The Atlantic Journal Constitution published an editorial (free registration required) today, by C. Joshua Villenes that implies that the only reason to oppose abortion is a misguided and mistaken religious belief. He repeats many of the fallacies that we’ve read before and answered before.
Here’s an excerpt:
Those who seek to outlaw abortion often use the rhetoric of “protecting the most vulnerable and helpless” in our communities. Many of them are Christians who see their opposition to abortion rights as inextricably linked with their faith and their understanding of Christian ethics. After all, wouldn’t a God of love and life want us to protect life wherever we found it?
If only it were that simple.
In practice, there are other questions we must ask. Does a God of love and life ever support war? Does such a God understand that some innocent civilians will die when we fight to protect our freedoms? In other words, does God approve when we make the decision to kill other people to protect our quality of life? What about when we kill to prevent genocide? Does God have a holy balancing scale that weighs intangibles like “intent” and “the greater good” or one that compares the number of innocent lives lost against the number of innocent lives saved?
We do not know. For every Christian with a “God Bless Our Troops” sticker on their bumper there is another with “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” on their rear windshield.
If my experience as a pastor is any indication, it is unlikely that the driver of either car would be making their point from the kind of complex theological arguments I learned in seminary. In practice, our upbringings, our biases and our circumstances have much more to do with what we believe God thinks; and we are often inconsistent.
How else could we spend millions of dollars to oppose abortion — despite no clear biblical argument for or against it — and ignore the overwhelming number of biblical texts that explicitly command us to care for the poor?
For the vast majority of Christians, it is not about consistency — it is about convenience. Even those of us who speak passionately about protecting the weak often forget that our willingness to purchase cheap goods produced by exploited workers sentences children to poverty, disease, violence and death. The cars that we drive, the food that we allow to be marketed to children, the tax breaks we support or oppose, they all have a life-or-death impact on the most vulnerable among us. It is not only in war that we make decisions to value one life over another. Consciously or not, we do it every time we go to the supermarket.
The issue of abortion is not about whether life starts at conception. There are convincing arguments either way. The issue is which carries more weight: the life that may be in the embryo, or the life and needs of the woman in whose body that embryo was conceived?
After spending time in women’s health clinics, I have come to realize that the “most vulnerable and helpless” who need our active protection are the women and couples who are faced with the agonizingly difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy. . .
Yes, we are inconsistent and we do not all have the sophisticated education that Mr. Villenes is working toward. But, we can look at pictures and know when life begins. (And I’m convinced that capitalism is undermining poverty, even where human rights violations such as child labor and abortion are occuring.)
The advocacy for abortion is harmful to women and the children they do have, as well as killing at least one member of our species. The very fact that humans are inconsistent and not as smart as Mr. Villenes should lend some doubt as to our ability to weigh all the good, now and in the future, of our children and find any convincing evidence that intentionally causing some of us to die before birth is “for the greater good.” Abortion does not replace or supplement caring for the weak, the disabled, the poor or those who “know not what they do.”
I wrote and sent both a letter to the editor and an editorial to the AJC and Mr. Villenes. I hope that they will read the non-religious arguments in the email, on this site and on others, including the opinions of such groups as “Feminists for Life”, “ “Libertarians for Life” , “The Compleat Heretic”, “ProLife Alliance for Gays and Lesbians” and “Atheist and Agnostic Prolife League.”
And, rather than harming women by assisting them to “choose” between killing their children and a hoped for future, perhaps Mr. Villenes could give his time and money to relieve the pressures that make abortion seem necessary: Teach abstinence in the schools. Teach the benefits of abstinence, monogamy and non-abortifacient contraception in his church. Make sure the local food bank is full and help provide homes and furnishings for mothers and their children during and after pregnancy. Send money to missionaries who preach to – and feed – child laborers, rather than support organizations that advocate forced abortions, such as the UNFPA. (Here’s Mr. Villenes name on a .pdf letter from “Religious Leaders” and a .doc letter from “American Humanist.org.”)
He could even babysit! With or without his clerical collar and degree.
>Without making a real wager, I'd say he is probably Methodist and affiliated with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice(RCRC). I mention the Methodist part because I only recently joined the ranks of Methodist and can testify to how upset many are with the positions he espouses. His reference to seminary is very telling. It is unfortunate that so many other Methodist actually agree with his repackaged secular humanism. (Ouch, that wasn't fair to secular humanism) ;)What he is proposing is a very divisive issue within mainstream churches and is nothing less than an attempt to co-opt religious normalcy for the eugenics movement. I am glad that you wrote letters to the paper and that you mentioned the secular groups against abortion, too. Perhaps they thought if only they could split the pesky moralist up then no one would care!
>The bio attached to the article notes that Mr. Villenes is attending Vanderbilt University and a member of the RCRC. He started out Baptist, but switched to the United Church of Christ. I don't think even the American Baptist Convention is as far left and as liberal as this self-proclaimed liberal minister. As a Missionary Baptist (we thought the Southern Baptists are too loosy goosy)preacher's daughter who married a Church of Christ (Not United, heaven forbid! Stone-Campbell tradition, as in, "we're the only ones going to heaven and we won't do it accompanied by musical instruments or with our women speaking"), before deciding to just love 'em all and let God sort His children, I think the United CoC is to the left of the Methodists.A google search on his name leads to the Democratic Underground and religious sites that advocate "evolving toward anarchy."Which should be acceptable at Vanderbilt Divinity school:http://www.vanderbilt.edu/divinity/viewbook/history.htmI haven't received an acknowledgement of my email, yet. Which is unusual for newspapers.
>I did go back and read the editorial and his little bio after posting here. My hunch was pretty close. Worse, I practically work with the guy as I am on staff at Vanderbilt and work a few buildings away from the Div school. Knowing the history and current climate there make me laugh when people use it to puff themselves up. It is really hip to be a secular humanist with a left-wing liberal agenda there.I like your reflection about relative points of view. I was raised in the CoC as you were and the Southern Baptists really did seem liberal in comparison. The UCoC that he now calls home is a different planet compared to the conservative protestant traditions I know, though. Strange as it may seem, I believe that attempts such as his will help bring together large numbers of Christians across denominations that reject the theology used to justify abortion. That new theology has other issues of controversy being forwarded for acceptance, such as homosexuality. Lifewatch is a Methodist dissent group who have picked up on that and work to try and return Methodism to its core beliefs. All Christians should really pay attention to the theology that groups like the RCRC are promoting to justify abortion and other issues. The RCRC really gives Christianity a bad name.