God → Life → Choice → Sex and the Male Chauvinism of Human Abortion
[excerpted from the unpublished Volume 2 of First the Gospel, Then Politics.., © 1999-2004 John C. Rankin]
In Volume 1, the God → life → choice → sex paradigm in the order of creation was defined as central, and detailed often. It equals the content of Genesis 1-2 on its own terms, and I have never seen it itemized as such in church history, though everywhere it is implicitly recognized. As I summed up its essence then:
“God is sovereign, and his purpose in creation is to give the gift of life, especially human life – man and woman as made in his image to rule over his handiwork. Then comes the gift of moral and aesthetic choice that serves the prior gift of human life. Finally, in the order of creation, is the gift of sex within marriage: here is the power to pass on the gifts of life, choice and sex through procreation to our offspring, to celebrate the height of what it means to be made in God’s image.”
However, I did not come up with this observation void of context. Indeed, it was in my application of the order of creation to the nature of the abortion debate where I made this observation. When Augustine wrote The City of God in the fifth century, he did not compose it void of context either. Rather, in response to charges by the pagans that Christians were causing the decline of the Roman Empire, Augustine applied his biblical faith to such a challenge, and so defended it.
In 1986, when I first met head-on the idolatry of choice as represented in the advocacy of the Religious Coalition of Abortion Rights (RCAR), I was confronted by a syncretistic and pagan assault on the integrity of the Bible. I had been asked to give a biblical basis for a pro-life position, at a regional conference of leaders in the American Baptist Churches (ABC), just north of Hartford, Connecticut. Because of the ABC’s alphabetical positioning, they were always listed first in RCAR’s promotional materials, and many in the denomination did not like this. So the ABC was reconsidering its affiliation with RCAR, in a series of similar conferences across the nation.
Along with a prior concern I had to redeem the language of choice to protect the unborn, I was honing my theology to reflect how the Bible on its own terms addresses such a debate. My response to the challenge of the abortion ethos yielded an appropriate articulation. I gave a theological sketch rooted in Genesis, part of which involved defining the relationship between life and choice. Namely, both are given to us by God, but choice is designed to be in service to life, not employed to destroy it. And I defined how the unborn fully qualify as human life, made in God’s image. The RCAR representatives in turn called me “anti-choice.”
I asked them to define how choice relates to life, and they were unable or unwilling. I stated how I was truly “pro-informed choice” in my position, they did not refute my definitions, and then again fell back into the stereotypical accusatory language of calling me “anti-choice.” When their view of the Bible was scrutinized, they rejected its authority in favor of a syncretistic faith that allowed an idolatry of choice. I later learned that the ABC rescinded its membership in RCAR.
With this rudimentary basis for understanding the relationship between life and choice, I moved from there to placing it in the larger context. In March of 1989, I was speaking at a Crisis Pregnancy Center banquet in Ithaca, New York, in conjunction with a debate at Cornell University. In the banquet address, I was defining the ethics of choice rooted in Genesis 2. As I was speaking, I moved from an implicit clarity to an explicit one, namely, that the theological order of Genesis 1-2 started with the sovereign God, then it defined the purpose of creation as the making of human life in God’s image, followed by God’s first words to Adam which equaled the gift of choice. It hit me – so simple:
God → Life → Choice.
The three basic elements of the order of creation, I thought. The three basic issues surrounding the abortion debate, it appeared. By extension, the reversal of this order was:
Choice → Life → God.
However the week following the banquet address, I set to reviewing Genesis 1-2 and this newly observed paradigm. As I did, I realized that I had not considered the fourth and final defining subject of Genesis 1-2, that of sex. In that exact moment I remember a tinge of disappointment. Namely, my neat threesome with its defining idolatry of choice was not so neat. I had to consider if the inclusion of sex as the fourth subject would alter anything.
The inclusion of course revealed how the idolatry of choice, while powerful, is energized by the prior and more powerful idolatry of sex outside of marriage. The conflict between “pro-choice” and “pro-life,” in the language of the abortion debate today, only exists because of a reversal of the order of creation, when choice is used to destroy life. Thus, the paradigm defined in Volume 1 is inclusive:
God → Life → // ← Choice ← Sex.
The self-defining terms of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are thus in the middle of this paradigm, and in a graphic sense which identifies the locus of the conflict:
God → Life → Choice → Sex.
