…a monumental happening has occurred in our country – one that touches upon both kingdoms.
One of the consequences of the Incarnation, of the Word taking flesh and dwelling among us, is that God rules intimately and bodily within two realms: 1) the heavenly kingdom, that is primarily of the Gospel, and 2) the worldly kingdom, that is primarily of the Law. And at this point in the life of the world, though the devil has been defeated at the cross, we are still contending with sin, Satan, and our fallen flesh.
Hence the messiness of the coming of the Incarnate God and of a church that remains in the world, but is not of the world.
Today, the Church calls to mind the nativity of St. John the Baptist, who was born six months before our Incarnate Lord: an incarnate prophet of the Most High who is the Incarnate Son. St. John leaped in the womb in the presence of the Almighty God, who was also a tiny fetal human being, safely ensconced within the virgin’s womb.
The devil soon would work through the State to attempt to snuff out the life of the Incarnate God, and in the process, would slaughter innocent children in the name of the government, a government threatened by the King of kings and Lord of lords – even as a child.
Some thirty years later, St. John would baptize His incarnate, divine cousin, inaugurating His public ministry in the world. And our Lord would preach that we are to let the little children come to Him, for the kingdom belongs to such as these.
In the present age, the world has a different Caesar, a world hegemon that still calls itself a Republic. Forty-nine years ago, the oligarchs of this Empire, in the midst of the Pax Americana, compelled the states to allow a new slaughter of the innocents – regardless of the will of the voters of the states. The states were treated like imperial provinces, whose obedience to the Capital City has been deemed absolute and enforced by legions. And so states that would have adopted and enforced laws to protect the lives of these “little ones,” as Jesus calls them, were helpless to do so. And in the near half-century to this point, more than sixty million souls have been offered up as a sacrifice to a pantheon of various gods: Convenience, Mammon, Malice, Sex, the Popular Culture, Feminism – all, of course, subordinates and surrogates of the devil.
But on this day, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist in the Year of our Lord 2022, the prayers of Christians and the pleas of unbelievers – whose commitment to the dignity of the human person is also etched on their hearts – are rejoicing together. The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision has been set aside by Caesar’s court.
Of course, it is important to keep this decision in perspective. It does not end the Holocaust. But it will allow the people of the states that hold human life sacred the ability to legislate according to their political wills, in accordance with the federalism of the Old Republic.
And in spite of the bitter vituperations (and the very real possibility of violence against Christians) of those enraged by this decision, it was not a “religious decision.” It was not an encroachment of Church upon the State, nor an admixture of the Two Kingdoms.
This was not a religious decision, but rather a constitutional issue. Again, it doesn’t outlaw abortion (which is what a religious decision would have done), rather it restores proper constitutional federalism, and reverts the matter to individual states – where it has always belonged according to the Constitution.
There is no authority delegated by the Constitution to make the definition of murder and the enforcement of various degrees of manslaughter a federal matter. And indeed, different states already treat different situations regarding the taking of a life – including the unborn – differently. What is a justifiable homicide in one state might be third degree murder in another. What is a capital offense in one state might result in probation in another. The death of an unborn baby in the commission of a crime is treated in one way by one state, and in another by another.
That federalism was short-circuited by the Roe decision in 1973
Roe was judicial and federal overreach, and the current court has corrected it. It has nothing to do with religion.
That said, in our incarnational world, the two kingdoms do touch upon one another, even as the Christian is also a Citizen, and even as the Christian ethical assertion of the value of each individual human person as a creature of God, endowed by his Creator with the gift of life – a gift that is inalienable and predates government – the value of every human person, regardless of any and all characteristics, is taken as a given. And this is confessed not only by Christians, but also by all those who value human life and human dignity.
For nine months, St. John the Baptist was himself what the jurists call a “fetus.” Three months before his birth, He encountered the Incarnate Lord. Neither of them were a “blob of cells.” Both of them were endowed by their respective humanities and the dignity that goes along with it. And on the day that we commemorate today, he emerged from the womb by God’s will, and became visible in the full humanity that was his since his own extraordinary conception. Six months from today, we will remember his Cousin’s birth – calling to mind His Incarnation that did not begin on Christmas, but rather at His extraordinary conception at the Annunciation. And this is indeed why we bend the knee or bow at the creedal confession: “Et homo factus est.”
And with the conception, birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again of our Incarnate Lord, all human beings have dignity, worth, and value. “For God so loved the world, the kosmos.” And a polis committed to justice will protect all lives from conception to natural death. We are certainly not there – as once again, we are in a Union that includes states that have a different ethical standard than the law written on men’s hearts. And even as it is true that we are now a country composed both of Life and Death states, we would do well to remember the important division as observed by Solzhenitsyn:
The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.
We continue to appeal to our Redeemer for forgiveness of our own sins, We continue to thank God for the coming of John, for the coming of our Lord, for the gift of all life, for the great event of this day – even as we continue to pray for those whose lives are at risk, for those who have taken, and will take, lives, for those who legislate and adjudicate, for those who have defended and will continue to defend the most vulnerable incarnate human souls in our midst, and we thank and praise God for our Incarnate Lord’s return, for which we yearn, when the messiness of this world will give way to eternity, when death and division will be no more.
Reprinted with the author’s permission.