“Baby Joy!”: The Irony Betrayed by People Magazine’s Latest Cover

Did you see the recent cover of People Magazine? I did. Just in case you missed it, I attached it below.

Did you notice anything interesting about the wording regarding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s current pregnancy? I sure did. A former professor of mine, Reverend Dr. Peter Scaer, noticed it. In fact, he posted a snapshot of the cover on Facebook along with a short bit of insightful commentary. I was right in the middle of doing the exact same thing when I saw his post show up in my feed, so I shared it.

But simply sharing his post didn’t satiate the need to finish sorting through my own observations in a more meaningful way for all of you. There are a few layers of irony to peel away from the image and its tagline, and as Christians, these layers are important to us.

The first has to do with the fact that People Magazine is a journal that not only observes and reports on the latest happenings in our culture, but it seeks to help set the pace for our trends. In the midst of this, more often than not, People Magazine is found toeing the pro-abortion (or pro-choice as some choose to call it) line. It walks the pro-abortion walk and talks the pro-abortion talk. It has offered more than its fair share of articles defending a woman’s right to choose whether or not to end her child’s life in the womb. And several of the authors behind these types of articles have taken this view to some pretty terrifying extremes, such as protecting a woman’s right to abort right up to the moment before delivery—which is, in my opinion, nothing short of strict infanticide. It is to entertain an idiocy that approximates the value of a child based on his or her physical location. In other words, if the child is inside the womb, it’s a medical procedure. Only when the child is outside of the womb could it be considered murder.

Again, the absurdity of this turns my stomach.

In the meantime, true to this irony and by way of one example, People Magazine did an article back in July of 2018 on comedienne Michelle Wolf who had a show on Netflix called “The Break with Michelle Wolf.” Thankfully, it has already been cancelled, because, well, it was terrible. But over the course of its ten episodes, no one could argue that Wolf’s pro-abortion throttle was wide open, especially when it came to bashing pro-life people. She made every effort to communicate that anyone who is “anti-abortion,” is by default anti-women, and a threat to America.

In that same article designed to build Wolf a stage, People Magazine quoted her as saying, “Access to abortion is good and important. Some people say abortion is ‘killing a baby.’ It’s not. It’s stopping a baby from happening. It’s like ‘Back to the Future’ and abortion is the DeLorean. Everyone loves DeLoreans.”

There’s a strange sprinkling of irony in this, too. Wolf is portraying herself by way of her humor, first, as having a philosophical care for women’s health, and second, as being an astute humorist who understands a deeper logic behind this care. But it doesn’t take too much intellectual prowess to know that when you keep a sperm cell from fertilizing an egg cell, babies don’t happen. But there’s a really good chance that a baby will happen if these two cells meet. Additionally, Wolf’s time-travelling analogy, while familiar to most pop culture movie-goers, is so incredibly detached from logic that it truly falls flat. It almost seems like an incredible waste of time to examine it. And yet, we need to examine it because far too many are sitting on the sidelines in our meme-munching society, and these folks appear to be more than accepting of digital one-liners as argument-winning mic drops. We need to take a minute and sort through the facts that aborting a child is in no way like a time-travelling DeLorean in the sense that it is equal to one going backward in time to a moment before someone’s life existed and doing what is necessary to avoid the triggering of that person’s life. It sounds interesting, but it remains science fiction. Abortion isn’t that sterile. Abortion is to continue forward on the same timeline to a point where another life has begun, and as these two lives travel together beside one another on the same timeline, the stronger one extinguishes the weaker one. Wolf’s attempt at humor doesn’t change the fact that a human being existed and was then deliberately snuffed out by another human being.

Her perspective is mushy at best, and at its least, it is a flowery attempt at wit designed to make murder more palatable.

But back to the magazine cover.

