Friday, April 13, 2007

Creation Care

Warning: this entry is hardly a list of worst movies. I'm getting a bit worked up here. Don't say I didn't warn you and don't read it if you already feel agitated.

There is an interesting debate going on in the States over whether "creation care" should be considered one of the evangelical "projects" along with things such as caring for the poor, opposing abortion, and so on. Dobson took some heat recently for saying it shouldn't be.

Personally I think that creation care is an issue, and Dobson is not wise to say otherwise. But if you go and actually read Dobson's letter (which is actually not from him but from a committee) you see that it isn't that ridiculous. I'm not trying to defend Dobson here. Frankly I think that with the wealth and health of North American evangelicals we can afford to take on a lot of issues at once and don't need to fight over which one gets attention.

But I don't mind that he tries to bring perspective in the midst of all the hype (i.e. "An Inconvenient Truth"). I think what bothers me is the fact that many of the very people who make global warming the #1 issue "for the sake of the next generation" are the ones who support abortion on demand. Dobson would have been wiser to just write an open letter about that. So here's mine. Even if you grant the argument that the fetus is not a human yet, shouldn't you be equally concerned to give him or her a chance to breathe some clean air? How can you lobby for one issue by appealing to our concern for the unborn generation and not do so for the unborn already in the womb?

You know why? Because as inconvenient as it might be to get big business and government and consumers to cut down on waste and emissions and so on for a good cause, it would be way more inconvenient to ask people to take responsibility for what happens when they don't keep their pants zipped up.

Incidentally, I'm not even talking about abstinence here. (As inconvenient a truth as that might be on its own). I realize our society is way past legislated abstinence. But we could at least insist that people take responsibility. Furthermore, let me say that I know abortion is a complex issue and that adoption is problematic. I know that women are raped and need abortions. I know people make mistakes and I feel especially for young women who get into these tough situations and I want them to know that there is grace for them. But I'm not even talking about them. I'm talking about a society that doesn't hold parents responsible. Don't give me this crap about saving the world for the next generation in one case and then not in the other.

"For the sake of the next generation" I could make a movie like Al Gore's and it wouldn't be about ice caps melting, it would be about injecting poison into a womb so we can silently dispose of the unwanted by-product of our sexual liberation.

Parental and societal responsibility. Now there's an inconvenient truth.


matthew a. wilkinson said...

Wow Jon, that was interesting.

I'm glad you're talking about this, because I've been thinking about it a lot.

For the first time in my life I'm trying to come to the abortion debate with a completely open mind. No baggage. No preconceived ideas.

But I can't come to any conclusions on a personal, moral level (I do have an opinion politically though). I see value in both sides of the argument.

If you believe that life begins at conception, then yes it does seem crazy and totally immoral to kill a fetus. And it seems like we are committing murder for the sake of our own convenience. It is appalling.

On the other hand, who decided that conception is the magic moment? It seems a little arbitrary. Why not earlier, at male ejaculation? Or later, at birth? Or (as a very few have argued) at the moment when the child is no longer dependent on the mother -around a year old.

I don't know.

Certainly, a one year old child being considered not alive seems ludicrous to me personally.

I guess for me it seems like a complex enough issue that the government shouldn't be involved in it either way. They shouldn't be promoting abortions, or banning them. It needs to be the choice of the individual.

I think abortion should be available on demand because I think in a modern western democracy like Canada the government should only legislate morality when it has very clear support from the vast majority of people (ie. murder, theft, sex-crimes). Otherwise, it needs to let people make their own decisions.

Our government isn't Christian. So it can not and should not use Christian morality as the basis for it’s laws; just like it shouldn’t use fundamentalist Islamic morality as the basis for legislation.

Abortion should be legal, but not promoted; because people are divided enough on the issue that the government should not take a side. Democratic governments are reactionary institutions. They reflect the will of the people (for better or worse). That means that the government’s morality must be the morality of it’s citizens. And so, because our society is divided when it comes to abortion, the government has to back off and leave the choice up to each individual.

It’s a frightening thought, that morality could be so fluid in government. But I think it is a necessary evil of modern democracy.

Personally, I would not want a girl I impregnated to have an abortion. But because I believe in democracy I believe that the choice shouldn’t be made for her.

