‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you’

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, age 84, was laid to rest Monday in New York City. He had died of cancer Feb. 21.

The Herald, like newspapers nationwide, reported Nathanson’s death, due to his role in America’s abortion debate.

Once Nathanson headed the western world’s largest free-standing abortion clinic in New York City. He was medical director of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, now NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Then Nathanson switched to the pro-life side, and had a religious conversion as well. The Herald’s article about his death ended this way:

“Maintaining that his flip-flop on abortion was based on reason, not religion, Nathanson often described himself as an atheist Jew.

“In the 1990s, however, he experienced a spiritual crisis. ‘I had performed many thousands of abortions on innocent children,’ he wrote in his book ‘The Hand of God: A Journey From Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind’ (2001) ‘and I had failed those whom I loved.’ In 1996 he converted to Roman Catholicism.”

Interested in details?

In December 1996 Nathanson was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

“I felt the burden of sin growing heavier and more insistent,” he wrote before the baptism.

“I have such heavy moral baggage to drag into the next world that failing to believe would condemn me to an eternity perhaps more terrifying than anything Dante envisioned in his celebration of the redemptive fall and rise of Easter. I am afraid.”

Afterwards, about his baptism, he said, “I was in a real whirlpool of emotion, and then there was this healing, cooling water on me, and soft voices, and an inexpressible sense of peace. I had found a safe place.”

If you have been baptized, whether or not it involved a whirlpool of emotion, trust God’s promise.

Peter told people terrified for having killed God’s Son, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38–39).


Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be reached at 747-5564. For more information, see Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.