Another level of irony I take from the cover image has to do with the swapping of the term “fetus” for “baby.” The cover announces “Baby Joy!” noting that Meghan is three months pregnant. Pro-abortion warriors are usually very careful not to call a fetus at this stage a baby. One of my own family members by marriage is militantly pro-abortion and an example of this dogma. He refused to call his unborn daughter anything but “fetus” until she was actually born. This is important because while the child is considered a fetus, he or she remains an abstract part of a bodily process or condition governed by a certain set of rules and can be dealt with as the sentient host body sees fit. But once the child is identified as a baby—another sentient human being—a different set of rules takes over. These rules announce life and negate the previous set of rules.

People Magazine refers to Meghan’s child as a baby, but based on the magazine’s usual legislative bend, Meghan is carrying a fetus—an optional condition—because she is three months pregnant and still well within the abortion window in most states. I say “most” because right now, a majority of states have laws that close the window for abortion somewhere between 22 and 24 weeks. And yet, because of the efforts of very powerful pro-choice activists—some of whom have written for People Magazine—these limits are less restrictive in other states. Currently, there are at least three states that allow abortion up until 28 weeks, and there are a total of seven states—Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont—that do not limit the procedure by gestational stage at all. (By the way, current science has established that an unborn child is fully pain-sensitive no later than 20 weeks. Some scientists claim it could be as early as 15.)

All of this means that right now, even though Prince Harry and Meghan are excited for the pregnancy, there’s still time for them to change their minds. They can still abort the child. Speaking from an American perspective, if the U.K. suddenly outlawed all abortions, Meghan would only need to travel to a state in the U.S. that allows the procedure during her particular gestational stage.

And I suppose that’s leads us to the final irony that People Magazine has effortlessly betrayed by this cover.

The cover shows us that abortion isn’t really about women’s healthcare. It’s about a radicalized individualism that takes what it wants and gets rid of what it doesn’t. In America, it’s only “Baby Joy!” if we want it. It’s a fetus—an invasive parasite or an intruding glob of cells—if we don’t. A baby can be murdered. A fetus is optional, nothing more than something to be discharged during a medical procedure if we so choose.

Now, I suppose this is an appropriate time to mention something.

Yes, there is forgiveness beyond the shadowland of such a regrettable decision. God mends the penitent hearts of those who’ve done this. This is the Good News. But how about we remind ourselves of the fruits of faith that same Good News produces by the power of the Holy Spirit? Let’s be God’s forgiven people. Let’s be those whom God has recreated by His Gospel to actually care enough to stop folks from arriving at the doorstep of such a tragedy. Let’s be those who know the objective truth of right from wrong, those who hear and believe and are moved by God’s Word to defend the unborn, to defend the helpless. As someone standing right beside you in the trench, I humbly urge you to do what you can to be a shield for those who cannot shield themselves. Stand up and take a step forward to help form the resistance to this ungodliness! In fact, if you feel that the only “stepping up” that you can do is to vote for pro-life candidates in elections, then by all means, do it! You’ll certainly have your chance on November 6. Elections, like so many other means in life, are avenues for the Church to flex the muscle of Law and Gospel and to live and serve and actually be the church in the world around us.

I’m Halfway Through My Life

I’m supposing that most of you are just like me and you get somewhat existential sometimes, almost feeling as though you’re hovering outside of your own body and contemplating certain things at certain times in life.

Okay, so maybe that’s an over-the-top description.

What I mean is that I turned 46 this past Friday, and while I suppose that’s no big deal, Jen and I somehow found ourselves talking about how I’m most likely more than halfway through my life.

Halfway. Just saying that out loud made us both a little tense.

The uneasy feeling came because, even though statistically speaking what we’d said may be true, the truth is that we are both well aware that neither of us knows the day or the hour. I doubt anyone at Our Savior expected to hear the news back in August of 2007 that our then 46-year-old pastor, William Thompson, had suddenly and unexpectedly died. I remember when Pastor Pies called me to tell me the news. It was as if my phone wasn’t working, as though the words coming through the wires had suddenly become scrambled and the phone needed to be shaken before replying, “Say that again, because what you just said didn’t make sense.”