In other words, it is fidelity to God that defines life, and should properly motivate the political language of “pro-life.” And it is sex as sexual promiscuity that in truth defines the idolatry of choice, and thus motivates the political language of “pro-choice.” “Pro-life” thus reflects the order of creation, and “pro-choice” reflects the reversal. A false dichotomy is set up: sex/choice versus God/life, made possible because of how abortion-rights advocates yield to the reversal:
Sex → Choice → Life →/ God.
Sex outside of marriage employs atomistic choice to destroy the life of the unborn in the act of human abortion, and in an affront against God – the Creator of life, choice and sex.
In other words, abortion justifies sexual promiscuity and infidelity, and as such it is the ramrod of male chauvinism where the man who gets the woman pregnant outside of marriage is able to take off and leave her to face the pregnancy alone. When the above statistical factors are taken into account, this means that some 95 percent of abortions occur in a relationship where the woman is not married to the father, and some 4 percent where the husband is prone to divorcing her – thus equaling 99 percent male chauvinism. Is this a woman’s right, dignity or freedom?
In the many times that I have defined the God → life → choice → sex paradigm in largely “pro-choice” university settings, I have found agreement in every instance to its reality, and its application to the abortion debate. This is true even among abortion-rights leaders, among whom I have often asked the question: “Should sexual intimacy be restricted to heterosexual faithful monogamous marriage?” They consistently say no. Thus, they tacitly endorse the reversal. The only exceptions (two or three) are people whose human instincts are better than their politics on this issue.
In Chapter Six, I spoke of the clergyman, “conservative” in his theology but “liberal” in his politics, who raised his concerns with me about “sexual politics.” I had spoken with him about the reality where 70-90 percent of all men incarcerated for serious crime grew up de facto or functionally without a father. It is the male chauvinism of such sexual irresponsibility that leaves pregnant women and mothers of newborns to fend for themselves. And if the child is not aborted in the womb, he or she is aborted in the power for healthy life choices by the crippling absence of fatherhood. Fatherless boys thus seek ersatz “families” in the inner cities, which outsiders call “gangs.” Without the socializing influence of present and loving fathers, they seek identity with other fatherless boys; and in the ghettos with limited employment opportunities, they easily fall into drug use, then drug selling; and then to protect their “gang” and drug-selling turfs, they buy guns, shoot each other, kill and maim innocent bystanders in drive-by shootings, and thus contribute to social chaos and multiple human misery. The misery they were given by sexually promiscuous and absent fathers is what they export at large to the culture around them. And the fatherless girls become sexual adjuncts and toys of the male “gang” members, and/or become prostitutes to support their drug habits. Thus, many die young, forsaken and miserable. And most of this evil can be directly traced back to sexual infidelities, especially in terms of male chauvinism. Traced back to the reversal order of sex → choice → life → God.
As I made this argument, I asked the clergyman: Does abortion-on-demand, the potential legalization of homosexual “marriage” (and its pre-cognates), laws such as no-fault divorce, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), strengthen or weaken the marriage covenant and family? (AFDC is where, at that time, women, and especially teenage girls who would take advantage of it, could get more money from the government to live on if they had children out of wedlock then if they were married.) Is not the violence in the ghettos traced to a sexually promiscuous male chauvinism in particular? Do not “sexual politics” address the core of this issue? And if we want to address social and racial justice, is not the honoring of the marriage covenant the linchpin? He did not disagree.
The abortion-rights argument has been based on a concept of “women’s rights” (where abortion is its linchpin), and the language of “pro-choice,” and in both cases this represents a reversal of the order of creation. In order to accomplish a reversal of this reversal in the political order, we need a) to redeem the language of choice to protect the unborn, and b) to demonstrate the male chauvinism of human abortion, so as c) to secure, by moral consensus nationwide, the status of the unborn as persons who deserve equal protection under the law. The first two must be achieved before the third is possible.
Abortion is successfully marketed by various feminists, not because it holds intrinsic satisfaction for them, but in reaction to male chauvinisms in their lives. They see it as a way to fight back, and to gain independence from men who treat them thus. But in reality, it only deepens the chauvinistic hold. If a man impregnates a woman and takes off, she faces either a) the courage of single motherhood with its economic and social trials (some 90 percent living at or below the “official” poverty line); b) the courage of placing the child for adoption with the accompanying emotional trials; or c) being pressured into aborting her child, where she treats her boy or girl as a piece of disposable property, much as the man treated her. Her abortion becomes a tacit admission of the inability or unwillingness to parent a child, a destructive self-diagnosis, usually of sexual promiscuity rooted in the reversal reality of sex → choice → life → God, augmented by male chauvinists.
