Thrivent and Planned Parenthood

thLutheran Facebook feeds are buzzing right now as a link listing Planned Parenthood as an organization to which members can direct their Choice dollars is shared over and over again.

And some people are crying out (at least in their heads), “See I told you that if Thrivent allowed non-Lutheran members, everything would go downhill from there.  And now Thrivent is supporting the murder of innocents.  If only we would have remained pure as Lutherans.  I will tell you this:  AAL would never have allowed this.”

But what if the truth is something that would possibly condemn more of us than just those liberals non-Lutherans we welcomed a while back.  What if the problem with Thrivent goes much farther back than this link that is lighting up my Facebook feed?

The LCMS used to be staunchly against insurance because of the scriptural assertions that God’s people  were to rely on God’s promise to provide daily bread. We were not to be the farmer tearing down one barn to build a bigger one to make sure that life was secure for years to come. We were to gather daily what God provided just like the Israelites did with the manna in the wilderness.

At some point, we stop letting these admonitions guide us because smooth talking salesmen told us that loving your family meant making sure that you could provide for every need they would have in their life even if tragedy came and you were suddenly gone.  The stories of widows abandoned by their thoughtless husband’s soon followed.  Guilt and fear came together to sell policy after policy

Years later somebody asserted the same about babies in the womb. Loving that baby meant welcoming them only if you can assure that you could provide a middle class lifestyle for them throughout their life.  If not, abortion was the truly loving act saving them from poverty.  Guilt and fear came together to commit murder after murder.

You see when we start disregarding one principle from the word of God, it is so easy to disregard another.  If we can purchase insurance without even questioning whether it is appropriate as God’s people when only decades ago everyone agreed that it was inherently sinful, can we really demand purity when it comes to one or two Thrivent members who say they just want to support women’s health organizations seeking to help out impoverished girls, even if they think that includes the right to abortion.

I guess what I am saying is that years ago if you would have told anyone that Lutherans churches were buying vacuums for the schoolhouse and carpet for the mother’s room with money from an insurance company, the outrage would have been similar.

There is a slippery slope here indeed, but it didn’t start with allowing non-Lutherans to join or even merging with Lutheran Brotherhood.  You have to look much further up the hill.


Note:  I have written this post from the perspective of one side of my brain so to speak.  I own life insurance policies, from Thrivent no less.  But it has for some time been a question in my mind whether such policies really give evidence that I as God’s child truly trust him to provide daily for my needs.  I hope this post will engender discussion about this question which for so long now has been considered a stupid question even to ask. 

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 at 9:56 am and is filed under Theology and Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

24 Responses to “Thrivent and Planned Parenthood”

  1. mike Says:

    I’m not smart enough to answer your big question here, but Thrivent is member-owned and members may direct their Thrivent Choice $ to any 501c3 of their choosing. So, IMO very irresponsible to link Thrivent and Planned Parenthood

  2. Timothy Says:

    I think comparing buying insurance to performing an abortion is a bit of a far stretch and a slippery slope in itself. Over and over again we are reminded that God provides through means. Whether we like it or not, we are in this world and to survive in this world we need to live in this world. I honestly don’t think that God would have a problem with us buying insurance, and I don’t think His response would be, “So you don’t trust me?” If you say that about insurance, then you can also say that locking your doors is wrong too, because it shows that you don’t trust God. A lot of it has to do with motivation.

    I also think this parable is misapplied in this context. The man building a bigger barn was doing so for selfish reasons. He was gathering up for himself so that he could live in comfort and ease. The teaching is not to store up treasures for yourself here but in heaven. The irony in the parable is that God requires his life before he gets to live that life. Buying insurance is actually the complete opposite. We aren’t trying to store up treasures, in fact we’re paying out quite a bit for it. We’re preparing in case something happens, and if it’s life insurance that’s almost a guarantee (unless Christ comes back first). Selfishly storing up treasures for yourself in this life is not the same as being prepared for the unknown. God, in fact, wants us to be prepared. Further, it would only not be trusting in God if God had said, “I will never let anything bad happen to you ever.” Then I would say that buying insurance is a sin.

    As far as abortions, we know flat out that this is an abomination. Even apart from scripture, everything within screams out at the thought of it. Those who have abortions are often left with torn souls that need much pastoral care and guidance in order to heal. In Scripture, we can relate it directly to verses, such as all the ones condemning murder. We also see every time babies are killed by men in Scripture, it is by evil men such as Pharaoh and Herod. It is undeniably wrong and undeniably against our faith. I have yet to see a Scripture that is against insurance, at least not one that we have to stretch a little bit so that we can interpret that way. Furthermore, I think we can interpret just as much Scripture in favor os it. I think comparing these two things and saying that they are part of the “same sequence” is going way too far.

