the tell-tale heart

I am entering dangerous territory.

The time has come for this Curmudgeon to test the waters of the third rail of American friendship: Abortion. There is little that divides Americans with a passion the equal of that held for this topic. I proceed with more than a little trepidation, because I can foresee the possibility of posts going back and forth with some rather ugly epithets. This fear has kept me from this topic thus far, but it is my hope to bring a little sobriety and decorum to the discussion. May God grant us all the wisdom and forbearance to make it so.

Now, if you bother to ask me, you will find out that I am very concerned about a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. Heck, I even care about men’s bodies too. I am a civil libertarian to my very core but you might not know this if you listen solely to what those that support abortion ‘rights’ say about those of us who are opposed. We are not a monolithic whole.

What genuinely keeps this civil libertarian awake at night is the tragic reality that outside of Christian circles, there seems to be little concern on this issue for anything other than a woman’s right to choose. No apparent concern about what must be the possibility, even in the minds of even the most ardent abortion rights proponent, that lives are being ended by abortion procedures. And there is a reciprocal lack of sympathy from within the Christian community for the honest quest for what seems to many to be a simple and straightforward Liberty to decide one’s own fate.

This lamentable gap in mutual understanding on the issue is evident in the very words by which the belligerents choose to label themselves. The rhetorical chasm that separate the “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” factions really needs no further elaboration beyond stating those labels. If IT is Life, then IT has the basic human right to life; if IT is not life, then IT is but tissue that would be clearly within a women’s right to make decisions regarding.

Aye, there’s the rub: defining life.

In ancient English common law, life legally began at the first breath. It could be properly argued that this was a sensible view for the law of the day. The law endeavors to be nothing if not pragmatic and the complications of a then common place still-born birth could, in that age of hereditary rights, be of staggering proportion.

But “modern” medicine is on the march and the ancient bright line defining Life does not seem so bright and narrow in a day when a fetus is potentially viable as early as the twentieth week of pregnancy. Many, including myself, question whether the viability test offers a reasonable and logically defensible check on uninhibited abortion practice. The obvious point is that we have seen the viability threshold retreat from birth at the time of the Norman Conquest, to twenty-eight weeks at the time of Roe v. Wade, to twenty weeks today. The viability threshold is destined to retreat further and further until viability occurs at the time of conception.

Clearly, we should hope for a definition of Life that does not vary with the available technology.

It is easy to see that viability as a test was never very viable to begin with even were it not for its relativistic nature. It has been pointed out by countless others that a newborn baby isn’t viable without the constant care of a parent and many elderly and handicapped are no better able to care for themselves than a twenty-eight week old fetus. Viability only makes sense as a legal test, not a moral test.

But of course, we can’t legislate morals, can we?

The intriguing thing to me has been for some time that there is a logical definition of life that does not rely on esoteric argument, uncertain science or the Word of God. A molecular biologist I know would tell you that in biological terms, life logically begins at conception-the completed genome, in their view, defines our human being in scientific terms. Science thus provides an obvious and reasonable bright line that gets discounted, I am convinced, because it also happens to map perfectly to the line set out in the Bible.

That standing for conception as the beginning of Life is consistently reduced in popular discourse to being solely a “religious belief” is nearly enough to make my head explode.

As heart wrenching as the arbitrary viability test is to me, more wrenching still is the plain truth that we can not even as a society agree that some abortion practices clearly are on the wrong side of any reasonable Life definition. That we as a society tolerate late term abortions-abortions well after the hypothetical point of viability-is enough to make this Curmudgeon cry often and profusely.

This whole matter hits closer to home for me in the last year: try telling my friends, whose beautiful little girl I was able to hold in my arms, all one pound of her, six weeks before she was “supposed” to be born, that a 38 week gestation does not produce a human being. I suspect that Miss Parker will not agree with the radical pro-abortion camp either when she gets a bit older.

But when the tears dry and I reflect on our situation, I ask myself what are we to do? A society which evidently supports a return to the ancient definition of Life is not likely soon to adopt the definition which in my view science and reason compels. And there is a corollary question that haunts me: why is it primarily the Christian community that is sensitive to this particular issue?

The reason this corollary is haunting to me is a product of very recent history. It is not so odd that the issue of abortion is closely tied to the Christian Church-Christians have long been at the forefront of human rights. The best and most obvious example is the Abolition movement of the nineteenth century which was most unsurprisingly a phenomenon of the Christian Church. I would expect that Christians, based on the historical record, would be the first of our society to point out a profound social ill such as this.

But we live in a often self-contradictory world and the juxtaposition of the Christian Right’s outlook on the human rights of the unborn with that of their outlook on the human rights of homosexuals and resident aliens can not be passed over without scrutiny.

I, for one, stand for human rights without regard to one’s personal viability, color of skin, religious creed, level of intelligence or unrepentant sinfulness. It is clear to this Curmudgeon that the disease that infects us is not intellectual per se, though as I’ve written, a lack of critical thinking skills in our citizenry exacerbates the problem. The primary disease affecting us is selfishness. We want people to have rights as long as they agree with us. We want babies to be human when it is convenient for the mother and society. We want quality education as long as it doesn’t cost too much, run afoul of other parts of our political ideology or interfere with having a first class football program.

“I want what I want, when I want it.”

My five year old said that, but it is virtually a slogan for our me-centric society. And when I look coldly and objectively at America, I do not see much reason to hope for better. America has slid very far, very fast and nobody is reaching for the brake. Worse yet, those of us who suggest the brake be thrown are labeled wackos by our friends and traitors by the Attorney General.

I am inevitably drawn back to my recent theme of the Christian’s proper role in politics by what can only be described as my rather bleak assessment of social trends: they say you can’t legislate morality, but “they” are wrong. We can certainly encapsulate morality into legislation: just ask the citizens of the states who passed the anti-gay marriage amendments.

Those of you who count themselves as one among a Moral Majority can legislate volume after volume and fulfill all of your statutory desires. A Majority can apparently do as it pleases in the Brave New America. But the conundrum faced by a Moral Majority is that a stack of laws that would fill the expanse of the US Code and Federal Register are of no avail if the larger society does not subscribe to values reflected therein.