Jen and I both agreed that we’re not afraid to die. The nervousness comes when we consider each other’s sadness, and the sadness of the kids. For anyone who has ever lost a loved one, the sadness of Death is formidable. My brother Michael died back in July of 1995, but even so, the memories are still very vivid. I was there at his bedside when it arrived. I remember feeling as though the world had suddenly lost all of its oxygen. It was hard to breathe. And when I eventually found myself outside of that hospital room, it was as if the wind had stopped blowing and the days were already starting to fade from one to the next with hardly a memory of the sun rising or setting. For the longest time it felt like one long and never-ending day of aimless wandering.

None of us wants to experience such things. But we do. The wages for Sin is Death, plain and simple. One of the paychecks that comprises those wages is sadness.

But that verse doesn’t end so starkly. Paul adds, “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). I think it’s great that anytime the Paul touches on the subject of Death, he almost always reminds us that we have a conqueror of the ghastly specter in Jesus. In fact, in the very next chapter, Paul does what I did this past weekend with Jennifer. He betrays a bit of nervousness when he considers the reality of his own binding to Death in his flesh. But he’s quick to recall Christ as his deliverer.

“Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25).

Still, there’s the sadness. And Jesus knows it’s real. He reveals the blast radius of Death’s sadness-inducing power in His own self while standing at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. He wept there. He wept because Death was not in the schematics for His world, and yet it wormed its way in through the tempter, Satan, and found a resilient foothold in the lives of every last man, woman, and child. But again, we do not see the Lord weeping without having first heard the promise of the conquering of Death and the gift of eternal life through faith in Him. He gave this very promise to Martha in the middle of her petrifying sadness. “I am the resurrection and the life,” He said to her. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” But then before the Lord makes His way to the tomb to call Lazarus out, He asks Martha, “Do you believe this?”

In the midst of that conversation with Jennifer a few nights ago, by the power of the Holy Spirit streaming through His Gospel alive within us, He asked us both this question. Martha’s answer was, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who has come into the world.” In not so many words, that was our answer, too.

I pray that in those moments where you may be contemplating these heavier things—whether in the midst of a family crisis, struggling with your own health, or anything else that might bring to mind the reality of Death—I want to be there (for as long as the Lord allows me) to remind you of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for you. Death is always a moment of sadness. Nobody’s fooling anyone by saying it isn’t. But it is as anything conquered—in complete submission to its master. Christ has conquered Death. He has it on a chain that does not reach into your eternity. It’s trapped in this life, not the next. Take comfort in this.

And I suppose in the meantime, share this Gospel message with the ones who will be there at your funeral. Be sure they know that you believe it. Be sure they know that you have peace in this truth. Be sure that they know that you want that same peace for them. It’s not up to you to convert or convince their hearts, but you’ll know that same powerful Gospel that moves you to faith will have been planted in the ones you want within arm’s reach in the glories of heaven. In the face of inevitable Death, that can and does bring peace in this life, too.

Close Quarters

Last week was a busy one because of our “The Body of Christ and the Pubic Square” conference. With a lot of us working in close quarters with so many people on so many things, a good number of us are tired, both physically and mentally.

Just thinking about everything that goes into the conference, I get tired. Just typing those words, I’m reminded of something else.

My daughter, Madeline, has been compiling a list of favorite songs on her phone. In fact, every Wednesday night as we drive home from midweek catechesis together, at some point along the way, she’ll announce how many hours of music she has gathered. Our first Wednesday evening of traveling together, she told me she has a playlist that’s about ten hours long. Just last Wednesday I learned she’s closing in on hour eleven.

“Why are you doing this, again?” I asked the first time she shared it.

“Because if we drive to Florida, I need at least eighteen hours of listening music.”

“Oh, okay.”

As a result of the initial conversation, while driving home together on Wednesdays, I’ll help with her list. I play songs from a thumb drive connected to my car stereo and I make recommendations. Most of the time she knows the songs because we listen to music a lot in our house. But if she doesn’t, and she likes it, she’ll make a note to add it. Last week we added “Land Down Under” by Men and Work, “The Rubberband Man” by Spinners, “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, and a few other rock songs from folks like ACDC and Billy Squire.