  3. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Mike, in one sense I agree with you that we do not know the whole story here about the connection. And it is certainly not like they are partnering with them for an abortion Thirvent Kills event. And yet, I do think that trying to wash your hands by blaming others when you have the responsibility ultimately is kosher either.

  4. Mark Junkin Says:

    The insurance question is good to consider; at what point do we put our trust in things other than God, and at what point are we wisely using God’s gift of reason and anticipation? The Thrivent issue, however, seems to me to be more one of not serving two masters: God and money. AAL generally seemed to serve God with money; recent Thrivent trends lead me to believe that money has become the master. Yes, it is a chapter that chose Planned Parenthood, not the corporation, but the corporation is finally responsible to God in how they allocate their money.

    Abortion is evil. If God is Thrivent’s master, the company should be moving, now, to correct this situation.

  5. Philip Hoppe Says:

    I do not mean to equalize the two necessarily. But I do mean to point out that many use the same “use your brain God gave you” logic towards both. God says he will provide, but use your brain and buy insurance. God says do not kill but use your brain and think about the child’s future. Everything is not proper simply because the mind reasons it fine. Each means must be tested against the Word of God. And here is the question with insurance, how easy is it to end up fearing, loving, and trusting in it above all things?

    As far us abortion being an unquestionable abomination (which I believe), the same was said of insurance not long ago. And in both cases, the case was made by applying principles of scripture to a new idea. Insurance was wrong because it did not place trust in God to provide in time of need. Abortion is wrong because God has said that life is his to begin and end. Neither abortion or insurance are specifically tackled in the scriptures and yet we as God people has sought faithfully to apply the principles of the Word to these things.

    I am simply asking that we stop assuming insurance is unquestionably good.

  6. Geoff Boyle Says:

    Phil, these are two separate issues. You even said above that you don’t mean to equalize the two. Your argument seems to be that we’re following the same sort of logic with one as the other. However, I don’t believe that’s quite right. We do not support Planned Parenthood because they support abortion (in fact, they are known for their performance of abortion, all in the name of “women’s health”). Abortion is a breaking of the 5th commandment.

    Health insurance, though, is not necessarily a breaking of the 1st commandment–which, I believe is where you’d point the sin of not fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things. And yet, is it not that God provides for the family through the work of insurance companies? Is buying insurance a breaking of the first commandment? Whether or not Walther believed it to be so, the question is: is it sinful. If so, demonstrate it; and those who own insurance ought to repent. If not, then we’re dealing with two different arguments.

  7. Kelvi Place Says:

    This to me is another example of how weak we are as Christians…and even so much to say how weak we are as Lutherans. This did indeed start uphill….but no one along the way has tried to stop the avalanche…instead, WE keep chipping away at the mountain. When is anyone going to stand up to things like this.
    P.S. I’ve already emailed my Thrivent rep about it to express my discontentment. 🙂

  8. Rev. Matt Hoffmann Says:

    Interesting take Phil. I’m not sure what the hang-up with insurance is? Is it also inching toward sinfulness to wear a seatbelt? Would it be better to simply have faith?

  9. Chris Says:


    Your diatribe against insurance reminds me of the story of the man who was caught in a flood. As the flood waters continue to rise, he goes to the roof of his house and cries out, “God save me.” A few minutes later, some friends in a make-shift raft come by and ask the man to get on. But the man on the roof says, “No. God will save me.” A few minutes after that, another man in a boat comes by and tells him to get in. The man on the roof says, “No, God will save me.” Another few minutes pass by and a helicopter comes by and drops a ladder for him but the man on the roof says, “No thanks. God will save me.” Eventually the water rises and the man on the roof drowns. When he gets to heaven, he is met by God. The man asks God “Why didn’t you save me, Lord?” God looked at him and said, “I tried. I tried three times. I sent you the raft, the boat and the helicopter and you refused all of them.”

    Nowhere in the Scriptures does it say to trust God by doing absolutely nothing. Nowhere! St. Paul even rebukes the Thessalonians because they have rejected their jobs and their livelihood in their anticipation of the second coming. Be watchful, yes, but not at the expense of providing for yourself or your family. Christ’s Sermon on the mount talks about the blessed who actually DO something.

    Maybe it’s even sinful to have a job now? You’re working and thus you’re not trusting God to care for you and your family.

    Phil, I’ve known you for many years, have had many good and spirited conversations and debates with you on many things we don’t agree on, but this takes the cake.

