Filliacide

Filliacide, the killing of daughters, is not a very elegant word, but neither are the terms gendercide or femicide.  But these newly coined expressions are not as ugly as the phenomenon they describe–the selective killing of female fetuses or newborn girls solely because of their sex.  It is not a new practice–excavations of ancient Roman sites show sewers clogged with the skeletons of newborn girls, according to Rodney Stark.  John Hobbins reports these and other gruesome details of the ancient and modern practice at Ancient Hebrew Poetry.  John also points out how one factor in the history of the world has curbed the practice of killing girls because they are girls,  and that factor is the spread of the Christian faith.

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A Difficult Topic

Imagine a frantic mother being restrained by firefighters in front of a burning house.  We can understand why she want to risk her life to save her child, but we can also understand that if the case is hopeless, at least her life should be spared.

Imagine the same scene with a twist.  The mother realizes the case is hopeless and heartbroken, sits on the ground sobbing.  Now imagine someone trying to force her into the house, risking her life in a vain attempt to save the child.

Americans are deeply divided on abortion.  Depending on how the questions are framed, about half are broadly “pro-choice” and the other half are generally “pro-life.”

The vast majority of those who oppose abortion believe it should be allowed in extreme cases: certainly to save the mother’s life, and nearly all agree it should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.  I say “nearly all,” because I know some argue that even the product of rape has a right to live; but I can’t imagine any state passing a law restricting abortion without provisions for cases of rape or incest.

My internet friend Margaret has sent a link to a thoughtful article in the NY Times by Judith Warner–you should also read the followup comments.  Earlier Margaret sent a link to an article by her writing teacher relating her tragic experience.  Margaret also related her own story in a comment here.

If these stories don’t make you sad enough, Valerie Tarico tells her own tragic story here.  Valerie is a former evangelical Christian who became an atheist.  She is less abrasive and more thoughtful than most of the outspoken atheists today.  I’ve seen firsthand enough of the dark side of evangelical Christianity, although I will probably read her book on the subject.

As I say, I’ve seen enough to be sympathetic to Valerie, but I have also seen enough of the good that people of faith do–and the good that faith does in their life–that I hope I will be a reformer rather than an apostate.

Another Church Shooting

reformation lutheran

An usher was murdered at a Lutheran church in Wichita yesterday.  Back in March, Clint Van Zandt reported,

So far this year, churches in 39 states have reported 141 incidents, including shots fired, robberies, burglaries and bomb threats. Some shooters are liberals, some conservatives, some act under the belief that God ordered them to do so while others do not believe in God or organized religion.  (Newsvine)

Yesterday’s murder was likely perpetrated by someone who believed he was doing God’s will, since the victim was the late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.  As usual, the Phred Felps family, which celebrates all murders, showed up to applaud Tiller’s murder.

Phred Felps himself is a case of how something can start out apparently good and then go awry.  In the 1960’s and ’70s he represented many African Americans in civil rights cases.   He and his daughter claim they systematically took on and dismantled the Jim Crow laws in the state (more here).  Then sometime around 1977, something snapped, and he was eventually disbarred.

I know many people who describe themselves as Pro-Life.   Most are quiet and humble.  A few have participated in quiet demonstrations, but most have never taken part in any form of public protest.  I don’t know any who approve of violence.  Of course, some will brand all who are prolife as dangerous fanatics.  Yesterday’s violence will be more than a setback for the movement.  I suspect it will quietly fade away, at least as far as being any kind of public political movement.

Maybe some will continue to work to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies and to support women who are pregnant in difficult circumstances.

steve green

The following may not seem related, but to me it is.  Last week a jury in Kentucky spared the life of Steven Green, who had been convicted of murder and rape in Iraq.  You could not imagine a more horrendous crime than the one planned and committed by Green.  If any crime ever deserved death, it was his.  Yet, the jury chose to deal a measure of mercy, giving him life without parole.

This leads me to a simple conclusion: It is time to abolish the death penalty in America.  Capital punishment might  be a deterrent where it is swift and sure, but in our system it will always be rare and agonizingly slow.  It can never be applied consistently, and so it can never be fair.

The Kentucky jury’s failure to choose execution for Green is an insult to the people of Iraq.  Than can see it only as an indication that American’s regard their lives as less valuable than the lives of others.  If capital punishment had never been an option, at least they would have had the consolation that we had given the harshest penalty possible to the perpetrator of this monstrous crime.

My further conclusion is that the only way to be pro-life is to be consistently nonviolent, and to work consistently for peaceful solutions to problems, however difficult the problems may be.

Aw, Come on Al!