I have argued the male chauvinism of human abortion since my public involvement in the abortion debate, and consistently this reality has been affirmed by pro-life and abortion-rights advocates alike. Whether at Cornell University, Wellesley College, the College of William and Mary, Smith College or Georgetown University, and on dozens of other campuses, college women have always affirmed this. The most passionate challenges I have encountered are with men – both abortion-minded men who seek to absolve themselves of any responsibility for their promiscuity, or with some extreme “pro-life” men who are willing to blame the woman solely for the situation that led to the abortion.
In the mid-1980s I was addressing an audience at the University of New Hampshire. I was supposed to have a debate with a professor of philosophy, but she backed out at the last moment. So with 140 students showing up, I sought to explain the best argument an abortion-rights advocate might make, and what my response would be. Then I opened it up for questions. There were two men at the back. One spoke up and said that he did not understand my argument about male chauvinism. He said something like, “If I get a girl pregnant, she is free to go to the abortion clinic and get it taken care of. What’s the big deal?” As he said this, virtually all the women in the audience turned and glared at him intensely. Some seventy sets of eyeballs riveted on his body and psyche. Reality check. I reaffirmed my position then took the next question. As I did, he and his friend slipped quietly out of the auditorium. The man put his foot in his mouth and revealed his male chauvinism.
In another instance, in 1993 I addressed 1,000 high school students at Ridgefield High School (Connecticut). My subject was religious liberty, but the two questions from the floor at the end of my address both dealt with abortion. In response to one of them, I diagnosed the Playboy mentality of human abortion; namely, that if a woman gets pregnant by a chauvinist, he sends her off to the abortion center to get “fixed,” that is, aborted, to be returned to him like a broken toy that has been repaired, and thus, a toy which can be played with again. When I said this, so many of the boys in the crowd groaned that the whole auditorium reverberated with a “gnashing of teeth,” and as some of their girlfriends similarly stared them down and questioned them as well.
Because of the pervasiveness of sexual promiscuity and the male chauvinism that undergirds it, many political leaders are men who know they have “fooled around.” Thus they have no moral mettle to resist the demands of political feminists. The abolition of male chauvinism, repentance of it where any of us have been guilty, and the honoring of marriage is key to reversing the reversal. The only way we are going to win the legal protection of the unborn is by winning the argument in the public diet:
abortion = anti-woman;
pro-life = pro-woman.
We need to reverse the common mythology advanced by the pro-abortion movement that pro-life equals anti-woman. Interestingly, in polls since 1973, women have always been more pro-life than men, regardless of their position on legalized abortion.
Examples of political leaders who are truly chauvinistic are well known and easy to discern. Yet, there is a deeper hypocrisy that is the greatest destroyer of the good. Quite some years ago, a number of evangelical leaders had come together to found a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) in a strategic location. A board of directors was put in place, fund-raising was underway, and a timetable for opening the Center in view. In the process, and coincidentally, the teen-age daughters of two of the men on the board became pregnant about the same time. Both their fathers furtively arranged abortions for them.
The prostituted concern was for their own reputations in the church, and not to have their teen-age daughters be publicly pregnant. As it happened, both these situations came to light a short time later, and the scandal forced the plans for the CPC to be aborted as well, causing a delay of some years, until others were able to successfully revive and establish the Center. Thus, in that time frame, many women who would have been availed of the services of the CPC were not. Who knows how many additional children were aborted as a result? Judgment begins with the household of God. Unless we can confess our own sins, and flee the shame by the power to forgive, then we have nothing to give to a broken world.
In November, 1994, at the Mars Hill Forum with Patricia Ireland, president of NOW, most of the audience at Smith College was sympathetic to a pagan feminist worldview. Probably more so than in any other venue. I shared earlier about Patricia’s positive response to my definition of the power to give in the marriage relationship. The topic for the evening was Feminism and the Bible: Do They Share Any Common Ground? Abortion was not a specific subject per se. But in Patricia’s questions of me, she asked specifically about violence at abortion centers, and thus the abortion subject came up as a side issue. In the process, I alluded to human abortion in its male chauvinistic realities, from my diagnosis that abortion is the opposite of the power to give.
With the television lights so bright in my face, I could not see the audience very well past the first few rows. And given my natural concentration on the subject at hand, and my focus on Patricia’s person as the one with whom I was communicating, I was not focusing on how the audience was responding. Christians in the audience, especially among the Smith students who were members of Campus Crusade for Christ, later told me how amazed they were to watch fellow students nodding their heads to my words – women whom they knew to be lesbian, pagan, feminist and/or supportive of abortion-rights.