    Now, with regards to the link to Planned Parenthood, I don’t think that connection has anything to do with Thrivent becoming less Lutheran. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

  10. Pat Says:

    Actually, Thrivent is playing a sly word game with their, “Donor’s Choice” and “members designating THEIR funds” verbiage. Members purchase a product. Thrivent collects the premiums. Thrivent has CHOSEN to give some of these profits to charity. Thrivent has COMPLETE and TOTAL control of these funds (It says so in their “Terms and Conditions of Service” Despite letting individuals choose where a portion of what is now THRIVENT’S MONEY is sent and despite giving local chapters “control” over which charities get on the list…the Thrivent themselves state that the national company has FINAL SAY over where their charity money will go. THEY are choosing to let this continue. Which, of course, should surprise no one. This is the same company that for years refused to let Lutherans for Life into their giving program because it was “too controversial”. ELCA is in complete control on the National level now and they WANT to fund abortion. PERIOD.

  11. Nathan K Says:

    I don’t have enough information to form an opinion on insurance as such, but the LCMS should have shaken off Thrivent’s dust a long time ago. It hasn’t been Lutheran for a long time and is merely using the name to promote its business. In addition, contrary to the Synod’s opinion, it would be a better confession if we absolutely avoided supporting any organization that cooperates with the ELCA.

    Also, Chris, although I’m not disputing your position, your argument is a straw man. You may be right about insurance but you need to attack what Rev. Hoppe actually said, not what can be extrapolated from it.

  12. Susan James Says:

    Panned Parenthood is NOT all about abortion. They help low-income and anyone with birth control needs and exams. My mother and I both used them before even abortion existed legally. By NOT supporting them at all, a woman’s needs are left out. Before you say something against them for abortion, think that there are other good things that they have done and helped many women of all backgrounds.

  13. Dan Says:

    Susan- Why not support a pregnancy center that does not support abortion? Is Planned Parenthood really the only option for non-abortion services?

  14. Chris Says:


    It’s not a straw man argument. I read what he wrote. But I cannot fathom why church at any point in its history would say purchasing insurance indicates a lack of trust in God.

  15. Rev. Paul T. McCain Says:

    Hi Phil, do you have any insurance? Car? Fire? Home? Life? Health?

    Just wondering.

  16. Philip Hoppe Says:

    As noted in the orange text, I do. I am just not sure that I should. As you well know, our whole system assumes you will. But yes, I do. I stated that up front.

  17. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Susan, I do not mean to ignore your experience, but from its inception planned parenthood has been about limiting the number of children through any means necessary. Its founder said this,

    “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” Margaret Sanger, Women and the New Race (Eugenics Publ. Co., 1920, 1923)

  18. Susan James Says:

    LCMS currently has one program, AFAIK, and Planned Parenthood has many in all states. The Catholics have many, so what is the program that helps women the most with all their needs-doctors, annual exams, breast and PAP tests, STDs and tests….???
    Their MAIN goal is Women’s Health. Who does that?
    Find a program that does as much for women as they do, sans abortion, and is available on a widespread basis, then let me know.
    People, mostly men, decry PP but haven’t used their services and don’t know what women face.

  19. Susan James Says:

    Pastor Hoppe,
    That quote may have been true but as I said, when Mom and I used their services for many years, abortion was not legal. It was Women’s health for us. What is an alternative choice for those programs?
    The gist of this is for churches to educate that abortion is not what God wants. Then women will make the right choices if they go there. Other options are presented. Why not find out first hand before denouncing the entire PP parenthood program?
    Research that, visit, ask questions and then make more intelligent answers.
    JMO but you are ALL men.😉

  20. Susan James Says:

    Re insurance
    It is the practice of the Old Order Amish not to have insurance. The community helps those who lost home and property. But health costs have put a burden on them (see the stories on the PA schoolhouse shootings and children in hospitals, home care, etc.) so theirs in not the answer either.
    We LCMS-ers don’t have our people rebuild our homes, barns, etch in a community setting as such. (Perhaps AAL, was initially intended as a brotherhood ins. to be similar to a “Community”.)

    I don’t like the merger of Thrivent, and even worse, the other non-Lutheran members now. It’s too large and got away from the community-type assistance; however, costs are a large factor.

  21. Kelvi Place Says:

    Susan James-you can go to any county health department and receive almost all of those services…minus abortion. In addition, they also provide rate structures for those who do not make enough income to pay for these services. Teenagers can even go in and have birth control, pap tests, STD checks, and so on provided for FREE. Not to mention, all of the jobs that these clinics provide, especially in rural areas.

  22. ralph wetzel Says:

    Should Thrivent be found compliant in supporting Planned Parenthood with our dollars, quo vadis?

  23. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Part of the question is, should we go anywhere?

  24. Rev. Paul T. McCain Says:

    Phil, I’d find your argument far more compelling if you would first go out and cancel all your insurance policies: home, auto, life, health, and also withdraw from any/all retirement savings plans. Let me know when you do that then I’ll consider taking your blog post more seriously.

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