Location: United States

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A Sign that I'm Too Nosey, but Have Much to Say Anyhow

As a means of inserting myself into a running argument between two bloggers, I direct your attention to the Baptist Arena. I also direct you to the writing of Mainstream Baptist here and here (the same posts cited by Baptist Arena). I want to deal with the issue of abortion, upon which I have very strong views, which agree with MSB. However, I also want to point to something quoted in MSB as further evidence of the whoring of language for advancing a political agenda.

The quote actually comes from this article concerning FDA approval for post-coital contraception. The quote is from so-called ethicist Ben Mitchell and runs this way, “A so-called fertilized egg is an embryo. An embryo is a very young human being.” Strictly speaking, this just isn’t true. The definition of an embryo makes that term applicable only after implantation. A fertilized egg is truly only a zygote.

The Baptist Arena also appears to be guilty of another all-too-common practice of the right – he picks out a few words to build a complex theology upon. Thus, he uses “choose life” in Deuteronomy 30:19 to justify “ban abortion”. These two words are taken out of context from the chapter as a whole. What is actually happening is the Lord is giving the Jews the Promised Land and telling them they can choose to follow his ways and he will reward them with life. Or they can turn away, and they will surely be destroyed. It’s only talking about abortion if you walk into it with that frame of mind. No woman or child of any kind is mentioned in the text.

Then there is the point where BA states, “Roe v. Wade was not a decision that reflected compromise; alongside its companion case of Doe v. Bolton, it required abortion on-demand in all states and in all three trimesters.” I felt compelled to comment at his site on that one. Here is a direct quotation from Roe “On the basis of elements such as these, appellant and some amici argue that the woman's right is absolute and that she is entitled to terminate her pregnancy at whatever time, in whatever way, and for whatever reason she alone chooses. With this we do not agree. Appellant's arguments that Texas either has no valid interest at all in regulating the abortion decision, or no interest strong enough to support any limitation upon the woman's sole determination, are unpersuasive. The Court's decisions recognizing a right of privacy also acknowledge that some state regulation in areas protected by that right is appropriate.” The Court practically gives a laundry list of reasons to protect rights of both the state to intervene and women to exert privacy and choice. It was an instrument of moderation, cooperation, and compromise.

When he deals with the very real issue that an unknown number of women pass zygotes as part of their menstrual flow every month, BA actually moves from a losing logic to a rant. The Fall of Man, and Original Sin, is now responsible for menstruation and its inefficiency. Isn’t it better to just say it is the fault of horny men for wanting sex at the wrong time? Since this is so inherently laughable, he immediately tries to stake it up with a slap at gays. It’s a feeble attempt to draw a connection between “the nature of man” as a biological animal and “the nature of man” as a willful creature capable of sin. Perhaps seeing how weak and off the topic that is, he then pulls out a website in support of this inefficiency and then says it doesn’t matter anyhow.

He does get around to making a very good point, though. “If God Almighty ended the lives of 99 percent of all unborn children, that does not give us the license to kill any of the remaining one percent.” He then concludes, “God alone has the authority to take innocent human life; statistics about how and when he does so does not empower us to take life in certain circumstances.” What is lacking, however, is a compelling argument that an eight-celled organism is “innocent human life”. Is an embryo that kills its mother really innocent? Is a child born of rape really innocent? If he really wishes to get Old Testament on society, then the problem with abortion after rape is that it is two deaths short of Biblical justice – the rapist and his victim (killing the rape victim, you see, nicely prevents the need for an abortion).

The problem in defining all abortion as “taking innocent life” is that it leads exactly to where BA is arguing – no amount of compromise is possible. A little bit of murder is as bad as a whole lot of murder. It also gives a de facto blessing for things like this. After all, an eye-for-an-eye demands that the father shoot the mother for having an abortion. From the strict Biblical point of view that BA seems to favor, there is no way to denounce this activity.

I do not favor abortion for every unwanted pregnancy, but I do favor letting the woman concerned be the one to decide. After all, she is the one that will have to live with the consequences – in this world and the next. As Rousseau wrote many years ago, “Removing all liberty from [a person’s] will is tantamount to removing all morality from [their] actions.” No one should be honored for not having an abortion – if that is even desired – unless they have the ability and desire to have one and choose not to do so.

In my ongoing efforts to practice what I preach, I will first suggest that this energy would be better placed ministering to women who are dealing with unwanted pregnancies and helping those women, regardless of how they choose, to better deal with their lives. For those who choose not to have an abortion, it is important that we offer this example of how things can turn out for the best. It would also be less than honest not to offer this example of how abortions do not make everything all right.

I’ve never met anyone who was truly “pro-abortion”. Even those, like me, who seek to protect the right of women to control their bodies would be happy to see abortion used less often. We have it within our power to make that happen – not through taking away the choice – but through better dialogue and openness about birth control and sexual choices. We can even impact abortion rates through a greater commitment to social services, counseling, and child care.

You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. BA, I admire your commitment to your cause. However, if you can’t point to how you are making things better, then that leaves only one side of the equation. As my grandpa occasionally said, “Lead, follow, or get the Hell out of the way.”


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