Archives For abortion

On Sunday I followed up my previous talk in a miniseries called “Where is Jesus now?” with a look at how Jesus is visible in the here and now in images of him.

People. Those who have been transformed by Jesus. Into his image.

I feel like it was an adequate treatment of the question in that Jesus is visible in his church – but I feel like I pulled some punches in the answer that I gave.

It’s easy to talk about being Jesus in the small stuff. It’s easy to talk about being Jesus to other people when they’re moving house – or when you realise how broken you are, and they are… It’s easy to talk about being Jesus as something that’s a little intangible and hypothetical – it’s easy to say that people should be able to see Jesus in us. As we live transformed lives.

But it’s not so easy to see Jesus, here and now, in human tragedies.

The challenge for those who call Jesus Lord, who are being conformed to his image, and who are his image bearers – or ambassadors – is to know how to be Jesus in the awful extremities of life, not just in the every day.

Sure. Figuring out that bearing the image of Jesus means having a life shaped by the sort of sacrificial love Jesus showed at the cross will hopefully help us in big situations if we’re disciplined at living that way in the minutiae of daily life. But a big question we’ve got to answer – and account for, if we’re bearing Jesus’ image – is where is Jesus in tragedies.

Where is Jesus when bombs explode at the finish line of a popular marathon and maim hundreds?

The Westboro Baptists offer one answer.

It’s not a very good answer. There is no image of Jesus in this picture, or in these words. There is no Jesus in the words and lives of the Westboro Baptists. There’s as much Jesus in their ministry as there is in those pieces of toast that sell for thousands of dollars on eBay.

This sort of thing makes you wish that Anonymous would make good on their threats to remove the cancer that is Westboro Baptist… Even if that’s not real justice. And even if there’s a little of the hate (or at least the capacity for hate) that Westboro spew out in all of us… sometimes when we’re condemning them.

But Jesus is in the voices of people who are changed by him – who are called to be his ambassadors – joining together to call Westboro out for what they are. Spokespeople of evil. People peddling the sort of message that might have earned them the label “antichrist” from the guys who wrote the New Testament… Jesus is in the actions of the people who respond in love, rather than standing idly by – or worse – celebrating – when tragedies like this strike. Tragedies that are the result of human brokenness. Tragedies that unite us – tragedies that the world unites to condemn.

I read somewhere that the explosion left people with broken bodies and severed limbs – people who moments before had been taking part in a grand moment, sitting at the finish line of a marathon – the pinnacle of human athletic achievement. There’s something beautiful and pure about sport – it’s one of those parts of life, like music, love, and childbirth, where something magical happens. Something that puts the better aspects of our humanity to the fore… except when people cheat (or play country music).

That’s why it’s easy to spot the tragedy and injustice in this situation that has, as I write, claimed the lives of a handful of people, including a child, and seriously injured many, many others.

It’s easy to speak for Jesus in a situation where everybody is essentially saying the words, and offering the compassion, that those of us who follow Jesus want to be saying. You don’t stand out as different for wanting to see those who have been, literally, torn apart by those explosions, lovingly pieced back together – to have their lives stretch out for many years into the future with only small physical scars to show for this event.

It’s easy to be Jesus – to carry his image – when everyone agrees with what he says. When the media is trumpeting the story on front pages, and at the top of news bulletins, throughout the world.

It’s easy for those in leadership to sound like Jesus when they’re condemning evil and promising to deal with it, and deliver justice for the victims. It’s easy to be admirable and kingly – to be a voice of sacrificial authority and compassion.

But what about when the media is silent – by conspiracy, or just because an issue is deemed to be a non-issue?

Where is Jesus when tragedies are occuring in darkness – rather than in the prominence of an internationally significant sporting event?

Where is Jesus in the story of Kermit Gosnell?

Abortion is a horribly complex issue with all sorts of factors influencing a decision that often comes from a place of trauma and despair and leads to more trauma and more despair. This has never been more true than in the horrible shop of horrors case of Kermit Gosnell.

Where is Jesus in that million dollar backyard abortion clinic that ended the lives of mothers, and untold numbers of unborn babies – and worse – babies who were born. Live. During the abortion process. Only to be, literally, torn apart for the convenience of the mother and doctor. Using stationery. He’s on trial for killing seven babies and one mother – but it’s hard to tell the difference between a baby killed outside the womb at 30 weeks and a baby killed inside the womb at 30 weeks. It’s hard to tell the difference between these seven babies and the thousands of babies Gosnell has killed in completely legal (though horribly conducted) processes in his clinic. Which is why some ethicists argue that infanticide isn’t just ok, but the natural conclusion of legalising abortion. And is probably why pro-abortion reporters have a hard time demonstrating why Kermit Gosnell is a criminal anomaly rather than a participant in the status quo.

