Friday, November 18, 2016

An American Heresy: The Myth of Innocence and Abortion

The Myth of Innocence and Abortion

The so-called pro-life movement has always represented a contradiction to me.   There is much advocacy for the rights of the unborn.   I regularly see billboards with photos of babies in the womb along the highways and catchy slogans on bumper stickers on the backs of cars.   My Facebook feed was filled with the so-called po-life telling me that if I didn't vote for Trump millions of babies would die.

But what I did not see was any compassion or concern for human beings once they were born. The political so-called pro-life movement is one of the most active opponents of providing health care for all in our society.  They oppose the biblical mandate of helping the sick on the ground that it would enable the unwashed masses to get free abortions.  At the same time many so-called pro-life advocates actively support the death penalty.
Only about one-in-ten (11 percent) Americans hold a “consistent ethic of life” position, opposing legalized abortion and capital punishment. In fact, in the general public, there is no significant correlation between attitudes about the legality of abortion and views on capital punishment. Fully two-thirds of Americans overall say they favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, compared to only three-in-ten who say they oppose it. Support for capital punishment is virtually identical to the general population among Americans who say abortion should be illegal (69 percent) and among those who identify as “pro-life” (69 percent).
Let me be clear at the risk of alienating my progressive friends, I believe that abortion is evidence of our bondage to sin.  I would love to see a society where there are no abortions.  But to risk alienating my conservative friends (I probably already done so have by the title of this post), I would also like to see a society where there is no death penalty and where the sick are cared for regardless of their ability to pay.   I advocate that the centrist, historic, and apostolic witness of Jesus Christ calls for the consistent ethic of love for all that are alive.   My biblical sources for this view are the red letter words of Jesus himself contained in Matthew chapters 5 and 25.  

What troubles me most is the the result of the inconsistent ethic of life of the so-called pro-life movement, is a world where more abortions happen because of their actions.  Abortion rates have long been linked to the health of the economy. 
Abortion numbers go down when the economy is good and go up when the economy is bad, so the stalling may be a function of a weaker economy,' said University of Alabama political science professor Michael New.
How is this so? This happens because by having a capitalist health care system that sees health care as a commodity rather than a public good; we give an economic incentive to abortion over childbirth. Most people who who hold a so-called pro-life view see no reason to change the nature of our market based health care system, but this is what the reality of it  actually is:
Planned Parenthood estimates that in the United States a medication abortion costs between $300 to $800 and an aspiration abortion (in the first 12 weeks) between $300–$950.
If you don't have health insurance, the average cost of prenatal care is about $2,000... The costs of childbirth can be steep. The charge for an uncomplicated cesarean section was about $15,800 in 2008. An uncomplicated vaginal birth cost about $9,600, government data
If we care about reducing or eliminating abortions we would work to fix the economic incentives, instead the so-called pro-life movement works to criminalize women and those who feel called to help them. My suspicion is that criminalizing abortion will only drive it underground and put more people at risk.

There are two reasons the so-called pro-life movement behaves the way it does.   One is just good old fashioned selfishness.  By advocating positions that conform to the views of the majority of Americans regardless if they are biblical or not, they hope to obtain influence, political power and monetary donations for their causes.  Cultural accommodation is good for the religion business, which sells things rather than change lives.  Cultural Christians espouse the concerns of businessmen rather than disciples selling prepackaged cheap grace in the forms inane music and sappy devotionals at Walmart prices (see Bonhoeffer, the Cost of Discipleship).

The second reason is theological, as the so-called pro-life movement embraces a dualistic theology which sees human beings as being born innocent.  This ideology maintains that while in the womb the baby is completely innocent.   Once born the child can choose good or evil.  If the child chooses evil then he or she is no longer innocent and his or her life is forfeit.  According to this world view. criminals can be executed because they have chosen evil.   If mothers abort a pregnancy they are killing the innocent and liable for judgment.  If that same mother brings the baby to term but advocates the killing of criminals or enemies in war she is still considered innocent.  The problem with this is that people who hold this view call it Christian.  It is not: it is the ancient Iranian heresy of manichaeism. It has more in common with the ideology of the so-called Islamic state than it does the teaching of Jesus. The so called pro-life movement is really a pro-innocence or pro-purity movement. When humans attempt to usurp the Lordship of Christ and judge who is pure or not by their own criteria it always ends up being demonic.

A genuine Christian pro-life movement would advocate for the elimination of abortion not because babies are innocent, but simply because they are alive and that life is the province of God and not human beings.  It would also realize that the mothers and fathers of these children are created in the image of God as well and have intrinsic value in God's eyes just as much as babies do.  It would not seek to outlaw and criminalize abortion  and its providers but to work with allies on all sides to help people avoid being trapped in situations where there are only bad choices.

For both Christian scripture and tradition teach that there is no such thing as innocence. From the womb to the tomb, people are always good and bad mixed up. Every individual has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (see Romans 3:23) Also, there is no such thing as a completely pure or innocent person, even babies. (see Psalm 51:5)  War, capital punishment and abortion are always expressions of humanity’s bondage to sin. Christians should work to minimize their occurrences, while demonstrating love, forgiveness and mercy to both those who commit and are affected by these actions. (see Matthew 5:38-42)  This call for love, forgiveness, and mercy will only have meaning  if we address the structures in our society which make it easier for people to choose death over life.  It will only embrace the truth if it realizes that people rarely get the luxury of choosing between good and evil in a broken world.   Most times we make choices and hope they hurt as few people as possible. (see Romans 7)

Always expecting people to make the right choice while giving them no help or incentives to do so is cruel and unjust.   A consistent ethic of life  will provide for others in need at every stage of their lives no matter if they are considered pure or impure by society. (see Luke 6:27-36).   Jesus did not go to the cross because we were good; he went because we are loved, and God chooses to forgive us despite our sin. (see Romans 5:6-11).  A consistent Christ based pro-life stance would be based on building relationships of forgiveness and trust rather than winning elections and triumphing over political foes.  A consistent ethic of life would also save more lives than the unjust system we now have. Not only babies, but mothers.  Not only mothers, but the sick.  Not only the sick but the imprisoned.  Not only the imprisoned but the strangers.  (see Matthew 25:31-46).   A consistent ethic of life would also help our world look a bit more the way Jesus envisioned it could be than America does today.