In quiet moments, after you are spent from striving against widespread adversity to moral legislation, realize that until you change the hearts of men, you haven’t created a better society. Realize that rather than a moral society, you have created a society of the cowed and criminal.

And when you get to that truth, it becomes time to put down the red, white and blue campaign signs and pick up a Bible. And this time, rather than thumping the cover of the Good Book, open it and read it. There are hearts that need to be changed. There is Truth that Christians are commissioned to share.

And realize then that the hearts that perhaps need to be changed first, beat inside our own chests.

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46 thoughts on “the tell-tale heart”

  1. olabashanda,

    Of course I agree with you that our Rights emanate from our creation in the image of God. But, I do have a couple of observations.

    First, in a pluralistic society, we must settle on a political philosophy that is useful to build a society that does not uniformly agree with your and my conception of man’s role in the universe. I think it makes entirely more sense to have the philosophy that man’s rights emanate from his manish-ness (thank you Francis Schaeffer for that word). This position is in no way at odds with the Christian philosophy or any other philosophy that leads one to the doctrine of natural rights.

    Second, it is an interesting question as to whether the Declaration of Independence is part of our laws, or not. I don’t really want to discuss it at length, but there are good points on both sides of the argument. I tend to be of the camp that does not think the Declaration has any present force. It was of course important as a legal instrument at the time.

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  2. 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.

    -the Declaration of Independence

    Rights come from God.
    We have a right to life.

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  3. Prof:

    Political correctness has nothing to do with it. You’re just trying to trivialize my arguments, implying that if you only stated your objectionable views in a more politically correct fashion that I would find them less objectionable.

    “I noticed that you did not answer who the “20,000 “innocent” persons Iraqi citizens were?”

    No, I didn’t. They are innocent, that is the premise of my question. I’m requiring you to accept that premise in answering the question. You are clearly unwilling or unable to do that. If only I would tell you “who” these innocent Iraqis were, then you could proceed to determining their level of guilt, thereby avoiding as always having to face the original question.

    In fact, you have, by your avoidance, answered the question thusly: This great Christian nation could never slaughter innocents in that way, as I could explain by examples of all our just wars in the past. The question is based on a false premise that could not occur in reality.

    And this, my friend, is exactly the kind of thinking that practically guarantees that we have in the past, are now, and will in the future slaughter innocent lives unnecessarily. The refusal to comprehend the possibility of error guarantees the commission of one.

    “I’m your student. Teach me. Quote the Koran how Allah is the same as the true God of the Bible, Creator of the universe. Particularly find the verses where Allah so loved man that he sent his son to die for them”

    No, you’ve beaten me, I admit that I cannot teach you that Muslims are Christians.

    As to your final paragraph, again it is just avoidance of the basic premise, refusal to contemplate the possibility of it, see my response above.

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  4. CG,

    I can take a shot at your two questions. I hesitate because I am very much enjoying the joust between Prof and DavidR.

    I think most of you are aware that I do not share the opinion of Ricardo that this is a Christian nation. While it is true that throughout our history, we have been overwhelmingly Christian as individuals, I think it is clear that our Constitution as written and as applied has been a wisely secular foundation.

    I do not disagree that Christian values have been central to our history. Indeed, the concept of natural rights has clear roots in Christian theology. But it does not follow that our government was ever intended to be anything but secular. If you haven’t read it, I wrote about this somewhat < HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Ftonyplank.blogspot.com%2F2004%2F05%2Freal-men-of-genius.html">here<>.

    And further it bothers me when people call this a Christian nation because as I look around at society, what I see is one of the most extraordinarily amoral and self-absorbed societies in the history of mankind. Frankly, I think it is insulting to my Lord Jesus to call this abyss of worldliness a “Christian” nation. And candidly I admit that I must put a lot of blame on three good friends: me, myself and I.

    Would I like to see this be a more Christian nation? Of course I would in the sense of more professing and practicing Christians. There is no doubt that a Christian nation in that sense would be a far better place than what we have now. But then I would not agree with desiring a Christian nation in the sense of creating laws that force Christian values on those who do not believe. I think I covered this in my lead post.

    I am not sure to do with the question of whose lives are more sacred: Americans or anyone else. The clear moral answer is that each innocent life is sacred and worthy of defense. The complication I see are two fold. First, situations rarely present themselves where you can do a simple calculus and weight Iraqi lives versus American lives (not that this is what DavidR was suggesting-I realize he was simplifying to get to a larger point). My point here is that we might not know how many lives are a stake-we may only know that the other side is dedicated to killing as many of us as possible. The truth of the matter in the context of our specific current circumstances is the forces that are attacking us are not attacking us as individuals-they are trying to bring down Western Civilization. It would suit their purposes just fine if they could do so without killing people.

    The second complication is that our Government is charged to protect us and what that means gets murky at times. Just boiling it down to something personal, let say I am a crack shot with a gun and there is a person lunging to attack my family with a knife. Now morally, it would be accurate to say that a crack shot should take the assailant out with a shot to the hand or arm, maybe a second to a foot. But when you are making decisions on defending your family, you might not be so deliberate and who would begrudge the crack shot his bull’s-eye between the eye-balls? What I am saying is this, I might ideally desire my government to be proportioned in response to threats, but a little excess in the grey areas is understood and not entirely undesirable.

    But it becomes a different matter altogether when we do things like “pre-emptive strikes” because the threats are harder to assess. I have a lot less toleration for “collateral damage” when I am uncertain that the intended targets were a present danger to Americans. I am not comfortable at all with killing people just because they might hate us-I think the sanctity of life principal compels a more thoughtful response.

    My heart breaks when I remember the posters and bumper sticker right after 9-11. There were many variations that centered on a theme of imposing a nuclear holocaust on the entire country of Afghanistan because of the actions of a small number. That my fellow Americans could not look on the citizens of Afghanistan, the vast majority of who where victims of either the cold war or the resulting repressive reign of the Taliban, with compassion was deeply saddening. I understood then and now the anger, but this is no game of Missile Command and the indifference to life demonstrated by so many Americans is appalling.

    Yeah, what a “Christian” nation we have here.

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  5. David R.