It turns out it’s much harder to be presidential when you’re talking about the potential legal murder of babies (Obama’s track record on this issue is pretty disturbing, I’m not expecting him to comment on a case that’s before the courts)… It’s much harder for the media to speak like Jesus in a story like this – as they try to balance their competing agendas. It’s harder to carry the image of Jesus into a situation like this – when people would much rather sweep the whole thing under a rug and forget it happened. It’s much harder to sound like Jesus when the mob is baying for a certain type of blood to match a certain style of lifestyle.

One of the tragedies of the abortion debate is that it’s the product of a culture that rejects the idea that some actions have consequences that we don’t want. If the debate was limited to early term abortions in the case of rape, or genuine threats to the life of the mother, there’d be a lot less heat. Even those situations aren’t black and white. But the goalposts have moved so far from those extremes to questions of convenience that we’re now in a situation where the long term mental health of the mother is said to justify the termination of a human life after the person has exited the mother’s body. It’s not about control over one’s body at that point.

Where is Jesus in infanticide? He’s in the voices of Christians who lovingly point out that we can do better – and who model a better way forward. A way that involves sacrificial love – not a voice of condemnation. A way that involves hope, not despair. A way that involves being Jesus not just to the unwanted babies – but to the mothers. To the legislators. To the doctors. We can do better. We need to do better.

It’s easy to speak for Jesus when what he’d say is obvious and requires no creativity. It’s easy to carry the image of Jesus into a situation where everybody agrees on a way forward.

It’s harder to speak for Jesus, and carry his image, when the way forward requires creativity and thinking outside the box in a completely counter-cultural way.

You can read Mike Bird’s excellent and persuasive piece on why we need to be thinking about infanticide now, not in three years, and I’d humbly submit this piece I wrote last year when those enlightened ethicists calmly essentially suggested that Kermit Gosnell’s actions be normalised as a useful companion piece.

Jesus is in those who speak out for the vulnerable. Who speak against the consensus that is driven by an ideology of “me” – an ideology that dehumanises other lives for my convenience. An ideology that knows nothing of sacrificial love – but only sacrifice of others. Of other lives. With scissors.

I’m sorry. But how did we get to this? We got here by rejecting the progress borne out of almost 2,000 years of people valuing life because Jesus valued life. Valuing life because human life is life made in the image of God with the potential to be life remade in the image of Jesus. You only get to humanism through Jesus.Humanism is that great modern “secular” doctrine which has somehow been white-anted by selfishness where “I” am valuable but fellow humans – including the unborn – are to be discarded when they become inconvenient and its within my power (or rights) to do so. Humanism is a product of Christianity. Cut out Christianity and the foundations for valuing life disappear. And we’re going to wear the cost of that.

We might see a bombing that takes the life of a handful of people – including a child – as tragic, and rightly so. It’s right for that story – that describes how human brokenness can affect something pure and exciting – to be front page news. But somehow the story of a man whose brokenness affected that other pure and exciting human event – childbirth – in bloody, heinous and unimaginably terrible ways – is only worth a mention five weeks into his trial as a result of a sustained outcry.

Somehow we need to be Jesus in situations like this.

Somehow we need to be Jesus to our legislators, and to parents – as Christians were in the pagan Roman empire where child exposure (infanticide) was a daily reality.

Here’s what Tertullian said about infanticide which was part of a Christian led revolution of the practice where Christians would take exposed children and raise them in loving environments – in a way that ultimately led to children being valued.

“But in regard to child murder, as it does not matter whether it is committed for a sacred object, or merely at one’s own self-impulse—although there is a great difference, as we have said, between parricide and homicide—I shall turn to the people generally. How many, think you, of those crowding around and gaping for Christian blood,—how many even of your rulers, notable for their justice to you and for their severe measures against us, may I charge in their own consciences with the sin of putting their offspring to death? As to any difference in the kind of murder, it is certainly the more cruel way to kill by drowning, or by exposure to cold and hunger and dogs. A maturer age has always preferred death by the sword. In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fœtus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth…”

Somehow we need to find creative ways to be Jesus to the mothers faced with the horrible prospect of terminating a life because they see no other way forward.

Somehow we need to be Jesus to those who would profit from the industry this produces.

Somehow we need to be Jesus to those who are legislating on our behalf so that people see that it’s ok to make decisions out of love for other people that come at personal cost. Like Jesus did. Somehow.

Somehow we need to help people rediscover the truth that people are made in God’s image, and of value – so that they might take the step to being remade in the image of Jesus, who after surviving an attempted infanticide when he was born, sacrificed himself for others.

It’s all well and good to pay lip service to living like Jesus – and at the end of the day I feel like I did a pretty good job of doing that on Sunday. Paying lip service to the idea that we should take up our cross and follow Jesus so other people see him in us. It’s easy enough to do it when everybody is up an arms. But what about when the rubber hits the road – what about in the face of tragedies and injustices that people aren’t really interested in knowing about?

I’m not a single issue voter. And I recognise that abortion is a hot-button issue where different worldviews can produce divergent results.

