American culture is troubled and stirred by discussion of values under the cover of arguments about politics. Christians are accused of injecting their values into political discussions that, some allege, should be secular only. Secular thinkers believe that only secular values have a place in political discourse. It is more than a battle about laws, because laws are cold, sterile things. These discussions are heated, even violent. In the course of determining what is best for the country, all parties express themselves with vehemence, while many observers and even some participants cry out for more restraint. All pretend not to recognize that political decisions are always the hardening of worldviews into law, and values are ultimately shaped by worldviews.
Political battles are conflicts over worldviews.
While it is possible to distill from the rhetoric a semblance of “the Christian worldview” and “the secular worldview,” every individual is such a mix of influences and commitments, that it is not easy to determine what “every Christian believes” or what “every secularist believes.” There are even people who say that people’s “beliefs” are irrelevant to the discussion, because it should always be about what is best for the country. However, people decide what is best for the country by comparing the outcomes of various decisions with their beliefs about what is good. People consider something good when it is consistent with their beliefs. To choose what is good is action based on beliefs.
The latest battle over a bill to limit abortion in the US is an example of worldviews in conflict. The bill would have restricted abortion of unborn babies at or beyond 20 weeks gestation. The basis for this threshold is the medical finding that unborn babies at or beyond 20 weeks gestation are capable of experiencing pain. The bill included an exception for pregnancy resulting from rape, along with a requirement that the rape be reported to the police. Interestingly, this reporting requirement became the center of the controversy rather than the abortion restriction itself, yet, like so many political decisions, everybody knew that it was abortion, not crime reporting, that was the issue. The bill as proposed, and the decision to withdraw it, grow out of very different worldviews.
One worldview holds that human life itself has inherent value, and that value demands protection. This worldview is expressed in the pre-eminent founding document of this country—the Declaration of Independence:
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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.
This statement from the Declaration asserts that human life is a right, an unalienable right, a right granted by God himself, a right that is so precious that it is one of the reasons human beings have government. The first reason to have government is to protect human life.
Another worldview holds that it is possible to classify the value of a human life. This view rejects the principle that life is a right endowed by the Creator, but rather, assesses the value of one human life relative to its value to some other human. This worldview surfaces in the notion that people approaching the “end of life” need to decide what their life is worth to others, including their insurance companies. It figures in arguments about how unfair it might be to someone’s career objectives to be saddled with childcare, a concept that leads to a view that childcare might be a right, because a parent’s availability for work has a value and should not be reduced by necessity of caring for a child. Relative to the value of a career path, the child’s value diminishes. The view that human life has only relative value leads to a view that it is an imposition on someone to leave a career path and embark on a caring path.
Those who rephrase the discussion by arguing whether the unborn baby is a human being or a person argue over definitions incorporated into existing law rather than discuss the origin and supreme value of human life. To do so is to use definitions in existing law to frame the discussion rather than use definitions established by the founding documents. Definitions in law are derivative, and even though they should all be consistent with the founding documents, human history clearly shows that the derivatives from the founding language may not actually be consistent with the founding language. Of course, by focusing on laws rightly or wrongly derived from the founding documents, one avoids the argument of the divine origin of the right to life.
Eventually, however, all the political arguments leave the subject that is most important, the value and meaning of human life, and move on to some point that is irrelevant to the moral worldview that needs to become law. Political leaders do not want to be clear about their views about an issue as important as the divine origin of the human right to life. They feel vulnerable when a voter has a clear reason to vote for a different candidate. Christians involved in such discussions need to be attentive to the pressure to abandon the real subject and talk about something else.
During discussions that preceded the withdrawal of a strong anti-abortion bill up for a vote in the House of Representatives, one female representative pushed back on the real subject and introduced a way to talk about her objective without talking about life. She said, “We have a responsibility, as the elected body representing our constituents, to protect the most vulnerable among us.” Representative Walorski tried to move the discussion away from the value of life to some other value, all the while trying to sound compassionate.
There are several ways to find out who is “the most vulnerable among us.”
One way is to ask who is least capable of defending himself (or herself) from attack with deadly intent. It is hard to imagine anyone less capable of defending himself than an unborn baby. (Please do not go ballistic over the generic male pronoun. It is generic, not a statement of male domination. Human beings have gender, and the only genderless pronoun is it. Since it refers to nonhuman objects, and since my mind rejects the use of third person plural for a singular pronoun, I will use the generic third person singular male pronoun.) An unborn baby may or may not be viable outside the womb, but he has absolutely no line of defense against an assault by adult humans determined to end his life. Or her life. That is what abortion is. Abortion is an act by adult human beings that results in the death of an unborn human being, because the person in whose uterus that unborn human being resides has decided that pregnancy is inconvenient.
