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It's not abortion
Here's why abortion hasn’t been such a huge election issue.
So first, the elephant in the room, or rather, the elephant that didn’t show up. Yesterday I wrote that this could be the test for the GOP, or this could be reality. Republicans were suddenly favored to win big, which gave Democrats a panic attack, but, as the votes continue to be counted, the red wave is turning out to be a ripple. The good news is that any direction which moves Republicans away from Trumpism is a good vector. Now we just need some acceleration. In losing—or rather not winning big—the GOP fights a more important battle: the one for its soul.
Now, about abortion, which seems better to discuss today than the state of counting how many little pieces of paper, black marks upon them, and electronic devices that store ticks and touches and ovals, are for one candidate or another. Besides, everyone is braying about that and none knows any more than the others.
There’s a long history of birth control, as a manner of population control, guided genetic husbandry a.k.a. eugenics, and dealing with what the progenitors of certain unborn children considered mistakes. In ancient days, men would use animal skins to prevent conception. It wasn’t a very effective method.
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In ancient days, there was a practice of abandoning infants in the city dump, as the Romans did. Some societies still today dispose of unwanted infants, with boys being more preferred than girls; it’s a real problem in India. In ancient Rome, Christians would take the tiny babies from the refuse and either try to raise them, or give them a proper burial.
As the medical aspects of abortion became less fraught with certain death for the mother, this became a more popular method of dealing with unwanted, deformed, or dangerous pregnancies. Many Christians were silent or indifferent about the practice, though the Roman Catholic Church has always maintained that the termination of any pregnancy is sin, for centuries also banning any kind of medical contraception.
Then, almost suddenly, the sexual revolution hit, and sexual promiscuity became “liberation” for women. Biologically, men have always had it easier, in that men can spread seed, commit adultery, fornication, and generally be a bunch of promiscuous cads with multiple women (in one night!), with little more risk than getting a nasty case of the clap, or some other STD. It’s the women who have to deal with pregnancy from a man who has moved on to other pastures.
This biological fact, and the religious, societal, and cultural bonds in the U.S. that promulgated it and enforced behavioral norms on women, even while the industrialization and modernization of the First World gave women more leisure time, better educational opportunities, and work outside the home, turned for many women into what they saw as a prison. If men could sleep around for fun, why couldn’t they?
So abortion became a solution for many women who simply wanted the kind of equality they couldn’t have any other way. It was then that evangelicals in particular rose up against abortion. Some state laws prohibiting the practice dated back decades, and were based on sound medical advice—intruding into a blood-filled vessel designed to nourish a separate life form in the mother’s body can be as risky as any other major surgery. Still today, improperly performed abortions result in bad outcomes for the mother.
But the problem for the church, and many Christians today, is not the medical aspect of abortion, or the risk to the mother, or even the death of the child. God’s grace protects infants who are killed by their parents. In the days of the Roman Empire, the catacombs were filled with little graves of dead babies taken from the rubbish heaps. Dignity was more important for the souls of God’s children than enforcing or overturning cultural norms.
Infanticide is wrong today in America, and this is not a religious moral tenet. It’s how our society functions. Yes, there are people who will argue that unwanted babies should be euthanized, but they are extremists and ghouls, generally found in the rarified world of academia. Killing a one-year-old is illegal in all 50 states, even if the baby is profoundly physically or mentally disabled. So why is abortion such a fight?
It’s not abortion, it’s promiscuity. It’s sin and who should be allowed to seek redemption while others are stoned.
Women sought equality to men in the ability to be “free” to sleep with whom they want, and to deal with the consequences of unlimited sex with the same privileges as men. Men get to walk away, and women now can take a pill.
Medically speaking, abortion can be relatively safe for the mother well into the third trimester. The main objection to this revolves around the baby. Twisted arguments like “ensoulment” which is a mystical theology not in the mainstream of Christian thought, seek to make the termination of a growing unborn baby’s life not something sinful. On the Christian side of the argument, any taking of life is sin, a violation of the Sixth Commandment, “thou shall not kill.”
But we kill for other reasons, like in war, or in self protection, or in the case of the state, to punish those convicted of a heinous crime. So killing in itself is not really something that can be used as a bright line.
Promiscuity, however, is a problem. It’s a sin for men, and for women, to engage in adultery or fornication. This is the Seventh Commandment. Men have been getting away with it for centuries, while women, like the one “caught in adultery” in John chapter 8, were subject to stoning. Mary, the mother of Jesus, could have been stoned for her pregnancy by the Holy Spirit. Only Joseph’s fine character, and the Holy Spirit speaking to him in a dream, kept their marriage intact.
In some cultures, women in adultery are killed even today. It’s called “honor killing.” Talk about inequality, that’s the peak of the mountain.
These days, preachers are just as likely to be found in adultery, or having had sexual relations before marriage, as the general population. Christians divorce, consume pornography, and are caught in sexual scandal at the same rate as non-Christians. So why should the non-Christian world have an “out” for this sin, in abortion for the pregnant woman, while Christians are forced to have the child? It’s better that nobody should have an abortion so Christians and non-Christians have equal remedy for sin.
Of course, true Christianity doesn’t work that way. Grace is there, forgiveness is there, for all who repent. Jesus told the woman in adultery “go and sin no more.” He wrote something on the ground and then asked the crowd ready to stone her “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” None did. While abortion is a sin, so also is sex outside of marriage. Before my wife and I were married, we were required to sit down with our pastor for some pre-marital talks. The pastor said “sex is God’s super glue.” That stuck with me (forgive the pun, it’s purely intentional).
More and more these days, women are discovering that equality in promiscuity is not what was promised in “liberation.” Hook-up culture is empty, and the layers of consent, the dance of ensuring all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, robs the act itself of passion. And when it’s passion, then the i’s and t’s end up in the regret pile. The whole “purity culture” might be unrealistic and counterproductive, but it does have a point. Actions have consequences, and sex is one of those with the biggest consequences, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
Abortion addresses the physical consequences, but the emotional and spiritual are completely downplayed in the quest for “choice” as if that’s some kind of liberation like the choice to be promiscuous was supposed to be. Women who have had abortions are generally full of mixed emotions, one of them being sadness, and another being regret. Even if it’s not regret of the procedure, it’s regret of having to do it, because of the predicate act that led up to the decision. These emotions don’t necessarily fade over time. They are put in a box and if the box is opened, they become fresh as the first day. PTSD has nothing on abortion—even when done by a pill.
Christians opposing abortion should recognize the positive reasons they are against it. I’m against it. Those positive reasons are that women and men should live by the same moral standards, and if they are Christians, they are forgiven for all their sin. Continuing to sin but denying non-Christians their free agency in walking away from faith in Christ is not evangelism.
Maybe that’s why abortion hasn’t been such a huge election issue. The church is weak because many Christians are lukewarm and would rather protect their personal sin than deal with their own lives in the light of Christ’s righteousness. Better to deprive the non-Christian world of redemption, for these lukewarm sin-embracers, who are ready to take up stones, than to say “go and sin no more.”
The best message is to say abortion is a sin, but let’s not cast the first stone. It’s not really about abortion anyway. It’s about sin.