    Quite a few extrapolations you got there. I guess I could have squelched every thing I said with a good dose of political correctness.

    “…(G)iven your evidently passionate belief in your own moral superiority which requires a robust and sophisticated rationalization to justify the killing of innocents. In fact, you cannot freely admit to sanctioning the killing of innocents, and so you must go to any lengths to prove they are not innocent.”

    I noticed that you did not answer who the “20,000 “innocent” persons Iraqi citizens” were? How many sides of wars think that their own side is not innocent? Your hypothetical gave NO information on why we would be killing 50,000 “innocent” Saudis. My assumption is that they were somehow identified as <>the<> threat.

    “The question was simple, clear, and hypothetical: ok to kill 50,000 innocent Saudis to save 10,000 innocent Americans?”

    Which is senseless unless we have further input.

    “By the end of it “innocent Saudis” of my question are death wielding heathens, akin to the Nazis or the Japanese in WWII.”

    How judgmental of the “innocent” Japanese and Germans!

    “You clearly believe that all Muslims, in fact all non-Christians, reject God.”

    That is, reject the God of the Bible. For the non-Christians, read John chapter 14. For the Muslims, read the Koran and John chapter 14. For a summary of the Muslim faith, look < HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fwww.watchman.org%2Fcat95.htm%23I">here<>.

    “You don’t explicitly say it, but I’m pretty sure you mean to imply that Muslim nations to not “overtly reverence God”, which displays a willful ignorance of that religion.”

    I’m your student. Teach me. Quote the Koran how Allah is the same as the true God of the Bible, Creator of the universe. Particularly find the verses where Allah so loved man that he sent his son to die for them. < HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hti.umich.edu%2Fk%2Fkoran%2F">Koran<>.

    “I will attempt to return to topic here, and use your type of argument: if you don’t value ALL human life as precious and that value and gift of life as coming from God…”

    Do you believe in capital punishment? Do you believe that a serial killer’s life is precious? I do. I find it a shame that they squandered their gift from God. The Japanese pilots that brutally attacked our base on December 7th? Precious. What a shame. The Germans? Ditto. All life is precious. Is any war just? If we are brutally attacked today, would defense that might take our attackers precious lives acceptable? In any of those situations, there are two sides of the story. How many sides believe their side to not be innocent and the higher moral ground?

    Prof. Ricardo

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  6. Prof,

    You are not afraid to come right out and freely admit to every hypocrisy and contradictory viewpoint that I accuse the pro-life crowd of holding. I have to admire that, but little else, in what you have said. By the way, I apologize to our host for this thread straying so far away from the abortion topic, this wasn’t my intent. I was really still trying to address the litmus-test issue. But I must respond to this.

    I’m no bible scholar, but I find it interesting that, in arguments justifying wars and mass killing, it always seems to be Old Testament verses that are referenced. It seems that Jesus did not have a lot of encouraging words to say about “just wars” or some lives being less sacred than others. I’m sure that you will be able to prove me wrong and come up with something Jesus says in the New Testament that can be twisted into meaning that He would approve of what we’re doing in Iraq and elsewhere. Still I’d be interested to see how you would pull that off.

    Most of your post is an attempt to recast my simple hypothetical such that innocent lives are somehow not innocent, or by changing the subject and comparing apples to oranges in order to provide a rationale for killing that bears no relation to my hypothetical scenario. This is not surprising, given your evidently passionate belief in your own moral superiority which requires a robust and sophisticated rationalization to justify the killing of innocents. In fact, you cannot freely admit to sanctioning the killing of innocents, and so you must go to any lengths to prove they are not innocent.

    The question was simple, clear, and hypothetical: ok to kill 50,000 innocent Saudis to save 10,000 innocent Americans? Your answer was an immediate “oh yeah”, followed by paragraphs of rationlization, changes to the premises of my hypothetical, which then lead to historical analogies that don’t fit my hypothetical but do fit your changed definition of it. By the end of it “innocent Saudis” of my question are death wielding heathens, akin to the Nazis or the Japanese in WWII.

    On your last paragraph. You clearly believe that all Muslims, in fact all non-Christians, reject God. Your definition of huge segments of humanity that reject God is wonderfully expansive, allowing you to deny sanctity to roughly 70% of the human race. You don’t explicitly say it, but I’m pretty sure you mean to imply that Muslim nations to not “overtly reverence God”, which displays a willful ignorance of that religion.

    You further believe that it is your right, perhaps your duty, as a Christian, to pass judgment upon them, since you claim to know that God has already done so. You believe that it is within your scope as a human being, I’m just guessing here that this is absent any specific revelation or vision from God, to determine which humans are righteous and therefore sacred, and which are un-righteous and therefore unworthy of the protections “granted by the Creator to all men”, as you quoted earlier. Forgive me, but you sound just like a mullah from the Taliban.

    I will attempt to return to topic here, and use your type of argument: if you don’t value ALL human life as precious and that value and gift of life as coming from God, and if you don’t understand that Jesus message was love towards ALL mankind, and if you presume to be able to determine which human lives God considers more sacred than others, then you must have another philosophy that greatly endangers life by tying its value to the whims of man (relativism). Therefore, how can I trust your judgement to be sound when it comes to determining what exactly constitutes a human life and when it begins?

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  7. Hi David R.!

    “How is it compatible with a pro-life philosophy to kill 20,000 innocent people in order to, not directly prevent American deaths, but possibly reduce the likelihood of their occurrence?”

    Is this 20,000 “innocent” persons Iraqi citizens who have not taken up arms to side with Saddam & terrorist? Or are they the military?

    “I’ll go further, let’s say we knew for certain that 10,000 innocent Americans would be killed at some date in the future, and the only way to stop it was to kill 50,000 innocent Saudis. Do you kill 50,000 to save 10,000?”

    Oh, yea!

    “Why is that scenario ok with a pro-lifer?”

    It’s the difference between a just and unjust war. Do you believe the USA was correct in going against Iraq when it invaded Kuwait? If yes, why? If no, why?

    I don’t know how many Kuwaitees were killed by Saddam, a few hundred or a few thousand, quite a number of the young women were raped too. Do we limit the number of people we kill in retaliation to get them to withdraw from Kuwait to how many they killed? Or do we exact casualties until the objective is complete? What if Saddam doesn’t withdrawal and decides this is the hill he wants to die on?