Representative Walorski’s statement about “the most vulnerable” actually continued beyond the quoted segment above. Her full sentence says, “We have a responsibility, as the elected body representing our constituents, to protect the most vulnerable among us and ensure that women facing unwanted pregnancies do not face judgment or condemnation but have positive support structures and access to health care to help them through their pregnancies.” (As quoted at http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/abortion-bill-dropped-amid-concerns-of-female-gop-lawmakers/2015/01/22/56ffafea-a24a-11e4-903f-9f2faf7cd9fe_story.html . Emphasis mine.) Clearly, Representative Walorski views “women facing unwanted pregnancies” as “the most vulnerable among us.” She also clearly believes that abortion is necessary to “help them through their pregnancies.” Since abortion ends pregnancies, to conclude that abortion “help[s] them through their pregnancies” must mean that termination rather than delivery is the way to help women with pregnancy. Expressed this way, pregnancy sounds like a disease that might be as dire as measles, and the language makes abortion sound like a treatment comparable to the administration of an antibiotic. (Check the etymology of antibiotic. The word is formed from two elements: anti—against and biotic—life.)
Another way to ask who is “the most vulnerable among us” is to ask who might lose political power and prestige in someone’s eyes for interfering with the choice of abortion when someone finds pregnancy inconvenient. Who might have that view of vulnerability? It might be a woman elected to the House of Representatives by voters in her state. That woman might be so afraid of losing a vote in the next election that she would betray her commitment to the people who voted for her in the last election. It is hard to imagine that such a woman feels vulnerable to losing votes for any level of opposition to abortion when the same woman actually campaigned on her opposition to abortion. Presumably, if she campaigned in opposition to abortion, the people who voted for her expect her to live up to her campaign rhetoric. Why, then, would she feel vulnerable if she acted on her own stated principles?
Yet exactly such a woman, Representative Jackie Walorski, frantically advocated for the withdrawal of a bill to protect unborn babies from the pain of experiencing an abortion. She was not alone. Other female Republican Representatives joined in her activism to kill the bill, and they succeeded. They killed a bill to prevent the killing of unborn babies. In their commitment to save themselves the pain of living up to their promises, Republicans in Congress concluded that they themselves were “the most vulnerable among us,” and they passed their pain on to millions of unborn babies who will be murdered by dismemberment after twenty or more weeks in utero.
With or without HR36, the discussion of abortion by advocates and opponents will not end in the US, because it truly is a point where worldviews collide violently. The assertion that life originates as a divine gift cannot be accommodated by a view that life only has value relative to its convenience to a human being. That is the ultimate discussion, even if the conversation is clouded by political and social concerns about who likes whom.
Christians who consider their values to be rooted in biblical teaching take the stance that human life is an absolute value, not relative to anyone’s convenience or preferences. The Bible teaches that human life comes into being by the co-creative acts of human beings and God himself, in accord with his ultimate perfect purposes. Two of the documented ancestors of Jesus were born of “unplanned” pregnancies, as was Jesus himself, a fact that reminds Christians and secularists alike that using the term “unplanned” denies the divine agency in the conception of each human being.
Christians cannot expect to prevail in this conflict by being more powerful. God works his greatest miracles in people who are willing to be “the most vulnerable.” Christians must speak, because God calls us to testify to Him everywhere at all times, not because the power of our words will defeat an enemy like Satan. Christians must write, because God asks us to make his message so plain that it is legible from a galloping horse, not because our writing will take a Pulitzer. Christians must vote, because God wants us to be citizens who take our responsibilities seriously, not because we expect God to twist the arms of those who disagree with us.
Most of all, Christians must pray.
Christians must pray that God’s kingdom overtake us and draw us in, and that God’s will be done. Christians must pray to know and do God’s will. Christians must pray to love those so deeply enslaved by Satan that they actually believe they are doing the right thing to abort a baby. Those who choose to abort will suffer, whether or not they expect it. Christians must be ready to share Christ’s message of hope and redemption, because God longs to see every human being through the blood of Christ, not the blood of “the most vulnerable among us” in an abortion clinic.
By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.
Image: Courtesy of Ernest F,
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File %3AHumanNewborn.JPG