of this nation.
Responsibility and consequences are not just for “the other guy.” History is awash with the stories of Christians who have protested against ungodly governments and ungodly laws passed in the face of opposition from the righteous. Many, many of those Christians have suffered personal consequences for their protests, often winding up in prison or even worse.
A book that has impacted me throughout much of my ministry was written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer; a Lutheran pastor and university professor imprisoned and eventually put to death in a concentration camp by Hitler. That book was titled, THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP, and it spells out in personal and spiritual detail the consequences for our stands as Christians in an evil society. Bonhoeffer personally took a stand against Hitler’s laws outlawing church training colleges and directed the creation and operation of two such colleges. He defied the edict of Hitler knowing it could cost him his life.
American and British friends spirited him out of Germany after the outbreak of WWII, but he insisted on returning to be a part of the Christian community in Germany with the statement, “I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people….” Dietrich Bonhoeffer refused to be a part of a mindset that rejected the consequences of actions taken in defiance of ungodly and unrighteous laws.
When the trial of the abortion protesters began, the look on their faces when they saw me seated in the jury box clearly indicated that they expected me to be a force on that jury for their acquittal. We had no communications between ourselves, and I sought to carry out my responsibility to the court with integrity.
After several days of testimony, culminating in the showing of a video shot by someone on behalf of the abortion rights folks clearly showing some 20 of the 26 protesters refusing to peacefully disband and leave at the request of the Anchorage Police Department officers called to the scene, the case was turned over to the jury with some careful instructions by the presiding judge.
“You are not here to decide on the constitutionality of the law that permits abortions,” he said. “You are not here to render judgment on the doctors and medical practitioners who perform these abortions. You are here ONLY to rule on whether the protesters committed criminal trespass.” He proceeded to read the laws dealing with criminal trespass; and then directed us to retire to the jury deliberation room.
Once the jury was seated in the deliberation room, the cacophony that erupted among the jurors was almost deafening. After getting them to quiet down, I began to ask them one by one how they felt about the case and if they had arrived at a decision after hearing and seeing the evidence presented.
Not one single juror wanted to convict the defendants. Even those jurors who clearly were not Christians said to me, “We’re wasting our time, and we’re wasting the time of this court to even hear this case. This case ought never to have been brought to trial.”
I said to them, “I absolutely agree with you. In many ways, this is a sham case, and these protesters were baited and set up for prosecution. Nevertheless, every single one of them had a choice to make – just like the women whose choices we have decried because they are now trying to avoid the consequences for their choices.”
“Were I in the position these defendants now face,” I continued, “I would gladly accept the consequences – just or unjust – simply because had I chosen to protest or block entrance to that clinic in the face of standing criminal trespass laws as a public statement of who I am as a Christian. I would gladly accept a fine or jail time because it is a small price to pay for saying a loud ‘NO!’ to a society that legalizes or attempts to legalize this kind of crime.”
I concluded my commentary by saying, “If, instead of 26 protesters, we had 260, or even 2600 protesters willing to take that stand at the same time, do you think our courts and our society would get the message? I suspect they would! These 26 protesters deserve our thanks. They deserve our commendation for their bravery. But they also – according to the Law – deserve a guilty verdict from us because they DID violate the laws of criminal trespass. Those are unjust laws specifically set up to prevent this kind of protest, but – until such time as those laws are repealed – we do the protesters a disservice, and we do society a disservice if we ignore the law.”
In the end, after a lot of debate and review of the video tapes, we agreed as a jury to free six of the protesters because there was no clear evidence against them as having been a part of the groups that blocked entrance to the clinic. The remaining 20 were all given guilty verdicts.
When the judge asked me, and I read the verdicts rendered by the jury, there was a gasp from the defendants. They obviously expected to get off. The judge fined each of them $1,000 and sentenced them to 30 days in jail, but suspended the jail time on condition they stay away from that clinic. The guilty verdict cost the Postmaster his job. I met with him and one of the two priests who were also found guilty after the trial. We went to a nearby restaurant for lunch together. They were obviously baffled at the outcome knowing my very strong stance on this issue, and began peppering me with one question after another.
I explained things to them exactly as I had spoken in that jury room. “We have a responsibility as Christians,” I said. “That responsibility is to stand up and speak out against the injustice of laws that permit wholesale murder. That responsibility can also include taking actions that may cause us to be arrested and jailed in order to make enough noise in our society to bring an end. With our actions, however, come consequences.
If we are brave enough to
take those actions, and loud enough as Christians to speak out against the
injustices and unrighteousness of officials who pass laws permitting these
injustices, we’d best be ready to shoulder the consequences that go with our
actions. When we try and escape from the consequences of those actions, we
cheapen the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we cheapen our testimony as Christians, and
we lower ourselves to the level of the cowardly women who also try to escape
the consequences of their choices. That cannot and must not be!”
The Roman Catholic priest who sat across the table from me stood, reached towards me to shake my hand, and said, “Thank you for that. You’ve helped me to reevaluate my position as a Christian and certified the integrity of my choices and actions.”
My friend, the Postmaster, stood also with tears in his eyes and said, “I know this is going to cost me, but you’ve made me appreciate that cost, and I’ll never forget it.”
When our testimony and our stance as Christians costs us nothing, we’re worth nothing! Over the years, I’ve been threatened, shot at, sued in courts of law, kicked out of churches and called every name in the book – all for the sake of my stand as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Should the day come that I am compelled to violate some civil law in order to stand for truth, may I never run from the consequences of my choice and actions.
More to come next week.
In case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:30AM Pacific. That conference number is (712) 770-4160, and the access code is 308640#. We are now making these gatherings available on video using ZOOM. If you wish to participate by video on ZOOM, our login ID is 835-926-513. If you miss the live voice-only call, you can dial (712) 770-4169, enter the same access code and listen in later. The video call, of course, is not recorded – not yet, anyway.
Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76504
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