The Do-It-Yourself Doctrine

Charlotte Allen
May23, 2004
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-op-allen23may23,0,7221965.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

WASHINGTON — Call it Christianity Lite. It’s the assertion — no, the insistence — that you can be a Christian in good standing though you reject all or significant parts of the brand of Christianity to which you formally adhere. Even Jesus Christ — and who he was — is negotiable, not to mention traditional teachings on sex, abortion and divorce. Who’s to tell you what to think and do as a Christian — or to judge you wanting? It’s a heresy nowadays to accuse someone of heresy.

Consider these phenomena:

• John F. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is campaigning as a Catholic candidate. His website declares that he “was raised in the Catholic faith and continues to be an active member of the Catholic Church.” Kerry is also campaigning as the candidate of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the abortion-industry advocacy group, whose endorsement he won with an absolutist stance on abortion rights, which is anathema to the Catholic Church…

• Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code” claims that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, fathered a child by her and installed her as the head of his new religion centered on goddess worship (“the sacred feminine,” in Brown’s words). None of this is in the Gospels, but that’s because, says Brown, the all-male hierarchy of bishops conspired during the 4th century to squelch rival gospels and other Christian texts that granted power to women…

• Religion historian Elaine Pagels’ latest book, “Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas,” another bestseller, also contends that creeds — professions of faith that go hand in hand with Christian orthodoxy in many churches — were a belated and oppressive development, crushing a vibrant, competing spirituality embodied in the Gnostics, a group of early Christian seekers deemed heretical…

Read the entire article on the Los Angeles Times website. Free registration may be required.

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27 thoughts on “The Do-It-Yourself Doctrine”

  1. I would certainly agree that the two books mentioned qualify as theological claptrap and heresy. Both are far more heretical than “The Last Temptation of Christ” which earned Nikos Kazanzakis excommunication. Kazanzakis only sought to embellish the Gospels with his own imaginings, not deny them. “The Da Vinci Code” and “Beyond Belief” on the other hand, which purport to explain the Gospels, but in fact, deny that the most important Gospel events ever took place and directly attack the basic premises of the Christian faith.

    That said, it is an equally cheap and deceitful tactic to lump John Kerry in with those authors in some sort of malicious attempt to portray him as a “psuedo-Christian.”

    Presumably John Kerry is “not a real Christian” because he supports abortion rights. However such a statement grossly distorts Kerry’s comments. John Kerry is on record as saying “Abortion should be safe, legal and RARE.” How can one support something if he says he wants it to be rare? Doesn’t rare mean infrequent, uncommon and few in number?

    Perhaps what John Kerry is saying is that there are other methods for reducing the number of abortions that we should consider besides returning to the days when thousands of women died every year from septic infections resulting from unsafe procedures performed by back-ally abortionists.

    We can reduce the number of abortions by teaching young people to be more sexually responsible, and by promoting contraception as a second-line of defense after abstinence. We can reduce abortions by making it clear to young men at an early age that if they father a child they will not be able to walk away from their financial responsibility to support that child. We can reduce abortions by increasing government subsidies and tax incentives for adoption and by treating unwed mothers with a bit more compassion.

    Do Churches really want to open the nasty Pandora’s Box and can of worms of denying the sacraments based on the political views of candidates. Obviously two sides can play that game. Pope John Paul II for example has condemned not just abortion, but capital punishment and the concept of preemptive war, as well. Should Catholic candidates who support the death penalty and the invasion of Iraq also be denied communion? The logical conclusion of a policy of Church denial of sacraments based on stated political positions is nothing less than Schism.

    Do we want a church where liberals will take communion in the diocese with the Liberal Bishop and Conservatives will take their communion in the diocese with the conservative Bishop? Where the liberals hear a liberal sermon from a liberal clergyman and the conservatives hear a conservative sermon from a conservative clergyman? Already the Catholic and Protestant churches are drifting in this unfortunate direction.

    For my part I am very grateful and enormously relieved to be a member of an Orthodox Christian faith, where we all, Republicans and Democrat, hear the same sermon and worship God under the same big Dome.

  2. Have you read the Church Fathers on abortion? I doubt they would approve of Senator Kerry’s position or the silence of Orthodox Sens. Sarbanes’ and Snowe’s support of abortion, including partial birth abortion, by the Greek Orthodox leadership. Some moral questions are closed, and abortion is one of them.

    The Catholic Church’s reproof of Kerry and other like-minded political leaders derives from the understanding that abortion is the first wedge in transforming western culture, with its reservoirs of mercy and sacrifice, into a culture of death where Christian values are replaced by utilitarian ethics that value the strong over the weak.

