Monday, August 18, 2008

An analogy that's bugging me

Rev. Rick Warren is comparing pro-choice politicians to holocaust deniers, and in context, it mostly makes sense, if you take it very much on the surface. See, if you believe life begins at conception, abortion is murder, and being pro-choice is like denying the Holocaust. Of course, if I wanted to go for maximum offensiveness, I could point out that if I believe Jesus was an immortal bigfoot, well, lets just say that the legislative implications of that particular counter-factual would be rather far-reaching. But I don't want to be maximally offensive, so I won't go into it. Nevertheless, I'm sure I'll be offensive enough without really going for the gold.

Instead, I'll just point out that the argument isn't about whether life begins at conception nearly as much as it is about whether a fetus has a soul. My reading of scripture is no, and I understand that the traditional view, before the Christian Right got into it, was that the soul entered the body with the first breath, which fits quite well with various readings of the Old Testament, not to mention the etymology of the Greek and Latin words for soul, not to mention the original Hebrew words, ruah and nephesh, both of which seem to be tied to breath. But things have obviously changed, and it's now in vogue to claim that if you don't agree with the right wing on this one particular issue, you're not really a Christian.

I'm not, but that's a separate issue.

So what happens to these souls, then? Limbo is no more, remember, and never was accepted doctrine by evangelicals. So it's either heaven or hell. If the soul enters the body at conception, then so does original sin, and that means Hell, since these babies have not been baptized, nor have they accepted Jesus as their savior. That is also accepted church doctrine, unless they've changed it lately. Well, it's church doctrine that you must believe and be baptized to get into Heaven. Again, when it comes to fetuses, there's a lot of hand-waving. But if a fetus is a human being, then they get stuck with that doctrine as well, right?

I'll be honest with you. If I were really a Christian, and I really believed that life began at conception, I think I'd have to believe, also, that those little babies were all going to Hell. Which would really, really piss me off. Actually, I kind of went down that road, a very long time ago. And I started thinking about miscarriages, which are even bigger numbers than abortion, and are nobody's fault but God's. And God wouldn't send innocent babies to Hell (actually, according to church doctrine, he does just that all the time, but, hey! look over there!). Therefore life must begin at birth, not conception.

An alternative has just occurred to me, that original sin doesn't come with the soul, but comes later, maybe by passage through the birth canal. It would be just like the misogynist church to claim that contact with the vagina causes original sin, wouldn't it? This has the extra bonus that our daughter is without original sin. Excellent!

Most anti-choice folks don't really talk about Hell, though. Or they insist that all babies go to Heaven, ignoring original sin (and a bunch of other theology, but that's another post). Hell is for abortion doctors and Democrats, not innocent babies.

And here is my problem with this analogy (I know, you're thinking "Finally!" aren't you?). This world is a fucked up place, filled with temptation, and these innocent babies are all up in Heaven, having skipped the hard part of life and gotten fast-tracked up to the loving arms of their creator. I mean, isn't the whole attraction of Christianity that this life sucks, but God loves you and will take care of you in the next? I know it was for me. By this standard, abortion falls pretty far short of the Holocaust, since the Jews are definitely not going to Heaven, according to established church doctrine.

If you are offended by some of the statements in the post above, I'm sorry, but I'm just reiterating the doctrine of the mainstream evangelical church. Except for the bigfoot thing, but I was clearly kidding there. Snoogins.

I should note that some Christians, such as my parents, believe in universal salvation, which sidesteps the above logical conundrums. As doctrines go, it's a good one, but it pretty much kills my motivation to get up on a Sunday morning. If my immortal soul is not in jeopardy, I'd rather sleep in.

I should also note that most of the Christians I have known are wonderful people. They make good friends and neighbors, have written some wonderful music and some fantastic poetry. Ditto for Republicans, except for the music and poetry part. But this kind of internal inconsistencies is one of the reasons I'm no longer a Christian. Sleeping in on Sundays used to be another, but the, we had a baby, and I don't even have that anymore.

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