January 24, 2021

Let’s discuss…abortion

Let’s discuss…abortion

* Update: I will cut off comments at midnight tonight for this post.

* Note from CM: I will try to moderate this closely today.

The “pro-life” (anti-abortion) movement has become invigorated since the election of President Trump in 2016, and many Christians support him largely on this basis. They cannot even conceive of voting for a Democrat or someone who supports a “pro-choice” position. They consider abortion to be pure moral evil, the murder of an unborn child.

And as long as they hold that position, there can be no reasoning or compromise whatsoever. And I agree. If all abortion = the murder of a baby, then there really is no discussion about the moral acceptability of the practice, except in certain health-related situations.

Here, for example, is a recent Facebook post by prominent biblical scholar Tremper Longman III, and excerpts from the comment thread that followed:

• • •

Post: Why conservatives (and moderates like myself) should vote for Biden.

Link to article: Conservatives Have Only One Choice in 2020.

Comment: interesting article. But please tell me how I can forget the abortion issue. I just cannot. And what’s my alternative?

Reply: Boom!

Comment from TLIII: Abortion cannot be the single issue. There are other pressing issues: climate change, immigration, poverty. Abortion is not an issue that can be “solved” by the government. The church needs to help men and women to make the right choices. Interesting that the Bible says nothing about abortion except when it says that a man should pay a fine if in a fight the fetus “comes out.” For more detail see The Bible and the Ballot. On other other hand, the Bible says a lot about helping the poor, immigrants and the environment.

Reply: … and administrations with a more tolerant approach to abortion but effective anti poverty measures, have lower abortion rates than anti abortion administrations that also favour the affluent.

It’s a poverty issue.

Reply: Would you vote for Biden if, instead of unborn, he promoted the murder of 5 year olds?

Reply from TLIII: Of course not, there is a difference at least according to the Bible.

Comment later in thread: the Democrat Party platform on abortion, completely antithetical to what scripture teaches (Proverbs 6:17, etc) on the sanctity of pre-born and born life.


Comment later in thread: I’ll never vote for anyone who promotes the murder of Children

Reply from TLIII: Abortion according to the Bible is a moral violation because it involves the ending of potential life, but not murder. Notice that nowhere in the Bible does it talk about abortion, but a lot about being kind to immigrants, the poor, and taking care of the environment. Read my book.

Comment later in thread: You are a Christian in name only sir because you don’t have the wisdom and discernment (Isaiah 11:2, John 14:17, 16:13) that comes from the Holy Spirit that a real born again Christian has. There is no such thing as a perfect candidate, it’s always a choice between the lesser of 2 evils because all humans are imperfect and sinners (Genesis 3, assuming that you believe in Genesis, instead of the secularist creation myth, evolution).

Joe Biden is the worse choice between him and Donald Trump. Biden is an immoral and unprincipled liberal Democrat who supports such things as the murder of unborn children, and same sex marriage, 2 abominations that Bible condemns (Leviticus 18, Proverbs 6:17, Romans 1:25-28).

• • •

His book to which he refers is called The Bible and the Ballot: Using Scripture in Political Decisions (Jan. 2020). I think Longman’s chapter on abortion is well-considered, faithful to the texts of scripture, and reasonable with regard to the role of Christians living in a secular society. His concluding statement on abortion mirrors my own position.

In the final analysis, then, while Christians should keep upholding the sanctity of life and protesting abortion as an infringement on that sanctity, we should not put our trust in the law, but in our powers of persuasion to the gospel and to obedience. And, in the meantime, there may be wisdom in making abortion rare and safe. (pp. 152-153)

As Christians in America, we must recognize the necessarily two-fold nature of our positions on issues like these. This is one of those concerns where Christians tend to forget that we live as citizens in a secular society. Matters such as when life begins or whether or not a fetus has a soul from the time of conception may inform our theological understanding about abortion, but we cannot expect our neighbors or our legal system to accept these positions as inarguable.

The law certainly doesn’t care about these arguments. The specific issue in Roe v. Wade was not whether a fetus is a “human life,” but whether or not a fetus, especially in the first trimester, is to be considered a legal “person” — in the sense of a citizen due the full protections of the law — equivalent to someone already born and living in this country.

Longman observes that most people, even the most ardent “pro-life” advocates, tend to treat the fetus in the early phase of pregnancy as potential life — as human life but as something less than a fully developed person. Think, for example, about the way we handle miscarriages during those days. However — and this is important — as Longman notes, “To take the view that a fetus is the developing potential of life does not lead to a pro-choice position” (p. 149).

One can still advocate against abortion on the basis of the value of developing human life. Potential life “should be protected and not willfully ended or cavalierly treated” (p. 149). But one cannot simply say of all abortions that they represent “baby murder.” And when one realizes that more than 90% of all abortions happen in the first trimester, before fetal viability, that kind of passionate statement does nothing more than stop discussion about any possible nuances or other considerations regarding abortion itself or about the various factors that serve as context for abortion.

For example, we have not even begun to talk about…

  • women’s health and better care for women who are pregnant — why, for example, does the U.S. have such high rates of maternal mortality — last among other similar wealthy countries? Need I say also that this leads to a discussion about access to healthcare in general?
  • better education (about emotional health as well as sexual) and access to birth control, which is probably the single greatest factor preventing more abortions,
  • the difference between abortion by choice and therapeutic abortion (a distinction I rarely hear the “pro-life” movement talk about),
  • the societal conditions of family breakdown, poverty, and hopelessness that lead many women to seek abortions,
  • the importance of fostering self-esteem and good mental/emotional health in our children and communities through supporting families and infrastructures that will encourage them to practice good decision-making with regard to sex as well as life in general,
  • the role of men who demand (sometimes violently) that their partners terminate their pregnancies, making abortion something less than a “woman’s choice.” This has actually been the case in a number of abortion situations I’ve encountered, even in “Christian” homes and settings — but again, this is little discussed,
  • support for women who choose to give birth in difficult life circumstances, along with more investment to build and maintain access to childcare and other programs for single and working moms, as well as healthy foster care and adoption systems,
  • what would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned. That would simply return abortion laws to the states and would not likely have a huge impact on the numbers with regard to abortion. Some estimate that the numbers regarding abortion in the U.S. didn’t significantly change in the years following Roe v. Wade (factoring in illegal ones), but what did change is that fewer women died from the procedure.

As Longman says, I think there is wisdom in the saying “Keep abortion legal, safe, and rare,” while at the same time encouraging Christians to follow Jesus by investing their lives in their neighbors and in their own communities to make them better places where people can (and want to) pursue healthy relationships and life goals. To choose life!

If you want to discuss the topic of abortion with me, these are just some of the things I think we need to talk about. Don’t just end the discussion by insisting it’s all about murdering babies.

And I hope you’ll take all of this — and more — into account when you vote as well.


  1. Klasie Kraalogies says

    The always interesting Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg have spoken about abortion from the Jewish perspective many times. This Twitter thread is quote insightful:


    • Thanks for sending that, Klasie.

    • Klasie, thanks! I followed this discussion last year, but had forgotten much. It’s good to read it a second time.

      Fwiw, seeing as there’s basically nothing in the Christian portion of the Bible regarding abortion, also that the Tanakh doesn’t deal with it directly, plus the way many Xtians use proof texts taken from the Psalms, along with Jeremiah’s exchange with God in Jeremiah ch. 1 – which is about Jeremiah’s calling – I’m inclined toward a more typically Jewish understanding of this whole issue.

      Sister Joan Chittester has often remarked about how “pro-life” Catholics are, for the most part, pro-birth, not pro-life. I 5hink this is equally true of us Protestants. When i see large numbers of “pro-lifers” getting actively involved in the entire spectrum of child welfare issues, maybe then I’ll be a little more inclined to hear what they might have to say about abortion. As is, far too many would value an unborn infant’s life more highly than the life of the woman who is pregnant with said life. I cannot accept any of the implications of that.

      • I’ll just add that while i would prefer to see abortion being a relatively rare procedure, i do believe that it should rest entirely with each woman and her doctor.

        If anti-abortion folks would look beyond the rhetoric to the actual people facing painful choices, and just being willing to listen and not sit in judgment, things would, i believe, be very different.

        My prayer, and my hope, is that this becomes a reality.

        • I think that part of the problem is that in trying to defend choice the pro-choice people go way to far in the direction of “hey, it’s no big deal/it’s just a bunch of cells”. People hear that and end up using abortion as contraception, as if it were really that trivial. Which exacerbates the problem on the other side of the divide.

          Jordan Peterson’s response to a question on the rights and wrongs of abortion was – my paraphrase – “that’s not the right question: the question is how do we handle sexuality in this new world of the pill and ‘sexual liberation’ in a way that we don’t end up confronted with the question of abortion?”.

          As others have commented here, it’s far easier (for both sides of the debate) to throw out slogans and battle for principles on line than to get their hands dirty with the nitty-gritty of real people and their complicated problems.

          • Is the “we” in “the question is how do we handle sexuality in this new world of the pill and ‘sexual liberation’ in a way that we don’t end up confronted with the question of abortion?” Christians, or the entire world? I don’t think Christians have the right or ability to answer that question for the whole world; it would be enough if we could find a consensus among ourselves. Peterson is not a Christian, and I’m not sure what moral framework he’s operating with, but most of the rest of the world has already answered this question for itself, and the answer is in favor of abortion rights.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            “how do we handle sexuality in this new world of the pill and ‘sexual liberation’ in a way that we don’t end up confronted with the question of abortion?”

            This an odd question. One which most of the world has answered. How do you handle sexuality – post birth control [of many types] – so we do not end up with the question of abortion? Uhm….

            • You say that, but 200’000 women a year (in the UK) are not getting pregnant (and aborting) solely because of rape or health risks, but rather because they aren’t using the “world’s answer”. So the answer is not working as intended.

              • Statistics don’t convey story. Who are these women? Young, old? Married, single, in long-term relationships? Working or not? Rich or poor? It’s a stereotype that women get abortions just to keep swinging…

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            > I think that part of the problem is that in trying to defend choice the pro-choice people go
            > way to far in the direction of “hey, it’s no big deal/it’s just a bunch of cells”

            Respectfully, this is a both-sideism trope. Because there is an unthinking troll on the Internet then I am excused to be one?

            There is no army of “it’s just a bunch of cells”; if someone is hearing that, they need to adjust what channels they are tuned to … or that is what they want to be hearing.

          • Ben S – s9me do. Most of us don’t.

            So you are trading in stereotypes here, i think.

  2. The thought that came to me when discussing this with my daughters recently is that abortion is evil, but sometimes it is the lesser evil.

  3. The Bible has so little to say about this subject, and what it says does not equate abortion with murder — and yet those those opposed to abortion rights claim to be motivated by their commitment to Biblical teaching, while at the same time ignoring large swaths of repeated teachings in the Bible with respect to so many other ethical matters. What’s going on here?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > What’s going on here?

      Seeking a crusade in which your station and status will be unaffected by the consequences.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Not just “unaffected” but ENHANCED.

        Just like Kyle’s Mom from South Park, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

    • This has come up in conversation sometimes with my wife, and from her perspective (and that of many other women), what’s going on is *control*. Pregnancy without any recourse to end it puts the woman at the mercy of others, who by their other stances clearly do not have the actual lives of others foremost on their minds. Being anti-abortion without any care for any other women’s problems is a culture war weapon, in fact if not intention.

