You Are Doing It Wrong.

“Someone just made a comment on one of my posts, and it is actually a very good suggestion. For each elective abortion you have an arm pulled off (and without anesthesia). You can still live. That’s more respect than your child was given. For both mothers AND fathers who are choosing to be irresponsible and heartless. Murder of innocents should have consequences. And usually does. This would be a reminder a life was taken. It would be a good incentive to use birth control to begin with. And hopefully it would slow down your ability to go make the same stupid choices again. Have another, then You are missing 2….Oh and perhaps after charging you, collecting tax dollars, they can profit from your body parts too.”

The above statement appeared on a Christian’s social media account. In the discussion that followed, it did not get much better. Lots of ‘amens’ and agreement. When it was suggested that while abortion is indeed a sin, but suggesting that people have their arms ripped off is equally a sin, well, let’s just say it degenerated quickly into me somehow defending abortion. I’m not sure how that happened, but it did.

Can we just be honest for a minute? Calling people who choose to have an abortion satanic and demonic Moloch worshiping pagans who deserve to have their arms ripped off is not a terribly effective way to convince anyone that they should consider a different choice, never mind that it is not anything even resembling how the Bible, and the example it presents us in Christ, deals with such things. Don’t misunderstand here. There are hard truths tat need to be spoken, and I would not say otherwise, but the hard truth that those of us who are pro-life need to speak is that abortion is a sin, not that those who are considering an abortion are somehow a more heinous monster than we are.

I am as surprised as anyone that I am going to quote a piece written for Sojourners, as it is not normally a go to for me, but it sums up an idea pretty well:
“It’s easy to get caught up in theorizing about God, but within our everyday lives reality is what matters most to the people around us. Theorizing only becomes important once it becomes relevant and practical and applicable to our lives.”  

If you are of a Wesleyan bent theologically, this idea should be recognizable to you as what Wesley called practical divinity. The United Methodist church has this to say on the matter: “Wesley and the early Methodists were particularly concerned about inviting people to experience God’s grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action. This emphasis on what Wesley referred to as “practical divinity” has continued to be a hallmark of United Methodism today.” Nothing about the post I quote above has anything to do with that. Not a thing. You do not invite someone to experience God’s grace by insulting them, threatening them, or dehumanizing them.

If you love calling out sin more than you love the sinner, you are doing it wrong. If your answer to a broken world is to contribute to the brokenness by dehumanizing those who sin differently than you do, you are doing it wrong. If you speak on word about sin without including the mercy and grace of God and His desire to restore the sinner, you are doing it wrong. If you love theology more than you love people, then you are doing it wrong. Frankly, if you think that the way to bring an end to wide spread abortion are the laws of this world, you are doing it wrong.

I fervently believe that we, as Christians, have a responsibility to call sin what it is. I believe fervently that the greater responsibility is to do our part in making disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. Our model is Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (questions about the validity of the story aside). The woman was an adulteress. No one, including Jesus, was arguing that point. The point was not condemnation, or even focusing extensively on her sin, the point was that none of her accusers were qualified to throw the first stone, and that the message of Christ was go and sin no more. When talking about abortion, it is far past time that we put down our stones and start loving sinners a whole lot more than we love talking about their sin.

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Be Upset About Facts

Wesleyan Covenant AssociationMany people are upset about New York’s revised abortion law, and there are many things to be upset about. From what I have seen however, there are many people who are upset over things that simply are not in the law, so here is a quick review of what is different, and what the revised law actually does.

  1. Abortion is no longer governed by the New York State penal code. This removes significant protections to unborn children under law after 24 weeks.
  2. It does allow for abortions after 24 weeks, but it does NOT allow for abortion on demand up to the time of birth. This is not an elective abortion that anyone can get. The law says the following: “According to the practitioner’s reasonable and good faith professional judgment based on the facts of the patient’s case: the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.” I know that many will argue that this is to vague and will be twisted to allow for abortion on demand, but that is not what is being allowed for.
  3. The bill does allow for some who are not doctors to perform some limited abortions. Midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, may perform non-surgical abortions. After the 12th week, it must be at a hospital on an in patient basis, and after 20 weeks, a doctor must be present to handle any live birth.