The reason I mention all of this is because what Madeline doesn’t realize is that she’ll probably never get to use that playlist because I have no intention of ever driving to Florida. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love all four of my kids, but speaking only for myself, I don’t think my family of six would make it to Florida alive if we had to be in such close quarters for so long. Again, don’t get me wrong. There’s an over-abundance of love among us. But even as that love is there, my kids are most certainly individuals who need their own spaces, so when it comes to mixing with certain siblings, it can get ugly in a hurry. What I’m saying is that six people—no matter how much they love each other—in a relatively cramped Ford Explorer (that probably wouldn’t make it all the way to Florida, anyway) for eighteen hours has the potential for becoming something more akin to putting a wolverine, a badger, an opossum, a muskrat, a puma, and a timber wolf into a giant wet sleeping bag and swinging it around. (And yes, I thought about each one of those animals before I listed them, but I won’t tell you who’s who. Well, maybe I will tell you two of them. I’m the timber wolf and Jen is the puma.)

So how does this meet up with where I began?

Well, I suppose that in the end, even after the ruckus, all of these animals are a part of the animal kingdom and do still live in the same forest. There are wolves and pumas and muskrats and badgers all wandering in and among the same trees and streams.

That’s us as a congregation. We’re part of the same kingdom.

There are so many in our midst with so many attributes and gifts that God Himself has designed and graciously given. Used according to His calculations, they are a blessing to so many, and they often result in bringing to life something like our “The Body of Christ and the Public Square” conference. But because we’re human beings tainted by sin, there’s the chance of being in close quarters in any effort and growing exhausted with one another. When this happens, we discover ourselves capable of marking territories and guarding our dens.

I suppose at this point, the rules of the animal analogy start to break down, and here’s why. Unlike animals, it is by no means acceptable to eat our own. Saying this, I want you to know that I see all of you as members of my Christian family. And I’m glad that so many of you see everyone else that same way, because this means that even if you may find yourself spending eighteen hours in a car with one of your highly particularized brothers or sisters in Christ—or working for ten weeks on the details of a conference—you’ll emerge at the end of the excursion in a relationship that remains built on familial love. God gives that love. And that love isn’t so easily discarded. As I said, animals find it quite natural to eat their own. As a Christian family, that is to be far from us. And I believe it is. This side of a very exhausting event, I can see it, and I’m glad for it.

Far Better Than a Children’s Sermon

A few years ago, during the hymn at the retiring procession, my daughter Evelyn began pushing her way past her siblings in order to join her dad in the doorway at the back of the nave to sing. It wasn’t long before Madeline and Harrison began joining her. Over time, other little ones saw this happening and began to join in, too. Of course, the first time it happened, Evelyn’s facial expressions betrayed she wasn’t too pleased. She wanted it to be an alone-time moment with her dad. But now it happens pretty much every Sunday, and not necessarily with any of my own children. And by the way, Evelyn is perfectly fine with it, too, even as some Sundays there will only be two or three children joining, and other Sundays as many as nine or ten.

No matter how many gather there in the back, I love it.

Some congregations do children sermons. I won’t comment on that particular practice, except to say that there are some pretty good reasons I’ve never subscribed to it. (By the way, to give you a sense of my feelings for all things trendy in worship, take a look at this portion of the paper I gave at our recent “The Body of Christ and the Public Square” conference this past week.) Obviously, I do subscribe to what I’ve described happening in the back of the nave at the end of every service. It’s a unique moment at the outer edge of the congregation’s worship (that is, the benediction has occurred, the actual Divine Service is over, and we’re preparing to go out into the world as God’s forgiven people), and in that moment I’m able to kneel beside the littlest of God’s lambs and give them a little extra attention as their pastor. We sing together. I show them the hymn stanzas. Sometimes I explain what certain words mean. I most certainly show my excitement for their presence in worship. We make the sign of the cross and pray together, giving thanks to the Lord for the day.

I guess I’m sharing this with you because if your child suddenly tugs on your shirt sleeve and asks to join his or her pastor in the back the nave at the end of the service, you may just want to let them. It is by no means a bother to me, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It is the perfect, most appropriate time and way in a worship service for something like this to occur, and I’m glad to be able to do it.

