Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
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Blog Entry Posted at 05:05:05 PM CDT
Abortion and God's Gift of Life
With a title like that, you know this will be lighthearted.
"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said that last night in a debate when asked about what he considered acceptable exceptions to abortion bans.

That quote has many up in arms, and caused the Romney campaign to make the correct, but mildly embarrassing move of distancing itself from Mourdock after Romney had recently endorsed him. Personally, I found his choice of words about as bad as it gets, but the general idea consistent with my perception of what devout theists think of God and His influence on us.

Look, he's not endorsing rape or suggesting that God is totally cool with such heneous acts. My interpretation is that Mourdock thinks that God works in mysterious ways, that the pregnancy would not occur unless He wanted it to, and that even with roots in such an evil act, God's gift of life shouldn't be dismissed casually. To me, he's gulping the Bible Kool-Aid and is right in line with devout Christians; you can't blame him for that. I disagree with him, but at least he's consistent in his beliefs.

But wait. There's more.

"The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother."
He made the argument that even when life begins in rape, we should leave that alone because that pregnancy was God's intent. However, if the mother's life is in jeopardy, it's OK to ignore God's apparent will and save that mother. Isn't that completely contradictory?

I've mentioned on several occasions before in this blog my reluctance to embrace organized religion. I generally envy those that are able to because I seem unable to ignore what I perceive to be inherit contradictions and paradoxes in some aspects of faith.

The usual source of my distrust of folks that cite religion in cases like this is when they (subtly or otherwise) claim they know the intent of God. If I hear someone make that suggestion, I can't help but first question their sanity and second, wonder if they're completely blind to their own blasphemy. Doesn't the Bible suggest that God works in mysterious ways?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

In one breath, Mourdock justifies a ban on abortions in the case of rape based on precisely that argument, that we shouldn't question God's methods; His ways are higher than our ways, after all. In the breath immediately before that though, he basically said, "Fuck that. The mother's dying, so save her. Let's not be crazy!"

How does Richard Mourdock know that God is OK with us using our advancements in medical technology and techniques to save a woman's life if it's somehow threatened by a pregnancy? How does Richard Mourdock also know that God is not OK with those same techniques being used to end the result of an evil act in the case of rape? The answer in both cases is that he doesn't. He doesn't have a clue; neither do you and neither do I. He can't have it both ways, though, can he? Either he accepts our current medical advancements as something ordained by God and accepts their use, or he doesn't, right?

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus had a very interesting thought on God and the paradox that the presence of evil (such as rape) creates:

God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can.

If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak - and this does not apply to God.

If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful - which is equally foreign to God's nature.

If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a God.

If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a God, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?

Some see this paradox as confirmation of God's non-existence, which is an understandable interpretation. I think Epicurus meant it more as a way of showing just how little we really know when it comes to matters of God.

Of course, free will complicates things emmensely. Maybe all those medical advancements are the result of that free will and God had no control over it, and therefore they shouldn't be used since they're purely the product of our evil-by-default ways. If so, shouldn't all abortions be illegal? Why even make the life-of-the-mother exception? For that matter, should all medical procedures be considered suspect at best?

I guess it's the inconsistency that bothers me. Mr. Mourdock did not include cases of incest as an acceptable exception to abortion bans. That's particularly interesting since the part of Leviticus that deals with incest happens to surround the same part that's often cited as the Bible's condemnation of homosexuality. As a Tea Party conservative, I wouldn't be the least surprised if he supported a ban on gay marriage.

And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.

And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

Leviticus 20:11-12, 14

Right between those is the often-cited thorough dismissal of homosexuality:
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Leviticus 20:13

So is he essentially citing one verse as a reason for a philosophy while simultaneously ignoring the ones surrounding it?

Joe Biden did a wonderful job in the recent debate addressing the issue of abortion, in my opinion.

With regard to abortion, I accept my Church's position on abortion as a de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. I accept that position in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, and Muslims and and Jews…I just refuse to do that, unlike my friend here, the Congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people, women that they cannot control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor in my view, and the Supreme Court. And I'm not going to interfere with that.
I don't have a clue what's best for me, so who am I to tell you what's best for you? If a woman gets raped and later finds that she's become pregnant as a result, she ought to be able to decide whether to terminate that pregnancy. That's not my call to make for her, and sure as hell isn't the government's.
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