    An German survivor from WWII was asked about what he thought about the US dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. He said that a decent size city in Germany was bombed by the US relentlessly until it looked like the pictures of Hiroshima and well over 50,000 people died in that city. Not soldiers. Citizens, non-military, factory workers, grocery store owners, schools, etc. This German said it was war and he did not hold it against the US for trying to win the war by killing the enemy.

    Rewind to Gulf war 1. Why did military actions cease? Because Saddam withdrew and entered into a truce with the US. He later broke many of the conditions of that truce. For having done so, should Saddam be held responsible? If one side of the truce violates the conditions of the truce, is that truce still valid? Obviously a lengthy 8 years of tolerating violations of all kinds including UN inspections has allowed a seeming disconnect of Gulf War 1 and Gulf War 2.

    The immediate target after 9/11 was obviously Osama and al Quaeda. However those who facilitated and permitted terrorist training were guilty by association. Accomplices. The Taliban found this out the hard way. Is that <>just<> for us to have gone after those who actively supported the terrorist? What about those who just turned a blind eye to training activities?

    Looming in the middle of the Terrorist war is the unfinished business of Iraq’s disobedience. As we seek to get any credible intelligence on Iraq, over half a dozen intelligence agencies worldwide point to WMD in Iraq. No intelligence said otherwise. So, do we sit like twin tower ducks, knowing that a mass of militant Muslims desire to destroy America?

    And what politics were playing out in the Democrat party at this time? “What did George Bush know and when did he know it.” “He could have prevented it, but he didn’t.”

    As I read of the wars and battles that God sent Israel into, to slaughter every man, woman, child, and livestock, It was not just a response to a direct attack and Israel was defending itself. It was also Israel preempting the current geopolitical climate for what God intended. I’m comfortable siding with God’s methods even though they don’t sound good to a lot of folks.

    “Pro-life implies a far more expansive viewpoint on the sanctity of life than what is generally the case. It seems to me that most people I’ve talked to who seem passionate about this issue, and about the “sanctity of life”, have no trouble whatsoever with the idea that American lives are more sacred than foreign lives.”

    Let me qualify with that I pray and wish that all would receive Christ. You and I know, many have chosen the broad path to destruction. Nationalism isn’t unbiblical (Gen.11:1-9, Ps 33:12). Regardless of the naysayers, this is a Christian nation, founded by Christians and established on Christian principles. I’m sure that pleased God. Most nations have rejected God. I’m sure that displeases God. If you do a concordance lookup of “nation” in the Bible and see all the relevant verses in the Bible (I think 152 hits), you will see that God blesses nations that overtly reverence God. I’ll let you read His attitude towards nations that do not reverence Him. As long as we walk in righteousness, surely under the proper definition of “sacred,” American lives are more sacred that (a lot of) foreign lives.

    Prof. Ricardo

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  8. Prof:

    I’m interested in the phrase “compassionately trying to defend our nation from terrorist threats”. Let’s agree for arguments sake that this is what some imaginary president with high moral values might do. Let’s further stipulate that this defense from threats involves the death of 20,000 innocent lives.

    How is it compatible with a pro-life philosophy to kill 20,000 innocent people in order to, not directly prevent American deaths, but possibly reduce the likelihood of their occurrence? I’ll go further, let’s say we knew for certain that 10,000 innocent Americans would be killed at some date in the future, and the only way to stop it was to kill 50,000 innocent Saudis. Do you kill 50,000 to save 10,000? Why is that scenario ok with a pro-lifer?

    I find myself becoming offended quite often by the use of the term “pro-life” to describe the anti-abortion position. Pro-life implies a far more expansive viewpoint on the sanctity of life than what is generally the case. It seems to me that most people I’ve talked to who seem passionate about this issue, and about the “sanctity of life”, have no trouble whatsoever with the idea that American lives are more sacred than foreign lives.

    Regarding: “if you don’t identify a human being in the womb as a human being in the womb, if you don’t value human life as precious and that value and gift of life as coming from God”: There are two distinct beliefs you are enumerating here, before and after the comma. They are separate, not one and the same, and it is not a moral contradiction to believe one thing and not the other. I think the part after the comma is the important part in terms of making value judgements about a persons morality. The part before the comma is open to interpretation by equally moral people.

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  9. Hi David R.!

    My litmus test presupposes the candidate is not an axe murderer or steals social security checks from little old ladies and candy from babies. That is, reasonably sound moral character.

    Re: Your example of Bush
    The first time that George Bush was elected, these events you listed, if they are true, had not yet happened. All elections are voted on the perception of the candidates supposed assets and liabilities. The discussion of the truthfulness of your accusations of President Bush is outside the scope of this particular blog subject (abortion). However your perception of Bush in light of these enumerated transgressions would lead you to correctly reject a litmus test based upon a “pro-life” stance and correctly view that stance as hypocrisy. Those who do not share your view of Bush as a liar and war monger (whether true or not) probably perceive him as compassionately trying to defend our nation from terrorist threats, etc., etc. This would not be antithetical to a pro-life position and, therefor, would not be considered a misguided vote.

    It is possible that a pro-life litmus test may bring about a candidate that disappoints and does not have a full understanding on certain matters of consequence. However, reiterating my previous analysis, “if you don’t identify a human being in the womb as a human being in the womb, if you don’t value human life as precious and that value and gift of life as coming from God, then you must have another philosophy that greatly endangers life by tying its value to the whims of man (relativism).” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Wait, I did say that! 😀

    Prof. Ricardo

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  10. After some more thought I’d like to further refine the point I’m trying to make regarding the political litmus test.

    If a leader were to emerge who truly believes in the sanctity of life, in all contexts, then I will say that leader would be more likely to be “pro-life” as we understand the term today. I think it is clear that no such leaders exist. In our current political context, the label of “pro-life” often stands specifically for the protection of unborn life. It does not by any stretch guarantee that the person sanctifies all human life, especially if that person is running for political office.