    • There is at least one passage that may be equating abortion with murder:

      “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (Exodus 21:22-25)

      That passage seems to be saying that harming an unborn child should be considered the same as harming that child after it’s born.

      • Michael Bell says

        Or it may not.

        It was addressed in the post: “Interesting that the Bible says nothing about abortion except when it says that a man should pay a fine if in a fight the fetus “comes out.””

        Some versions translate “gives birth prematurely” as “miscarriage”, which gives the totally opposite spin on the text.

        Literally the Hebrew means “comes out”.

        • Yes, I think it’s unclear whether the “serious injury” bit refers to injury to the mother or to the child. But if it refers to the mother, it’s a little unclear why that needs to be said because a “serious injury” to her would presumably still be punishable even if she wasn’t pregnant.

          In any case, I’d say the passage is ambiguous enough that either one is a reasonable interpretation of the text.

      • Michael Bell says

        And the passage cannot be taken to be “pro-life” because of some of the surrounding verses:

        15 Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death.

        16 Whoever kidnaps a person, whether that person has been sold or is still held in possession, shall be put to death.

        17 Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death…

        20 When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.

      • Tremper Longman says

        Thanks for this discussion. On the Exodus 21 passage I find it interesting that the Septuagint (the Bible that Jesus and the early Christians used) that it is clear that it interprets in a way that makes it clear that in early pregnancy there is a fine. You can see the whole discussion in my book The Bible and the Ballot.

    • It is an issue that was appropriated for the culture wars and worldly power, that’s what. And it’s not the only issue. The Bible very little directly about family values, and a lot of the families in the Bible are actually fairly dysfunctional, yet family values and biblical values also got appropriated as part of the culture war.

      Christianity never does well when it seeks worldly power.

      • –> “Christianity never does well when it seeks worldly power.”

        No, it doesn’t.

        But nothing really does, does it?

        Thus the continual need to humble ourselves and turn to God, not to the powers that come through the flesh.

        You’d think we Christians would’ve learned that by now, wouldn’t ya?!?!?

  4. Pellicano Solitudinis says

    I’m increasingly of the opinion that abortion is an evil, but sometimes it’s the lesser of two evils, and only the woman is in a position to make the call.

    Something that distinguishes abortion from all other forms of the taking of human life is that the fetus is dependent on the life of a single un-exchangeable other, whose own life and health may suffer significantly and permanently. To require a woman to continue a pregnancy against her will is to require her to perform an act of self-sacrifice that I’m not sure it is legitimate to compel.

    • I have contemplated the idea that maybe this problem could be solved by technology. If there were a way to remove a fetus from a woman without killing it, but allowing it to develop, who would prefer killing the baby? On the other hand, do we want to live in a world where such things could happen?

      • Christiane says

        it does sound dystopian . . . and yet . . .

        there was once a society that fostered pregnancies as a goal to produce many, many children with desirable traits and there, also, the ‘human factor’ seemingly was employed to accomplish this ‘goal’,
        but then the ‘fathers’ did not take part in the lives of the babies other than to have been human sperm donors and at times, the babies were given to others to raise and the mother continued as a breeder perhaps more willingly than in the dreadful ‘the Handmaiden’ series, but the babies lived

        I see the ‘politics’ as manipulative and perverse, now with the takeover of the GOP by trumpism, sure;
        and when so much of the evangelical world falls in line with trumpism, I see the ultimate failure of the Church to be ‘the Church’ and to do its proper job to ‘change hearts and minds’ and to offer intervention and solace for young women in distress and also for single women who ‘must earn’ and are faced with abortion as the only way they can see forward to continue to support themselves and their families . . .

        is the political corruption of the Church in order to ‘get votes’ not one of the last betrayals of Christ the Giver of LIfe? the manipulation of people to support a corrupt candidate in order to ‘save babies’? and especially of a group of evangelicals who before their politicization for this purpose, did not oppose abortions politically ? There was time when this was a part of the Southern Baptist Convention’s proclamation:

        Allowing unprincipled politicians in the door by hearing them spout against legal abortion and seeing this taken up by ‘the religious right’ seems to have done both a lot of harm. The Church wanted a ‘short cut’ to power over peoples’ lives through politics, but then, the Church in doing so ceased to BE ‘the Church’ and became just another political hack for corruption. There was a price to pay for that ‘short-cut’, and was a ‘sacrifice’ of the trust of many people in the Church they might have come to know as the way in which the proclamation of the Kingdom of God was heart in their land. And that is also a kind of ‘abortion’ in that now, many look at the fundamentalist-evangelical Church as corrupt, without integrity, and ‘used’ by trumpists openly as one of their hacks to gain power and control. . . . That is a sad ending, but it has come to that for many who might have seen the Church in the way it was before it sought ‘short-cuts’ to getting its way. The Church cut an evil deal with trumpism. And paid the price of its integrity in the eyes of many. This was a price too high to pay.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          now, many look at the fundamentalist-evangelical Church as corrupt, without integrity, and ‘used’ by trumpists openly as one of their hacks to gain power and control. . . .

          The Beast (corrupt political system) always leads The False Prophet (corrupt religious system) around on a leash. While TFP piddles with glee and yap-yap-yaps “I’M IN CHARGE!!!!!”

      • –> “If there were a way to remove a fetus from a woman without killing it, but allowing it to develop, who would prefer killing the baby?”

        *Has visions of the Matrix; shudders*

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          In a minor SF novel I read in the Eighties, a future Catholic Church had an order of nuns vowed to be implanted with such fetuses (including test-tube rejects) and carry them to term that they might live.

          • Oh, wow! Do you remember the title?

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              No. Just that the author’s pen name was “Simon Lang” and the sub-genre was Star Trek-style space opera. Two or three books in the series. I called the sub-sub-genre “Star Trek with Rosaries”.

      • SFnal technology. Lois McMaster Bujold calls the device an uterine replicator though I think only two of her novels involves transferring an already developing fetus to it (several others mention its use with in vitro fertilization). I suspect women who have a wanted pregnancy that has a good chance of killing them or injuring their health would like that choice. For instance a woman early in pregnancy who learns she has cancer. The cancer treatment would end the pregnancy or increase the chances of severe abnormalities in the fetus; delaying the cancer treatment until after pregnancy increases the chances of the mother not surviving. There are also other scenarios. Note that any transfer would require some major surgery on the mother (cutting open the uterus, transferring both the fetus and the placenta) with the corresponding risks to the mother and to the fetus.
        Note that this does not avoid the issue of “pro-choice” versus “pro-life” where the pregnancy is unwanted (rape, economic situation, etc.) or where the pregnancy might be wanted but the fetus has abnormalities which might, for instance, lead to stillbirth or a short but pain filled life.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          SFnal technology. Lois McMaster Bujold calls the device an uterine replicator

          In my time in local SF fandom, they were called “mat-tanks”.

  5. Here in Pennsylvania, the same GOP controlled state legislature that would like to limit abortion rights — with the approval of many Christians — has also in recent times reduced SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — a PA program that assists people in low income households to purchase food) payments — with the approval of many Christians —-, a move which disproportionately effected children, resulted in more child hunger.

    • Actually, it was a Trump White House change that caused the reduction to SNAP payments in PA and nationwide. That’s what I get for working from memory. But it’s still the same issue. He gets broad support from Christians for appointing what are thought to be antiabortion Supreme Court Justices, and approval from the same Christians for changes that result in more children going hungry.

      • To paraphrase John, if you do not love hungry children, whom you can see, how can you claim to love unborn children, whom you cannot see?

        • To further paraphrase: if you lock children in cages and let them get sick and die lying on cold cement floors, and turn the other way when other children are getting gunned down by police or racist gun-worshipers, and deny other children access to quality education, and if you send other children off to fight brutal and unending wars and don’t take care of them when they come home, WTF?

          This is why the early pro-life movement talked about the “culture of death” in the US. There are way too many lives that we treat as disposable, and unless we comprehensively stand against *every* expression of that culture of death, we’re a part of it.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          To paraphrase John, if you do not love hungry children, whom you can see, how can you claim to love unborn children, whom you cannot see?

          The same way Kyle’s Mom loved the disfigured school nurse in the early South Park episode “Conjoined Fetus Lady” — as a Righteous Pet Cause to be used for her own Virtue Signalling and Ego-boo.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        SNAP is both, state and federal. It is also a collection of federal grant programs related to food aid, grants may – often to – have local or state funding “match” requirements. As is typical of all things America, it is *FAR* more complicated and tediously bureaucratic than it needs to be.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          From the Archdruid:

          t so happens that the most significant result of every reform movement of modern times has been to increase the number of well-paid administrative positions in government, business, and the nonprofit sector. Poverty’s a problem? Why, then, we’ll build an immense bureaucracy to administer a gargantuan system of overlapping benefit schemes, which provide a miserable life to the people who have to survive on them, but a very comfortable life indeed to the tens or hundreds of thousands of middle-class office drones who administer them. The environment’s in trouble? The same answer gets trotted out. Choose any cause du jour in the last three quarters of a century and you’ll see exactly the same logic at work: whatever the problem, the solution somehow always works out to hiring more bureaucrats.

          Mind you, none of these programs have actually solved the problems they were supposedly meant to fix. The welfare state hasn’t eradicated poverty, environmental regulation hasn’t slowed the despoiling of the environment, the fantastic ballooning of administrative staff at schools and universities correlates precisely to the steady plunge in the quality of the education you get from these institutions, and so on Bureaucracy isn’t an effective tool for solving social problems—but it’s a very effective tool for maximizing the job prospects of university graduates and diverting most of society’s wealth into the hands of an administrative class. I suggest that this was the real point of the whole operation.

          • It seems to me that one of the ways forward, given these realities — and they are: government can be an awfully big and blunt instrument — is for there to be many, many more public/private partnerships that can be more responsive and efficient on the ground.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says

              It sounds good; but what is the incentive for the “private’ in such an arrangement?

              Sustainability is critical, and most PPPs have a pretty.spotty track record.

              • ATW, yes, there is a lot to be discussed about this. I didn’t mean to make it sound like a easy solution. But I just don’t think we can forward, especially in the U.S., with hope for a full-fledged, well-administrated safety net on the one hand, or leaving it all to the private groups and agencies on the other.

          • “it’s a very effective tool for maximizing the job prospects of university graduates and diverting most of society’s wealth into the hands of an administrative class.”

            I had no idea SNAP administrators were in the same bracket as Bezos and Zuckerberg. 😛

            Seriously, it’s the super-rich, not managers, who are draining the country dry.

            • Burro (Mule) says

              I was a SNAP administrator. It’s a lot more comfortable than being a SNAP recipient, and a lot less effective than being a food bank administrator, which I also was.

              If you want to confiscate what Bezos and Zuckerberg have acquired to fund more SNAP administrators, I’d have to say thanks, but no thanks.

          • The “Archdruid” needs to quote some statistics to back up those statements.

            The truth is that in the last century, government programs and nonprofits have vastly reduced global poverty. And here in the US, those programs have nearly eliminated deaths of children from starvation or other “developing world” causes. And environmental regulations have prevented some of the most harmful abuses, even though others continue. And progressive tax structures remain one of the only effective ways to reduce extreme economic disparities.

