Sunday, September 18, 2016

So I'm reading in Leviticus 24 where it says "Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death." (v.17) and "Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death." (v.21)

There seems to be a pretty clear moral hierarchy displayed here: that killing a person was viewed as much worse than killing an animal. Killing an animal was viewed as a form of property damage.

The 21st chapter of Exodus goes into even more detail about who should be put to death for what. But then I came across this at verse 22: "When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman's husband demands, paying as much as the judge determines." The text goes on to say that if further damage to the woman has occurred, then the appropriate "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" penalties should be applied. 

So again, there seems to be a moral hierarchy displayed here. The penalty for causing a miscarriage (in other words, causing a pregnancy to abort) was not the penalty for taking a life or even harming a person. It was closer to the penalties for property damage listed in chapter 22 of Exodus. 

An interesting implication here is that if the Old Testament penalty for taking the life of "a human being" was death but the penalty for causing a miscarriage/abortion was to pay a fine, what does that say about there being a biblical view that a fetus is considered a person?

Given that this is the most explicit biblical instruction related to abortion, it is not surprising that for most of history most Christians (and Church teachings) were not stridently "anti-abortion" but instead held nuanced and flexible views. The idea that a human being exists instantaneously after the moment of conception and that, therefore, abortion is tantamount to murder, is not a historical Christian view. It became the position of the Catholic church in the 16th century but didn't become an established position among conservative Protestant Christians until the latter half of the 20th century. The majority of Christians throughout history were not "anti-abortion" and many (if not most) Christians in the world today have moderate views about abortion--which is appropriate given the complexity of the subject and the lack of clear biblical teaching on it.

And yet, in the U.S., many conservative Christians are about to endorse (via their vote) a man whose words and actions have been the antithesis of biblical moral teachings, because they hope he will elect Supreme Court justices who will outlaw (or at least eliminate federal funding for) abortion. And so, in the name of Christ, they will vote for a man who demonstrably does not follow Christian teachings in the hope that he will enact laws which likewise do not follow biblical or historical church teachings.



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