Maybe I feel more strongly about this now that I’m a father, and that I’ve had the experience of watching, via ultrasound, and feeling, via my hands, the development of a baby in the womb. Maybe it’s the experience of watching my daughter’s eyes take in the world around her for the first time… but some recent Australian developments around the issue of terminating pregnancies just makes me sick about the callous nature of modern life.

It makes me despair about the kind of world my daughter will grow up in – where the implications of moving away from a Christian view of human life will start to be truly felt. If we are just a sack of cells, with nothing to distinguish us from the animals, then everything is fair game. There are no checks and balances. No cohesive account of why life is important. Harm based accounts of ethical behaviour are so very arbitrary and will always be decided by the subjective interests of the powerful, or the majority.

As it currently stand there’s such a mish-mash of values being thrown into the moral/ethical/legal pot that something’s got to give. Holding a consistent position beyond valuing all life (or seeing all human life as representing God’s image) just throws multiple spanners into the works. I’ll get to a solution, of sorts, later. Well. I’ll rehash a solution that I’ve posted once before…

Anyway. Here’s a selection of situations in Australia that have prompted my ire.

First, Western Australia is set to join Queensland, in affirming that a wanted fetus is a human.

“Attorney-General Christian Porter is drafting the new laws and will introduce them into State Parliament later this year.

Under present laws, an unborn baby has no legal status and is not recognised by the courts.

But Mr Porter said the new fetal homicide laws would create a new criminal code offence of causing death or grievous bodily harm to an unborn child.

Based on a law already in force in Queensland, it would carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Offenders who kill or intend to kill an unborn baby by assaulting a mother will face mandatory life imprisonment – the same as a murder charge in all but exceptional circumstances.”

But here’s the kicker.

“He said he intended to consult further with the groups about the Government’s reforms in the coming weeks, but confirmed the legislation would not in any way affect the law relating to abortion in WA.

“The proposed legislation will be drafted to require an unlawful act to be done to the mother before any penalty can apply,” Mr Porter said. “This ensures these changes will not affect a mother’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy.”

There would be no limit on when an unborn baby was considered to be a human life.”

Here’s the story.

So that’s clearly a little inconsistent. And elevates wantedness to incredible significance when it comes to personhood. Which is just bizarre.

But there’s a precedent at play here in recent Australian history – there was a massive public outcry, which highlighted this inconsistency, when a Melbourne hospital terminated the wrong twin in a bungled abortion last year. Again – the unwanted twin was disabled, and would most likely have not lived long, or have been a burden, on the parents. So “wantedness” became the factor by which a decision about the personhood of this twin was essentially made.

Now here’s the icing on the cake. For years. Pro-life, or anti-abortion, activists have been employing a potentially fallacious slippery slope argument against allowing any abortion. Suggesting that once you allow abortion, to be consistent, you should allow the termination of a newborn baby. Because drawing the line at birth is arbitrary. It’s becoming increasingly arbitrary as the miracles of modern medicine mean the viability date for fetus outside the womb is an increasingly early thing.

Most reasonable thinkers have cautioned this kind of argument as being logically incoherent. In the absence of actual evidence of a slippery slope, these arguments are basically setting up a straw man position and not engaging with your opponents with respect.

But now. The slippery slope has been pointed to by a couple of Australian academics. Ethicists. Who recognise that it is incredibly inconsistent to draw a line under a person’s personhood at birth. They’ve argued, in an article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics (PDF), that post birth problem children, who represent an unwanted burden for their parents, should also be terminated. Because they are not morally sentient beings, so therefore not people.

After arguing that children with certain pathologies that would limit a normal life, a reason that would normally constitute grounds for abortion, should also be legitimately terminated after birth, these ethicists go on to suggest that though children with conditions like Down Syndrome can be said to be “happy” – they may present an unfair burden on the parents (the idea that life is to be “fair” is based on some questionable presuppositions).

“Nonetheless, to bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care. On these grounds, the fact that a fetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion.

Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.”

This seems like a horrible satire. But it’s published in a legitimate journal.

Lest we be mistaken about what they’re arguing for:

“Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where
abortion would be”

It goes down hill from there…

“Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk. Accordingly, a second terminological specification is that we call such a practice ‘after-birth abortion’ rather than ‘euthanasia’ because the best interest of the one who dies is not necessarily the primary criterion for the choice, contrary to what happens in the case of euthanasia.”

Here’s where they try to draw a line to define personhood.

“Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this
existence represents a loss to her.”

Now. I’m no published ethicist. But having a newborn baby in the house gives me a little bit of perspective on this. My baby, who is two months old, cries when she is hungry. She has done since birth. She stops crying when she is fed. At this point I would argue that her cries are indicative of a desire to keep on living, via being fed. I don’t know how one could establish a definitive sense of loss short of asking the person – which would rule out personhood until a baby is old enough to comprehend his or her existence.

At this point we start to see the problem with a general social shift away from a Christian anthropology. A view that people are special because they are created different to the rest of the animals.

