Which Faith-Based Values?

 (published Circleville Herald 18 July 2011)

Ohio House Republicans 28 June passed three bills that essentially negate a woman’s right to control her own reproductivity. House bill #125,aka the “Heartbeat Bill” along with  bills #78, #79 collectively prohibit nearly all abortions , even  in the cases of rape, incest, severe fetal abnormalities or when the health of the mother is at stake.  HB #125 bans all abortions after a heartbeat is detectable by ultrasound, which usually occurs about weeks number 5 - 6, before many a woman would even know that she was pregnant. These are the strictest abortion laws in the nation and they do nothing to create one job for the struggling unemployed, do nothing to provide health care or education or end the death penalty in Ohio. House Republicans in fact passed a budget that preserves the 2005 Taft tax cuts for the  wealthiest Ohioans while slashing health care, education and essential human services. The House also wisely decided to allow concealed weapons in bars.

 The Southern Baptist convention in 1971 adopted the following resolution: “We call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow for the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, …fetal deformity… the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental and physical health of the mother.” The Bible is far from clear on abortion. Nonetheless, many Ohioans of faith are no doubt sincere in their anti-abortion views. However, if such anti-abortion views are founded on faith, must we not also acknowledge God’s constantly repeated concern for social justice throughout the Old Testament, made especially clear in the Prophets and the teachings of Jesus?

The Epistle of James is rarely read in many churches that have accommodated to our market culture. Especially appropriate for Ohio and our nation, where the wages of workers sink lower and lower while  wealth  is redistributed upwards to the richest 2% among us to a degree not seen since 1929 is James 5:1-6 (NRSV):

Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts! ( my emphasis)

Just as sincerely as abortion foes hear the cries of the unborn, we on the Religious Left hear the cries of all the laborers robbed of health care, job and home, the wailing of the families of the 45,000 who die yearly because maintaining record health insurance company profits  was more important than their lives. We mourn the 29 Massey Energy miners that died last year because corporate profits bought friendly Republican legislators that gutted safety regulations.

Abortion foes have worked into state and federal statutes, clauses that keep any tax dollars away from funding abortions, however tangentially. I am just as profoundly distressed that my taxes have helped kill tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians thereby enriching  Halliburton and other war contractors, while the socio-economically disadvantaged among us disproportionately fill the lists of the killed and wounded.  Just as abortion foes feel Roe v. Wade is un-Christian, the Religious Left is equally distressed at the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows obscene, no other word will do, rivers of corporate cash to buy any election, anywhere, anytime in our nation. Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus lived in and spoke truth to power in similar times of economic oppression.

The facts show that when women have access to health care, to pregnancy prevention, to reality-based rather than ideologically driven but ineffective abstinence only education, that then abortion rates decline dramatically. While a full discussion of Biblical hermeneutics (methods of interpretation) is beyond the reach of this column, from my own decades long study of the texts and commentary I find that God’s directive  that we look out for the safety and just treatment of the least among us is primary, pervasive and persuasive. In the words of the greatest faith leader in recent times, the Rev. Martin Luther King; “None of us is free until all of us are free.”


- - - Brad Cotton