In our current context, I must confess an inclination to write on politics over far weightier matters of the soul. My vocation exposes me to an abundance of avarice within the political class or among the adjacent, politically outspoken elites. With a modicum of investigation, you can find people making decisions for our country who are quick to grow rich from those nations that would gladly dance on the coffin of Lady Liberty, celebrating the death of what she represents.
After that digression, I want to return to common ground. (I say that knowing full well that politics has poisoned many a mind besides my own, and that my words will doubtless offend some who are blind but for their ideological spectacles.)
I believe all human beings share at least two primary qualities.
You might disagree with, or put an unorthodox spin on, the first—that is, every human being is made in the image of God. I don’t mean “spark of divinity” or that we are, or everything is, one. I mean simply that God in creation—initially and ongoing—allows us some of his attributes. We too can be creative. We can love and nourish, we can be kind and forgiving, show mercy, patience, and offer grace. We are rational and can communicate. Our notions of justice, or of family, parenting, being a child, are all a reflection of, or some lesser form of, who God is and what he does perfectly.
We do none of this perfectly, but even the worst among us have some glimmer of God’s goodness.
Some of you might define our second commonality slightly differently than I do, but you likely won’t deny it altogether. We share “life.” Even if you don’t allow for a soul, I think most can agree that being a human means having life. (Some Eastern religions believe our lives are illusory, but I would contend that is a self-refuting idea. A discussion for another day.)
What is life? Without getting into existential philosophy, we may understand life better by contemplating “not life.” We’ve all experienced the loss of someone we loved. Technically, this happened when they stopped breathing, when their heart stopped beating—around the same time that the brain stopped sending signals.
I recently lost a dear friend. She was pure sunshine. Physically, temporally, that light is extinguished—to our horror. I ache for myself and much more for those who were far closer to her. While our worldview contends—with a sure and certain hope—that she still has life, her body is presently set aside. In the here-and-now sense, she is gone. Not life.
She was too young to die in our view, but she did live a full life relative to some. When a child dies, we lament what might have been. The first day of school, graduation, sports or music or academic accomplishment—all never to be. No walk down the aisle, no kids of his or her own.
Given the love, care, and concern most of us hold for “life,” I find the position that many hold to the unborn puzzling. Where previous arguments included technically true but depreciative descriptions of the unborn like “clump of cells” or even still, “fetus,” technology will no longer allow that reductionism. With current imagery, we cannot describe what we see very early on as “merely” anything. He is human. She has life.
This has been true even with the erstwhile supporters of abortion. Chrissy Teigen and John Legend lost their “unborn baby” to miscarriage—a truly awful tragedy. They were rightly devastated. But, she categorized the new Texas law severely limiting abortions as “another sad day for america.” The contradistinction of these two views is stark. The only difference seems to be whether the child is wanted or unwanted—horrified to lose the one and glad to dispose of the other.
I understand why the main argument for abortion is and has always been autonomy—self-rule—the seminal sin (pun unavoidable). I get it. An unplanned, unwanted pregnancy is incredibly more onerous on the woman. But the idea that turns the great gift of motherhood on its head is that “freedom” means the ability to be as equally “unpregnant” as a man. Well, that’s achievable in several ways, one of which—save one case—is 100 percent reliable (that’s abstinence for the slow-witted). This, without having to take the life of another.
I realize there are sometimes mitigating factors when a crime has been committed or when the mother’s health is at risk. Otherwise, abortion as birth control—whatever the “sensibility”—seems to me to be a most heinous and selfish act.
Clever catchphrases aside (“get your laws off my body”), all laws are enacted to protect some from the “liberty” of others. Our freedoms are limited for the good of others by law.
The bottom line is that if what begins growing after conception is “not life,” then yes, have your way. If it (he or she, in my view) is “life,” then autonomy is no longer possible.
God speaks a number of times about his hardening of the hard-hearted and the “giving over” of people to their passions—each to their peril. I would contend that the loudest, angriest “pro-choice” people are those who are doing their best to silence the voice in their heads that might otherwise soften their hearts. I pray that they would listen to that voice over the din of those who would have all of us chase our slightest sexual whim while damning or denying the consequences that are sure to follow.
Consider that if you find yourself outraged at reading this. Otherwise, if you still differ, rest easy that you are in the right, and hope that there’s no God or that the god of your imagination agrees with you or is at the very least indifferent.
Steve Post is a Tallahassee resident, armchair theologian, and past local ministry lay leader. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.