Those are my “off the top of my head” thoughts. I hope someone will seriously challenge my positions, because I am VERY open to being argued away from my current position.

Sorry for going on so long.

matthew a. wilkinson said...

I once heard a woman say, "Abortion is a woman's issue," and how it upset her a little bit that it was always men talking about it.

I don't think her position is very strong logically. However, it does seem ridiculous that -for the most part- men are the ones speaking publicly on this issue. I do wish I heard more women talking about it.

Coutts said...

I'd love to be able to convince you but am not confident I can.

- You make a great point about morality in a democratic country. I think too many Christians are under the false impression that they live in a theocracy and that they should be able to legislate Christian ideals. As much as we have the right and obligation in a democracy to state our ideals and even make a compelling case for them, we can't demand them, else we cease to be a democracy, and perhaps even cease to be Christian.

-- I suppose I'll go along with the statement that we can only enforce that which is called "wrong" by the majority, because it is generally true, even though we could discuss how an unvoting person who is being oppressed is ever going to be able to find protection under this system, but I won't go there right now.

---You are also right that it is difficult to determine when life begins. The sperm would seem to be alive, in certain ways. But these are a dime a dozen (or not even close) and have a shelf life that makes a house fly seem like Methusaleh. But are these human lives like yours and mine? I'm no scientist, but I would say hardly. Whatever you and I are began at conception and would not have happened otherwise. Whether that means our lives began before, at or after birth or not, we can't deny that fact.

SO is the fetus human? What criteria do we use? Usefulness? Independence? Functional organs? Brain waves? A heartbeat Why not the kidney? The ability to suck the thumb? Fingerprints? A soul (whatever that is)? How would you choose one of these? Why not say the first breath of oxygen or the first meal besides breast milk?

Why not say when we get our driver's license (independence by some standards)? Why not say when we retire (independence by other standards)? I'm being ridiculous. But the fact that some say the age of one just goes to show how slippery this idea of independence is.

Even a 23 week old fetus might survive if for some reason pulled from its mother. It will require medical attention (as all of us might at times), but it could survive without her. So is that where life begins?

How about usefulness? Do we really say you aren't a human life unless you are contributing to society? What about invalids? People in a coma? Nevermind that, what about someone who is sleeping?

Maybe this is simplistic of me, but perhaps a human is someone with all human potentiality. Someone who, given the opportunity, will grow and live. Is this not an inalieanable human right? Is this not what we all want for ourselves? Is this not what we should protect and seek for others, even the least of us?

You mentioned that murder is one of the things democracy will say is wrong. But even then the democracy has to define murder. In some places and cases, killing in war, capital punishment and euthanasia are not murder. But these are examined on a case by case basis. But not abortion. All it takes is the will of the mother (except in places which require a father's permission, if indeed there are any).

To me this seems a precarious authority to put in the hands of one person, especially one caught between such a rock and a hard place: an an undesired pregnancy with all of the immense life-complications and responsibilities, not to mention the physical changes and pains that it entails.

In many cases women are left to make this decision with very little counsel on other alternatives. Historically even some of the people who would advise her against abortion have left her seemingly little choice by perpetuating an environment of shame and alienation for people such as her. The people who offer her an abortion are giving her an easy way out, and for all their good intentions, are leaving her in a world of emotional and physical hurt that she doesn't know the half of yet. And for all their good intentions they are making a living off of it too. Do they ever connect her to counseling? Adoptoion agencies? Sometimes they do. At least I hope so. Often they do not.

And our society thinks it is doing her a favour by asserting her independent autonomy to make this choice. It hardly seems fair to the woman, and I haven't even said a word yet about the father or the unborn in the womb.

And if this is a democracy, why is there no vote on this issue? Why no tribunal? Why no examination of all the facts and clear presentation of them to the concerned populace? Why are those who oppose it pushed to the margins and called the minority without due process? Maybe there was some due process before my lifetime but I don't know of it. A couple court cases hardly suffices something like this.

Maybe even then the majority would vote in favour. Still I'd grieve for all of us like I do now. For what has happened at conception is that a human life has been set on its way. Sure, it won't ever make it without the mother and is completley dependent and "useless". It will be for some time. But it is a person waiting to happen. Not just waiting, but on its way. A person like you and I, except it can not yet speak for itself. It needs help, and yet in healthy cases everything is there for that help to be given. It is already in a womb, the perfect environment.

