Shining as Lights Amid the Encircling Gloom 

In 1833 John Henry Newman penned his wonderfully written hymn, originally composed as a poem, ‘Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom’. There are times when any lover of God and life knows something of this haunting ‘encircling gloom’. There is plenty of such material to feed such a response today. 

On 23 April 2024 the president of the USA, Joe Biden, supposedly a devout Catholic and the leader of the free world, reacted to legal restrictions on abortions after six months. He made the sign of the cross – not because he was horrified at the abortion legislation but because he was lining up with those who wanted access to abortions right up to the time of birth. Biden is not a doddering old man who should attract our sympathy as he struggles with a failing memory. All his life, votes have meant more to him than principles. 

In fact, the Biden administration has waged war on the pro-life cause. In mid-May in Washington DC seven pro-lifers were jailed under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. If only they had burnt down buildings, looted property, and threatened lives under a BLM banner, they would have fared better. But they protested peacefully against the practice of abortion. Lauren Handy, aged 30, was sentenced to 57 

months (nearly five years!) while a 76-year-old grandmother and a 69-year-old man were among the other six to be jailed, albeit for shorter terms. 

Nor is the death crusade confined to the USA. In the moral panic after the overthrow of Roe v. Wade in the USA, some European countries pressed for greater legal measures to ensure the right to kill unborn children. The rhetoric had nothing to do with reality. Modern France is formally committed to the slogan of ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ from the halcyon days of the guillotine and the French Revolution. 

The unborn can put up less resistance than the enemies, real or imagined, of the Revolution. So early in May by a vote of 780 to 72 the right to abortion was enshrined in Section 34 of the French Constitution. The Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, spoke with brutal inaccuracy: ‘We’re sending a message to all women: your body belongs to you and no one can decide for you.’ Another case of dressing up callousness as righteousness! 

Actually, abortion is more about the child’s body than that of the woman. Also, unrestrained freedom is a dangerous basis for ethics. It easily leads to all kinds of horrors. 

We have become desensitised to what is going on. The Australian scene is simply variations on a theme. In Queensland Robbie Katter has recently introduced a bill which he hopes would provide 

protection of any babies who were intended to be aborted but who happened to be born alive – what is regarded as a medical complication from the point of view of the abortionist. About 30 children are born in these circumstances every year in the Sunshine State. One would think that the response to a baby born alive should be obvious and uncontested. Yet it is not. They are often left to starve, to die on their own in a cold petri dish. One can imagine the moral tension in the operating theatre. What does that do to the souls of the medical personnel involved in the ‘botched’ abortion? 

There are plenty of laments in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, and Jeremiah was known as ‘the Weeping Prophet’. Yet we are called upon to do more than lament in the gloom. Paul tells the Philippian Christians to ‘shine as lights in the world’ (Phil.2:15). A time of encircling gloom is not a time to weep in a corner, or to run and hide, but to gather ourselves together before God. Those who are in the world walk in darkness, but those who follow Christ as the Light of the World have the light of life (John 8:12). 

As part of what we can do to ‘shine as lights’ (Phil.3:15) in the ‘encircling gloom’, we can sign up for the Walk for Life at Hyde Park which will be held on 21 September 2024, beginning at 2.00 p.m. 

Lastyear’sWalkwas an encouraging time with four speakers, an ultra sound onavery pregnant ladyto listento the unborn baby’s heartbeat, two songs, anda shortwalk around HydePark. 

Join us if you can, and commend this time to the Lord as a faithful witness against a terrible evil. Hopefully, this will become an annual event until the blessed time when there will be no need for such an event.

For information, go to: or email:

Let’s walk for life! 

– Peter Barnes