Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Responding to the John 3:16 Conference on Strange BaptistFire

I will not be posting on this blog for the next few days, as I am finally going to address some things that were said at the John 3:16 Conference and to encourage discussion about these issues on the Strange BaptistFire blog.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankfulness for the Gospel Proclaimed In Whatever Circumstance: A Test Case for Southern Baptists

12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:12-18 NKJV)


Vashti McKenzie is the first female bishop elected in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. As a Southern Baptist, I believe that her election to this office is unbiblical, as stated is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000:
While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The BF&M 2000 supports this assertion through an appeal to the following New Testament passages: 1 Timothy 2:9-14; 3:1-15.

When Vashti McKenzie defines the gospel ministry, she says the following:
We preach Jesus Christ, Him crucified and risen from the grave. That is our mandate; that is the gospel ministry. [Quoted from THIS SOURCE.]

Just as with anyone else, we should examine McKenzie's other teachings to see if she understands "Jesus Christ" in a biblical way (i.e., as fully God and fully Man), or if she believes Him to be nothing more than a wise teacher blessed by God. But let's assume for the moment that she does understand and proclaim her statement above in the normal, biblical way; what then is our response to hearing that this woman proclaims the gospel?

I would assert that the proper Christian response is rejoicing without compromise. In the Bible passage quoted at the beginning of this post, Paul mentions people who preach Christ from envy and strife, from selfish ambition, in insincerity, hoping to add affliction to Paul. As everyone reading this post should agree, these people are clearly unqualified to serve as church leaders, not necessarily due to their gender, but due to their lousy, sinful character. And yet Paul rejoices that Christ is proclaimed through these individuals.

Sometimes Christians may have theological issues or issues with the character of a certain gospel preacher. If these issues are valid, then they cannot be ignored, just as Paul acknowledged the problems with those who preached the gospel "in pretense." Yet we must not exclusively focus on the problems of such a ministry; we must also be overflowing with joy and gratitude to God that the gospel is proclaimed.

This is, I hope, a good reminder to myself and others during this Thanksgiving season.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Cross Centered Day


In my Sunday school class at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, we have been studying through Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney. This past Lord's Day we looked at Chapter 13, "The Cross Centered Day." While all of the chapters have been great, this chapter was especially helpful to me and it is, in my opinion, worth the price of the book. In this chapter, Mahaney recommends five daily habits that can serve to draw us near to the cross each day:
  1. Memorize the Gospel: Certain verses and passages of Scripture summarize essential gospel truth, and we should focus on these and commit them to memory.
  2. Pray the Gospel: As we pray throughout the day, we should meditate on the fact that we approach God through the forgiveness of sins purchased through the death of His Son.
  3. Sing the Gospel: We should fill our minds and mouths with songs that focus on what God has done for us through Christ, rather than just on our feelings, wants, and needs.
  4. Review How the Gospel Has Changed You: As Paul repeated his testimony of how God changed him in his speeches and letters recorded in the New Testament, we must also consider our past and the difference that has been made in our lives by God's grace through Christ's work.
  5. Study the Gospel: Mahaney asserts that our passion for what Jesus has done is directly related to our understanding of what Jesus has done; to assist in our understanding, we must read books that systematically examine the Bible's teaching about the gospel.
I write this post so that I may better remember to stay Cross centered each day and with the hope that others reading this will be encouraged to greater consideration of the gospel.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Evangelistic Encounter: 11/24/08


Thinking about what I posted a couple of days ago, I had determined that I would, if at all possible, speak of the gospel with my co-worker whom I mentioned before.
The Lord did grant me an opportunity for witness to him, but not in the way I expected.

At the beginning of my work-day, I rolled my ankle, spraining it. I had been in a bad mood already, and being in pain did not help, but I continued to work through it and prayed that I might still be able to speak with my co-worker. [I refer to him as "my co-worker" throughout this post, as I am concerned that he be embarrassed for his name to appear in this context.] Before I could say anything, however, my co-worker asked, "Are you really into God?"

Surprised at this question, I answered, "I hope so!"

"I know you're religious," he replied, "but I mean, are you like really into God; like, do you pray about every little thing, like, 'God, please help these boxes to come down before the slide jams up'?

