Tag Archives: Life

Abortion is Murder by Another Name

Jessica Valenti classifies abortion as “a safe, legal and necessary medical procedure” in her recent post complaining that North Carolina does not want state funded facilities to perform abortions or teach how to perform abortions. Her argument completely leapfrogs the real point of the law and the discussion surrounding it—the immorality of abortion on demand.

 Ms. Valenti’s careful choice of language ignores the fact that an abortion kills a living human being, and humans know that killing a human being is not a trivial matter to be undertaken on a whim or simply for convenience. If killing a human, because the human is an inconvenience, were the right thing to do, the population of the US would be much smaller. In fact, the population is much smaller than it ought to be, because convenience killing of human beings has become common. The humans being killed are so small and vulnerable that the popular language refers to them as “a blob of cells,” or “the products of conception,” but regardless of that language, the fact is that abortion kills humans. In any other setting, if one human kills another, it is murder unless it is a court-ordered execution. Murder. Millions of tiny human beings are murdered in the US every day, and the process by which they are murdered is described as “a safe, legal and necessary medical procedure.”

 As long as one contemplates the procedure in such sterile language, it sounds harmless enough. It is just another medical procedure like removing a wart or sewing up a bad cut. A procedure. Doctors need to know all about all the possible medical procedures, don’t they?

 They do not.

 Students who are studying to become doctors never learn all the possible procedures, all the possible medications or even all the possible diagnoses. They learn the procedures, medications, and diagnoses that they are most likely to encounter a need for. A student doctor may be at the top of his class and know without error everything that has been presented to him during his medical education, but he will not even have been exposed to many esoteric procedures, medications, or diagnoses. A graduate of medical school who has completed his residency and is ready to open his own office still does not know all that there is to know about procedures, medications, or diagnoses.

North Carolina’s proposed law to ban state funded abortions in their entirety does not prevent doctors from learning the procedure for abortions. It simply prevents them from learning such a procedure at taxpayer expense. The taxpayers of North Carolina have spoken, and they say they do not want to pay for a procedure that kills defenseless, innocent, unborn human beings. They don’t want to pay for the removal of the cells of either an embryo or a fetus, because whether it is an embryo or a fetus, it is still a human being.

 North Carolina is within its rights to make this decision. There are very few situations in which a doctor must tell a pregnant woman that continuing a pregnancy is a threat to her own life. It does happen, but it is rare. It is a tragedy when a pregnant woman discovers that she might not even survive long enough into the pregnancy for the baby to be viable outside the womb after the mother dies. In such a situation, an abortion would be a reasonable choice. Death of someone is inevitable. Death of both mother and baby is possible, even likely. To be able to offer a safe abortion to a mother in that circumstance would be a blessing, even though the mother would mourn the death of her child regardless. When North Carolina makes a law that state-funded institutions will not conduct abortions, that law does not prevent a mother from obtaining the abortion elsewhere.

 Likewise, if state institutions do not teach abortion procedures (and by the way, the term should be plural, since there actually are multiple choices over the full term of a pregnancy), it does not mean that abortion procedures will not be taught. It does not even mean that medical students who attend state-funded schools of medicine in North Carolina cannot ever learn that procedure unless they learn it in a state-funded medical school. Private institutions will still do abortions and teach abortions if they choose. The taxpayers will not pay for it; private individuals who want and need the procedure will pay for it.

 Advocates of abortion on demand at all times in all places always act as if the opportunity for a mother to murder her baby will be completely lost if even one option for obtaining abortion is removed. Sadly, this fear is unfounded. If North Carolina’s state government no longer funds abortions, abortion will still be readily available to any woman in North Carolina who wants it.

I consider myself an advocate for the full humanity of every individual from conception to death, and with that in mind, I advocate for the full humanity of every woman who discovers that she is pregnant when she did not want to be. I am an adult woman myself, I know exactly how women become pregnant, and I know that there are many avenues for preventing pregnancy. I also know that we human beings commonly fail to use good judgment and self-control, usually when we need it most. If a woman is pregnant and does not want to be pregnant or rear a child, a solution does not involve murder. There are many married couples who want children and no pregnancy is happening for them. There are women who want very much to get pregnant, but they don’t. There are families who would welcome another child just because that is how they feel about life. A woman who is pregnant when it seems inconvenient or even disastrous need not commit murder in order to be free of it. She can give her baby to a family that will love and cherish the baby and rear that precious, very real human being to adulthood, God willing.

