It’s not Don Adam’s nature to address political issues from the pulpit of MidCities Baptist Church. But when his governor attempted to use Scripture to justify the killing of unborn children, Adam knew he couldn’t keep silent.
“I sincerely pray for Gavin Newsom to hear the gospel from someone he’ll listen to and be saved,” Adam told Baptist Press Sept. 30.
On Sept. 15, Newsom announced the launch of billboards in seven states that outlawed abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The billboards, which invite women to travel to California for an abortion, varied in messages, but those in Mississippi and Oklahoma contained a section of Mark 12:31, which reads “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.”
The verse omits the preceding phrase “The second is this” and thus the context of the passage where Jesus is answering a question regarding the greatest commandment. Verses 29-30 state that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
“I fear for Governor Newsom, that he would take the Holy Scripture completely out of context and use it to make people feel good that they can be a ‘neighbor’ to women who want an abortion,” Adam said. “It’s dangerous for him, but also for women who are in crisis mode. When they see the Bible quoted, they may think that this is OK.
“It just hit me at the core of who I am, as someone who loves Jesus and His Word. To see somebody take it out of context to support an evil cause just got to me.”
Adam was far from alone.
John MacArthur, well-known pastor of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, issued an open letter to Newsom. In it he criticized the governor’s leadership as instrumental toward driving the state into “epidemics of crime, homelessness, sexual perversions (like homosexuality and transgenderism) and other malignant expressions of human misery.”
The abortion billboards and use of Scripture, MacArthur said, are “a reprehensible act of gross blasphemy” in an attempt “to arrogate [Jesus’] name in favor of butchering unborn infants.”
“You used the name and the words of Christ to promote the credo of Molech (Leviticus 10:1-5),” MacArthur wrote. “It would be hard to imagine a greater sacrilege.”
Like Adam, MacArthur also focused on the subject of eternity.
“My concern, Governor Newsom, is that your own soul lies in grave, eternal peril,” he said. “… When you look ahead of you and see that nothing awaits you but eternal misery … what will all the clever rationalizations and political talking points avail for you then?”
Jonathan Keller, president of California Family Council, said Newsom’s policies are egregious enough without the hijacking of Scripture.
“We think the idea that you’re going to use California funds to pay women in states from around the country to come here and end the lives of their unborn children is offensive and unconscionable,” he said.
The billboards, as he put it, take things a step further.
“The idea that you would actually use the words of Jesus as a justification and enticement that abortion is a way of loving your neighbor … honestly, it’s something that I don’t think you could be more blasphemous if you were trying.”
Keller noted that the billboards with the Bible verse are located in Oklahoma and Mississippi, conservative states with a large number of churchgoers.
“I think [Newsom] is relying on the fact that people will see a Bible verse reference and without context or a clear understanding of Scripture take it at face value,” he said.
That, he added, is an example of how crucial discipleship is in the church.
Adam immediately knew he would be addressing the topic in his next sermon Sept. 25 when he saw news of the billboards.
“I’m preaching through James,” he said, “and it fit perfectly in my message ‘Do not be deceived, brother.’ God can’t be tempted with evil, and He doesn’t tempt any man with evil.”
Due to a packed morning schedule that included a baptismal service and prayer for Newsom, Adam was unable to finish that particular message. He said he will complete it this Sunday, Oct. 2.
“We’re a conservative church and our members and visitors know we love to worship and love the Word of God,” he said. “It was the right thing to do to pray for Gov. Newsom and it was the right thing to do to bring this up.”
Currently, Keller is working to build awareness of SB 107, signed by Newsom Sept. 29. It empowers state courts to remove out-of-state children from their parents’ custody if those children come to California because they can’t get drugs and surgeries to attempt to transition to another gender.
Is it likely, Keller is asked, that Newsom will conduct a similar billboard strategy in those states?
“I would not be surprised,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is national correspondent for Baptist Press.)