The Viewpoints question presented on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is how can we have a respectful, productive dialogue?

I think the manner in which people talk about this subject is key but in the end it seems people have made up their mind and come to the issue to fight more than find new paths forward.

I get pretty confused about the liberal/progressive positions on a number of current hot button issues. When it comes to rejecting a violent God, the bloodshed of the Bible, the cross or Hell one appeals to love, peace and the power of a nurturing, healing  community and our obvious modern sensibilities. When it comes to guns, the same logic reigns, we are above killing one another, we should seek paths of peace and lay down our weapons of violence against one another. When it comes to the death penalty  or war, similar arguments resound, who are we mere mortals able to make choices that would end a life with so many possibilities of redemption and reform yet to happen.

But when it comes to abortion, one of the most gruesome human practices against the most vulnerable, budding hope of the future and it's multitude of possibilities, the same reasoning is abandoned for the libertarian position of…free choice.

How can someone who upholds love, peace, nonviolence and creation care and stands against all other manifestations of human violence and yet choose to support such a horrific practice as abortion?

This type of philosophical and theological lycanthropy is very difficult for me to understand.


  1. You list all these things about which conservative and liberal people of faith come together for productive dialogue on, and say abortion is not like the rest of these because people on both sides are intransigent. I disagree with that. I think the productive discussion is wide open on how we can use practical methods like birth control access and education, lifting women out of poverty and into education, and encouraging smart family planning. For a variety of reasons, I know of very few conservative people of faith who are willing to accept any or all of these alternatives to abortion that have been proven to actually reduce abortions. I have friends who work at Planned Parenthood. The culture there is definitely to put primacy on encouraging women and men to use contraceptives, safe sex, and abstinence to avoid conceiving in the first place.

    On the other side, conservatives have brought rape into the discussion in a very negative way that seems like its meant only to mobilize the die-hards of anti-abortion movement and repel everyone else.

    What am I missing that you think that there is unwillingness on both sides to have a discussion about reducing abortions? In my mind, less abortions = doing a better job as a society. Sounds like we both have common cause here.

  2. Ernesto Tinajero

    I agree that Abortion’s part of the culture of death that has permeated our society, much like the NRA. I have long known that I have no true place in American politics in that they are Manichean. (Good guys vs Bad Guys and depending on which you identify as your side Dem or Rep the other side is the Bad guy) So, when Clinton enacted much needed Welfare reforms along Conservative suggestions, the Right rather than celebrating their ideas becoming law, felt that something was stolen from them. Or when Healthcare reform was done off the blueprint of Heritage Foundation, the Conservatives called it socialism and had to ignore that before 2008, the very ideas that fueled the reform were ones that conservatives had been pushing for over a decade. Once they were once trumpeting as a triumphant of conservative values in Massachusetts, now they were saying they were socialism. Crazy, but par in Manichean thinking.

    If I say I am pro-life (which I am) then many assume the rest of my politics
    If I say I am for gun control (which I am) then many assume the rest of my politics.
    Strangely, the assumptions of the rest would completely different from the two positions. They both come out of my commitment to my faith and belief in life.
    Yet, that is what is demanded by the parties and American politics. One or the other. The Early Church strongly rejected Manicheanism and will we have the courage to do so Today?

    Many are right to see it in others, but can they see the log in their own?

  3. Sam, I can’t speak for other people’s religious convictions regarding how to reduce abortion, as for me, all the above is my position. Anything that reduces abortion is part of the plan in my book.

    The part that I get concerned with this position that is often held by pro-choice people is that it’s a way to settle for a selected number of abortions. It’s a compromise made to make room for some abortions, whatever that number may be.

    They want no child killed by guns if possible by any means available but they want choice in abortion to remain available.

    Your assumptions and judgments about people in this response and in your other comments are insulting to me.

    As for me, as I’ve blogged, I supported the Presidents proposals. I think they are sane steps, so all your associations with radical extremists, ugly blood thirsty gun nuts and the like are irrelevant to my discussion.

    In the politics of the matter, I support constitutional law, which the Supreme Court has upheld and I trust will continue to rule in like fashion.

    The early church had many views regarding violence, do you uphold me all, or select those which you choose to agree with? Do you also feel military and police service is a violation of Christian morality?

    I don’t think you do, you’ve supported gun ownership, so you exercise some kind of line drawing based on your politics, faith, personal experience, etc. I extend the same freedom to others, vote, lobby, choose to own or carry or not and when evil comes knocking call 911 or pray for divine protection.