    Culture drives politics, even though in America the political arena is where the conflicts between moral visions often plays out. The Roman Catholic leaders are calling their Roman Catholic politicians to obey a deeper moral commandment (which, as religious leaders, they have the obligation to do towards their flock) without compromise to shifting political winds. It’s nice that Kerry, like Sarbanes and Snowe, want abortions to be rare. Unfortunately they have done everything in their power to prevent this.

    For more on this read my article Senators Sarbanes and Snowe Betray the Moral Tradition of the Orthodox Faith.

  3. The comment above misses the point. I’m not disputing that the occurence of an abortion is a bad outcome, and similarly John Kerry’s statement that abortions should be “safe, legal and rare” also indicates his belief that the number of abortions in this country should be reduced.

    The question is whether a strategy that adopts the most extreme and confrontational approach towards solving a problem can have a realistic expectation of success. In my experience, strategies that build on a broad consensus of support have a greater probability of success than do those that antagonize and polarize people. I can’t see any progress unfolding as we continue to shout “baby-killer” and “fascist” at one another.

    The abortion debate in America is dominated on both sides by the most extreme points of view. Its an extreme view that abortion, a medically-nvasive procedure with grave moral implications, should be viewed as another form of birth control. Its also an extreme point of view that there are no occassions whatsoever when abortion can be considered, including rape, incest and interventions to save the life and health of the mother.

    I think there is broad consensus in this country on a number of issues that can be used to develop support for policies that would reduce the number of abortions. Most people in this country would support a public health campaign, similar to anti-smoking and anti-drunk driving advertisements, to discourage irresponsible sexual attitudes and behavior in young people. If you reduce unwanted pregnancies, you also reduce many abortions.

    Most people would support government action to encourage adoptions as an alternative to abortion, including stipnends for pregnant mothers who chose to give their child up for adoption and greater tax credits for adopting parents. The parents I knw who wanted to adopt ended up going to China with $3,000 cold hard cash to pay for a new daughter.

    Another more controversial idea may be the ending of health insurance coverage for elective, non-medically neccesary abortions. With health care costs rising most people would probably support it.

    If we say we want to respect the sanctity of human life then that respect should extend to the mother. Simply returning to a legal and societal approach where we ignore the causes of unintended pregnancies and encourage the development of an underground abortion industry that takes the lives of thousands of women each year is unacceptable.

  4. Kerry voted against the ban on partial birth abortion – hardly the actions of someone seeking the limit the number of abortions in America. PBA’s are never medically necessary, yet Kerry used the “health of the mother” canard to justify his vote. (See: On the Issues.

    As for your other suggestions, they don’t speak to your initial point castigating the Catholic Church for reproving pro-choice politicians, so I won’t address them here.

  5. Truth is divisive – when wants to continue committing sin. For Kerry to claim that he wants abortion to be “rare” is ridiculous in any intellectually honest sense. One does not get to the right by claiming the low road. One does not limit abortion by supporting every effort to protect/expand it.

    Dean’s “experience” is exactly wrong – truth is divisive. Ultimate truth gets you crucified. Dean deliberately puts down his cross and takes the low road of “realistic chance of success” – the dark (un)realism of the Godless party and abortion supporters. Fascism is like that – it dehumanizes it’s enemies before it kills them. To Dean, “Realism” is just a way to justify the holocaust that rages around him. This (un)realism and fascisms history is just to plain to ignore.

    Finally, Dean’s “big dome” Orthodoxy is a fantasy. It is the Fantasy of sin that stands in the temple Sunday after Sunday and ignores – even justifies – the dark thoughts of “political realism”…

  6. Saint Paul tells us that the Church is “the Body of Christ”, and everyone who belongs to the Church is part of the body. I would ask those who would tear the Body of Christ in two in order to to impose their own political views on everyone else to think twice. Jesus Christ did not establish his Church to serve human ends, and ceetainly not as a vehicle for partisan political movements. The church exists to serve not man, but God, and to operate as a conduit for God’s love and compassion for all of humanity.

    Someone (Like Christopher in the comment above) can be correct in his views, but incorrect in the methods he chooses to advance them. A reckless extremism that leaves human wreckage, damage and pain in its wake cancels out the good it tries to accomplish.

  7. Jesus Christ was not a “single-issue” Savior. His teachings encompassed a wide range of human behaviors and concerns. Some people want to focus exclusively on one issue, like abortion, while ignoring other issues that were also of great concern to Lord, like social justice for the poor.

