Actor Kevin Sorbo recently made a powerful rally cry on behalf of the pro-life community in an op-ed for CNS News co-written with his wife, Sam.
While many Hollywood A-listers are known for their liberal pro-abortion agendas, Sorbo takes quite the opposite stance on the sanctity of human life.
“We dress it up with ‘my body, my choice,’” says Sorbo, “but it is still a life inside of a woman’s womb, and that life is still extinguished by the brutal procedure of abortion.
In an effort to expose that lie that so many women cling to when deciding to abort, he begins by telling the story of his friends “Mike” and “Kate”:
“Years ago, a friend – we’ll call him ‘Mike’ – received a phone call from an old girlfriend – we’ll call her ‘Kate’ – who asked him to accompany her to the abortion clinic. She was in a bad way, fearing the worst from the life that was growing inside her womb. She was single, and otherwise responsible, but somehow her birth control had failed her. Now she found herself with child. She had a job, friends, a whole life ahead of her to think about, and a baby being thrust into that mix was inconceivable to her.”
Totally terrified and seeing her future crumble before her very eyes, Kate did the only thing she thought sensible at the time: schedule an abortion.Become A Contributor
However, as the day of the appointment drew nearer, Kate became more and more frightened of the surgical procedure that would end the life inside her.
Hoping to get the support of a friend who wouldn’t judge her decision, Kate reached out to Mike and pleaded with him to come to the abortion clinic and hold her hand.
“How could Mike refuse?” wrote Sorbo. “The culture instructed him that he was just a man, with absolutely no say in decisions of which lives are worthy, and which might be discarded like yesterday’s pasta dinner, especially because he wasn’t the father. But even the father is effectively and tragically cut out of the conversation, typically because ‘my body, my choice’ is the lie our culture has purchased.”
But Mike’s response was not what Kate expected. After taking a deep breath, he asked, “Can we talk? I mean, honestly talk, for a moment?”
Feeling lost and alone, Kate readily agreed to hear out what Mike had to say.
But after anticipating a simple line or two of guidance and encouragement from her friend, Kate was totally taken aback when she heard what was really on Mike’s heart:
“This child inside your womb is the greatest love story of your life, Kate,” he said. “Killing it will not solve your problem; it will create an even bigger one. I understand you feel a great burden. Bringing a life into the world can be just that, but in removing that life from your body, you will be destroying an opportunity to know love like you have never imagined. So, I beg you not to do this thing. Change your point of view, instead, and see this as the greatest of love stories, one that will be yours for the rest of your life.”
Mike’s words weighed heavily on Kate as she processed his plea through a stream of tears and agreed to think about it.
And praise God she did… because it was exactly that message from Mike that saved her baby boy, who is now “grown, married and a father to Kate’s grandchildren,” says Sorbo.
After detailing Mike and Kate’s powerful story, Sorbo continued to drive home his point that “nothing good can come from a lie”—specifically the lie that says ‘It’s my body; I can do what I want with it.’
“Secular humanists have made the word abortion sound like a woman’s right, synonymous with health care, female empowerment, standing for women’s issues, a choice, a solution; anything but the truth,” writes Sorbo. “The truth is, however, abortion is the termination of life. It is just a euphemism for murder because the only reason to get an abortion is to avoid the potential of birth – a human birth.”
The Hercules actor further elaborated on the hypocrisy of our nation’s stance on abortion by pointing out the extreme laws protecting animals’ lives:
“In some cases, disturbing the nest of a sea turtle and stealing its eggs is a crime punishable by years in prison and tremendous fines, but we have an entire industry in this nation devoted to the murder of unborn human beings. This is the new civil rights cause for our country.”
And Sorbo doesn’t stop calling out the double standard there…
“Barely a century after our grave and costly war against slavery, against depriving some human beings of their dignity and based solely on their skin color, we codified into law the right of the citizen to kill her progeny, based solely on its size and location, while unwittingly depriving herself of love that is pure and enduring.”
“This is the definition of evil, pure and simple,”he writes in closing.
