24 March 2010

Is your God really "pro-life"?

I realize that I am opening up a very large can of worms here but the time has come for some tough questions.  Believe me, I know the topic is sensitive so I'll try to tread accordingly.

During the recent and present healthcare debate there has been much talk of how many people don't want their tax money (federal funds) used for abortion. Many people of faith, particularly conservative Christians - my background, don't want to participate in what they believe is murder. It disgusts and outrages them that they would contribute to a sort of age-specific genocide that they have, in many cases, actively protested or at least used the power of the ballot to battle. 

Certainly there are varying shades of this view from all abortion being completely morally wrong to exceptions made for life of the mother and/or rape and/or incest. I understand the points of view and have held them all and then some. These folks call themselves "pro-life" and while I have elsewhere gone on about how they should more honestly use the label "anti-abortion", we'll go with "pro-life" for now.

Most folks I know, and I'd imagine generally, who espouse the "pro-life" philosophy base their morality on their religious beliefs. In my experience, those beliefs are based in some fashion on a book (collection of texts). Notice that I say those beliefs are "based" on a book. The beliefs may or may not be spelled out exactly in said book but people, to varying degrees, do the hard work of both reading the texts and extracting beliefs and/or of having a belief and finding a text to back it up. 

No matter how faithful and objective one tries to be, I am convinced that both happen, with all people, regularly. How does one know if the beliefs one is trying to faithful to are founded in real objectivity or just somebody elses proof-texted bias? It's a tough thing.

With that in mind, the Judeo-Christian basis for a "pro-life" stance seems to be that God (Yahweh) is defender of the innocent, advocate for the persecuted, and avenger/enforcer of the moral code that He has given and that His followers should be like Him. All of this is based on His representation in the texts collected as the Holy Bible. There IS plenty of basis for that characterization of God especially if the reader takes said texts literally in every way. 

It seems that most people who base their abortion views on these beliefs fall into the biblical inerrancy and more-so literalism. Wouldn't you agree? Now I realize that there are plenty of people who do the mental gymnastics of not being complete literalists (making exceptions for old world science in texts etc) while maintaining that the intentions and end messages of the texts are still without error. I want to be clear, I know and have lived in the shades between and around them.

In any case, these views don't allow for the influence of culture or the author's own views/biases on the texts' direct characterizations of God's actions and recording of His words. In other words, what God wanted in the texts was written down and it is what we have today. Since those characterizations and recorded words are the inspiration behind said beliefs one has to then take all of it with the same weight. Therein lies the problem.

For all the texts that extol God's greatness, love, creativeness, and loyalty there are plenty of others showing a violent, genocidal, jealous, and vengeful side. Sure those can be creatively reasoned away as the result of being enemies of God or out of covenant, but what about the "innocent" children?

Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: About midnight I will go out through Egypt. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 
Exodus 11:4-5

Thus says the Lord of hosts, "I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."
I Samuel 15:2-3

Or worse yet, what about the unborn? Certainly God doesn't punish them does He?

Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him [yeah, that includes pregnant women]. But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves.
Numbers 31:7-8

Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword, their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.
Hosea 13:16

With an inerrant/literalist reading of the texts, He certainly has ordered the killing of the unborn. Honestly, I found this to be troubling and I think it forces one to make a choice. Either one's view of the Bible needs adjusting or one's view of God is wrong at least on this issue. Either way, it makes the issue much more complicated than any of the sides cares to admit.



johanna said...

but when we're talking abortion, we're not talking about God ordering the killing of the unborn. we're talking about MAN's ordering the killing of the unborn. MAN'S decision of whether someone should live or not. "pro-life" to me means anti-murder. (i am not afraid of using so strong a term.) there are obviously more issues than one being raised here. but let's just say [if] God is God and He can do whatever He wants (my feelings on this are NOT so dismissive, but just for the sake of time and space i leave it at that.)... WE are NOT God. why do we think we have the right to end a life just because God does it? i would go farther and say aside from God and aside from the Bible...aside from any "religion", i would still see abortion as murder. (of course there's the question of how a moral code is established, who says what is good and bad, etc., but i'm just talking about abortion alone. even with no God or perception of God in the picture, this is how i see it.)

johanna said...

p.s. of course with the "pro-life" terminology, i am also just sticking to the abortion topic alone-not war, the death penalty, etc.

johanna said...

AND obviously i didn't really answer the question posed in the post! hahaha i got distracted by what the real meaning of "pro-life" or "anti-abortion" is to me. i DO believe God is "pro-life" in this specific issue of abortion but i am not prepared to give a good statement on the topic at this time. :)

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with drawing a correlation between the Israeli conquest of an utterly corrupt Canaan and the modern American murder of the unborn for the sake of convenience. They both involve the loss of life of the innocent but the contexts are worlds apart.

chrisflinchbaugh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chrisflinchbaugh said...

Anonymous - If you would like to enter into the discussion please post using some sort of identifier. It would be nice if it connected to AT LEAST an online identity if not a real world name.

Regardless, so you think that killing of the unborn is justified if the unborn, or even the young, are part of a corrupt society? As I said earlier, many people think modern western society, if not the USA specifically, is quite corrupt. Does that not qualify?

chrisflinchbaugh said...

Johanna - Thanks for jumping in. I'll start with your first comment. You said "... WE are NOT God. why do we think we have the right to end a life just because God does it?"

First I should say that my post is not about my opinion on abortion it is about that of the God of and the literalists/inerrantists themselves and their opinions. My main point is to call into question their perspective on the Bible in light of the morality that they (and you, as you said even without religion) accept.

In the Numbers 31:7-8 text God doesn't actually do the killing, He has his followers do it. Based on the text and the assumed interpretation (the Biblical perspective I mentioned) we could assume that in modern times God might also have people, whether His followers or not as in the Bible, kill people as part of His plan. Wouldn’t you agree?

This is going to sound really crass, but if our society is now so evil and morally corrupt, as I would partly agree and certainly many “pro-lifers” suggest, it is possible that God might order the deaths/abortions of the unborn if they were to be born into supposedly evil and morally corrupt families. In this God cleanses the world a bit and evens the odds for the good, God-fearing children to be born so they might advance His way.

Do I believe this is the case? No. I don’t believe in such a God and if He did exist I would NOT follow Him. But, like we read, the aforementioned Biblical perspective gives precedent to such an idea. In fact, based on the text it already happened and it was done in a much more open and even a celebrated way by the Israelites.

Of course the biggest difference is that someone physically connected to the baby, the mother, makes the choice, at least the final one, in a modern abortion. The external force, the doctor, that actually performs the abortion is allowed by the mother which is very different than a soldier killing a mother and the unborn baby.

Matt Ralph said...

Wow. This is making my head hurt. In a good way.

Part of the problem with the whole issue of abortion as I see it is that, like a lot of hot button political issues, there are far more gray areas than folks on either side of the debate want to admit.

I think God in his infinite wisdom sees beyond our simplistic terminology and political dogma to the point where reducing him to the label of pro-life is kind of unfair.

He's not pro-life; he's the creator of life who promises that one day all things will be made right.

In a redeemed world, abortion would be unthinkable. In a fallen world it's just one of many messes we - the seriously flawed people we are - have gotten ourselves into.

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