[NOTE: The following is the full manuscript of a sermon I preached at Lebanon Road yesterday. The sermon got several good and thoughtful comments, so I thought I'd share it on here.]
Recently, an online video went viral. That’s not anything unusual these days. It seems that, every couple of days, something makes the rounds online and gains a few hundred thousand views. But quite often, these “viral videos” are nothing more than silliness. Maybe it’s a child singing a song from Frozen, or a cat jumping up and down, or someone failing on a TV game show.
But none of those are what we are going to talk about this morning. The video I have in mind this morning was made by a woman named Emily Letts, who lives and works in the state of New Jersey. Her video, which has been viewed over 2.8million times in about 3 months, has a simple title: “Emily’s Abortion Video.”
You see, Emily Letts works for the Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey, having been employed there for more than a year. While this is called a women’s center, it is quite obvious from the video she released where this center makes quite a bit of its money.
In the weeks since releasing her video, Letts has received a great deal of attention in the media, both traditional media and the social media worlds. She has done a handful of interviews—mostly in print—and the comments on Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere are nearly limitless. On the Vimco site alone there are over 200 comments, and I have seen the video passed around on Facebook a dozen times or more.
This morning’s sermon is going to be a bit different as far as format goes. Instead of walking through a text and having 3 or 4 points, I simply want to try to make a Biblical response to Ms. Letts and her video. I hope you will see that what she has to say can be addressed in a way that is rational and straightforward without being cruel.
One of the interviews Letts has recently given was published in the May 7 edition of Philadelphia Magazine. In that interview, she summarized what she was doing. Here are a few of her statements:
I feel super good about having an abortion. Women and men have been thirsting for something like this. You don’t have to feel guilty. … I could have taken the pill, but I wanted to do the one that women were most afraid of. I wanted to show it wasn’t scary — and that there is such a thing as a positive abortion story.
She would also state in the article that the procedure that she used only takes about 3-to-5 minutes, so there’s nothing to be afraid of.
In those quotations, I want you to key in on her words, “You don’t have to feel guilty.” It is interesting that Letts came back to that idea several times in her interview with Philadelphia Magazine. She claims that “our society breeds this guilt.” In nearly the same breath Letts said, “I am thankful that I can share my story and inspire other women to stop the guilt.”
However, in another interview, she may have said more than she wanted to about this subject. Letts had an interview published in the advice column of Cosmopolitan on May 5 of this year. In that interview, she said, “Even women who come to the clinic completely solid in their decision to have an abortion say they feel guilty for not feeling guilty. Even though they know 110 percent that this is the best decision for them, they pressure themselves to feel bad about it.”
I wonder why.
Letts has made a statement there that begins to open our eyes to what is going on, and it is here that I want us to begin to give an answer. We’ll look at some other things she said in just a few moments, but let’s look at this idea of guilt.
We live in a society that doesn’t think we should feel guilty about anything. Letts’s answer is that guilt is driven by society. In part, that’s true, because guilt is part of our conscience, and a conscience can be trained to where certain things that used to cause us to feel guilt no longer do, and certain things that didn’t used to make us feel guilty now do lead to a tinge of guilt.
But we must ask the question: where did that feeling—that conscience—come from? Even people with no belief in God whatsoever have a conscience and feel guilty about certain things. The question we need to ask is why? Where do those feelings come from?
There is no naturalistic way to explain the conscience. Nothing in the evolutionary idea can explain how feeling guilty “just happened” to be part of our experience. No rock ever thought, “You know what, I shouldn’t have fallen and hurt that dog. I sure feel bad about that.”
However, the Bible makes it clear that certain things have been put within us that we cannot explain without God. Solomon wrote, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that He cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Did you notice it? God has set eternity in our hearts. God put something in us that thinks of things larger and grander than ourselves. That’s the essence of conscience. When I do something that hurts my thinking about eternity, it should tinge my conscience. It should make me feel guilty.
By the way, the argument that Letts makes about society being the only reason for guilt also falls on its face when we consider this. What “society” told Adam and Eve to hide in the Garden of Eden? Which hardcore preacher or narrow-minded Bible-thumper told them that what they had done was wrong and they should try to cover up their problem?
Something within the world’s first couple made them feel guilty, because God had set eternity in their hearts. They had hurt that part of their being, and guilt was real.
But we live in a society that says that guilt should be not just ignored, but overcome. It’s a disease, we are told. Our society believes that whatever you want to do to express yourself individually should make you feel great about yourself. Letts is expressing that in her own way, but do you not find it interesting that she just keeps on insisting that she doesn’t feel any guilt? I just wonder why she didn’t just say that once and drop it.
Could it be that she feels guilty for not feeling guilty?
Moving on in Letts’s interviews, she turns to the reason why she decided to go through with this abortion. If you have not seen any of this material, get ready to be shocked. She claims that she had this abortion because she loved the baby. You heard that right: she aborted the child out of love for the child.
