Wife Amy and I are called “baby killers” on Facebook and other social media sites because we are pro-choice. We support a woman’s legal right to seek an abortion within the law. Many of those same angry folks call me an “atheist” because I do not belong to any denomination of any church.
I stopped attending the church of my youth when its leaders voted to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church when it declared it had moved “away from God” by supporting, among other things, gay marriage. I also had difficulty understanding the outright opposition to abortion since both it and gay marriage are legal in our nation.
“Some of us are calling it liberation day,” said the Rev. William Blake Spencer, pastor of Ocean Heights Presbyterian Church in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., who is gay and voted with his presbytery to welcome and marry gay couples. “It will be the last L.G.B.T.Q. issue that we debate and fight about, and finally our welcome comes without a ‘but’ or an ‘if.’”
Sadly, too many “ifs” still exist. I hear too many self-proclaimed evangelicals claim “Christianity is the only true religion” while many other religions grow and thrive without a belief in a “son of God.” Jews do not accept Christ as a true product of Divine passion.
The Congress of the United States includes Jews, Muslims, and other faiths. While our government is dominated by protestant Christianity, they represent what is now a minority in a changing world.
“Both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share,” says Pew Research, which routinely tracks religion in America and worldwide. “Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009.”
Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious “nones” – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.
Yet Christianity and the protestant Christian Bible are used as a foundation of support for abortion in a Congress and leadership dominated by what is now the minority religion in a changing America.
I have a problem with the strong anti-abortion messages I hear from too many podiums of churches, claiming God spoke out about abortion in the Bible, and also claim that the Bible says life “begins at conception.”
“I can’t take you to text that says, ‘Don’t commit abortion,’ ” says Michael J. Gorman, a professor of New Testament and early church history and dean of the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, located in Baltimore. “It just doesn’t exist.”
Anti-abortion groups often cite “Deuteronomy 30:19” as their justification for a Divine opposition. It reads:
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.
Yet some evangelicals admit, grudgingly, that the verse has nothing to do with abortion. It is an exhortation to Israelites, who fled Egypt and are wandering in the desert, to obey God’s word, the way to true life, says evangelical scholar John Goldingay, a professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Los Angeles.
“It’s saying to Israel, choosing life means choosing the way of life, choosing to obey God’s word, which has been revealed over the last 30 chapters,” Goldingay said in an interview with the New York Times.
“We’re always trying to work out legal implications from them, as if they were a legal kind of text, like interpreting a constitutional document,” Goldingay said. “The problem is that wasn’t what they were designed to do.”
In the article where Goldingay was quoted, the headline reads: On Abortion, It’s the Bible of Ambiguity.
The article concludes:
Interpreting the Bible, as difficult as it is, becomes only more so, when theologians are asked how abortion should be legislated, if it should be legislated at all.
Some scholars spoke in absolutes, others cited exceptions. Still others waxed eloquent about the need to turn society away from its individualistic ethos and the need to pay equal attention to other biblical priorities.
In the end, as it turns out, it is a complicated business, bringing a complicated Bible into a complicated world.
Perhaps it is best to abort this whole debate and move on to other more pressing issues that face this nation and the world, thinks like COVID-19, climate needs, worldwide poverty, hunger, and wars that kill without resolution.