This is the seventy-sixth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip from an anti-abortion video by Garrett Kell, pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church, Alexandria, Virginia. Del Ray is a Calvinistic Southern Baptist congregation.
Kell sees Jesus as the answer to abortion. And for those who have gone through an abortion and are hurting? Still Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, a word that is as meaningless as Evangelicals saying, I’ll pray for you. Hemant Mehta got it right when he said, in response to Kell’s video:
Women who had or are about to have abortions don’t need a lecture on what’s best for them. Just because he’s unhappy about being party to an abortion doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same way. They need access to a clinic where they can obtain a safe procedure without unnecessary obstacles. That’s what the Supreme Court said about Texas’ horrible law, and that’s what Kell can’t bring himself to say because he seems to think abortions ruin the lives of every woman who obtains them.
What would I say to women who have had an abortion?
“Do you need anything? Support? Help? Assistance? Someone to talk to Kell so he’ll be distracted from lecturing you? Let me know. I’m here for you
Dr. Patrick Johnston is an Ohio family practice physician, founder of the Association of Pro-life Physicians, and the director of Personhood Ohio. (link no longer active) He and his wife have nine children, all of whom are homeschooled. Several years ago, Johnston wrote a rebuttal to a post that I published about my views on abortion and personhood laws. Johnston believes there are no justifiable reasons for women to have abortions. Rape? Nope. Incest? Nope. Life of the mother? Nope or maybe. Severe physical malformation? Nope. Ectopic(tubal) pregnancy? Nope Huh? That’s right, Johnston does not think women should have access to abortion services if they have an ectopic pregnancy. In a December 2015 Personhood Ohio article, Johnston stated: (link no longer active)
Many sincere advocates of life fall prey to the argument that abortion is occasionally necessary to save the life of the mother. An example of an ectopic pregnancy is often given. However, a cursory investigation of the evidence reveals that many babies have survived ectopic pregnancies. There are life-saving alternatives to treat the mother and her ectopically-implanted baby. Successful transplantation of the embryo from the Fallopian tube to the uterus has been reported in the medical literature as far back as 1917. We do not have to kill these babies to save the mother. Their cases is not hopeless.
Johnston also wrote an article for his blog titled Saving Ectopically Implanted Boys and Girls. You can read it here.(link no longer active)
Johnston and Personhood Ohio have tried for several years to amend Ohio’s Constitution. If successful, Article 1, Section 16 will be amended to say: (link no longer active)
(A) The words “person” in Article 1, Section 16, and “men” in Article 1, Section 1, apply to every human being at every stage of the biological development of that human being or human organism, including fertilization.
(B) Nothing in this Section shall affect genuine contraception that acts solely by preventing the creation of a new human being; or human “eggs” or oocytes prior to the beginning of the life of a new human being; or reproductive technology or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedures that respect the right to life of newly created human beings.
So far, right-thinking citizens and politicians have kept the amendment initiative from being enacted. (For an in-depth look at how Johnston views government, please see the slides for his seminar titled How Christians Should Resist Tyranny.) If you want to plumb the depths of Johnston’s right-wing, Fundamentalist extremism, I encourage you to read his blog. (link no longer active)
In an undated article titled Curing the Miseries of the Mind: Anxiety and Depression, (link no longer active) Johnston and his wife Elizabeth offer up advice to those who suffering from mental problems. According to the Johnstons, the cure for depression and anxiety is found in the Bible:
If you are suffering from severe depression or anxiety, I want to let you know that there is light at the end of your dark tunnel – and it’s not found in a pill! The God who created you loves you, and does not want you to be miserable. I believe that God’s Word – the Holy Bible – holds the key that, if not cures, greatly alleviates psychological symptoms.
Ah yes, the time-tested Fundamentalist maxim: the B-i-b-l-e is the cure for everything. Johnston admits that he does “prescribe a lot of medication for anxiety and depression because they help alleviate symptoms,” but he wants people to know that many physical and mental ailments have “spiritual roots.” The Johnstons list seven reasons people suffer with anxiety and depression:
Genetic and social influences (Yea! Dr. Johnston makes an appeal to science.)