 It is painful to see a term that means “the murder of a defenseless, innocent, unborn human being, created and loved by God himself,” sterilized and sanitized into the definition that it is “a safe, legal and necessary medical procedure.” You would think it was a tetanus shot. Abortion kills a baby. There are no two ways about it. It is almost never “necessary” because it is extremely rare that the pregnancy itself is a threat to the life of the mother or that it requires a choice between the life of the mother and the life of the baby. Rare. Extremely rare. Only in those rare cases is it reasonable.

 There is no reason for abortion to be a common procedure, easier to obtain than an aspirin from the school nurse. A human being’s life is lost every time an abortion is successful. I applaud North Carolina for responding to the expectation of the citizens of that state that they will not be the ones to make it easy to murder defenseless, innocent, unborn human beings.

 

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Life and Death Choices

Another pithy statement that helped to shape my life was, “Breathing is not living.” When my mother first said it, one of my great-uncles was entering the terminal stages of an illness. I was too young to understand his disease, but I did understand that big questions were being discussed. Machines. Nursing homes. Death. On the way home from one of many visits to the hospital my mother sighed and said to my dad, “Breathing is not living. They need to understand that Uncle Bob will never be happy again if survival is all that is left.”

The same statement reverberated through our house when Mother’s father became ill. He had never been ill at any time in her memory. Unlike everyone in our house, Granddaddy Liddell was never sick. He didn’t have fevers. He didn’t throw up in the middle of the night. He didn’t have rashes of unknown origin. No palpitations. No ulcers, bruises, or headaches. He simply was not sick at any time, until he was. When he got sick for the first time at the age of 77, he did not know what to do. He had to be driven to the doctor almost at gunpoint, and then to the hospital, protesting every step. Mother and her brothers got him admitted and into a hospital gown and into a bed, but he simply did not know how to be sick. I will never know his symptoms. I was too young and too completely disconnected from all the “stuff” that old people did. All I do know is that he became sicker every day, and there were those conversations again. Again my mother said, “Breathing is not living.” Then my mother’s father died of causes unknown. They never could produce a real diagnosis. Mother said it was better that way. Granddaddy hated every minute in the hospital, and every time people turned their backs, he struggled out of bed. He fell more than once simply trying to put on his own clothes so he could go to his home. When the hospital called to say that he had died in the night, mother said, dry-eyed, “Breathing is not living. He wanted to live.”

When Mother finally convinced her doctor that, unlike her father, she was actually sick, she proceeded to go downhill for forty years, always on the verge of death, but always appearing to reject any attempt to put her somewhere that people could care for her. She had more medical books than her doctor possessed, and she always took one, liberally marked for study, to her medical appointments. She chose her medicines more often than her doctor did, and when people suggested that she might need a live-in assistant to keep up with her medicines, she said, “Breathing is not living.” She alleged to want to be free and have adventures, but perversely, most of her adventures involved new prescriptions and side effects. She was still breathing, but it didn’t look much like a life to me. It looked a lot like Lazarus coming out of the tomb, still tied up in the grave wrappings.

Then the day came that my father died. Mother was left alone with nothing but pill bottles and medical books. One day, she couldn’t deal with them anymore. She threw them all away, and suddenly, the woman who could not walk from the door of her apartment building to the parking garage, could hike a mile for a Hawaiian barbecued pork sandwich. The woman who was unable to tell anyone the place where her husband used to take her shopping could take a bus ride involving two transfers in order to reach a museum she wanted to visit. Her past, in which she breathed but did not live, disappeared like the morning mist and she lived two exciting, blessed years, suffering intense loneliness, suffering, but living far beyond the measure of breathing, before she stepped out of time into eternal life.

In the book, A Woman of Salt, Mary Engel digs deep into Lot’s motivations for suggesting to the angels that he be permitted to flee to Zoar instead of running away to the dark, terrifying mountains. Engel examines the possibility that in Lot’s mind, “not to die seems the same to him as living.” This thought is the opposite of my mother’s axiom–the one she did not live by. Engel suggests that Lot simply wanted to stave off death, and call that state “living.” Like my mother with her medicines and her books, Lot would “escape” death without entering into life. Zoar would not be home, but it would not be death, either. He thought it would do.

