Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Tag: Abortion

THE DISASTER OF ROE V. WADE

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Today makes the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.  It was a decision that profoundly changed America, that changed the values that guide us as a nation.  It short, it was nothing less than a cultural revolution.  In moral terms it was probably the most catastrophic decision since at least the Dred Scott decision of 1857 in which the Court held that African-Americans could not be citizens and had not rights which white men were bound to respect.

Roe v. Wade had far reaching social and cultural consequences.  The argument for legalized abortion is usually based on the idea of a “woman’s right to choose.”  Abortion, it is argued, involves a woman’s control over her own body, and that it should be a private decision between her and her physician.  But what about the fetus itself?  Is that just a part of the woman’s body, like her tonsils or her appendix?  Simple high school biology would tell us otherwise.  The reason abortion had been made illegal from conception was the realization that the fertilized egg has its own genetic makeup quite distinct from the mother’s.  The embryo undergoes a continuous process of development, and as it does so it acquires its own heartbeat and the ability to move on its own.  It is a distinct, living, human being.  How, then, can we justify taking its life?   Abortion amounts to infanticide in utero.

But this, in turn, raises a deeper moral question.  What makes killing wrong in the first place?  The Sixth Commandment reads, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13, Dt. 5:17; NKJV), and the Judeo-Christian tradition has always held that human life is sacred.  Human beings are created in the image of God, and thus killing a human being is not the same as killing a deer or a bear.  Roe v. Wade represents a decisive break with Judeo-Christian morality.

But what then?  What makes anything right or wrong?  Feminists argue that a woman has a constitutional right to have an abortion.  But does she really?  Where in the U.S. Constitution does it say anything at all about abortion?  The Court tried to argue that it was implied in a generalized right to privacy which, in turn, was supposedly implied in several other provisions of the Constitution.  But this was quite a stretch.  The tendency in modern times has been for the Court to treat the Constitution as a “living document” to be construed in different ways as the needs of society change.  But the problem with this approach is that it amounts to judicial tyranny – the Supreme Court can create law at will.  But the Constitution represents a social contract among the people – “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union . . . ,” and only the people have the right to change it.  It is not for the Supreme Court to read into the document what it will.

But suppose that the Constitution actually did stipulate a right to have an abortion (as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently suggested New State should put in its Constitution).  Would that make it right?  The U.S. Constitution, as it was originally written, tacitly recognized the existence of slavery, and stipulated that runaway slaves had to be returned to their masters.  But did that make it right?  What about the Nazi Holocaust, which was also official government policy?

What the Feminist argument amounts to is a denial of the existence of any higher, universal moral law.  It assumes that moral norms are man-made, and that we are not accountable to any Supreme Being.  But human societies have repeatedly shown themselves to all kinds of cruelty and injustice.  Does might really make right?

What we have today in America is a culture that is increasingly secular and amoral.  We think of ourselves as autonomous individuals acting in our own self-interest, without any respect to any higher moral principles.  This, in turn, has led to an increasingly lawless society.  Life is a matter of what we can get away with.

This lack of universal ideals has also led to identity politics.  Instead of seeing ourselves as sharing a common humanity, and as united as members of a single country, committed to the ideals of “liberty and justice for all,” we see ourselves instead as part of this or that oppressed minority group, engaged in a perpetual struggle against some other group or groups.  It was only a matter of time when white, working class people would begin to see themselves as an oppressed group; hence we have the ruse of white nationalism and Donald Trump.

But democracy cannot long endure under such circumstances.  Politicians need to be able to find common ground and reach a compromise, which is increasingly difficult when society is deeply divided over core values.  And people need an incentive to obey the law voluntarily – they need to be motivated by a higher moral law – that one needs to obey the law even when the police are not looking.  When that is lacking, when people are guided solely by individual self-interest, only a dictator can maintain order in society.

America is a very different country today than it was 46 years ago.  Roe v. Wade was a decisive break with cultural traditions held by Western Civilization for thousands of years.  It remains to be seen what the future will hold.

 

ROE v. WADE

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This past week the Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  As was expected the subject of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on abortion, came up for discussion, and as expected, the nominee was non-committal.  At one point in the discussion Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Judge Kavanaugh, “What would you say your position today is on a woman’s right to choose?,” to which he replied, “As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court.”

