A Memorial to Zephyr, Song by Beverly Rush; and Where Do Aborted Children Go?
John C. Rankin
[excerpted from First the Gospel, Then Politics …, 1999, Vol. 2, not published]
Pro-life advocates seek justice for the unborn. When so many are aborted, not being given their right to life, the theological assumption is often expressed in pro-life circles that aborted children automatically go to heaven. For women who have aborted their children, only later to regret it, they derive comfort from the hope that their children are safe in God’s presence – as David derived comfort that he would be reunited with his dead child (2 Samuel 12:23).
Many women who feel no choice but abortion as they go through it, still know the full humanity of their unborn children, and pray for their unborn that they will be received by God. In Japan, women in large numbers dedicate memorials to their aborted children, in a Shinto custom that recognizes the humanity of the unborn even in the face of killing them – a grasp at atonement. The Japanese women want to know that it will be well for their aborted children, as well as for their own consciences.
In 1984, Beverly Rush (former wife of folk singer Tom Rush) wrote a song for her aborted child, “A Memorial to Zephyr” (© 1988, Beverly Rush). The abortion had happened ten years earlier, one year before she came to faith in Christ.
This song was entered into the Congressional Record, Wednesday, March 12, 1986, Vol. 132, No. 29: Proceedings and Debates of the 99th Congress, Second Session.
A MEMORIAL TO ZEPHYR
Mr. HUMPHREY [Rep. Gordon Humphrey, R-NH]. Mr. President, recently, a constituent of mine, the wife of popular singer Tom Rush, sent me a copy of a song she wrote and performed. The song is a touching, sensitive perspective on the profound effect abortion has on all those involved — not only the unborn child, here named Zephyr, but also the mother. I encourage all my colleagues to read the words of this song and consider precisely what has been done to million and a half women each year who suffer the physical, emotional and spiritual pain of legalized abortion. I ask that the lyric sheet for the song be printed in the RECORD.
The material follows:
A MEMORIAL TO ZEPHYR
(Words and Music by Beverly Rush)
“Zephyr, you’re the gentle wind, the silent breeze in my life. Zephyr, though a gentle wind, you brought a storm in my life.
“When you blew into my life, my body felt so strange. If I could change one thing in this world, it’s the day I brought you pain.
“Zephyr, you’re the gentle wind, the silent breeze in my life. Zephyr, though a silent sigh, you’re the deepest cry of my life.
“When I sought the grace of God, he took away my shame. Though the years have passed, it’s not ‘til today, that you’ve ever had a name.
“Zephyr, you’re the gentle wind, the silent breeze in my life. Zephyr, you’re the gentle breeze, the first fruit in my life.
“Now there is hope for mothers and fathers, who drink this mournful cup. Know that every child who has been forsaken, the Lord will take him up.
“And love him, and hold him, and keep your treasure safe. And when you are ready, in your heart he’ll find a place.
“Zephyr, you’re the gentle wind, the silent breeze in our lives. Zephyr, though a silent breeze, you have sung your song in our hearts,
“You have sung your song in our hearts.”
This song is a beautiful memorial, as redemption from the ugly sin of human abortion is sought and received. In it, Beverly refers explicitly to Psalm 27:10:
“Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.”
It is a hope of eternal life for the aborted child, rooted in Yahweh’s redemptive nature as the Father to the fatherless, and as we have noted, the aborted child is the quintessential fatherless child.
But just as the Sadducees used theological nit-picking to try and silence Jesus, so too advocates of abortion have sought to silence such a pro-life witness as this. They have asked, in various forums I have addressed on university campuses: “If indeed the aborted unborn automatically go to heaven, then what is so bad about it? Is it not better, in view of eternal life, to abort them now and guarantee their salvation, than to give birth with the possibility that they will grow up and become unrepentant sinners who eventually go to hell?”
