“The irony of the abortion debate, as it now stands in our church and society, is that it frames these two groups, women and children, as enemies of one another … The Christian response to abortion must reframe the issue to focus on responsibility rather than rights. The pro-choice/pro-life debate presently pits the right of the mother to choose against the right of the fetus to live. The Christian response, on the other hand, centers on the responsibility of the whole Christian community to care for the least of these.”
“Abortion” by ataraxiaemorte
I cannot help remembering the words of Jesus: “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Surely there is a better way than this.
It’s frequently said we live in a fragmented culture, but are we ready to admit we have fragmented ethics even within many of our churches?
Consider these life sized contradictions
- The anti-abortion crusader who attacks medical centres kills abortionists in the name of defending life.
- Or somewhat less extreme, anti-abortion voters who justify infant “collateral damage” in the furtherance of foreign policy as an unfortunate necessessity.
- The Christian social justice activist who opposes war but rejects any opposition to abortion as mindless fundamentalism and patriarchal misogeny.
- The polarized responses and ethical gymnastics amongst Christians over torture, euthenasia and capital punnishment.
Contradiction is pervasive
Can any of these positions be said to be consistently pro-life? Have any of us not slipped into these contradictions at one time? Our churches are ethically fragmented. We talk past each other, but fail to acknowledge that people on both sides love women, babies and the elderly. We line up along politcal lines as if political ideology, not holy scripture, is our primary guide for decisions in life. Is this integrity, or a fallout of the fall?
Beyond Political Partisanship
In matters of morality I find beginning with Christ is the best place for Christians to start. In earlier versions of Christendom some Christians dared to advocate a separation of church and state, a separation of Christ and Caesar. If we are to move beyond the present impass I feel we also need to affirm a separation of church and party. We cannot rediscover unity whilever identity politics is linked to different lords.
Somehow we have to find a position that is:
- Pro-unborn life
- Pro-infant life (whatever country they hail from)
- Pro-women life
- Pro-elderly life
- Pro-broken life
We should be for the vulnerable in other words, whatever the person’s point of vulnerability. This is what it means to be consistently pro-life, which I believe is the general thrust of the gospels. It’s to be pro-every life, even that of enemies. And this is not achieveable without as being pro-reconcilation, which also means pro-forgiveness and pro-repentance.
Australian philosophers have unleashed a firestorm of criticism over their claim that the killing newborns is morally the same as abortion and should be permissible if the mother wishes it. They claim this ”after-birth abortion” is moral as long as it is painless, because the baby is not harmed by missing out on a life it cannot conceptualise.
I find this both morally repugnant yet refreshing in its intellectually honesty. For this is relativistic ethics taken to its logical conclusion in a way that few others have dared. The atheist philosopher Nietzsche saw it first:
“When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is absolutely not self-evident: one must make this point clear again and again, in spite of English shallowpates. Christianity is a system, a consistently thought out and complete view of things. If one breaks out of it a fundamental idea, the belief in God, one thereby breaks the whole thing to pieces: one has nothing of any consequence left in one’s hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know what is good for him and what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows. Christian morality is a command: its origin is transcendental; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticise; it possesses truth only if God is truth — it stands or falls with the belief in God.”
Remember that prior to Christianity the exposing of unwanted newborns was common. Christians made a name for themselves adopting babies that others abandoned. Christians, of course, may be inclined to both agree and disagree with the brutal logic of these philosophers: agree that the killing of unborns and newborns is morally equivalent; disagree that either are morally justified.
In the west we often speak of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” as if pro-abortion naturally means pro-women.
But I wonder, what if we invited Chinese women into the conversation?
I get the impression that for many of them “pro-choice” and “pro-life” aren’t opposing positions.
Could it be that the western debate is too polarized, too blinkered?
This evening I was pondering the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, a late term abortion provider, as he served as an usher in Lutheran church in Kansas. This is so screwed up on so many levels, I just don’t know where to start. Just how is assassination pro-life?