Cultural Clashes: Abortion

When one begins to survey those topics which polarize the public forum, there are few that have remained as charged as abortion. Likewise, I don’t think there is such a widely debated issue that is not fully understood by those on either side of the fence. Because neither side understands all of the intricacies involved, it quickly becomes oversimplified and the impact it has upon all those involved is understated. This, in my opinion, is where the greatest injustice has been done in regard to abortion. Abortion is a very complex topic. It involves mothers, fathers, children, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc. Furthermore, it involves many complexities. Some of these are because options such as adoption are available. It also concerns the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the mother and father and those deeply connected and involved with the mother and father.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to address every subtlety due to the vast nature of this issue. Neither is it my goal in this post to argue for a specific position as being more right/wrong. I simply want to bring some awareness to the profound nature of this subject and spark some discussion that will lead to both sides better understanding one another. This is in the hope that we might be able to reach some common ground and quit treating those personally facing this in their life as though they are objective subject matter available to use as ammunition in the continued war which we have created.

How do pro-lifers oversimplify and understate?
This side of the fence is often characterized as the religious, right-wingers who protest and picket in front of abortion clinics. It is certainly true that a great many of those who hold to this position do so for religious reasons. Because this is the foundation for their view, they often make the mistake of painting this as simply a matter of “the sanctity of life.” The war cry was quickly stereo-typed as “abortion is murder.” When pressed about possible instances where abortion would be acceptable, the standard canned response seems to be, “There is never a time where it is ok to take a life—period.” This is a huge oversimplification when considering possible reasons for abortion.

When a woman is raped and then is impregnated by her attacker, it takes a callow individual to tell her she has no option but to carry the child to term and love the child with everything she has. A woman in this instance has gone through something which is emotionally traumatic on a level that those who have not experienced cannot fathom. Hear me out, I am not saying that this is a green-light instance for a woman to get an abortion, but I think those in the pro-life camp are displaying a callous heart when we don’t even consider the woman’s emotional state in a situation like this. Would it not be better to help her deal with the emotional trauma from which she is suffering? Doing so would bring more positive results (adoption?) as well as help her heal. All too often, what seems to be the prevailing story in this situation is those in the pro-life position simply state that she would be murdering this child and sinning if she has an abortion. Now some of you in the pro-life position are getting angry with me as you read this, but stop and take a breath for a moment. I write this because I used to be one of those who would have told her those very things. I would’ve heralded “abortion is not an option under any circumstance.”

I have since softened my approach. I still do not agree that abortion is okay, but I have been able to gain some understanding into the pro-choice position. For example, there are very rare instances where carrying a child to term would place the mothers life at risk. One of those instances is a condition known as a tubal or ectopic pregnancy.” This is where the fertilized egg becomes lodged in the fallopian tube. If left untreated, the embryo will continue to grow and eventually rupture the tube. When this occurs the woman is in serious danger of dying from the hemorrhage. Another condition which would place both the mother and the child at risk is preeclampsia. When a couple is faced with this, it is a hellacious decision. One that I know (as a parent) is not easily made. Why do I say this? Because it is a decision that results in the ending of a life. Either they decide to follow thru on the oversimplified pro-life position and not have an abortion and the mother dies (and possibly the child as well) or they end the child’s life saving the mother’s life. It is a no win situation for those parents and the public sector seems to forget this fact.

However, I also realize that not every person who could be categorized as pro-life hold to the extreme which has been painted. It still remains, however, that the vast majority of the pro-life camp does not give any consideration beyond that of preserving the life of the unborn. We must begin to move beyond seeing that as the only thing at stake here—it is much deeper than just the unborn child; it involves real people, facing real decisions, which affect more than just the unborn.

How do pro-choicers oversimplify and understate?
The biggest way in which those advocating this position have oversimplified the issue is by deeming it simply as a “woman’s choice.” This statement is naïve at best because it is not just the woman involved. There is, at least in the beginning, a man involved as well. It is ridiculous to me that when a child is born the father has rights to the child and the major decision which affect that child’s life, but when the child is in the womb a woman can abort the child even if the father wanted to keep the child. An even greater hypocrisy lies beneath the surface of the “woman’s choice” statement—partly because what is hailed as giving much support to the woman’s choice position is contained in two concurrent decrees from the Supreme Court. In the first of two decisions, Roe v. Wade determined that the fetus is not person and, therefore, not entitled to constitutional rights. This decision also determined that States cannot regulate an abortion during the first trimester for any reason, but could regulate the second trimester to protect the health of the mother and during the third trimester states could regulate/prohibit abortions to promote its interest in the potential life of the fetus (save threatening the health or life of the mother). The second decision by the Supreme Court in Doe v. Bolton outlined what constituted the “mother’s health”. It defined health as "all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age – relevant to the well-being of the patient." This expanded the “right to abortion” for almost any reason.

Consider this. A pregnant mother in her third trimester, one week away from her due date can go and receive an abortion because the fetus is not considered a person as defined in the above Supreme Court decision. However, if she were to wait one week and give birth to the child, she could no longer terminate that life because it is now considered a person. Does one week make that drastic of a difference in the development of the fetus? Of course not, that child could be born a week early and be completely healthy and survive outside of the mother. Here is the oversimplification. It is difficult by any means to try and define the point at which the developing embryo should be considered a person. My opinion is that the Supreme Court did not wish to delve deeply into the matter as they are supposed to interpret the law and not get into ethical considerations; so they simply took the plainest definition of personhood available to them—at birth. That, after all, is when we receive a certificate of live birth and are eligible for rights as citizens.