This source has a fairly decent and objective explanation, along with the text of the bill itself. There are indeed many things in the law to be angry about, but can we at least be angry about the facts. Misinformation is never a valid tool of trying to prove a point, and there is a lot of misinformation about this law. Know the facts, and be angry and concerned, I am after all, just know what you are actually angry about.

I want to be clear. Elective abortion is always wrong. I have not changed on that even a little bit. I think that the New York law is poorly conceived for several reasons as well. I am not saying don’t be upset by these things, or not to stand against these things, I am saying that we need to have accurate information so that we are not spreading falsehoods and so that we know what it is that we are actually opposing so that we can articulate and explain it.

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New York State of Mind

My good God… I had no words to express what I was feeling. Perhaps it is because I am a man and my emotional vocabulary is limited by a generational movement to prevent boys from crying. Or maybe because the anguish we should feel as a nation cannot be placed into words because of the viral way we speak. What words can come close to a state sanctioning the murder of a baby who, just moments before would play peek-a-boo through the stomach of the mother?

I remember when my first daughter was still in the womb. At night, as the pregnancy was approaching birth, I would often feel her push or kick me in the back. At times, I would push my finger into the womb and she would push back.

And now, New York has said that this is not a protected life.

Further, it allows non-medical providers to conduct abortions, among other things.

I still do not know what to say.

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The Right to Life?

Dr. David Watson has a piece in the upcoming Touchtone magazine. It is personal, well-reasoned, and necessary to read:

The reason is that, culturally speaking, we determine the value of certain categories of people by the effectiveness of those who advocate on their behalf. In Western culture, the church has lost a great deal of its once-pervasive influence. Some people—many, in fact—insist that this is a good thing. We have finally thrown off the puritanical shackles of Christianity and entered into a new era of individual freedom. This, however, is a lie. We are no freer than we were before. We have simply decided to serve different masters.


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Pro-Life Christian opposition to Trump’s Mexico City Rule

The Mexico City Act is a partisan (that is to say it is favored and used by Republicans and repealed by Democrats) policy and rule that was first enacted by Ronald Regan in 1984 and has been supported by each republican president since and repealed by each democratic president. You can read up on it several place online with a simple google search really if you are interested in an in depth history and what is covered and not covered by it. President Trump, like the Republicans before him, has signed this back into our policy to much applause by those who are primarily pro-life. This includes me. Here is why he shouldn’t have.

So I am going to start with the places where I agree with the rule. All of those places, oddly enough, were part of the original provision. The rule does not allow for the following things (source)/:

  • providing advice and information about and offering referral for abortion – where legal – as part of the full range of family planning options,
  • promoting changes in a country’s laws or policies related to abortion as a method of family planning (i.e., engaging in lobbying), and conducting public information campaigns about abortion as a method of family planning

I take no issue with this, and in fact support it fully. The rule does allow for the following:

  • providing advice and information about, performing, or offering referral for abortion in cases where the pregnancy has either posed a risk to the life of the mother or resulted from incest or rape; and
  • responding to a question about where a safe, legal abortion may be obtained when a woman who is already pregnant clearly states that she has already decided to have a legal abortion (passively providing information, versus actively providing medically-appropriate information)

I also have no problem with this. While I would no advocate for abortion as a means of birth control, if a woman has made that decision, she should be able to be directed to a facility where she may obtain an abortion safely in places where it is legal. I’d hope for council against such an action in a perfect world, but I am under no illusion that it will happen.

So, what’s the big deal you ask? I am glad that you did. The big deal is that President Trump has decided to expand the Mexico City rule well beyond it’s original parameters to now include  “global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.”  Pray tell what in the world does not providing funding for abortion have to do with potentially limiting funds for global AIDS prevention and relief? What does it have to do with the CDC being able to help in situations of viral outbreak for example? How does this have anything to do with PEPFAR, (a Bush initiative by the way)? Those are some of the programs and areas that could potentially be effected. For that matter, the Peace Corp, itself could be affected as it’s ability to help could be limited by this rule. They could potentially be limited in providing help at a clinic that provided an abortion after all or lose their federal funding.