So that the sufferers faith will be strengthened
Punishment for sin
The Johnstons then gives their Jesus-infused prescription for overcoming depression. Are you ready to be delivered, fellow depressives? All right, let’s all get h-a-p-p-y! The Johnstons believe that the following tips will help people “overcome the daily onslaught of anxiety and depression”:
Write out encouraging Bible verses, quotes, or thoughts, and tape them up at your house or work, or carry them in your purse or wallet. Refer to them and memorize them whenever you are struggling with unhealthy thoughts.
Turn on uplifting Christian music. Sing and meditate on the principles of God’s Word. Praise and worship the Lord. Try dancing to praise music! By all means, turn OFF any music or television that saddens you or causes you to focus on your troubles.
Make a list of ten things to think about when you are tempted to think things you shouldn’t. Make your list very practical. For instance: “What will I buy at the store?”, “Where will we go on our next vacation?”, “What will I say to my friend/neighbor/family member next time we speak?”, etc. Always have this list on hand to refer to when tempted to be anxious, depressed, or angry.
Occupy yourself with a big project or many projects that direct your mind off of yourself and onto others. There is no end to the number of nursing home residents, hospitalized patients, struggling families, volunteer organizations, and ministries who need a letter or a helping hand. Do not sit around and wait for your problems to disappear. Busy yourself with projects and invest your time in caring for others.
Always fight the tendency to pity yourself. You will find one hundred reasons to believe that self-pity will make you feel better but it never solves anything. When tempted to pity yourself, think of others you know who are in much worse circumstances (i.e. the paralyzed teenager, the young husband who just lost his wife, Christians who are persecuted for their faith in China, Cuba, or Indonesia, etc.). Make a list of such people and remind yourself of how blessed you are. Stop and take a moment to pray for those who are less fortunate than yourself.
Journal!! Write out your thoughts, regardless of how troubling or embarrassing they may be. Often, when you see on paper what is going on in your head, you will be surprised by how manageable your problem is through changing your way of thinking!
A few good Scriptures on topics of importance are listed below for your edification. Suffering: 1 Pet. 4:12-16, Rom. 8:17-18, 2 Cor. 4:17, James 1:2-4 Forgiveness/Mercy: Matt. 6:14-15, Matt. 18:21-22, Heb. 8:12, Prov. 11:19, James 5:9 Thankfulness: Phil. 4:11, Heb. 13:5, Rom. 1:21 Fear/Worry/Doubt: Matt. 6:25-34, Phil. 4:6-7, 2 Tim. 1:7, I Cor. 10:13
Certainly some of the advice offered by the Johnstons can often help alleviate the effects (not the case) of anxiety and depression. However, make no mistake about it, the Johnstons believe that the Christian God and the Bible is the CURE for those suffering from mental difficulties. I suspect that Dr.Johnston tells depressives who are not Christians that Jesus can and will cure what ails them. For those who are Christians, Johnston tells them to put mind over matter and remember that there are always people worse off than you. Trust Jesus and all will be well.
If Johnston is prescribing God and the Bible as a cure for anxiety and depression then he is committing medical malpractice. His patients should expect treatment by a doctor thoroughly grounded in the scientific method. Using the tips mentioned above to “cure” depression might work for a time, but true healing comes through counseling, behavior, modification, and, if warranted, psychotropic drugs. As someone who has suffered with depression for most of my adult life — both as a Christian pastor and as an atheist — I know that the sort of Christian voodoo offered by Johnston does not cure depression. If Johnston objects to what I have said here, he is free to present empirical data that suggests otherwise. Until then, Dr. Johnston’s tips for curing anxiety and depression should be viewed in the same light as the chants and gimmickry of witch doctors.
