By Holly Gatling, Executive Director, South Carolina Citizens for Life
The Rev. Dr. Gregory P. Seltz, the first executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C., believes the pro-life message and traditional family values are “under siege” by what he calls a “secular puritanism” bent on outlawing those who advocate for the biblical view. He will expand on that fundamental insight as the featured speaker at the National Right to Life Convention Prayer Breakfast on Friday, June 25, 2021, in an address titled “Why Standing Up for Life Matters To and For Us All.”
Dr. Seltz says secular puritans “don’t think they are religious, but they are way more religious than you would imagine,” he said. For example, you can go to jail for violating the “Ethnic Agitation Laws” of Finland. “Having a bible perspective on things will get you thrown in jail in Finland.”
With religious liberties under assault, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod recognized the need to have a presence in Washington, D.C., the very epicenter of where a compelling Christian witness will be needed most in years to come. As Dr. Seltz wrote last month, under the headline, “When Faithfulness Calls Believers to Stand up and Stand Firm,” “Is this a “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” moment for Christians in America? It’s time for believers to realize that the Church isn’t ‘politicizing’ everything, it is merely defending its right to exist. Standing up and standing firm are also part of our mission and witness (especially when you are even doing it for those with whom you disagree).”
Standing up means opposing legislation such as the so-called “Equality Act” that passed the U.S. House and is pending in the Senate. Among other threats to religious liberty, the Equality Act could be interpreted as creating a right to demand that health care professionals and institutions provide abortion procedures regardless of any moral objection to killing unborn members of the human family.
Dr. Seltz said, “Our [political] leaders are in some ways saying to Christians, ‘We’re done with you people.’ I think the Christian Church is saying, ‘No! You work for us.’ That’s the tension of our culture right now.”
In 2017 The Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty hired Dr. Seltz away from his position with the popular radio program, The Lutheran Hour, where he presented the Gospel message from 2011 to 2017. Leaving The Lutheran Hour, he said, “was the hardest decision of my life because I thought that was the pinnacle of my work.”
He made his decision to leave based in part on an incident that goes all the way back to 1938 when overtly liberal religious groups filed a complaint against The Lutheran Hour and demanded it be taken off the air. Dr. Walter Maier, then The Lutheran Hour speaker, fought back using Jeffersonian Freedom Principles of free speech and freedom of religion. He “defended the church’s right to be on the radio,” Dr. Seltz said. The Federal Communications Commission sided with Dr. Maier and his supporters.
“That was part of The Lutheran Hour work to be both the person to keep the government in its place and proclaim the Gospel freely,” Dr. Seltz said. “Now I’m in DC taking up that legacy.”
The oldest of five boys, Dr. Seltz was born in Detroit, Michigan, and raised by deeply religious Lutheran parents and grandparents. He began his college career at the University of Michigan in the six-year medical school program and played basketball. He soon found his faith to be the object of ridicule in the science classes and that propelled him into changing his career path to the ministry. “I learned there is a secular movement in our country, and they laughed at our faith in my biology classes. I was a straight A student. I can do all the science, but I have a whole different world view,” he recalled. “That’s when I began to realize there is a clash of world views in our culture.”
As a Lutheran pastor beginning in 1988, Dr. Seltz’s ministry took him and his wife, Marie Yvette, to many interesting places including inner city evangelization and “church planting” ventures in areas where the church wasn’t always welcome. In New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas he started to get involved with political realities in neighborhoods in hopes of getting the unchurched into church. In New York he worked with the late John Cardinal O’Connor, a pro-life role model for him. To counter the absurdly false narrative that the pro-life movement doesn’t care about women, Cardinal O’Connor created programs that “pay for everything” for a woman experiencing a crisis pregnancy. Whether the woman chose to parent or place the child for adoption was immaterial. “We didn’t ask. We just got her on her feet.”
The Founding Fathers created a system of limited government to free people to live religious lives, but, Dr. Seltz says, “That’s being flipped upside down. If secular progressive puritans get in charge, then you’re going to see the squashing of religious liberty. You’re going to see churches made illegal overnight. The question is, will the people of our country push back against that or not.”
Dr. Seltz said the pro-life movement is an example of effective political engagement that must say “No” to Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the twin 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that effectively legalized abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy and for any reason.
He said the pro-life movement went beyond a “No” message and brilliantly created a “Yes” message. “We started to talk about the positive things of the pro-life movement with the ‘abundance of life God wants for us no matter what,’” Dr. Seltz said. “That messaging was genius. It took courage because you had to say the No first.” The pro-life yes, he said, is promoted in such a way “that even people who disagree with you say that’s a pretty positive message.”