At the end of the audience participation time a woman challenged me on how I could respect women’s dignity while opposing abortion. We were running out of time, and I only had a few seconds to give answer. So I said, “I think that if I had the time to address the abortion issue straight ahead, you would find that I would argue that abortion rips off women as much as it rips off the unborn, and allows male chauvinists to run free.” Before I completed the final clause, the auditorium of some 500+ people broke into enthusiastic and sustained applause (with one discernible loud “boo” in its midst). I was astonished, and there I sat, there Patricia Ireland sat, and there the dean of students, as moderator, sat.
This was not supposed to happen. There I was – a white heterosexual male, an evangelical pro-life minister. Six strikes against me on a “politically correct” campus, Smith College no less. The applause did not come because I was necessarily smart or cute, but because the image of God had been touched in these women. They knew the male chauvinistic reality of human abortion, from direct personal experience, or through the testimony of women friends. And perhaps for the first time, they heard a man diagnose it. I was not there passing judgment on women, but as a man I was submitting my gender to judgment first.
If the reality of human abortion as the ultimate male chauvinism can win an audience at Smith College that came to hear one of their heroines, it can win the whole culture. And with the successful presentation of this argument in politics and culture, we can demonstrate that it is Christian pro-lifers who truly respect all women equally, rooted in the mutual nature of covenantal marriage, and the “pro-choice” consensus in this nation will fall apart. The few extreme pro-abortion partisans will be marginalized by their own choice, and we will be able to build the moral consensus necessary witn the legal protection of the unborn.
Test the Paradigm
In Volume 1, we looked at this paradigm of God → life → choice → sex from many angles. I grasped it in the context of addressing the debate over human abortion. And as I was then involved in full-time pro-life ministry, I tested it often, and found it comprehensive in diagnosing the roots of the abortion decision – sexual promiscuity as an idol.
There are two anecdotes from that time period that illustrate this reality. Once in a debate I had with a Universalist minister at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, a student asked him, “Do you think sex outside of marriage is a good thing?” The minister, who had supported legalized abortion for some thirty years, was caught off guard. He took a deep breath, was about to answer, took another deep breath, did not answer again, shifted weight between his feet, and finally answered something like, “Well, generally speaking, no!” From that point, his attitude perceptibly changed. By the time it came for his concluding remarks, he essentially conceded the debate by refusing to give a final rebuttal, indicating respect for the argument I had made and the attitude in which it was couched. He then concluded, “Thank you and God bless you!” Once he was challenged to speak out against sexual promiscuity, he rejected the reversal motif of sex → choice → life → God, at least implicitly.
In another instance, I had just completed a radio debate on WEEI in Boston (then a news station) with abortion-rights activist Bill Baird. As we stepped into the elevator together, I took the opportunity to ask him a further question, relative to sex and marriage. He gave response, standing alongside his female associate, a woman who claimed to be publisher of the world’s largest “feminist pornography magazine.” He stated: “I have the right to have sex anytime, anyplace and with anybody I choose.” This is the idolatry of sex as clear as it can be, congruent with the pansexuality of Sodom and Gomorrah (as we will define in Chapter Fifteen).
I debated Bill Baird on a prior and subsequent occasion, and as well, once ran into him at a pro-abortion rally at the State Capitol in Boston. His fellow abortion-rights supporters shunned him at that event – there was a bad blood history of competing egos. So I became the only one there, after the media left, who was willing to talk with him. And we did so as we both left, I back to my office a block away, and Bill to his car. As we parted, I spoke some sort of blessing to him, that the goodness of the Lord would touch him. He did not resist it. Those who reverse the God → life → choice → sex paradigm like Bill Baird, underneath it all, are lost people in need of the Savior’s love.
In a third anecdote here, years later, after my first Mars Hill Forum with secular humanist Paul Kurtz, I wrote him a letter. In it I made observation that his reason for rejecting the God of the Bible was because he reverses the God → life → choice → sex paradigm. And he is a passionate advocate of “sexual liberty” and abortion-rights as well. His response? “I appreciate the many fine points you raise in your letter.” No challenge to my diagnosis.
The God → life → choice → sex paradigm is the content of Genesis 1-2, and it equals the four all-defining subjects of the Bible and life. And in its midst, the issue of human abortion as the consequence of sexual promiscuity finds accurate definition. Since human abortion is thus part and parcel with the reversal of the order of creation, the only way to win the legal protection of the unborn is by working in concert with the theological reversal of the reversal. Biblically literacy is indispensable.