The Bible tells us that this judgment was delivered on the Canaanite people because of their extreme depravity. The Canaanites would sacrifice their children – putting them to death in horrible ways – in order to gain some advantage for themselves, to make their lives better. The Israelites were warned time and again not to follow that way (Leviticus 18:21, 24 and Deuteronomy 18:9-13).
In the past, some sceptics challenged whether such a horrible practice could actually have existed in ancient Canaan; yet actual evidence of child sacrifice by the Canaanites does exist. For example, several ancient Egyptian wall reliefs carved around the time of Ramesses II, in the temples of Karnak and Luxor, actually depict the abominable practice (A. Spalinger, "A Canaanite Ritual Found in Egyptian Reliefs," Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 8 :47-60.).
If we fast forward to today’s world it is sad that so many cultures have chosen to go that same way in what has become a genocide without borders – the abortion of countless unborn babies. Today abortion is viewed as an acceptable sacrifice – for some, even up to the time of the birth of a child – to personal convenience. The usual rationale, of course, is that before birth babies are not people. Biblically, however, it is clear that personhood begins before birth, and the Bible gave clear laws to protect the life of the unborn (Jeremiah 1:5, 20:17; Exodus 21:22-23, etc.).
But even though many people do not know or understand the biblical view of personhood before birth, it may be surprising to learn that widespread abortion is something that a majority of people do not accept or want. According to a recent national public opinion poll conducted in the United States by the highly respected Marist Institute for Public Opinion, eight in ten Americans support “substantial restrictions” on abortion. Furthermore, a majority would limit abortion to cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother – or would prefer not to allow it at all. In fact, only one in ten Americans say they would prefer no restrictions on abortion while almost two-thirds of Americans – most Americans – feel abortion is “morally wrong” (60 percent stated they are against abortion while 37 percent said they would allow abortion in some or all circumstances).
So if most people in our democratic society feel they would like to limit widespread abortion, why is nothing done to restrict it? The answer may lie in the fact that many people say they feel afraid to speak out on the topic because people who do so are so mercilessly attacked by the minority of people who want unrestricted abortion. It has become “not politically correct” to even mention abortion, but fine to practice it. So, we have a tragic disconnect in our society – between what many people believe deep down and the fact that they feel unwilling or unable to do anything about stopping what they believe is wrong.
In the United States we face a national election in which our choice will determine whether we either begin to limit abortion or reinforce and expand the practice. It is a choice we cannot sidestep by not voting, and the words of famed theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died in the Nazi Holocaust, are relevant: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil … Not to act is to act.”
Choosing one way takes us along the path of humane love for the vulnerable and defenseless unborn – the way of parental acceptance or adoption. Choosing the other path takes us yet further into the ways of the Canaanites who sacrificed their children in order to gain some advantage for themselves. It's in our hands.