In a few months, we who live in Florida will be treated once more to that wondrous part of coastal living we call turtle nesting season. Beach lighting will dim so as not to confuse hatchling turtles trying to make their way to the Gulf. Signs will appear reminding folks not to interfere with sea turtles, their nests, their eggs, or their young offspring. Florida law is pretty strict with a threat of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine plus $100 for each turtle egg destroyed or taken.
That law, however, pales in comparison to the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973, which threatens violators with a civil penalty up to $25,000 and a criminal penalty up to $100,000 and one year in prison. Good. We are commanded by our Creator to be stewards of his creation and that means going to great lengths to protect these vulnerable creatures from harm because they matter and because we care. For the turtles, it is a matter of life and death.
I bring this up because Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has this week become front page news and the topic of every talk show on radio and television. It seems someone rooting around in an old 1984 yearbook from the governor’s days in medical school discovered a photo in which he appears either dressed in a KKK costume or made up in blackface. No one seems to be sure which one of the two individuals in the picture he is or if he is in the picture at all. No matter. The country went ballistic. The governor has issued a long and thoughtful apology for actions that had their impetus most likely in a booze-filled party 35 years ago. That is not enough for a lot of folks, even in his own political party, who are publicly demanding his resignation.
Clearly what the governor did at that long-past gathering was thoughtless and offensive in the extreme, but his apology included a promise that he is no longer the man in that picture. Is there any reason not to believe him? Besides, who among us would survive untouched and unembarrassed by a meticulous examination of our past?
What I have found troubling in the midst of all this is not from Gov. Northam’s distant past, but from his comments less than a week ago in support of a bill sponsored by Virginia House Delegate Kathy Tran that would allow a pregnancy to be terminated virtually until the moment of birth. This is what the Governor said explaining what the bill would mean, “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” Translation, in case you cannot quite process something so horrible: The born-alive baby is made comfortable while the mother and doctor decide whether or not to dispose of him or her.
Aside from a few comments made largely by pro-life individuals and a passing reference in most news outlets, the country yawned. The bill failed to pass, but Gov. Northam, a pediatrician by training, has stood by his statement. It wasn’t until the photograph of the med-school party appeared that righteous indignation raised its head and he became newsworthy.
As a nation, we need to push pause, step back and do some serious soul-searching. What does it say about us when we are more agitated by boorish behavior than by taking the life of a baby, or when sea-turtle eggs are more precious in our sight than children in the womb? We have aborted in the United States more than 60 million pre-born human beings since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Let that number sink in. Isn’t it past time for us to come to our senses? Shouldn’t we go to great lengths to protect these vulnerable babies from harm because they matter and because we care? For our children, it is a matter of life and death.
Three-thousand years ago Israel’s King David was inspired by God to write words that might help us in our reflections,
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16)
The Rev. Mike Hesse, former senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church, is now retired and living in Destin.