    This selectivity is also a form of a “Do-It-Yourself” Christianity. It calls into question whether one is truly listening to everything Christ taught us or just exploiting those teachings that seem most promising for advancing a partisan political agenda.

  8. Our faith informs and influences our decisions. However, the conservative right is as guilty as the liberal left for ignoring some Christian edicts while heeding others as they see fit. (I find it ironic that the original sponsor of DOMA is on his third marriage.)

    I don’t find the right’s fascination with the availability of guns to be a particularly Christian concept. (Would Jesus carry an AK47?) Likewise, a blanket endorsement of abortion is a denial of its true reality.

    As the Church is a “body of sinners”, I don’t believe that using the Sacraments as a political tool with which to punish those on either side of the political spectrum is wise.

  9. “Reckless extremism” is meaningless is this context. What is extreme in my view? That one should not vote for Kerry because he plainly supports and encourages the murder of more than 1 million human beings in the US alone? Dean, in your worldview is it “extreme” to vote? Not likely, I suspect that you don’t approve of my disapproval of those who claim (and sincerely try) to be faithful to Orthodoxy and Christianity and yet through their vote support the holocaust. This of course is to make “hate the sin and love the sinner” into the meaningless “love the sin and love the sinner”. It is the fantastic dome of meaningless ”inclusivity” where contradictory moralities “live” together by irrationally defying the principle of non-contradiction (almost always supported of course by a quasi “mystical” conception of God). As G.K Chesterton pointed out, while the supra-natural is above the merely logical, it never contradicts it. Then of course, as a diversion, you through out the “single issue” herring – as if those who rightly point out the moral calamity of abortion are one dimensional and simplistic.

    I have a suggestion Dean. Let’s begin discussing “everything Christ taught us” by limiting to how one can Christianly support abortion through one’s vote. What is about “social justice for the poor” that trumps everything else and allows the murder of the poor (thereby nullifying “social” because they are not allowed to be part of the social because they are killed – thereby nullifying “justice” because they are unjustly killed – and of course nullifying any attempt to bring them out of poverty because they are stamped out of the poverty of this world)?

  10. James,

    It is in no way “using the Sacraments as a political tool with which to punish” by denying the Sacraments to those who are denying the Faith. The Sacraments are not “magic” and they are not “open to everyone”. Yes, I am a sinner. Just as importantly, I am a REPENTANT sinner when I approach the Holy Body and Blood. If I deny the Faith (by openly, persistently, UNREPENTANTLY) supporting abortion then the Church has a DUTY to disallow (if at all possible) my participating of the Holy Body and Blood – and it is out of love that they do so!

    Contrary to what you seem to be arguing, it would be political to allow me to partake because I declare my denying the Faith to be “political” and off limit’s to the Church’s moral responsibilities to my soul. This would be most unwise…

  11. The Church is an ontological entity, not merely a sociological gathering, which is constituted by the preaching of the Gospel (Peter preached and then the Lord added to the Church those who would be saved). “Membership” is constituted through baptism (an entry in the death of Christ and a raising in the likeness of His resurrection (see: Romans 6); an event that presumes a continued life in Christ through the Spirit of God (which requires obedience to the commandments of God). The Church is not ekklesia or “called out ones” if its “members” do not in any concrete way partake of Christ. Read the first few chapters of Ephesians to discover what the purpose of the Church really is.

    Where abortion differs from say, gun control, is that abortion is the deliberate taking of another human life. It’s a moral act that has direct consequences for the mother, child, and abortionist. It violates the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” (again, read the Fathers), and those who defend the practice — who lessen the moral approbation once reserved for the procedure and thus shift thinking into seeing abortion as acceptable social policy — need correction. The Catholic Bishops realize this and are appropriately calling their Catholic politicians to task. Orthodox Bishops ought to be doing the same thing.

    If the Catholic Bishops’ call for Catholic politicians to defend life is divisive, then so be it. Truth is sometimes divisive because right and wrong really exist. Further, when temporal truth touches eternal verities (and abortion certainly is a place where space and time meet eternity), the importance of clear moral instruction is even more imperative.

    To reduce abortion to a political issue between left and right misstates the nature of abortion. There was a time when even the left understood that abortion was a horrendous violation of human rights, but unfortunately many on the left have capitulated to the abortion lobby except for a few brave and honest souls like Nat Henthoff.* Early feminists too disdained abortion, correctly understanding that it would ultimately undermine the place of women in society (see: Early Feminists Were Pro-Life). More recently, good thinkers like historian Elizabeth Fox-Genevese (a recent convert to Catholicism), report the same (see: How Abortion Has Failed Women).

