Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Death throes of a great deception - the fall from grace of the pro-life movement

There have been some unspeakably wicked things done in the name of God over the centuries. In my lifetime I can't think of a more insidious act done in the name of the Christian God than the nefarious campaign to teach Americans that God opposes abortion.

In Frank Schaeffer's autobiographical book - “Crazy For God” - Frank reveals that his father, Francis Schaeffer (the defacto father of the pro-life movement) came to regret his participation in the politics that would spawn the pro-life movement within the Republican party. In Frank's new book - “Sex, Mom and God” - Frank illuminates further the corrupt politics that brought regret to his father's last days. Both of these books are excellent resources for anyone interested in the strange history of the heretical anti-abortion doctrine being taught in American churches today, in part, for the purpose of garnering political support.

As a professing Christian I wrestled for years with the abortion arguments. Only in the last few years have I come to fully understand the deeply flawed nature of the anti-choice argument.

Safe modern medical abortion is a relatively new phenomenon in the world. When this procedure was unexpectedly legalized in 1972 many struggled to understand it. There were no centuries old church decrees concerning abortion that were widely known in lay circles in existence. The responsibility therefore fell on all believers to decide for themselves what the "will of God" might be concerning abortion. Although abortion was first widely embraced as a godsend by many respected Christians thinkers, including Southern Baptist theologians, opposing forces soon emerged intent on shaping the broader layperson's understanding. Certain Christian activists and authors like John Rushdoony and Francis Schaeffer began teaching that abortion is an unprecedented form of last days evil and those who practice it commit murder.

With doctrinal uncertainty now brewing in Evangelical America, some in the Republican party saw the perfect opportunity to win a larger segment of the Evangelical voting block away from the Democratic Party. Frank Shaeffer and his father were commissioned to create several films designed to teach American Evangelicals that God strongly opposes abortion – that abortion is nothing short of murder. These films were then aggressively shown in churches throughout America – courtesy of the Schaeffer's politically connected benefactors.

This is a thumbnail history of how many Americans were first taught to believe God opposes abortion. For a more in-depth synopsis one should read Jonathan Dudley's articles penned for CNN and the Huffington Post – the first titled: “When Evangelicals Were Pro-Choice”, and the other: “How the Bible Began Saying Life Begins at Conception”.  Both articles are drawn from Jonathan's book titled: "Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics", which chronicles the now sordid history of Biblical based views of abortion.

Dudley begins his Huffington Post article with a dash of understatement: “Evangelical anti-abortion advocacy rests on a surprisingly flimsy foundation. And exposing that fact makes establishment evangelical leaders nervous.” Nervous indeed.

The vast majority of Christian laypersons in America (including Catholics) reject, or do not follow Papal decrees concerning contraception due to the "irrational" nature of these decrees.  But the success of the Papacy in advancing a similar "irrational" argument for an abortion prohibition has been much more successful in America, primarily because the Evangelical community - while mostly getting it right on contraception - has failed miserably to grasp the catastrophic irrationality of the anti-abortion argument - which, if embraced, becomes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  The unpardonable sin.

So what's wrong with the pro-life world view - from a traditional Christian perspective?

If it is in fact true that what God values in human life comes into existence at conception and if that thing of value is actually destroyed when an abortion takes place  - and if it is also true that it is inherently the will of God that all conception (including conception from rape, incest or fornication) result in live birth, then the pro-life position remains perfectly logical – it has “common sense”.   But if one believes – as Jesus taught – that the human body is the “container” for what God values in human life - the soul - and the creation of a soul is a "process" and not all conception is necessarily the will of God, then the pro-life position becomes not only illogical but highly counterproductive.
The common sense of the pro-life world view begins its trajectory off the rails by denying that the creation of human life is an "extended process" initiated - not by God - but by the actions of human beings.  Pro-life believers stray further from common sense by insisting that what is of value to God (and man) in human life comes fully formed into existence as an instantaneous "God willed" event occurring at the moment of conception.  But the fatal damage to the pro-life argument occurs when one assumes it is somehow “logical” that God's universal will and desire is that all human conceptions result in live birth and therefore the human creation process should never be halted or interfered with by mankind.   What could possibly be the evidence for such a belief - in scripture or anywhere else?

At best this view of reality not only puts man in a box but it puts God in that same box.  God is not free to use the hand of man to ever stop gestation once conception begins – by the decree of man.   That God would desire all conceptions to come to term simply because man has managed to start the ball rolling is highly presumptuous thinking at best.  It lacks that quality called "common sense" - or any respect for the presumed autonomy of God for that matter. How can one just “assume” that all conception, (which in all instances occurs by an act initiated by man) be the will of God? In our distant past successful conception might have been considered an act of God but scientists today can produce conception at will in the lab, simply by mixing the correct ingredients. Man is who calls forth conception from the void.   Not God.

