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Survival of the despised

America at its best follows the philosophy of Emma Lazarus over that of Margaret Sanger

Survival of the despised

WORLD cover baby Harang Cho (Seong Joon Cho/Genesis)

In the new novel Lila by Marilynne Robinson, the protagonist is reading chapter 16 of Ezekiel, which describes the birth of an unwanted baby: “On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.”

That passage continues with a declaration of God’s mercy: “When I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field. … I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.”

Survival of the despised, not survival of the fittest. That’s a theme throughout the Bible. In Robinson’s novel, the Ezekiel passage reminds Lila of her own story, of how a woman named Doll rescued her and took her in: “She mothered her as if she were a child someone could want.” Lila was about to die, because it seemed that no one wanted her—but Doll did.

Who would want a child with disabilities? The National Council for Adoption points out that many do, and our lead story profiles the growing number of special needs ministries at churches. Who would take care of a child placed by a panicked mom in a church’s “baby box”? Our second story reports that Texas enacted the first U.S. safe-haven law in 1999, and now all 50 states have one, as does Korea.

Perhaps because of its Christian heritage, the United States has been—not always, but often—a haven for the despised.  No other country has a welcome like the Statue of Liberty offers: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus wrote those words in 1883 as New Yorkers were raising money to construct the pedestal for the statue. Her poem, “The New Colossus,” arose in reaction to Jewish immigrants fleeing from anti-Semitic violence in Russia and arriving in America destitute but willing to work hard: The welcome mat was out. Others in future decades would react differently. Margaret Sanger, founder of what became Planned Parenthood, preferred to kill off what she called in 1919 “the growing stream of the unfit.”

Those two women reacted to the tired, poor, huddled masses in diametrically opposed ways. Today we are seeing a parallel divide. Some who had abortions or promoted the practice are repentant. Others adamantly defend what they did or espoused. Our third article shows how some articulate Americans who favored abortion rights in a theoretical way now proclaim that the bloody practice of abortion is right: They have moved from pro-choice to pro-abortion. Our fourth article shows how Taiwan now has more abortions than births, not by government decree but by individual choice. The consequences are severe, not only for babies but for an entire society.

We report on how Christian ministries are learning to invite the disabled into the church, and are providing safe havens for abandoned babies. We also look back to the 1930s and show how in that decade pro-abortionists planted the seeds that grew into the noxious plants of the 1970s. And we report on new pro-life state-level laws.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism. Marvin resides with his wife, Susan, in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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  • Buddy's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:09 pm

    Save the babies Yes, Yes, Yes, but who is addressing the cause of abortion? Over 80% of babies aborted in the U.S. are to unwed women. The New Testament speaks against fornication many times because God loves us enough to call some things sin. Sin damages or destroys relationships. Margaret Sanger promoted s-e-x-u-a-l freedom for women which abortion is a part of. So why is the Church with its many denominations not addressing abortion at its cause? Fornication with its abortions is the elephant in the Church house that is being ignored.

  • Minivan Man's picture
    Minivan Man
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:09 pm

    Those words written by Emma Lazarus about welcoming the unwanted are very touching.   Those immigrants were not wanted elsewhere, but these people had worth in her eyes.  They could not force their way in, they had to be intentionally accepted.  What an opportunity to begin to show people the gospel by welcoming them and loving them!Friends, there is an issue that keeps popping up, but rarely discussed and that issue is birth control.  Margaret Sanger was the Founder of Planned Parenthood, the greatest promoter and provider of abortion in the USA.  She was also the greatest advocate for birth control in her day.  There is a clear and obvious link between abortion and birth control and Margaret Sanger understood this.  She was no dummy.  Her rhetoric was consistent, logical and very effective.  The church would do well to read up on her ideas and study the concepts.  Unlike Margaret Sanger, I am convinced that God Almighty has revealed to his people that children are a blessing.  He has created marriage for procreation, along with secondary benefits.  He is the creator of life and desires marriage to yield godly children.  The church understood this over the first 1900 years.  Has anyone read what Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley thought of birth control?  Please don't dismiss this so quickly and say to yourself, "I prayed about it and we felt God said 'no more children'".  Read the scriptures, research church history, consider Margaret Sanger, and consider to yourself, "What if I'm wrong?".What would your family look like if you fully trusted God to give children on his timeframe?