The Sacred Assemblies for the Unborn (SAU) [sacredassemblies.org]
Rooted in the Strategy of the Teams of Seven
Worship, prayer, witness and common recital of the Jeremiah 19 Liturgy
- The goal is to organize Teams of Seven wherever there is interest, to be present at state capitols, abortion centers, universities, political gatherings and any other event or locale where pro-abortion sentiments are on display. To the extent the Teams of Seven and larger SAU gatherings become ubiquitous, we can shut down the abortion industry through the prophetic love of Jesus.
- For a history of the original SAU, 1989-1991 in Brookline (Preterm) and Boston (Repro), MA, most every Saturday morning, click on each of four links: 1) the original SAU; 2) other stories from the original SAU; 3) the language of “You Have the Power to Choose Life” and 4) the responses of Boston Globe and WGBH Public Television.
- The SAU is part if the larger agenda of teiprolife.org.
- In this time, over 200 women chose not to follow through with their abortion appointments.
- Hundreds of college students, recruited by the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), were there to counter-protest us. Multiple hundreds, even over a thousand conversations resulted, and the subject of the Gospel was initiated by the college students often. After the initial nine months, the president of Boston NOW ordered the recruits not to show up again, for we “were persuading too many” of them.
- All this and much more is in the book: Changing the Language of the Abortion Debate (johnrankinbooks.com).
Here is the slogan and the five signs for all SAU gatherings:
Here is the Content for the Seven Brochures Used at SAU Gatherings and Beyond:
#1: You Have the Power to Choose Life.
#2 Two Choices in Political Identity: Pro-Life Libertarian or Pro-Abortion Totalitarian.
#3: Roe v. Wade: Totalitarian Imposition of Abortion-on-Demand Rooted in Chosen Ignorance.
#4: What is the Biblical Understanding of Human Abortion?
#5: A Biblical Strategy to Win Legal Protection for Women and Their Unborn.
#6: What About Rape & Incest in the Face of the Abortion Debate?
#7: Jesus, in the Face of His Enemies: A Paradigm for Church & State – The Nature of the Level Playing Field.
You Have the Power to Choose Life
John C. Rankin
In the late 1980s, I was at Harvard Divinity School, earning a post-graduate Th.M. degree in Ethics and Public Policy. As a white heterosexual male, evangelical pro-life minister, married with three sons, and a daughter yet to arrive, I was virtually a minority of one.
And this is one reason why I was at Harvard to begin with – to be accountable to the most thoughtful and penetrating questions of those who disagreed with me. I found myself intersecting with the Women’s Studies Program, and where the assumption of legalized human abortion was firmly in place. My double thesis focused on the two leading feminist scholar critics of the Bible (Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Phyllis Trible), and on human abortion and public policy.
In 1989, I organized a presence at New England’s largest abortion center, Preterm, in Brookline. We countenanced no accusatory language and no bloody pictures. As Jesus spoke of himself, he came not to condemn but to save. We worshiped, prayed, held signs, and engaged in conversation with anyone interested. In two years of Saturday mornings, we saw well over 200 women walk away from their abortion appointments of their own volition. As well, many others who merely saw the signs and our presence turned away. This was also at the height of “Operation Rescue,” a short-lived movement seeking to blockade abortion centers, and it led to some 100,000 arrests nationwide. I met with the founder, Randall Terry, on April 1, 1989, and asked some theological questions he could not, would not answer. Especially: How does vigilante action comport with the biblical order of creation in Genesis 1-2? And: How can you force someone to choose life?
Indeed, one popular pro-life sign has always been: “Choose Life.” But in front of an abortion center, where women are being forced into abortions by chauvinistic and irresponsible men, this language misses the mark since it is in the imperative tense. Elsewhere too. In the metaethics of language, this is easily perceived by such women as an “in your face” attempt to “force” them to “choose” not to have an abortion. Even as the intention is the opposite.
Thus, our slogan became: You Have the Power to Choose Life. This is gift language, it is empowering language, and it includes the life of the mother and unborn child equally. And unless the woman is empowered to choose life for her unborn child, it will not happen. As well, as the “pro-choice” feminist language is examined, “the power to choose” is supposedly central, but also, unidirectional – “the power to choose abortion …” But we redeemed the language of choice to serve human life, and the impact is always dramatic.
On June 3, 1989, when we began, the Boston Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) recruited college students to “counter-protest” us. We had some 200 volunteers turn out across the morning, and almost none of them had ever been an “activist” or done any public “protesting.” They trusted a biblical vision for “active ministry” – bringing the Good News to a place where people, especially women, were hurting deeply. Boston NOW had roughly equal numbers that day.
We started arriving at 7:00 a.m., and we sang and prayed aloud while holding our signs. The NOW recruits started yelling chants (e.g., “Anti-woman, anti-gay, born-again bigots, go away!”). But their lungs tired sooner than did ours, and by 9:30 there was a lull. It had also hit 90° Fahrenheit, and we were well equipped with cold water and cups, so we started passing the water around. Most NOW recruits accepted the water and the conversations began. Multiple dozens of bull sessions erupted.
While standing next to a reporter from the Boston Globe, one woman NOW recruit told me how she had the freedom to choose an abortion. So, I asked her if she had chosen to be born, or if she were only alive because of the choice of her parents. I concluded: “How can you, who are alive through no choice of your own, then use your choice to deny the life and future choices of the unborn?” She said, “Wow, I had never thought of it that way before,” and her whole demeanor changed.
After ninety minutes, I was standing a few feet away from the president of Boston NOW. She suddenly looked at what was happening, and said alarmingly, “We are not in control here! We must put a stop to this!” She thus ordered her lieutenants to break up the conversations. But perhaps three-quarters of their recruits said no, they enjoyed the conversations, and liked the Christian pro-life men and women there. The power of informed choice in service to human life, in action.
On our second Saturday, at the end of the morning, one of our volunteers was a few feet away from one recruit as she asked a question of an NOW leader: “How do we answer them when they say, ‘You have the power to choose life?’ ” The leader said: “Well, that is their language – we don’t use it anymore.” Those who define terms honestly will win hearts and minds. And across nine months, our volunteers had multiple hundreds, if not one or several thousand intelligent and gracious conversations with these recruits. Then, the leadership of Boston NOW gave the order for the recruits to stop coming down, for we “were persuading too many” of them.
