May 8, 2005
-- by Gary Boatwright
If you believe in free will, God is pro-choice. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that suggests anything to the contrary. If you accept the concept of free will, then allowing individual choice is a requirement for allowing people to choose between Satan or God. Free will is at the crux of the abortion debate.
Martin Luthur broke from the Catholic Church over the issue of free will in his essay, Concerning Christian Liberty. The Catholic Church rejected the idea that God's grace removes freedom from the human will at The Council of Trent.
I'm not enough of a theologian to explain how right wing Evangelists and doctrinaire Catholics both start from completely different points and arrive at the same conclusion, in spite of the total silence of the Bible on the topic of abortion. That's probably also why I'm a wayward Presbyterian. I think they are both nuts.
From everything Christ said about Atonement, I think it is clear that all men and women have free will and if they want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, they are obliged to follow Christ's words as well as his path. Nobody has defined good works better than Rabbi Hillel:
Rabbi Hillel, the older contemporary of Jesus, taught the Golden Rule in a particularly emphatic way. One day a heathen asked him to sum up the whole of Jewish teaching while standing on one leg. Hillel stood on one leg and replied, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn it.”
By emphasizing God's grace over free will, right wing Evangelicals also grant themselves permission to dictate what everyone else's moral decisions should be. It also allows them to grant themselves permission to use immoral means to accomplish their ends and bear false witness against those who disagree with them. Since God's grace does not depend on good works, being born again gives them the freedom to impose theocracy through duplicitous, deceitful and sinful actions.
There is no contradiction in the dichotomy that their religious freedom depends on depriving everyone who disagrees with them of their religious freedom, because God's law supercedes the Constitution.
Of course, I'm a hopeless case, because I think Scott Adams captures the essence of Genuine Belief in his book God's Debris. There is no room for compromise between the Christian fundamentalist definition of religious freedom and the Constitution. One or the other is going to have to lose. Since Christian Fascism Has the Power, it is entirely likely that the Constitution is going to lose.
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» The Last Abortion Clinic from Seeing the Forest
Another public service from Seeing the Forest. Frontline has what looks like a terrific documentary about the success of America's Reich Wing Theocrats to eliminate abortions and return us to the good old days when a woman's place was in... [Read More]
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I neglected to add a comment about why both the Catholic Church and right wing Fundamentalists ended up anti-abortion.
It has nothing to do with the Bible and everything to do with ancient cultural beliefs.
The Biblical injunction against masturbating was rooted in the belief that the male seed carried the entire genome for the new child, and the woman was just an empty vessel into which a fully contained human seed was placed for incubation. Thus, the sin of "spilling seed on the sand" was regarded as akin to murder.
This type of ancient cultural male conceit and diminished recognition of the worth of women is still vibrant in many religious communities, including Islam. It does more to explain why male dominated legal and religious systems don't allow women to have a voice in their own health care decisions than anything in the Bible.
Posted by: GaryBoatwright at May 9, 2005 12:50 AM
I may be missing the point, but if "free will" can be considered sufficient to support individual choice about abortion, why can it not be considered to justify individual choice about theft, murder, or, in fact, anything?
The concept of misbehavior pretty much assumes free will. It would be cruel (and stupid) to punish puppets for their actions. Whether or not something is considered behavior that should be discouraged, banned or punished has nothing to do with free will, in my opinion.
Posted by: richard at May 9, 2005 11:00 AM
You are assuming that abortion is a crime without providing any argument or evidence to support your assumption.
Abortion is a private medical decision that cannot be criminalized without the assumption that it is criminal. Notice the circular logic? Murder and theft do nor require any a priori assumptions to justify criminalization.
There is no biblical support for your assumption. The Bible actually supports Roe v. Wade's tri-parte distinction with the idea that "quickening" occurs at about three months. What are your reasons for making the assumption that a medical procedure should be a criminal act?
Posted by: Gary Boatwright at May 9, 2005 1:40 PM
Er, what Biblical injunction against masterbation?