    *Henthoff, lamenting the left’s embrace of abortion once remarked, “If we could only get the left to see the fetus like a baby seal in utero.”

    Francis Schaeffer, the distinguished Protestant thinker who almost single-handedly awoke Evangelical Protestantism to the evil of abortion, warned several decades ago that if abortion became accepted by the culture that infanticide and euthanasia would follow in its wake.

    Schaeffer proved prophetic. Politicians who claim the mantle of Christianity now support infanticide (partial birth abortion is infanticide) and in short order will be directing the machinery of government into other kinds of killing as well. Again, the Roman Catholic Bishops are being true to their responsibility as guardians of the truth when they assert that abortion and Christian moral values are not compatible.

    Finally, resisting the ministers of death is not a “partisian political issue” even though the struggle has a political dimension (it can’t be any other way in America). Abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia go against the Gospel of Christ.

    (For another treatment of this issue read my review of Wesley Smith’s book, “Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder.”)

  12. Christopher:

    I do agree that those who actually perform abortions or undergo the procedure should probably be denied access to Communion if that is Church doctrine.

    However, should people be denied Communion because of their beliefs (as opposed to actions)? The Catholic Church has been clear on issues of divorce, and the Pope was explicit in his rejection of the Iraq invasion by the United States. Yet, I see no calls for the excommunication of or rejection of Communion to those Catholic officials who either have not lobbied for the ban of no-fault divorce laws or who have supported the Iraqi conflict. Why the silence on these issues?

    If the Sacraments are to be used in this manner, they should at least be used consistently and without political bias.

  13. James,

    Fr. Jacobse (in the post immediately above yours) does a good job explaining that the Faith is explicitly and unreservedly against abortion (not “probably” and “if that is Church doctrine”) and why prudential judgments for/against the war in Iraq do not rise to the same level. The second thing you bring up, divorce, is in fact handled the same way (denial of communion unless proper annulment is granted) by the roman’s – though because of a different theology of marriage/divorce it is handled differently by the Orthodox. Of course, all sorts of rc’s go to communion in spite of not having a proper annulment (members of my own family do this) and of course this is reckless on their part and a weakness on the part of their church for not stopping them.

    Again, the Sacraments are not “used” as you put it when the Church (through the Holy Spirit) rightly denies them to someone who openly denies the Faith. You are inserting the “political” into the equation, not the Church…

  14. James,

    The Catholic Church is not silent on the issues of Iraq and divorce. What you mean to say I think is why aren’t those who disagree with the Pope’s stand on Iraq, or who are divorced not excommunicated as well, correct?

    Reasonable people can reasonably disagree on many things. Abortion (and infanticide and euthanasia)represents something deeper, and ultimately, more dangerous. Abortion is the flashpoint of a moral realignment of the culture, where the “culture of death” militates against values of the received Judeo/Christian moral tradition.

    This conflict ought not to be underestimated. Abortion speaks to and touches places in the soul, as well as the shared cultural memory, from which human value, purpose, and direction are derived. If the unborn are seen as commodities, if they are valued solely through a cost-benefit calculus, then culture shifts from valuing all human beings not in terms of being created in the image and likeness of God, but in terms of what burden the weak place on the strong.

    It’s a descent into a moral dark age, a Nietzschean world where the will to power trumps the moral commandment to love the neighbor. In fact, the Judeo/Christian moral tradition may be lost altogether, if the culture of death prevails.

    Abortion, in other words, is the wedge issue with infanticide and euthanasia right behind it.

    If it were not so, you would not hear the crushing of skulls and the extraction of brains of partially born babies defended as a social necessity. Because it is so, the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church have decided to impose the highest penalty on those who aid and abet this practice.

  15. Its is simply wrong and decietful for you to say that because someone doesn’t favor your extreme approach towards reducing abortions that they must be “in favor” of abortions. I share you goal of reducing the number of abortions. How many times to I have to repeat it? I’ve argued that there are less polarizing and harmful methods of making progress towards our common goal.

    Logic dictates that if you reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, the number of abortions resulting from them will likewise decline. So I would expect that the religious right would be in favor of a well funded public health campaign directed at young people that would urgently warn them of the consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior. Such a campaign is urgently needed to counteract the thousands of messages in the media glorifying sex and promscuity diseminated to young people by the media on a daily basis. Here the puritanical demand by the religious right for silence on all matters sexual does more harm than good.

    The number of abortions in this country seems mystifying to me when one considers the great demand for infants from thousands of childless parents. Why can’t we create a more effective conduit between those childless parents and the frightened young women pregnant with children they are unable to raise?