            Sure, it’s true that top-heavy, bureaucratic organizations – whether public-sector or private – are inefficient, and a lot of administrative jobs are sinecures and a waste of money. But claiming that those organizations don’t improve *anything* is a bit ridiculous.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says

              > Sure, it’s true that top-heavy, bureaucratic organizations… are inefficient

              And isn’t the answer obvious: less top-heavy bureaucratic organizations!

              Organizations, even large ones, public or private, are not INHERENTLY onerously bureaucratic.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        But it’s still the same issue. He gets broad support from Christians for appointing what are thought to be antiabortion Supreme Court Justices, and approval from the same Christians for changes that result in more children going hungry.

        But He gave us a Supreme Court that WILL overturn Roe v Wade and Save All The Unborn Children!
        Put Prayer Back in Schools!
        Make us a Christiian Nation once more! MAGA!
        (And He held up a Bible! A BIBLE!)

  6. If anything has really changed my mind about abortion, it is the appreciation that politics and morality must be *holistic*. You cannot hone in on a single issue and make that the be-all-end-all of morality. Because once you do that, you become willing to contenance literally any other evil to fight the one evil you’re obsessed with. You can ignore the actual present harms done by a politician on the promise that they will eventually end the evil you’re campaigning against. You become a sucker for any politician savvy enough to manipulate you on that subject (“You HAVE to vote for me, I’m pro-life!”). You lose sight of the humanity and moral perspective of those who do not share your obsession. And eventually, you end up tithing your spices while robbing widows and orphans.

    • Amen Brother. You hit the nail on the head! To me that actually makes abortion the lesser evil (as current US situation confirms).

    • The problem is that holistic thinking is complicated.

      Progressive activists tend to be okay with “harm-reduction” measures – things like seat belts, or masks, or needle exchanges, or gun control, that make a problem a little less bad without eliminating the problem completely.

      But conservative activists seem to prefer an all-or-nothing view. The fact that gun control won’t completely eliminate homicides or that seat belts don’t stop all traffic deaths or that masks only slow the spread of the virus instead of 100% guaranteeing the mask-wearer’s safety is used as an argument against those measures.

      When it comes to abortion, conservative activists have spent half a century fixated on extremely unlikely “silver-bullet” solutions like a human life amendment or overturning Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile the abortion rate has dropped to the lowest level ever since it was legalized nationally, almost entirely due to the sort of harm-reduction programs and social change that *progressives* support.

    • “You cannot hone in on a single issue and make that the be-all-end-all of morality. Because once you do that, you become willing to contenance literally any other evil to fight the one evil you’re obsessed with.”

      Worse, perhaps, is that you become blind to other evils. Your “evil” is so very evil that no other evil matters.

  7. Steve Newell says

    I have concluded that many are actually “pro birth” and not “pro life”. For me, pro life is about supporting life from conception to death. That means supporting policies and organization that support people.

    Why do states with the strictest abortion laws also have the highest infant morality rates? Why do Christians have issues with state welfare to support those who need help but they have not issues with the Christian church more focused on building new structures that supporting the same people?

    In Matt. 25, Jesus tells the of the sheep and the goats. What defines each group? Why is one group invited in and the other group wasn’t. The Sheep cared for the homeless, the hungry and the imprisoned. This is what being “pro life” is.

    • Years ago I saw an interview on Bill Moyers’ show (don’t remember the guest – over 20 years now). The guest said ‘ The problem with the pro-choice movement is that it is motivated by money. But the problem with the pro-life movement is that they believe life begins at conception but ends at birth’. She then noted that pro-life people are usually the ones protesting about ‘wasting’ tax dollars on care for the women and children affected. Principle over people – the Jesus way!

    • Burro (Mule) says

      From Fr Stephen Freeman:

      “I am thinking “shaming” is one of the primary political modes in our culture. It is an interesting dynamic. Shame not only makes the “shamed” person feel bad (generally provoking anger or sadness), but, oddly, also makes the person doing the shaming feel bad. I have labeled shame a “sticky” emotion. When we see it or hear it, even if we are not involved, it provokes a “sympathetic” shame response.

      There has always been a bit of shame used in political campaigns, but, it has been pushed to new levels over the past few cycles. That, of course, is then magnified in the arena of the various media.

      When people describe the nation as “angry” it’s true – and, I think this is largely because of the shame-filled atmosphere in which we now live.”

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > think this is largely because of the shame-filled atmosphere in which we now live

        Agree. It greatly disincentivizes affiliation; who wants to be involved in all that hoopla. Most people are too practical to have time for ‘all that’. Then people gather none of the benefits of affiliation, and on it goes.

        It seems that America has always been a particularly grumpy place. 🙁

    • I find it instructive to ask, “What core beliefs are prompting this activism?”

      If someone’s core belief is that all human lives have value, you would expect them to care not just about reducing abortion, but also about providing for babies once they’re born, and protecting anyone else in a similarly vulnerable position – e.g. black kids getting gunned down by the police. So obviously, that is not the core belief motivating the Trump crowd.

      If someone just finds abortion itself horrifying, you would expect them to support sex ed and easy access to contraception in order to make abortion less necessary in the first place. Again, that’s not the Trump crowd.

      If someone’s core belief is that “loose” sexual ethics are harmful, you would expect them to also support the MeToo movement. You certainly wouldn’t expect them to vote for a serial adulterer who brags about assaulting women.

      On the other hand, as stereotypical as I know this is, if someone wanted to create a society where men are allowed to be promiscuous but women are punished for it – well, that would certainly explain someone who wants to make abortion illegal but doesn’t embrace any of the rest of the pro-life agenda.

    • –> “I have concluded that many are actually “pro birth” and not “pro life”. ”

      I agree completely. However, as I’ve stated in a comment further down, does that “hypocrisy” mean we shouldn’t be “pro birth”? Maybe it’s the “not pro life” part that needs fixing!

  8. Burro (Mule) says

    It comes as no surprise to me that Fr. Stephen Freeman’s blog touches on this same issue, albeit obliquely.

    We have a nutty idea about what it means to love children in this culture, Somehow we get the idea that it means voting for politicians who will increase the pittance they receive from the public purse. I don’t give a damn about children in the abstract. I care about that particular child, and that one. If they are known to me, I can love them, and move Heaven and Earth on their behalf, but paying for someone to care about children on my behalf is not under the purview of the Gospels as far as I am concerned.

    Abortion and the banning of abortion cut from the same cloth. Its like the dojo master says; anytime you are on the verge of a fight, you have already lost. What needs to be done now is to remediate the situation and find the Way Back to the proper path. When I thought that abortion was the result of unauthorized irresponsible sex, I was in favor of banning it, thinking that it would somehow reduce our cultural tolerance of unauthorized irresponsible sex. When I learned from an African American pastor that 60% of the abortions performed in our city are performed on married women, it changed my attitude somewhat. In general, I am not in favor of more laws and punishments for the transgression of those laws. I am in favor of greater cultural adhesion, more respect for community, more custom and less law.

    Tolerance of unauthorized irresponsible sex seems to be on the decline anyway, and it sure wasn’t the Currch that brought it about.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > Tolerance of unauthorized irresponsible sex seems to be on the decline anyway,


    • rhymeswithplague says

      So, Mule, you’re saying you are okay with aborting the result of irresponsible sex as long as the sex is authorized (I.e. married women versus unmarried women)?

      • Burro (Mule) says

        My point of view has modified somewhat. I used to be Commander Fred of Gilead. The sluts need to be put in their place (mostly because they never seemed to be enthusiastically slutty when it came to me), the zygote is human, take no prisoners, crush your enemies, drive them before you, hear the lamentation of their women.

        Now I’m not so sure. I think 99.9% of the time an abortion removes a human being from the human future, and that is a tragedy, but I’m also hesitant to allow the heavy hand of the state to enter into this most intimate of arenas. You’re already in a bad place if you even have to contemplate the procedure. No sense making it worse.

        I’m gonna go ahead and say it. People die all the time. The Earth is a hemorrhage ward. All cities are Omelas. Just because I’m reluctant to limit women’s access to abortion doesn’t mean I’d date a woman who had one, or that I’d share yucks and drinks with a doctor who performed them.

  9. Pro Life: Provide health care to everyone, including pre-conception, prenatal, birth, postnatal, children. Do all that for 10 years, then we can talk about abortion. My guess is that abortion numbers will have gone down. The few that will be left should be left up to the woman and her doctor.

    • Christiane says

      thank you, Allen

      the ‘far right’ seems intent on nothing more than the geography of changing the setting of abortion
      from the medical clinic
      the back-alley butchers’ table

      but hey, if some jerk gets elected who keeps the wealthy happy, it’s seen as a good trade (a good deal)

    • –> “Pro Life: Provide health care to everyone, including pre-conception, prenatal, birth, postnatal, children.”

      This is exactly how I view it. I was convinced of this by an agnostic a few years ago. Someone must truly be “pro-life” before they can talk about abortion.

    • Pro-life: and abolish death penalties…

  10. Iain Lovejoy says

    Abortion is a constitutional right in the US, which neither party has the power to remove. The Republicans had for two years control of House of Representatives, Senate and Presidency, and the majority of the US Supreme Court is Republican-appointed. This has also been the case with previous Republican administrations also purportedly “pro life”. Still abortion remains legal in the US.
    The plaintive cry “But what about abortion?” should be recognised for what it is: a lie and a human shield for all the other right wing Republican policies which are not an unfortunate side effect but the point. Even if you are a USian voting purely in which party will in fact reduce the number of abortions, rather than virtue-signalling while doing nothing, abortion rates, as I understand it, consistently go down under Democrat administrations and up under Republican.
    I am one of those who does consider the unborn child a human life. That it is dependent on the mother makes a difference because you have two lives in question rather than one, but I don’t see therefore one life has the absolute right to end the other, unless there is good reason why it is necessary or unavoidable. I do not however consider those who disagree with me “baby killers” or somehow evil or immoral but rather gravely (and tragically) mistaken.
    I sometimes think that for some allegedly “pro life” people, the aim is less to actually prevent or reduce abortions and more to criminalise those having them. It enrages me that the same people who rant against abortion also insist on the right to discriminate against unmarried mothers.
    Criminalising abortion as a means of actually reducing them has a sketchy track record at best. Policies which actually do work are things like healthcare for pregnant mothers, paying the cost of childbirth, free or subsidised nursery places, prevention of discrimination on pregnancy grounds, generous maternity and paternity leave and pay provisions, sex education, widespread availability of contraception etc, all of which are consistently opposed by “pro life” people. Objections to these policies is often on financial or social grounds, which is staggering hypocrisy on the part of people saying that no amount of financial or social grounds can possibly justify abortion.
    If every possible facility were extended to prevent unplanned pregnancies, and to mitigate the consequences if they occurred, and unmarried mothers who kept their children were socially commended,not stigmatised, and their education or career not unduly disrupted by their having a child, it seems to me that the “pro life” case would be considerably easier to make.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > “But what about abortion?” should be recognised for what it is: a lie


      > policies which actually do work

      Abortion is an economic issue.

