Every few months, I have lunch with a friend of mine who is a Presbyterian pastor . He’s a very bright man, who seems, however, to have some gaps in his knowledge of Scripture, and certainly has a blind spot to the connection between the voting booth and killing babies. He supports Barack Obama because he is against the war, and has “fresh ideas.” When I mentioned at lunch Obama’s pro-abortion voting record, my friend looked a bit surprised. I followed up with the following email:
As usual, our lunch yesterday gave me a much needed “fix” of intellectual dialogue with a fellow Christian seeking the Truth. Thus I thank you for your inquisitive mind and reflective heart.
I appreciate your political point of view. If it weren’t for the Pro-Choice plank of the Democratic Party, I am sure I would be voting with you. The social and economic philosophies of the Party are more in line with my gut beliefs than are those of the Republican Party. But I can’t support a Party that refuses to protect the lives of innocent babies, and is ambiguous on how it would protect the disabled and elderly.
You did raise a good point, however, about the apparent contradiction of a political party that would support the war in Iraq (and perhaps has its finger a little tighter on the trigger that could lead to other wars), yet tout itself as a Pro-Life Party. Good question. It did cause me to think a bit. So I have, and thus this letter has been born. Perhaps my opinion could be summed up by two points, one is basic Catholic (and I think you would agree, Christian) doctrine, and one is statistics (Remember…I am an engineer):
1. “One must never do evil to bring about a good.” That in and of itself may seems like a contradictory, and even impossible concept, especially in light of the apparent evil that God allows in Scripture (killing of the first born in Egypt, Levites killing all the idolatrous Israelites after the golden calf incident, etc), from which a good came. Atheists use those examples all the time to prove that there cannot be a God. So what is wrong with killing an unborn baby, if his or her birth is going to cause some real or perceived harm to the mother or mother’s family?
In our culture which says (foolishly) that we are better planners of our future than God is, that makes “Reasoned” sense. “Faith” in God’s Providence is not relevant, or at best ill-informed. Of course you know the answer to that…..God never does or requires evil to bring about good. He leaves it up to us humans to do that (Egyptian persecution, Israelite Idolotry), and he is having to come up with plans “B”, “C”……….”ZZZZZZ”.to try to fix what we screw up, in order to get us back into his plan (which is our salvation)even if that “fix” is painful, and even deadly.
Aren’t all wars a result of human pride, fear, and lack of forgiveness? Thus can God be said to “cause” wars, and the subsequent death and destruction? Of course not. Some wars of self defense may be justified in those occasions that people of a nation need to be protected. St. Augustine originally tried to articulate the idea of a Just War in the 5th Century, and was later addressed by Thomas Aquinas in The Summa Theologica in the 13th Century. Check out this Just War for more on their views (which the Catholic Church supports) of the Just War. Most theologians do not consider the killing that occurs in war as necessarily forbidden under the 6th Commandment. This link, Thou Shalt Not Kill is one of several commentaries I found on Murder and War, and how the 6th Commandment addresses each. Thus I would have to say that we cannot hold to the premise that all wars are objectively evil. However, I would have to agree with the Catholic Church’s position that a pre-emptive war is almost always evil, especially when the possible outcomes are unpredictable and could lead to a disproportionate damage and death, and possibly total world destruction. However, in no case have I seen that murder of an innocent person is not included in the interpretation of the 6th Commandment.
And who is more innocent than the unborn? Thus I would have to say that anyone who directly kills an unborn child, or supports laws that enables the killing of unborn children is guilty of disobeying the 6th commandment. This is the root of my problem with Barack Obama, and the others in Congress that are ignoring this commandment. This web site has the voting record of Obama on Pro-Life issues, as well as on other issues: Barak Obama. Although he supports many positions on health care, education, and civil rights, that I would also tend to support (albeit not totally), what good are those issues to a dead baby? They will only benefit the privileged few that survived the womb. (Isn’t that an odd way to put it but true). Being Catholic, it is even more offensive to me that so many Catholics in Congress refuse to protect the unborn by voting against pro-life laws. They cannot plead ignorance since their Church has stated explicitly that Abortion is objectively evil. Thus they can be considered to be more in danger of losing their souls than are non-Catholics, since ignorance can be their “Salvation.” I’m supposed to pray for them, but it’s hard for me to do. I’m afraid God can be much more merciful than I want to be I relate much more to Jonah than I wish to admit.
2. But let’s take Faith out of the equation, and just use Reason. I’m sure that even the most hard core atheist would tend to go with the numbers in terms of moving in the direction of doing the least damage in making life and death decisions. Kill as few as possible to bring “Peace” to the World. I can’t always control other people’s or other nations’ behavior (or the United States’, for that matter) with regard to violence and war. And I may not be able to even control my own violent behavior towards others who have infringed on my rights. But who can say they could not control their own behavior toward someone who has done them no harm an innocent person.
Unless there were ideological reasons (like Communism or Naziism) I would say no one would consciously desire to intentionally hurt an innocent person. So if I wanted to spend my limited time and energy eliminating violence in the world (and I could hypothetically do only one thing), should I spend my time protesting against a war in Iraq, where less than 5,000 American have been killed, and maybe 100,000- 200,000 Iraqis; or should I spend my time standing in front of abortion clinics, where 50,000,000 babies will have been killed by the end of 2008, since 1973?
Every year we have a special remembrance of the 9/11 attacks where about 3,000 people were killed (Remember the multimillion dollar fundraising effort that took place immediately after the attack to support families of the victims). The attack galvanized virtually the whole nation by the death of those people. Yet the nation is split down the middle when it comes to stopping the killing of 1,500,000 babies in the womb each year. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd to you? Why don’t we “go with the numbers” if not for moral reasons, then for practical “time management” reason. — as crass as that may seem.
Of course, we can do both things to eliminate or at least reduce violence in the world — speak out against War, and speak out against Abortion. And as you mentioned the Catholic Church is consistent in doing that — and may be the only entity in the World that does. And most of us do, in fact speak out on these, and other issues, that affect our lives and the lives of others. But don’t you find it strange that the same people that vote to allow innocent babies in the womb to be killed are also the ones that are the most fervent anti-War activists? Kill the people that we know will not do us harm, but avoid killing those that might, and have said they will.
So what are we to make of this condition we find ourselves in, where moral Truth is only that which I am comfortable with? Realizing that there is nothing new under the sun, I am reminded of Paul’s exhortation to the Christians in Rome:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them Rom 1:18-32.
Could Paul be talking to us? This is probably not fodder for a sermon, but perhaps for another lunch some day. It is a joy to call you a friend.