In a comment posted at Cosmopolitan, she said that she did not want to give birth to the baby and then allow someone else to adopt the child because if she ever gives birth to a baby, “I would need to be the main source of love and support for the child throughout its life.”
Now, we would agree that it would be great for her to be that main source of the love and support she speaks of there. But in her mind, since she could not keep the child, her answer was to kill the baby.
Now, as one who has adopted a child, this fires me up. But I’m going to try to set those emotions aside for a few moments and show how comments like this one completely speak to the absence of the Gospel in our society.
The New Testament regularly uses the picture of adoption to describe how God brings us into His family.
Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Romans 8:14-15: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”
Those are two of a number of passages we could use. What’s the point? God uses the picture of adoption because He does not just cut off His people. He brings them back from the world and brings them to Himself into His family.
How does Emily’s video and her comments distort that? She did not care for this baby! Adoption wasn’t even on her radar, because she claims it would not be loving the child. God, on the other hand, uses the picture of adoption to demonstrate His love. What we see here is a total absence of the picture of Gospel redemption in our society.
In her interviews, Letts also makes one statement that should have the proabortion crowd on edge. She has, on more than one occasion, stated that what she aborted was “a baby” or “the baby.” Wait. I thought this was just a mass of tissue with no identity of its own. After all, we are not supposed to think of this “thing” in terms of being a baby until birth, or (some are now saying) even later.
However, Letts even states that she has a special relationship with the sonogram of the baby, going so far as to say that, if her house burned down, that sonogram would be the first thing she would grab. She says, “I have a special relationship with my ultrasound. People say it sounds weird, it’s my process. I realize it was potential life, and I love it in my own special way. I’m not glib and cavalier. I’m comfortable with my decisions.”
Why would she care what’s on a slick piece of computer paper if what was represented on that piece of paper wasn’t special? In saying that this was a “baby,” Letts actually helps make the Biblical point for us. She is exactly right. What she had aborted was not just a mass of tissue. It was a baby.
When we are told that John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb, the physician Luke recorded as “the baby leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41). The word for “baby” is the Greek term brephos. Here, of course, it is used of John the Baptist while still in his mother, Elizabeth’s, body.
However, the same author—the physician Luke—used this word 3 other times in his account of the Gospel. Let me show you where they are.
- Luke 2:12: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby [brephos] wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
- Same chapter, Luke 2:16: “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby [brephos] lying in a manger.”
- Luke 18:15: “Now they were brining even infants [brephos] to Him [that is, Jesus] that He might touch them.
In those three verses, the same word, brephos, is used twice of Jesus in the manger and once of infants being brought to Jesus to be blessed. Why would Luke use THAT word to describe John in the womb? Why would a doctor say such a thing? Because this was a baby.
The application of that is simple. When Jesus was born, Herod tried to eradicate all the baby boys, and we are outraged when we read that. Anyone would be outraged if one of our world leaders said that all the baby boys up to two years of age were to be slaughtered. But Luke says there is no difference in the baby in the womb and out of the womb, at least as far as personhood is concerned. And our society sits idly by and watches as baby after baby after baby is killed.
God hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17) and calls it an “abomination.” Our society calls it a choice.
In other parts of her interviews, Emily Letts also tells us the root of where this comes from, and it here that I want to camp for a few moments.
In her video, Letts must—of course—admit that she is pregnant, but in her interviews, she states that the reason is just a bad set of choices. She works in a women’s health center, after all, and should have known better. But, and this will not surprise you, it’s not that she didn’t know this was possible because she was involved in sexual activity. It’s because she didn’t use birth control.
I have removed a couple of words from the following statement in her Cosmopolitan interview, out of respect for the pulpit, but listen to this paragraph:
I found out I was pregnant in November. I had been working at the clinic for about a year. It was my first pregnancy, and, full disclosure, I hadn’t been using any kind of birth control, which is crazy, I know. I’m a sex educator, and I love talking about birth control. Before this experience, hormonal birth control scared me because of complications I’d heard about from friends — gaining weight, depression, etc. So I tracked my … cycle, and I didn’t have any long-term partners. I thought I was OK. But, you know, things happen. I wound up pregnant.
Did you notice something there? Listen to this statement again: “I didn’t have any long-term partners.” What is she admitting to?
She is beginning to reveal more about herself and her morality than she may want. In her mind, the sexual relationship is to be explored, so long as it doesn’t burden you with long-term effects. Of course, in her mind, a baby is one of those long-term burdens that can come along.
Now, I don’t want to speak in a cruel manner in this sermon, but let me just say, that if you don’t realize pregnancy is a possible outcome from sexual relationships, you are not mature enough for sexual relationships.
But more than that, think of how far afield this worldview from Scripture. The sexual relationship was created by God and is something to be enjoyed. However, God has also stated that this enjoyment is reserved for those who are married. Not those preparing to get married. Not those who just want to have some fun. Not those who are trying to run from a bad marriage.
