Is Abortion the Only Faith Issue?

[Column to the Circleville Herald, published August 22, 2008]

Kudos to Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best selling The Purpose Driven Life, for enlarging the faith and values debate beyond abortion and gay rights. Pastor Warren hosted at his Saddleback megachurch Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain August 16th, exploring many faith and values concerns including war, healthcare, torture and our Matthew 25 responsibilities to our neighbors.

The Biblical concern for peace and social justice is clear, explicit and central throughout the scriptural record of the major and minor prophets and Jesus’ compassionate ministry.

Amos confronted a wealth-ridden church/state complex mired in formalized ritual that supported oppressive landowners, ignoring justice for the Jewish people. Speaking for God Amos writes, Chapter 5: 21-24 NRSV:

I hate, I despise your festivals, and take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offering of well being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Jesus, were the story of his birth to be written today, was born in an outbuilding in the meanest trailer park in southeast Ohio. Jesus afflicted the comfortable, comforted the afflicted, confronted the allegedly pious who make long prayers in the marketplaces noting that the first now may be last in the Kingdom of God while those outcasts, scorned by the church may be first.

How absolutely clear is the Bible and the faith community on abortion? Is the Bible inerrant? Does Mr. Bush believe Deuteronomy 20 wherein we are commanded to kill everything that breathes when we conquer a city? Do we believe in the Divine Right of Kings? (1 Peter 2:13-17) Fortunately, many churches today are able to liberally and compassionately interpret scripture and ignore those passages of Corinthians and Timothy that forbids women speaking in Church. Numbers 5:11-28 instructs the Priests to induce abortions. Exodus 21:22-25 clearly shows that the life and health of the mother is valued over the fetus. The Southern Baptist convention, prior to Roe v. Wade , in 1971 adopted the following resolution “we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental and physical health of the mother.”

There is no doubt of the absolute sincerity of our brothers and sisters in faith who oppose abortion, but we must be aware that a vote for abortion opponents is so often also a vote for un-Christian war, torture ,the profits of health insurance and pharmaceutical companies over the care of our children, dismantling of worker safety regulations ( review recent mining disasters in the U.S.), reduced funds for education, college and veteran’s care, as well as economic policies that have impoverished millions of working U.S. citizens.

Jesus often withdrew from the crowds, to discern in quiet the “still small voice” of God. How do we persons of faith in our nation today, August 2008, discern and vote the values of Amos, of the Sermon on the Mount, of Matthew 25:40, of Luke’s Great Banquet?

Brad Cotton

Convener, Circleville Friends Worship Group (Quakers)