Oftentimes, the context of this question is in the face of the “quality of life” issue. It is argued that in certain situations, the prospect for a child born out of wedlock, crack-addicted to a teenager in the inner-city or in similar straits, is so poor, that a “merciful” and early death is better than a life filled with pain, where the odds are so heavily against him. (This is exactly what the Greek term euthanasia means – a “good death,” i.e., no difference ethically between human abortion at the beginning of someone’s life, and euthanasia in the latter years of someone’s life.) Interestingly, the first time I encountered this question was in a pro-life seminar I was teaching, where I posed it of a person arguing an automatic entrance into heaven for the aborted children. When I posed it, no one could answer it, because it has a perverse logic they had not thought through before. Why not kill the unborn quickly so they will attain heaven and not risk hell?
Among those who have actually asked me this question, they have appealed to certain biblical passages as well. For example, Jeremiah curses the day of his birth (20:14-18) [whereas Job was steadfast in not doing so, cf. 2:9-10], and Jesus said of Judas that it would have been better if he had never been born, than to betray him (Matthew 26:24). And in both cases, we understand the use of hyperbole, just as in the language about plucking out the eye or cutting off the hand (cf. Matthew 5:27-30; 18:7-9). So here people twist Scripture to their own destruction, using it for false ends just as the devil quoted the Bible out of context in the wilderness temptation of Jesus (cf. Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). The Lord then set the record straight by quoting the Bible in context, and the context is always informed by the foundation of only Genesis in the order of creation.
The ethics and power of informed choice provides the answer to the question about the destiny of aborted children. Jesus was free to use hyperbole in reference to Judas, for he also referred to the reality that Judas would fulfill what the Scriptures prophesied about the betrayer of the Messiah. A betrayer would have to arise, but in so doing, it would be a man who fully chose to do so. The balance between sovereignty and choice is in place.
The power of informed choice also observes how no people are ever judged apart from deeds they chose to do. In the case of the aborted, they never had the opportunity to choose, and this is also true of children who die in infancy. The question then arises, at what age does “moral accountability” take hold? We know that young children can choose to act sinfully, but we also know that their knowledge of sin and righteousness is incomplete. They are truly immature. We gain a perspective on this question when Isaiah prophesied to king Ahaz, ca. 735 B.C.
“Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.’
“But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.’
“Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject wrong and choose the right. But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid to waste. The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah – he will bring the king of Assyria’ ” (7:10-17).
Ahaz was pondering a political alliance for short-term survival of the nation, and Isaiah was seeking to have him choose a wiser course. The alliance Ahaz was thinking about would have hurt the nation worse. So Yahweh spoke to Ahaz, to strengthen his weak faith by promising him a sign. Ahaz demurred, having a self-serving and wrong definition of what it means to “test the Lord.” Thus Isaiah brought Yahweh’s word with a promised sign. “The virgin” likely referred to a woman betrothed to Isaiah. A son would be born to Isaiah and his wife, and by the time the boy was old enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, deliverance would come to the nation (a time of peace unlike Judah had experienced since the breakaway of Ephraim two centuries prior).
This is the passage that also foreshadows the virgin birth of the Messiah, who is also called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (and as quoted by Matthew in 1:23). The word for “virgin” is the same as for “young woman.” A “young woman” in ancient Israel was an unmarried girl still living in her father’s household, chaste and preparing for marriage. The virgin betrothed to Isaiah, and her son later to be born, were chosen by Yahweh as a sign for Ahaz to mark the timetable of deliverance. Jesus fulfills the role of Deliverer completely in the longer sense of this prophecy, born to a virgin as impregnated by the Holy Spirit, as the gospels of Matthew and Luke make explicit.
The son of Isaiah, by the age he could choose the right and reject the wrong, would be eating curds and honey instead of normal agricultural products – indicating a stressful time for the nation. And that age is historically understood to be twelve or thirteen among the Jews, or about the age of Bar Mitzvah for Jewish boys. Isaiah was giving to Ahaz a specific timetable he could rely on, where he could count from the time of the boy’s birth another twelve or thirteen years and then know deliverance was at hand. Times would grow worse until then, but “hang in there” says the Lord, deliverance will come. In Luke’s gospel, the only time we see a profile of Jesus between his birth and his baptism, is at age twelve, when he is sitting at the feet of the teachers of the law in the temple, and asking questions that impressed everyone there with his wisdom.
