Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Religion, politics and the a* word

By far, abortion is the most controversial political topic of them all.  It's walking in a landmine to even discuss it.  Few ever change their minds but that doesn't discourage debate.  Here is a question.  Do the Gospels and traditional church teaching really direct Christians to engage in politics to enact laws in opposition to abortion rights?

Consider the story of the Holy Innocents.  These were the male children of Bethlehem who were murdered by Herod's forces in a dragnet intended to kill off the newborn King of the Jews that Herod first heard about from the Magi. The whole story is in Matthew, Chapter 2.
16) Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry: and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
God sent an Angel to warn Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt.  All the other kids in town, not so lucky.  Perhaps if Joseph and Mary had stayed in Bethlehem and Herod's men found and identified Jesus first, all the other male children might have been spared from the slaughter. But God had a plan even though the plan must have seemed cruel to the parents of Bethlehem at the time.

So, it seemed fair and just to the early leaders of the Church that God would take the souls of these children into Heaven, seeing as God had sort of used them as human shields to protect his Son.   Centuries ago the Holy Innocents were declared Martyrs.
The Church venerates these children as martyrs (flores martyrum); they are the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; they died not only for Christ, but in his stead (St. Aug., "Sermo 10us de sanctis").  
Now, as for the unborn children who have been victims of abortion, they are sometimes compared to the Holy Innocents and those enabling abortion are said to be playing the part of Herod.  Here is an example of that argument.  Killing the Holy Innocents: Governments that Fund Abortion are the New Herods
Every child killed by voluntary abortion is a “Holy Innocent”. Every politician who supports this killing, implicitly or explicitly, carries on the evil actions of Herod. On this Feast of the Holy Innocents let us summon a new resolve to bring an end to the slaughter of the holy innocents in this hour. Time to end the funding of Planned Parenthood and the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.  
So, here is the conundrum for religious/political opposition to abortion rights. If a child who was aborted is a martyr destined for eternity in heaven, then why should we put them on a detour and force their unwilling mothers to bring them into the Earth where they undergo the difficult trials of life after which there is a very good chance they will end up in a much hotter place for all of eternity.  Jesus used this phrase when asked how to pray.  "Lead us not into temptation".   Life presents temptations.  And in the Gospels  Jesus pointed out a number of times that your life on Earth is worth nothing compared to what God has planned for you in heaven.

Another potential explanation  for political opposition to abortion could be to save the soul of the mother via legislation, but coercion contradicts the teaching of Jesus regarding non-believers.  As in Luke 9:5
If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them."
Jesus didn't tell the Apostles to force non-believers to behave Christian or to embroil themselves in politics and law.  The Gospels are more about the nature of forgiveness and salvation, a call to a life of service and prayer, challenging religious hypocrisy, and how your years on Earth means nothing compared to eternity in heaven.

For perspective, I am personally opposed to abortion because I believe the gift of life is indeed a miracle and any life is worthy of living.  There are people very dear to me who under a slightly different set of circumstances some years ago a different choice might have been made and it would be a tremendous loss to not have them here now.  God only knows how much brilliance and beauty we have been deprived of because of abortion.   Abortion can cause physical and psychological harm yet these side effects are downplayed in the legal battle over abortion rights.

But I do not feel it is appropriate for politicians to get in the middle of that decision, especially considering that many of them admit their religious convictions are driving legislative initiatives which to me is problematic in regards to the Constitution.  As for Christianity imposing itself on the general population, I don't see anywhere in the Gospels where Jesus instructed his followers to force other people to conform.

So is political opposition to abortion truly rooted in Christianity?  If so, where?

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