    No one has answered my query of how we avoid the creation of an underground abortion industry that kills and maims thousands of women annually if legal abortion is outlawed. Our concern for the sanctity of human life should extend beyond the birth canal. What about the women who will be hacked and mutilated by back-alley abortionsist?

    Lastly I suggested that the polarized and emotionally charged nature of the abortion debate actually impeded progress towards practical solutions that would take the nation closer to the objective of reducing the number of abortions. Once you stop demonizing people, once you take time to listen and understand the concerns of other people on the other side of the debate, then you can build trust and use that trust to develop practical solutions. Sometimes you don’t get 100% of everything you want at one time. More often then not progress comes in increments. Abortion should be treated as a public health issue, not a wedge issue in a cultural war. Like the successes in reducing smoking or drunk driving, we can make steady and significant progress while not tearing our society apart.

  16. Dean,

    In all seriousness, what is your definition of the word “extreme”? I ask because most folks simply do not think that voting is extreme. Indeed, most folks think of it as one of our more mundane privileges, though some elevate it slightly higher to a mundane duty. Also, to be clear your wish of “of reducing the number of abortions” on the surface seems laudable. However, those same words are often used by the left to mean in practice unrestricted access to abortion which of course is not laudable or intellectually honest. I think perhaps you should be more specific .

    I agree with you that (I will even agree on the “publicly funded ” part) a publicity campaign promoting virginity until marriage (and not “gay union” or anything of that sort) would be advisable, however probably not very likely. That is what you mean by “irresponsible sexual behavior” is it not? If not, what is “irresponsible” in your view?

    I will gladly answer your question as to how we prevent an underground abortion industry. It is the same as to how we prevent any other crime. If your question is “how we prevent ANY and ALL abortions” that is unreasonable in this fallen world. It is like asking “how do we stop ALL jaywalking” or “how do we stop ALL murders” – it simply is not possible. However, if you implement a simple and reasonable criminal penalty most abortions would not occur. For example, for the doctor/nurse/medical professional, you could suspend their license (in all fifty states) for 1 year on first offense, 1 year of jail on second, 10 years on third, etc. For the mother, you could jail for 30 days on first offense, 2 years on second, 10 years on third, etc. This would be a quite generous and workable penal system given that a murder is involved. Of course, a nice education campaign like what happens to you when you try to perform surgery on yourself (hanger mutilation, back alley, and all that) would be called for. Thankfully, most folks have some measure of common sense and the millions of murders clinically performed today would no longer occur.

    Finally, not sure what you mean by “demonizing people”. If you mean not calling a murder a murder, then of course that is false for the reasons I have already stated. Also, abortion is not a “public health issue”, though this is a common diversion employed by it’s supporters. Truth is divisive, and should never be suspended for lesser goals like not “tearing society apart”. A society that kills it’s children is already torn apart, and sooner rather than later criminalizing it does not further that division. Just the opposite, it effects the urgent healing that is called for. As a former abortion supporter, and as a card carrying member of MADD, I don’t get your willingness to appease abortionists or your comparison of abortion to efforts to reduce drunk driving, though I would welcome an expansion…

  17. Has anyone noticed Dean’s inconsistent and illogical position on abortion vs. his insistence that Pres. Bush is a war criminal and ought to be hanged because of the “mass murder the United States has committed in Iraq”?

    Why are the lives of unborn babies worth less than the lives of Iraqi citizens?

    Why is it not allowed for the Church to speak on the slaughter of innocent children and condemn those who approve it or practice it because that is “political” while at the same time the Church must not support the war in Iraq in any way shape or form because it is not a “just war”? Isn’t war by its very nature more political than protecting and defending unborn children?

    It seems to me that Dean has bought the ideology of the left hook, line, and sinker and is trying to dress it up with emotionalized pesudo-theology. Such an attempt is repugnant to me and vastly more political in nature than anything Christopher and Fr. Hans have said. All true theology must begin with a clear idea of who Jesus Christ is, why He incarnated, and the effects of that Incarnation. Personally, I believe, but am not able to carry it out, that we are called to be martyrs. That means we must be willing to put our own lives lovingly on the line each and every time we see evil. Can anyone deny that the killing of unborn children is evil?

    My Orthodox parish priest has publically stated that anyone who supports or assents to a “woman’s right to choose” cannot approach the cup of communion. It is not a political statement, it is a spiritual one that prevents people in severe spiritual confusion from eating and drinking damnation to themselves.

    Dean, please don’t try so hard to justify your own politics with the mantle of the historic Christian faith.

