How you can pray for churches in Illinois

Abortion, autonomy, and the power of the gospel

June 17, 2019

Pray for the work of the Church in Illinois. The state of the Church is not strong, as recent high-profile pastoral failures indicate. And the state in which they are trying to minister is not any better off.

Businesses and people are increasingly moving away, causing many ministry leaders to brace for a potentially calamitous Illinois exodus. Four out of Illinois’ previous nine elected governors have gone to prison for corruption.

The new governor, J.B. Pritzker, has just delivered on all of his major campaign promises within less than five months of being sworn into office. His ambitious legislative agenda, however, included the legalization of recreational marijuana use and sports betting, along with a massive expansion of other forms of gambling. The long-term effects of these changes remain to be seen, although their economic and moral benefit is dubious at best.

The Reproductive Health Act

What is most alarming is the signing into law of a sweeping abortion bill called the Reproductive Health Act (RHA). This legislation repeals the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, which contained certain restrictions such as waiting periods and spousal consent, as well as the Illinois Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act from 1998. The new measure, described by advocates and opponents alike as the most “progressive” in the nation, states unequivocally that “a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have independent rights” while asserting a woman’s “fundamental right” to an abortion.

In addition, the new Illinois statute requires private health insurance companies to cover abortions. The language succeeds at locating abortion entirely in the realm of women’s healthcare. 

What stands out from reading the text of the bill is the number of times autonomy is mentioned and uncritically appealed to as the highest value. For example, RHA states: “Every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion, and to make autonomous decisions about how to exercise that right.” Personal autonomy runs amok when it is unwilling to be limited by the interests of others or the community at large. And it is this radical commitment to my own personal, private desires that is at the core of the Christian conception of sin and that continues to unravel societies, as on display here.

The constant reports of shootings in Chicago and the cold-blooded celebration of abortion are of a similar species. In Illinois it truly feels like “the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence” (Ps. 74:20). These trends cannot be ignored because if it plays in Peoria, then it’s coming to a theater near you soon (if it hasn’t already).

Yet Christians must not despair or retreat. Ours is not the first age to have rulers who “frame injustice by statute” (Ps. 94:20). And the gospel still has the power to transform people who are foolishly set on autonomy at all costs into selfless lovers of the less fortunate other. For the gospel tells of One who did not take life to protect his own, but laid his life down to give life to those who killed him.

Pray for churches in Illinois to be renewed by this gospel and live out of it in the midst of its mission field.