Even though we have made great advancements in the medical field, we are still learning a lot about the entire process of pregnancy. This is a difficult point, but one which is of extreme importance. We must begin open, honest discussions about when personhood begins. Why is that so important you might ask? Because history bears out that in order to oppress a group or mistreat them in any way, you must first deny them personhood. The slaves in America were not considered to be persons, but property. Native Americans were not considered persons, but savages. The Jews during World War II were denied personhood, leading to their horrific mistreatment. So the matter of personhood concerning the unborn is one to which we must give complete diligence because the unborn cannot plead their case. Before we can begin to move this discussion forward, however, we must remove all of the appeals to emotion, the politically charged language, and our own personal biases from the arena and begin to look at the issue honestly. Only then will we as a society be giving a fair handshake to the unborn. Always remember, you were a fetus at one time as well. Would you have wanted someone to plead your case openly, honestly, and fairly?

Likewise, those in this camp have understated the serious nature of the abortion procedure chalking it up to a routine medical procedure. As anyone who has undergone surgery knows, any invasive medical procedure brings risks with it regardless of how small the procedure. Abortion is no different. In fact, abortion is very invasive and traumatic on a woman’s reproductive organs. If you do not know what is involved in the abortion process during the three different trimesters, please take a look at this video. The video is produced by an OB/GYN to tactfully demonstrate what is truly involved in an abortion. This is also why the Supreme Court made the following statement:
“The State has a legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient. This interest obviously extends at least to the performing physician and his staff, to the facilities involved, to the availability of after-care, and to adequate provision for any complication or emergency that might arise. The prevalence of high mortality rates at illegal "abortion mills" strengthens, rather than weakens, the State's interest in regulating the conditions under which abortions are performed.”

Both sides of the camp are guilty of making grievous errors when addressing abortion. I’m not claiming that I have the answer, but I am willing to talk about the issue with an open mind and to think through the issues surrounding it logically and reasonably. That is my hope for you after reading this—that you would be willing to modify your opinion as you learn more about abortion from engaging others in productive discussions.
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1+1+1=1 The Trinity, Part 2

In my previous post I outlined the trinity in as basic and succinct fashion as possible. At the end of that post, however, I explained that I would tackle the big question—why is the trinity such a big deal? When one looks at the history of the Christian church, this is one of the subjects which have caused considerable debate and division among the ranks of Christendom. So why is everyone so vehement about their position concerning the trinity? It is important for a couple of reasons.

It is how God revealed himself
This may seem to be an understatement at first glance. This couldn’t be further from the truth though. It strikes at the very core of who God is—his very being. God is the creator of all things and made us with a purpose. He made us to be in relationship to him. So understanding God is not unimportant. When getting to know another person, it would be rather offensive to them for us to say, “Oh, I don’t need to know whether you are white, blue-eyed, or male.” These are all facts of who that person is—their very being. God has revealed his very nature to humanity and the picture with which one draws is important to how they will interact with him.

It serves as an example to us
There is a perfect love that exists between the members of the trinity, which is the example of how our relationships should be characterized between one another. Jesus speaks to this very point in John 15:9—“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” Several other Scriptures address this as well. 1 John 4:21 reads, “And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” Similarly, John 17:22-23explains that we are to be exhibiting the unity and love that exists among the Father, the Son, and (implicit in the passage) the Spirit—“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

What if any of these points are neglected or denied?
While some would attempt to state their agreement with one or two points, one cannot be a quasi-trinitarian. It is a doctrine where one must agree with all three points or else they come away with a greatly distorted image. For example, if someone denies the first point (there is one God), then they become polytheistic, pluralistic, or the like. It would be denying one of the foundational tenants of Christianity. It would be leaving the realm of monotheism and entering another.

The second point also must be maintained. When this is denied, it puts got in an awkward position as it then forces him to take on different “roles.” There are clearly three main characters when speaking to God in the Scriptures. When one denies that God is three persons, it follows that there is one person fulfilling three different roles. Does this mean that God left the throne room unattended while in the physical person of Jesus Christ? Was he performing one big magic trick at the baptism of Christ in order to make us think there is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? Lastly, what would God truly gain in having three different roles to fulfill? It seems that this only serves to complicate things. Would it not be easier for God to simply be God? Trying to balance three different “hats” unquestionably muddles up the picture God is trying to paint of himself to humanity. I imagine it would be like trying to have a relationship with someone who has a multiple personality disorder; you would constantly have to ask yourself with which personality you are currently relating before being able to proceed forward.

When denying the third point, it leads to having a hierarchy and essentially denies deity to one or members of the trinity. What do I mean by that? Viewing the members of the trinity as not being equal in deity inevitably leads to one member of the trinity being exalted over another. This is actually all too common among Christians. While they do not overtly or explicitly promote this position, they inadvertently advocate it by their actions. For example, the salvific work of Christ on the cross is certainly an important part of our daily life as Christians. However, this usually leads us to making all of our prayers about him, to him, and through him even though Romans 8:26 makes it clear that it is the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us and makes our prayers effective (especially when we are spiritually week). Likewise, there are groups who focus on being “led by the Spirit” and end up neglecting the very work which the Holy Spirit helped produce to guide men—it’s called the Bible.

All three points regarding the doctrine of the trinity are essential to the complete understanding of God and how we relate to him in our faith, both daily and for eternity. While I hope that I have been able to bring some clarity about this doctrine, I also want to remind you that it is a subject which is beyond our complete comprehension. So even after reading this post and even if you began an exhaustive theological study concerning this doctrine, you will always find yourself coming away confused and not concrete in your understanding.
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