Totally unrelated to the subject of this post, while perusing Johnston’s blog I came across a post he wrote titled Proofs for the Existence of God — Even Atheists Presuppose God’s Existence (*sigh*).(link no longer active) If you have a few minutes to waste and need a hearty laugh, please read Johnston’s post. He concludes the post with this:
In response to this tract, many-an-atheist will doubtlessly conjure up another logical argument to refute mine. A very logical argument indeed. And what will be assumed in their counter-argument? The firm foundation of logic. What is assumed in this assumption? The Christian God, without which logic cannot be universal and unchanging, and the free will of man to reject or accept your persuasion. Objective truth will be assumed in the atheist’s rebuttal.
Your naturalism, Mr. Atheist, cannot account for the laws of logic any more than it can account for objective truth, and your empiricism could never know of the laws of logic even if they were real in spite of naturalism’s failure to account for them. In effect, your very counter-argument to rebut me assumes the Christian God against whom you so diligently and foolishly fight!
You’re too shallow, Mr. Atheist. That’s why you can’t see the truth of God in what you so hastily, and without basis, assume in your very own argument against the Christian God! You’re like the fellow tormented by thirst who sees his reflection in the pool and admires his cosmetic veneer rather than looks beyond the mirror to the life-giving liquid. Jesus is the living water which if who man who thirsts will drink freely as he may, he shall have rivers of living water flow from his own bosom! Be silent, parched mouth, long enough to see the ripples in the water from the pounding of the arguments you breathe forth. Hear what you are saying, then hear what He says, for without Him your argument is impossible. Then drink and never thirst again!
Be converted, oh atheist reader, to ALL the truth, beyond that which you arbitrarily assume, to all the truth of God. You are a fallen man with a depraved intellect whom Christ shed His blood on the cross to redeem, both spiritually and intellectually. Believe in Him, and be forgiven. Forsake Him to persist in your stubbornness and sin, and you will be damned.
This is the fifty-fourth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip taken from a Pat Robertson interview of Jerry Falwell. These words were uttered two days after 9-11.
What follows is a video produced by Tim Wildmon and the American Family Association. This video purports to “explain” to Fundamentalist zealots the true nature and ideology of secular progressivism. What the video really does is show that Wildmon and his costars either know very little about secularism and progressivism or they are deliberately lying in hopes of providing yet another red meat meal for culture warriors. My money is on the latter. This video is 3 minutes long. Enjoy!
Imagine for a moment a banker, automobile dealer, racecar driver, and a career criminal get together to plan a bank robbery. The banker will provide blueprints for the bank and the combination for the safe. The automobile dealer will provide a fast getaway car. The racecar driver, putting his NASCAR skills to work, will drive the getaway car. The career criminal will be responsible for actually robbing the bank. Is only the career criminal culpable for the bank robbery? Or does material participation in this criminal enterprise make each participant guilty of the crime? I think all of us would agree that every person who played a part in the crime is criminally liable.
Evangelicals believe that abortion is murder. From the moment of conception, according to pro-lifers, that which grows in the womb of the mother is a human being who deserves complete protection under the law. Imagine my surprise then, to hear Evangelicals distance themselves from Donald Trump’s recent statement that women who have abortions should be punished. Granted, Trump later walked this comment back, but his first comment accurately reflects taking pro-life dogma to its logical conclusion.
If abortion is murder, then every person who materially participates in the killing of the zygote/fetus is equally culpable. Pro-lifers are quite willing to use the force of law to prosecute doctors who perform abortions. Some Evangelicals even go so far as to say that performing an abortion is a capital crime worthy of the death penalty. In past years pro-life zealots have murdered abortion doctors. Many within the pro-life movement think that such murders are justifiable homicide. In 2005, Polly and I attended a church where one of the church members wanted to have a moment of silence on the February 6th birthday of pro-life hero Paul Hill. You may remember that Hill murdered abortion doctor John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett. He was executed by the state of Florida on September 3, 2003. According to pro-lifers, abortion doctors are no different from the Nazi or Japanese doctors who experimented on prisoners of war during World War II. Abortion doctors are no better than serial killers, men and women who — according to pro-lifers — place no value on human life.
