Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Charity is so loosely defined in our society that it is possible to be fully engaged in it with our time, talents, and money without becoming charitable ourselves."
--Professor Kortright Davis, Howard University School of Divinity

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pro-Life Pharmacists and the Morning After Pill

by Eric Walters

In August 2006, the FDA approved the sale of Plan B, the “morning after” pill at pharmacies across the country. Plan B hormone pills can be sold to women over the age of 18 without prescription as an emergency contraceptive to prevent pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

This week the Cincinnati Post reported that 23 year-old Tashina Byrd complained to the Ohio governor’s office because Wal-Mart workers refused to sell her the contraceptive. According to the article, Brent Beams, the pharmacist, assumed the status of “conscientious objector” and denied Byrd's request for the contraceptive pills because he believes "in preserving life, and I do not believe in ending life, and life begins at conception.” Wal-Mart is currently investigating the incident.

Major pharmacy chains such as CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens carry Plan B in all their stores and have pledged to ensure that customers can buy it at each store even if a certain employee declines to sell the pill because of moral objections. CVS officials say that a pharmacist who refuses to sell Plan B must arrange for another employee to sell it, and the pharmacist must ensure that the customer "is served promptly and treated with respect." (

Some state legislatures are considering laws that would grant pharmacists the right to refuse to dispense drugs related to contraception or abortion. Still others consider laws that require pharmacies to fill any legal prescription for birth control, … which requires pharmacies that stock the morning-after pill to dispense it without delay. (New York Times, April 2005)
What can be an appropriate Christian response or action when religious liberties and civil liberties seem to conflict?

Should pro-life pharmacists impose their ethics or morality upon customers?

Does “conscientious objection” also apply to the sale of condoms, other forms of contraception, or any other product that may conflict with an employee’s moral convictions?

Eric Walters is Co-Founder of TheoSyst Group.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

The Execution of Saddam Hussein: Evangelical Eyes Wide Shut

by Eric Walters

Ever since the execution of Saddam Hussein, a hush—a strange, eerie, silence—has overtaken many evangelical Christian online publications, commentaries, and weblogs. Very few, if any, have mentioned the episode. I previously wrote about how America’s failure to capture Osama Bin Laden gave President George W. Bush and neoconservative evangelicals license to fashion Saddam Hussein as the scapegoat for American angst after September 11, 2001. Won’t bother with that again.

This loud silence intrigues me. Perhaps many of the evangelicals who supported and promoted the unjust Iraqi war now sit silently in the dark, in dim shadows because, if they bear any conscience, they might be ashamed of their “Christian” arrogance that helped to fuel the destruction of an entire country that used to be called Iraq.

Perhaps the silence is because watching or imagining a dead body dangle from a noose is gruesome. Let’s face it, hanging just isn’t a “kindler, gentler” form of killing people. And besides, hanging for execution and entertainment purposes has been out of style in America for quite a few decades. We prefer techno-stuff like smart bombs, precision targeted missiles, and lethal injection; it’s so much more nouveau chic, with limited collateral damage to our psyche. Or at least we think so.

For many, Saddam’s hanging was just a bit too close to home. Neoconservative evangelical ideologs who promoted this war in the spirit of nationalism and patriotism must now wrestle with the emptiness and shame that comes from scapegoating Hussein. For their part, President Bush, Dick Cheney, and Tony Blair are predictably silent because the death of Hussein was not the political watershed or catharsis that they expected. If there is verifiable concept of a just war, the Iraqi war does not qualify. Invasion didn’t marshal the virtues of democracy, but instead, revealed man’s inhumanity to man.

[American military casualties, 25,000; almost 3,000 U.S. soldiers are dead; over 650,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. Do the math; calculate the cost.]

Ironically, Hussein got the last word on bloodthirsty neoconservative evangelicals, and on many of us who remain complacent about the criminal nature of this unjust war. The death of Hussein demonstrates to all of us that scapegoating only leads to more death and destruction.

Was Saddam an evil tyrant and dictator? You bet. Was he guilty of crimes against humanity? You bet. Do I believe that God will judge him for that inhumanity? You bet.

But new, and more probing questions must now be asked. Are there tyrants and dictators in America? You bet. Do those tyrants and dictators masquerade as Christians? You bet. Are they guilty of crimes against humanity? You bet. Will God judge the guilty for their inhumanity? You bet.

Eric Walters is Co-Founder of TheoSyst Group.

Miracles and the Sovereignty of God: Who’s In Charge?

by Carolus Taylor

Recently a Christian lady shared with me about a personal struggle that she was going through. Then, she asked me an interesting question: “When do I stop believing God for a miracle?” I told her that I thought a more appropriate and accurate question might be, “When do I start believing God for a miracle?”

The cultural propensity to “name it, claim it” and “just tell God to bless us with whatever we want”, is to claim a miracle from God when God has not spoken. The advocates of this shortsightedness tend to employ Mark 11: 22-24 (“...whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”v. 24b, NIV) as a scriptural carte blanche for what we interpret as our personal miracle. Thus, I can speak my miracle into existence! I said it with my mouth, I believe it in my heart then I must receive it!

But instead of us trying to make God do something for us in response to our every whim and whimper, perhaps the more accurate way that we should think about miracles is to start believing God for a miracle when God says God is going to perform a miracle. Is there any place in the Bible where the God of the universe relinquishes ultimate sovereignty to us? Does faith give us the right to give directives to the omnipotent, omniscient God?

It seems to me that faith—however feeble or strong, should lead us to completely trust in God. We trust whatever God wants to do, whenever God wants to do it, and however God chooses to do it. This means that in sickness and in health, we trust God; in good times and in bad times, we trust God. When the storm is raging or when the sea of life is calm, we put our trust in God. But the patience of our suffering teaches us that we are ill-prepared to determine our own destiny, and that God is sovereign.

In this light, God’s sovereignty means that there are no experiences in life of which God is not aware. Nothing happens to us that surprises God. God is in control, and must have a plan and purpose for God’s will in our lives. The wisdom of faith does not always focus on what God delivers us from, but on how God’s sovereignty keeps and sustains us in the midst of hard times (and good times). Thus, it is foolish to claim a miracle when God has not spoken. We can only with surety, claim what God says God is going to do.

Rather than teaching people to claim miracles or proclaim miracles, clergy must first and foremost encourage parishioners to accept and live under the sovereignty of God. This is not to suggest we should not believe God to do miracles; indeed, God is a miracle worker. What I am suggesting is that we learn to believe God, and to understand scripture within its context. The miracle is in the hand of God.

Several years ago, I visited a ten year old girl who was hospitalized with hepatitis. I spent a Friday evening at the hospital with her family, and throughout the weekend we fervently prayed, and anointed the child with oil. Some family members even spoke in tongues as they prayed for the child’s healing. I went to the church, laid before the altar, cried, and called out every Bible verse I knew about healing. On Sunday night, the child died. I was crushed, angry, and disappointed with God. I asked, “God—how is it when we really believe you are going to do something, you don’t do it?”

Then I remembered that it was not a matter of faith or believing; it was the sovereign will of God that ultimately reigned supreme.

Carolus Taylor is the Senior Pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church in Columbia, Missouri.