This is at the core of biblical theology, where in the Garden of Eden, with Joshua in the Valley of Shechem, with Elijah in the face of the prophets of Ba’al on Mount Carmel, and with Jesus in the face of his enemies during Passover Week, a level playing field is provided for all – even the devil – to pose their toughest questions of God, leaders and one another. Truth and mercy always rise to the top. The power to choose life is the bequeathal of the Gospel.
We also had twelve signs asking questions, all aiming to empower the women to choose life. Now, as this effort is reconstituted in 2018 (Sacred Assemblies for the Unborn organized through Teams of Seven [.org]), the TEI has condensed these twelve questions into five. And they are suitable not only at abortion centers, but in any context where the politics of the issue are at the forefront (political rallies, university campuses etc.).
Question #1: Can You Imagine Jesus Performing an Abortion: Why Not?
I first expressed this question spontaneously in a 1985 college debate with a man representing the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR) of Massachusetts, the Rev. Spencer Parsons. When I spoke these words, he stopped, and then tried to come up with language that would imagine Jesus in such a capacity. He was unable, and we had several good debates and conversations thereafter.
Once, in front of Preterm, as I was holding the sign, a young woman said I was imposing my religion on her. And I said, how so? Namely, she did not have to look at the sign, and it is part of my religious and political freedom of speech. She was welcome to her selfsame freedoms. Then I said, “If Jesus means something to you, this is an important question. If he means nothing to you, then it is of no concern.” And we had a great conversation thereafter: Who is Jesus?
Question #2: How Does Human Abortion Add to a Woman’s Dignity?
Every woman knows there is no dignity in having her body violated by an abortion, and the grief of later mourning for a lost child – whether consciously or subconsciously. The Latin term for abortion is ab + oriri, and it means “to cut off from rising.” It is reactive, not proactive; destructive not creative; and women do not plan ahead of time to get pregnant in order to have an abortion.
Question #3: How Many Men Push Their “Girlfriends” into “Choosing” Abortion?
When the research data of the Alan Guttmacher Institute of Planned Parenthood is examined, and the data of thousands of Pregnancy Resource Centers likewise, the reality is that male irresponsibility and chauvinism drives the abortion ethos. Men who get women pregnant and refuse responsibility. At Smith College in 1994, in a forum with the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Patricia Ireland, I was asked a question from a woman student at the end on how I could “oppose a woman’s choice.” I had fifteen seconds to answer, and I said, “Just as much as abortion rips off women, it rips off the unborn and allows the male chauvinists to run free.” An audience of over 500, mostly in favor of legalized abortion, erupted in loud and sustained ovation. Reality has been defined.
Question #4: Are Planned Parenthood and the Abortion Industry Racist?
The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was a eugenicist who praised Adolf Hitler in 1922. Today, about 38 percent of all abortions, in the United States, are performed on Black Americans who equal 12 or 13 percent of the population. The same racist ratio holds true for other minorities, and Planned Parenthood et al. heavily locate their abortion centers in poor neighborhoods. And they earn billions in blood money.
Question #5: Pro-Life Libertarian or Pro-Abortion Statist?
These are exact opposites. Pro-life libertarians want maximum religious, political and economic freedom for all people equally, from biological origins to natural death. People are free so long as they do not injure the lives, liberties and property of others. Pro-abortion statists support massive and enslaving top-down state intervention in people’s lives, especially against religious, political and economic freedom.
The Toughest Question: What About Rape and Incest?
This is not suitable for a public sign, since the hell of such evil and its pain cuts so deep. But it needs to be addressed. I have been asked this question many times across the years, and indeed, this is the title and content of Chapter One in my book, Changing the Language of the Abortion Debate (available at johnrankinbooks.com).
Whether at Denison University as a college student several months prior to the January 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, when a fellow male student pressed me on it in a religion class; or at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), in answering the question of a woman student who had been conceived through the rape of her eleven year-old mother; or at Brown University in debating the former president of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island who had been excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church, in addressing the question posed by a woman student; or with a woman caller on WGAN Radio in Portland, Maine, who personally knew the hell of rape and abortion; or with a “pro-choice” physician and wife of an astrophysicist working on the Hadron Collider; or in a forum at Dartmouth College with the woman head of Republicans for Choice – they all responded well, and also with others in different instances. Only in a forum at Yale Law School, with the woman president of the national Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR), did I not get any response – silence instead.
To sum up this territory, one question emerges: How does human abortion unrape the woman? She has been through hell, abortion only deepens the hell, and we who follow Jesus are here to serve her courageous power to choose life in the face of a hell that very few of us can imagine. Indeed, we are here to serve any woman who needs the courage and power to choose life for her and her unborn child, regardless of the situation.
Two Choices in Political Identity: Pro-Life Libertarian or Pro-Abortion Totalitarian
John C. Rankin
There are two choices in life. On the one hand, there is the freedom rooted in the assumptions of the Hebrew Bible. On the other, there is the slavery that is assumed everywhere else – beginning with the most ancient of pagan constructs in Babylonian religion, on forward into secular constructs.
- In terms of penultimate political identity, all of us ultimately aim in one direction or the other – pro-life libertarian or pro-abortion totalitarian.
“Pro-Abortion Totalitarianism” is when abortion advocates seek to use political power to impose their agenda totally upon the rest of society. “Pagan” refers to that which is outside of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, and “secular” refers to a “this worldly” perspective that assumes all reality is limited to the physical world as defined.
The only ethical difference between pagan religion and secular humanism, is that at least the former has interesting stories that seek to understand the human dilemma. But in the end, whether capricious, finite and petty deities enslave us to fatalisms, or a godless cosmos spits us forth and in the end swallows us up without a burp or care for our existence – what is the difference? In both scenarios, human life is cheap and disposable, and they have no power to resist the tyranny of pro-abortion totalitarians.
In prior contrast, the Hebrew Bible assumes what is means to be a pro-life libertarian. Now, self-identifying pagans, or secularists (whether atheists or agnostics), may well be pro-life, but their religious and/or philosophical assumptions cannot, by definition, provide any foundation for it. They are only pro-life because of the reality of the image of God in which we are all made, a reality which they honor even if not being aware of it.
God → Life → Choice → Sex or Sex → Choice → Life →/ God?