However, as Engel observes, Lot did not stop with the simple request. He tried to justify it, and every word of justification emphasized that mere continuation of existence in Zoar would not be life. In the end, even though Lot persuaded the angels to spare Zoar, he and his daughters fled to the mountains after all. Apparently, even for Lot, “breathing is not living.”

I don’t spend much time thinking about death, because I love living. I love adventure and routine and surprise and tradition. I am fortunate to be seldom sick, and to date, my body hasn’t abandoned me. I still come and go more or less at will. I still have the opportunity to try to understand whether my mother was right when she said that “Breathing is not living,” or if Lot was perhaps correct to think that “not to die [is] the same . . . as living.”

The rest of Lot’s story gives the lie to that notion, and the rest of the Bible continues to say the same thing. Lot was not really living, even though he was in Sodom where he thought he had the high life, much superior to Abram’s nomadic wanderings with his herds. When Lot chose the well-watered plain and left his uncle with the dry uplands, he really did not want the plains for his flocks and herds. He wanted Sodom. He could have told the truth to Abram. Abram was an agreeable man. He would never have told a grown man he should not live in Sodom. Yet Lot did not have the courage to tell the truth. He pretended to want the same life as Abram and shut Abram out of the well-watered plain unnecessarily. Lot died to truth right then and there. If you doubt that he was dead already, just read the story of Lot and his daughters in their “new life” after Sodom. Clearly, not to die is not the same as living. Judas learned that lesson, too, when he discovered that he was “alive,” but Christ was sentenced to the cross.

Before his crucifixion, Jesus said that he was “the way, the truth, and the life.” The fact is that people who don’t know the way or the truth cannot possibly know life, either. Just ask Lot. He was still breathing, but it is very clear that he was not living.

So, are you alive?

A Verse for Meditation

Torah ScrollWhoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39 ESV

  • The most popular philosophy in the world is “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Or “You can have it all.” Sometimes it is phrased, “You can do anything you can imagine.” Sometimes it is stated, “Your dreams can come true.” Life is supposed to be about getting what you want and doing what you want. What is Christ’s response to that idea?
  • Have you had a personal experience of losing your life and finding it in Christ? What was it like when everything fell apart? What was your experience in finding your life?
  • The Bible says that Paul lost his life and found it again in Christ. Do you know that story? Read Acts 9, and then be alert to more hints of that in Paul’s sermons and letters. After Paul lost his old life, what did Ananias tell him would be the mark of his new life?
  • Very early in childhood children are asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” According to today’s focus verse, what is the real question we all should be asking ourselves?
  • Are you living the life you believe you were created for? If so, what is it? What if you were paid less or had to live in a bad place? Would you give up your life today if you could be a celebrity instead? Do you know anyone who has given up the life he was created for in order to do something else more glamorous?

A Hymn for Meditation

hymnalAbide with Me

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

By Henry F. Lyte

  • This hymn was written by a man who suffered a terminal illness. When he looked forward, he saw death, and this was his response. Name some of the positive things he sees in his future.
  • How does the change of perspective from time to eternity change the way things look in verse 2?
  • What elements in these verses apply equally to all followers of Christ at all times?
  • What symbol is the key to the power of the faith expressed in this hymn?
  • This hymn debuted at a memorial service for its author. Think of three other occasions on which this hymn would be appropriate.

Morality — absolute, or relative

As promised, this post will address the question: In the parable of the wheat and the tares, why is anyone who is not a Christian depicted as evil?

The equivalence between atheism and evil does not exist in the world of relative morality. In the world of relative morality, it would be unthinkable to equate secularism with evil. People who espouse relative morality think that everybody is good sometimes, and nobody should be called evil.  Secularism and atheism are automatically equivalent to evil only in the world of absolute morality.

Relative morality operates on the basis of the situation which presents itself. Good is defined in personal terms. Evil is the opposite of good, in personal terms. Every situation is different, and good versus evil is redefined for every conflict. Each individual has the power and the right to define morality for himself in each situation.