Judge Kavanaugh was right to be non-committal on the subject.  Strictly speaking the proper role of a judge is not to make law based on his own personal preferences, but to decide cases based on existing law.  But it is for precisely that reason that Roe v. Wade was extremely problematical.  It was marked by a strained, if not to say bizarre exegesis of the Constitution, and it led to a morally outrageous conclusion.

In Roe the Court took up the question of the constitutionality of state anti-abortion laws.  The case basically involved two separate questions: 1) Is the life of an unborn child protected by the Fourteenth Amendment?   And 2) Does a woman have a right to privacy which includes the right to have an abortion?  What makes the decision so bizarre is that the justices took two completely different approaches to answer the two questions.  On the first question they took a very narrow, legalistic interpretation, while on the second question they let their imaginations have free rein.  One cannot help but wonder if the outcome was dogmatically contrived.

On the first question, Mr. Justice Blackmun, writing for the majority, argued that the word “person,” as used in the Constitution, does not include an unborn child, and therefore the unborn child’s life is not covered by the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  On the second question, however, Mr. Justice Blackmun professed to see a generalized right of privacy, something which he himself admitted was not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the document, but thought might be implied in any one of a number of different provisions.  But whatever it was and wherever it was, Justice Blackmun was sure that it must include the right to have an abortion.

In a sense, we do hope that the Constitution does at least imply a right to privacy.  But the right to privacy does not include the right to commit a crime.  You do not have the right to murder your mother-in-law in the privacy of your own home.  The right of privacy, rather, protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures.

What is morally outrageous about the decision is the implication that there is no longer a sanctity of human life.  Mr. Justice Blackmun asserted that “we need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins,” and then went on to argue that Texas may not, “by adopting one theory of life,” override the rights of a pregnant woman.  Thus he tacitly admitted the possibility that life might begin at conception, but argued that it does not matter if it does.  The unborn child still does not have a right to life.

What the Bible says about the ancient Canaanites is highly instructive in this regard.  One of the evils that was endemic in Canaanite society was the worship of a pagan deity named Molech.  Molech was an ancient Canaanite god whose worship involved human sacrifice, specifically the sacrifice of children who were made to pass through a fire.  What God told Israel about the practice was instructive.

First of all, the practice had the effect of polluting or defiling the land.  When Cain slew Abel God said to him: “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.  So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (Gen. 4:10,11; NKJV).  And so it was with regard to the Canaanites.  “For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Lev. 18:25).

Secondly, this and other like practices are called “abominations” (vv. 26,27,29,30).  An “abomination” is something that God considers loathsome or detestable.  Nowadays we might say that it “grosses you out.”  It is an offense that is particularly serious.

Child sacrifice is a barbaric and inhumane practice, something that runs counter to the natural sympathy that should exist between a parent and a child.  God made it clear that Israel was to live a different standard.  Leviticus 19, which falls right in the middle of God’s indictment of the Canaanites, contains exhortations to regard the poor, the deaf, the blind, the elderly and the foreigner.  In a word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).

The fate of the Canaanites raises some disturbing questions about the possible fate of America.  If God regards abortion as a moral outrage, and if our destiny is ultimately in His hands, then the future looks ominous indeed.  All around one sees signs of impending doom: mired in foreign wars, sinking beneath a mountain of debt, the crumbling family structure, even the erratic weather and invasive species, the divisive politics of the day, we give every appearance of being a civilization in decline.  Could it be that God is telling us something?  Could it be that God’s judgment is not far away?

THE GREEN PARTY’S MORAL DILEMMA

 

  Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein

          In this very unusual and unprecedented election cycle attention has been turned to possible third party alternatives to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump.  One such alternative sometimes mentioned is the Green Party and its candidate, Jill Stein.

The Green Party has a very long and detailed platform, and a quick survey shows it to be very liberal and “progressive.”  Yet on closer examination we can see the underlying moral contradiction of the political left.

The party’s platform has a great deal to say about various kinds of “rights,” and in one sense it presents a very idealistic agenda.  But it raises the fundamental question of where these rights come from.  What exactly is their foundation?