"Well," I said, "I don't usually think to pray for every little thing like that, but I don't see anything wrong with it. Why do you ask?"

"I'm just trying to figure out what I believe," he said.

I then stressed to him that finding out what we believe is very important; I reminded him of what he had said before about how he had "almost died" by narrowly avoiding a car accident. I pointed out that life is very short and that the good news of the Christian faith is that through Jesus, we can have confidence of what will happen to us after we die.

"But I don't believe everything that Christianity teaches," he replied.

"Like what?" I asked.

"Well, like, doesn't Christianity teach that people are the most important to God? Like, more important to Him than everything else that He made? I don't believe that."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Well, because God made everything. I figure that He loves everything He made equally and people shouldn't think they're better than everything else." He then spoke for awhile about how destructive people are to the environment and that other animals (he gave bees as an example) actually help the environment. He said that he knows the Bible says we're made in God's image, but he didn't find that meaningful.

During the conversation outlined above, I pointed out an inconsistency in his position; my co-worker said that he thinks God views everything He made as the same, but my co-worker does not live as if everything God made is of equal value. In other words, he has no problem stepping on some ants or eating a cow, yet he would not kill his parents or eat a person. And as we kill other things God has made in order to survive, my co-worker does not want God to view everything as the same, otherwise we would all be guilty of murder every time we eat a meal.

I also conceded that he may very well have some good points; if we were left to figure this out on our own, with our own philosophy, then we might come to the conclusion he had reached, but I pointed out that God has given us the Bible to tell us what He thinks about His creation, and that he gives people a special place in what He has made. I also pointed out that God sent His Son Jesus into the world as a human, to die for humans- for our sins against Him- and that this shows that we have a special place in His plan.

Just then, another guy came into our work area and the conversation changed, then the co-worker I had been speaking with had to go somewhere else (he usually works in another area), and I did not get the opportunity to speak with him again.

Christians reading this post: please pray that God would open my co-worker's eyes to the good news of eternal life in Jesus, and pray healing for my ankle, that I would not be made to work in an isolated area due to my injury, and that I would have further opportunities to speak to others of Jesus.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Teaching history from the pulpit

My pastor had been out of town at the end of this past week for his uncle's funeral, so one of the other elders- Ronnie Skaggs- preached the sermon at Kosmosdale Baptist Church this morning. By God's grace, Ronnie did an excellent job preaching a gospel-centered sermon on thanksgiving.
After the introduction, Ronnie began with preaching from Romans 1:21, demonstrating how thanklessness characterizes sinful Man. Ronnie then preached from several short passages, beginning with Luke 17:11-19, demonstrating the thankfulness that comes through faith in Jesus. In the sermon Ronnie gave several specific applications of how Christians may demonstrate our thankfulness to Christ, and Ronnie also gave a gospel call to those who have never trusted in Jesus.

All of the aspects of Ronnie's sermon mentioned above form an outstanding model for a Christian sermon, but I wanted to draw special attention to Ronnie's introduction, in which he gave a historical account of the Thanksgiving holiday. To introduce a sermon with an overview of history is rare in contemporary preaching- so rare, in fact, that Ronnie seemed a little bit apologetic to take the time to speak of history. But I think that such a presentation of history to make a theological point in a sermon is in line with biblical examples- I think of Stephen, for instance in Acts 7. Certainly, most of the history that is presented from the pulpit should be the history that is presented in the Bible, but I think that God's activity among His people from the time of the close of the canon until the present day should occasionally be mentioned in sermons as well. I think that history was probably taught in the pulpit more often in previous eras in American history, and that when the church allows secular education to have a monopoly on historical teaching, the understanding of God's people about how He has worked to preserve a gospel witness through the ages is darkened. When the church allows secular education to have a monopoly, we begin to see aberrations like the oft-repeated error that the Thanksgiving celebration at the Plymouth settlement was about the Pilgrims giving thanks to the Native Americans (rather than the Pilgrims inviting the Native Americans, who had helped them, to a feast of thanks to God).

I close this post with Psalm 100, which the Pilgrims read upon reaching the New World:
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Non-Evangelistic Encounter, 11/21/08: Confession

I've just realized that I haven't written an "Evangelistic Encounters" blogpost since January [the last one can be found HERE]. In the months between then and now the Lord has given me several opportunities to speak the good news of Jesus to others both at work and through my church, though I must quickly add that I have not been nearly as faithful in speaking to non-Christians about Jesus as I would like.