    Oh, by the way, Christianity is the most extreme and radical faith ever posited. The demands it places on us and the promises it delivers can only be real if Jesus Christ is God. It is absurd to criticise Christopher and others as extreme because they really believe that life is sacred. It is especially absurd because of your far more extreme statements on the war in Iraq elsewhere in this blog.

    Of course the next question becomes, how can anyone support a war who objects to abortion? While the questions seems logical, it is just another exercise in moral equivalency as the two just don’t have the same level moral or theological condemnation. Personally, I want the President of the United States to do all in his power to protect me and the other citizens of this country, I’m selfish that way. That means condemning abortion and going to war.

    The U.S. Constitution prolclaims than no citizen of the United States can be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Due process is denied the unborn child each and every time there is an abortion. We spend years and millions of dollars trying to save the lives of obviously guilty murderers who have been convicted of heinous crimes while persecuting those who try to save the lives of innocent children,e.g., the RICO suit against Operation Rescue. The abortionists have arrogated to themselves the right to proclaim who and who is not a person. That is wrong, it is an evil that goes beyond even the killing. Wake up Dean, before its too late! If allowed to continue, the definition of non-person could just as easily become anyone who believes in God. Such definitions have been extended to people of faith in other cultures.

  18. First I never said President Bush should be hanged. I said that Japanese leaders after World War II were hung by the the Allies for employing the same doctrine of preemtion to justify their attack on Pearl Harbor, that president Bush employed to launch an unprovoked attack on Iraq. The doctrine of preemtion challenges violates established norms of international behavior which only recognizes self defense against an imminent threat to be a legitimate “causus belli”.

    Secondly, for about the fourth time I will repeat that I am not “for” abortion. I have instead stated my opinion that greater progress could be made in reducing the number of abortions if we treated Abortion as a public health issue, rather than as wedge issue in a cultural war and a club with which to bludgeon our political opponents.

    Public health campaigns have successfully changed the behavior of millions of Americans as we have witnessed a sharp declines, for example, in the number of people who chose to smoke or drive drunk. These methods could likewise be employed to persuade young people to follow abstinence, or that failing, follow safe sex practices. The right mixture of incentives and disencentives (cuts in insurance coverage for elective abortions, subsidies for women who chose adoption) could also result in fewer women chosing abortions and more choosing adoption. Certainly, even the most ardent feminists can acknowlege that a risky and medically invasive surgical procedure (and one with profound moral implications) is perhaps the most undesireable form of birth control available, and that it is in the best interest of every woman to avoid having one.

    If abortion is outlawed without any public health steps to reduce unwanted pregnancies, organized crime will develop an undeground abortion industry in no time just as they have to satisfy illegal demand for bootleg liquor in the past, or illegal drugs today. Thousands of women will again be killed and maimned by bothced or unsafe procedures performed in the back-alley, and abortion’s toll will be compounded rather than reduced.

  19. James Kucera writes:

    “Our faith informs and influences our decisions. However, the conservative right is as guilty as the liberal left for ignoring some Christian edicts while heeding others as they see fit.”

    Just as guilty? I find these attempts at moral equivalency theory so intriguing. If one truly sees parity here, all I have to say is that he’s not paying attention:

    http://www.touchstonemag.com/docs/issues/16.3docs/16-3pg3.html

    “I don’t find the right’s fascination with the availability of guns to be a particularly Christian concept. (Would Jesus carry an AK47?)”

    Of course Jesus wouldn’t carry an AK47, Mr. Kucera. Don’t be silly. But do you think Cornelius might have carried one?

    I don’t find the left’s aversion to firearms ownership to be a particularly rational concept. As if evil inheres in manufactured metallic objects. Not a particular Christian metaphysic, either. St. John Chrysostom, using small arms as an analogy to the neutrality of the flesh, writes this:

    “The body then is indifferent between vice and virtue, as also instruments (or arms) are. But either effect is wrought by him that useth it. As if a soldier fighting in his country’s behalf, and a robber who was arming against the inhabitants, had the same weapons for defence. For the fault is not laid to the suit of armor, but to those that use it to an ill end. And this one may say of the flesh too which becomes this or that owing to the
    mind’s decision, not owing to its own nature. For if it be curious after the beauty of another, the eye becomes an instrument of iniquity, not through any agency of its own (for what is of the eye, is but seeing, not seeing amiss), but through the fault of the thought which commands it. But
    if you bridle it, it becomes an instrument of righteousness.” (Homily XI on the Epistle to the Romans. http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF1-11/npnf1-11-75.htm )

    St. John Cassian echoes the Goldenmouth: “A man who gives someone a knife for some necessary and useful purpose is not to blame if that person uses it to commit murder.” (On The Eight Vices.)