“Pro-life” people are overwhelmingly rooted in a biblical sense of the nature of God, and “pro-choice” people are overwhelmingly rooted in a sense of approving, or at least not disapproving, of sex outside of marriage. These self-defining terms of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” can be shown in a graphic sense which identifies the locus of the conflict over human abortion:
God → Life → / ← Choice ← Sex.
In other words, it is fidelity to God that defines life, and properly motivates the political language of “pro-life.” And it is sexuality in promiscuous context that in truth motivates the political language of “pro-choice.” “Pro-life” reflects the biblical order of creation, and “pro-choice” reflects its reversal.
In the biblical order of creation, 1) God creates human life as good; and 2) gives the gift of informed choice, as a good, to man and woman; then 3) the most important choice we ever make is in the good of the marriage of one man and one woman for one lifetime; and thus, 4) where we are empowered to pass along the good gifts of life, choice and sex to our children.
But in the reversal of the order of creation, 4) sex outside of marriage 3) employs atomistic choice to 2) destroy the life of the unborn in the act of human abortion, and in 1) an affront against God – the Creator of life, choice and sex. And this is overwhelmingly driven by male irresponsibility and/or chauvinism, where the man who impregnates the woman refuses equal responsibility to her and their child.
Thus, we have a profile of the contest of the ages, between the biblical and pagan views of the four subjects that define reality:
God → Life → Choice → Sex, on the one hand, versus
Sex → Choice → Life →/ God, on the other.
And as specifically applicable here:
Pro-life = pro-informed choice, versus
Anti-life = anti-informed choice.
The First Hebrew Covenant: The Freedom of Informed Choice
In Genesis 2:15-17, we have the first words ever spoken to man by Yahweh Elohim, and they are the words of freedom. Here is the Hebrew text:
“And Yahweh Elohim took the man, and gave him repose in the walled garden of Eden, to work it and guard it. And Yahweh Elohim commanded the man, saying to him, ‘From all of the trees in the midst of the walled garden, in feasting you shall continually feast. But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it, in dying you shall continually die.’ ”
There are several elements of the larger context necessary to grasp. 1) There are three parallel opposites defined in Genesis 2:7-17: good versus evil; freedom versus slavery; and life versus death. Accordingly, good = freedom = life; and evil = slavery = death. 2) The knowledge of good and evil is a Hebrew merism for polar-opposites that define the whole. Namely, all there is to know is between good and evil, and only the infinite Yahweh Elohim can know all, and only Yahweh Elohim can know evil in its totality and not be tempted or polluted by it. But for man and woman to seek this knowledge is to east poison, for they are finite, and to try and digest it is as impossible as it is deathly. All that is good is already given.
And 3) is the nature of freedom and informed choice. Some translations say in v. 16. “You are free to eat …” But the metaphor of an unlimited feast in the original Hebrew is intrinsically dynamic in describing true freedom. It is a feast that is full in the moment and never ends, versus a death that is full in the moment and never ends (as the grammar makes clear). And the feast of freedom can only be chosen if terms are defined honestly; good versus evil; freedom versus slavery; life versus death.
This is also the power of the level playing field – freedom is not imposed, for that would be an oxymoron. We are not free to say yes to Yahweh unless we are first free to say no. And too, in the radical nature of the level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally, the ancient serpent (Satan) is invited to be present. And in Genesis 3:4, he says literally to the woman: “In dying you shall not continually die.” It is the simple addition of “not” to the proscription in 2:17. Satan is a liar, he reverses the words of Yahweh Elohim, being rooted in the slavery of misinformed choice – calling death as life, slavery as freedom, and evil as good.
Only an honest definition of terms yields informed choice. In the abortion debate there are two key issues: 1) the male chauvinism of the abortion ethos and 2) the humanity of the unborn. Anyone who advocates legalized human abortion should be glad to debate these questions.
The Babylonian Genesis
On the one hand is creation in the biblical Genesis, in which the eternal Yahweh Elohim is good, creation is good and human life is good. On the other, the oldest and most influential of ancient pagan origin stories, the Babylonian Genesis, starts with destruction, and with no concept of original or final goodness.
The Babylonian Genesis starts with the assumption of a pantheon of time-bound, petty, sexually promiscuous and destructive gods and goddesses, engaging in an intramural and internecine warfare. It is rooted in the Sex → Choice → Life →/ God reversal paradigm and with no concept of the freedom of informed choice.
A second-level deity at the outset, Marduk, creates the universe, as it were, by killing the chief goddess Tiamat, and dissecting her body – splitting it open like a mussel shell, making the heavens with one half of her carcass, and the earth with the other half. He then makes the defeated pantheon of Tiamat’s army into slaves, but they complain about this status. In response, Marduk kills his chief remaining opponent, Kingu, severs his arteries, and from his blood Marduk creates mankind to serve as slaves to these defeated gods and goddesses.
But, by definition, how can destruction precede creation? Destruction can only destroy what is already created. The Babylonian “genesis” is a reversal of reality. Now, for a remarkable observation per our subject matter. In this myth, as Marduk dissects Tiamat’s body, the text reads:
The lord rested, examining her dead body,
To divide the abortion (and) to create ingenious things (therewith).
He split her open like a mussel (?) into two parts;
Half of her he set in place and formed the sky (therewith) as a
(Tablet IV, lines 135-138, translation of Alexander Heidel).
The word “abortion,” an act of intrinsic destruction (from the Latin ab + oriri, “to cuff off from rising”), is used here to describe Tiamat’s corpse and purpose. Abortion is viewed here as parallel to the corpse of one killed by an act of aggression, and as a means by which to create the universe. This is the Babylonian genesis versus the biblical Genesis.
And as Babylon is traced across history, it is the archetypic tyranny of enslaving kings, where the state is the de facto god – namely, totalitarianism. This is in contrast is Hebrew covenant, where polity is rooted in the consent of the governed to the goodness of Yahweh through leaders who are accountable to him, and this idea is at the root of the Protestant Reformation and its uneven but accomplished path to the birth of the United States.