“This means that many nonhuman animals and mentally retarded human individuals are persons, but that all the individuals who are not in the condition of attributing any value to their own existence are not persons. Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life. Indeed, many humans are not considered subjects of a right to life: spare embryos where research on embryo stem cells is permitted, fetuses where abortion is permitted, criminals where capital punishment is legal.”

So you can’t kill a functional monkey. But you can kill a disabled baby. The logic here is so thoroughly inconsistent it is staggering.

In applying the logic to themselves – the authors of this study suggest that potentiality is not a valid consideration. You can’t say “well that baby or fetus would have become like us” – because once the decision is made, it’s a moot point.

“If a potential person, like a fetus and a newborn, does not become an actual person, like you and us, then there is neither an actual nor a future person who can be harmed, which means that there is no harm at all. So, if you ask one of us if we would have been harmed, had our parents decided to kill us when we were fetuses or newborns, our answer is ‘no’, because they would have harmed someone who does not exist (the ‘us’ whom you are asking the question), which means no one. And if no one is harmed, then no harm occurred.”

This is where harm based metaethics fall apart. Who decides and defines harm if not the powerful?

The worst bit, I think, is that they rule out adoption as an option – because adoption may cause future psychological harm to the mother, where the decision to coldly and callously end the life of the child will not. In their logic. This is “potential harm” based on some studies done somewhere. Somehow that is more legitimate than speculating about the effect of terminating a living baby on the mother’s emotional well being.

“Accordingly, healthy and potentially happy people should be given up for adoption if the family cannot raise them up. Why should we kill a healthy newborn when giving it up for adoption would not breach anyone’s right but possibly increase the happiness of people involved (adopters and adoptee)?

Our reply is the following. We have previously discussed the argument from potentiality, showing that it is not strong enough to outweigh the consideration of the interests of actual people. Indeed, however weak the interests of actual people can be, they will always trump the alleged interest of potential people to become actual ones, because this latter interest…

…On this perspective, the interests of the actual people involved matter, and among these interests, we also need to consider the interests of the mother who might suffer psychological distress from giving her child up for adoption. Birthmothers are often reported to experience serious psychological problems due to the inability to elaborate their loss and to cope with their grief.

It is true that grief and sense of loss may accompany both abortion and after-birth abortion as well as adoption, but we cannot assume that for the birthmother the latter is the least traumatic. For example, ‘those who grieve a death must accept the irreversibility of the loss, but natural mothers often dream that their child will return to them. This makes it difficult to accept the reality of the loss because they can never be quite sure whether or not it is irreversible.”

One thing you can be sure of is that terminating the life of a child is irreversible. Another thing you can be sure of is that this article won’t be all that palatable with doctors who have to consider the prospect of ending a viable baby’s life (the Hypocratic Oath would seem to prevent such action). But really – the foundational truth here is that once you move away from viewing all human life as carrying the image of God – which is one of the fundamentally important points of Genesis 1 and 2, ignoring questions of science, you don’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to coherently describing why human life is a good thing, and why it should be protected.

While this will be a minority voice at the table when it comes to setting of policies regarding the rights of a fetus – legislation that is very much on the table particularly in the case of Western Australia… one of the things we, as a church, can and should be doing in Australia is speaking out and saying that we do want these children.

Adoption is a policy solution. Especially if we, as Christians who believe in reconciliation, offer mothers the chance to be involved in their children’s lives – a form of reversible adoption. I think what we should be campaigning for, every time we open our mouths about abortion, is a changing of Australia’s horrendously complex adoption laws. This means being radically prepared to add additional mouths at the table in our family homes. But wow. If infanticide is the alternative – which is a label the authors of this ethics paper tried hard to avoid. Then it is part of the Christian witness to step in and uphold the value of life. Doing that was a driver of change in the Roman Empire – where infanticide was a common practice. Unwanted babies were exposed. Left to die. And the church started collecting them. Caring for them. And challenging the established practice.

Here’s a letter from a travelling father to a mother:

“”Know that I am still in Alexandria…. I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I received payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered (before I come home), if it is a boy keep it, if a girl, discard it.””

Here’s Justin Martyr on the practice of discarding, or exposing, children and the church’s rejection of it (which often took the form of rescuing exposed children lest they end up in lives of prostitution.:

“But as for us, we have been taught that to expose newly-born children is the part of wicked men; and this we have been taught lest we should do any one an injury, and lest we should sin against God, first, because we see that almost all so exposed (not only the girls, but also the males) are brought up to prostitution…

And again [we fear to expose children], lest some of them be not picked up, but die, and we become murderers.”

And perhaps my favourite, Tertullian, responding to claims that Christian rites involved child sacrifice (which they didn’t).