I find abortion on demand to be repugnant. I don’t think that US tax dollars should be used to underwrite abortion in anyway. I’m all for defunding Planned Parenthood for example. Hell, let’s do it tomorrow and get the funding to clinics that do not provide abortion and/or start new ones. I’m all for the Mexico City rule as originally enacted for a number of reasons including not underwriting abortion. (It also prevents US funds for lobbying for, or against, abortion legislation in other countries which is a good thing, but US intervention in other nation’s policies is a different topic for a different day.) What was a reasonable, if partisan, rule that was limited in scope is suddenly a broad policy that has the overwhelming potential to negatively affect a good bit of the good that we do in the world. The cost of a thing, the total cost of a thing, must be counted. Is abortion as birth control (or family planning if you prefer as it is referred to sometimes) repugnant, of course I believe so. If a clinic performs an elective abortion in Sub-Saharan Africa, should we quit combating AIDS, TB, and Malaria there? Of course not. That is the dilemma that President Trump has put the funding in however. It’s a dilemma of his creation, it is immoral, it is unjust, and it is simply the wrong move. Just as with a stroke of his pen he authorized this, with a stroke of his pen he can change it, authorizing the Mexico City act, under the parameters previously established, get congress to put it into action as a law (hint hint), but not jeopardize the other good that we do in the world because of it.

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Pope Francis… Grace above Law, but Law remains

Pope FrancisI would encourage the Pope to great his detractors by simply bowing low and drawing in the sand…

One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

Source: Lettera del Santo Padre Francesco al Presidente del Pontificio Consiglio per la Promozione della Nuova Evangelizzazione all’approssimarsi del Giubileo Straordinario della Misericordia

In reading this this morning, I was almost overcome — but I stopped myself because a grown man does not cry, unless Beaches is playing and he only does this once.

Read this closely. Read it again.

The Pope is not saying abortion is not a sin, only that there is always a means of grace with God — if you actually repent — and that no one should stand in your way.

Also, I detect some healing praxis here that is often not incorporated into our lives.

Grace does not mean the end of the Law, only that forgiveness reigns.

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No, a Methodist minister did not justify abortion with the claim of original sin

English: Marie of the Incarnation (1566-1618)
English: Marie of the Incarnation (1566-1618) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ultimate source of all truth on the internet, LifeNews, has been linked to and shared without fact checking a link to a post that misuses (lies?) about John Swomley‘s defense of abortion. Then you have plenty of other people who aren’t fact checking.

The essay can be found in  Compulsory Pregnancy: the War against American Women (Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1999) and online, here. The article was first published in 1997. Please read that before you read my commentary.

The blogger and then LifeNews posted this quote:

The first claim is that society should protect innocent human life that is unable to protect itself. The term “innocent,” originally used by various popes, refers to fetal life which has committed no sin. Yet the Roman Catholic Church has proclaimed only one person, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as having an immaculate conception and hence free from original sin. In any event, public policy cannot be founded on theological claims to innocence.

There is another meaning of “innocence” which comes from two Latin words, in (not) and nocere (to harm), and therefore means “not harmful or dangerous.” However, it is precisely the fact that some pregnant women (and their physicians) view the fetus as harmful or threatening to their health or welfare and hence leads them to consider abortion.

One has to first look at context. Roman Catholics, long before American Protestants did (remember, at one time, even Southern Baptists supported pro-choice initiatives), opposed abortion. Swomley, writing as an ethicist and within the position of the United Methodist Church, was rebutting not merely the post-Roe v. Wade fallout, the Clinton area, but so too the Roman Catholic positions.

As I see it, Swomley is writing against Rome with a heavy hand. But, I will try to not let that shade my understanding of him.

This is the full quote:

Public policy in the United States is and should be guided by scientific considerations rather than theological claims that are inconsistent with medical research. The Constitution of the United States is a secular document which gives no authority to government to legislate theological assertions or to prefer the theological doctrines of one or several religious groups over others. A large number of religious groups in the United States do not accept a “moment of conception” theology or view a fetus as a person or human being.

