Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Response to DanielR - major political issues

I've been in conversation with DanielR at the Daily Episcopalian regarding the different perspectives of liberal and conservative Christians on major political issues. For some reason I've been unable to post my latest response to him on that site, so I'm putting it up here for him to see if he's interested:

Daniel, I'm impressed. I was thinking that there wasn't much more we were going to be able to say to each other, but you substantially altered the tone of the discussion and now there's lots of room to keep talking.

I think that a large part of our disagreement stems from different perspectives on the unborn child and what is done when a woman has an abortion. You say abortion is a tragedy. How big a tragedy is it? What would you honestly compare it to, and what would you say is the magnitude of the loss resulting from having an abortion? When we have clearly answered this question, it will be easier to say what Jesus would do when presented with the option of having a young girl have an abortion.

Regarding your concern for the woman who's been raped, it is also worth looking at the side of the child conceived by the rape. Here's a story of one at least who's glad she wasn't aborted: http://www.righttoliferoch.org/nforgotten.htm, and here's the organization she founded: http://www.stigmatized.org/information.htm

You say that you are not for unlimited unrestricted on-demand abortion, but that is in fact what the courts have required since Roe v. Wade. Would you be willing to see the Supreme Court rescinded Roe v. Wade and turn the responsibility for this decision back to the states? This would allow those states where public opinion runs strongly against abortion to pass laws like those of South Dakota, while permitting those states which support the current status quo to pass laws allowing minors to have abortions without their parents' knowledge or consent. As you've noted, this may not completely please the absolutists, but they would certainly be happier than they are now and they'd be free if they wished to continue the battle for the hearts and minds of individuals at the state level.

Your concern about children being unwanted or unloved has long been a standard argument for abortion, but there is no evidence that the children born since Roe v. Wade have felt more wanted or loved than they did before. If anything the trend appears to be in the opposite direction, with the evidence being that children are valued less than they were before. In some places, families with more than three children are now called "breeders" and are the objects of either pity or scorn. Under such circumstances we will certainly find it more difficult both to encourage women to keep children they would otherwise have aborted or to find people who are willing to adopt the children women cannot raise on their own. This is another reason why decisions on what laws to pass regarding abortion should be left to the states rather than enforced nationally. Those states whose people place a higher value on children will be the more likely to restrict abortion, but will also have a better environment into which children can be adopted.

Regarding evolution, I would teach something like the following: "The generally accepted view among scientists today is that life arose as a result of the random combination of non-living materials and that living creatures evolved to their current level of diversity by a process of natural selection from variations caused by the random mutation of the genes of previously existing creatures. While there is no doubt that the process of evolution caused by random mutation and natural selection (RM&NS) can cause variations among organisms, some scientists are not convinced that life could have spontaneously originated from non-living materials or that it could have acquired its more complex characteristics through RM&NS alone. Some who have expressed this doubt have suggested that it is only through the intervention of some kind of intelligence that life with the kind of complexity that we now see could have come into existence." Unfortunately, efforts to include statements like this in state curricula have so far been struck down as violations of the separation of church and state.

Regarding care for the poor, my wife and I support a small denominationally based organization located in downtown Los Angeles called "Hope Again" that does case management and counselling for people who want to get off the street and learn to take care of themselves. For a fraction of the cost of welfare, they have helped thousands of people get homes, get jobs and get their lives together again. Federal support of such organizations would doubtless be ruled a violation of the separation of church and state (and they might not want it anyhow if it meant the intrusion of federal supervision and regulation), but if I had my choice, I'd rather put my money into organizations like these than into federal programs any day. If the churches mobilize to form more organizations like these, I suspect we could do a lot more to combat systemic poverty than any number of federal programs could.

Laws like the South Dakota law against doctors performing abortions are not an intrusion into "our bedrooms and private lives," they are simply a restatement of the Hippocratic Oath (not, by the way, either a Christian or a Republican document), by which doctors have sworn for over 2000 years that they would "not give to a woman an abortive remedy" (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/doctors/oath_classical.html). You can do what you want in your bedroom in South Dakota, but if you don't like the results, you can't go to a doctor to "fix it."

The reason pro-life people can oppose abortion and support the death penalty at the same time is that we can tell the difference between innocent and guilty life. The unborn child is innocent of any crime, some people are guilty of crimes that are severe enough to warrant their being put to death. To say that someone could torture and murder a dozen people and not deserve the death penalty is to be guilty of an irreverance towards the lives of the victims.