The Jesus of the gospels was a bit of a hippie. Not totally or always (Matt 10:34-35, not so hippie-ish), but more often than not. Mike Lux over at the HuffPo put together some numbers (always a dubious game, but it has its uses). Money quote:
In fact, as I noted in my piece about Todd Akin, Jesus talks about mercy to those in trouble in 24 verses of the Gospels, tells people not to judge in 34 verses, tells people to love and forgive even their enemies in 53 verses, tells people to love their neighbors as themselves and treat others as they would want to be treated in 19 verses, and specifically tells people to help the poor and/or spurn riches and the wealthy in 128 verses.
That is a lot of verses, 258 by my count, where Rick Santorum’s savior and George W. Bush’s favorite philosopher sounds like a tried and true, solid to the core, far-out, lefty liberal. And all those where Jesus sounds like a conservative? I couldn’t find a single one. He never once condemns abortion, even though it was very common in ancient times.
That last bit really struck me. Maybe partially because I’m chin deep in the Game of Thrones books (crack, but really, really good crack), and there’s a kindof morning-after pill called “Moon Tea” that almost all of the adult female characters casually reference having taken at some point or another, and in at least one instance a character (Queen Cercei) references a more dramatic procedure she underwent when she actually did become pregnant. (The books are set in a feudal fantasy universe.)
All this is to say that I was primed, when I read the bolded sentence above, to smack myself on the forehead because OF COURSE people have been getting abortions forever, and OF COURSE forever includes 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem and surrounding areas.
What I’m saying is, dude is right, it’s pretty ridiculous that THE locus of religious political identity for what seems like the vast majority of the most politically vocal Catholics and Protestants in North America is abortion when Jesus didn’t care enough to say anything even close to explicit about it.
(For your interest, here’s the best Biblical case for abortion opposition I was able to turn up in a lazy Google search — lemme know if you find a better one. This one makes A LOT of interpretive leaps.)
It occurs to me that one might argue that Jesus didn’t talk about abortion because, as a man, he may not have known about it. I call BS on that line for two reasons: (1) He hung out with prostitutes. (2) He’s supposed to be God.
So why is abortion THE issue for so many of these folks?
In addition to Game of Thrones, I’ve been reading this book called “Faces of the Enemy” — a psychoanalytic investigation of propaganda cartoons portraying, you guessed it, the faces of whatever enemy the propaganda was out to monsterrify (<3 making up words). One motif the book identifies as almost always coming into propaganda campaigns is “enemy as baby-killer.” Everyone has used it, and they’ve used it because it works. It’s in our brain stems that babies are for protecting, and few things are harder wired (breathing, maybe).
This is exactly the rhetoric the abortion issue opens up for political Christians of a certain rightward bent — a very powerful one (not like that “love your enemy” broth Jesus kept ladling), as far as provoking emotion-driven responses in people, and action that serves your ineterest. Political people like power more than almost anything. Therefore, political Christians of a certain rightward bent love the abortion issue. Q.E.D.
(Hat-tip to TMM for posting the article on fb)
PS – Here’s a Wikipedia entry on “The History of Abortion.” Teaser:
The first recorded evidence of induced abortion, is from the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus in 1550 BCE. A Chinese record documents the number of royal concubines who had abortions in China between the years 515 and 500 BCE. According to Chinese folklore, the legendary Emperor Shennong prescribed the use of mercury to induce abortions nearly 5000 years ago. Many of the methods employed in early and primitive cultures were non-surgical. Physical activities like strenuous labor, climbing,paddling, weightlifting, or diving were a common technique. Others included the use of irritant leaves, fasting, bloodletting, pouring hot water onto the abdomen, and lying on a heated coconut shell. In primitive cultures, techniques developed through observation, adaptation of obstetrical methods, and transculturation.Archaeological discoveries indicate early surgical attempts at the extraction of a fetus; however, such methods are not believed to have been common, given the infrequency with which they are mentioned in ancient medical texts.
Interestingly, while Jesus didn’t seem to care about it, the Romans apparently did, though they didn’t see it as baby killing:
Paulus wrote in his Sentences that “those who administer a beverage for the purpose of producing abortion, or of causing affection, although they may not do so with malicious intent, still, because the act offers a bad example, shall, if of humble rank, be sent to the mines; or, if higher in degree, shall be relegated to an island, with the loss of a portion of their property. If a man or a woman should lose his or her life through such an act, the guilty party shall undergo the extreme penalty.” And also Ulpian, as it appears in the Digest regarding to the instutition of curator ventris (protector of the womb): “An unborn child is considered being born, as far as it concerns his profits”.
Suzanne Dixon, a senior lecturer in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Queensland, writes that abortion was a threat to traditional power structures in the classical Roman world. A husband had power over his wife, her body, and their children. She explains that writings from the classical world portray abortion as expressions of an ideological agenda where men maintain or reestablish patterns of power between the sexes, not as information about historical realities.:27Punishment for abortion in the Roman Republic was inflicted as a violation of the father’s right to dispose of his offspring.:3Because of the influence of Stoicism, which did not view the fetus as a person, the Romans did not punish abortion as homicide.