This post is about abortion and the “because” of Christian ethics.
But we will begin with what I call “The Sex Talk Contradiction.”
In Christian youth group, here was my sex education: “As a Christian you shouldn’t have sex before marriage.” Why not? “Because it’s emotionally damaging, you could get an STD, and/or knock up some fellow teenager.”
And if you look closely you will see the “Because” of Christian ethics. The reasons for why I shouldn’t have sex has absolutely nothing to do with being a Christian. This my friends, is a logical fallacy we call “Non-Sequitur.” But it’s an effective fallacy and youth leaders are no fools. They know that reasons that are based solely on my faith are not going to be convincing but reasons that have very practical and emotional implications are. But they want to make it explicitly Christian as well, even if the most convincing reasons have nothing to do with Christianity. So I grew up saying that I wasn’t going to have sex because I was a Christian but really it was because I was terrified of being a 15 year old baby daddy.
Now that I have cut our teeth on a harmless example, let’s move this logic party into “issues that cause wailing and gnashing of teeth,” like abortion.
If I ask, “Why do you oppose abortion?” you might answer, “Because I believe God has uniquely created every human being and the Bible affirms that they are to be valued, even in the womb.”* So then I might say, “So, the reason you oppose abortion is because you are a Christian who reads the Bible in this way?” And you, feeling very proud that you get to stand up for your religious conviction will proclaim, “Yes! Absolutely.”
But when you say that, you must also be willing to say that unless you are a Christian who reads the Bible in my way, then your reason for being pro-life makes no sense. That is, you must allow people who are not Christians to say, “Yeah, well, I don’t believe in God, so that’s why I am pro-choice.”
If you come back and say, “Well, what about the emotional and psychological effects of abortion on the mother?”
Remember the “Sex Talk Contradiction”? You’ve just changed the foundation. The reason you just gave has nothing to do with your Christian reasons for being pro-life. So by changing the conversation from “because I am a Christian” to “because of the safety of the mother,” you must either commit a logical fallacy or you must admit that such a reason is not “because you are a Christian.”
What’s the point? The point is this: Christians can’t have their cake and eat it too. If you want to base your ethics on your religious conviction then you shouldn’t be surprised or morally self-righteous when people who do not share your religious conviction come to a different conclusion about ethical issues. Yes, it is “killing a human being to you,” but that’s because your religion informs what you mean by “human being.”
If you are pro-life because you are a Christian then you must give Christian reasons why you are pro-life. And you have to be willing to admit that people who are not Christians are simply not going to see it your way. And so, Christians are missing the point. If you want someone to come to your ethical conclusions, you do not start with ethical issues. You must first convince them to become Christians. Otherwise, your ethical conclusions make no sense.
And for goodness sake, both sides need to quit acting like people are either idiots or evil if they disagree with you about abortion. There probably are some idiots and some evil people on both sides (I would argue we are all idiots and all evil in our own way). But most people are not. They simply do not accept your assumptions about God, the world, and what it means to be human. So why would they come to the same conclusions?
As always, these are always thoughts-in-process. So this is a sincere invitation: what do you think?
*I recognize that this does not address the nuanced issue of being “personally” pro-life but “politically” pro-choice or even the possibility of Christians who affirm abortion. That would take too much boring philosophy-speak to wade through.