“But in regard to child murder, as it does not matter whether it is committed for a sacred object, or merely at one’s own self-impulse—although there is a great difference, as we have said, between parricide and homicide—I shall turn to the people generally. How many, think you, of those crowding around and gaping for Christian blood,—how many even of your rulers, notable for their justice to you and for their severe measures against us, may I charge in their own consciences with the sin of putting their offspring to death? As to any difference in the kind of murder, it is certainly the more cruel way to kill by drowning, or by exposure to cold and hunger and dogs. A maturer age has always preferred death by the sword. In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fœtus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth…

You first of all expose your children, that they may be taken up by any compassionate passer-by, to whom they are quite unknown; or you give them away, to be adopted by those who will do better to them the part of parents.”

There’s nothing new under the sun. This sort of callous disregard for human life was something best left in the past, and part of the church’s heritage it should be proud of. And embrace. A cursory glance at Wikipedia’s infanticide article demonstrates the pivotal role we played, through embracing unwanted children, in changing the way western society viewed life. We can do it again. And we should.

The other compelling Christian factor in this argument is that the gospel brings a message of wantedness not just to the discarded or “unwanted” child, but to the mother as well. We value people because Jesus valued us. And because God not only implanted his image in humanity, but calls humans to be his people. We’re adopted into his family. We are wanted by God. That’s the essence of a Biblical anthropology, and its a reality which is heightened for the Christian. Which gives us a precedent to follow, and provides a mandate for us to love and seek the unwanted. This, I think, is the most compelling anthropology going round, and it makes sense of life from conception to death. It only really competes with the view put forward by these ethicists – because they’re right. This is the natural outcome of viewing humanity as a fleshy sack of bones and organs. Only these two options have any sense of cohesion.

That is all.

This is a sickening story

“TWO Victorian couples are suing doctors for failing to diagnose Down Syndrome in their unborn babies, denying them the chance to terminate the pregnancies.”

I hope the judge takes one look at this case and throws the couples on the street.

“The girl, 4, who now attends a specialist kindergarten, was born with heart, kidney and thyroid problems, can’t walk, and needs help feeding, her father said.

“Don’t get us wrong: we love our daughter. She’s part of our family, and we treat her like gold,” he said.”

So they’re saying “we love her, but we wish she had never been born.” That’s not love. That’s sick. You know who else wanted to breed disease out of the human gene pool through selective breeding programs…

On Twilight, feminism, and ethics

Back in July Amy gave quite a reasonable point of view on the damage Twilight might do to young girls.

Here’s what she said…

“I am really worried about the worldview this presents to teenage girls (say 13 and 14 year olds). A lot of people in (US) Christian circles are jumping on Twilight as being okay for their kids to read (unlike Harry Potter – but you don’t want to get me started on how shortsighted that is) because they think it supports abstinence (which honestly, it really doesn’t – not having sex because you might kill someone is a lot different to choosing to for moral reasons).”

“Almost as soon as Bella meets Edward, she decides to give up college or any idea of a normal life (including seeing her family), so she can become undead like him. That’s right girls – find the right guy and just get him to look after you. You won’t ever have to think about looking after yourself.”

An opinion writer from the Herald has essentially regurgitated the same point of view.

She celebrates characters from chick literature of the past – like the girls from Little Women and Anne of Green Gables…

For more than a century, Jo March and Anne Shirley have been teaching little girls that there is more to life than hooking up with a rich, handsome bloke. Now, in 2009, we have a heroine who tells them that it’s worth their family, their education and their soul.

But in the same piece presents an interesting ethical dilemma as though it’s a fait accompli…

“They conceive a half-vampire, half-human child. Baby vampires are particularly dangerous, apparently, as they have as little restraint as any baby and have been known to slaughter entire cities when they’re hungry. But with customary thoughtlessness and confused morality, Bella refuses to have an abortion. Her decision puts a lot of people to a lot of trouble.”

Assuming, for a moment, that vampires are real… why is this refusal to have an abortion framed in such black and white terms? It would seem to be more complex than that…

Pro-life not anti-death

One of the big issues I have with the “Christian” input into the abortion debate is that it’s pretty heartless when it comes to understanding the mother to be. I understand the need to fight for the rights of the unborn. I think we’re called to speak for the voiceless. I think we should uphold the value of human life. But most abortion protestors (as a horrible generalisation) are big on “it’s wrong don’t do it” and not so big on what to do if you don’t do it.

It’s a complex issue and worthy of much more than a simple dismissal. Abortion protestors are often (another horrible generalisation) jumping on a moral soapbox that is irrelevant to a non-believer, while offering no solutions whatsoever to the causal issue. Some mothers just don’t feel equipped to have a child, to raise a child and to love a child. I know that not having a child would be a much better option. I know because Bristol Palin says so.

The voice of the “pro-life” movement would be much more compelling if they were “pro-life” not just “anti-death” – which is why I think this Presbyterian Church in America that has come out and offered to take in any unwanted baby and care for them – is taking a great approach to raising the quality of the discourse on the matter. And getting some positive press for doing so… Here’s an excerpt from the sermon.