But what about abortion clinic staff? Are the nurses who materially participate in abortion procedures criminally liable? How are they in any way different from the banker, automobile dealer, and racecar driver in the story above? And surely the woman having the abortion is the bank robber in the story above. She is the one who decides to abort her fetus. She is the one who makes the appointment, goes to the clinic, takes off her clothes, puts on a hospital gown, lies on a table, and allows the abortion doctor — with his nurse assisting — to terminate the pregnancy. Surely the woman is criminally responsible for the murder of her unborn child.
Why all the Evangelical angst and dancing around the issue when asked if women should be punished for having abortions? This issue seems quite clear to me. If life begins at conception and abortion is murder, then the women making choices to kill their babies — regardless of whether they take abortion-inducing drugs or have surgical procedures — are guilty of premeditated homicide. Some Evangelicals try to avoid the logical conclusions of their abortion equals murder beliefs by suggesting that women having abortions are in some way or the other mentally or emotionally incapable of understanding what they are doing. I think most women who have abortions would be quite offended by such false assertions. While certainly deciding to have an abortion can be and often is a difficult decision for women to make, to suggest that women are somehow unable to rationally make this decision is ludicrous. For whatever reason, women choose to have abortions. It is their legal right to do so. Our law recognizes that women have a fundamental right to control what happens to their bodies — even though that right is currently under vicious attack by pro-life zealots.
It is time for pro-lifers to own their beliefs. The last 10 years have seen an unprecedented assault on women’s rights. Realizing that it is unlikely that they will ever overturn Roe V Wade, pro-lifers have turned to the states to advance their draconian anti-abortion laws. These new laws have been so successful that in some states it is almost impossible for women to find an abortion provider. Pro-lifers will not rest until fertilized eggs are granted the same constitutional rights as 30-year-old women. I do not think for a moment — once they successfully outlawed abortion — that they will continue to view women who have back alley abortions as victims. As has been clear over the past 25 years — at least to me — many Evangelicals will not rest until they have turned the United States into a Christian theocracy. Once they have gained this power, they will use it just as ruthlessly as ISIS and other violent theocratic groups. Quite frankly, Evangelicals cannot be trusted with our civil liberties. Bound by the Bible and its teachings, they have no recourse but to push God’s laws into every aspect of American life. It is for this reason that people who value secularism, humanism, and freedom must oppose theocratic Evangelicals at every turn.
I am a big fan of John Oliver’s show, Last Week Tonight. What follows is a video clip of a show segment on how religious Republican legislators are systematically, with no regard for women and their health, turning back the clock on legalized abortion.
Tony Miano is a bombastic, arrogant street evangelist associated with John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Miano’s direct oversight pastors are Mike Riccardi and a former friend of mine, Phil Johnson. Miano, a retired police officer and best buds with Ray Comfort, believes God has called him to be an open- air evangelist and itinerant preacher. A hardcore Calvinist, Miano makes no bones about the fact he considers the Arminianism preached in many Evangelical churches to be a false gospel. Miano, like his pastors John MacArthur and Ray Comfort, thinks he has the corner on the truth market. Those who believe differently are ignorant, poorly taught, or wicked, vile, unregenerate, reprobate atheists such as myself.
Last week, Miano took a group of 20 students from MacArthur’s The Master’s College to “minister” to women at Family Planning Associates in Mission Hills, California, a women’s health facility that performs abortions. Miano calls his abortuary work a ‘ministry of presence’. That’s right, a ministry of presence. In truth, it is a ministry of harassment, a ministry of forcing one’s religious beliefs on another. Miano, hoping to corrupt the minds of another generation of young Evangelicals, spent the day training The Master’s College students in the fine art of harassing women who came to the Family Planning Associates (FPA) for service and care. Here’s what Miano had to say:
The Lord has allowed a wonderful team of Christian men and women to form and to engage in loving people in action and truth, outside the Family Planning Associates abortuary, in Mission Hills, CA. Today the team and I were blessed beyond words to be joined by more than 20 students from The Master’s College.