    And Met. Antony Khapovitsky, in his excellent little essay, “The Christian Faith and War,” has this to say to the pacifists on the left:

    “Does a Christian sin when he agrees to become a soldier? Does a king or a member of a high government sin when he declares war or accepts a challenge to war? Finally, does a Christian sin if he works for the success of a war by contributions, manufacturing arms and the like? Nowhere in the Holy Bible, neither the Old nor the New Testament, will you find an affirmative answer to these three questions. . . .”

    A firearm is a tool, and as such can be used for a good end or a diabolical one. Without someone to pull the trigger, it is an inert piece of metal.

    But if Mr. Kucera should further object and say that the easy availability of firearms is a material cause of thousands of death in America every year, I wonder then what he would say about the easy availability of alcohol, which “kills” three times as many people every year. Will he argue for Prohibition, or will he say that alcohol does indeed have a socially useful purpose? If the latter, then will he concede that the same might be true of firearms, and that the right’s “fascination” with them may be no more immoral than with the fascination of the fermentation process and fine wines?

    Nevski

  20. That last sentence should read:

    “If the latter, then will he concede that the same might be true of firearms, and that the right’s “fascination” with them may be no more immoral than a fascination with the fermentation process and fine wines?”

  21. I could not get past this sentence:

    “I said that Japanese leaders after World War II were hung by the the Allies for employing the same doctrine of preemtion to justify their attack on Pearl Harbor, that president Bush employed to launch an unprovoked attack on Iraq.”

    Dean really expects us to equate Japanese racist/fascist empire building with the Just war on terror. Dean, your going to have to do better than that to get me to read the rest of your posts…

  22. For Mr. Scourtes,

    As an aside, the vast majority of Japanese sentenced to death at Tokyo were condemned because of the treatment of prisoners of war and because of their treatement of civilian populations throughout Asia. The aggression issue was not Bush-doctrine pre-emption as such, but rather the fact that the bombs landed in Hawaii before the declaration of war was given–ironically, something that the Japanese were very much concerned about (their diplomats dropped the ball).

    More to the point, I think that your “public heath” approach to abortion is flawed because abortion is not primarily a public health issue, any more than rape, robbery, theft or murder is primarily a public health issue. There are two problems with treating it as such. First, unlike disease, pregnancy is not something that just strikes one randomly like rain. Pregnancy always is the result of willed sexual intercourse. Furthermore, with the exception of rape, which makes up only a tiny minority of the pregnancies ended by abortion, the pregnancy was the result of a choice by the mother to engage in the act that everyone knows is the cause of pregnancy. Because pregnancies come about by exercise of free will, rather than by chance or circumstance, the termination of the pregnancy is primarily a moral issue, not a public health issue.

    Secondly, even more important, abortion is not a public health issue because the specific purpose of abortion is to kill the gestating child. Unlike chemotherapy, vaccinations or quarantine, which asks the a person to undergo a risk to prevent further harm to self or others, an abortion forces an innocent human being die so that another might not be inconvenienced. The very notion that pregnancy is a sort of disease, that the privilege of co-operating in God’s creation is an affliction, that a child is a cancer can only be based upon an erroneous understanding of the good of human life, namely that the dignity of the human person is a function of that person’s ultility to himself or others, rather than the true understanding–that the human person has inherent dignity since each one was made in the image and likeness of God.

    Finally, to take issue with some of your facts. One might think that ardent feminists would acknoledge the tragedy of abortion, but in the real world this just is not so. One need only look at the so-called “March for Women’s Lives” in DC last month. This was not a recognition of the tragedy of abortion with an argument that it is a sad necessity; this was a celebration of the cluture of death. Apparently, to the ardent feminists, it is not one’s capacity to give life, but rather the freedom to kill that defines womanhood. Furthermore, your assertion that the abortion toll would rise if abortion were outlawed has no basis in fact. The author of the 10,000 deaths a year figure has admitted that he made it up to support the legalisation of abortion. Given the 2 million children each year that die from legal abortion, not to mention the number of women killed in the procedure (which we don’t know for certain because the abortion lobby has prevented legislation requiring an accounting), all evidence suggests that it is the legalisation of abortion that results in more death.