I write the following as a journal so that I can remember these thoughts and so that readers of this blog may help keep me accountable to be more faithful in my witness.

Last night I was working with a friend who is not a Christian and whom I have spoken with before concerning who Jesus is and what He has done. He was telling me that the night before on the way home from work that he had narrowly avoided a car accident. He said, "I could have died!" I responded, "That's serious," and then started thinking about what to say next. We worked in silence for few minutes, then he went to work in another area and I didn't get the opportunity to speak with him again.

Why didn't I speak with my co-worker about eternity and the hope that is found in Christ at this opportune moment? I was not embarrassed or afraid of how he would react to me. I try to blame my silence on the fact that I am a slow thinker, but while this is certainly a part of my personality, I must also confess sin on my part that led to my failure to mention Jesus. The fact is that I was not quick to speak of Jesus because I had not been thinking of Jesus before the moment when my co-worker mentioned his near-accident. I had been sinning in my thoughts, and I must confess that this is all too common and had led to me being largely ineffective in evangelism. By God's grace, I usually do not engage in sins of commission while I am at work: my thoughts are seldom overly stressful, angry, or lustful, but I have fallen into a pattern of sin by omission. While not thinking on anything inherently sinful, I do tend to think of entertainment or jokes or tasks I must do or my family. But I don't think on Christ, I do not have a prayerful mindset, and I do not meditate on Scripture nearly as much as I should. Therefore, I am ill-prepared to make the most of sudden opportunities to proclaim Jesus.

It is my commitment to repent of this sin of omission, to become more focused on my Lord and Savior while I am at work and elsewhere, and to thereby be more faithful in evangelism. I hope that any of my brothers and sisters in Christ reading this blog will pray for me in this regard.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Personal Confession of Faith, Article IV. Providence

[If you haven't done so already, please read the introduction HERE.]

I believe that God from eternity decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events, so that all events occur by absolute necessity, for the ultimate glory of God in Christ (Prov 16:33; Matt 10:29-31; Heb 1:3); yet not so as to be the author or approver of sin (1 Cor 14:33; Jas 1:13; 1 John 1:5), nor to destroy the free moral agency and accountability of intelligent creatures (Gen 50:20; Isa 10:5-7, 12; Acts 4:24-28).

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Potentially The Most Important Technology For Spreading The Gospel Since The Printing Press

At the end of last week, I had the opportunity to live-blog the John 3:16 Conference for Challies.com [my posts from this Conference are linked HERE].

That Conference was intended to be "a biblical and theological assessment of and response to 5-point Calvinism."

The most interesting thing said at that Conference (from my point of view), however, had nothing to do with "5-point Calvinism."

In the concluding presentation of the Conference, Dr. Charles Stanley did not mention Calvinism, but repeatedly made the point that our theological reflection must lead to greater efforts in evangelism, or else it will be fruitless- something every Christian needs to remember.

Dr. Stanley was asked by Jerry Vines to share how In Touch Ministries is taking the gospel throughout the earth; Dr. Stanley told about using short-wave radio and TV programs, but he also spoke of a new technology that In Touch Ministries (ITM) is using: hand-held, water-resistant, solar-powered audio players that ITM is calling Messengers. You can read about ITM's use of Messengers HERE. These Messengers can be programmed with 35 sermons (Dr. Stanley, I thought, mentioned "70," so they may have recently improved the memory capacity). ITM has translated sermons from Dr. Stanley into Spanish, Arabic, French, and Mandarin, and has created Messengers available in each of these languages.

I sincerely believe that other ministries need to utilize this technology as well. The drawback of the printing press, and many other technologies such as posting articles on the Internet, is that people must be literate in order to benefit from them, yet a large percentage of those whom we need to reach with the gospel are unable to read. Previous non-literate technologies such as TV and radio have often depended on electrical outlets or batteries, and there are many areas of the world where these are unavailable as well. As "faith comes by hearing" (Romans 10:17), we should rejoice over and be quick to utilize a technology that will enable people across the globe access to numerous gospel messages.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Letter That Should Be Famous

This past Wednesday, Joshua Caleb, a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, published a blogpost titled, "My Letter to President-Elect Obama." His post includes the text for a letter that he actually mailed to the President-Elect, urging him to continue to expand the American founding principle of liberty and justice for all in defending the rights of the unborn.