The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution
And too, we find a remarkable parallel in the 1776 Declaration of Independence, where based on the antecedents of John Locke, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, we encounter the language of “life, liberty and property/pursuit of happiness.” We read:
“WE hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed …”
These rights, these gifts of life, liberty and property/pursuit of happiness, are necessary assumptions for a healthy social order, rooted in the Creator and the gift of faithful heterosexual marriage, under the rubric of “unalienable rights.” These are rights that no human government can define, give nor take away, for they are given by the Creator, which is to say, the opposite of totalitarianism. [Note: “the pursuit of happiness” is Jefferson’s philosophic clause in the Declaration, made possible by property rights, as Locke anticipated and as the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments legally codify it.]
The parallels stand out:
God = the Creator.
Life = Life.
Choice = Liberty.
Sex = Property/Pursuit of Happiness.
The first three parallels are obvious. But the fourth? A closer look at the language is helpful.
In Genesis 2:24, a man leaves his parent’s household to join with his wife and form a new household. The Hebrew term for household or family is bayith, and in the Septuagint (the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek), it is translated oikos. The rule of the household is oikonomos, from whence we derive the English word “economics.”
Across the history of human civilizations, to the extent that a man is faithful to his wife and the raising of their children, the strongest possible economic unit follows. And the biblical assumption of fidelity in marriage and parenthood is the only foundation for the economic activity in creating, producing, selling, buying and trading property or goods.
In other words, the social order begins with the family unite on outward and upward, and this is the basis for the consent of the governed, and thus, the opposite of pro-abortion totalitarianism.
Unalienable rights are protected in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, where no person shall be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Namely, people are fully free in their personal matters, so long as they do not violate the lives, liberties and properties of others. This is the biblical and constitutional foundation for what it means to be a “pro-life libertarian.”
Thus, there is the contrast between biblically legitimate government, and illegitimate pagan and secular governments – those which honor unalienable rights from the Creator on the one hand, and as ratified by the consent of the governed; and those which do not, those that are ultimately totalitarian. As examined in another brochure, legalized human abortion is a totalitarian imposition on society. Pro-Life Libertarian versus Pro-Abortion Totalitarian.
Roe v. Wade:
Statist Imposition of Abortion-on-Demand Rooted in Chosen Ignorance
John C. Rankin
The 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision “legalizing” human abortion is a) a statist imposition on the nation, b) an act of “raw judicial power” as dissenting Justice Byron White opined, and c) uniquely based on a pretension of ignorance – the weakest form of moral argument in history.
Here is its sequence of thought
- Roe chides the “emotional” nature of the debate and pretends to rise above it, all the while conforming to its own unstated biases;
- Roe sanctions a war between the mother and unborn child, by first setting up a war between the mother and father of the same unborn child;
- Roe invents a “penumbra” of undefined shadows in which to avoid an accurate definition of terms;
- Roe dispenses with the history of Hippocratic and Christian medical ethics that oppose human abortion;
- Roe dispenses with the American Medical Association (AMA) and its original history of opposing human abortion;
- Roe dispenses with the biological facts of conception which would inform the discussion, claiming their irrelevance;
- Roe invents a broad then narrowly applied “right of privacy” to allow a woman to abort an undefined “potential” life; and
- Roe further wages war on the unborn by denying them their constitutional personhood.
This is Roe’s greatest fear and weakness – the Court knows that the unborn child is human, and that abortion destroys a human life. Roe, written by Justice Harry Blackmun for the 7-2 majority, constructs a relentless artifice to get around the obvious, to adopt every conceivable angle to deny the humanity and civil rights of the unborn. But the Court cannot convince itself, and this is why it conducts such a remarkable fishing expedition. Thus, the Court reveals its true theological colors, which biblically literate people will recognize. Namely, the Roe Court appeals to the weakest form of known moral argument in its final point:
- Roe makes a pretense of ignorance about the humanity of the unborn and thus rationalizes their legalized destruction – its tendentious goal from the outset.
Let’s review the language of the actual Roe decision to give evidence to this argument, and then examine the theological mockery in its pretension of ignorance.
- The Court says: “Our task, of course, is to resolve the issue by constitutional measurement, free of emotion and predilection (410 U.S. 113 at 116).” Yet also, prior to this, it cites “the emotional nature of the abortion controversy” that involves people’s philosophy, “their exposure to the raw edges of human experience,” and their religious training and attitudes toward “life and family.” How does it supposedly rise above the “emotional nature?” For example, the Court introduces the issues of “population growth, pollution, poverty and racial overtones” (which) “tend to complicate,” but then never addresses these questions. How much of this syntax is constructed to exploit real emotions, while pretending to rise above them?
- In the entire Roe decision, no husband is ever mentioned, nor does the father of the potentially aborted child ever gain reference. The only man given place is in the use of the male pronoun with reference to “her physician,” yet very few abortions are done by a personal or family physician. They are farmed out to abortion “doctors” who have the lowest standing in the medical community. How does this reflect the Roe Court’s predilection in its definition of “family?” The woman is atomized and disposable, as is her child, and the man in his responsibility is ignored.
- In seeking to define a “right” to human abortion in constitutional dress, the Roe Court uses the language of “penumbras.” A penumbra is rooted in the Latin terms paene for “almost” and umbra for “shadow.” Its usual context is for describing the partial or imperfect shadows cast by a solar or lunar eclipse. The light of looking at a “constitutional measurement” is discarded in favor of a search in the undefined shadows.
- The Court also faces the obstacle of the Hippocratic Oath, an ancient Greek ethic for physicians that proscribes the use of “pessaries” that cause abortion. The Oath became the standard “nucleus of all medical ethics,” and in order to overcome it, Roe cites a Dr. Edelstein who advances a theory that the Oath’s acceptance is due to “the emerging teachings of Christianity [that] were in agreement with the Pythagorean ethic.” Accordingly: “This, it seems to us, is a satisfactory and acceptable explanation of the Hippocratic Oath’s apparent rigidity (410 U.S. 113 at 132).” In other words, the Court’s own emotion and predilection is to regard opposition to human abortion as “rigid,” and due to Christian teaching. Religious bigotry.
- The Court also had to dismiss the American Medical Association (AMA) in its historical opposition to human abortion. This is rooted in the 1859 experiment in a petri dish that first proved that the fertilization of an ovum by a spermatozoon equals the beginning of a discrete biological human life. The explicit reason for the AMA’s original opposition to abortion is that human life is being killed. Roe employs an argument by Dr. James Mohr who tries to make it a sociological and political decision on the part of the AMA, while ignoring the human life reality. And by the late 1950s, the AMA modifies its position, but not due to any new science on the biology of fertilization – corrupt politics is infused.