The illogical nature of the belief that conception is a miraculous event tied to the will of God is why pregnancy resulting from rape or incest often gives even the most staunch pro-life advocate an unsettled feeling from time to time. It is why Senate candidate Richard Murdoch had such a pained tone in his voice as he professed on camera that he felt required to believe that even conception from rape is the will of God.

The pro-life believer feels confident that rape can not be the will of God – because rape is a bad thing. But despite the other obvious soon-to-be “bad things” staring them in the face, a woman required to bear a rapist's child against her will and a child growing up with a rapist father, they still steadfastly refuse to consider the possibility that God might actually prefer to terminate a conception. They want instead to trust God desires all conceptions come to term. And this belief is primarily held in place by another completely unfounded belief – that a soul will be lost if a fetus is destroyed. Clearly, not all things are possible with the pro-life God. And all by the decree of the pro-life believer.

The pro-life worldview is promoted in our Evangelical churches almost entirely by means of a very powerful appeal to ones' empathetic emotions, along with a preference for some scripture over others and a complete denial or perversion of yet others. All to try to make a case for “human soul life” beginning at conception. A particular type of soul life mind you – of the type that can somehow be destroyed by the act of abortion.

The closer one examines the pro-life worldview the more one discovers it defies almost all traditional Christian concepts and principles. And since the pro-life worldview declares the “soul” exists at conception, one must then wonder what a soul even is - if this is true. I think most all Christian theologians would agree that the elemental essence of a human soul is a person's “consciousness” or “self-awareness”, the “observer within” – that part of human life that Christians hope survives after death. That thing Jesus said no man could destroy (Matthew 10:28) and yet it is somehow in grave peril from the threat of abortion – having not yet even manifested itself in the world. Perplexing. Christians would perhaps be wise to settle all the “unprovable” theological arguments concerning the birth of the soul with the only passage of scripture describing such a birth. Genesis 2:17 (KJV) “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Clearly a process. Not an instantaneous event at conception.

The teaching of the pro-life heresy in America's churches (along with other blatant heresies all stemming from the belief in an inerrant Bible, made to say whatever one pleases) imperils the very survival of Christianity in America. Because these teachings not only subvert and pervert traditional Christian understanding but also impede our evolution to greater understanding of ourselves and our world. These teachings lead to the denial of science, but science is a secure path to understanding God: “God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:20 NIV).

So what can be understood about the nature of God by observing how human beings are made – if one adopts a view that a human soul is what is of preeminent importance to God, rather than the body, as Jesus taught?

Scientists now understand, in part, why nature often aborts through miscarriage - to ensure that only healthy bodies become the future containers for human souls.  Chromosome damage is now regularly discovered in the autopsies of miscarried fetuses.  Chromosome damage leads to DNA replication errors, which causes birth defects.   Evidently the God of nature is much more concerned about ensuring a healthy body for a potential human soul than the destruction of a fetus through miscarriage, because nature is the most prolific abortionist of all.  Researchers currently estimate well over half of all human conceptions end in spontaneous abortion.   Some conceptions do not manage to implant in the uterus while others detach after an extended period of gestation.  Why is the pro-life movement not outraged at nature for such murderous behavior?
Our evolving understanding of miscarriage reveals nature is at work using her brand of wisdom to ensure not all conceptions result in live birth, one could argue for the sake of a potential soul.  But we also know that nature sometimes fails in her tasks and so we seek to perfect or purge those failings, as we evolve in our own understanding and dominion over nature, to advance humanity's well being. These facts about our "reality" should profoundly influence our understanding of God's will and abortion.

Perhaps the most fundamental teaching of Jesus recorded in scripture concerning the "nature of God" is that God must always be understood as "good" and “only good” when attempting to understand God's will. This is the vital understanding necessary to discern the will of God and abortion. For Christians seeking to know the will of God, in any matter, this core teaching of traditional Christianity – that God must always be defined as “good” - is the essential tool needed to discern not only God's will concerning abortion but God's will for man's future. It will be the only reliable compass able to steer Christians safely through the dark waters of human affairs in our coming hyper-technological ages.