"I make a promise to you now and I don’t want you to keep this a secret," the pastor pronounced, "the Peachtree Presbyterian Church will care for any newborn baby you bring to this church.
"We will be the family to find a home for that child, and there’s no limit on this. You can tell your friends, you can tell your family, you can tell the whole world …"

WWJS

Some churches just don’t get it. Particularly American churches – or at least in the case of the American churches I’m about to write about…

Just over a week ago a prominent late term abortionist was shot while attending his church. Those who are anti-abortion will no doubt not be grieving this loss as much as others – but most churches have been quick to condemn the killing (or at least to distance themselves from it).

Not these two…

The first, a church in Kentucky, is having an “open carry celebration day” – they want parishioners to bring their guns to church. Here’s what their “pastor” Ken Pagano has to say:

“As a Christian pastor I believe that without a deep-seeded belief in God and firearms that this country would not be here.”

Speaking about those objecting to his planned celebration he said:

“I understand their concerns and I applaud them for their expression because the whole point of this is to promote the First and Second Amendments.”

While he may not have made the link to the shooting directly – the journalist did – a link from the story’s intro takes you to the story about the killing.

Then there are those that have glorified in the killing…

I’m sure this is not the sort of commentary the church should be making about current events… nor the kind of mission Jesus gave us in the great commission.

But I propose, in order to take money out of the hands of these dangerous people, that we launch a range of Christian merchandise in the WWJS line – who/what would Jesus shoot… the money raised can be redirected to appropriate organisations like the Red Cross.

Operator… Get me Sweden

That’s the name of a Darren Hanlon song – and after a bit of news today I feel like picking up the phone and saying just that.

I like Sweden. And I like the Swedish. But this is ridiculous…

“Swedish women will be permitted to abort their children based on the sex of the fetus, according to a ruling by Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare.”

According to this article.

Nasty.

Jensenisms

While I’m holding out against the young evangelical male norm and not signing up as a Driscoll fanboy – I’m unabashedly a fan of Phillip Jensen. His well balanced article on the abortion debate got a run on the SMH website today (thanks to Findo for pointing it out) – and I assume in the printed version. It’s nice to have a fairly moderate Christian voice in the debate.

I linked to this when he put it up on his site a couple of weeks ago – but if you didn’t read it then, read it now.

Here are three paragraphs to whet your appetite…

“Arguments that it is a woman’s right to control her body do not deal, adequately, with the differences between the mother and the foetus. There are two lives for whom the mother is responsible. The question is whether her responsibility for the life of the foetus extends to making the decision of life and death, or whether her self-interest undermines the legitimacy of this decision. Should the state have some say in protecting this life from her?

There is little purpose in demonising those who oppose abortion by claiming they are imposing their morality on others, for the entire legal system is an imposition of morality on others. Rather than an anarchic jungle of society without law, our society imposes a moral system on individuals.

Our society uses a combination of Christian heritage, rational discussion, political democracy and judicial wisdom to guide its choices. On a range of issues, it has chosen to limit individual freedoms. On others, it has allowed the citizens to make their own choices. It is not unreasonable to make life and death issues involving a defenceless victim a matter of moral discussion, political decision and judicial wisdom.”

Foetal position

Ben just sent me a link to this ABC story where Tony Abbott attacked Kevin Rudd for allowing changes to Australia’s aid policy and aid money being used to fund abortions.

The comments thread is telling. These discussions always bring out the rabid atheists who want to accuse Christianity of “holding back society”… I do like it when they put together a coherent argument.

Like this:

“Lets not forget that the bible tells the story of how god drowned every living person except Jonah and his family because he was annoyed with them. So to say the bible condemns murder is a very selective interpretation.”

Sadly comments are closed. So I couldn’t point out that Jonah was the guy eaten by a whale and people were saved at the end of the Jonah story because they repented. Anyway. There’s a lot of stupid Christians in the debate too. But Coloru seems to be a pretty rabid atheist, he says:

“Wakeup! If you cant find god in your own heart and mind then it doesnt exist. The bible isnt going to help.*”

*lack of apostrophes his own.

This again highlights the atheist’s fundamental misunderstanding of the place of the bible in Christian faith. It’s central – not an afterthought. It’s the way we find God. And hands up Christians who can find God in their own heart and mind…

Catch the Fire Ministries have a knack for getting in trouble. The Christian orthodoxy, myself included, were right behind them in their muslim bashing court case. Religious groups must be free to criticise other religious beliefs – provided we afford those other beliefs the same right to criticise us. That’s true freedom of religious expression.

Perhaps in a most appalling case of nominal determinism “Catch the Fire Ministries” have inflamed the Victorian bush fire situation with the most ideologically inappropriate piece of third party commentary ever released. From the SMH. And here’s their own media release.

“The Catch the Fire Ministries has tried to blame the bushfires disaster on laws decriminalising abortion in Victoria.”

But that’s just editorial from a left of centre anti Christian rag you argue. No. That’s pretty much the sentiment of what Pastor Danny Nalliah had to say.

