Monday, November 09, 2015

Abortion and the Language of Ownership

I recently read a Huffington Post article regarding a sermon preached by Pastor Jeff Crawford at Cross Church, where he states that a woman's body is not her own, but belongs to God. Theologically, he seems to be working from the point that if creation belongs to God, and humanity within it, then naturally our bodies belong to God. While I do not think that it was his intention to single out women's' bodies over men's; the fact that a male preacher is using the logic of ownership when speaking about the relationship between God, a woman's body, and a developing fetus, tends to reinforce the image of the church as a patriarchal organization whose chief purpose for being is to control people.

The Language of Ownership v. The Language of Emancipation 
While there are many who share the view that God “owns” us, I think that this is a misreading of scripture, especially when read in the context of Jesus' mission. There are definitely many religious leaders who frame their understanding of morality in terms of ownership and servitude, which borders on the rationale for slavery. But there are many others who frame their religious understanding of morality in terms of grace, freedom, and love. I tend to think that whatever the individual moral positions being debated (whether abortion, the death penalty, civil rights, etc.), the second line of thought is more helpful and a better paradigm for human beings to operate under.

While the Bible definitely addresses issues regarding ownership and property, they are almost always concessions to the human desire to find our identity in terms of control and occupation. God knows that humans have a tough time sharing. If we all were able to equitably distribute resources, then there would be no need for economic, political, or judicial systems. We would still be living in the paridisical relationship for which we were created. However, because we have chosen to corrupt our relationship to God, each other, and creation through sinful action, any attempts or even dreams of utopia tend to fall short. The Bible doesn't address issues of ownership because such a system is what God desires. It addresses these issues because it must address the reality of our fallen, selfish state and the inequality with which we tend to frame our relationships.

In fact, I would argue that the entire concept of ownership is a human (and relatively recent) invention. To frame our understanding of God, the cosmos, or ethical practice on terms of “ownership” will always pit human beings against each other. I think that if God exists, and if God created and sustains the cosmos, with life and an evolving humanity within it (with free will); then this means that even God has relinquished any "right of ownership" in favor of developing a relationship with humanity founded on mutual love.

Something which owns another, cannot expect the other to freely choose right over wrong, life over death. Ownership (and slavery, which is ownership of the body) is the language of force and violence. Redemption is the language of peace and reconciliation.

Applying the Language of Emancipation to the Abortion Debate
To bring this back to the issue at hand, I think we should address abortion theologically and in the context of the gospel message: which is the proclamation of redemption through love, and freedom through reconciliation (Lk. 4:17-21). I do not oppose abortion on the grounds of God's right of ownership (after all, the ownership argument still doesn't address the status of the fetus within the woman's body). I oppose abortion in most cases because all life is sacred, and the potential for life is sacred. Even if a fetus is part of a woman's body, its growth is still a sacred part of the life which God created. The sacred nature of life should be the focal point for the theological and philosophical consideration of abortion; instead of notions regarding ownership of the woman's body, or the individuality of the fetus.

I have no doubt that both sides value life. But for us to come to any kind of truly ethical conclusion, I think we should value BOTH the life of the mother and the potential of life for future generations, represented in the fetus. Using “ownership” as an argument is simply misleading, and I would argue, may even be contrary to the core of the gospel message.

#abortion #pro-life #pro-choice #women #God #ownership #emancipation #Gospel

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