    Similarly, a person who is “pro-choice” for the reason that they believe there is more than a completed DNA required to establish human life (in other words, human life is more than just a biological test), is still morally capable of sanctifying and protecting every form and context of human life that they believe exists. We should not trivialise or discount the morality of such a person because of their disagreement on what constitutes a human life.

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  11. CG,

    “In advance? You are saying God created us, knowing in advance which ones would go to hell, and created the hell bound anyway? Seems a bit harsh, wouldn’t you say?”

    Yes. Yes. Nope.

    “If god knew in advance, one might ask why not just create the heaven bound … that would be merciful.”

    We’ll have lots of questions, respectfully submitted, you understand.

    “Not sure what is worse… my false understanding of the heaven-hell lottery where you still had a shot to the end, or predestined ahead of time.”

    You always have a shot, as you call it, at salvation. Since you don’t know if you are chosen, you have the free will to accept Christ as your savior up until death. If you chose Him on your death bed (or any other time), then obviously, you were one of the chosen. It has no real effect on us humans per se, other than to give us confidence that God is sovereign, and He is not surprised that we did or did not “choose” Him as our Lord and Savior. Predestination is not really a stumbling block unless you want it to be.

    “A person using a God given ability to reason coming to the conclusion that this is all NOT-Knowable until death is using reason provided by God. If God created man, and an individual’s reasoning is weak… why is that rejection and not an imperfect mind created by the creator?”

    #1 – No mind is perfect. #2 – God is revealed in his creation and by His word, the scriptures. The Gospel message isn’t hard to understand, and the scriptures are more understandable than people let on. #3 The old “I’m human/You made me that way/My reasoning was weak” argument doesn’t impress God. Humbling oneself and an attempt at obedience is much more likely to get favorable treatment, if you catch my drift.

    “As you are the Prof, you know that citizens in this society are bound by the constitution, and NOT the declaration of independence. I know why Christians reference it all of the time because God is mentioned in it, and not in the Constitution. As Tony said, that could not have been an accident. So let me ask you the question again that was not answered:

    Declaration is <>why<> we seek self-governance. Constitution is <>how <> we plan to govern. If you don’t know <> why <>, you might be confused about the proper way <>how <> to govern.

    “How can you have a valid contract (Constitution) between citizens in a pluralistic nation by basing rights on religious beliefs of one faction?”

    You have to have some perspective, some view point, (here it comes again…) some <>worldview <> that tells you what is just and what is not. A Constitution based upon the desire to not concentrate all power in the hands of one (a King), but in the hands of three equal branches of government with checks and balances presupposes that man is corrupt, or corruptible, and that safety nets for our freedoms need to exist. There are non-Christian views on any topic including the value of life, the trustworthyness of man, and the governance of a people. The most JUST form seemed to our founders to be the Christian religion which they already embraced. It gave the principles which they embraced in designing the Constitution, including the limiting of powers. BTW, I don’t view the Constitution as a contract. It is more of a rule book. This is how the game is played. A contract is an action for consideration, etc., etc.

    Prof. Ricardo

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  12. Prof Ricardo:

    On your response to the litmus test issue, you gave a valid reason why you could not vote for anyone who got the abortion issue ‘wrong’. I don’t agree with the premise (which I will explain below), but the reasoning is valid.

    However, I don’t think you gave a valid reason for automatically giving your vote to anyone who gets it ‘right’. You may have meant to imply that anyone who gets this issue right must, by necessity, have the appropriate moral understanding to get other question right pertaining to the protection of life. If so, I do not buy into that argument at all.

    Let me be specific. A large percentage of people voted for George W. Bush because he is opposed to abortion rights, and for that reason alone. Yet George W. Bush falsely invoked the doctrine of pre-emptive war for an imminent threat that he knew did not exist (as did anyone else who cared to pay attention during the runup to the Iraq war). Let’s be clear about this. The war was justified for reasons that George W. Bush knew to be false, and he made many statements in the runup to the war that he knew to be false. This is incredibly well documented. This war has directly caused the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people in Iraq. The slaughter continues up to this very minute. Whether the Iraqi people will eventually be “better off” is most certainly an open question at this point. What is certain is that they are not now better off than they were before the invasion. Therefore, a vote for this man based on his “values” as expressed solely by his position on abortion, entrusting him with all the other life and death decisions we’ve discussed, was a misguided vote indeed if you really care about sanctity of life.

    While I consider your reasoning against any pro-choice candidate as being valid, I disagree with your premise. The real premise of your argument is that one must agree with your definition of what constitutes human life, and when it begins, in order to have the moral capacity to understand and protect the sanctity of life in any context. That is a misguided generalization, of the type that leads to misguided choices in our political leadership. And that is the trouble I have with the abortion-rights litmus test.

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  13. CG,

    I don’t believe that the Constitution is founded on religious belief. I believe that it is undergirded by the philosophy of natural rights. As I said before, natural rights has been espoused by people of just about every philosophical worldview. Just because natural rights is consistent with a Christian worldview does not somehow invalidate it.

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  14. DavidR,

    The examples of God’s apparent indifference to human life go much further than simply his own acts (the great flood, destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) and extends into his directions for the children of Israel as they invaded the promised land and disposed of the Canaanites. Anyone who reads the accounts of the destruction of Jericho and Ai without wincing is a hard person indeed.

    As Prof has pointed out, the sanctity of life comes from our creation in the image of God. The Bible is full of admonitions that while men are to respect life, God will have his vengeance on those who willfully deny him. In my view, God is not so much being indifferent to the sanctity of life, but rather affirming that our free will means something. The Bible goes to great lengths to illustrate how the widespread destruction was visited on society

    The Problem of Evil presents the greatest philosophical challenge to Christian Theology and it is the one issue we wrestle with continually. Indeed, the entire book of Job and to a lesser extent Lamentations is dedicated to this very topic. My layman’s take on the matter is that we are to understand that bad things weave together for the good of God’s purposes for the lives of those reconciled to his will. No where are we told to be happy about the pain of life-the closest the Bible gets to that is when Paul writes that we are to be grateful for our weakness if it brings us into greater fellowship with the Lord.