Most people of faith understand at some level that a “good” God  can not possibly desire children be born with unhealthy bodies or into environments that would be toxic to the awakening human soul.   Yet the unhealthy fear of God bred by the pro-life world view keeps many from accepting the cold hard fact that humans must be the ones to implement God's will in this world. Humans will be required to bring God's Kingdom to the earth.   Rather than adopting a “body centric” view of human reproduction that foolishly mourns the loss of a fetal body after miscarriage or abortion, a bit of common sense, along with an understanding of what constitutes a “good” God, will lead one to God's will and abortion.  Just like nature, people should choose to allow a conception to proceed if a healthy body is understood as likely and the external environment is favorable for nurturing an emerging soul.   Choice is simply another of God's tools promoting our evolution toward perfection.

But it is clear the God of the pro-life movement values the survival of the fetal body over the well-being of any potential human soul.
A hallmark of any Christian heresy is this:  any belief or doctrine that, in practice, envisions God as “less than wholly good”.

The pro-life God is the vision of those who do not understand or do not accept certain aspects of reality and prefer to reject common sense in order to uphold their emotionally charged belief that there is never a good reason to destroy a fetus.  And if there ever were good reasons to destroy a fetus man could not and should not deduce those reasons.  This vision of God makes man a pawn of his own ignorance to be judged by a lessor God of his own making.
God trusts nature to use her wisdom at times to destroy a fetus to ensure the best "body environment" for the potential soul.  Humanity must follow nature's example by judging the "exterior environment" into which the potential soul will be born.   The mental and physical fitness of the mother and father.   The physical resources.  Is there severe damage to the fetal body nature is blind to?  Would pregnancy endanger the life of the mother?   Is the conception against the will of the mother?  And perhaps the most significant of all God's desires for humankind, will the child be loved?  All of these external environmental factors should be considered and found acceptable in order for one to be able to assert that "God approves" that another soul come into the world.

Those who oppose rationality in favor of a more superstitious worldview will disregard the reasoning in these arguments and instead focus on attempts to undermine rationality with spurious sacred text claims or throw up the fearful cry of eugenics.   They will use all manner of slippery slope argument to suggest that Godly people must never play God and other such nonsense.  If Godly people don't ever play God then they aren't Godly people.   For the record I do not advocate any form of eugenics.  Unless you define eugenics as the right of every woman to decide with clear conscience in prayerful council with her God when and if to bring a conception to term.   Let it also be noted that I do not advocate that conceptions that are discovered to be indicative of severe disabilities be aborted.   I advocate for what I believe God advocates.   That potential parents should rest assured that God is their loving partner in the creation of life process and therefore parents alone are free to make whatever decision they might choose without fear of their God - for the sake of the potential child.   Children born into this world with severe disabilities should be wholly embraced and nurtured by society.   Because there is no difference in self-aware human life once born.   We all will suffer and we must embrace one another to ease our suffering.
Ultimately the greatest sin of the pro-life world view is that it unwittingly asserts that God often wills that newborn human souls awaken in the hell of un-wantedness or severe physical deprivation, a place extremely rare for a person to survive, let alone thrive.   The pro-life worldview becomes a form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in this case since it ascribes a negative quality to the nature of God by way of wholly irrational argument.   It declares that an independent act of mankind - the instantiation of conception - that is then sometimes allowed to come to term in a hostile environment - also by an independent act of mankind - is always the preferred will of God rather than termination of a conception. God's will is never actually even considered if one adopts the pro-life world view.   God is simply forced to conform to the dictates of the pro-life worldview - that all conception is God's will and all conception coming to term under any circumstances is God's will. 

Tragically, too many of this world's souls are still being born unwanted or into environments of violence and deprivation simply out of an irrational fear of God and misplaced emotions. And unfortunately the children born into these environments often become the outcasts of society, predictably the common thieves, the seriously mentally ill, our death-row inmates
- perhaps the "Judas" of our times, of whom Jesus said: "It would have been better for that man had he not been born".

The pro-life deception is capable of ensnaring anyone willing to close their mind to reason in favor of emotionally driven superstitious fears surrounding human reproduction.   If human beings are not free to decline to participate in God's creation of life process, at any stage of that creation of life process, then God can no longer be defined as good and humans are nothing more than machines being forced to reproduce, even against the best interests of society when necessary.  And if the well being of a potential human soul is not the preeminent concern of mankind when considering the fate of any conception then mankind has dismissed its real responsibilities to the potential child in favor of promoting its own fears and ignorance concerning the nature of reality.

If one envisions God from a truly traditional perspective then God has very clearly provided a way for nothing of substantial value to be lost if and when a fetus is aborted - other than the potential for human life, along with the value that has been psychologically projected onto a fetus by the parents and society.  That's reality.  The pro-life worldview is irrationality masquerading as pious concern. It errs on the side of fear of the unknown rather tha
n attempting to envision a world where God is a true loving partner in the creation of human life process.