In a culture that continues to normalize the murder of unborn babies, I’m thankful for men like Kevin Sorbo who use their celebrity platform to speak out for those who do not yet have a voice…in hopes that one day, they will.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum – The crossing of the road by the chicken is a direct fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, as discussed in the rabbinic tractate Darkei Ha’Of (העוף דרכי) and in my book “Chickenology: The Missing Link in Systematic Gastronomy”. The chicken is on the way to gather her chicks under her wings and present them as offerings in the millennial temple. We read in Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killed the prophets, and stoned them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.” Only when the millennial temple has been built can the chicken and her chicks be offered again as sacrifices, and the chicken crosses the road to present herself as offering.
Baruch Maoz – The chicken’s crossing is a useful and interesting illustration of the relationship between predestination and freewill in the sovereign purposes of God. The chicken exercises its freewill, previously bound in sin, to cross the road. But when by faith it reaches the other side, it realizes that it had no choice to do otherwise, being specially chosen and elect before the foundation of the world to cross that particular road at that particular time. To ask “why?” is to fail to appreciate the mysteries of divine providence and election, but is all we mere mortals are capable of.
Bob Dylan – How many roads must a chicken cross Before he knows he’s a bird?
Daniel Juster – We are seeing the restoration of chickenhood as one of the apostolic ministries of the Body of Messiah. This is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, according to a historic premillennial interpretation. Despite the chicken’s enemies opposing its return to and settlement in the other side of the road, the prophetic program for the chicken in exile is its return both physically and spiritually to its ancestral home.
Darryl Bock – Like the recent choice between two equally problematic presidential candidates, the chicken faces a real dilemma, whichever side of the road he chooses. The choice he has before him is no real option. It is like choosing between facing a tornado rolling through his chicken coop or a hurricane. Both will do real damage in different ways. The chicken should be prepared for that, to face it with grace not an eye for an eye. The chicken must show its values are distinct from the way others behave. The chicken is called to be different.
David Brickner – The chicken exists to make the “road less crossed” an unavoidable issue for all chickens everywhere. There’s no other way to get to the other side except through the cross of the road.
David Rudolph – My passion as a professor and rabbi is to encourage chickens by introducing them to scholarship and other resources that help them along in their walk across the road. According to a recent Flew survey, 34% of chickens say crossing the road is compatible with being a chicken. Whilst most chickens cross the road on the thirteenth of Adar, chickens in rural areas observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day for crossing the road.
Lisa Loden – The two sides of the road are locked in long-term, intractable and violent conflict. The chicken must step beyond the confines of its own side, cross the road and learn the other side’s narrative. Only then can the chicken build a bridging narrative across the road in a way that includes justice, peace and reconciliation for all chickens , whichever side of the road they inhabit.
Mark Kinzer – The chicken is permitted under the dietary standards proposed by the Messianic Jewish Ornithological Institute, but has to be suitably ‘crossed over’ by a certified rabbinic authority. We follow the Conservative guidelines on cross-over chickens, and see this crossing not as a replacement of one side of the road by the other, as both sides of the road as necessary for a bi-lateral chicken community.
Melissa Moskowitz – The chicken tastes much better when it has crossed the road – here is my Yiddish Mama’s recipe for chicken schnitzel.
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved and beaten flat (four pieces) ½ cup flour 2 beaten eggs ½ cup Panko crumbs Pinch cayenne powder ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley Salt, pepper to taste Oil for frying 1 whole lemon cut into four wedges.
Put flour in a shallow bowl, and put eggs in shallow bowl and beat. Mix bread crumbs and spices in a third bowl. Dip chicken in flour, shake off extra. Dip in eggs and then in crumbs and spices. Heat oil in large heavy skillet over medium heat. Fry chicken on both sides for 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Serve with lemon wedges for garnish. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Monique Brumbach – Each of us has many roads to cross, and this one particular crossing for this particular bird marks a historic moment for the Union of Messianic Jewish Chickens as it breaks the egg and a new breed of chicken crosses over to the side of the road it has not been permitted access to previously.
Do you remember when it was considered shameful to be a porn star? When porn and mainstream entertainment didn’t mix? Do you remember when being a prostitute was considered disgraceful? Do you recall the days before TV shows like Showtime’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl and HBO’s Cathouse?