- In reviewing the claim by the State of Texas that “a new human life is present from the moment of conception,” the Roe Court calls this an unstated “theory” in a pejorative sense, seeking to demote its argument. In contrast, the Court lauds and accepts an explicit “theory” on the part of Dr. Edelstein, in seeking to dismiss the Hippocratic Oath in the Court’s predilectory prejudice to dismiss the humanity of the unborn. It then invents the language of “potential life,” and concludes: “In view of all this, we do not agree that by adopting one theory of life, Texas may override the rights of the pregnant woman that are at stake (410 U.S. 113 at 162).” Texas argues biology, but the Roe Court promotes fungible “theory” language against concrete biological terms in order not to be accountable to the latter.
- The Court’s predilection continues as it declares that “The Constitution does not mention any right of privacy,” and then weaves through various channels to invent one. There are specific rights to privacy (though not using this clause), such as Fourth Amendment (against being forced to quarter soldiers in your home) and the Fifth (against search and seizure without a warrant); but that is it. There is none such for human abortion, and no language of a “right to privacy” in any broader sense. Yet, the Court concludes: “This right to privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy (410 U.S. at 153).” In other words, with no evidence of constitutional measurement, the Court postures between two ideas that suit presupposed “feelings” or “beliefs” of abortion advocates.
- In another perversion, the Court assaults the Fourteenth Amendment, which affirms the right to life to a class of people who had been denied it (Black Americans) but now twists it to deny the right to life for a class that had enjoyed it (the unborn). This they do by using the clause “born or naturalized” to militate against the unborn. But the unborn are not the subject of the Amendment, and the States that ratified it are the selfsame that made most human abortions illegal prior to and after the Amendment. Too, in English Common Law, a person’s legal rights are acknowledged at “quickening,” which was their best biological assurance that a human life is present. There was no ability at that time to determine the science of fertilization. As Paul Simon writes in The Boxer, “A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.”
- And in its ratification of this underconfident and twisted line of thinking, the Roe Court seeks to dismiss the question about the humanity of the unborn through a pretension of ignorance. The decision reads: “Texas urges that, apart from the Fourteenth Amendment, life begins at conception and is present throughout pregnancy, and that, therefore, the State has a compelling interest in protecting that life from and after conception. We need not resolve this difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer (410 U.S. 113 at 159).”
“We need not resolve” the central fact dispute of the case!? This is as legally dishonest as it gets. And in the immediate syntax, the Court changes the language of specific biological human life to a general philosophy of undifferentiated life. In all jurisprudence, no verdict may be rendered unless there is agreement on the facts of the case. To get around this, the Court makes a pretension of ignorance under the rubric of posing a “non-consensus” in other select disciplines, forfeiting its own professional requisites. Moreover, in the Court’s introduction of the alleged “non-consensus,” it gives no evidence that such a “non-consensus” exists. And finally, “the development of man’s knowledge” about conception has only intensified in one direction since 1859 – discrete humanity.
After Cain murders his brother Abel, Yahweh questions him, and Cain pretends to be ignorant of the reality as he also lies (Genesis 4:1-12). When the chief priests and elders try to entrap Jesus, he questions them, and they pretend to be ignorant (Matthew 21:23-27). For the singular Cain, it is the “I don’t know” argument; for the plural chief priests and elders, it is the “We don’t know” argument. The Roe Court follows the logic of Cain and the enemies of Jesus, its spiritual forefathers:
- When dishonest elitists do not have the courage to admit true definition of terms and then make their case; and
- When they cannot market a false definition of terms, because they know they cannot market it and fool Yahweh, Jesus or the common people with it; then
- They pretend to be ignorant of reality.
As Cain kills his brother, as the devil always seeks to kill the Messianic lineage, and as the religious elitists seek to kill Jesus, so too does Roe serve the agenda of the ancient serpent – to allow the killing of the most vulnerable image-bearers of God in our midst, the very unborn, and the cognate of murderous intent against the woman’s soul. As well, as the religious elitists fear the common people who believe in Jesus, so too does the elitist Roe Court majority fear the “consent of the governed.”
The pretension of ignorance is the weakest form of moral argument in history, and Roe lifts it from the enemies of the Messiah. And the fact that this law still stands is an indictment against the theological impotence of the church.
We still have a “hung jury” according to Roe’s own admission. Thus, the Roe Court should not have ruled on the matter at all – it should have either ruled in favor of unborn humanity, or at least remanded the case back to the appellate court. The Roe Court is a) unwilling to admit the truth, and it is b) unable to market a lie and define a different point when “life begins.” Thus, the Court c) pretends to be ignorant as they postulate a non-existent “non-consensus” among a certain cultural elite.
Chosen ignorance is used to advance totalitarian power, “raw judicial power,” to injure millions of women’s souls, and thus far, in killing some 60 million unborn children.
What is the Biblical Understanding of Human Abortion?
John C. Rankin
In the debate over human abortion, it is often questioned why the subject does not have explicit mention in the Bible. This question is addressed comprehensively in the book, Changing the Language of the Abortion Debate (available at johnrankinbooks.com). For here, some summary observations are made:
- Creation, Sin and Redemption
The biblical storyline is comprehensively summed up in the realities of creation, sin and redemption, introduced in Genesis 1-3. Or to put it another way, wholeness, brokenness and restoration. And yet another way, the order of creation, the reversal and the reversal of the reversal.
In the wholeness (Hebrew root meaning of shalom) of creation, Genesis 1-2, all is good. There is no evil, no slavery, no death, nothing is broken. The classic reality of “sin” begins in Genesis 3, where the word is not actually used, but it is descriptively profiled – the brokenness of trust, between man and woman, and between them and the Creator, Yahweh Elohim.
The Latin word for abortion is ab + oriri and it means to “cut off from rising.” This idea has no place in the realms of creation and redemption, only in sin; it has no place in the realities of wholeness and restoration, only in brokenness.
- The Four Defining Subjects in Creation
The subjects of God, life, choice and sex equal the defining focus in Genesis 1-2:
God → Life → Choice → Sex.
Yahweh Elohim is the Creator, he is good, his power is unlimited, and his highest purpose is to make man and woman as his image-bearers, to govern and steward the good creation. The first words to the first man are words of freedom – the power to choose and do the good – and the most important choice he ever makes is in marriage to one woman for one lifetime. Thus, God →
Life → Choice → Sex.