Will the President-Elect read such a letter, when he doubtless receives an unthinkable amount of mail each day?

I think that we in the "blog-o-sphere" can help such a letter come to Obama's attention by publishing this letter on all of our blogs.

I ask you to join me in re-publishing this letter from Joshua Caleb to President-Elect Obama, the text of which follows:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama
President-Elect
of the United States of America
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, District of Columbia 20510

Dear Mr. President-Elect:

I write to congratulate you on your victory. Today will be remembered as a great day in the history of this nation because with your election we move one step closer to truly living out our creed that “all men are created equal.”

When this nation was founded, we proclaimed that equality was to all men on the basis of their common relation to their Creator. Even so, a great number of the residents of this land were regarded not as persons but as private property. Our highest court affirmed this great injustice in the Dred Scott decision. This nation affirmed the principle that one group of humans may promote their own prosperity-their own rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-at the expense of another group of humans.

The events of the 1860s certainly tried the great American experiment forcing us to reexamine our fidelity to the creed that “all men are created equal.” Still, this nation avoided true faithfulness to our values by affirming a false doctrine of “separate but equal.” We continued our affirmation of the principle that one group of humans may promote their own prosperity at the expense of another group of humans. This injustice would not begin to crumble until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Your presidency is the fruit of those labors for equality and justice.

Nonetheless, our fight to truly and wholly affirm our creed that “all men are created equal” is not over.

Every year in this nation over one million persons die because our government and our courts deny equality and justice to them. Evidence shows that black and Hispanic persons are in particular danger to this great injustice. In Roe v. Wade, our high court reaffirmed the terrible principle that mars our history, the principle that one group of humans may promote their own prosperity at the expense of another group of humans.

Your party desires to increase this injustice by allowing tax dollars to pay for abortions and by loosening restrictions such as parental notification.

You have said that you are glad that your daughters live in a nation where they have the “right to choose” an abortion. Your reasoning is that without the threat of unwanted pregnancy, your daughters will have greater opportunity to achieve their dreams and their own prosperity. I am a father too, even though my child has not yet been born. I understand your desire to give your children the greatest possible opportunity for prosperity. Even so, I plan to teach my son to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2: 3). I do not want my son to pursue his own prosperity at the expense of others whether they are white, black, Hispanic, young, old, rich, poor, or unborn.

I think that you would agree with the principle that we must not promote our own prosperity at the expense of others. Indeed, you must agree since it is on this very basis that African-Americans have gone from slavery and segregation to the presidency. Therefore, I implore you to extend this American creed that “all men are created equal” to those without a voice, those who cannot cry out when their inalienable rights are violated, and to end your support of that contradictory principle that has plagued our history, the principle that one group of humans may promote their own prosperity at the expense of another group of humans.

As president, you have great power to do good, but you also have great power to do evil. I pray that you will choose good, put an end to evil in as far as you are able, and extend equality and justice to all persons on the basis of our common Creator. Remember that even though you will be called the Ruler of the Free World that title is in no way accurate for even you will have to answer to the true Ruler of the World.

“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:10-12).

Sincerely,
Joshua Caleb Hutchens

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Blogging John 3:16 Conference for Challies.com

I will not be posting here the next couple of days because I have the privilege of covering the John 3:16 Conference for the World's Most Famous Christian Blogger [note: he does not refer to himself this way], Tim Challies.

A couple of days ago, many of you reading this blog were watching election coverage; now at Challies.com, you will be able to read anti-election coverage! [A couple of readers may get that joke.]

You can follow Conference coverage HERE.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Prediction

There are, of course, two possibilities.

1. My original prediction (mentioned to several friends) was that Obama would lose, because it was my contention that Americans are both too smart and too stupid to vote for Obama.

a. Too smart to fail to see through his rhetoric that despite attempting to portray himself as moderate, he is actually radically liberal. This would, from my perspective, lead to voting against the wrong candidate for this office for the right reasons.

b. Too stupid in the sense that I believed there was enough racism in America to keep many people from voting for Obama (or even prompt people to vote against Obama) simply based on his ethnicity. This would, from my perspective, lead to voting against the wrong candidate for this office for the wrong reason.