There was a time in our culture when we knew how to blush. When we had a sense of propriety. When Hollywood operated under a strict moral code. When secret things were kept secret.
Those days are as distant as TV shows like Lassie. We have forgotten how to blush.
But before anyone misreads me, my purpose here is not to condemn porn-star Stormy Daniels or former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom had alleged adulterous affairs Donald Trump. Nor is my purpose to condemn Trump or, before him, Bill Clinton.
My purpose is to encourage us to look inward at ourselves, at our larger culture, at what has become of America as a whole. Almost nothing shames or shocks today.
These are the days of middle-schoolers sexting each other.
These are the days of wall-to-wall, day-and-night porn.
These are the days when releasing a sex-tape is the path to stardom and when a mother of two posing naked is the way to «break the internet.»
These are the days when 60 Minutes gets its best ratings in years by airing a salacious interview about a porn-star and the president.
These are the days when we have forgotten how to blush.
When Hugh Hefner died last year, I discovered something interesting about the first edition of Playboy in 1953: Hefner’s name was nowhere to be found in the publication. He wanted to hedge his bet, and in the event that the magazine crashed and burned, he would not be blacklisted. In other words, in case America wasn’t ready for a mainstream publication featuring nudity, then his name would not be associated with such a shameful endeavor.
As it turns out, female, celebrity nudity became Hefner’s calling card and claim to fame. And he was lionized as a hero upon his death.
But even back in 1953, the seeds of the sexual revolution were being sown, dating back another 5 years to 1948, when Alfred Kinsey’s infamous The Sexual Behavior of the Human Male was published with much fanfare. This made Kinsey into a household name, with almost no one asking how he obtained data about the sexual responses of children and infants. (This, in and of itself, is one of the most shameful episodes of the 20th century America.)
Still, despite the mainstreaming of Kinsey and then Hefner, the culture as a whole was not immediately affected.
Virginity was still prized (especially among women). Couples did not commonly live together out of wedlock, let alone have children out of wedlock. Illegitimacy was still frowned on. And mainstream movies and TV still featured wholesome examples.
Of course, we were still plagued with segregation, while women did not truly have equal opportunities with men. And so, quite clearly, our society was far from perfect (or Christian).
At the same time, there’s no denying that, in many ways, we’ve been on a steady moral decline since the early days of Kinsey and Hefner.
It is the difference between Leave It to Beaver and Game of Thrones. The difference between Father Knows Best and Girls.
It is the difference between video games like Pacman and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The difference between your first cell phone (which was not that smart) and live, chat-room sex apps.
We have truly forgotten how to blush. We accept that which is unacceptable and celebrate that which is shameful. And in the process, we embarrass ourselves.
But again, my purpose here is not to point an accusing finger at others. It is a call to examine ourselves. To see how far we have fallen. To recognize how coarsened and hardened we have become. To ask ourselves before God, «What has become of my conscience? Have I allowed myself to become corrupted with the rest of the world?»
The bad news is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to live lives that are separated from the pollution of this age (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). The good news is that all of us can be cleansed and forgiven.
This weekend, Christians around the world will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. This reminds us of two important truths. First, Jesus died for all of us, which means that all of us have sinned and are guilty in God’s sight. We all deserve condemnation. Second, Jesus died for all for us, which means that all of us can be forgiven and made whole.
Why not take some time this week to reflect on your own life – your own standards and morals and values? And if you realize that you too have forgotten how to blush, ask the Lord to create a new heart within you. Then, see if you can break away from the things that defile your conscience and focus instead on things that are worthy of your time and your attention.
You might just learn to blush again. (I’m working on this too.)
I am sorry to spoil your preparations for Christmas before the Christmas lights have even gone up—though perhaps it is better to do this now than the week before Christmas, when everything has been carefully prepared. But Jesus wasn’t born in a stable, and, curiously, the New Testament hardly even hints that this might have been the case.
So where has the idea come from? I would track the source to three things: issues of grammar and meaning; ignorance of first-century Palestinian culture; and traditional elaboration.
The elaboration has come about from reading the story through a ‘messianic’ understanding of Is 1.3:
The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.