The reversal of the order of creation is this:
Sex → Choice → Life →/ God.
From antiquity to the present, male chauvinism reifies women as sexual objects, and this leads to the brokenness of the marriage covenant, concubinary, the building of harems, and on outward to promiscuity of any and all forms. This pollution of human sexuality, this quintessential brokenness of trust, leads to the further reification of the unwanted children of the chauvinists, and apart from the chosen children of the first marriage, this leads to disinheritance, infant exposure and human abortion. This is all in s direct assault against the goodness of human life for all people equally, and in an affront against the Creator of life. Thus, a reversal of goodness: Sex → Choice → Life →/ God.
In 1985, when I testified before a panel of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR) and the American Baptist Churches (ABC), the purpose was the ABC’s reconsideration of their membership in RCAR. And my testimony was a major catalyst in the ABC’s decision to leave RCAR. I was astounded at how the RCAR national leaders kept calling me “anti-choice,” and yet refused to define either life or choice in biblical or social terms. I asked, “How can any of us choose unless we are first alive?” No answer. What they exemplified was an idolatry of choice which is de facto drive by male chauvinism. The contrast they serve is a false dichotomy:
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 sexuality in promiscuous context 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, and thus yields the reversal order: Sex → Choice → Life →/ God.
Thus, we have a profile of the contest of the ages, between the biblical and pagan views of the four subjects in the order of creation:
God → Life → Choice → Sex, on the one hand, versus
Sex → Choice → Life →/ God, on the other.
And as specifically applicable here:
Pro-life = pro-informed choice, versus
Anti-life = anti-informed choice.
In Genesis 2:7, when Yahweh Elohim breathes into the first man, he becomes a nephesh hayyah, a “soul alive.”
There are two principal sources that define nephesh – Edmund Jacob’s article in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), where he examines the Hebrew background for the Greek parallel term psuche; and Hans Walter Wolff in The Anthropology of the Old Testament. Nephesh refers to a man, or woman, in their totality of personhood – as always embodied, and needful of Yahweh’s original breath, sustaining ecosphere and ordained social orders. This is true in every context of usage in the Hebrew Bible, and these qualities are fully met in the unborn human being.
- Lex Talionis
In the Law of Moses there is a passage where people have argued both sides of the abortion debate (Exodus 21:22-25), but only due to poor translation. It is often called lex talionis, Latin for the law of retribution, not rooted in human retribution, but in justice for the oppressed, always aiming at redemption. The text reads, translated directly from the Hebrew:
“If (two) men who are struggling, fatally strike a pregnant woman and a child is brought forth, but there is no harm, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband sets and the court allows. But if there is harm, you are to give soul for soul (nephesh), eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand or hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, bruise for bruise, stripe for stripe.”
There are four realities at play: 1) a pregnant woman is struck dead accidentally by two men struggling with each other; 2) if there is “no harm” to the prematurely born child, a fine is levied against the offender for the loss of the woman’s life; 3) but if the prematurely born child also suffers “harm,” the offender is fined according to the nature of the injury caused to the child; and 4) in both cases, nephesh for nephesh is applied, as both mother and unborn child are full image-bearers of God, with equal protection under the law for an equal humanity. The Bible countenances no war between mother and child in competing definitions of the worth of human life based on a pagan achievement ethic.
- Psalm 139 and the Presence of Yahweh
This psalm is all about the presence of Yahweh Elohim, and whether it is possible for a member of the covenant – in this case, King David – to flee his presence. It proves not, whether David flees to the heights of the heavens or to sheol (“the depths”); whether he flees to the farthest reaches of the eastern sky (“the wings of the dawn”) or to the farthest reaches of the western sky (“the far side of the sea”).
Finally, in this meditation, David turns to the womb as the final example, in parallelistic structure, of a remote location for which David conceives, indeed, the most remote yet. Is Yahweh present there too?
For you created my inner being;
you weaved me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you above all because I am fearfully set apart;
your works are wonderful,
My soul (nephesh) knows that full well.
My bones were not hidden from you
when I was made in the hidden place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
you saw my embryo.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them was created (vv. 13-16).
As David considers this scenario, he naturally returns to the context of the order of creation, sharing all its assumptions. His instincts are the same as he considers the status of the unborn. Yahweh is intimately involved in David’s creation through the procreation process, present with him. To refuse the goodness of procreation is to refuse the goodness of the order of creation itself. David affirms that his humanity is full, not only when he is visibly human, but when his body is inchoate, an embryo. Even before conception, his identity is present in the eternal mind of Yahweh Elohim. The affirmation is in place for the complete humanity of the unborn throughout the entire biological process of pregnancy. To abort a human life is to abort the chosen presence of the Creator, Yahweh Elohim.
- Jeremiah: Identity and Prophetic Confrontation
When Jeremiah is called as a prophet, the language is striking: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, Before you were brought out of the womb I set you apart, And I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
This is the same reality as in Psalm 139. Jeremiah was the final prophet in Jerusalem before its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. King Josiah (who ruled from 640-609 B.C.), eradicated the pagan practices of sorcery, sacred prostitution and child sacrifice in all Judah. But after his death, these practices returned with a vengeance, and Jeremiah was a wall against them, and warning them of the Babylonian destruction if they did not repent.
In Jeremiah 19, he stands against the practice of child sacrifice, addressing the priests and elders of the people at the Valley of Ben Hinnom, just south of the city walls of Jerusalem. It was the place where the city trash was burned – and always burning – and where the places of Topheth (meaning “fireplace”) were located, where human infants were burned alive in sacrifice to the Canaanite deity Ba’al.
This pagan ritual was rooted in the fatalism of appealing to pagan deities to grant peace, prosperity and fertility in a broken world. And in extremis, child sacrifice was demanded. This ethos of male chauvinism, sexual promiscuity and the reification of women and the children is no different than the abortion ethos today.
And too, when the Valley of Ben Hinnom is transliterated and shortened into the Aramaic language in which Jesus spoke, it is g’hinnom, the word translated as “hell.” Its metaphor was dramatically vivid to the Jewish hearers of Jesus. Abortion is hell.
- Can You Imagine Jesus Performing an Abortion? Why Not?