Public policy must defend the rights of existing living persons as over against religiously based claims made on behalf of fetal life. There are generally three claims made for fetal life other than the claim of human being or personhood, which has been discussed above. The first claim is that society should protect innocent human life that is unable to protect itself. The term “innocent,” originally used by various popes, refers to fetal life which has committed no sin. Yet the Roman Catholic Church has proclaimed only one person, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as having an “immaculate” conception and hence free from original sin. In any event, public policy cannot be founded on theological claims to innocence.

There is another meaning of “innocence” which comes from two Latin words, in (not) and nocere (to harm), and therefore means “not harmful or dangerous.” However, it is precisely the fact that some pregnant women (and their physicians) view the fetus as harmful or threatening to their health or welfare and hence leads them to consider abortion.

A second claim made on behalf of fetal life is that there is a right to life that takes precedence over the life or health or welfare of the pregnant woman. In discussing this claim we must distinguish between a virtue, that is, doing something that may be considered desirable, and a right. If I am walking along the bank of a river or lake and someone who cannot swim falls or jumps in, we could argue that I ought also to jump in, to rescue the drowning person, even if my own life is at stake. But the person who jumps or falls in cannot claim that I must jump in because he/she has a right to life. The mere fact that I ought to rescue another does not give that person a right against me.

His argument here, is not that abortion is meritorious or allowable on the doctrine of original sin, only that the 1.) theology is not an evidence in determining science or political realities and 2.) the Roman Catholic position can leave some room in arguing against their stated position. So, Swomley first says theology is not to be the determining factor in settling matters and then proceeds to tell you why — because theology is rarely cut and dry.

Note, he is specifically speaking in this claim about the Roman Catholic definition of abortion, which he repeats as: “It is therefore appropriate to accept the official Roman Catholic church definition that any intentional termination of a pregnancy after the moment of conception is an abortion.”

He then attempts to refute that claim from Scripture. I say attempt, because that is for you to decide.

He goes to cite another religious group:

Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) have a long tradition and witness in opposition to killing of human beings, whether in war or capital punishment or personal violence. On the basis of this tradition, some Friends believe that abortion is always wrong.

Friends also have a tradition of respect for the individual and a belief that all persons should be free to follow their own consciences and the leading of the Spirit. On this basis, some Friends believe that the problem of whether or not to have an abortion, at least in the early months of pregnancy, is one primarily of the pregnant woman herself, and that it is an unwarranted denial of her moral freedom to forbid her to do so.

We do not advocate abortion. We recognize there are those who regard abortion as immoral while others do not. Since these disagreements exist in the country in general as well as within the Society Of Friends, neither view should be imposed by law upon those who hold the other.

Recognizing that differences among Friends exist, nevertheless we find general unity in opposing the effort . . . to say that abortion shall be illegal.

I note his language of “we.” Perhaps he joined, in some way, the Society of Friends.

There are several other statements that should be pointed out:

  • The “rightness” or “wrongness” of abortion as the solution of a problem pregnancy is not the critical issue here. The issue is the larger ethical one: can any one of us stand in the role of judge for the personal decisions of others? What robes shall we wear? Greater than the debatable immorality of terminating an undesired pregnancy is the immorality of refusing a woman access to medical help when she has determined that she needs it.”
  • One answer is that the rights of living persons take precedence over any rights of potential persons, just as immediate or present needs take precedence over probable future or potential needs. This question can also be stated as: What right does anyone have to impose mandatory pregnancy on a woman? The ethical question is not whether abortion can be justified, but whether we focus on an embryo or fetus as the object of value or whether we focus on the woman who as a free moral agent must have freedom of choice.
  • Finally, public policy must conform to constitutional guarantees of separation of church and state. Theological definitions of “human being” and “personhood” or religious rules about sex, the status of women, or reproduction ought not to be written into law unless scientifically validated and required for the health or safety of the state or its citizens.

HIs goal, it seems, is simply to say that one theological group cannot govern the others. This is fair, I think. Further, he is careful in his allowance for abortion. There are very specific issues at play here. Finally, he seems to be okay with outlawing abortion, if it was scientifically grounded. I do think that is a problem, investing too much into science, but I think he is something of a libertarian here.