But in our country it isn't safe. We would rather leave a woman in a hard spot and pretend to be empowering her by giving her 'right to choose' what to do with her own body. If all it takes is to have a body, why don't we ensure that body of the little girl in the womb has a chance to grow and choose life for herself?

Yes, my Christian convictions lead me to believe that "God knows us in the womb" and that the very incarnation of God started at conception, not birth, but even apart from my faith (or even this question of a 'starting point') I have a lot of trouble with the lack of responsibility we are taking to guard the right to life of those who are on their way.

I hope my passion for this issue has not made me sound disrespectful to those who disagree or unempathetic and ungracious to those who have had abortions. I wish to be gracious in dialogue and in life. I'd be happy to have others chime in if they'll agree to those terms.

matthew a. wilkinson said...

You said,

"Why [have we had] no examination of all the facts and clear presentation of them to the concerned populace?"

I think this is a really good question. Obviously this is an issue that needs to be examined, without either side needing to feel embarassed about what they believe. It is unfortunate that modern media generally presents the pro-life movement as ever-so-slightly crazy.

I'm SOOO sympathetic to your opposition to abortion (although, no I'm not totally convinced), and I think you express your beliefs very well.

For me I see it like this: Some people see life as beginning at conception. That is where they have drawn the line. Others draw it much later -to points of absurdity even; and others still draw the line earlier than conception. The government looks at this issue and realizes that there is absolutely no consensus, so -because they have to draw a line SOMEWHERE- they drew it at 12 weeks of gestation, with a few exceptions where the fetus can be killed up to 20 weeks old (technically late term abortions are sometimes performed legally in Canada -but they are so incredibly rare as to be irrelevant to the discussion).

No one is ever going to be happy with the line the government has drawn. Some will say it draws the line far too early, and some will say it draws it far too late. But from my point of view the line they drew seems pretty reasonable.

We have the freedom to oppose abortions; and so I think if people feel passionately about it -they should do something about their passion. Volunteer at a clinic that helps pregnant girls find other options, or donate to an adoption agency...etc. I think the church should absolutely speak out against abortion; and because it believes it is wrong, it has a responsibility to be vocal. But you can be opposed to abortion without being opposed to abortion being legal. Do you see the difference?

Re: your idea about voting on the issue. I'm not sure what I think about that, but I do know that if it happened it would have to be more than 50% plus one. It would need to be a clear consensus -like 3/4 or higher. And there is no way you could ever get 3/4 of Canadians to agree on this.

Finally, one thing that is interesting to me is how this issue is actually a lot less divisive than it is sometimes presented as. Both sides are guilty of over-simplifying the debate. I think the fact is that there is a pretty wide consensus on certain things about abortion; like the right to abortions for rape victims or victims of incest (which 3/4 of Canadians probably do agree with -even if reluctantly); or opposition to any "abortion" on a child after birth (which I would guess almost every Canadian would be opposed to).

Too often this is painted as an all or nothing debate, when really it is so much more complicated than that.

Wow, these are some long posts.

Colin Toffelmire said...

I might as well join this long-post parade. A couple of things I wanted to mention.

Matt, you said "[that] means that the government’s morality must be the morality of it’s citizens." I don't entirely agree. All governments (democratic and otherwise) enforce laws that are not supported by a clear majority of their citizens. The litmus test for a law (moral or otherwise) should be something more like Ben Franklin's "if it breaks my leg or picks my pocket." That is to say, if something causes clear harm to a person, or deprives that person of personal possession it should be legally restrained by the state. So we're back to the person-hood question on this issue.

So far as that issue goes I quite frankly don't know when life begins. I think that it's earlier than birth and later than conception, but I don't see how this can be determined and what criteria would be involved (John has already demonstrated how absurd this discussion can get).

When it comes to the legality of abortion I am strongly anti-abortion (I don't use BS terms like pro-life and pro-choice...seriously, do you know anyone who's anti-life or anti-choice?) but I do believe that early term abortions should be legal. Maybe that sounds cowardly, but for me it comes down to this. Morally I feel that we must always err on the side of caution when it comes to even potential human life. Unfortunately the argument functions in precisely the opposite direction legally. Legally I think that we must err on the side of personal freedom.