I first expressed this question spontaneously in a 1985 college debate with a man representing the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR) of Massachusetts, the Rev. Spencer Parsons. When I spoke these words, he stopped, and then tried to come up with language that would imagine Jesus in such a capacity. He was unable, and we had several good debates and conversations thereafter.
Once, in front of Preterm Abortion Center outside Boston, as I was holding a sign that poses this question, and a young woman said I was imposing my religion on her. And I said, how so? Namely, she did not have to look at the sign, and it is part of my religious and political freedom of speech. She was welcome to her selfsame freedoms. Then I said, “If Jesus means something to you, this is an important question. If he means nothing to you, then it is of no concern.” And we had a great conversation thereafter: Who is Jesus?
- This is a brief profile of the biblical assumption of the humanity of the unborn, and thus, opposite to the destructive act of human abortion. It is all consistent with the Jewish expression of l’hayyim – “to life!” It is rooted in all the assumptions of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament (as further study would detail), and explicitly opposed by the early church as it faced pagan society.
A Biblical Strategy to Win Legal Protection for Women and Their Unborn
John C. Rankin
As argued in the book, Changing the Language of the Abortion Debate (available at johnrankinbooks.com), and in various companion brochures to this one, the ethos human abortion rips off women, it rips off the unborn and allows the male chauvinists to run free. It is rooted in a profoundly pagan definition of statist power, and it is anti-biblical in every essence of its theological and political nature.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision (accompanied by the Doe v. Bolton ruling) are rooted in a pretension of ignorance as to the central fact dispute of the case – the weakest form of moral argument in human history, tracing back to Cain and the enemies of Jesus. The Court pretended not to know the discrete biological origin of a human being from the moment of fertilization, and it constructed a remarkable fishing expedition to prop up a tendentiously weak argument. The fact that Roe still stands today is an indictment on the theological and political weakness of the synagogue and church.
It is a goal of the TEI International is to end legalized abortion, and the central theological reality is that the Bible is based on informed choice and Roe v. Wade is based on stated ignorance. In order to win legal protection for women and their unborn equally, we need to define life and choice honestly, and as a counterweight to stated ignorance. There are three salient realities:
- None of us can choose apart from first being alive.
- Biologically discrete human life begins at conception. The word “abortion” comes from the Latin ab + oriri, “to cut off from rising.”
- The overwhelming “choice” for human abortion resides with men who choose not to marry the women they get pregnant, men who choose to reject fatherhood.
How do we bring these realities into honest political discourse? And how do we change the language of the abortion debate to place ourselves in the driver’s seat of honestly defining the terms?
Step #1: Educate the church, and support pregnancy resource centers that advocate for women in the face of pressures to have an abortion.
- Also, employ the Sacred Assemblies for the Unborn (SAU) everywhere possible (see teamsofseven.org), not only at abortion centers, but in places with political, media and university exposure. The questions used here are compelling to any and all people. Pro-abortion advocates silence themselves in the presence of honest questions.
Step #2: Place a legally non-binding question before the U.S. Congress and all the State Legislatures for public debate; and from there, onto public referenda as possible. Here is the language:
Human Abortion and a Process of Informed Choice.
We recognize that the U.S. Constitution defines three principal arenas of unalienable human rights, and with a specific order – life, liberty and property.
The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision left the beginning of individual biological human life undefined. We believe this matter should be addressed. If there is no consensus on the biological beginning of individual human life, let it be shown, and the status quo of Roe v. Wade will hold and be strengthened. If, however, a clear consensus emerges, let it be instructive.
In biological terms, when does an individual human life begin?
Mark a cross X next to the answer you prefer. Only mark one.
- Conception [ ].
- Viability [ ].
- Birth [ ].
- Write-in [ ]: specify a different biological term ___________.
Here is the power of this question:
- An honest definition of terms leads to the power of informed choice relative to human life, whereas Roe v. Wade is the opposite, based on a pretension of ignorance.
- Political leaders and others who choose not to answer it, or say they “don’t know,” are in de facto agreement with the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe Wade decision which legalized human abortion. They are disciples of Cain and the enemies of Jesus, and become pro-abortion.
- In Roe, the Justices employed a “we don’t know” argument as to when “life begins.” This is a statement of chosen ignorance, just like Cain using the “I don’t know” argument as to the whereabouts of his brother Abel whom he had just murdered. And this is just like some enemies of Jesus using the “we don’t know” argument to avoid answering him on the source of John the Baptist’s authority, as they sought pretext to have Jesus crucified.
- This “we don’t know” rationale – again, the very essence of Roe – is the intellectually and morally weakest form of argument in history, and can easily be overcome through the power of informed choice.
- At a prior theological reality in Genesis 2, we are given the true definition of terms of a) good and evil, b) freedom and slavery and c) life and death. We are thus given a level playing field to choose between these parallel opposites. A true definition of terms yields the power of informed choice.
- One political reality of biblical theology is this: Informed choice serves the humanity of women and their unborn equally; misinformed choice (or worse, stated ignorance) serves human abortion which also rips women’s lives apart.
- In 1988, this question was petitioned for the ballots in 105 of the 160 representative districts in Massachusetts – the largest non-binding public policy question in state history. In the research prior to this referenda drive, it was understatedly concluded that over 80 percent of the voting public would have answered “conception.” In fact, the advertising campaign would have simply stated “Conception is it.”
- But the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM), the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (CLUM), and the Boston Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), joined to filed lawsuit to stop it, with Mass Choice, the local chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), alongside. They were deeply fearful of truly informed choice.
- The Massachusetts Attorney General – a former board member of the Planned Parenthood – overruled the petition for the referendum on specious and desperate grounds, and his office expected us to win in court. But, sadly, our attorney did not know this area of law that well (hard to find pro-life attorneys in Massachusetts as the time who did or might), and in not doing one pro forma step, it allows the State Supreme Court to shut it down and refuse to reconsider it. And this was also in the middle of Governor Michael Dukakis campaign for the U.S. Presidency, and he too was rabidly pro-abortion.
Step #3: Place another legally non-binding question before the U.S. Congress and all the State Legislatures for public debate; and from there, onto public referenda as possible:
Human Abortion and Male Irresponsibility.
We recognize that the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision does not address the role of fathers or male responsibility. As well, we recognize that in the overwhelming number of abortion decisions, the man has left the relationship and refuses accountability.