      • Christiane says

        yes, it is, and that’s why for some women, the term ‘pro-choice’ doesn’t work:

        what ‘choice’ does a single mother who works have when she must earn and her employers will not give her paid leave time for medical appointments or for family leave to bond and nourish a newborn?

        some women feel they have NO choice because of economic issues

        the term ‘pro-choice’ for someone seeking an abortion is not always accurate, no, and that’s a good place to start talking about ‘finding solutions that work’

  11. Conservative ProChoicer says

    Either all life is sacred, or none — this includes cats, dogs, cattle, chickens etc. — as the spirit of the Creator, G-d, is in all living beings. And therein is the point: until there is separate breath, there is not yet life, just cells in mitosis, dna forming cells and structure, and rna replicating…just like a virus, or tumor. Life is what is sacred, not cells, organs, tissue…

    • Burro (Mule) says

      That’s as reductive a statement as I’ve read since AJ Ayer.

    • But IMO, once the fetus is viable, your argument does not hold. Of course, the child at that point is still in the womb and not “drawing breath,” but the fetus has passed from potentiality to an actual person who could survive on his/her own.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says


        Yet this kind of distinction cannot be made ‘biblically’ as biblical people had no idea about any of this.

        “drawing breath” was the best thing they had to go on.

        Meaning we are kinda on our own to figure this out.

      • Chaplin Mike,

        The current record for earliest premature baby to survive is 21 weeks and 5 days, though I expect that medical advances will bring it down to around 20 weeks. Of course none of this was even on the horizon (nor the medical imaging and fetal surgery technologies) when Roe. vs Wade was decided. So perhaps one idea for a cutoff for viability would be 20 weeks.

  12. The accusation that not many Christians are truly “pro-life” is a confusion of them not being pro-big government. I’ve yet to be in a church that wasn’t full of people who weren’t more than willing to give, but many of those people do not trust the government to do a good job. They will give to pregnancy centers, clothes closets, food banks, benevolence funds, etc. They believe the government will waste much of their money, create ridiculous bureaucracies, and create programs that perpetuate a cycle of poverty and discourage people from trying to better their own situation. Maybe those opinions are right or wrong, but they are not coming from a place of not caring. Do some people not care? Sure. You’ll find that everywhere. But to characterize the whole pro-life movement that way is no more true than characterizing those who are for legal abortion as just a bunch of baby murderers. At some point we’ve got to do better than just casting accusations at one another.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      To quote Finn, +1000

      You’ll love my Archdruid quote when it finally gets out of moderation.

    • “Do some people not care? Sure. You’ll find that everywhere.”

      But the fact that the main public spokespeople of both conservatism and evangelicalism fall into the “don’t care” category speaks volumes.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Uh, I think that Jon’s point is that most of the caring by conservatives and Evangelicals occurs offstage where it isn’t noticed. If conservatives and Evangelicals are voting against politicians who want to increase your well-fed tribe it is because they believe their money can be put to better use elsewhere, not because they “don’t care”.

        But I’m just making Jon’s point after him. If you won’t listen to him, you won’t listen to me.

        • But again, where is the outcry against these misrepresentations?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says


            The term “reputational laundry” is what I think is response to “the caring by conservatives and Evangelicals occurs offstage where it isn’t noticed”.

            We, as a society are all in this together; and we will [yes, often sadly] get measured by what is seen and heard.

        • And if they complain about money (that God says isn’t theirs to begin with) going towards people they don’t like, well cry me a river. I’ve listened to that excuse for decades, and I’m heartily sick of it.

        • Burro, as a former evangelical pastor, I both agree and disagree with what you are saying. Many people in my churches, people with good hearts, did exactly as you say — they supported missions, pregnancy centers, etc. financially. On the other hand, a number of them did so out of culture war anger that put “the government” always on the side of the enemy, whether or not they understood anything about bureaucracy and efficiency. It was a mere conservative trope.

          And if you asked them to actually put themselves out there to care for people personally or commit themselves to sustained efforts of helping their neighbors beyond the occasional project or fund-raiser, good luck.

          I find that people who are more informed and thoughtful, like a friend of mine who is president of a rescue mission here in Indianapolis, can find ways of working with government agencies and politicians in ways that benefit the organization and the people it serves. I’ve found that Catholic Charities does the same.

          • I think the reason a lot of people support letting government take care of it is that it allows them to not have to deal with it personally, but still feel like they are helping the poor.

            • Agree, but it’s not just the government. As a pastor, I’ve seen people have that same attitude about “the church” my whole life.

              There’s an old preacher’s saying: “When people say they want the church to do something, what they really mean is that they want the pastor to say something.”

          • Burro (Mule) says

            ‘The government’ has a trump card. They can sequester whatever you believe you own.

            Your depiction of Evangelical participation in social issues fits me to a tee. I do pay other people to ‘care about the poor’ for me, and I’m glad I do. I work 8 hours a day, commute about 3 hours a day, and have little time for family and friends, so I am as dependent on the hands of others fulfilling my wishes for the poor as I am on the prayers of others for my health and salvation.

            It goes without saying that I would be delighted to vote for a politician that would redirect monies that I can’t avoid paying from something unproductive like military expenditures or interest on the public debt towards an actual public investment in agriculture, nutrition, infrastructure, health care, or education. That would probably be something I’ll bet even Eeyore could get behind.

            • That’s the thing about taxes, and why I sometimes don’t understand why people get so upset about their taxes going to some discrete benefit or program. If I complained about all the things my taxes pay for that I don’t agree with, the list would probably be long and discouraging. There is no “designated giving” when it comes to taxes.

      • Other than Trump, who do you have in mind?

    • Also, have you seen the margin of administrative costs for many private charities? The info is out there if you dig for it. And many of them make government look like a paragon of efficiency.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        All the more reason to be very discerning, and pay attention to where your money goes.

        I believe there are places where you can go to find this sort of thing out.

      • Private charities can certainly be abused. But I can research a particular charity and choose to not send it any money. I can’t choose to not pay my taxes

      • Adam Tauno Williams says


        One doesn’t become a government administrator in order to get rich.

  13. The term “pro-life” gets misused a lot these days. I’d propose the following terminology:

    “Pro-life” refers to a movement that believes all human life has inherent value. The pro-life movement also opposes police brutality, the death penalty, euthanasia, etc. and supports anti-poverty efforts such as programs for children and single mothers.

    “Anti-abortion” activists care about reducing abortion but not about other pro-life issues. They can further be broken down into “supply-side” activists (those who focus on trying to make abortion harder to procure) and “demand-side” activists (focusing on things like contraception, sex ed, etc. to put fewer people in positions where abortion seems necessary).

    It’s an insult to dedicated pro-life activists everywhere to use the term “pro-life” to refer to conservative supply-side anti-abortion activists, many of whom not only actively oppose the rest of the pro-life agenda but also oppose the demand-side policies that are most effective in reducing abortion.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      “pro-life”, much like “Evangelical”, is a term people cling to – unnecessarily – at their own peril. If someone chooses to use it, they are likely won’t be heard; so if what someone cares about is being heard . . .

      • Christiane says

        sadly, the term ‘evangelical’ when spoken is more often met with the crudest Republican trumpian mantras than with the stunning proclamation of the Kingdom of God

    • It’s almost a marketing cliche. To be ‘pro’ something sounds much better than begin ‘anti’ something. ‘Pro-life’ sounds like you are covering the gamut from birth to death. And being ‘pro’ something implies that those who disagree with you are ‘anti’ (e.g. ‘anti-life’), with its implicit demonizing.

  14. The Church Fathers agree, all the way back to the Didache: abortion is murder. This is one thing “The Handmaid’s Tale” gets right. Abortionists must pay, even if we have to change the entire legal and social system to do it. God Himself demands their blood. A million slaughtered babies cry out for justice.

    • Michael Bell says

      A quick google search shows it is not quite that straight forward when it comes to the Church Fathers:


    • Cherries, picked.

    • We come back to a main point of my post, Craig. You are demanding that all society accept your theological view of when life begins, and that is not an argument that holds sway in a diverse culture. Someone who sees a difference between a fetus in the early stages of pregnancy and a fetus who has passed the point of viability is not only agreeing with the approach of our culture and legal system, but also with many theological traditions that disagree with your position. You will not convince them by your righteous rants. And you cut off discussion and any hope of working toward solutions.

      • And you split the world into good human beings, and demonic agents wearing human guise.

      • Christiane says

        it’s the ‘working towards solutions’ that the political far right rejects, if money is involved

        honestly, there is something terribly misogynist about the whole extreme anti-abortion issue

        take the misogyny out of it, look at it through the eyes of women and some workable suggestions will come forward as to advancing ‘working towards solutions’

        until women’s voices are heard in the far right ‘machismo’ cults, nothing will change, ’cause the whole ‘abortion issue’ is something that denies the complexity of what is really needed to prevent unwanted pregnancies

        frankly, at its worst ebb, the ‘anti-abortion’ issue is just another branch on the tree of male domination, especially when a person cuts off all avenues of ‘working towards solutions’

  15. Michael Bell says

    It always strikes me as a little strange when you have a bunch of men debating about abortion. 62 comments to date and 2? from women?

    • Unfortunately, it’s the nature of our blog.

      • Michael Bell says

        True. Though we do have a number of female commentators who we have not heard from yet.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      That is one of the reasons I quoted Rabbi Ruttenberg.

      • Klasie, i really appreciate your having posted the link to Rabbi Ruttenberg’s Twitter thread on this topic.

        It can be somewhat intimidating to try and participate in discussions on topics like this when – as in the wider world – the discussion is dominated by men.

        That’s why I’m relieved that, up til now, nobody has responded to my comments way upthread.

        As for the person who is yelling about blood, murder and vengeance, his response is very chilling. It is a direct threat in all kinds of ways, and *not* to over 99% of the current commenters on this post.

        I have to say that it’s not just “the nature of the blog,” but the nature of every governing body in this country. It is very oppressive.

  16. Unfortunately, the game is rigged. This conversation at large is so full of empty signifiers and pure ideology, it’s like it was perfectly designed for society to never make any progress on. So we will keep spinning our wheels and casting blame on the other side of the aisle.

    Unless perhaps one thing changes: adoption processes become as affordable and convenient (with requisite background checking) as abortion currently is. Then, I believe, traditional pro-life people WOULD step up to the plate and take on the cause of the orphan. That would be a conversation changer.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > the game is rigged

      How so? Policies related to reproductive ‘rights’ and health change all the time.

      > adoption processes become as affordable and convenient

      Agree. The policies around adoption and foster care are ludicrous, IMNSHO. However, much of that is rooted in a very strong privileging of the biological parent … are ‘we’ [society] comfortably diminishing the privilege afforded to biological parents? I most certainly am – yes! – yet I strongly suspect my “pro-life” conservative friends would feel very differently. So there is an impasse.

      • I’m adopted. My biological mother surrendered me because my biological father was married to someone else, it was the ’50s, she wasn’t in any position to care for me. I am grateful for her sacrifice. And I can testify, because of being raised by loving parents, that blood relation is not the be-all and end-all. So this pro-life person agrees with you.


        • My daughter is adopted. Her birthmother — with whom we have a close relation — shared that she did indeed consider abortion at one point. So thankful she didn’t.