This group of young adults was exceptional. Mature; submissive; teachable; respectful; servant-minded–and the list goes on. The students held signs and prayed. They effectively engaged in a ministry of presence.
A number of students, as well as regular members of the team, testified at the end of the morning of seeing people in cars, fitting the profile of those seeking to abort a child, making repeated passes by the abortuary, but never entering the parking lot. While tragically babies were murdered at the abortuary this morning, we left confident that the Lord used us to turn several abortive parents away–allowing unborn children to live for at least another day.
Note carefully what Miano said: the students were submissive, respectful, and teachable, Evangelical lingo for easily persuadable. Force-fed the pro-life lie and anti-Planned Parenthood talking points, these students were perfect candidates for Miano’s abortuary ministry. The students were taught by Miano the fine art of profiling a woman seeking an abortion and, applying their learning, succeeded in turning women away from getting needed health care. While Miano calls this a ministry of presence, it really is a legal means of harassing women under the guise of doing the Lord’s work. While Miano can report to his supporters that several babies got to live another day, numerous women turned away from FPA out of fear, not wanting to be accosted by the religious crazies in front of the facility.
Only in America do we allow fundamentalist religious zealots to stand between patients and their doctors when receiving medical care. Pro-life groups have carved out special legal exceptions that allow them to harass women and doctors, the same legal exceptions used by Westboro Baptist Church to harass the families of fallen soldiers. Whatever a person might believe about abortion, a woman should have the right to seek medical care without being harassed by God’s appointed agents of righteousness. If a person thinks abortion is murder, fine don’t have an abortion, but don’t impede those who think differently. Unfortunately, while abortion through the second trimester is still legal in every state, Republicans and Christian fundamentalists have worked to enact state laws that have made it increasingly hard to get an abortion, while at the same time refusing to support methods and practices that would drastically reduce the need for abortion. They will not rest until Roe v. Wade is overturned and women are once again forced to seek out illegal abortions. For those of us who think every woman has a right to control her own body and have an abortion if she desires one, we must continue to push back at laws and regulations that we know will only result in increased suffering and death.
People like Miano aren’t really as interested in saving life as much they are interested in being right. For pro-life Evangelicals, the most important issue is what the Bible supposedly says about life, death, and abortion and making sure that everyone, Evangelical or not, is forced to play by their interpretation of an ancient religious text written by unknown authors thousands of years ago. In what other medical realm do we allow such a text to hold weight? Its antiquity alone invalidates its message and medical worth. Since 88% of all abortions occur within the first trimester and 98.8% of abortions occur before viability, the issue is not really about the life of fetus as much as it is the continued attempt to control women and their reproduction. I wish more Americans would understand that the difference between zealots like Tony Miano and the Muslim fundamentalist in the Middle East is quite small. While in many places the Muslim has the force of the law and is able to regulate everything from what a woman wears to when she can and can’t have sex, the Mianos of the Christian world lack the force of law to compel women to live according to their puritanical laws and regulations. They continue to chip at the edges of the establishment clause and the separation of church and state, but make no mistake about it they’ll not rest until the Christian flag flies over the White House. This is why we must continue to expose, fight, and push back. We must not rest until people understand that freedom of religion also means the freedom FROM religion, and a woman seeking an abortion has every right not to be harassed by a fundamentalist Christian abortuary ministry team and students from a fundamentalist Christian college. Perhaps, it is time to recognize that the first amendment needs some tweaking; that just like a person can’t shout FIRE in a crowded theater, neither should religious zealots be permitted to harass women seeking out medical care.
Published on January 13, 2002. At the time, I was pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. This is a good example of how I used to think about life, God, the Bible, sin, and culture. This was not a Letter to the Editor. I wrote it for the Community Voice editorial column on the editorial page of The Bryan Times.