These Things Teach the Christian Faith

I pray all is well and that as the shades of fall are in full swing, you are enjoying the explosions of color across the Michigan landscape. I’m not necessarily a fan of the cold weather that’s on the very near horizon, but I am a devoted observer of the autumn landscape. There are times when the back roads of Michigan are more than breathtaking, and for that, I’m thankful. And for some reason, it always takes me back to my childhood, the days when my brother, sister, and I would bury one another below piles of leaves from a particular tree in our neighbor’s yard. Those were unforgettable moments.

There are other, equally unforgettable moments that are almost always ready and waiting at the edge of my memory’s landscape. And most often the key to their freedom is a familiar song. I think that’s one thing I like about the series of “Guardian of the Galaxy” movies. Part of their charm is that the main character, Peter Quill, has an assortment of music that his mother gave to him as a kid before she died. It’s a collection of favorites from a bygone time. When those songs are playing in the various movies, they are far too familiar to me, too—songs like “Surrender” by Cheap Trick, “Cherry Bomb” by the Runaways, “Brandy” by Looking Glass, Sweet’s “Fox on the Run,” and a good number of others. The one that resonated the most for me was at the beginning of the second film. The Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” No matter what was on the screen at the time, it almost immediately reminded me of trips to Arkansas with my family to stay at my Papa and Granny’s house on the lake in Cherokee Village. I distinctly remember Jeff Lynne’s voice being one of the last pieces of the north we brought with us before only being able to tune into the car radio the sounds of folks like Charlie Daniels, Hank Williams, Jr., and Elvin Bishop—which by the way, I still love listening to today, as well.

Those days are still with me. The music is a big part of what keeps them cemented in the little compartments of my mind. The funny thing is, I don’t remember really liking the songs all that much back then. But now, I can’t get enough of them.

I suppose that while I’m saying this, a portion of the discussion we had in the adult Bible study yesterday comes to mind. I spoke at the beginning about the particulars of Lutheran worship and how important it is that we retain who and what we are as we so often find ourselves facing off with a culture trying to strip away our Christian identity and heritage. This stripping away can include seeing the liturgy as less than a blessing, as something boring and uneventful, rather than designed to set us before a loving God who desires to feed and care for us with His loving gifts. It can comprise a lack of embracing the church’s hymnody as precious, as something that becomes a part of us in ways that eventually allow for us not only to know favorite hymn stanzas, but to know the very hymn numbers, too. I suppose I would add to this that from a child’s perspective, just as the songs I mentioned above carry me back to good places in my life, the liturgy and hymnody have the potential for doing the same in a most important way.

But we have to be in the liturgy with regularity for this particular aspect to be true. I learned and remember all those songs because I heard them over and over again time after time. They are now so ingrained in my fiber that I can literally describe the various landscapes of my childhood by the end of the very first verse of each. The same goes for our lives in liturgy and hymnody. They connect us, and believe it or not, they find a way of working into and staying with us. In fact, just ask your kids to sing a part of the liturgy or to sing a portion of their favorite hymn. Even if they don’t necessarily show a glowing love for either, if they are immersed in it, they’ll do it with ease. If not, they’ll struggle. And either way it goes, it will be a valuable lesson for you as to the importance of the liturgy and hymnody of the church. These things teach the Christian faith. They put the Word of God right into the hearts and minds of parishioners in ways that are hard to forget. And when the kids hear them years from now, they’ll remember those days in the pews beside mom, dad, brother, and sister. And while they may not have necessarily liked it all that much then, they’ll most likely have a fondness of heart toward it, will have a lasting sense of the importance, and will want the same for their own little ones.