    • But, we *have* made progress. There are fewer abortions in the US right now than at any time since Roe v. Wade. But there’s no “one thing” that caused that decline – like any public health issue, there are a variety of interventions that each have some effect, and continued progress depends on deploying a nuanced combination of all of them instead of (as many conservatives do) fixating on one silver bullet solution.

  17. To be blunt, when someone tells me that all abortion is murder–that a zygote is a human being with a soul, with all the moral implications thereof–I don’t believe them. I don’t merely mean that I believe they have come to an incorrect conclusion, though there is that. I don’t believe that they believe what they are saying. Not that they are mustachio-twirling villains cackling gleefully at the clever lie they have concocted, but that they have taken this statement–that zygotes are human beings, and so on…–and placed it in a carefully constructed mental compartment. They then allow only a strictly limited set of implications to proceed from it, the most important being to always vote for the Republican. None of the rest of the vast array of implications that should logically follow are permitted to intrude.

    Chaplain Mike touches on this with his mention of miscarriages. Most miscarriages are undramatic, manifesting as heavy menstrual flow. If people actually believed what they claim to believe, this would be a huge deal: sanitary waste as charnel house. Yet it isn’t. A few years back an egg bank had a power failure, with thousands of fertilized eggs thawing, and having to be disposed of. It was back page news. Why is this? Surely the mass death of thousands of babies would be huge news. But it wasn’t, and not merely in the “liberal media.” It simply wasn’t the story it would have been if anyone really believed these were babies. Then there are identical twins. If a zygote is a baby with a soul, what does it mean when it becomes two babies? And this can go in the other direction, merging back together. This should be a huge and fascinating philosophical question with a large body of both academic and popular literature. But it isn’t. No one actually believes the premise. Too abstract for you? Here’s a big one. If people actually believed zygotes are babies, then those guys who shoot up abortion clinics are right, indeed righteous. If there was in your town an actual clinic where women brought actual babies–held in the arms with poopy diapers babies–to be slaughtered, would you respond by holding a sign and, when the time came, voting? What the hell is wrong with you? And so on, and so on, and so on.

    The Evangelical stance on abortion is about forty years old. Or, as Fred Clark puts it, younger than the Happy Meal. The president of the Southern Baptist Convention famously (among those paying attention) lauded Roe v. Wade as a blow for religious freedom. What happened?

    First, some Evangelicals had believed this all along. Francis Schaeffer was, so far as I can tell, utterly sincere. From his perspective, what happened was that he finally succeeded in persuading his fellow Evangelicals. But this just moves the “What happened?” question to the other Evangelicals.

    Returning to Fred Clark, he considers it an aftermath of the Civil Rights movement. The Evangelicals were rather spectacularly on the losing side of that, and everyone knew it. This isn’t to say that white Evangelicals thought they were in the wrong. The initial response was to found private “Christian” schools, lily-white with a sprinkling of Vietnamese and Korean adoptees for variety. (As was their right. What really pissed them off about the Carter administration was their being denied federal funding.)

    The thing about movements is that they end, and both sides need to figure out what they are going to do next. On the left there was dabbling in anti-nuclear power and in anti-Apartheid. The first never really caught on, though they surely tried. The second they won (to the extent that divestment had any effect) putting them back in search of a cause. The decline of the Left can be read as a failure to find an issue that really got the juices flowing. (The proclivity of cops to shoot random black dudes seems to have addressed this gap, but that is another discussion.)

    In the case of Evangelicals, abortion filled this gap. They got to declare themselves the enemy of Satanic Baby Killers (to again use Fred Clark’s term). This gave the Evangelical in the pews (um…, in the auditorium stadium seating) the sweet, sweet rush of self-righteousness, and the Evangelical establish a splendid fundraising tool. Both groups have been playing this for all it is worth for the past four decades. Trump is the logical conclusion.

    • Christiane says

      wait until you hear about the latest QAnon conspiracy theory which involves even cannibalism into the mix in support of Trump . . . . actually better that you don’t, but it does show that when the evangelical right begins to lose its political punch, along will come another vehicle to get the job done for Trump, but what a group of lunatics QAnon seems to attract and what on Earth will be the consequences when and if Trump legally loses the election in November and calls these wackos to action in his defense to keep power


      I wish I were kidding about this, but I’m being serious . . . and yes, I’m worried, you bet.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        QAnon’s Deep State is just a retread of The Satanic Panic of the Eighties with some minor variations.
        Secret Conspiracy of Satan-worshippers controlling EVERYTHING – Government, Media, Society?
        Satanic Ritual Sex Abuse?
        Children Ritually Sacrificed to Satan?
        Secret Underground Ritual Sites?
        (Not too sure of this one, but the Pizzagate branch had it. And Comet Ping-Pong got shot up.)
        Everyoone outside of our Church/Movement being One Of THEM?

        The main difference this time around is casting Donald Trump as Our Savior from The Satanic Conspiracy (and keeper of the Secret Mysteries en coded in his Tweets). And everything becoming even more GrimDark (no, DARKER!) and More URGENT! than the last time around.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          We ain’t seen nothing yet.

          Hineni, Hineni.
          I’m ready my Lord.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            That song and video was NOT the usual Christianese take on the subjects.
            THAT was the difference between Creative Art and Propaganda.

            I’ve got the tune ear-worming me.

          • Losing Leonard Cohen was just one more thing that made 2016 an awful year. I remember hearing the news and being like, “Oh, come on, 2016, enough is enough…” Little did I know that things were only going to get… well… darker from then on.

        • But where does Mike Warnke and the Jack Chick tracts figure in all of this?

  18. Burro (Mule) says

    The year was 1981, and the country was embroiled in the first of the Reagan/Volcker recessions. Jobs were hard to come by, and I had a job delivering office supplies. One of the customers to which I was sent was an abortion clinic, a “Women’s Health Clinic”. As long as I was inside, I felt unclean. At the time I had no deep political affiliation, and I didn’t believe abortion was an issue men had any business speaking on. I was single and celibate.

    When I returned to the office, I informed that I couldn’t deliver more office materials to that place. When they asked me why, I told them ‘That is an evil place, and evil things take place there.’ I was told that it was a legal business and I had a responsibility to service a legal customer. I was fired when I held my ground. I received no unemployment benefits, and it was six months before I found another job.

    Say what you want. Maybe abortion clinics are legal, and maybe they should be. I don’t like casinos either, and I wouldn’t work in one, but I don’t know that I want them closed. I don’t think the people running them are Good People (and that includes You Know Hoo), or that they are performing a public service.

    Not everything that is wrong needs to be illegal.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > Not everything that is wrong needs to be illegal.


      Also, even trying to make everything wrong illegal sounds terribly exhausting.

      Imagine the commission meetings of the Moral Quantification Department.

  19. I used to be quite pro-life. Abortion? Horrible! But not so much now.
    I have watched the pro-life movement morph from let’s save babies to let’s stop birth control of all kinds to let’s make this our only moral stance even if we have to bow down to Satan himself to save a few zygotes to let’s have a party every year on the anniversary of Roe v Wade and call it the March for Life full of selfies, smiling teens who have been bused in, and lots of pro-GOP politicians to an utter lack of denunciation of 170,000+ deaths from COVID because we need to keep the economy going and anyway, most of those people are old and sick so really, their lives don’t much matter.

    I have known people who have advocated for adoption of frozen fertilized embryos because to let them thaw and dispose of them would be murder and suppose those embryos don’t know Jesus? I have heard pro-life leaders refusing to denounce the idea of investigating every miscarriage because if the mother did something (excessive exercise? poor diet?) to cause the miscarriage she should be charged with murder. I know people who vote only on the abortion issue, desperately wanting to save babies, but advocate carpet bombing terrorist sponsoring nations and have no trouble turning away desperate immigrants seeking asylum.

    Perhaps, as Michael Z states above, term “pro-life” gets misused a lot these days, but it seems to be veering ever closer to only “pro-birth” and then, it’s the luck of the draw how you fare.

    • The contraception point is very telling. If the stance on abortion were really about zygotes being babies, there would be no tendency for the person advocating against abortion to also advocate against contraception. Quite the contrary. The surest way to prevent an abortion is to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. The anti-abortion advocates ought to be enthusiastic about contraception, working to ensure its ready availability. But of course we all know this isn’t how it works in the real world. An anti-abortion advocate is far more likely to be against contraception as well, rather than for it. This strongly suggests that something other than life beginning at conception is the real issue.

      • This used to be a predominately Catholic position. How prevalent is it among other pro-lifers now?

        • Very prevalent.

          Here is an example:
          “Pro-Life Wisconsin is opposed to all forms of artificial contraception. We support only natural methods of spacing the births of children. The contraceptive mentality views pregnancy as a “disease” state against which women must be “protected” at all costs – even at the cost of their own health and the lives of their unborn babies. Abortion simply becomes backup contraception.”


          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            > “The contraceptive mentality views pregnancy as a “disease” state …”

            Wow, there’s a leap.

          • I really, truly hope that is only a fringe organization…

            • “…we are formally opposed to abortifacient varieties. Generally speaking, the following is a guide to birth control types:

              Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
              Intra-uterine devices (IUDs), both copper & hormonal
              Hormonal patches
              Hormonal shots
              Hormonal implants
              Hormonal vaginal rings
              Plan B (emergency contraceptive)


              Or this:

            • Rick, it’s not “fringe” anymore, as Suzanne has made clear.

              To be honest, things have been moving in this direction for at least the past 15-20 years, but were dismissed as “fringe” by most mainstream evangelicals, while the ranks of these patriarchalist movements grew and grew.

              And now, they have major political clout, b/c DJT welcomes them and promises all sorts of things to them.

              I know “patriarchal” and “patriarchalism” are loaded words for some folks who are participating in this discussion (as in, on this blog), and i have no desire to engage in any arguments with them.

              But the way Quiverfull and associated ideologies (including “Stay At Home Daughters” and father-daughter “purity” “dates”) began surfacing in what once was fairly mainstream evangelicalism in the mid-00s spelled trouble, and it’s been like a steamroller ever since. There are more than a few blogs and websites devoted to discussion of these disturbing trends, as well as to the exposure of serious abuses within their ranks.

              And once you learn more about all of this stuff, it can’t be shelved or “un-known.” It is *way* closer to The Handmaid’s Tale than I’d like to believe, but… there it is.

              P.S.: the debate over all forms of birth control being immoral has been going on in what was once mainstream evangelicalism for over a decade now. It’s awful and wrong, and far too many young women have been raised to believe in it. It crossed over from Quiverfull to “pro-life” circles some years back. Or perhaps it’s also caused by Quiverfull people being increasingly vocal within “pro-life” groups.

              Either way, it’s horrifying. And patriarchalist to the Nth degree.

          • Iain Lovejoy says

            If abortion is allegedly being used as “back up conception” making sure that the back up is never required would seem to be a complete no-brainer.

            • Iain, it’s really about exerting control over women, for reasons that should be obvious.

              I wish your “would seem” was a reality for all here in the US.

        • I’ve only met one or two couples who believe contraception shouldn’t be used. I know that is anecdotal, but I think the anti-contraception people are a tiny minority of evangelicals.

          • Probably still more of a “Catholic” issue.

            • Christiane says

              Catholics are likely to be more ‘humane’ about the whole abortion issue than most people realize. Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are life-long practicing Catholics, and they don’t see ‘manipulating’ peoples’ votes with this ‘one issue’ in the severe ways of them what would send troubled women back to the butchers rather than to fund the care needed to ‘welcome new life’.