2. I am no longer so sure about this prediction, and you may be surprised to learn that what prompted me to re-consider has little to do with the polls (I believe that the Bradley Effect may still come into play). I am concerned that John McCain may have failed to adequately communicate a comprehensive vision for what he would do as president, and that he relied too heavily on attacking Barack Obama. If my perception of the situation is correct, then Sen. McCain may have made a similar mistake to that of John Kerry in the 2004 election. In 2004 President Bush wasn't extremely popular, but when Kerry ran against Bush, he seemed to many voters to be relying on "hate Bush" more than a positive presentation of his own position.

I do believe that Sen. McCain has a better position on the issues, particularly on the issue of abortion, and I hope that voters recognize that today.

Whoever wins, Christians must remember, "It is [God] who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding" (Dan 2:21).

Update 11/05:
It looks like my original 'too smart/too stupid' theory was right, but only for the Southern states. Apparently the Northern and West Coast states are both more gullible and more enlightened than what I had accounted for.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Eating crow and voting McCain

Just before the primary election, I published a blogpost [HERE] arguing that Christians shouldn't vote for John McCain (specifically over Mike Huckabee) because McCain was moderate on pro-life issues. I understood McCain to be moderate because he has supported embryonic stem cell research and he believes that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape and incest (should infanticide be allowed for cases where the father was an abusive criminal?). So I felt that McCain may be untrustworthy in terms of his stance on the most important issue of justice in our day.

My opinion of McCain on this issue began to change as a result of the following interaction between the Senator and Rick Warren:

The transcript from the above video follows:
WARREN: Let’s deal with abortion. I, as a pastor, have to deal with this all the time, every different angle, every different pain, all of the decisions and all of that. Forty million abortions since Roe v. Wade. Some people, people who believe that life begins at conception, believe that’s a holocaust for many people. What point is a baby entitled to human rights?

MCCAIN: At the moment of conception. (APPLAUSE). I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president. And this presidency will have pro-life policies. That’s my commitment. That’s my commitment to you.

After this interview, the question in pro-life voters' minds was over what decisions McCain would make to carry out his "commitment." The first decision on his road to the White House was his choice of running mate. Some Republicans wanted McCain to pick a pro-abortion running mate in order to potentially get more votes, but instead he picked Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who has not only consistently governed in a pro-life manner, but has lived out pro-life ideals. McCain's choice of Sarah Palin has signaled to pro-life voters that his commitment to pro-life policies is firm.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Barack Obama and the Future of Legalized Abortion in the U.S.

As many of you reading this may be aware, on October 14 Dr. Robert P. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, published an essay HERE titled "Obama's Abortion Extremism." In this essay Dr. George argued that Sen. Barack Obama is:
"the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States." Further: "He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress" [HT: Dr. Mohler's Blog.]

Dr. George offers several lines of proof for this argument, four of which are listed below:
1. Obama "supports legislation that would reppeal the Hyde Amendment, which protects pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions that are not necessary to save the life of the mother and are not the result of rape or incest."
2. Obama has promised: "the first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act."
3. Obama opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion.
4. Obama opposed legislation that would protect children who were intended to be aborted, but were born alive; Obama's campaign denied this, but proof of his opposition to such legislation has been documented.

Any one of the above reasons is cause enough to keep a person of conscience from voting for Obama as president, but especially noteworthy is point 2 above. The Freedom of Choice Act "would create a federally guaranteed 'fundamental right' to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy... FOCA would abolish virtually every existing state and federal limitation on abortion." With FOCA in place, the struggle to end legalized child murder becomes much more difficult, for even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, this legislation would keep the question of abortion from returning to the individual states (which is what would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned today), and federal legislation would also need to be crafted to repeal FOCA before the states would be free to enforce laws against abortion.

During this long campaign season, there have been many wild conspiracy theories about what Sen. Barack Obama might do if he is elected president of the United States. And the great majority of these theories are utterly groundless. But it must also be stressed that none of the things that people think Sen. Obama might do as president is any worse than what Obama has actually promised to do as president. If Barack Obama is elected president, he has promised to fight for legislation that would ensure that the murder of unborn children is kept legal in the United States.

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