24 September 2015

On the Morality of Abortion

A recent series of videos released by the innocuous-sounding organization with an obvious ax to grind, Center for Medical Progress, has sparked a series of enraged abortion discussions on social media... and on the political stage, for that matter.

I have very serious concerns about this organization, its leaders, and their approach. I am also concerned that the focus of these videos (the tenuous yet ardently argued claim that Planned Parenthood is selling pieces of aborted babies! For Money!) is distracting folks from a much more significant question: The morality of abortion in general.

As I see it, abortion's morality really boils down to three smaller questions:
  1. What is a human life?
  2. What makes human life valuable?
  3. When is it acceptable to deprive a human of life?
Your answers to these questions should be excellent predictors for your ideas about whether and when abortion is morally acceptable.

So here are my answers:

1. I believe that a human life originates when an embryo is formed. I think it's incorrect (and perhaps either ignorant or disingenuous) to claim that an embryo is really just a part of the mother's body, since the embryo is genetically distinct from the mother. I also believe that the fetus's ability to survive outside the womb is more or less irrelevant, since a newborn baby (despite its legal status as a "real live human") is also unable to survive and thrive without receiving the right sort of care. To my thinking, there's not a lot of moral space between late-term abortion and infanticide.

2. I believe that humans are created in God's image and, as such, are intrinsically valuable. I believe this is true regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, sexual orientation, or any other imaginable configuration. If it's a human, it bears the indelible stamp of almighty God. If it's a human, Jesus died to redeem it because of God's great love for the world. Thus, for me, the level of a person's development (whether physical, emotional, mental, or otherwise) is not the most important part of this equation, since it does not alter a person's identity as a God-made, God-loved human being.

3. I'm a little less dogmatic on this one. If, by sacrificing one life, I could save a hundred, would I do it? I really don't know... unless that one life were mine, in which case I would give an unqualified yes. (And in case you're wondering about the cutoff, I would even sacrifice my own life for a single person.) But when it comes to taking other people's lives, I don't feel like that's a choice I should make. I'm not the creator, so I am by definition not the proper arbiter of life and death. However, I do stand open to reasonable discussion about this matter (e.g., regarding the death penalty, national security, justifiable warfare, or abortion to save the life of the mother).

What about you, dear reader? This being the Internet, I must ask you to keep your comments as civil as possible, but I really do want to know what you think about these questions.

12 July 2015

John 6: Hungry for Bread

I am full of miraculous bread,
Wondrous, delicious, temporal,
And then I hunger again,
So I come to you, begging:
Just one more loaf?

You dismiss my bellyhunger,
Offering to meet a deeper need,
And I say that sounds fine,
But maybe just one more sign,
Perhaps involving something
Crusty on the outside and soft within.

You say I should work God's work,
Which is all right with me,
So long as that work is
Multiplying fish, adding loaves,
Or possibly conjuring wine
By the sacred washtubful.

Desperate for a fix,
I demand credentials:
How do I even know you are 
Who you claim to be?
Show me a sign; 
I have the perfect one in mind:
How about a nice, fresh batch
Of heavenly bread?

28 June 2015

Communion Meditation on Isaiah 5

‭Isaiah‬ ‭5‬:‭20-24‬ NASB:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine And valiant men in mixing strong drink, Who justify the wicked for a bribe, And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right! Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble And dry grass collapses into the flame, So their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust; For they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

It would be easy to apply these words to our nation's reaction toward the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing homosexual marriage in all 50 states. 

If you're on social media, you've probably noticed a flood of posts over the past few days, saying things like, At last: equality!" Or "Everyone should have the right to love whoever they want."

And it wouldn't be wrong to make this application. God's word clearly says that his design for marriage is one man and one woman, together for life. Any sexual relationship outside that definition is likely to bring pain, guilt, and loss, both for those immediately involved and for society at large. This is true regardless of the relationship's legal status.

But it would be wrong to stop our thoughts on this passage there. Isaiah is a prophet, and prophecy is intended to make us contemplate our own sin problem, not other people's.

So I confess before you and the Lord this morning that I am guilty of the things Isaiah lists here: 

I have called evil good, and good evil.

I have substituted darkness for light and light for darkness.

I have substituted bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

I have gone to great lengths to justify my own wickedness.

I have been wise in my own eyes and clever in my own sight.

I have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Therefore, I have justly earned God's condemnation: As a tongue of fire consumes stubble and dry grass collapses into the flame, so my root deserves to  become like rot and my blossom deserves to blow away as dust.

But God wasn't willing to leave me there, in a place of hopeless, well-deserved condemnation. And He wasn't willing to leave you there, either. That's why we've gathered here today: To celebrate the sacrifice that transferred us from a kingdom of darkness, death, and damnation into one of light, life, and love. 

Because Jesus died on the cross for us, we can have forgiveness and restoration through him. When we place our faith in him, his blameless life and righteousness displace our sinful selves. Christ's life becomes who we really are, and we leave behind our old, corrupted natures.

Let's thank God for his merciful, life-giving work on our behalf.

21 June 2015


You are first among the many
Who gather this morning,
Brothers breaking your very body,
Sisters sipping your very blood,
Bread and wine standing in
For sinews and muscle,
For plasma and marrow,
A feast made no less gruesome,
No less costly, no less terrible,
By our symbolic commemoration.

You meant what you said:
We must consume you,
Body and soul, to be whole,
To be rid of the death we've earned,
To be healed of our brokenness:
The brokenness we inherited,
The brokenness we sought out.
They couldn't take it that day,
Those hungry men looking for bread,
So they left disgusted, 

But my hunger is insatiable,
And my pockets are empty,
So I will take
And eat
And drink
And I will do it
In remembrance of you.

11 June 2015

Everything Changes

A response to today's Wednesday Poetry Prompt.

here he comes at last,
the long-awaited one,
with a lifeless alien face,
eyes sealed shut,
perfectly motionless
and motionlessly perfect.

i wonder, at first,
is everything all right?
he should be louder,
or friendlier,
or angrier,
or something more,
something less breathless.

in this moment,
my hope pauses,
my breath catches,
and she starts asking
if everything's all right,
and i don't really know.
even if he was breathing,
i wouldn't know.

over these months,
my all has been
subsumed, slowly, into
this searing moment, into
this pregnant pause, into
this silent question mark.
i'm not sure
if everything's all right
because i don't know anymore
what everything is
(or, for that matter, what all right is).

and then his eyes open
and he screams like
the tornado siren
on the roof of the school
behind our house,
and that sound is
a sacred seal,
a holy reassurance,
and i suddenly know
that whatever everything is now,
it's all right.