A few weeks ago, my husband and I had a rousing discussion about the role of “government.” On one hand, we agreed that there are many good reasons why people should be free to make their own decisions, without some elite group dictating to us all. There is much evidence that the “order” imposed by such power brokers is self-serving, leads to corruption, and creates as much crime as the propaganda says they are “controlling.” On the other hand, there are probably always going to be some groups or individuals with more power and opportunity than others, and they will try to impose their “rule” on whomever they can. They will almost always claim to have such power “by the will of God,” since using the Bible that way is pretty handy, until the next guy comes along and gains power and claims the same thing. What remains for us common folks, is two things: 1) to do what we can to stay free, within the parameters of our personal convictions about how that is best done, and 2) to defend those more vulnerable than ourselves. The issue of so-called abortion falls under this second item, and is one which is apparently complicated for the Christian libertarian. I suggest to you that if we cut through the political vocabulary, it is easier to evaluate what a Christian perspective should be.
Of importance are the meanings of the words legal, abortion, and life. Abortion is obviously based on the root word abort, which means to “fail to complete” or “to cut short.” It has come to be strongly associated with the political issue of whether or not terminating a pregnancy should be legal, but it can and is used more broadly.
As for the word life, life seems to be something that everyone agrees exists, but no one can completely define. There are aspects of it which elude the most learned scientist and only flirt with the poet. It can be partly explained on a cellular level, but never totally grasped in a purely organic way. Say what you will about life’s beginning, end, and meaning, the phenomena of it is mysterious.
The idea of whether something is legal is fortunately more straightforward. The catch is to realize that legal does not necessarily coincide with moral. Something is legal or illegal simply by the decree of those who have the power over others to designate it so. Making something illegal can be historically proven to not stop the activity, or even lead to justice. What happens is that the criminally inclined take over the distribution of said product or service, and violence erupts as the so-called government gang fights with the other gangs that dare to thwart it’s power. Any appearance of justice being dispensed based on “law,” is usually an illusion that is really just one group imposing it’s power on another.
Back to libertarians, who basically believe in extremely limited government, but have degrees of believing how much their government of choice should have power over others. Christians in particular often struggle with the idea that government is ordained by God, and the more religious among them are convinced that following government rules is a sign of spirituality. The question becomes, is there a Biblical precedent for making certain things illegal (which I discuss in an essay you can find by clicking on this link) and/or when should a Christian who believes in individual freedom take action against perceived wrongs perpetrated against the weak?
A baby alive in the womb is weak and vulnerable, regardless of exactly when anyone thinks distinctly “human” life begins. Since “our society” (I use this phrase tongue in cheek because I hold with the idea that society is not an entity, only individuals are) readily agrees that frogs have squatters rights in ponds, and butterflies have lives worth rearranging air traffic for, it hardly seems honest to quibble about whether the embryo in womb is truly “alive.” Of course it is.
But while the child in it’s mother’s belly is not in the only or even the most vulnerable position, it is a unique relationship. And it is on this truly God-ordained reality that I base my own perspective on whether or not it is right or good to interfere with a woman who wants to end this relationship. God has seen fit to trust the child to the mother, obviously hoping she will guard this blessing of life, but in doing so, He created a situation in which the mother alone has guardianship over the child. If she chooses to abandon this opportunity, and, yes, bring this life to an end, it seems to me that this is something God has set up to be her prerogative. That doesn’t make it right or good, but it is how He set it up.
I see a difference between stepping in to save a child or person who is being harmed or potentially killed when they are not in the womb. It is a line that God created. I will do my best, given opportunity, to convince anyone that a baby in the womb is life to be treasured and saved, but I will not take a mother at gunpoint (or whatever threat of violence) and threaten her until the baby is born. I also do not want to give any government authority to make those kinds of decisions. All it does is give them the “authority” to harm people even more at their own discretion.
Even after a child is born, I think it is a slippery slope to want to intervene with how other people are raising their children. Unless you can determine that there is imminent danger to life, it just becomes one person’s opinion versus another’s. If you (or the government) can just step in to usurp another parent’s role with their children based on the current philosophies of child-rearing, then “they” can do it to you. It can all seem so important at the moment, but I have lived long enough to see that a parental-child relationship is of utmost importance, and that breaking that down hurts the child more than it helps. Even if the parent is a less than perfect specimen (aren’t we all), it is not long before the child is old enough to think for himself and be responsible for how he proceeds with his own life. If God saw fit to give the parent a chance with said children, you had better be very sure of things before deciding He got it wrong.
I value life immensely. I have faced the death of a child. I know what is at stake here. However, people have choices that we are not meant to interfere with. I am not a fatalist, because I believe that God is perfectly capable of getting the attention of anyone who is inclined to listen to Him, to tweak circumstances and help us avoid our own stupidity. He is patiently working time and events for the good of those who will return His love. Meanwhile, there will be killing and hardship until the end of this world as we know it. If you doubt that, you haven’t been paying attention. I may have a chance to save lives, but I’m not going to try to give myself responsibility that God has reserved for someone else.