              I think there is something in the Orthodox and the Catholic understanding of what is ‘humane’ that prevents some of the harsh extremism now seen, maybe in the Catholic world, it is having been through that extremism and seeing it for what it truly is: a profoundly soul-destroying inhumanity towards women in distress, treating them as sinners who must ‘pay for their sins’ and be humiliated in some work house until the baby is born and taken from them and they are forever marked in their communities as a ‘fallen person’ . . . . . yeah, maybe Catholics ‘learned’ already that treating ‘sinners’ inhumanely also destroyed the souls of those who abused these women in their fragile states, judging them, pointing the finger at them, and forgetting that the Church is to be a place of healing and mercy, not a show-trial and crucifixion of ‘sinners’ in the name of the One Who looked out on crowds of troubled people and had compassion on them

              the Church seems to have learned the hard way, so we have Nancy and Joe to witness that there can be Catholics of faith who view the Church as needing to BE the Church in the fullest sense of a healing sanctuary in this world of troubles. . . . . some thoughts from a Catholic woman 🙂

              • I guess my statement “probably still more of a Catholic issue” didn’t quite capture the idea that the Catholic church — or maybe more appropriately, Catholics in general — have moved away from making it such a big issue, or at least less of an issue than it used to be. My guess is, though, you still have a number of Catholics who remain locked into the Church’s past anti-abortion stance.

                What is the “official” Catholic church position on abortion these days? There must be a statement somewhere one can look at.

                • There is definitely a culture warrior wing of the Catholic church. My local newspaper has a regular rotation of religion columnists. The Catholic entry is a guy with an old soul, by which I mean he isn’t nearly old enough to be yelling at kids to keep off his lawn, but he doesn’t let this stop him. He recently had a column complaining that removing statues of Christopher Columbus was anti-Catholic bigotry, and that Columbus didn’t do any of those mean things anti-Catholic bigots accuse him of. It isn’t clear to me if he is educated enough to know that it was the Catholic Church that made those accusations. That is, I don’t know if he is ignorant or lying. In my old age I find the distinction less and less useful

                • It’s very much a thing with Protestants now, Rick, as i noted just upthread.

                  Stated rationales differ slightly, but the end result is pretty much identical to how it is in certain Catholic groups in the US.

                  • Yes, I understand it is also a Protestant thing, but I think it is still much more of a Catholic thing, and just wanted to know what the stated, official Catholic position is on abortion these days.

                • Christiane says

                  does this help some:

                  “Finally, a culture of encounter asks Christians, in particular, to resist the temptation to be ruled by right-versus-left arguments over the policies of nation-states. An undue focus on such arguments impedes authentic participation in the culture of encounter to which Pope Francis calls us. Participating in this binary political culture requires us to define ourselves by our opposition to the political “other.” Furthermore, as Pope Francis says in “The Joy of the Gospel” (Laudato Si):

                  In her dialogue with the State and with society, the Church does not have solutions for every particular issue. Together with the various sectors of society, she supports those programs which best respond to the dignity of each person and the common good. In doing this, she proposes in a clear way the fundamental values of human life and convictions which can then find expression in political activity.

                  For those who disagree (at least for the moment) on politics and policy, a focus on value and convictions can provide common ground and the basis for fruitful encounters that may, down the road, lead to a different outcome.”

                  • Well, that’s about as clear as San Francisco on a cloudy day…

                    • The Roman Catholic Church is comfortable with ambiguity, except with regard to its own authority.

                    • –> “The Roman Catholic Church is comfortable with ambiguity, except with regard to its own authority.”

                      If so, then that’s a pretty drastic change from where they once were. And, if so, then it’s a credit to them, as they now seem to have a leg up on Protestants in that regard (or at least, some denominations of Protestantism).

                    • I agree, but that last step is a doozy.

  20. Aside – Anymore news from Jeff Dunn?

    • Also, Robert F, how are you and your wife doing? Sorry if I’ve missed any updates sometimes I miss a few days.

      • Yes to the Jeff Dunn query, Yes to the Robert F query. Any new news from either party?

      • My wife is healing well physically; although it is slow going, I think she is “on schedule”. But the emotional healing has a long, long way to go. Thank you for asking.

  21. It seems to me a lot of you here let the conservative right’s hypocrisy (pro-life, but taking positions and stances that are borderline pro-death) affect your view of abortion.

    The bottom line: Either you believe a fetus is a living being, or you don’t. Or you believe it is a living being “at some point before birth,” or you don’t.

    Don’t let they hypocrisy of the Right cloud your judgment of that.

    • Michael Bell says

      Or option C:

      the LORD God… breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:1b)

    • Michael Bell says

      Seems to me that there are shades of gray in the available answers. Requiring a black/white answer is why we can’t have a dialogue.

      • So… Chaplain Mike’s post “Let’s discuss…abortion” is impossible then, right? If so, why do we have over 100 comments and counting? Or maybe we can discuss this, as long as other viewpoints aren’t allowed? Or maybe questions or observations that might make one squirm a little aren’t allowed?

        I never said this required a black/white answer. It seems to me, though, everyone has a point in which they think life “exists.”

        And trust me, I know very well the hypocrisy which makes us all cringe, having once been a hypocrite myself on this issue.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          > Or maybe we can discuss this

          I think we are discussing this. 🙂

          • I was responding to Mike’s statement as to why we can’t have a dialog. I felt we were as well, unless he was challenging the right of someone to disagree.

            • Christiane says

              I can’t speak for Mike, but I think he might have meant that when we see things as ‘absolute’ black and white with no shades of gray in between, there isn’t much room for ‘dialog’.

              I think Chaplain Mike wants us to have some understanding that the ‘abortion issue’ is about a lot of very complicated issues inter-related and we must begin to see that there are many areas to be explored for ‘possible solutions’ IF we don’t become discouraged and stop listening to one another.

              What will help? That is what we need to talk about. I don’t think this country is geared for a dystopian scene like out of ‘the Handmaiden’, no. Misogyny may have the bully pulpit right now, but it offers no way to make things better, and if anything, it destroys the trust needed for dialog to proceed. We need to find ‘the better Way’; the Church needs to get out of politics and BE the Church again. And politicians? The right has had a free ride off the backs of women’s issues for far too long and look what kind of leader they have finally fielded: Donald Trump. Enough said.

              • Michael Bell says

                “I can’t speak for Mike, but I think he might have meant that when we see things as ‘absolute’ black and white with no shades of gray in between, there isn’t much room for ‘dialog’.”

                Exactly what I was thinking. Sorry if I wasn’t clearer Rick.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      My views on Abortion are on the short list of things about which I have not changed my mind at all, over the coarse of my life.

      (1) the boundaries of Human Life are indeterminate
      (1.1) the civil should be centered on, well, the center, not the fringe
      (1.1.1) those who want to focus the civic on the fringe should be treated with suspicion [because, simply, why?]
      (1.2) the civic should not attempt to be the determiner of those boundaries; “what is a soul?” is not a civic question.
      (2) abortion is a morally disturbing practice which exists largely outside the bounds of civic concern – its civil regulation inherently takes concerns from beyond what is appropriate to the civic concern.

      So: leave it alone.

      And if you build a safe prosperous society it will be rare, so… stay focused on the center.

      • –> “My views on Abortion are on the short list of things about which I have not changed my mind at all…”

        Bravo for you, Adam. But not all of us are so locked in on what we’ve always believed. It also doesn’t make it right. In fact, one should sometimes question things that they’ve “always believed”. To me, that’s a clear message of Jesus, a clear message of Michael Spencer, a clear message of most of us in the wilderness.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          My response was to your assertion: “you here let the conservative right’s hypocrisy affect your view of abortion”.

          There’s a way to get to the position mentioned here by more than just myself other than a reflection of hypocrisy.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Rick, what about life as an emergent property? That would seem to be what the OT hints at, and certainly the way some of the Jewish sages think about it. Which means drawing a sharp line any moment pre-birth is not warranted.

      • Not sure I’m buying that argument. I know you’re no longer a believer, but to me either God intended a life to be lived or He didn’t. Are any of these aborted fetuses falling in the category of going against God’s intended will for that potential being?

        He’s either up there saying, “I can’t believe they’re arguing over abortion,” or He’s up there saying, “I can’t believe they’re arguing over abortion.” LOL.

        Most here seem to think He’s not up there caring one way or the other, which I find difficult to wrap my head around.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          I am confident I have no way of knowing, based on the provided text, what he is feeling about this issue or where he ‘draws lines’. So, we are on our own.

          A healthy Conservative position, IMHSHO, is that we should focus on creating a society where abortion is naturally rare, and otherwise stay out of people’s decisions.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          Again, the Jewish explanation offers strong evidence to the contrary, if you think that is relevant. See my link above.

          • Klasie, many, many Muslims take a position that’s very close to the one outlined by Rabbi Ruttenberg. There are good, concise articles about this on sites like MyJewishLearning.

            At any rate, that’s 2 out of 3 of the major monotheistic religions – and evangelicals didn’t get into th8s fight, or even believe there was a fight to get into! – until the late 70s-early 80s. It all tracks with the rise of the Religious Right + Reagan’s 1st term.

            I lived in the DC area during both of Reagan’s terms, and believe me, there were and still are an anazing variety of “fringe” Xtian (using that term loosely) lobbyists/activists who 1st came to town during the early 80s. I went to church with some of them, and they were SO out there that it was scary, as they had political clout. A friend who was once the office manager for a Congressman who was from this crew told me later that the staff were doing a whole lot of ethically questiinable, often outrightly wrong, wheeling and dealing but said she had the wool pulled over her eyes at the time- which is *exactly* what they wanted…. a naive and idealistic person to keep things running day to day, who wouldn’t raise objections b=c they believed the staff to be “good Xtian people,” when in reality they weren’t.

        • Rick, i don’t think *anyone* actually can pinpoint when human life truly begins., aside from implantation, cell division, etc.

          If we could, the question would be settled, but the reality is that we can’t/don’t know, thus the range of responses to it.

          If we ever find out exactly when human personality as we understand it begins, that will be quite a day.

          But i seriously doubt that science will ever reach that point, b/c it’s elusive at best; also b/c it’s not something science as we know it can measure, quantify, etc.

          I don’t think Klasie is being disingenuous in raising some of the Jewish ethical arguments on this topic – but you might not be comfortable with that take on things. It’s challenging for folks who haven’t had much exposure to common beliefs and ethics as practiced by people of other faiths.

          Our country has been pluralistic from its beginnings, especially considering the many various beliefs held by Native peoples, plus the early influx of Sephardic Jews to this country. One of the treasured documents held by the Touro synagogue in Providence, RI, is a letter to the congregation by Washington himself.

          I am from PA, which was founded as a pluralistic colony by design. Although the kind of freedom and tolerance that William Penn wanted did not ever come to fruition, this state was and still is hugely different from the strict Calvinism in early New England. That includes the immigration of many Central and Eastern European Jews to PA specifically. I grew up in a half-Jewish neighborhood. It was an education, and I’m grateful to and for all of the people who gently helped my parents and i to see through their eyes, and to learn about their beliefs and practices.