Let’s not deceive ourselves and others. Our cause cannot stand that. If we are going to attack Swomley on his arguments, let us make sure we get his arguments right.

And in regards to this “pro-life is idolatry” quotes, read his essay. 

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Bill Mefford, the #Pro-Life #UMC, and Grace

English: Lakeville United Methodist Church, th...
English: Lakeville United Methodist Church, the oldest UMC in New England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day, the civil rights director at the Global Board on Church and Society did something stupid. This is not beyond ordinary for the GBCS, as they, as routine as Monday is to the first day of the week, do stupid things. He went to the March for Life rally, wrote a sign, too a picture, and posted in twitter. The usual sources picked up on it and went bananas.  What is not usually noted is that Bill issued an apology. Since his blog is by access only now, and his twitter account deleted, I have decided to repost it via Google cache:

It seems my picture of me holding a sign that said “I March for Sandwiches” has been taken entirely out of context and has caused quite a stir among some in the Twitter and social media world. I tend to hate general apologies – when people say they are sorry for “whatever they may have done that offended people.” I don’t think those are very sincere.

I also want to say that when I was at the event holding my sign I received nothing but laughter and cheers. Making folks laugh was my sole intent – it really was! It was afterward when this started making the rounds on social media that the hurt and anger began to rise. I understand why people are angry.

So, I am deeply sorry for the hurt and anger that this has caused people since the event. I honestly love to make people laugh and think, and the hurt and anger that people are feeling is not something I enjoy. At all.

I hope you will accept this if you are one of those who are offended. I would prefer to talk face to face, or to message somehow. I honestly believe that is how true reconciliation happens and I am more interested in that than in general apologies which might or might not be sincere. So, please reach out to me if you prefer that too. Maybe we can all be strengthened through this.

If you only want to hammer me, go ahead. Hey, it’s only Twitter.

I am committed to making a better world. And a funnier world. And that is why I post this now.

In a comment on this post, Bill writes,

Context matters so I will explain, I saw the march and was, as usual, impressed with the turnout and the good nature of the crowd. I then saw pro-choice marchers and marching and there was an instant change of the mood when they came into contact. In that context of anger between the two sides that I wanted to be funny. I actually talked to folks in the crowd and there was genuine laughter between me and the crowd while I was there. The anger and hurt have come later and for that I am truly sorry. I hope that helps.

Likewise, Bill Mefford’s boss, issued an apology.

This hasn’t stopped anyone from demanding Bill’s head, consequences, or even firing. Further, you now have Red State, that great bastion of right wing intellectual virtue, wading in, declaring the the UMC is pro-abortion.

I reached out to Bill during this fiasco yesterday to tell him he is in my prayers. Don’t get me wrong, I think the entire thing was stupid on his part. But, I also think we should take him at this word, that this was a poorly judged attempt at humor. Further, has asked forgiveness, said he was sorry, and acknowledged the hurt he has caused. As a Christian who proclaims that the man who said that we must forgive 70*7 is the same man who said, without anyone asking him to, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” is the same man Bill and I both declare is Lord.

If someone asks forgiveness, then give it to them.

Before one actually assumes The United Methodist Church is “pro-abortion” you need to read two statements. The first one is by Stephen Fife. The other one is the official stance of the UMC. Not only does the UMC reject late term abortions, but:

We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers. We support parental, guardian, or other responsible adult notification and consent before abortions can be performed on girls who have not yet reached the age of legal adulthood. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection or eugenics.

See also here.

If you browse the right wing sources, you will see all manner of diatribes against the pro-abortion UMC. Yet, our governing documents does not support this. What they want is an anti-abortion stance, even if the life of the mother is at stake. What they fail to realize is that virulent anti-abortionism among Protestants is something relatively new.

We need to be better than we are. Human dignity, I believe, begins at conception but does not end at sin or stupidity. What Bill did was stupid, but he apologized. Ask yourselves: if you were stupid, but asked forgiveness, wouldn’t you want it?

The Red State blogger who is attempting to lie about Bill and the UMC has since blocked several of us on Twitter. As such, I’m including a picture of the tweet mentioned above:


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