Onan's sin wasn't that he "spilled his seed", it was that he didn't fulfill his obligation to his brother to produce an heir in his name. This also cost his brother's widow in denying her the benefits of a place as the mother of her husband's child. He could have painted the house and watered the garden with his seed and it would have been no sin as long as he first impregnated his sister-in-law and took on his responsibilities in his brother's stead.
Posted by: Avedon at May 9, 2005 3:23 PM
Er, Leviticus 18:
This is what he said: the prohibitions were a prohibition on ABORTION. Back then, in fact, before the discovery of the egg inside the female ovary in the year 1724, everyone believed that the mans' "seed" carried the entire life force. women were but incubators - that's why you don't see prohibitions against masturbation for women.
Did you notice the monumental inferential leap? What I find interesting is that nobody has managed to challenge the theological soundness of my initial conclusion:
God is pro-choice.
The only conclusion I can draw from mere quibbles that dodge the issue is that my conclusion God is pro-choice is theologically valid.
There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that even indirectly addresses abortion. Since abortion is not addressed as neither prohibited nor permitted conduct, it must be in the large grey area of conduct that is relegated to individual conscience.
Therefore, God is pro-choice. Morally, as well as biblically, abortion is a medical procedure, not a crime. The decision morally and ethically belongs to the woman according to her informed conscience, based on her personal religious beliefs.
Posted by: GaryBoatwright at May 9, 2005 8:43 PM
A little bit of American History: Our attitudes about masturbation have deep roots for sure. Around the turn-of-the-century, some adults were so against masturbation that they forced their daughters to wear gloves made of a steel-wool-like material (like Brillo pads) at night and to put a powder on their genitals that made them painful to touch. They made their sons wear metal chastity belts at night that made it painful to have an erection. During the 1820s male masturbation was prevented by piecing the foreskin with a wire and soldering the ends together. Boys and girls were discouraged from masturbation by the threat of blindness, madness and illness. Of course, all of these are not true.
Posted by: GaryBoatwright at May 9, 2005 8:46 PM
I'd like to suggest that there really is no dichotomy between God's grace and free will. It's not an either or proposition.
I am a person of faith and a liberal. I believe all human beings are inately good and given a special gift in this life which fits like a puzzle piece into this world of great need. Each of us.
We are given free will in this life to live it as we like. Ultimately though our happiness is found by finding that gift, that truest identity - who am I. That brings us closer to God.
The journey in life is the process of trial and error (bumbling along at times) in finding oneself. We do it with free will and yet it is God's grace that is a part of this journey.
Our Rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena defines it well and very recently:
"Grace is the unearned energy of love given to us so that each moment, not just each
day, but each moment can be a new start. It is the fuel by which God does what Leonard
Beerman read about in this morning’s first lesson—create a new heaven and a new earth and
a new person. The way God makes all things new is to make each one of us new by giving
each of us a new start, a new chance to make life new every moment. The deepest thing I wish for each of us in this experience this morning is that we know in the deepest places in
our souls, that is the place within us – that is deeper than our wounds, deeper than our fears,
deeper than our insecurities, deeper than our neediness, deeper than our resentments, deeper
than our addictions – in the deepest place of our being that we know that we are loved so
thoroughly and unconditionally that we can have fresh energy to be used by God to create
this new heaven and new earth that God is creating while we are sitting here this very
Following in the path of Jesus'life is the model by which we should live out this process. In doing so, we will find ourselves, find happiness, make this world a better place to live. While Jesus wasn't a liberal or a conservative, I think that liberals come closer to doing the things that follow the Lord's Prayer "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven".
Conservatives stand for greed truly and ignoring this important journey. Liberals stand for a life of meaning and focusing on this important process.
I'll end this post with something further Rector Ed Bacon said:
"In the second century Irenaeus
wrote the words that you will hear in the anthem, “The glory of God is the human being fully
alive.” (Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies c. 175-185 CE) Glory is what happens when God becomes
bigger in your heart and life; when love becomes bigger in your heart and life; when
compassion becomes bigger in your heart and life; when justice becomes bigger in your heart
and life; when resistance on behalf of the vulnerable and marginalized becomes bigger in
your heart and life; when peacemaking becomes bigger in your heart and life—that’s a glory
attack. Can the church say Amen? AMEN!"
