Reflections on the Passage, Veto and Override Veto of HB1037-The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
This week has been an interesting week regarding our Arkansas Legislature, as the House of Representative voted to override Governor Mike Beebe’s veto of HB1037-The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Thursday the bill is anticipated to head to the Arkansas Senate for a vote.
Just to provide you some transparency, I am pro-life. I believe on moral, natural and theological grounds that life begins at conception. Yet I don’t stop there. I am coming to believe in order to be consistently pro-life one has to carry this through the entire life of an individual created in the image of God. Now where I am thinking hard is how this plays out in capital punishment and war. The former because I believe our judicial system is in need of desperate reform and the latter because I have led Soldiers in war and it’s not a game. With that said, here are some reflections on HB1037.
God mediates his rule through our elected leaders
In the New Testament, Paul writes to Christians in the first century who lives under the shadow of the Roman Empire. With Caesar and his procurators, Christians maintained a tenuous relationship as they declared that a Galilean carpenter who died under the hand of Pontius Pilate was kurios or Lord. This was tenuous because there was one declared Lord in Rome and his name was Nero.
In Paul’s letter titled Romans, Paul instructs the believers that they are to be “subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). Our elected officials do not exist solely on desire and personal ambition. They exist primarily because our higher authority-God-placed them in their executive, legislative and judicial positions. Furthermore, we see that not only are they subject to God but we are subject to these elected officials as a response to our subjection to God.
God mediates his rule through these elected leaders by using them to be our servants for our good and to carry “out wrath on wrongdoers.” Yes that is right. Elected officials exist for the good of all citizens and this must include our unborn citizens as well. But what has happened and the reason for a bill such as HB1037 is that elected officials have determined to visit wrath on its most defenseless of citizens-the unborn.
What would discussions in caucuses, committees and on the chamber floors look like if elected officials began here? I would encourage elected officials to begin with a solemn reminder to themselves that their power does not emanate from themselves but power is bestowed upon them for a season by an authority greater than themselves, those they serve and our state constitution.
Our attentiveness to the use of power by elected officials
Power is available to everyone. We have the power to influence our personal lives and those close to us. Elected officials have a greater degree of power as they influence not only their immediate constituents but our entire state. These men and women are placed into their position by God through means of voting to wield power for the good of the citizens of our state.
Yes they were sworn into office but the ability to use this degree of power-to legislate and enact laws- does not legitimize them as being servants for the good of its citizens. I put forward that one’s legitimacy as a servant for the good of people; including the unborn, does not rest on the votes that put them in office but on the votes the elected official casts in office.
The final vote that is cast confirms the position of our servant representatives. This is why bills must be discussed theologically, economically, socially, and constitutionally. Bills discussed in such a manner provide readers and hearers a greater degree of information to determine if an elected official is seeking the good of people. Therefore, we must be attentive to our elected officials as bills are put forward and the votes are cast to determine if our servants are using power appropriately to bless those doing good and punish those who seek to do evil. Their votes reveal much about themselves and our response to their votes will reveal much about us.
HB1037 reveals much about our elected officials and us
This evening, two things of note standout today for me regarding HB1037; one is integrity and the other is forgiveness. HB1037 passed the house with bipartisan support on February 21, 2012 with 80 votes. Then for whatever reason the bill was voted on to override the Governor’s veto with only 53 votes. I bring up integrity first because why would an elected official vote to send the bill to be signed into law the first time and then vote against it? What higher law is there than the protection of life? Such a shift in voting reveals either indecisiveness or worse.
This leads to my second note that we as Christians must remind ourselves of. The presence of the people of God in our state is the presence of forgiveness. We carry in ourselves the name of the precious God who washes us daily in the grace of forgiveness because of Christ. Forgiveness is in our daily bible readings, songs, liturgies and prayers. Forgiveness was accomplished because God loved his people in such a manner to not allow us to get away with evil and reveal that he takes evil seriously. Forgiveness stands in between these two extremes. Just as God shamed evil, reconciled with us and led us to not be defined by evil; our forgiveness must follow the same pattern.
We must forgive those elected officials who used their divinely bestowed power in such manner that their integrity is now in question. Forgiveness requires us first to shame the evil of abortion but also a lack of integrity. Secondly, forgiveness leads us to reconciliation. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Forgiveness is driven by the love of God that seeks to take one who is our ideological and political enemy into our friend. Finally forgiveness leads two new friends no longer to be defined by an evil but by the powerful reality that evil can be overcome and produce lasting fruit.
Therefore, seek to forgive those elected officials who lacked the integrity to stand for the good of its unborn citizens. Pray for all men and women in such positions in our state because God desires all types of people to be saved and come into the knowledge of him.