    Indeed, the Bible instructs that not only are we grieved by pain and suffering, so too is God. The close of the book of Job instructs us that the ways of God are complex and admonishes that the pot does not question the ways of the potter. Now, the whole book of Job is largely a matter of questioning…I do not think we are prohibited from questioning and seeking in an intellectual sense. Rather, we are not to question God’s goodness or sovereignty because of the evil we observe since we are too finite to comprehend the entire plan of history.

    On abortion as a litmus test: I think Ricardo said it well, though my approach is slightly different. In a legal system that is based on the foundation of natural rights, the key to all Freedom is our humanness. Any legally legitimized retreat from treating humans as human is fatal to the whole of the natural law basis of Liberty, because if man can make these decisions, the rights are not truly inherent in our being. This is the very difference between our present legal status as sovereign individuals and the historical global norm of a legal status as vassals of the state.

    Lastly I would add that the rational above is why I am, as you so precisely and correctly observed not so long ago, a serial single issue voter. A stand against abortion does not automatically get my vote-I am concerned about the entire picture of human rights. The stated philosophical positions of the two major parties are both destructive of personal liberty were they to actually behave consistently with the positions they espouse. That they do not even do this in turn calls into question the very character of the actors themselves.

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  15. Hello David R.

    <>…given that there are at least two biblical stories that I know of where God Himself intentionally engaged in widespread slaughter, what exactly is the basis for this idea that human life is sacred?<>There is a creator God who created the universe, spoke it into existence, and set the laws of nature into motion, and this God created man in His own image and said that we have worth. So much worth that if we were to murder another human, that we must pay for that with our lives. Life was so valuable that the price tag was very high for taking another life.

    The goal of the Christian is not purely to go to heaven (partially answering CG’s question here). If that were so, as soon as we came to Christ we’d eat a bullet and go to a place without pain, natural and man-made disasters and such.

    Once we have been reconciled to God through faith in the redemptive work of Christ, we are to obey God’s commands. These include
    Gen. 1:28
    28Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
    Mark 16:15
    15And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

    And numerous commands to help those less fortunate.

    We have a purpose that is greater than giving self pleasure. We are created to have a relationship with our creator. This is a holy, good, and godly thing to do. Those who do so “sanctify,” or set apart, their lives to a greater purpose. We hope that all would chose this path, but sadly that is not the case. God knows which of us will be saved. In fact, He chose us. CG erroneously calls this the heaven-hell lottery.

    God knew that groups of people, maybe even entire villages and cities, would reject God and be bound for hell. In those cases, the judgement, what you called “wide spread slaughter,” was a righteous judgement on men whom rejected the God who created them and the world they live in. He would that all would be saved, but all won’t be saved because they have wilfully rejected him.

    <>How does one reconcile the sanctity of human life, as a religious tenet, with the fact of so many humans dying every day from fire, floods, earthquakes, disease, accidents, hunger, etc.?<>The fallen world we live in, because sin entered the world, is no paradise. Sin has affected man and his environment. Within a world so tainted, one can still sanctify ones life by choosing to follow God, to be saved. However, life is precious, purely by our being made in the image of God. So life is precious for humans, even those who aren’t saved, just because they are made in the image of God. This is why our worth and value is not determined by any human document.

    The Declaration of Independence reads:
    <>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. <>Our creator endows us with these rights, not man, not a document, not a government.

    <>That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men,… <>Government is only to help secure the rights God grants.

    <>And secondly, if sanctity of life is the primary rationale behind the pro-life argument, then why does abortion trump all other issues when it comes to politics?<>Because, if you don’t identify a human being in the womb as a human being in the womb, if you don’t value human life as precious and that value and gift of life as coming from God, then you must have another philosophy that greatly endangers life by tying its value to the whims of man (relativism). If you get this wrong, then you can’t possibly be expected to exercise wisdom in any other area of life. When you get the fundamentals wrong, how can anything else that depends upon those fundamentals be right?

    Prof. Ricardo

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  16. Some questions regarding the sanctity of life….

    Given that the history of human life on earth is filled with unending human carnage (by man’s own hand and by natural disasters), and given that there are at least two biblical stories that I know of where God Himself intentionally engaged in widespread slaughter, what exactly is the basis for this idea that human life is sacred? How does one reconcile the sanctity of human life, as a religious tenet, with the fact of so many humans dying every day from fire, floods, earthquakes, disease, accidents, hunger, etc.?

    And secondly, if sanctity of life is the primary rationale behind the pro-life argument, then why does abortion trump all other issues when it comes to politics? Why does a politician automatically get the pro-life vote if he opposes abortion (or the other way around), regardless of what his positions are on war and peace, hunger, the death penalty, health care, and all the other issues that have a life and death impact on millions of human beings every day? Is it just easier to make abortion policy a litmus-test, rather than considering the whole range of issues that relate to protecting human life? Or is there something else at play that I’m missing?

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  17. CG,
    <>Imagine that little fetus was going to grow up and not make the cut… the little guy was facing an eternity in hell. Well… don’t you have to ask yourself if that particular fetus was given great mercy by avoiding such a fate?<>Ah, it’s not abortion. It’s euthanasia. It’s for their own good. The power of life and death in your hands. Millions will die, and its all for <>their<> own good. The power to destroy, to kill, and yet you maintain the moral high ground. Nice fantasy. [[[tony, lock the door…I’ll call the white coats]]] :^)

    Prof. Ricardo

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  18. Hallelujah! Ashcroft is outta there. Talk about a danger to our freedoms and rights.. I’m suprised by the Gonzalez selection since I thought he was pegged for the Supreme Ct. Ashcroft maybe leaving because he has aspirations for the oval office or maybe the Supreme Court. He was a key player in mustering up the Christian vote. I can’t imagine he’s on his way back to the ozarks to play with his grandkids. This is a pivotal time because what generally happens is that whenever the religious right has gained ground they’ve wanted to gain even more. There is a big difference between power and influence. I think they want power more. Despite the fact that I was disappointed with the election outcome, I encouraged in knowing that the democrats will have to embrace people of faith in a more significant way. Hopefully The GOP will no longer stand for God’s only party. In order to deal with the issue of abortion we must both use the law and the influence we have in this nation. We went through great upheaval during the civil rights movement and eventually the laws that changed our society were accepted and true transformation took place. (still in progress) Appealing to the practical morality of the issue is far more effective than making some religious pronouncement. As I said in another post on the wilderblog, our radical faith doesn’t mean we have to be obnoxious.