This debate is problematic because of the gray areas involved. I couldn't tell you how those might be resolved. This is a tough one across the board. Incidentally the best Christian point of view that I've seen on this one is found in the book Moral Choices by Rae. Some of it is standard stuff, but he does give a fair hearing to most pro-abortion positions.

Oh, one more thing. Why do we keep waiting for "scientists" to tell us when life begins? Setting aside the fact that scientist is a non-designation (try biologist, physicist, chemist, etc. instead), I think that philosophers, ethicists and theologians get first dibs on when life begins.

Okay, now I'm done. Really. Bye.

Coutts said...

good comments.

Is the cut-off really only 12 weeks? Is it different in the States then? i must admit ignorance to the actual law in Canada. I have tried not to think about abortion and so am fairly out of touch with things. i guess i shouldn't have said anything, but then again my comments were more about Gore et al and their self-contradicting moral persuasions. i would still say 12 weeks is 12 weeks too late, but I recognize and agree to what you both are saying about the give and take about democracy. believing as I do that life begins at conception (partly from biological stuff I've read but admittedly founded on biblical reasoning) I will always grieve our society's choice, even if I do benefit from its democratic choices in many other ways.

i agree with Colin that the issue is protection of persons. that does bring us back to the debate about personhood though. i like the comment about letting philosophers and so on debate this one. but that is disconcerting since there is even less chance that they'll agree.

your comments are appreciated matt. i'm not sure 3/4 majority is needed in this case, unless you could count the aborted Canadian babies' votes somehow. But that is me being stubborn about my position. i do see what you are saying about democracy and i agree. i'm not sure i love democracy, but it does seem our best alternative and i believe in being a good citizen, even if it means losing, even if it means being persecuted actually.

i'd like to say more but will hold back since i have work to do. these dang blogs keep distracting me! i'll keep this stream open for awhile ...

Anonymous said...

I like the old Bill Clinton quote, "Abortions should be legal, safe, and rare." I think that most pro-choice and pro-life people can agree on some level on that.

I won't comment much further as you have all covered a lot of good ground on all sides of this debate. One or two quick commments.

I agree that it is not up to government to affect this law either way without a clear mandate to do so. However, one thing I've always struggled with from the pro-choice debate is the idea that "you can't legislate a woman's body" which I find to be a ludicrous statement. We legislate peoples bodies every day with drug laws, seatbelt laws, smoking laws etc... There is a precedent.

I'd be curious to see some statistical proof from Matt to back up the claim that the vast majority of abortion are in the first 12 weeks. I'd always heard the opposite to be honest but I have no stats to back my claim up.

matthew a. wilkinson said...

strangely enough, I'd never heard that Bill Clinton quote. that's pretty good. Hillary has said she thinks abortions should be legal, but that it is "a tragic choice." I like that too.

Re: the request for statistical proof. I'm afraid I'm far from being an expert on the subject. my research (if you could call a few hours of reading website articles "research") is all internet-based. My understanding is that the laws in Canada technically allow late term abortions, but that they are strongly discouraged (other options are explored) so that they rarely, if ever, happen. The law seems very complicated; trying to leave room for exceptional cases...etc.

Read the wikipedia article on 'Abortion in Canada.' In it they say, "Over 110,000 abortions are performed in Canada every year. 90% of abortions are performed in the first trimester, with just 2 to 3% performed after 16 weeks."

I've read all kinds of conflicting data coming from both sides of the debate; and the only thing I could seem to find was that 12 weeks was generally seen as the magic number before which most abortions occur, with some coming a little later, and virtually no late-term abortions.

Coutts said...

wow, thanks for the research matt. i want to dig on this a little more myself. it is discouraging when you start wading through online info because you never know what you are getting or where it is coming from or how reliable it is. maybe tanti the politician, although he might not be allowed to actually comment on such issues, would know where to find canadian abortion info?

matthew a. wilkinson said...

Tanti the politician?

Excuse my ignorance. what's the story there? I just know him as the U2 fan.

Coutts said...

i hesitate to reveal his secret identity for him (or her!), but tanti does work for an MP. And I don't mean military police.