Up until yesterday morning, Karen Handel, who is openly pro-life, was the vice president of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. But as the controversy continued to swirl over Komen’s decision to reinstate its funding of Planned Parenthood, Ms. Handel resigned her post.
“I was too much of a focal point,” she said. “I really felt I had a responsibility to just step aside so they could refocus on their mission.”
Karen Handel refused to accept a severance package that was offered.
“I wanted to do the right thing on my own terms, and that’s what I tried to do,” she stated.
In an interview yesterday afternoon she readily acknowledged what many of us within the pro-life movement have expressed throughout this last week:
What was unleashed over this past week was a vicious attack against a great organization and … individual attacks against [Komen founder] Nancy Brinker, an individual whom I admire greatly – and I would think all of us should be saddened that an outside organization (Planned Parenthood) should put this kind of pressure on another organization.
I’ve never met Karen Handel. But in watching this whole episode unfold, it strikes me that in her behavior we’re witnessing a strong example of a Christian who speaks with clarity, charity and conviction. And yet she is being vilified by some as the woman who almost singlehandedly destroyed the Komen brand.
I think that’s what you call irony.
Planned Parenthood is the organization responsible for destroying millions of innocent lives. It was Planned Parenthood’s commitment to aborting innocent life and its partnership with Komen that sullied the breast cancer organization’s reputation for so many supporters of life. This was not about Karen Handel.
But we would be wise, I think, to look up and see how the Lord appears to be using Ms. Handel to demonstrate how a Christian under pressure might engage the culture at large.
One of my favorite chapters in all the Scriptures is found in the letter to the Hebrews. There is such wonderful perspective in this “Hall of Faith” chapter, where we’re reminded of many biblical heroes and other believers who may not necessarily have experienced “success” while on this earth.
In speaking of many of the Old Testament key figures, Paul writes, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). After talking about other faithful but nameless individuals who were, among other things, tortured, stoned and sawn in two, Paul offers a word of ultimate hope: “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had planned something better for us that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40).
Whenever you’re going to stand for your convictions, as Ms. Handel did, you’re inevitably going to rub some people the wrong way. Writing to the Galatians, Paul couldn’t have been clearer: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?” he asked rhetorically. “Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (1:10).
He’s right, of course. As a believer, we may win many “battles” – but we’re not engaging to win. Our motive is not power. We simply – but quite profoundly – engage because of obedience to God, love of our fellow man and the fact that we want the culture to reflect God’s glory.
I salute Ms. Handel’s example.
What are your thoughts on this matter?