          Apologies for the slight detour above, but it gives some context per where I’m coming from.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        I have wondered this for at least two decades:

        “Life is an emergent process”
        “Consciousness is an emergent process”
        Theosis is an emergent process”

        How does an emergent process differ from a process whose genesis we don’t understand?

      • Iain Lovejoy says

        My problem with the idea of a life beginning gradually is that life is subjective: my “life” doesn’t consist of what I can do or say or think or feel, but of the “I” to whom all this subjectively happens and which experiences it. That “I” either exists or it doesn’t: I can’t see where there is an in-between, so I must have started at some defined point life have begun to experience my life as something which was happening to me.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          I don’t see why something being subjective is a problem.

          > so I must have started at some defined point life

          Sure. And that doesn’t tell me when that was.

          • Iain Lovejoy says

            When I say “subjective” I mean that each person has an individual, unique subjective experience of the world – an “I” to whom everything that happens to them happens. I’ve no problem with this being the case, but it does (as I tried to say) create a problem for Klasie’s idea outlined above that it is gradual and there is no specific point at which life starts.
            That there is a specific point I agree doesn’t of course necessarily make it possible to identify when that is.

  22. Hello, it’s me, again. (Run away, run away!)

    The bottom line for me:
    And they served their graven images; and it became an offense to them.
    And they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to devils,
    and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was defiled with blood.
    And was polluted with their works…

    With this:
    Don’t just end the discussion by insisting it’s all about murdering babies.

    My mind is made up. I don’t care to continue the discussion any longer. Everything, all of the exceptions, considerations, mitigations, and justifications, are completely and utterly moot. By allowing or condoning the destruction of our children (by whatever means, abortion being one among many), we are committing cultural and national suicide. Full stop.

    Being born when I was, I consider myself one of the lucky ones to, literally, make it out alive.

    Any who has ears, let them hear.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Who is sacrificing “their sons and their daughters to devils”?

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Um, a ballerina I knew who had an abortion so she could continue her dance career?

        Talk about Omelas.

    • Justin, you have the right to feel this way. As for me, I think it is sad that anyone would want to cut off discussion while it’s still possible with the potential of ending relationships and trying to find a way forward to a culture that is less likely to pursue deathly options. But that’s where I’m coming from.

      • I find it rather ironic that it is somewhat implied that I would be the one to be “ending relationships.” Be that as it may.

        The way forward for me is to not try to change the direction of the Culture(TM), but to deal with the individuals in front of me–my wife, my daughters, my sons, my neighbors–and build, oh I don’t know, relationships.

        The fact that some folks on this board want to label me or have nothing to do with me because of an opinion I hold is ultimately irrelevant. Knock yourselves out. It simply does not matter. What is being discussed is the wholly wrong thing. None of it addresses the elephant in the room.

        In this culture, it is perfectly acceptable to cast off children (in whatever stage of development) for any reason. No amount of handwaving and rationalization can put lipstick on that pig. Just like it is perfectly acceptable to cast off [really] anyone for any reason. Let’s be honest: every culture accepts that treatment of individual outliers, for all of history until now.

        The church was supposed to be the cure for this, but alas.

        I am open to discuss any good and proper way to slaughter that elephant, for good.

        • Thanks, Justin. Sorry for any unintended insult you felt. I think that ground level engagement you are talking about is the best way to approach life, the way we heartily endorse here at Internet Monk. No one here said they don’t want anything to do with you. I just said that taking a position like you stated (and, to be fair, which others state on the other end of the spectrum) tends to end discussion. I probably would have not had this discussion were it not an election year with so much rhetoric flying around. The polarization in our national discourse is so hardened into divisions at the moment, and this issue is one of the places where it seems to be set in stone. As a chaplain and a peacemaker, my vocation leads me to try and break down walls between people, not just lay another brick on my side. You are welcome here anytime.

          • Thank you, Chaplain. I am not feeling insulted or unwelcome, but thank you anyway.

            That we seem (from my perspective) to have polarized on the wrong pivot issues is a sign of the cultural scapegoat we’re looking for. I am sure that every person on this blog would gladly share a meal with every other person on this blog, most even might try to buy. But, we allow these petty issues act to drive a wedge between us. That’s the human condition, is it not? And ultimately the wedges lead to these cultural tragedies, like abortion.

            And another elephant that needs put down.

        • Justin, the majority of people in the US support some restrictions on abortion, especially late-term abortion. The majority also view abortion as something that we should work to reduce. But, the vast majority also feel that abortion should not be made illegal and Roe v. Wade should not be overturned.

          So, you’re left with a choice. You can find common cause with people who, even though they may not be extreme as you, want to do something about abortion, and work together to reduce it. Or you can insist on an all-or-nothing approach, in which case you’ll keep alienating the moderates. The main reason the pro-life movement lost steam in the US starting in the 80s is that conservatives advocating an extreme position made it look so bad that they pushed most of the moderates into the pro-choice camp…

    • Zygotes literally don’t even have blood, therefore it is impossible for them to shed blood. This is a dismissive attitude towards a complicated and nuanced subject, as well as an incorrect interpretation of the text based on the context. An effective strategy to shut down any conversation that desires to genuinely pursue wisdom.

      • David, it’s not about zygotes, souls, or really even abortions. It’s about how we treat the “others” in our lives, collectively and individually. Abortion is only a symptom.

        • And that’s why I put that list in the post, which recognizes some of the contexts for abortion that those who merely take an anti-abortion stance don’t always recognize and aren’t always willing to talk about. There will be no shortage of abortions until we deal with some of these issues — legal or illegal.

  23. Tremper Longman says

    Thanks so much for this thoughtful discussion of a difficult issue. And I thank Chaplain Mike for his thoughtful post on some of my ideas.

  24. First of all, this is one issue on which the Bible, as has been noted, does not say much, if anything, so there is no “biblical” point of view on it. However, this is where Christian tradition comes in, which derives its reasoning on it from its interpretation of Scripture and theological thought about God as Creator. From what I know, it seems that the Eastern Fathers generally wrote more along “whole life ethic” lines, rejecting abortion.

    Orthodoxy does not teach anything about “ensoulment”; life begins at conception. (We actually discuss it – we have the major feast day of the Annunciation – the conception of Jesus – and minor feast days in remembrance of the conception of Mary and of John the Forerunner/Baptist.) If a married couple is healthy and capable of having children, they are to be open to welcoming life that is engendered from their love. Contraception may be used, but it must done in consultation with one’s confessor – in most instances one of our married priests (yes, really, and many do abide by this) – and be non-abortifacient. So Eastern Christianity provides a reasonable middle way, as in so many things.

    I believe Classical Christian teaching that abortion is killing a human being. Like the first Christians – who rescued many, many newborn infants who were left to die by exposure – I also believe that it’s not my place to impose my beliefs, especially when the law of the land is otherwise. Making abortion alone, unconnected with other related concerns, a political matter has overall been pretty pointless, I think. I agree with all the opinions above about better policy that would actually help women and children have what they need to be healthy in every way. I once heard Billy Graham say that if each church in this country would “adopt” up to 5 poor families, we could end poverty, and I believe he was right. There’s more to this than mere lack of money, of course.

    It’s not that people “don’t care”, it’s that it’s uncomfortable for us for a bevy of reasons to actually do what needs to be done (not to mention that some people, especially those with severe mental illness, need to be supported by trained professionals). This is one area of life that is vastly interconnected with others, and we have to approach it on multiple levels. And at each level there is the possibility that people won’t “cooperate” to do what’s in their best interests. The whole situation is very complicated, and very, very sad – part of the tragic aspect of life in the world as it is.

    I don’t recall reading in any of the comments that there are, in fact, numbers of non-religious people who espouse a whole life ethic. So hypocrisy of Christians I will grant, but there are plenty of Christians and others who are trying to ameliorate the attending problems (adopting children, etc.), and it seems that has gotten dismissed with a wave of the hand in the discussion today. What those people are doing is not of no consequence.

    Finally, speaking as a female, nobody has yet noted that abortion is a violent act upon a woman’s body. It has also been a measure used to try to control women, as well as undesirable groups of people, and women of color have been part of both groups. These are the shadow aspects of the issue that pro-abortion people don’t like to discuss.


    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      As to your last point, having had deep discussions with affected woman, it seems to go both ways.

      I was wondering what you think of the discussion by Rabbi Ruttenberg I linked to at the beginning, given what you say here?

      • Klasie, i really appreciate how you are trying to engage folks with differing perspectives.

        Dana, as always, i am grateful for your perspective and the way you explain it. While I’m not there myself, it is very helpful to get takes from a diverse group of people.

        It does seem as if there’s a fair amount of variety on this issue within early Christianity, although i also get that all of the EO churches have particular positions that were decided on a very long time ago. (Although surely there’s been some dissent over the past 2 millennia?)

      • Rabbi Ruttenberg articulates the Jewish point of view. There are some things early Christianity did not carry over from Judaism; this may be one of them.

        In general, I believe that for Christians abortion may be done to save the mother’s life, but in such a case (and those are rare) it should be the last resort, and it is an occasion of extreme sorrow and a matter of great contrition. And again, I’m not going to force my view on anyone.

        Though I don’t know what J. Peterson has to say about sexuality as referenced above, it seems he is making a point about at least being responsible about sexual expression. This of course is intimately (pun intended) connected to the matter of abortion. If a non-Christian can make that point, Christians should at least make an effort to behave according to what they say they believe about the appropriate conditions for sex. Believe me, I know what raging hormones are. It’s not easy to swim upstream from what your body (and often your heart – real love carries with it the move toward union, which is not in itself a bad thing) is driving you to do, especially if you’re not given tools to help you in such situations. In my youth I failed in this, and I have regretted it ever since, not because of any guilt trip but because it was not the best and most loving thing for me or the other party. That “best and most loving thing” is intrinsic to the Classical Christian view re the appropriate conditions for sex. Another part of the problem is that in general, Evangelicals particularly have no theology of what the body is for, except some vague thoughts about the physical not really mattering, because only the soul matters since that’s what’s “going to Heaven”. Ancient Christianity does have some developed thought about this – and it’s not limited to “sex is only for having children”. It’s not about rules and laws; it’s about what we as human beings are made for.


        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          By J Peterson do you mean Jordan Peterson?

          • Yes, as in a comment above.


            • Klasie Kraalogies says

              Ah. For the record, I can’t stand the man, and neither can any serious academic (which I am not). The incel’s philosopher. But the sad thing is that he has been led down the rabbit trail into a red meat only diet (yes, you read that right) bu his daughter and it seems his mental and physical health has taken a permanent blow. No one deserves that.

    • Every kind of surgery is, by its nature, a violent act for the patient.

      I mean, the laparoscopy and cauterization that i had done in the 90s, to try and halt the progress of a gyn disease that causes severe pain was therefore an act of “violence” on my body- one that helped me tremendously in terms of pain relief for a number of years. When that + other palliative measures (there is no known cure for this disease) became ineffective, i went for a hysterectomy + oophorectomy- again, a “volent” procedure, done to my body with my full consent. And, apart from some difficulties during recovery (it being an abdominal procedure, after all), i have been free of the pain for nearly 20 years.

      As hard as it was to make that decision and give up all hope of biological children, i wish I’d done it sooner, b/c it gave me my life back to a great degree.

