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FIRST-PERSON: Slavery, abortion & the numbing of a nation

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--My relatives have told me that the Rainer family was a slave-owning family going into the Civil War. I have no reason to doubt that sobering reality, though I have not verified it myself. I do know that I am among several generations of Rainers who grew up in south Alabama, just 45 miles south of Montgomery, the capital of the Confederacy.


I have little doubt that my heritage includes that awful marker of slavery.


I have trouble understanding how one set of people could see any rightness in the owning of another group of people. I recently saw a dramatic reenactment of a slave auction. African American men, women and children were examined like they were animals. The white men looked into the mouths of the slaves. They felt the muscles of the men and examined the breasts of the women.

One of the most dramatic moments in the portrayal takes place when a mother is auctioned into slavery along with her young son and daughter. But the auction takes a tragic turn when three separate owners purchase the three family members. The mother is torn apart from her children as she screams in piercing agony.

How could they do it?


Today, more than 3,000 unborn children will die in the United States. By the end of 2011, more than 1.2 million unborn lives will have been taken legally in a 12-month period. Despite the abundance of medical and scientific evidence that shows the humanity of unborn children, their lives will be deemed inconvenient. So they will be murdered.

How can they do it? How can a nation founded upon the principles of the worth of all people be so numb that we allow slavery for decades and kill unborn children to this day?


In these two great blights in our nation, a common pattern emerges. First, one group in power decides its needs are greater than the rights of others. The powerful thus dominate the powerless. In the 19th century it was the white slave owner dominating the black slave. In the next two centuries, it has been those who are born dominating the helpless unborn.


The rationale for the domination of a group of people is the needs of the dominant. For slave owners, it was economic need. For those who participate in abortions, it is a need for convenience. In order to justify this domination, the helpless are given new labels to dehumanize them. They are thus called slaves or the "n-word." Or they are called tissue or fetuses. They must be identified as something less than human or the actions cannot be justified.

Finally, the dehumanization of a people becomes a right of another group. The right to hold men, women and children in the bondage of slavery is called owners' rights and states' rights. The right to kill the unborn is called reproductive rights.


The sheer quantity of acts of slavery made the despicable act common in one century. The millions of abortions to date engender that same commonality in the next two centuries. And the commonplace nature of slavery and abortion numbs the nation into silence.

Until a few courageous people speak up. Until the powerful repent of their heinous sins against the powerless.

Until the numbing silence is transcended by brokenness and courage. Two months ago I held my newly born grandson in my arms. We were told he was not viable outside the womb. The medical assessment was correct. He lived only 60 minutes after his birth.

But both in his mother's womb and outside of it, he was fully human. His name is William Thomas Rainer. His name is not "fetus." His name is not "tissue." Though he lived only an hour outside the womb, he was fully human. His name is Will.


In an earlier century, we Americans deemed that a person's skin color determined his or her worth and humanity. Today, we deem that a person in the womb has less value and humanity than one outside the womb.

Courageous men and women in the 19th century took a stand against slavery. For many, that act of conviction cost them their lives.

We have some men and women of similar courage today. We need more to take a stand against the killing of the unborn.

Silence is not an option.

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. This column first appeared at his blog,

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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