“Pastor Danny Nalliah, claimed he had a dream about raging fires on October 21 last year and that he woke with “a flash from the Spirit of God: that His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb”.”

I’ve mentioned before that I’m anti-abortion. I think God is anti-abortion too. But I don’t think the fires are his judgment on the state for its abortion stance. I think that judgment will come later.

I think the fires are an example of the pain and suffering we’re told we’ll all experience in a world frustrated by sin. Biblically we should expect natural disasters. We certainly shouldn’t run around ascribing God’s judgment to situations like this where everybody, Christian and non-Christian, has been hit.

Here’s some more from Mr Nalliah:

“Asked by the Herald if he did not believe most Australians would regard his remarks as being in appallingly bad taste, he said today: “I must tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.”

He said it was no use “molly-coddling” Australians.

Asked if he believed in a God who would take vengeance by killing so many people indiscriminately – even those who opposed abortion, Mr Nalliah referred to 2 Chronicles 7:14 to vouch for his assertion that God could withdraw his protection from a nation.

“The Bible is very clear,” he said. “If you walk out of God’s protection and turn your back on Him, you are an open target for the devil to destroy.”

In the New King James version of the Bible, 2 Chronicles 7:14 states that: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

He quoted a headline describing the fires as “The Darkest hour for Victoria”. “A few months ago the news media should have reported `the darkest hour for the unborn’, but unfortunately the `Decriminalisation of Abortion bill’ went through parliament and was passed, thus making many people call Victoria `the baby killing state of Australia,’ ” Mr Nalliah said.

Pastor Nalliah said there may be criticism. But he said he did not send out his media statement thoughtlessly. “We spend two days working on it.”

He had previously said drought and the world financial crisis could be partly blamed on human sin.”

I’m sorry Danny Nalliah, you’ve lost my vote. This is terrible PR and it’s terrible theology. It’s just bad. The Herald does mention that Nalliah is putting a large whack of resources in to fighting the fires and helping those affected. And lest you think my problem is purely that it’s bad PR and he should be out there calling a spade a spade and a bushfire the “judgment of God”… here’s what Jesus had to say about natural disasters and loss of life (in Luke 13:1-5)

“1Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Death hits us all. We all need to be ready. But those who are hit by disaster are no more deserving of it than the rest of us. Nalliah is making a leap of logic that Jesus himself rejected. Funnily enough, just before this bit, in Luke 12, Jesus has a dig at people who use the obvious situations around them to justify particular arguments or beliefs, like say picking an economic crisis or fires to say something profound about God’s judgment…

54He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

K-Ruddy handout

For those who missed the news today – K-Rudd is giving something back to the workers of Australia. $950 a pop. The comrades in arms who have contributed to our time of economic prosperity. No doubt we’ll also be told to spend this cash to help stimulate the economy.

So now the question is “what to buy” – I wouldn’t mind spending it all on crappy USB products from Hong Kong… but can I suggest that if you want to make a positive contribution to reducing the abortion rate in Australia that you check out Free Money for New Lives a support service for mums who would otherwise have abortions.

The campaign was put together by a bunch of bible college students in Sydney and is a nice way for Christians to do something about the issue rather than picketing clinics where women are making pretty intense emotional decisions and are often close to psychological breaking point.

The group splits contributions between a couple of organisations. One aims to financially help mothers who want to keep their babies but are worried about the cost, and the other is a think tank – the Womens Forum Australia – that:

“works across the usual political and religious divides, to advocate for life affirming, pro-woman alternatives to abortion which would enhance women’s freedom to have their babies.”

In the end probably a much better cause than spending your money at “Brando” – which is a USB gadget seller based in Hong Kong. Spending your money off shore isn’t going to stimulate the economy at all anyway, so K-Rudd wouldn’t endorse that.

Black spot on clean feed

I’ve said it once. And I’ll say it again. The clean feed is bad for anyone who believes in freedom of speech. I think it’s especially important for Christians – who are one of the driving forces behind the clean feed concept – to know what it is they’re supporting in the case of this policy.

The government’s internet watchdog – ACMA (the Australian Communications and Media Authority) can blacklist whatever they want. It doesn’t have to be “objectionable” content (read child abuse material) – unless the government definition of “child” now extends to an unborn fetus – which would have grand implications for the abortion debate. You see an abortion protest site has just been added to the blacklist – as reported by Crikey. 

This content is hosted outside Australia, outside ACMA’s jurisdiction, so they can’t demand it be taken down or guarded by an age-verification mechanism. They can only add it to the blacklist — and under Conroy’s plan, everything on the blacklist is blocked, secretly, for all Australians. No choice.

“The Government does not view this debate as an argument about freedom of speech,” says Senator Conroy.”

No, of course not. As the government has pointed out, it’s about preventing the exploitation of children. A noble cause. It’s when the government refuses to allow criticism on the policy on the basis that anyone objecting is tacitly approving of the child abuse that the discussion breaks down.