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  19. CG,

    You said, “I was hoping that the answer to my questions were ‘of course the fetus has a soul and goes straight to heaven’.”

    I do believe the answer to you question is that a fetus has a soul. This is the most logical reading of the Bible verses that Ricardo provided, though I don’t believe the text is absolutely clear. And the Macarthur link Ricardo provided was a superior explanation of accountability to anything I could provide. From the standpoint of accountability, I see no logical distinction between an unborn child and baby.

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  20. CG,

    You asked, “Why the necessity for a SOURCE OF RIGHTS. Why not rights AGREED TO BY A SOCIETY?”

    While we may not agree to what the origin of human rights is, it is essential that we tie those rights to something outside ourselves. Rights “agreed to by a society” are no rights at all. Rights by agreement holds all of us hostage to the majority-in this particular time, the truth of that should be pretty clear.

    Our constitution is certainly not a faith based instrument. It is amazing the insight of those founders that totally omitted any reference to God or Providence. But as I tried to explain, there are many rationalistic arguments for Natural Rights. I never meant to suggest that the only way you could get there intellectually is through a Christian worldview.

    You said, “I don’t accept the premise that our constitution provides faith based ‘special rights’ protection to the unborn.” OK. You do not accept an argument I never made. The argument I made was not about “special rights”, but rather about the ordinary human rights of a fetus.

    Further, you said, “We all agree murder should be illegal because anyone could get murdered.” I do not agree with that rational. Murder should be illegal because it infringes on the right to life of the victim.

    I am not sure if the balance of your comments are directed to me or not. I would point out that I have no desire to use the force of law to impose my beliefs on anyone. I do agree that lawmakers must consider the practical ramification of what they create. This is why the discussion I suggest is so salient-leaving the definition of life in such a tenuous predicament leads to fuzzy thinking and useless political posturing.

    Ultimately this comes full circle to the conclusion of my original piece. While it is true that I believe that reason dictates that a fetus be considered human, it is quite clear that I am in the minority. Were the law to comport more closely to reason, the situation would be as I described: a citizenry of the cowed and criminal. It is far more important to me, in a moral sense, that individual hearts be changed because only then will society be changed for the better.

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  21. Andrew,

    I’m sorry. I’ve got the bedside manners of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre…er. You had a good post. I was just taking the points you made and jumping up on my soap box.

    Common, but Good,

    <>Do Christians believe a soul is created at conception? <>There is not a specific verse that says that, but we have glimpses of God knowing, sanctifying, affecting, and even indwelling in babe’s in the womb. Examples:

    Jeremiah 1:5
    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
    Before you were born I sanctified you;
    I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

    Speaking of John the Baptist:
    Luke 1:15
    “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”
    Luke 1:41
    “And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

    God also Forenew us…Romans 8:29,30
    “29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

    Maybe our soul exists before conception. Exact answers will be available in the afterlife for those who will enter the presence of the Lord.

    <>Do Christians believe souls of the unborn go to heaven?<>John MacArthur explains this better than I could ever hope to. Please go to this < HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gty.org%2Fbible_faqs%2Fbible_content.php%3Fqa%3Dheaven7.htm">link<> for the totality of the message, but the final paragraph is:

    <>However, another point may be helpful in answering this question. While infants and children have neither sensed their personal sin and need for salvation nor placed their faith in Christ, Scripture teaches that condemnation is based on the clear rejection of God’s revelation-whether general or specific-not simple ignorance of it (Luke 10:16; John 12:48; 1 Thess. 4:8). Can we definitely say that the unborn and young children have comprehended the truth displayed by God’s general revelation that renders them “without excuse” (Rom. 1:18-20)? They will be judged according to the light they received. Scripture is clear that children and the unborn have original sin-including both the propensity to sin as well as the inherent guilt of original sin. But could it be that somehow Christ’s atonement did pay for the guilt for these helpless ones throughout all time? Yes, and therefore it is a credible assumption that a child who dies at an age too young to have made a conscious, willful rejection of Jesus Christ will be taken to be with the Lord.<>Prof. Ricardo

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  22. CG,

    You asked, “[W]hen you say If IT is Life, then IT has the basic human right to life are you basing that on absolute truth, or the constitution, or both?”

    Both. Different political philosophers have answered the question of the source of natural rights in different way. Clearly, in Western thought, the dominant idea is that Man is created in the image of God and is inherently endowed with free choice. But clearly, there are other ways of reaching the conclusion that Man has inherent human rights. Some of the prominent natural rights thinkers are in fact humanistic in outlook.

    Whatever one believes is the source of our natural rights, there is little argument that the law of our land is built on that foundation, the essence of which can be articulated thus: if you are a human, you have rights as a product of being human. A humanist might go farther and say that the humanness alone is the source of the rights, but that begs the philosophical question to a large extent (i.e. what is it about humanness that creates these special rights).

    So to complete the circle, if an embryo is human life, under our system of laws, they are logically entitled to the same protections as any other person. If it is not life, then an embryo would be logically equal to an appendix.

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  23. When the fetus becomes a soul is a mystery. Only God knows. I remember that after taking the first morning of the bar exam, I was so shell shocked, I was wandering around pondering whether I should finish. A voice spoke to me clearly and distinctly(the Holy Spirit) He said how can you pass if you don’t finish. Well I did pass it but was I meant to pass it? Did God miraculously give me the knowledge to pass or did he did he design the test questions based on the knowledge that I already possesed? When did I pass? All I know is that I most certainly would not have passed that particular exam had I not completed it. is the soul already there? or will it be there when the child draws its first breath. All we know is that being born is essential to this happening.

    Do the unborn go to heaven even if they were not born? There is ample biblical evidence to support this. However there are ponderables. Since a soul must accept Christ’s work on the cross how is this possible. Again there are many instances in the scripture where God acted specially. Enoch is one example. David made mention of the fact that one of his sons who died in infancy would be able to see him in paradise.