  4. Ernesto Tinajero


    I am trying to think what my assumptions are insulting. I do believe there your assumptions on what I said. Most of what I wrote is in response to the Manicheanism in our current political discourse. My view on guns is that hunting and self protection revolvers should be protected and that Assault weapons and semiauto guns should be like full auto and machine guns. I have been clear on this since the beginning. You seem to get offended when people talk about gun fanatics like in Joe’s post. You think it demonizes gun advocates, but I have talk to most sane people like yourself and they agree with with me. But you then close your eyes to many of the radical gun advocates who fight tooth and nail over any gun control and who have help pass some of the most dangerous laws in this country. You think I am making these guys up. Studies have shown that the position of the rank and file members of the NRA is a odds with the NRA leadership. You say that none of your friends are what I describe, but they are not the ones driving the pro gun agenda. Many gun enthusiasts do use the word “fondle” when talking about holding a gun. I have been to gun shows and I have witnessed the gun lust I write about. I did not make this up. Nor did I make up that most of the guns in the Mexican cartels came from legal American Gun shows. Nor did I make up that the US is the largest small arm market in the world.

    You say you support the modest proposals of the President, and I believe you, then understand you are now standing against the NRA, They do not support them and will fight them tooth and nail. They are also very good at what they do so I will be surprise if their is funding for research or an ATF head next year.

    If you don’t think there are gun fanatics, then talk to Bob Costas. He face death threats. Piers Morgan faced calls for his deportation. I have been threaten to be shot when I was more active. This is reality and it is not hard to find.

    Now on the abortion, I think that because we have so intertwined our politics with stances of liberal and conservatives, it does leave someone like me out. I believe in life so I am against abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, and think our arms build up is a crime against our poor (president Eisenhower’s position by the way). Yet in our us vs them world such views are suspect on both sides.

  5. The Reverend Debra Conklin


    The abortion issue is simply more complex than your position acknowledges. Let me start by stating my personal position, so you know the lens through which I am looking. I am anti-abortion and pro-choice. I knew from early adolescence that I could never have an abortion myself. But I have never felt qualified to make that difficult, heart-rending, life-changing choice for other women.

    The so-called ‘pro-life’ movement simply refuses to acknowledge our historical and cultural situation. There has never been an time when abortion was universally condemned. And the Jesus argument is disingenuous. Jesus as nothing to say about it.

    The real problem with the whole debate is that the two sides are operating out of different basic premises. the radical anti-abortion group believes that an embryo is human – specifically human – from the moment of conception. The pro-choice group does not.

    The question of when a body acquires a soul/becomes human has been a thorny theological issue for centuries. And it is not solved by simplistic rules. If a fetus does not have a soul, surely it is not considered human? If it is not human it does not deserve any particular protection. Yes a fetus is a living thing. So are flies. Surely you are not going to condemn me for swatting a mosquito? There is a difference between a fetus and a fly however. The fetus has the potential to become human. But so does sperm. Shall we make it illegal for men to spill/waste their sperm?

    We simply do not know at what point a group of cells / an embryo / a fetus acquires a soul. If a fetus does not have a soul, how is abortion any different than the many, many practices that are widely accepted in the US?? Farmers kill baby roosters all the time because they are not financially beneficial. Male calves are neutered and subjected to horrible conditions (torture) for months, then slaughtered to produce veal. I consider these things morally reprehensible. These creatures may not have anything that we are willing to call a soul. But they are sentient beings. And I believe that making them suffer, or snuffing out their life, for financial reasons is wrong. But many people do not believe that we should give any particular value to the life of an ‘animal’. I do not believe we should criminalize the behavior until we reach a consensus in our culture that these practices are immoral.

    Similarly, I believe that a fetus is a precious gift, and I could never terminate the life of a fetus. But that does not mean a fetus is a full human being with the same rights as the mother. For some people abortion is not much different than swatting a fly – an embryo is just a group of rapidly duplicating cells. For some it’s more like killing baby animals because they are the wrong gender.

    Historically, we’ve evolved in our attitude toward when life becomes human, or at least what lives are worth protecting. In Jesus day infanticide was widely practiced. Based at least in part on Jesus unexpected and counter-cultural treatment of children, the early Christians began to oppose infanticide. Eventually it became unacceptable. But children were still considered less than fully human, and pretty much expendable. That’s one of the reasons that sweatshops for children, and appalling abuses were permitted well into the 18th century. Up until very recently, even adults of other races / tribes were not considered ‘human’ enough to protect. ‘Christians’ were no less likely to own / abuse / kill slaves than any other southerners prior to the Civil War.

    So we have come along way in our understanding of what life is precious. But until we reach widespread consensus on when a fetus becomes human / acquires a soul, we cannot justify penalizing those who disagree – at least not in our legal system. And the way to change people’s minds is not to demonize them.

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