The mention of a ‘manger’ in Luke’s nativity story, suggesting animals, led mediaeval illustrators to depict the ox and the ass recognising the baby Jesus, so the natural setting was a stable—after all, isn’t that where animals are kept? (Answer: not necessarily!)
The second issue, and perhaps the heart of the matter, is the meaning of the Greek word kataluma in Luke 2.7. Older versions translate this as ‘inn’:
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (AV).
There is some reason for doing this; the word is used in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint, LXX) to translate a term for a public place of hospitality (eg in Ex 4.24 and 1 Samuel 9.22). And the etymology of the word is quite general. It comes from kataluo meaning to unloose or untie, that is, to unsaddle one’s horses and untie one’s pack. But some fairly decisive evidence in the opposite direction comes from its use elsewhere. It is the term for the private ‘upper’ room where Jesus and the disciples eat the ‘last supper’ (Mark 14.14 and Luke 22.11; Matthew does not mention the room). This is clearly a reception room in a private home. And when Luke does mention an ‘inn’, in the parable of the man who fell among thieves (Luke 10.34), he uses the more general term pandocheion, meaning a place in which all (travellers) are received, a caravanserai.
Kataluma (Gr.) – “the spare or upper room in a private house or in a village […] where travelers received hospitality and where no payment was expected” (ISBE 2004). A private lodging which is distinct from that in a public inn, i.e. caravanserai, or khan.
Pandocheion, pandokeion, pandokian (Gr.) – (i) In 5th C. BC Greece an inn used for the shelter of strangers (pandokian=’all receiving’). The pandokeion had a common refectory and dormitory, with no separate rooms allotted to individual travelers (Firebaugh 1928).
The third issue relates to our understanding of (you guessed it) the historical and social context of the story. In the first place, it would be unthinkable that Joseph, returning to his place of ancestral origins, would not have been received by family members, even if they were not close relatives. Kenneth Bailey, who is renowned for his studies of first-century Palestinian culture, comments:
Even if he has never been there before he can appear suddenly at the home of a distant cousin, recite his genealogy, and he is among friends. Joseph had only to say, “I am Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Matthan, son of Eleazar, the son of Eliud,” and the immediate response must have been, “You are welcome. What can we do for you?” If Joseph did have some member of the extended family resident in the village, he was honor-bound to seek them out. Furthermore, if he did not have family or friends in the village, as a member of the famous house of David, for the “sake of David,” he would still be welcomed into almost any village home.
Moreover, the actual design of Palestinian homes (even to the present day) makes sense of the whole story. As Bailey explores in his Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes, most families would live in a single-room house, with a lower compartment for animals to be brought in at night, and either a room at the back for visitors, or space on the roof. The family living area would usually have hollows in the ground, filled with straw, in the living area, where the animals would feed.
This kind of one-room living with animals in the house at night is evident in a couple of places in the gospels. In Matt 5.15, Jesus comments:
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
This makes no sense unless everyone lives in the one room! And in Luke’s account of Jesus healing a woman on the sabbath (Luke 13.10–17), Jesus comments:
Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the manger [same word as Luke 2.7] and lead it out to give it water?
Interestingly, none of Jesus’ critics respond, ‘No I don’t touch animals on the Sabbath’ because they all would have had to lead their animals from the house. In fact, one late manuscript variant reads ‘lead it out from the house and give it water.’
What, then, does it mean for the kataluma to have ‘no space’? It means that many, like Joseph and Mary, have travelled to Bethlehem, and the family guest room is already full, probably with other relatives who arrived earlier. So Joseph and Mary must stay with the family itself, in the main room of the house, and there Mary gives birth. The most natural place to lay the baby is in the straw-filled depressions at the lower end of the house where the animals are fed. The idea that they were in a stable, away from others, alone and outcast, is grammatically and culturally implausible. In fact, it is hard to be alone at all in such contexts. Bailey amusingly cites an early researcher:
Anyone who has lodged with Palestinian peasants knows that notwithstanding their hospitality the lack of privacy is unspeakably painful. One cannot have a room to oneself, and one is never alone by day or by night. I myself often fled into the open country simply in order to be able to think
In the Christmas story, Jesus is not sad and lonely, some distance away in the stable, needing our sympathy. He is in the midst of the family, and all the visiting relations, right in the thick of it and demanding our attention. This should fundamentally change our approach to enacting and preaching on the nativity.