      As for women who choose to have abortions, this absolutely has to be looked at on a case by case basis. Many women agonize over this decision, and wish there were other ways available to them. All too often, there aren’t.

      Anyway, i think it’s kind of reaching here to single out abortion as a uniquely awful act of violence done to women, i inflicted on women’s bodies, without further context.

      As an aside, i went to HS with a girl who literally WAS forced to undergo an abortion. Her parents actually helped hold her down on the table while she was anesthetized. Now, that IS an act of violence against a young woman who wanted to carry to term. But… her parents didn’t want to endure the social stigma involved. My friend was in her mid-teens, and not given any choice in the matter. To top it off, her parents were Catholic.

      The harm we too often inflict on our children…. no words.

      • I wasn’t singling out abortion as unique. My point was that that aspect of it isn’t discussed.

        That was an inexpressibly horrible thing your HS friend endured. You’re right – no words.


        • Dana, thanks for clarifying. Gotcha!

          My friend was more than willing to have her baby adopted. She just wanted to carry to term and give birth.

          What kind of people would actively harm their child + unborn grandchild in that way?

          It’s heartbreaking.

    • Actually as far as I know pro-choice people are opposed to abortion without the free consent of the woman (e.g., China’s one child policy is not pro-choice) with an exception when the woman isn’t in a position to consent (comatose woman who might survive if her pregnancy is ended but then there are already routes for who decides on what medical treatment in such cases) and the dicey situation all round when it is a child who is pregnant especially a pre-teen child.

    • “his is where Christian tradition comes in, which derives its reasoning on it from its interpretation of Scripture and theological thought about God as Creator.”

      And, let us not forget, the cultures of those early theologians, which colored their theology (and must be critiqued in turn, especially WRT patriarchslism). We Protestants will *never* let “tradition” have the last word.

  25. Some years ago I was surprised to find that my late uncle, a Cistercian monk, did not adhere to a strident anti abortion stance in keeping with most Catholic thought. He did question when a group of replicating cells was considered a human being. That seemed odd for a Catholic priest but so it was.

    • Christiane says

      tricky thing about the Catholic Church . . . . it encourages people to think and to examine the real world and to look into their own consciences as well as consult Church teachings and one more thing . . . it encourages people to pray before making a moral decision

      not exactly ‘lock-step’, no

      but more in keeping with the dignity of the human person made in the image of God who has been given the gift of reason AND of a person’s moral conscience where he/she talks to God privately

      for the fundamentalists who are not able to examine their own souls, but are locked into spouting the party line, I have some advice from the past, this:
      ““re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul”
      (Walt Whitman)

      • Christiane- yes, as to the best aspects of Catholicism and Catholic education encouraging people to think and question. Without that, Georgetown U and many other Catholic universities wouldn’t exust.

        I knew a number of Sisters of Mercy who were acientists. And a Catholic boys’ boarding school that i visited in the early 70s had built its own observatory. Truly remarkable!

        But then there’s the flip side, especially among folks who don’t have the kinds of educations I’ve just mentioned.

        The difference can be quite stark. (But then, coming from a Lutheran background where education is highly valued, i guess i have more in common with the kinds of folks i mentioned just above – who also taught, and did it very well indeed.)

        I think every denomination, every religion, has its “shadow” side, since it’s a human institution, and consists of human beings.

        • Christiane says

          I think my Church has learned the hard way unfortunately, but it IS a work in progress because its ‘members’ are all too human. There is some thought that when the Church meets in formal council, that there is something ‘more’ that is at work than just the sum of the ‘parts’, so to speak. That is why dialog is highly prized and why ‘consensus’ is seen as producing ‘better’ ways forward. . . .

          I think the same values are found among mainline Christianity, including Lutheranism;
          but not in ‘fundamentalist’ cults, no.

  26. Michael Bell says

    Sigh. Remember the good old days when I wrote the controversial posts and got lots of comments? 😀

    • I’ll tell you, I had a lot of hesitation about this one. I’m pleased with the way the discussion has gone, though we have not really heard much from people on the ends of the spectrum. I guess, knowing our usual community, that I expected this. But I did put a public post on Facebook inviting others to join. We have heard a few convinced “abortion is murder” ever and always folks. What we have not heard is the voice of the hard left. As a friend reminded me today, they can be just as fundamentalist and impervious to other views as those on the right. He deals with it in his Mennonite church, where he finds it hard to be moderately conservative. And that’s where I am. Which means both sides find a lot to dislike in what I say.

      • Michael Bell says

        It is hard to be a moderate.

        The right write you off as being a Liberal.

        The left write you off as being a Conservative.

        • Yes. I’ve spent much of my adult life in this position.

          Lonely, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

        • It’s hard to be a moderate when the norm for the right has become foaming at the mouth bonkers. You have to go VERY far left to find any equivalent.

      • I’m not sure what you mean by the “hard left.” If you mean classic Marxism, I’m not even sure what a “hard left” position on abortion would be. Marxism is a theory about how to organize the economy. That is pretty disjoint from this discussion.

        • I’m talking about the spectrum of views on abortion. Murder vs. abortion on demand, with no restrictions.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            > abortion on demand, with no restrictions.

            I do not believe even the “abortion on demand, with no restrictions” crowd – and I know more than a few of them – lay aside moral consideration; they are principally adamant that those moral considerations should not be owned by the state. And historically, the state’s respect for women, givens them plenty of precedent to found that position.

            The tribe of “abortion on demand, with no restrictions IT IS JUST A BUNCH OF CELLS” crowd exists nearly entirely as a propaganda trope.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Marxists (in the form of the Bolsheviks and their descendants) ended up the most destructive extreme of Socialistm, and gave the entire spectrum a bad rep that it still struggles under.

      • –> “Which means both sides find a lot to dislike in what I say.”

        People don’t like people who are enigmas. As I told ChrisS yesterday, “You and me, Chris… we’re enigmas.”

        You’re somewhat of an enigma too, Chap Mike. You can’t — or won’t — be pigeon-holed.

      • I’m pretty sure the “hard left” doesn’t read Internet Monk. This being a religious blog is always going to make it, in some ways, a more welcoming space for religious hard-right folks than for folks on the extreme left who either have no experience with religion or have very negative experiences.

  27. “In the final analysis, then, while Christians should keep upholding the sanctity of life and protesting abortion as an infringement on that sanctity, we should not put our trust in the law, but in our powers of persuasion to the gospel and to obedience. And, in the meantime, there may be wisdom in making abortion rare and safe. (pp. 152-153)”

    What struck me about Longman’s summary here is that pro-life folks usually see things in terms of “law” and the politics necessary to make such laws, not in terms of a godly, loving influence rooted in the Gospel and God’s rule. In short, they want power more than they want influence, and being pro-life becomes a matter of political power grabbing.

    Arguably, the temptation to seize power so you can do good with it ends up in Satan worship (Matthew 4) and in all the frustration that goes with that (like judges who end up not being as pro-life as thought). You can draw a straight line from Jesus’ rejection of Satan’s offer of political power to the cross. Yet, the real power was in the self-giving, suffering and dying of the cross. God demonstrated how pro-life he is by raising His Son from the dead.

    What might a cross-oriented pro-life movement look like?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Another narrative that can reach where Facts and Axioms cannot.
      Before everything got chopped up into Chapter-and-Verse proof texts, wasn’t the Bible a library of narratives?

      (Incidentally, “Those who Walk Away from Omelas” was written in response to a major pedophile scandal in the SF authors’ community that had been more-or-less successfully covered up. LeGuin would have been risking her whole future career if she’d been more direct, so she responded with what’s essentially a Parable.)

      • Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband?

        • Omelas is 1973. Breen apparently first became notorious among parts of SF fandom in the early 60s (banned from the 1964 Worldcon in Oakland, he married Bradley in 1964) though managed to survive in fandom (many preferred to believe him rather than the victims) until the late 1980s. He was convicted and sentenced to prison in 1992 and died there in 1993. SF fandom had and still has some problematic figures though it might be getting a bit better.
          So Omelas could well have been written in part because much of fandom chose to ignore (and others were kept in the dark) though Le Guin was well aware the situation was not unique to SF fandom.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Breen’s defenders took the angle of “You have to UNDERSTAND Breen; he’s so much like a Child.”

            Yeah. The Dark Side of “like a Child” — Want. Take. Simple.

            MZB was also no prize (other than her Standing by Breen and putting her influence to his aiid). Her daughter described an upbringing of heavy-duty child abuse.

            The Darkover Series ain’t worth that.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              Make that “besides” instead of “other than”.
              Brain Fart after 9 hrs in front of a screen.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband?


  28. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    174 comments in the thread and the first day isn’t even over.
    Nothing racks up the comments like Abortion or Homosexuality.

  29. Iain Lovejoy says

    On a side note, I am of the view Exodus 21:20 is extremely badly translated. It follows immediately on from vv18-19, which provide:
    “And when men fight, and one has struck the other with a stone, or with the fist, and he does not die, but is confined to bed, if he gets up, and goes about outside with a stick, then he who struck him shall be acquitted, except to compensate him for his lost time and see that he is thoroughly healed.”
    The problem with the translation of v20 is there is no “immediately” in the text – it just says “if the slave dies” and the verb translated “survives” actually literally means “stands up”. It can sometimes mean “survive” in context (in the sense of “still standing”) but it’s very difficult to see why it would mean that here. The two situations in vv 19-20 and 21 are surely parallel – if the victim dies, the attacker is to be punished, but if the victim recovers (in v21 “gets up”) he is not. The only difference in the case of a master striking his own slave is that the master is not obliged to compensate the slave for the slave’s lost earnings while incapacitated because, the slave being the master’s own slave, it is the master not the slave who has suffered the lost income from the slave’s inability to work.

    • Iain Lovejoy says

      This was supposed to be in answer to Chaplain Mike’s post way, way, way further up.

    • The Jewish scholars mentioned by Rabbi Darya Ruttenberg (plus various Jewish sites where there’s a kind of encyclopedia entry on Jewish ethics and thought on this topic) pretty much are of the same opinion.

      Rabbi Ruttenberg’s Twitter thread on this was posted at the beginning of the comments on this post by Klasie Kraalogies. You might find it interesting.

  30. Just curious… anyone seen the movie “Juno”? Great movie. Some of the best, cleverest, wittiest dialog ever.

    Su-Chin: Your baby probably has fingernails!
    Juno MacGuff: Fingernails?

  31. thatotherjean says

    If you really think that abortion is about “murdering babies,” how can you not (as so many Evangelical Christians do not) support widespread, easily available birth control? With adequate sex education and readily-available birth control, especially for women, there would be far fewer pregnancies resulting in abortion. How do Fundamentalists cope with the cognitive dissonance? It appears to me that anti-abortion efforts are more an attempt to control the sexual activity of women than a genuine concern for zygotes and fetuses.

    • Simple. They think sex is for procreation within marriage, period. And anything that detracts from that end – contraceptives, abortion, extra-marital sex – is wrong.

  32. Klasie Kraalogies says

    As an aside, even biologists can’t quite agree on a rigorous definition of what life is.


    • And I’m sure there just as far away as the rest of us from agreement on a rigorous definition what a person is.

    • well, we certainly know when ‘life’ has ‘passed away’
      ______ so we can define it by its absence I suppose