The anniversary of the famed Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade has just past. Almost 30 years ago the Supreme Court ruled that abortion on demand was legal in the United States. Since that time, a battle between the forces called pro-life and pro-choice has raged without abatement in our country. We truly are a nation divided when it comes to abortion. Both sides have taken to the legal and political arena in an attempt to stifle or crush their opposition. In the case of the pro-life movement, some on the far extreme of the movement have taken to murdering clinic workers and the doctors who perform the abortions. Several men with such beliefs are on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
How are we, as Christians, to respond to the continued murder of babies in abortion clinics, private doctors offices and hospitals? Some may suggest that I am asserting that the word Christian and pro-life are synonymous. Such observation is correct. Christianity and pro-choice are not compatible one with the other. I have written a number of times over the years on this issue, and each time I receive letters from supposed pro-choice Christians. Perhaps such folks are well-intentioned, but it is theologically impossible to square being a Christian with also being pro-choice. To be a Christian is to walk in the steps of, and follow after, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was pro-life and the Law of God states very clearly “Thou shalt not kill.”
The command “Thou shalt not kill” has a positive precept attached to it. That precept is “thou shalt preserve life.” If we are not to kill, then we are to preserve life instead. This preserving of life extends to not only the abortion clinic, but also the prison and countries where we are engaged in war. The Bible teaches and permits capital punishment, but it also prescribes when and who it is to be carried out. The Bible permits just war, but it also prescribes when and how such war is to be carried out. We must always remember that the killing of other human beings shows the baseness of human society, not its superiority. As Christians, we have a duty to preserve life at every opportunity. We must stand against abortion. We must work to outlaw the practice in the United States and the rest of the world. We should also be actively working to promote justice for those in prison and to insist that God’s law be followed in the execution of those guilty of first degree murder. We must hold our government and military accountable for its actions in Afghanistan. Find the terrorists. Punish the evildoer, but in doing so do no harm to innocent men, women and children.
We must continue to wage the war of words with the pro-choice crowd. They speak of the “woman’s right to choose” and yet they are rarely challenged to the assertions they make in regard to this statement. I too, support a “woman’s right to choose.” She makes a choice to have sexual relations with a man, and she must live with the consequences of such an action. The pro-choice movement is at the forefront of the “right to have sex whenever with whomever movement” and then with the quickness of a magician they deny any accountability for the choice that is made. There are many choices a pregnant woman can make, but far too often abortion is the only option given because it is the easy way out. Adoption is an option. Extended family assistance in raising the child is an option. Our government needs to streamline the adoption process making it easy for families to adopt these unwanted babies
We must do more than just object to abortion. We must also put our words into action. We must help support women in their pregnancy and provide the means for their care. Every unwanted baby needs a home. My wife and I are the parents of six children, yet if needed, we would take on the responsibility of another child. It would not be easy, but our words must be backed up with action.
We must continue to oppose the fringes of the pro-life movement that advocates violence and murder in the name of God. Murdering a baby via abortion is a sin but so is murdering an abortion clinic doctor. We must not bear the sword. God gives government the responsibility of bearing the sword to punish evildoers. As we stand against abortion we must work to change the laws of the land. Abortion must once again be illegal. We must work to enact laws that make it criminal to participate in any part of the abortion process. We need to stop the tax flow to organizations that promote abortion. Let Planned Parenthood get its money from its liberal constituents, but not from the American taxpayer. There is much work to do and killing an abortion doctor will not stop the abortion mills. There will always be another to take their place. Instead, we must make abortion illegal thus removing the financial incentives that continue to fuel the abortion mills.
It is easy to become complacent in the matter of abortion. As I watched the events of September 11th my heart was grieved. I mourned and wept for days over the tragic loss of life. Yet, keeping it all in perspective, the loss of life at Ground Zero equals one day of work in the abortion clinics of America. Our hands are covered with the blood of millions of babies that have been aborted since that fateful day when Roe vs. Wade became law. We must not rest until justice for all once again prevails in our Land. May God give us the grace and strength necessary to not waver in this battle of battles.