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  24. Rocardo: Welcome to the matrix where we can do incredible things. as a one who is trained to think in terms of the worst case scenario, I pose those questions to those who like me, am opposed to abortion for the convenience of being incovenienced. This practice must be curtailed. But how? Like all other crimes putting it on the books and enforing it are two different things. Let’s say we make it illegal. Should we enforce it or have we made our stand once the practice has been sanctioned? If it is about saving life, which I believe it is, making a moral stand is not enough but thats where we make that draconian leap into the bedrooms and womb of a woman.

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  25. Tony,

    Great intro piece.

    Howdy Andrew!

    <>When does the woman lose the right to do with her body what she wants?<>When I was evolving from a pro-abortion perspective to a pro-life perspective this was one of my questions as well. I resolved that a woman may do with her body, within reason, whatever she likes, but the other persons body, the baby, she has been given the responsibility to care for it. That includes self-restraint in alcohol/drug consumption, tobacco use, activity, etc. during pregnancy. The baby is separate in DNA structure and body from conception. Its vulnerability and exclusivity to one mother’s womb should demand her compassion and care, and society’s protection, not subject the child to the Roman thumbs down death sentance.

    <>…when does the public interest supersede her rights?<>My late father-in-law used to say “your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.” Her rights are already superseded by her desire to harm those outside of the womb.

    <>Will a prospective mother be compelled to get a prescription for a pregancy test and will the pharmacy turn that information over to the government and will the government then be able to require a woman to report the results of the pregancy test? You never know how this will go once pandora’s box is opened.<>This is where I cringe at the invasive government trend. I don’t like being numbered, finger printed, and tracked by government or business. I consider this a separate issue that is born of our desire to have government involved in our lives deeply in numerous areas (financial/taxes, safety/OSHA, fairness/Labor Laws, health/FDA, etc.). If we embrace government invasion so readily in other areas of our lives, we have few fundamental arguments left to restrict invasion here.

    <>Abortion has been around forever in every culture. There is no way it will be completely erradicated.<>Ditto murder, stealing, terrorism. However, a proper stand on the laws we adopt can greatly reduce the current rate of slaughter.

    Prof. Ricardo

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  26. Well, at least we’re taking a break from the controversial issues. 🙂

    There are certain philisophical questions that, in my view, we each have to answer for ourselves. Let’s call those personal tenets. I would hope that we can all agree how wonderful it is to live in a society that allows for that, at least to some degree.

    The most basic of those tenets, I think, is “What is the basis of morality?” For me, that basis is a respect for nature, including (in no particular order) life, the planet, the cosmos, other people. For some, morality is defined or guided by the principles of religion. For others, morality is defined by what is best for the self or the selfish gene (note the lack of capitalization, thank you). None of this is dictated to us, and we all have the free will to decide for ourselves, explicitly or implicitly, what governs our morals. Citing the Bible as the only (or even primary) hope for a moral society seems to me to be a very narrow approach, at best.

    I believe another one of these personal tenets is the point at which life begins. The issue to me is NOT whether conception, viability, or first breath is the “correct” litmus test for life, it’s whether the state has the right to impose its view of this philosophical conundrum on everyone. While it may be obvious to you that your viewpoint on this question is correct, the very fact that opinions on this issue are so widely varied in and of itself should tell you that it’s a personal tenet.

    That you consider other members of society to be ill-informed enough to determine their personal tenets simply does not afford you the right to determine them for those people. You either have a free society, warts and all, or you don’t.

    – [Selfish] Gene

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  27. What a wonderful, eloquent essay. One of your best ever.

    It’s sad that one must feel such trepidation even broaching this subject. One this subject, as on almost everything else of importance these days, I feel that most people discuss it by rote, with memorized opinions given to them by their preacher, favorite talk radio host, party platform, or whatever. Very rarely do I hear anyone actually examine the rational, justifications, or basis for their beliefs in such a thoughtful way. Much less any attempt to examine or understand the other side.

    Personally, I believe abortion to be the termination of a human life, at any point beyond conception. This is not to say that I think of all abortions as murder. In a perfect world, there would be no abortions, yet in the world we live in, there are situations where abortion is the “lesser of two evils”. Rape, incest, severe birth defects, or threat to the life of the mother all come to mind.

    I’m not sure exactly what the law should be. I certainly lean towards more restrictions than what we have today. However I don’t think an outright ban is necessarily the most ethical position given the realities of the world we live in. One thing I do know, legal or not, every abortion that occurs is a symbol of a failure of our society at some level. While Roe v Wade is an important debate, I believe that the overwhelming fixation on it overshadows and obstructs our ability to deal appropriately with the many failures in our society that make the “right to choose” seem so necessary.

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  28. As a lawyer, christian and libertarian at heart this issue is one that challenges me greatly. First as a lawyer, I see this to be the greatest challenge to the supreme court since it’s inception. Yes, there was the dread scott decision which was eventually overturned because even a darkened mind realizes that devaluing a human life on the basis of skin color was moronic and would not be upheld. Even the Brown v Board of education was a decision although not popular at the time, was essential to a moral and just society. Then Roe V Wade. It was the best the court could do within the constraints of science and the rights of the woman. You don’t have to be a bible thumping fundamentalist to sense that at some point the life inside a woman’s womb will become a pearson with all the rights that we all have. Now I am begining to morph into my christian ethos and liberarian eorld view. When does the woman lose the right to do with her body what she wants? Roe says in essence at the point of viablity. Well that is a point of relativity. Is it a person inside the womb, or only one when it can survive without the mother? I contend that it is a person from conception, one not fully developed and yet one dependent on the life of the mother. I don’t think anyone can make an ethical case that a mother should teminate the life of a developing person for purposes of birth control. While this is morally clear, when does the public interest supersede her rights? Presently it’s 3 months. Should it be 3 weeks? 3 days? Will a prospective mother be compelled to get a prescription for a pregancy test and will the pharmacy turn that information over to the government and will the government then be able to require a woman to report the results of the pregancy test? You never know how this will go once pandora’s box is opened. As Christians do we want to peer into the womb of a woman or do we want to take a stand against the wholesale use of abortion for “family planning”.
    Abortion has been around forever in every culture. There is no way it will be completely erradicated.

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