Al Gore didn’t help those who would like to overlook the abortion question, in his remarks tonight.  He reminded us that the next president could potentially appoint up to three supreme court justices, and they could potentially vote to overturn Roe V. Wade–if folks vote for McCain.

I was trying to tell myself that abortion is not really a presidential issue–it was the supreme court who overturned the states’ rights to regulate abortion–and in spite of twenty years of Republican presidencies, we haven’t got a court that is conservative enough to send the question back to the states.

The republicans don’t have any enthusiasm for their own candidate.  James Dobson–in spite of his 30 years of opposing abortion–has said he probably can’t vote for John McCain, even though McCain claims to be pro-life.

I wanted to celebrate the fact that 45 years after Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, our country is getting close to being color blind.  I wanted to be proud of a candidate with connections to my own state.

But then Al Gore reminded me of why the governor of my own state was probably scratched off the list of potential vice-presidential candidates.  The pictures of her embracing and accepting money from one of the few providers of late-term abortions in the nation, would be too controversial, too distracting from the message of change.

And former vice president Gore reminded us that the issue has not gone away.

What’s a Pro-Life Voter to Do?

The archbishop of Denver criticized Nancy Pelosi for misrepresenting catholic teaching on abortion (here).  She claimed that the church was ambiguous on the question of when life begins.  Archbishop Chaput answered that the church has never been ambiguous about abortion–it has always condemned the practice.  Archbishop Chaput even quotes the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said,

“the destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”  (From Bonhoeffer’s Ethics)

Candidate Obama has voted against restrictions on late-term abortions and even against a law protecting infants who survive unsuccessful abortion procedures.  A nurse from Chicago has testified under oath several times that she has witnessed this phenomenon several times.  Babies (that’s what everyone calls fetuses after they are born) have been left to die after surviving induced abortions (here).

We are not talking about subtle nuances here–whether a fertilized egg is a person–we are talking about near-term fetuses or even babies surviving outside the womb.

So how can a pro-life voter support a candidate who opposes any restrictions on late-term abortions?

But there is another life-issue–war.  The other candidate says he will keep us in Iraq for one hundred years, if necessary.

Looking back on these two issues, we are really talking about elective abortion and elective war.  No one on the pro-life side wishes to deny abortion when it is medically necessary to save the life of the mother. What bothers so many is when abortion is not necessary, but a choice, an elective option.

The same is true of George Bush’s war in Iraq.  It was an elective war.  We were not under attack, nor were we in imminent danger of attack from Iraq.  Even had it been true that Saddam Hussein was still trying to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction, no one believed he had a missile ready to launch.  So this was an optional war–not a war forced upon us but a war chosen to accomplish a good cause–eliminating a tyrant, bringing democracy to the Middle East–but not a war undertaken for immediate self-defense.

Only one candidate had the judgment or courage to vote against that war.

Help me out readers.  Am I being selfish to think of my own family? In sixteen years my grandson could be sent to Iraq.  Maybe he will be told that the Iraqi government is almost ready to stand on its own–they just need a little more time.  Right now we don’t have a draft–but the current system is unfair to those who enlisted, and there have been senators calling for a reinstatement of conscription.

I assume that all those who enlist for active duty or in the reserves are motivated by the desire to serve their country.  I assume they believe they will not been sent into optional or elective wars.  They will not be called upon to enter harm’s way unless it is absolutely necessary.  In that case we will want a president with a proven record of good judgment.

So here is my problem.  How can I vote for a candidate who supports elective, optional late-term abortion?  How can I vote for a candidate who supports elective, optional war?

You might say the answer is either don’t vote or vote for a third party candidate.

The problem with that for me is that it would be avoiding my responsibility.  Barack Obama or John McCain will be our next president (of course, barring unforseen tragedies or divine intervention).  I have a responsibility to choose one of these candidates.  Which pro-life issue is more important?  Or do I call it a draw and vote on the other issues?  In that case, the choice to me is clear enough.

That’s Not Journalism

Cousin Eric documents the lies and wild conjectures presented as facts in the best selling book Obama Nation (here). The antidote to bad journalism is better journalism.

By the way, good for Rick Warren for presenting a civil forum for the two presidential candidates to express their positions and answer. Pastor Warren called both candidates his friends, and later on the Larry King show, he called the talk show host a good friend. Warren has taken some criticism for advocating progressive causes such as fighting poverty, AIDS, and global warming. I think his ministry is a good model of what the church should be doing, bringing people together rather than causing divisions.

On the CNN interview both candidates gave direct answers to some tough questions. A lot of questions are very important, but as I see it, the most important questions are those that relate to life. And here’s the dilemma: war and abortion both relate to the value of life and both candidates express different views on both issues.

(For more on the interview, click here.)