Posted by: Patrick Briggs at May 9, 2005 9:16 PM
I didn't claim anything about the moral status of abortion, Gary. I merely pointed out that appeals to "free will" are meaningless. We have free will. We are free to be méchant, obnoxious, horrid or criminal. The fact that we are free to be any of these things has literally nothing to do with determining whether or not we are being any of these things. It's like freedom of speech. We are free to say anything. That has literally nothing to do with whether or not what we say is brilliant, boring, stupid or monstrous.
A determination of the moral or criminal status of abortion will depend on other things, but certainly does not depend at all on "free will".
Posted by: richard at May 9, 2005 9:58 PM
Amen Patrick. I agree that free will and God's grace are two sides of the same coin. Unfortunately, that is not a universal conclusion. Right wing fundamentalists see a clear dichotomy. Their method of separating the two is not only baffling, but irrational and incongruous.
Richard: You are confusing my refutation of the faith based anti-abortion position with an affirmative declaration. If you are not claiming anything about the moral status of abortion, what's your point? That is the only subject of my post. I did not write a free ranging essay on Spinoza. The fact that we are free to choose to take another person's life does not determine whether or not we have committed a crime. It is morally correct to take a life in self defense or in defense of the life of others. Since I did not write a law and order post, let's set that argument aside as well.
If the Bible does not actually address abortion, even indirectly, then prohibiting abortion is not God's will. If it is not God's will, then there is no religious or moral basis for denying every woman the free will to make her own decison about a medical procedure.
Like everything else, they are just making shit up about what the Bible says and what God's will is.
Send your money to God, and put my name on it!
Posted by: GaryBoatwright at May 10, 2005 6:59 AM
If you accept the concept of free will, then allowing individual choice is a requirement for allowing people to choose between Satan or God. Free will is at the crux of the abortion debate.
No, it is not. It is irrelevant. As it is to all moral, aesthetic or legal judgments. It astonishes me that this is not readily apparent to all. Free will has nothing to do with the determinations we make about the status of exercises of free will. I don't know any other way to say it. It is plainly true.
Posted by: richard at May 10, 2005 9:25 AM
Richard: Let me try again. Read my lips. I am attempting to describe what right wing Evangelists believe, not what is true. Free will may be irrelevant to you in the abortion debate. It is not irrelevant to the fundies.
Is there a point to your inane quibbling on this picadillo? Do you have an opinion or position on abortion?
The topic at hand is abortion. I am working on a follow up essay. If you have any additional comments, I would appreciate it if you could relate them to what I am writing about, instead of what you believe about what someone else has written.
Posted by: Gary Boatwright at May 10, 2005 3:46 PM
Sorry for interpreting your initial sentence, presumably essential to your "essay", using the ordinary meanings of words. Weasel.
Posted by: richard at May 10, 2005 5:00 PM
So basically, Gary is trying to say that if free will had anything to do with the morality of abortion, it would seem to imply that it is acceptable, despite what the evangelicals say.
On the other hand, Richard is saying no, free will doesn't have anything to do with the morality of abortion, because that's what's logical.
Meanwhile, I'll argue that they're both wrong, and that abortion should be done by coat-hangers and quack doctors and boyfriends, because getting a safe, legal, socially accepted abortion is a bitch.
Posted by: Bribes at May 11, 2005 9:16 AM
So you have free will and....you're going to kill a child with that free will? No, free will is not wrong. Consider this: when a man murders a pregnant woman he is charged with double murder, life of mother and baby. When a woman aborts a fetus either through a clinic or a coat hanger it's ok. Also, if a woman wants to have an abortion, the male who made her pregnant has no say in the matter. But if the baby is born, the "father" has to pay child support? What's with the double standard? Sounds like pro-choice people are full of women who are money greedy. If women have choice to do what they want with their body, why can't i have a say in what happens to the baby that came from my body?
Posted by: Dan at December 4, 2005 9:39 AM
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