Listen to how clearly the Hebrews writer put this in just one verse. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed by undefiled, for God will judge the sexual immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). In one verse, the writer makes it clear that the sexual union of a husband and wife is a wonderful gift to be enjoyed and there is nothing dirty or unseemly about it. But, in that same verse, he also makes it clear that any other–every other–sexual relationship will fall under God’s judgment.
Why? Because any other sexual relationship is not the intention of God and is not what is best.
Listen: Emily Letts would have never made this video because she would have never thought about getting an abortion because she would have never gotten pregnant if she and some guy hadn’t decided that sex outside of marriage is acceptable and okay. It really is that simple.
But her selfishness (and his, but we do not know who the guy is and she isn’t wanting to reveal that in any interviews) started not in the video or the decision, but when she decided that she could have as many partners as she wanted.
And it is that selfishness that is what is at the heart of the controversy over abortion. At the end of her video, Letts gives a short follow-up statement. Listen to her words:
It is about a month and a half after the procedure. I feel like I talk to women all the time and of course everyone feels bad about this; everyone’s going to feel guilty. It’s a given how people should feel about this, that what they’re doing is wrong. I don’t feel like a bad person. I don’t feel sad. I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby. I can make a life. I knew that what I was going to do was right, ’cause it was right for me and no one else. I just want to share my story.
“I can make a baby?” I think she needed a guy to help out with that, don’t you?
“I can make a life?” No, Emily, you can’t. God is the Author of life.
In the words of one social commentator, her words basically state, “Emily giveth and Emily taketh away” (Albert Mohler). And why? Because it is her morality. She is the center of her own universe, and this was right for her and (in her words) “no one else.”
May I ask three questions?
Emily Letts has stated that this was a baby and she made a life. Question #1: Shouldn’t then that baby—that life—get to have a say as to whether this was right?
Emily Letts made a video, and has done public interviews to tell her story. Question #2: Shouldn’t she at least acknowledge that some woman a few years ago also has a story, and that story was to let Emily live?
Emily stated, “I don’t feel like a bad person.” Question #3: Would she be willing to state that someone who flew airplanes into buildings and didn’t feel bad about it was simply telling their story?
Before I close, let me state clearly: abortion is not the unpardonable sin. If you have had an abortion procedure, God can and will forgive if you will repent of that, just like He will forgive any of us of any sin we have committed.
But part of the fabric of a society is how it treats those who have little or no voice of their own: The elderly, those with mental difficulties, infants, and (yes) the unborn. In this area, America is failing, and it is because of nothing more than selfishness and our absolute abandonment of God-centered morality.
So, Emily Letts, you got to tell your story to 2.8million people (and growing). I may never reach that many, but may I tell my story?
She’s now 8 years old, and I call her “Precious.” She is our treasure; our God-given treasure. A woman I have only laid eyes on a couple of times gave birth to her, and I firmly believe loves her to this day. That love was shown, though, in that she also knew she could not take care of a baby the way a baby needs.
So God, in His infinite providence, saw to it that this one only seen on a sonogram, be born in Kentucky, but that a young family from Alabama, devastated by the news that we would never have children, raise her up and love her. She became ours through the glorious process of adoption. She is loved. She is family. She is ours.
We see the sonogram, but we love the child. She not only is a life, she has life. Every day, our home is filled with more energy and love, because she is there. Yes, it’s frustrating at times to be a parent, but we didn’t want to have kids so that every moment would be smooth (Amen!). We wanted children because we wanted to glorify God, who adopted us into His great family.
So, when I hear you say, “I feel super great about having an abortion,” I remember those days with a crying wife. I remember looking to the heavens and asking God “why us?” And your words make me sick.
Emily, one day you may actually hold a baby. As a Bible believer, I pray that you find a great husband and that the two of you have a home as God designed it. But every day, you will know that another chair could have been filled. Another snotty nose could have been wiped, but also another hug could have been given.
Will you feel guilty then?
Tonight, I’ll hug my adopted treasure a little tighter, and I’ll say yet another in a countless string of prayers of thanksgiving for her. Emily, I pray that one day, you get to do the same, and I pray that this platform you’ve now built on something that makes me sick is used to help raise awareness that this was a mistake, and that you’ve found the love, grace, and forgiveness of God at the foot of the cross. Only then will you—or any of us—be able to see your baby in true life.
“Emily’s Abortion Video” http://vimeo.com/84797427
“Q&A: Actress Emily Letts on the Reaction to Her Abortion Video” [Philadelphia Magazine] http://www.phillymag.com/news/2014/05/07/emily-letts-abortion-video-philly-actress-cosmopolitan/
“Why I Filmed My Abortion” [Cosmopolitan] http://www.cosmopolitan.com/advice/health/why-i-filmed-my-abortion
“’I Feel Super Great About Having an Abortion’—The Culture of Death Goes Viral” [AlbertMohler.com] http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/05/08/i-feel-super-great-about-having-an-abortion-the-culture-of-death-goes-viral/
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