A Fish on the Side of the Road

As many of you who are familiar with social media may already know, every now and then Facebook will show you something you posted years ago in order for you to share it again with a comment. They call this “memory posting.” When it comes to the posts they suggest to me, sometimes I appreciate the virtual recollection, and sometimes I don’t. For example, one post popped up a few days ago from five or six years ago, and as I read it, it felt a little existential, like I was reading something from someone who’d suffered a concussion and was struggling to spell correctly. I’ve always been a pretty good speller, so the only thing I can say is that perhaps I typed it as fast I could (on my phone, of course) without actually going back to read what I’d written before pressing the “Share” button. Certainly this was no big deal, but still, in response to this particular memory, rather than sharing it, I deleted it. I didn’t want to see it ever again.

That’s the way it is with our bad memories. We wish they’d go away.

Not all that long ago a memory popped up that I didn’t want to forget. I don’t remember the particular destination to which Evelyn and I were traveling, but I remember that it happened as we turned onto the south bound exit to US-23 from White Lake Road. It went something like this:

Evelyn: “Daddy…”
Me: “Yes, honey?”
Evelyn: “I saw a fish wayin’ in da gwass.”
Me: “Why on earth would there be a fish laying in the grass?”
Evelyn: “I dunno. But he’s got big pwobwems.”

I think that one thing I like about this particular post is that it not only recorded a moment in time when Evelyn was much smaller and a bit cuddlier, but it was a time in her life well before she ever became burdened with Type 1 diabetes. In that moment, she was just riding along in the car seat with little more to care about than what she thought was a fish out of water on the side of the road with “big pwobwems.” She certainly wasn’t faced with a never ending regimen of injections or the terrible nighttime specter of the possibility of going to sleep and never waking up.

But do you see what just happened here? It was a subtle and almost effortless shift. A good memory was infiltrated by a bad one, and in a way, it proved the breadth of Sin’s reach. This is an important thing for us to consider. I suppose that in one sense, it means Paul was right when he said so emphatically in Galatians 3:22 that “the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin…” When he wrote this, he wanted the reader to be clear that the Word of God understands that nothing of this world is free from Sin’s sinister grip, and so it must unequivocally declare with divine power that everything this world has to offer is in its very nature infected by Sin and shackled to it as an unstoppably hostile force. Everything in this world is destined for undoneness.

But notice that Paul didn’t end verse 22 at the word “sin.” He kept going, adding, “so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”

These words are of great import to me, both as the father of a Type 1 diabetic and as a sinful human being. They mean that the things I’ve done that I want to forget—particular sins, memories, or whatever—they’ve already been snatched away from me and pinned to Christ on the cross. I no longer own them. He does. But these words also mean that even while we’ll never escape the overarching effects of Sin in this life—the fact that even the things we may consider good are tinged by Sin—the gripping nature of a Gospel promise heralding our rescue through the person and work of Jesus Christ is given to those who believe. Yes, you read that correctly—the nature of the Gospel becomes our nature by faith.

So, what is the nature of the Gospel? It is nothing less than the baptismal fearlessness that emerges from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That becomes our own. We die with Him in His death. Death is no longer the end-all consequence for the believer. We are buried with Him in His burial. The capstone seal of our own gravestone is nothing more than a moment of rest for our mortal flesh while our soul awaits the resurrection of all flesh.

Yes, the resurrection. We are raised with Jesus in His resurrection. Our fallibly ill bodies are sowed perishable and raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:42). No more sickness. No more struggle. No more Sin. No more bad memories born of Sin. No more good memories vulnerable to streaks of Sin’s sadness. All that the Lord has accomplished is accounted to us and we are made new. All things are made new.

I like this. And why is that? Well, for the same reason I prefer write the word Sin with a capital “S” and the word Death with a capital “D.” These words deserve capital letters because they stand to represent the most formidable and destructive powers in this world. And yet these powers didn’t stand a chance against Jesus. His sacrifice—a sacrifice that defeated them both—is the greatest thing this world has ever seen.

This is the Gospel, and it’s ours to claim by the power of the Holy Spirit in faith.

I pray this Good News will lift and sustain you this week as you inevitably make what you would consider to be both good and bad memories, all the while remembering that there is a hope that reaches to us here in this life and it extends far beyond this world’s boundaries to the world to come where we will live with the Lord forever.