  23. My father was a local public health officer (1950-1973), one of the most creative and effective in the country. He did think of abortion as a public health issue. He thought every social ill was a public health issue. He favored using public health nurses, and sanitarians for teaching everything from building codes to gun control to reading. He was able to keep the dealers in death, i.e., Planned Parenthood, out of our community for many years because he knew that they would only make the problem worse. However he was ultimately frustrated by the political pressure NOT to treat abortion or any other health issue in a way that would solve the problems. Those in government and their allies wanted programs they could sell to the federal government for more money, not real solutions such as my father proposed and tried to enact. Within a year after my father was forced to retire, his successor (being paid twice what my father)dismantled the creative approach for the bureaucatic approach where it has remained ever since. In came Planned Parenthood and much later the infamous Dr. Tiller to make Wichita, Ks the late term abortion capital of the United States.

    Recently our governor, vetoed a bill that would have allocated $300,000 of state funds to support pregnant women in part because she is a rabid supporter of abortion and did not want ANY government money spent on programs that support women who do not want one but need help.

    It is the radical feminists who define unborn children as non-people so that they can justify the killing. It is the radical feminists who oppose treating the murder of a pregnant mother and her unborn child as two crimes, etc.

    Dean, you may not have specifically said that you wanted Bush hanged or that you favor abortion, but the content of your posts and the way in which they drip with rancor, carries the unmistakable impression that you do in fact favor abortion and the punishment of Pres. Bush as a war criminal. You might try reading them aloud to yourself prior to posting them to get the full effect.

  24. Michael and Han: Thank you for your excellent comments. By discussing our differing points of view we have learned from each other, I hope. Our discussions have been probative and have delved beyond the superficial slogans. I agree that the issue of abortion is as politicized on the left as it is on the right. This is unfortunate. Progress is made when people make an attempt to seriously listen and understand each other.

    People on the left have to acknowledege and respond to the very urgent moral concerns about abortions expressed by people on the right. People on the right, should address some of the fears of people on the left about what will happen to women if abortion is outlawed, and an unsafe underground abortion industry springs up.

  25. People on the left…people on the right. Mr. Scourtes posits a false dichotomy here that makes it appear that aborting a child is morally equivalent to saving the life of it’s mother.

    The pro-abortion left will never “respond to the urgent moral concerns” of the pro-life right for this reason: their foundational assumptions about human life would not allow it. The pro-lifers believe human life has inherent value from the moment of conception forward. The pro-choicers believe human value is to be imputed by the mother alone, originally until the moment of birth, but increasingly post-birth as well.

    How, then, can the pro-choicer “respond to the urgent moral concerns” of the pro-lifer without repudiating his own position? Of course in real life, many pro-choicers have done exactly that.

    Mr. Scourtes either misundertands this moral dimension, or tries to posit pro-life concern for the unborn as “anti-mother.”

    So what are the facts about back-alley abortions? The truth is no one knows. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, founding member of NARAL (Kate Michelman’s group) and now a pro-life activist, reports that numbers about back alley abortions were made up out of whole cloth. He made them up. (See: Confessions of an Ex-Abortionist).

    The facts that we have show that legalized abortion has not saved the life of any woman (see: Illegal Abortions). In fact, if Planned Parenthood were required to report the number of botched abortions they performed (they aren’t), we would probably find more mothers suffering today than when abortions were illegal.

    Mr. Scourtes, while not explicitly saying so, is trying to defend the practice of abortion.

  26. Father Jacobse: I am not trying to defend the practice of abortion. I’m saying that human behavior cannot be changed as easily as we flip on or off a light switch. Sometimes a more lengthy and well-thought out process of education, combined with the introduction of incentives and disincentives is required.

    Unless we addrsss the attitudes and/or lack of information that lead to irresponsible sexual behavior, we will continue to have unintended pregnancies. As long as we have unintended pregnancies, we will continue to have abortions. The only difference will be that if you outlaw abortions they will be provided by organnized crime and other nefarious parties, rather than by safe and regulated medical professionals

    Therefore if we are goals and results oriented we want to consider methods that have been employed successfully in the past to reduce undesirable behavior. New York City, for example, has made significant reductions in smoking through a combination of public education and legal and financial disencentives. I’m saying that the same methods wcould be successfully utilized to steadily reduce the number of abortions without sending any woman to a back-ally butcher.

  27. Stay on point. When arguing that pro-lifers will be morally responsible for forcing the abortion industry to go underground and presumably maim mothers along with their unborn children, you posit a moral equivalency between pro-lifer and pro-choicer.

    Yet the argument is not corroborated by any facts and relies on stories made up by abortion industry propagandists. It is restated here as if it were fact.

    As for abortion being a public health issue amenable to correction through public relations campaigns, abortion is more closely related to slavery (the moral and legal arguments are almost identical) than, say, smoking or overeating.

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