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"Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus..." II Timothy 2:3-4


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Risking Life for the Dead and Dying


In the Civil War there was a much greater regard for life than there is in today's culture. That may strike you as odd, considering that over 650,000 men died during the war -- nearly 2% of the U.S. population in 1860. Such a bloodbath today would result in approximately 5.6 million deaths!


What I mean, however, is that there are countless personal examples from the Civil War of men risking their lives to bring aid to the wounded, comfort to those who were dying, or to retrieve the bodies of fallen comrades. Such disregard for personal safety does not mean these men casually regarded their lives or life in general. Rather, it shows us the great value they placed on the dignity and worth of each human being -- friend and foe; alive or dead -- no matter the condition.


Consider the story of Richard Enderlin.


Richard Enderlin was an 18 year-old private serving as a musician in the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Company B. At the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, he voluntarily took a rifle and served with the fighting men in the ranks. On the first day of the battle, a fellow private from Company B was severely wounded near the Confederate lines and was left in the open field between the opposing armies. The wounded soldier cried out in pain for help and water (along with thousands of others), but no one responded for fear of being killed during the heavy exchange of gunfire.


Enderlin, however, could not stand to hear these cries for help. After nightfall he crawled across the open field, moving only when clouds covered the moon, to reach the wounded soldier. Over the course of two hours, he dragged the wounded soldier back to the Union lines. Enderlin was immediately promoted to the rank of sergeant and later awarded the Medal of Honor for his selfless act of compassion and bravery.


Sadly, Richard Enderlin's heroics were for naught. The wounded private, George Nixon, died two days later from his wounds at the age of 42, leaving behind a wife and children.


As a side note, the story does not quite end there. In one of history's great ironies, Private Nixon's son, Samuel Brady Nixon, would go on to have a son named Francis Anthony Nixon. Francis was the father of our 37th President, Richard M. Nixon.


To Richard Enderlin, it was worth the personal risk to try and save a man from the agony of a slow death. That is not only courageous, but it also shows the high value placed on life.


How does this compare with our culture today?


Consider the case of Terri Schindler-Schiavo. Terri suffered a heart attack in 1990 and blood flow to her brain was cut off for several minutes, rendering her neurologically disabled. She has remained hospitalized ever since. However, her body fully functions without life support and she responds to the presence of loved ones. Her husband, Michael, has fought her rehabilitation for years and is trying to terminate her life by stopping Terri from receiving food (she cannot feed herself and is fed through a tube). So far he has prevailed in the courts.


Have we come to this --a helpless, living, breathing human being is to be cut off and starved to death?


The contrast between Richard Enderlin and Michael Schiavo could not be greater. One man, selflessly risking his young life to save a dying comrade on the battlefields of Gettysburg; another man selfishly working to end the life of his living wife.


How did we come to this point in our culture? It all has its roots in the abortion industry where life means nothing -- not even the mother's -- and now our entire culture is infected with death.


Consider the example I gave in the opening paragraph. The abortion industry kills nearly 1.3 million babies each year. Over the course of a 4 year period (the Civil War lasted 4 years almost to the day) that means we are killing 5.2 million babies, nearly 2% of our population! The analogy is sadly appropriate in that we are waging this war against our very own people, just as was done in the 1860's. The difference is the current slaughter is a one-way affair against the most innocent and defenseless among us.


That disregard for life is how we got to this point. And it will only get worse unless we are willing, like Richard Enderlin, to stand up and risk ourselves for the sake of the weak and helpless.


Let us resolve, therefore, to live a life worthy of our calling in Christ and dedicate ourselves to His service. Our forefathers did not risk their lives, and in many cases die, for this kind of country. With God's blessing, we can impact this generation and change the course of history.


Steve Braun

October 28, 2003





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