Gloucester Daily Times Debate on Abortion (32). February 4, 1986

Personal Response to January 21 Letter to the Editor

Mr. Gary Howard, 15 Tuna Wharf, Rockport, MA 01966.

Dear Mr. Howard:

I was glad to read your letter in the Times two weeks ago, and I wanted to take the opportunity to try and answer some of your questions.

I am indeed steeped in theological training, but likewise in the breadth of liberal arts, especially history. I use biological definitions for the origins of human life, because it is observable fact and as such does not require people to come to me on my terms for dialogue. I am trying to communicate on a level accessible to the most people possible. In fact, my Christian convictions lead me to embrace rigorous study of all the liberal arts, whether the social or physical sciences. I am simply drawing from that all-embracing attitude towards knowledge.

In terms of the soul, there are two principal terms in the Bible: nephesh in the Hebrew, and psuche in the Greek. I have studied them extensively, and their original use supports my biological definition of conception. If you are interested in exploring this subject further, I would be glad for the opportunity to sit down and talk about it sometime.

Abortion is indeed the result of complex, paradoxical and painful human dilemmas. I believe, if you have read the various letters I have written to the editor, and when my third My View column appears, you will see that 1) I point out the fact that abortion kills, but that 2) my ethical standards for Christian participation in a pluralistic society are the opposite of a “holier than thou” attitude. I have counseled many women who have been through abortion, I have engaged often in public forums and debates, especially on college campuses, where the majority of the audience is pro-legalized — and, upon honest interaction, even my ideological enemies recognize that I am not accusing them from a perspective of feeling morally superior. I have articulated my position as an equal participant in the democratic process, extending the same respect to them. I have required no greater access to the public forum than I grant them. And if Christianity is true, then God alone is the Judge. Not me. But, as a believer, I will proclaim what the Gospel says, that we are all accountable to God, under the same judgment — but too, that the same forgiveness is extended to us all. I live in that forgiveness, which by God’s grace transforms my life. I simply seeking to share that forgiveness, which sets us free from the killing of our children.

I have no prerogative to make choices for others in the sight of God. But I do have the prerogative to seek to inform and persuade others to choose life, and in a democracy/republic, laws are established by majority consensus. At the present, I am lobbying to acheive that. I would love to talk about poverty and overpopulation with you too —  you may be delighted to discover how I have interacted with those issues.

Sincerely yours —

John C. Rankin