Oklahoma politics at the beginning of February always reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day, in which Phil is caught in a time loop, doomed to repeat Groundhog Day over and over. One commenter calculated that he relived the day 3,176 times, well over eight years. Another commenter came up with fifteen days shy of thirty-four years. Harold Ramis, director of the film, later affirmed a range of thirty to forty years. In my opinion, Phil relived Groundhog Day for forty years, and here is why.
Consider the following pattern. The natural gestation time for humans is forty weeks. In Genesis we read that during the great flood, rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. In Exodus we read that it took forty days and forty nights to reveal the Torah (the national Law of Israel), and then the Israelites were trapped in the desert for forty years to be humbled and tested. Matthew recounts that Yeshua (Jesus) was led into the desert where he fasted and was tested for forty days. There are dozens of other examples throughout scripture of something significant happening in a period of forty. So what do these stories have in common besides the number forty?
In each case Yehovah (God) was preparing to birth something new. In the flood, he brought forth a new earth. With the Israelites, he brought forth a new nation. Jesus was prepared for a new ministry, the delivery of a new covenant and a new kingdom. Whether it was Noah, Moses, the Israelites, or the son of God, in each case the period of development and refining that each underwent was like the gestational period that babies undergo in the womb. Perhaps, therefore, forty is a symbolic measure for the fullness of time.
There is more. Early Roman Christians believed that Jesus was conceived during Passover, which commemorates the deliverance of Israel out of Egyptian bondage by the mighty hand of Yehovah. Passover gets its name from the final plague upon Egypt in which God laid claim to the lives of every firstborn male. In order to redeem their firstborn from God’s hand, the Israelites made sacrifices and covered their doorframes with blood. When God saw the blood, he passed over those homes along his way to killing every other firstborn male throughout the land of Egypt. From that time forward, all firstborn sons in Israel belonged to God and each one had to be redeemed by offering a sacrifice forty days after his birth.
Forty weeks of pregnancy would put our Lord’s birth on 25 December. Early Roman Christians celebrated Christmas by lighting candles to represent the coming of the “light of the world.” The fortieth day after Christmas is 2 February, the day on which Jesus would have been presented at the Temple in Jerusalem to be redeemed. This event became an early church holy day known as Candlemas, which Christians celebrated by taking their Christmas candles to church to be blessed by a priest. In Europe Candlemas coincides with the return of enough daylight to begin farming activities without the use of candles. In many Germanic areas, ancient folklore about the weather got mixed in with the church celebration, and the saying became, “If Candlemas is fair and clear, there will be two winters in the year.” This tradition traveled to America with the Pennsylvania Dutch, and now, all these years later, the famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil prognosticates the weather. This means that the date 2 February is loaded with Christian symbols. As Groundhog Day it celebrates the sun’s return to bring forth new life, and as Candlemas it signifies the Son, the true “light of the world.”
Therefore, Phil must have relived Groundhog Day for forty years, because that is the symbolic period of testing and trial required to humble him and allow him to become a new man. It is the naturally and biblically revealed time required to teach a person or a community to submit to God, to agree with God, to rely upon God, and to follow the law of God. In the fullness of time, Phil figured out how to live life properly, based on principle and with the right motives.
I hear the echo of Groundhog Day in Oklahoma politics. In the movie, before finally getting it right, Phil begins doing things that look altruistic, but in reality, he is still acting out of selfish motives. Similarly, when it comes to murder by abortion, last year the Legislature banned abortion in form, but by exempting all women from prosecution, they functionally kept it legal, and the governor supported this policy. So our politicians, like Phil, still had not learned to act on principle, to truly submit to God’s law.
This year some legislators have talked about addressing this loophole by regulating abortion pills. They might propose making the purchase or possession of abortion pills a misdemeanor. This may sound reasonable at first, but it still misses the mark, like issuing a traffic citation to the driver of the getaway car in a heist, but not going after him for bank robbery. Or like issuing a fine to a rapist for the possession of date-rape drugs, but not prosecuting him for the act of rape.
The answer is simple. The Legislature must remove the legal protection of women who commit murder by abortion and make them subject to the same prosecution that any other person would face for the same criminal act. Senator Warren Hamilton (R-Haskell, Hughes, Latimer, Okfuskee, Pittsburg) is acting on principle and seeking to truly abolish abortion with SB 402 and SB 287 which would close the current legal loopholes and ensure equal protection of the laws.
Will Oklahoma stay stuck in a kind of Abortion Groundhog Day, doomed to repeat another forty to fifty years of State-regulated murder by abortion? Year after year our governor and legislators have an opportunity to establish justice and equal protection for our preborn neighbors, but year after year, in a seemingly endless cycle of sessions, they fail to get it right. They compromise with evil; they choose to run policies that look smart and sound compassionate, but, in the end, protect abortion-choice within the State. When will we reach the fullness of time in Oklahoma? When Governor Stitt and the Legislature emerge at the beginning of February, we will be able to forecast the political weather. “Governor Phil” could finally exercise leadership by demanding that the Legislature abolish abortion; or, he and the Legislature might see their political shadows and once again retreat into their holes for a prolonged winter of abortion.