“”Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there has never been any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content.” Conroy said here

Well yes there has Senator – that’s been the grounds of all the rational objections to your stupid, and technologically flawed, legislation (well that and the fact that it’s unlikely to work and it’s just going to punish everyday users of the Internet… ). 

The abortion site is pretty nasty. While I agree that abortion is one of the great moral debates of our time, I wouldn’t recommend going there. I did. It wasn’t pretty. But that’s not the point. Once “objectionable” includes “things we disagree with” the Liberal Party better make sure their policies are consistent with Labor’s, or they’ll be banned.

Magical Mystery Cure

Another shared item from Dan. This story from the SMH.

AUSTRALIA urgently needs a national screening policy for Down syndrome, experts say, after international research showed it could halve the number of babies born with the incurable genetic condition.

So how does testing produce such amazing results?

Access to the four tests that help detect if a foetus has Down syndrome varies widely between states, urban and rural areas, and public and private patients, leading to stark differences in birth and termination rates.

Amazing. The miracles of modern technology.

Happy Budget Day

I hope you all had great fun watching the Federal Budget last night. Didn’t Peter Costello look dapper in his Sunday (or Tuesday) best – he was wearing a particularly spiffy stripey tie. He’s way too trendy to be a real Prime Ministerial candidate. I think Tony Abbott with his unfashionable satellite dish ears, and slightly elf like chin, is a much more realistic candidate. If you throw the “here’s my adopted-out non-son” nonsense into the mix he’s got the whole public sympathy thing happening too. Clearly that’s how John Howard got elected. Everyone felt sorry for the little man. I had a budget party by myself last night. How sad is that. I also installed a new hard drive in my computer and almost killed it. So I’m a nerd and a geek.

Today’s theory is that economists are the strangest people in the world – I base this theory on my two economist friends – Ben and Joe. Some of you will know both Ben and Joe, others will know one or the other, some of you will know neither. Suffice to say (that’s a grammatically incorrect figure of speech if ever I’ve seen one – there really should be an it’s before the Suffice, but that’s not how it works*)- they’re both weird. Anyway, I got a post budget email from Ben asking me what my opinion is on the government’s subsidy of childcare places – he’s not sure non-parents should be carrying the can for those who choose to reproduce. Here’s my response – copied directly from the email:

“On childcare – the reality is children are the future of our country, and a valuable resource that should be invested in. I think there are two ways to look at it – the government could provide financial assistance for parents who choose to stay at home and look after their children (meaning that childcare wouldn’t need to be such an issue) – essentially they do this with family allowance – but it could be a greater counter childcare incentive.
On the socio-economic side of things – it stands to reason that genetically some people will have more intelligent children than others – it worries me that “smart” people are increasingly choosing not to breed – and dumb people aren’t caring for and nurturing their children like smart people would – I think this will be a problem. On an interesting side note – there’s an economist who has tied decreasing crime stats in the US with the introduction of abortion – he’s that popular economist guy who writes those books. ”

Ben’s response used an analogy of a soccer coach who only invests in youth being narrow minded and not particularly likely to experience short term success.

Here’s my counter response:

“There’s no point spending lots of money on encouraging today’s generation to make as much money as possible if they’re going to die out – except that they’ll leave no heirs and the government will get the money. That’s an interesting form of investment – but the people the money will benefit in the long term will be children from broken homes, who have been educated through a crappy state system because they can’t afford private education and who have parents who haven’t been able to bring them up properly because they’re working to be able to buy their plasma screen TVs and luxury items.

By the same token – the parents with good jobs who work to put their kids through child care and pay for their plasma televisions will decide that economically it makes more sense not to have kids to begin with so they can buy bigger TVs and both work to make their lives more comfortable.

Inherent human selfishness will be the death of our society – the more self sufficient individuals society creates the smaller society becomes – those individuals become their own society and then die off. It’s a poor economic model – which is why children are our future – and it’s why Costello called for people to take one for the team and breed.

A good coach finds the right mixture of youth and experience (Chelsea – Robben and co, Crespo) a bad coach buys a bunch of guys who are in, or passing their prime (Real Madrid – Zidane, Figo etc) or invests only in youth and loses all their experience (I’d put Ferguson in that category at the moment, releasing experience in Beckham, Keane, et al and bringing in Christiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney).”

That’s the sort of thing I talk about with my strange friends. It’s pseudo-intellectual I guess, and very self serving (some rude people might say it’s a load of wank – but I’m not rude).

Now that I earn an income I say yay for tax cuts… and I’ll leave you with this asterixed point to check out.

*Sidenote on the English language – Micallef does this sketch as an arts critic filling in for a sports journo in a post match interview with a footballer who says “it all goes well for the finals” when of course the sports star should have said “it augers well” or “all bodes well” – his point was remade by the SMH a couple of weeks ago in an article highlighting the highjacking of language by our culture of stupidity. Read it here.