Millions of Christians, Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons are praying for the end of the murderous practice of abortion, yet fetuses continue to be aborted. Surely, millions of prayers from millions of Christians would get God’s attention, yes? Why is God ignoring these prayers? If God is pro-life, why doesn’t he do anything to stop abortion? If he is all-knowing, he knows who is going to have an abortion. If he is all-powerful, he has the capability to stop abortion. Millions of prayers prayed by millions of Christians each day to an all-knowing, all-powerful God, yet abortion doctors continue to perform abortion procedures. Why?
It’s been forty years since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion and despite non-stop attempts to force Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics out of business, women continue to have abortions. Billions upon billions of prayers have been uttered, yet abortion continues unabated. Pro-life yard signs. Pro-life billboards. Pro-life newspaper ads. Pro-life websites. Pro-life videos. Pro-life pickets. Pro-life marches. Pro-life sermons. Pro-life laws. Pro-life politicians. Yet, women continue to have abortions.
Based on the evidence at hand, God is either dead, not listening, or is pro-choice. Christians claim that the one true God is the Christian God and that they are God’s chosen people, yet he has turned a deaf ear to their prayers. If abortion is the abomination Christians say it is and God does nothing about it, doesn’t this mean that he is either dead, powerless, or indifferent? Perhaps it is time for Christians to accept the fact that their God is like Baal in 1 Kings 18. Elijah, when challenging the prophets of Baal to a God-duel, had this to say about Baal:
And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
Perhaps the reason the Christian God hasn’t answered the earnest pleadings of pro-life Christians is that he is on vacation, sleeping, or using the toilet. Or perhaps the Christian God is a fiction, and that the only way to put an end to abortion is to work to make abortion safe, legal, and rare. Instead of waiting for God to do something, perhaps pro-lifers should embrace policies that drastically reduce the need for abortion. Instead of demonizing those of us who are pro-choice, how about working with us to make sure that teenagers and young adults have a comprehensive sex education and access to free birth control? How about making sure every woman in the United States has access to birth control, thus eliminating the need for abortion? Or, you could just keep uttering prayers that make absolutely no difference.
I’ve been asked to give my take on the Planned Parenthood videos.
When it comes to Planned Parenthood’s mission, to provide healthcare to women, I am 100% in their corner. Providing abortions is a small part of Planned Parenthood’s services, and defunding Planned Parenthood would have a deleterious effect on the health of poor women. Attempts to defund Planned Parenthood are driven by religious belief and bad science. We live in a secular state, one that supposedly separates church and state and one that values science; yet, when it comes to abortion, the debate is framed by religious claims that result in skewed interpretations of science.
Strident pro-lifers, based on their religious beliefs, say that abortion is murder. I have written about this before in a post titled 25 Questions for Those Who Say Abortion is Murder. The abortion-is-murder view is irrational and is a denial of what science tells about fetal development and life. Just last week, Mike Huckabee, a Baptist preacher and a candidate for President, said he supports personhood for zygotes (see Personhood USA). That’s right, Huckabee wants constitutional protection conveyed the moment a man’s sperm unites with a woman’s egg. This means that Mike Huckabee, along with those who support personhood for fetuses and believe abortion is murder, think that the following should be considered a person protected by the constitution and those aborting them are murderers:
Fact: 63% of abortion take place within eight weeks of pregnancy.
This is what a fetus looks like at 12 weeks:
Fact: 89% of abortions take place within 12 weeks (first trimester) of pregnancy.
When I look at the science along with the aforementioned photographs, I see potential life. I don’t see a person, one deserving constitutional protection. (Please see Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contractions.) All the religious posturing and moralizing in the world won’t change my view on this matter. Why? Because it is rooted in scientific fact and reason.
