On Contemporary Life & Culture

Ethically speaking, I am pro-life and pro-choice.  I think that human life should be preserved and protected, because I believe that life is incredibly valuable, even sacred.  In other words, I am pro-life.  And yet I also think that human beings should be allowed to live in freedom, allowed to make their own decisions in accordance with their own conscience, because I believe that every human being has inherent dignity.   So I am also pro-choice.  Notice that I am not talking about abortion or about what I think should be legal or illegal.  I am just talking about two basic ethical principles which I happen to hold to be true in life in general.

That said, the issue of abortion is obviously where these principles often clash most dramatically today, not just in terms of what is ethical but also in terms of what should or shouldn’t be legal.  So there is an ethical dilemma and a legal dilemma.  Ethically speaking, should I defend the rights of unborn babies to live or should I defend the rights of pregnant mothers to make their own decisions?  Or is my ethical obligation, as a man, simply to not have an opinion and to not get involved in the issue, one way or another, since I will never have to personally decide whether to have or not have an abortion?  These are the only possibilities that I can come up with.  And honestly I struggle to come to a clearcut opinion.

Legally speaking, how can the aforementioned ethical principles be translated into public laws?  Should the rights of unborn babies take precedence over the rights of pregnant women, or should the rights of pregnant women take legal precedence over the rights of unborn babies?  Some would say that we shouldn’t attempt to legislate ethics in the first place.  But I think this entirely misses the point, at least as far as abortion is concerned.  The legislative interests of both those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice are justified on the basis of ethical convictions. So the issue is not about whether we should or shouldn’t legislate ethical principles whatsoever; the issue is about which ethical principles should have legislative precedence.  For both sides, this does not merely involve a legislative choice.  It also involves an ethical choice.  And again, I personally struggle to know how the two aforementioned ethical principles should be translated into laws on this issue.

Theologically and generally speaking, I am inclined to think that God is pro-life and pro-choice.  It is likely unsurprising to suggest that, from a Christian point of view, God desires us to protect and preserve life.  This does not need further explanation here.  But what about God and human freedom?  In a world that is overwhelmed with suffering and evil, one of the simplest and most compelling theodicies in defence of God’s goodness can be summed up like this: God is pro-choice.  Affirming this definitely does not mean that God would necessarily approve of whatever choices we make.  It simply means that God has chosen to allow us to make real choices, whether he approves of them or not, because he respects our freedom.  Indeed, if God’s essence is unconditional and uncontrolling love, then God has accordingly created us with the capacity to make real, free choices for the ultimate purpose of sharing love with us—because real love cannot exist where there is not mutual liberty and devotion.  A convoluted way to put this is that God wants us to want him, and God wants us to want each other, all for love’s sake.  It means that God’s greatest desire is that we would be partners, not puppets.  It means that God’s love is not coercive or controlling.

So where does that leave me on the issue of abortion?  And where does that leave us?  I’m still processing this one, honestly.  I have not been able to find any easy answers.  I think that any thoughtful stance on this dilemma will have to have its nuances and balances; it will have to consider the whole issue and not selectively attend to those parts, or perhaps I should say persons, that we may passionately prefer to ally with.

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