Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Persistence Of Abortion

In July of 2002, Laura Ingraham on her radio program interviewed Reverend Rebecca Turner of Faith Aloud, an organization describing itself as "The Religious and Ethical Voice for Reproductive Justice."  Angrily, Ingraham asked her guest "where do you get the idea that Jesus knew about abortion?'  Reverend Turner replied "We know that abortion has existed for thousands of years, so I’m confident that Jesus would have been aware. There were many plants used as medicinal abortifacients in that part of the world. And yet his concern was for the way women were being treated."

Support for the idea that Jesus Christ knew of the intentional termination of pregnancy comes from an unlikely source, the virulently anti-abortion rights American Life League. Arguing the "very few (known) documents on abortion prior to the time of Jesus Christ "invariably recognize that abortion is not only deadly for babies and women, but to entire societies as well," it cites Provision 53 of the Ancient Assyrian Code, Aristotle's Politics, Plutarch, the theologian Minucius Felix, and Tertullain, who a couple of hundred years before Christ apparently described dilation and evacuation (D&E).

Jesus, however, evidently was silent on the subject, as noted by innumerable pro-choice advocates throughout the years.   Given various biblical allusions to the value of life in general, Jesus' knowledge of, and silence about, abortion may not be determinative but is of more than passing interest.

The prevalence of behavior other than the exercise of reproductive freedom in the time of Christ may be persuasive.  In June, CNN interviewed Carl Lentz (video below), pastor of the New York City mega church Hillsong (based in Australia),  part of the  75,000 member, worldwide church Hillsong. As his wife sitting next to him agreed, Lentz maintained "Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent.  And I'm still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people. You won't find it because he never did."

In a news conference on October 16, founder and lead pastor of the worldwide organization, Carl Houston, explained

It can be challenging for churches to stay relevant. Because many mainstream churches upheld what they would believe is the long established view of what the Bible says about homosexuality. But the world has changed around and about them. On the subject, I always feel like there’s three things. There’s the world we live in, there’s the weight we live with, and there’s the word we live by. The world, the weight, and the word.

Amid some criticism, Houston on his website backtracked, clarifying

Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage. I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.

On Friday, Houston further clarified by stating

It’s very easy to reduce what you think about homosexuality to just a public statement, and that would keep a lot of people happy but we feel at this point, that it is an ongoing conversation, that the real issues in people’s lives are too important for us just to reduce it down to a yes or no answer in a media outlet. So we’re on the journey with it.

It's an "ongoing conversation," he notes, and "so we're on the journey with it."    That is the sound of a man (in Barack Obama's terminology) "evolving" and who is gearing up to endorse same-sex marriage because it is "relevant."  The  prevalence of same-sex marriage and more broadly, same-sex relationships, as well as gay individuals coming out is sure to grow and will form the basis of the megachurch's acceptance of ssm.

That is not surprising given the interest of Hillsong, whatever its adherence to traditional Christian theology, in witnessing to people alienated by modern religion (a term Lentz, like many evangelicals, disingenuously eschews).

As Lentz notes, homosexuality was "widely prevalent" in the time of Jesus Christ. But then so was abortion, it would appear.  Jesus said, as far as is known, nothing about homosexuality. Jesus said, as far as is known, nothing about abortion. Yet, notwithstanding the helpful remarks of Reverend Turner- who is deeply involved with the issue- there is little acknowledgement that abortion was practiced 2000+ years ago and that that the burden of the argument on of reproductive freedom belongs to those people and organizations which would restrict it.

There are activists who are on the front lines of the struggle for reproductive freedom, as there are for same-sex marriage.  There are reasons the former have not been as successful as the latter and the mid-term outlook is not rosy.  But the long-term outlook is far better, in part because of an inevitable acknowledgement that abortion, too is anything but a modern phenomenon.

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