As the fetus continues to grow it moves from being potential life to actual life. Usually this is around weeks 20-24. Fetuses can and do survive when born prematurely, and it is for this reason I support greater protection for them under the law. The state has a vested interest in protecting human life, not potential life. I do not agree that abortion after viability should be a decision made between a woman and her doctor without any regard to the fetus. Once viability is reached there is a third party — the baby — who should have rights. Not absolute rights, mind you. There are times, due to health concerns or fetal abnormality, that is it medically prudent to terminate a pregnancy after viability. Since the overwhelming majority of abortions occur before viability (98.8%) or post viability as a result of health concerns or fetal abnormality, I see no reason to oppose abortion.
Why is it that pro-life groups rarely use the aforementioned photographs to make their case? Why do they always graphically display fetuses aborted late in a pregnancy? Shock value. I wonder if some who say abortion is murder would think differently if they were presented with a picture of a zygote and not a picture of a full term fetus?
The recent videos concerning Planned Parenthood are disturbing. The group behind the videos are using highly edited footage, releasing them over a long period of time in hopes of maximizing the damage, inflaming passion, and bolstering the campaigns of pro-life candidates for President. (Please see People of the American Way post The Activists and the Ideology Behind the Latest Attack on Planned Parenthood.)
Despite my opposition to the group behind the videos, I do find the videos troubling. Is Planned Parenthood selling fetus parts? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that they are selling at cost various fetus parts to researchers, but no in the sense that it isn’t a huge revenue stream for Planned Parenthood. What Planned Parenthood is doing is legal, no different from harvesting organs for transplant.
I am sure someone is going to say, but Bruce, look at how nonchalant the Planned Parenthood people were on the videos. I agree, this is troubling, but is their crassness any reason for the government to defund Planned Parenthood or for abortion to be outlawed or criminalized? Of course not. Again, I go back to the science. Like it or not, in most cases, the aborted fetus is a blob of developing cells. Since these developing cells are potential life, not human life, why shouldn’t researchers be permitted to use these cells and developing organs to find cures or treatments for diseases that are afflicting and killing humans?
I think the crassness displayed on the videos is troubling, but explainable. Take doctors. Doctors are around sickness and death every day. Imagine a group of doctors sitting around a table talking shop. How do you think the discussion would go? A bit of morbidity, humor, and deflection? This is their way of coping with the work they have been called to do (and yes, I think many of the people who work in abortion clinics have a sense of calling, a deep desire to help women in a time of great need). The same could be said for coroners, morticians, homicide detectives, crime scene investigators, CDC investigators, and crime scene cleaners. As someone who lives with the ugly specter of death lurking in the shadows, I have a gallows sense of humor about death. Some family members and friends are appalled by my humor, yet it is how I cope with the reality that death is stalking me and will ultimately seize me as its prey. People who are around death often use humor to cope and often seem detached from their work, and I think that is exactly what is shown on the Planned Parenthood videos.
What Planned Parenthood has is an optic problem. They allowed themselves to be snookered by ideologically driven religious nut jobs who want to make abortion, along with birth control, illegal. Planned Parenthood needs to do a better job of vetting whom they are talking to. They also need to put some of their workers and executives through sensitivity training. We say that getting an abortion is a monumental decision for a women. If this is true, then our behavior and demeanor should reflect this, not unlike our response to someone who is dying and has decided to stop medical treatment.
I am sure those on either side of this issue will disagree with me and that’s why I have been hesitant to write about it. My position on abortion is informed and quite developed, so I don’t waste my time arguing about it. I recently had several dust-ups on Facebook with people who think anyone who is pro-choice or supports Planned Parenthood is a sick, vile, evil, murderer. Rather than continue to read such drivel, I unfriended 30 or so people, including family members (and yes, I tried to educate them before I unfriended them).
I find it interesting that the same people who are so ardently pro-life are very same people who are pro-war, pro capital punishment, anti-homosexual, anti-same sex marriage, anti-immigration, and anti virtually anything that has to do with care and compassion post-birth. It seems the only life they care about is the one in the womb. These same people say they are anti-abortion, yet they oppose free birth control and standardized sex education, two things that we know reduce the need for an abortion. There’s one word for people who think like this: hypocrite.