ABORTION FROM A RELIGIOUS (Methodist) PERSPECTIVE.
The following is from TEXAS NOW TIMES, and was originally in
the United Methodist Reporter, Aug 24, 1990
ABORTION FROM A RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVE.
Delegates to Annual (Methodist) Conference received a
resolution on the abortion issue a week before Conference.
Following official policy, the resolution will be considered
by the Board of Church and Society this year for
consideration next year. I submit this ward as part of the
dialogue on this controversial issue.
The resolution would "deny access and use of all Methodist
facilities, institutions, properties, or emblems to any and
all groups whose agenda or purpose is to advocate abortion
in any way." I know of no group that advocates abortion.
The so-called pro-choice groups simply advocate that the
choice belongs to the woman who is pregnant and not some
government agency or legislative body. The term "pro-
abortion" is only relevant in reference to a specific
situation in which abortion is one of the options available.
I am not aware or anyone or group advocating abortion in
every situation, only individuals or groups advocating
abortion as an option in some situations.
The resolution is, from my perspective, very unfortunate.
The biblical references involve faulty exegesis. The
language is inflammatory in using such terms as "Murder" and
"shedding innocent blood" in reference to all abortions.
The policy advocated is simplistic and does not consider the
complexity of the issue nor the official stand of the United
Methodist Church that recognizes that an abortion may be a
responsible option in some situations. I shall now
elaborate on these statements.
In using Psalm 139:16, the rationale for the resolution does
not recognize that the Psalms are poetry. To literalize or
factualize poetry gets us into nonsense. Poetry expresses
existential truth and not scientific or wrought in the
depths of the earth, which conforms to the ancient idea that
the spirits were formed by God in sheal, enlivened the body
at birth (spirit-breath), and returned at death to sheal.
Obviously this is symbolic and poetic and not factual. We
do not hold to sheal as a subterranean cavern, nor is most
contemporary theology comfortable in designating when the
developing organism reaches human status. An earlier verse
speaks of God knitting the body together in the mother's
womb which is a poetic testimony to the mystery of our
creation. The commandment against murder, in its origin,
meant no murder of another Hebrew. The ancient Jews did not
apply this to other people which is obvious in surveying the
wars with neighbors in which men, women, and children were
killed. The use of these texts as justification of opposing
all abortions is not exegesis but eisegesis: putting into
the text one's own biases and not getting out of the text
what is there.
The resolution and supporting material imply that the status
of human being exists with the fertilized egg. No
recognition is given to the fact that 40-60 % of fertilized
eggs are sluffed off with body fluid. Fertilization occurs
in the fallopian tubes and the resultant cell is not always
implanted. To carry this point of vies (the fertilized egg
is a human being) to its logical conclusion would involve
the necessity of straining the body fluids to collect
possible fertilized eggs and implanting them. Some would
argue that the body's "making this decision" constitutes a
natural or God-directed process. What this says is that God
is killing 40-60% of new human beings. Theologically this
is nonsense. The body "makes this decision" based on the
godly or the mental/psychological state of the woman.
Abortion decisions require evaluating the life situation of
the persons involved. Is this natural or unnatural? Our
mental processes are what makes us different from much of
the animal world. I don't believe that we can judge the
bodily process to be superior to the mental. Both are
subject to making mistakes. Incidentally, over 90% of all
abortions occur during the first trimester when the embryo
is not regarded as a human being by most philosophers,
medical doctors and theologians.
The resolution and supporting material indicates a distrust
of women making right decisions. While it is true that some
decisions may be made for frivolous or hedonistic motives,
this is the risk of freedom which God took in creating us.
If we deny this freedom of decision making, we are placing
our trust in some law, policy board or agency. Women, I
maintain, should be free to make such decisions with counsel
from family, pastors, and medical doctors. The government
or church agencies have no business usurping or preventing
such heart-rending decisions. Our hospitals and agencies
must be kept free to minister to all our people in their
personal needs unencumbered by the moral judgements of a