The section on “Social Justice” begins by saying that “Historically, America has led the world in establishing a society with democratic values such as equal opportunity and protection from discrimination.”  But the U.S. Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . . .”  And at one point the Green Party platform itself says that “We acknowledge the spiritual dimensions of life, and we honor the cultivation of various types of spiritual experience in our diverse society.”

But then the platform goes on, under the heading of “Religious Freedom and Secular Equality,” to call for “the elimination of displays of religious symbols, monuments, or statements on government buildings, property, websites, money or documents,” including the removal of the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of  Allegiance.

But if we are not “one nation, under God,” where do our rights come from?  At one point the platform mentions the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights,” which would imply that rights are man-made.  Something is “right” because everyone says so.  But that would mean that we are subject to the moral guidance of an international body made up of the likes of Russia and China.  Are foreign politicians like Vladimir Putin or the Chinese Communist Party really safe guides to right and wrong?

At other points the platform appears to appeal to raw pragmatism.  It points to a variety of social, economic and environmental problems, and takes it as a given that we would all be better off if these problems were resolved.  But that is tantamount to saying that what is right is what happens to be convenient at the moment.

But in the absence of any clear moral standard the platform is led into some perplexing contradictions.  Perhaps the most astonishing of all is its position on “Youth Rights.”  Remarkably that section begins with the statement that “All human beings have the right to a life that will let them achieve their full potential.”  That is, unless they have a right to life itself.  For in the section “Women’s Rights – Reproductive Rights” the party insists that “It is essential that the option of a safe, legal abortion remain available.”  But if a mother has the right to terminate the life of her unborn child in utero, then the whole section about “Youth Rights” is utterly meaningless.  There is no guarantee that the youth will even make it out of the womb alive, let alone enjoy “a life that will let them achieve their full potential.”

All of this raises a profoundly disturbing question about the nature of morality itself.  Presumably the reason that women must have the right to have abortions is that “Women’s right to control their bodies is non-negotiable.”  “Unplanned conception takes control away from individuals and makes them subject to external controls.”  Moreover, “The Green Party affirms the right of all persons to self-determination with regard to gender identity and sex.”

“The Green Party affirms the right of all individuals to freely choose intimate partners, regardless of their sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”  It calls for “ending governmental use of the doctrines of specific religions to define the nature of family, marriage, and the type and character of personal relationships between consenting adults,” and “the use of religion by government to define the role and rights of women in our society.”  And yet the platform itself notes that “Single mothers are the largest and most severely impoverished group in the United States, which explains why 22% of the children in our country live below the poverty line.”  Duh!

But if people have a “right to self-determination” and “to control their bodies,” why would they be required to do anything against their will?  And if the government cannot use religious doctrine to define sexual relations, then what does govern such relationships?  What would a society, free from such restrictions, look like?

The answer is, Donald Trump.  When asked about his numerous bankruptcies, lawsuits and use of eminent domain to force people out of their homes, and the fact that he hasn’t had to pay income taxes for a number of years, he replies by saying that he is a smart businessman who knows how to take advantage of his legal options.  In other words, his concept of right and wrong is whatever he can legally get away with.  For him life is all about the right of self-definition and self-determination.  Welcome to the Green Party’s vision for a secular America!

The Green Party, then, is caught on the horns of a moral dilemma.  It professes to believe in the lofty ideal of social justice; but it advocates a social philosophy of raw narcissism.  What it gives with the one hand (a vision of a just and humane society) it takes away with the other (the radical autonomy of the individual).  Absent some transcendent moral authority (God) we have exactly what we see today: a society of self-serving individuals looking for ways to game the system.  Any notion of character, duty, honor or integrity has all but vanished.

We must all face the fact that we live in a universe that was created by an intelligent Supreme Being.  And as human beings we are ultimately subject to His moral law.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?”

(Micah 6:8; NKJV)

HILLARY CLINTON AS PRESIDENT?

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            Last night Hillary Clinton became the first woman in U.S. history to be nominated by a major party for President.  Her formal qualifications for the job are impressive: a graduate of Yale Law School, she has previously served as both a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, giving her experience in both the legislative and executive branches of government.  She is the consummate Washington “insider,” which in this election cycle may or may not be an advantage.