But one last question remains. This understanding of the story has been around, even in Western scholarship, for a long, long time. Bailey cites William Thomson, a Presbyterian missionary to Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, who wrote in 1857:
It is my impression that the birth actually took place in an ordinary house of some common peasant, and that the baby was laid in one of the mangers, such as are still found in the dwellings of farmers in this region.
And Bailey notes that Alfred Plummer, in his influential ICC commentary, originally published in the late nineteenth century, agreed with this. So why has the wrong, traditional interpretation persisted for so long?
I think there are two main causes. In the first place, we find it very difficult to read the story in its own cultural terms, and constantly impose our own assumptions about life. Where do you keep animals? Well, if you live in the West, away from the family of course! So that is where Jesus must have been. Secondly, it is easy to underestimate how powerful a hold tradition has on our reading of Scripture. Dick France explores this issue alongside other aspects of preaching on the infancy narratives in in his excellent chapter in We Proclaim the Word of Life. He relates his own experience of the effect of this:
[T]o advocate this understanding is to pull the rug from under not only many familiar carols (‘a lowly cattle shed’; ‘a draughty stable with an open door’) but also a favourite theme of Christmas preachers: the ostracism of the Son of God from human society, Jesus the refugee. This is subversive stuff. When I first started advocating Bailey’s interpretation, it was picked up by a Sunday newspaper and then reported in various radio programmes as a typical example of theological wrecking, on a par with that then notorious debunking of the actuality of the resurrection by the Bishop of Durham!
So is it worth challenging people’s assumptions? Yes, it is, if you think that what people need to hear is the actual story of Scripture, rather than the tradition of a children’s play. France continues:
The problem with the stable is that it distances Jesus from the rest of us. It puts even his birth in a unique setting, in some ways as remote from life as if he had been born in Caesar’s Palace. that’s the message of the incarnation is that Jesus is one of us. He came to be what we are, and it fits well with that theology that his birth in fact took place in a normal, crowded, warm, welcoming Palestinian home, just like many another Jewish boy of his time.
And who knows? People might even start asking questions about how we read the Bible and understand it for ourselves!
I am grateful to Mark Goodacre for drawing my attention to an excellent paper on this by Stephen Carlson, one of his colleagues at Duke. The paper was published in NTS in 2010, but is available on Carlson’s blog for free. Carlson presses the argument even further by arguing three points:
1. He looks widely at the use of kataluma and in particular notes that in the Septuagint (LXX, the Greek translation of the OT from Hebrew in the second century BC) it translates a wide variety of Hebrew terms for ‘places to stay.’ He thus goes further than Bailey, agreeing that it does not mean inn, but instead that it refers to any place that was used as lodgings.
2. He looks in detail at the phrase often translated ‘there was no room for them in the kataluma‘ and argues that the Greek phrase ouch en autois topos does not mean ‘there was no room for them’ but ‘they had no room.’ In other words, he thinks that they did stay in the kataluma, but that it was not big enough for Mary to give birth to Jesus in, so she moved to the main room for the birth, assisted by relatives.
3. He believes that Bethlehem was not Joseph’s ancestral home, but his actual family home, for two reasons. Firstly, we have no record of any Roman census requiring people return to their ancestral home. Secondly, he argues that the phrase in Luke 2.39 ‘to a town of their own, Nazareth’ doesn’t imply that they were returning to their home town, but that they then made this their home. We already know this is Mary’s home town, and it would be usual for the woman to travel to the man’s home town (Joseph’s Bethlehem) to complete the betrothal ceremonies. After Jesus is born, they then return together to set up home near Mary’s family.
The kataluma was therefore in all likelihood the extra accommodation, possibly just a single room, perhaps built on the roof of Joseph’s family’s home for the new couple. Having read this, I realised that I had stayed in just such a roof-room, jerry-built on the roof of a hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the lee of the Jaffa Gate, in 1981. It was small, and there was certainly no room to give birth in it!
(You can stay there too, by booking here. The site includes the view we had from the roof!)