Choice on Earth

by Jay Johansen
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Planned Parenthood, the leading provider of abortions in the United States, sells a Christmas card with the usual non-denominational sort of look -- falling snow flakes against a blue background -- and the message "Choice on Earth".

Presumably this is their take on the traditional Christmas message of "Peace on Earth", which is derived from the announcement that the angels made to tell the shepherds about the birth of Jesus, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace". (Luke 2:14, NIV)

This clever new holiday tradition will surely inspire other social and political movements. Doctors protesting high malpractice insurance rates could produce Christmas cards reading "Tort reform on Earth". Drug legalization groups could sing Christmas carols while handing out "High on Earth" cards. The National Rifle Association could spread the Christmas message with "Guns on Earth". And the gay rights people could rally round the Christmas tree and share "Sodomy on Earth" cards.

I think I need to drink a few more egg nogs.

Planned Parenthood's website includes a letter from a "Reverend Mark Bigelow" defending these cards, with this interesting line of reasoning:

Even as a minister I am careful what I presume Jesus would do if he were alive today, but one thing I know from the Bible is that Jesus was not against women having a choice in continuing a pregnancy. He never said a word about abortion (nor did anyone else in the Bible) even though abortion was available and in use in his time. In addition, his compassionate stance toward all individuals causes me to believe that he would want us to do what we can to ensure that women have full access to all necessary medical care in order to have healthy and happy families. Jesus was for peace on earth, justice on earth, compassion on earth, mercy on earth, and choice on earth.
Let's try to take this seriously for a moment. He begins by saying that he is "careful what I presume Jesus would do if he were alive today". But after he himself points out that we have no record of Jesus ever saying a word about the subject, just three sentences later he confidently states that "Jesus was for ... choice". If Jesus never said anything about the subject, and he is careful what he presumes, how can he make such a bold statement? The only explanation he gives for this stunning conclusion is that Jesus was "compassionate ... toward all individuals". Even his starting point is not a direct quote from the Bible, but rather Mr Bigelow's interpretation of unspecified passages, but okay, let's give him that one. He leaps from there to concluding that Jesus would want women to have "full access to all necessary medical care". This may be true, but such a specific conclusion hardly follows from a general expression of compassion. But surely his biggest leap of all is to link this "necessary medical care" that Jesus would just obviously be for to abortion. So his reasoning is: Jesus loves everybody ... "everybody" includes women ... I think women need abortions ... Jesus must be pro-choice.

Wow. I'm guessing that Mr Bigelow did not do well on mathematical proofs in geometry class.

It's true that the Bible does not record Jesus saying anything specific about abortion. It's not at all clear how this silence proves he was for it. The Bible doesn't record Jesus saying anything about slavery, or drug abuse, or rape, or killing people in the arena for entertainment. I've never concluded from this that Jesus thought that these things were all good clean fun. The Gospels make pretty clear that Jesus purpose wasn't to give people a new set of moral rules. He came to die on the cross to pay the penalty for the breaking of all the old moral rules. And we already knew about those rules ... remember the Ten Commandments? When it comes to controversial issues, the Bible doesn't even mention Jesus taking a position on capital punishment, and as he himself was executed and told his followers on many occasions that this is how he would die, it was surely a subject that must have crossed his mind now and then.

But now that I think about it, Jesus did once make a comment about the subject of "necessary medical care". He said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." (Matthew 9:12, NIV) Note that Jesus did not say, "... but the sick and those with unwanted pregnancies". So if a pregnant woman is not sick, Jesus did not believe that she needed a doctor.

More to the point, the Bible mentions that Jesus once said, "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world." (John 16:21, NIV) Childbirth back then was much more dangerous than it is today, but Jesus expects a woman to be more concerned about the welfare of her child than about her own pain or inconvenience.

There was also an occasion when Jesus called a child to him and said, "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:10, NIV) That rather implies special concern for children. Does that include the unborn? It should surely make us just a little nervous about abortion.

Of course, it may be asking a lot for Planned Parenthood to get their theology straight: They can't even get their snowflakes right -- the snowflakes on their card all have eight points, but as I recall I was taught in school that snowflakes have six points. (Well, maybe those are supposed to be stars. Whatever.) Considering that Planned Parenthood doesn't seem to care a great deal what the Bible says about sexual morality in general, it's kind of hard to believe that they really arrived at their position on abortion as a natural outgrowth of a revival meeting.

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Posted 6 Jan 2003.

Copyright 2003 by Pregnant Pause
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