Mrs. Clinton has devoted her life to the pursuit of social justice.  Reflecting her Methodist upbringing she quoted in her acceptance speech John Wesley’s rule of life:

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.”

And yet in the same speech she expressed support for a woman’s right to make her own healthcare choices (which we take as a reference to legalized abortion), and for LGBT rights.  In so doing she certainly thinks she is “doing all the good she can . . .to all the people you can.”  But is she really?

The problem is that the liberal, progressive” agenda on some of these issues puts the Democratic Part in direct conflict with the 6th and 7th Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  Abortion violates the sanctity of human life.  The gay lifestyle undermines marriage as a committed, complementary relationship between a man and a woman.  The Ten Commandments, in turn, reflect God’s order for human society.

As human beings we have a moral obligation to obey the will of our Creator, no matter what we may think our individual self-interest may be.  But is it really in our self-interest to disobey God?  Are we really “doing all the good we can” by helping others to sin?  John Wesley certainly would not have thought so.  Neither should we.

A former Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, quoted Micah 6:8 in one of his speeches:

“He has shown you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?”

(NKJV)

Significantly this exhortation is directed toward the entire human race: “He has shown you, O man.”  The word translated “man” is “adam,” the name of our common ancestor, and in this context includes all of his descendants, i.e. the entire human race.

The verse goes on to tell us “what is good,” and what “the Lord requires” of us.  It is a matter of a moral obligation that we to our Creator, and it is “good” – it is right and proper and beneficial to all concerned.

A part of that obligation is that we “do justly,” and that, in turn, means that the civil magistrate has a duty to

“Defend the poor and fatherless;

Do justice to the afflicted and needy.

Deliver the poor and needy;

Free them from the hand of the wicked.”

(Psalm 82:3,4)

The underlying assumption here is that the strong and powerful will take advantage of the weak and vulnerable, and therefore the role of government is to “deliver” or “free” the poor from the rich and powerful.  Thus it is unconscionable that we would have a political and economic system that would leave a large segment of the population destitute and without access to healthcare.  As God judged ancient Israel, so will He judge us. On this point Mrs. Clinton is certainly well-intentioned.

We are also to “love mercy.”  It is a little hard to find an exact English equivalent for the word translated “mercy” (Hebrew: chesed), and scholars have long debated its exact meaning.  But it certainly includes the idea of kindness shown toward others and also carries along with it a kind of faithful and devoted love.  It is “mercy” in the sense of compassion shown toward those in need, and the word is sometimes translated “lovingkindness.”  Not only are we do display this quality; we are to “love” it.  So here again Mrs. Clinton is quite right to be concerned about the welfare of children, minorities, and those suffering from discrimination and injustice.

But the text also says that we are to “walk humbly with your God,” or as it might be more literally translated, “to behave humbly to walk with your God.”  We must be sufficiently humble to recognize that God’s ways are best, and bring our lives into conformity with His will.

The problem with the modern Democratic Party is that it wants to take a secular approach to social justice, and this raises the question of where our standard of justice comes from.  We tend to err on the side of individual autonomy – each individual should be allowed to decide for himself how he wants to live his life.  But when we ignore God’s will our efforts at social justice can be self-defeating.  By promoting “LGBT rights” we may think that we are creating a more inclusive and tolerant society.  But if in the process we create the impression that there are no rules, that any and every kind of sexual behavior can be tolerated, we wind up undermining family stability.  In the long run we create more social problems than we solve.  Lyndon Johnson famously “declared war on poverty.”  Today there is more poverty than ever, and the “Sexual Revolution” is a major reason why.  Pat Moynihan, an Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Johnson Administration and later Mrs. Clinton’s predecessor in the U.S. Senate, pointed out the obvious fact that single parent families have to struggle to survive.  Why is there so much crime in the inner cities?  Because too many young men are growing up in single parent homes without good male role models.  What goes around comes around.

We do not help others by helping them to sin.  We help them by showing them the path toward redemption and forgiveness in Christ Jesus.  All of us live in a universe created by God; all of us are ultimately accountable to Him.  We can find happiness and fulfilment only when we come in line with His purposes for our lives – and His purposes are wise and good.  To love the sinner is to seek to free him from his sin.  Abortion and sodomy are unspeakable sins and are bringing down God’s wrath upon the nation.

Christians, pray for our country!