Thus the Bible seems to be saying that the power to reject the wrong comes about the time of, or just prior to puberty. And this is a redemptive statement. Sin is in the world, and the reversal of the reversal involves not only the embrace of the right (for little children do that from the beginning as they are loved by their parents), but it involves experience with and then rejection of the wrong. The kingdom of heaven is populated by those who become as little children – the reversal of the reversal, by those who in the face of the pretense and pride of sin, choose childlikeness as an act of spiritual maturity.
The ethics and power of informed choice represented by twelve or thirteen years of age is ethically similar in nature to the 40-year generation period in the Exodus that gave Israel the time necessary to reject the faithlessness of the prior generation, and trust in the goodness of God. It is also similar to my eschatological belief that Christ will not return until a final generation of history has a full opportunity to hear the preaching of the word (cf. Matthew 24:34), witness the goodness of God in action, and to thus have a final opportunity reject evil and choose the good.
This the unborn cannot do, as their premature deaths deny them such an opportunity. Heaven is a community of choice, as we have detailed with reference to the ethics and power of informed choice in Chapter Four, and thus God’s justice in the power to give requires the informed choice response to accept his gift of eternal life. An automatic heavenly citizenship for the unborn, or for infants and children who die tragically, would short circuit the biblical consistency of the power of informed choice, as it would “force” heaven on them. It would not be much different than giving eternal life to those who have refused to accept it in their adult choices. Unsurprisingly, since the abortion-rights movement rejects the ethics and power of informed choice in their ethos of coercive abortion, they can also come up with a perverse rationale to justify abortion, in the name of automatic eternal life. Death in the name of life, the forbidden fruit, the reversal.
Now, while saying no to an automatic entrance into heaven, we also need to remind ourselves that childlikeness is the nature of gaining entrance. There is much mystery here, especially since we cannot plumb the hearts and minds of an unborn child, nor gain access to the Lord’s eternal perspective. Only in Yahweh and his Messiah is there full justice and mercy.
As well, when abortion-rights advocates use the “quality of life” argument, they ignore the power of the reversal of the reversal which acknowledges that the full quality of life is not possible in this temporal age. And thus the need for a Savior. We do all we can in the name of Jesus to serve the quality of human life, and that is why acts of charity, mercy, justice and hospitality are central to the Christian social identity, along with prayers for healing. But we cannot flee the suffering that comes with moth tamuth. Rather, in the face of it, we endure as did Job, because we know that our Redeemer lives and will stand upon the earth (19:25). We have an eternal citizenship that transcends our earthly citizenship. We do not idolize human life with unnecessary efforts to extend it against otherwise unavoidable death, nor do we participate in euthanasia or physician assisted suicide because of suffering. Many times it is suffering that humbles people into admitting their need for the Savior. We trust God in all matters because we know that he is good, and the resurrection is coming.
Since full justice will not happen in this life, and since full justice operates in concert with the ethics and power of informed choice, the most consistent understanding for the future of the aborted children is not that they automatically go to heaven, but they are in some real sense given the opportunity to mature to a point when they can choose between right and wrong, between trust and distrust in God. They are given the same ethical choice as were Adam and Eve, and as the tree of life is restored in the new earth for “the healing of the nations,” the aborted will have an opportunity to choose whether or not to accept that healing. In all matters, God’s goodness is that he loves us enough not to force his love upon us, and that applies to the unborn (which we all once were) as well. The power of informed choice undergirding religious liberty is our principal concern for a basis of giving witness to the Good News, and for lobbying to protect the unborn.
[As well, and finally here on the edge of interpretive questions, and as I examine in depth in Chapter Three of The Six Pillars of Biblical Power and Chapter Four of Genesis and the Power of True Assumptions (see johnrankinbooks.com), hell is an oxymoronic and small community of those who hate mercy for themselves and others — the opposite of childlikeness.]