The rule of self-defense is a good example of a setting where almost everyone agrees that the target of attempted murder has the right to murder his attacker in an attempt to prevent his own murder. The honor our culture gives to people like policemen and soldiers is due to our cultural sense that anyone who risks death himself or even commits murder himself in order to save the lives of others is on the right side of the conflict.  In situations like these, almost everyone believes in relative morality.

Absolute morality, the morality revealed by God through the Bible, says that in every situation, you can distinguish between good and evil by comparing the antagonists with God. God is the measure of what is good. Jesus even said, “There is only One who is good.” By that comparison, every human being is evil. This is the reason every person needs Christ, and whoever receives Christ is made righteous by his righteousness. This truth means that when God sorts out good and evil at the end of time, he will see Christians as good, not because they have done more good deeds than atheists, but rather, because they are covered by the righteousness of Christ. Christians look like good rather than evil, because when God looks at a Christian he sees Christ.

Christ acted on absolute morality when he died on the cross. According to the relative morality of the rule of self-defense, Christ had the right, and even the obligation, to defend himself. By that standard, since Jesus the Christ had the both the right and the power to destroy all his enemies, he should have wiped them out. By the standard of relative morality and the rule of self-defense, it was immoral for Christ to “wimp out” and just die.

Likewise, by the standard of relative morality, if Jesus wanted to defend the world from Satan, it was his obligation to stand in the gap and prevent Satan from hurting anyone. Jesus the Christ, God in the flesh, should have stood his ground against Satan and all his minions, using his God-power to fry them to a crisp and save the world. By the standard of relative morality, Jesus failed, because he did not put a stop to Satan’s ability to lead people to evil deeds.

By the standard of relative morality, Christ should be flying around the world yet today, slashing and burning the encampments of Boko Haram who bomb churches and murder Christians in Nigeria. Christ should still be striking down venal politicians to prevent the arrest and torture of Christians who worship in unregistered churches in countries like Kazakhstan. According to the standard of relative morality, if an activist claims that every Christian ought to be imprisoned or executed for interfering with that activist’s favorite behavior, Christ ought to use his holy and righteous power to remove the activist from the picture permanently. Relative morality says that personal threat modifies the rule that life is sacred, and every individual may choose to interpret the threat according to personal considerations. The absolute morality with regard to life is to do no murder. Christ submitted to death in accordance with that absolute morality.

Absolute morality sets the standard for good by measuring against God himself. God alone is good. By the standard of absolute morality, secularism is evil, because it is ungodly. Hinduism is evil, because it is separated from God. Islam is evil, because it rejects Christ. The behavior of secularists and Hindus and Muslims can be, may be and often is very “good” by the standard of relative morality. They may or may not wreak murder and mayhem. That is not the point. The teaching of absolute morality is that there is no comparison between anything human beings do and the deeds of God. Human beings cannot work their way up the ladder of goodness and be like God. Everything that is not God is evil.

Secularists worship human beings, Hinduism worships many gods, and Islam worships a perverted copy of God himself. One is not more evil or less evil than the others. To call them all evil is simply to recognize that they are not worshiping God. They have all made gods for themselves, which is to say that whether or not they say they have gods, they ultimately worship only self. The very fact that they claim to be able to make their own rules and find their own gods means that they have turned against the only God. By that definition they constitute evil in the world. This is the standard by which God sentenced Adam and Eve to exile from the Garden. They had demonstrated that they preferred self-gratification to a relationship with him. They chose evil over good, and the evidence was their willingness to listen to Satan rather than God and then try to hide.

What are Christians to do about evil in the world? Christians are called to eschew the evil, the mindset that is its own god, yet above that call is the call to love all the people anyway, just like Jesus. Christians are called to be like Christ, to live by the same standard that governed Christ’s behavior. Christians are called to share Christ and the blessing of his mysterious behavior with all people. That is because the mystery of the wheat and the tares is really not about the victory at the end. The mystery and miracle of the wheat and the tares is that tares may become wheat. While the tares and the wheat grow side by side, the wheat can share truth with the tares and the tares may be miraculously transformed into wheat.  

Where do you see evidence of people choosing relative morality over the absolute truth of God and his love? What do you do about it? Are you engaged in Christ’s work of transforming tares into wheat?