To what extent is human abortion driven by male irresponsibility?
Mark a cross X next to the answer you prefer. Only mark one.
- Very Much [ ].
- Somewhat [ ].
- Very little [ ].
Here is the power of this question:
- Of those who give answer, the majority will likely answer “Very Much.” Some women will not answer because the pain of broken relationships with men is too deep, and/or they support other women who have yielded to male chauvinism in the name of feminism. Not to give answer is the de facto affirmation of Roe in their conflicted pains. Many men with guilty consciences, including legislators, will likely choose not to vote on the matter, thus voting for the logic and ethos of Roe.
Thus, these two questions address the biological and sociological realities of human abortion. As legislators and citizens consider these questions, we will gain the driver’s seat, initially framing the new language of the abortion debate.
Step 4: A law that both sides should agree with.
This law needs to simply hold all men accountable for the children they procreate, according to the variables at play, and to make provision for the well-being of the woman and their child(ren). It is such irresponsible or outright chauvinistic men who overwhelmingly force the abortion “choice” on women. If such a man refuses to provide for the woman and their child(ren), and abortion results, he should be liable to the charge of manslaughter.
Step #5: An Amendment to the United States Constitution.
- This prepares the way to win the necessary 38 state legislatures to pass an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution entitled:
Equal Justice for Women and Their Unborn
The exact language could be this:
The unalienable rights of life, liberty and property belong to all people equally under the rule of law, including equal justice for the shared humanity of all women and their unborn children. The first order of human government is to protect individual human life for his or her entire natural duration, out of which liberty and property rights become possible.
- And let the debate on “entire natural duration” ensue. Law cannot be changed until the hearts and minds of men and women are changed, and this strategy will energize such a process.
What About Rape & Incest in the Face of the Abortion Debate?
John C. Rankin
Baptism into the Debate
In the fall of 1972, I was baptized into the debate over human abortion.
In a religion class at Denison University – just several months before the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision – we read several articles on the subject, which was new to me.
The class had about thirty students, and when it came time for discussion, I was the only one who said no to human abortion. As I did, I was met with overwhelming opposition from my classmates. The most serious challenge was from a guy who asked me what I would do if my wife were raped and made pregnant – would I “force” her to keep the baby? (A reversal ploy – the rapist is the one who “forces” himself). The classroom was hushed, and I sought to give answer, never having thought about it before.
My instincts were rooted in the assumptions of a) a Christian marriage, where b) the humanity of the unborn child is affirmed, c) my simultaneous support for both my wife and her child, and d) how we would together pray through such an evil.
Also, it would be easy for me to argue for the abortion, since the child would not be mine. Nonetheless, I would be there every step of the way, affirm the most life-giving option possible, willing to help raise and love the child accordingly. This is still her biological child, and abortion only adds violence to violence. Good triumphs over evil.
The class broke out in a caustic and mocking laughter. The professor, Dr. Lee Scott, then said something like “Shut up.” He probably did not use these words, as he was a gentle and gracious man, but his emotions carried the same force. He rebuked the class and told them to be quiet unless they were willing to be as consistent as I was, or able to make a better argument.
The University of Massachusetts: A Woman Conceived in the Rape of an Eleven-Year Old
On September 19, 1985, I was addressing a forum in front of the Student Union at the University of Massachusetts (UMass), Amherst. Toward the end of a two-hour event that saw many people come and go, with about 100 people still there, a woman student asked me about rape and incest.
As I began to try and give answer, she interjected and stated, in the presence of everyone there, that she herself was conceived though an act of rape. I was stunned.
So, I asked why she of all people would argue for abortion in the case of rape. “Would you rather have been aborted?” She was astonished, for she had never thought of it this way. Her concerns had been quite selfless, for the raped woman, her very mother. The forum ended shortly thereafter, and I walked over to her. We then went to the Student Union, sat down at a cafeteria table, and she shared her story.
She was a freshman or sophomore, thus about nineteen-years old. Her mother was raised in a West Virginia coal mining town, where everyone knows everyone, and where in the Baptist culture, abortion is opposed except in such cases as this. Her mother was eleven-years old when raped, and the rapist was known. Perhaps, as I read between the lines without probing inappropriately, by a member of the extended family, and thus the interface with incest as well.
When her mother was known to be pregnant, her family exerted severe pressure on her to get an abortion. The shame factor was huge, and a child born of rape would serve as a constant reminder of the evil act committed. This courageous girl resisted, carried the child and gave birth.
This twelve-year old mother was thus treated as “dirt” by the town, and her daughter was accordingly treated as “double dirt.” Because she saw her mother’s pain and wanted to stand up for her, the daughter uncritically accepted the abortion rationale in college – until she happened on the forum.
At this juncture, I looked straight at her and said something like, “It doesn’t matter that you were conceived in rape – you are just as loved by God as anyone else, including those conceived in a loving marriage, or where there is great wealth.”
I saw these words touch her soul in a fashion she had never experienced, affirming her as an equal image-bearer of God. They were received like water through the parched lips of a severely dehydrated person. So dehydrated that I ended the conversation there, realizing that such Good News is so radical that she needed time to process it. This encounter produced a number of signal “aha” moments for both of us.
Brown University: A Hushed Audience as the Question is Posed Then Addressed
In April, 1989, I was invited to address an abortion debate at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. My interlocutor was Mary Ann Sorrentino, immediate past president of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island, in Providence. She had been excommunicated several years earlier by the Roman Catholic Church for her work, and it became national news.
Thus, Mary Ann was a heroine to the pro-abortion movement, and it was a packed auditorium in Sayles Hall that evening. She and I, along with the student organizer, had a pleasant dinner ahead of time.
The audience was overwhelmingly on her side. But in her opening comments Mary Ann spoke of how proud she was to stand in the tradition of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. In our time of interaction, I thus asked her how she could say that, given Sanger’s very public support for eugenics, even praising Adolf Hitler once in this regard. Mary Ann could not give a defensible answer, and her stature in the sight of the audience thus suffered.
During the question and answer period, a young woman raised her hand, to my right, about seven rows deep. She said, “What about rape and incest?” as she found it justifiable in such an instance.
The whole auditorium came to an immediate hush. The hall had been built in 1881, and here, 108 years later, the seats, bolted to the floor, had been creaking and groaning all evening under the weight of shifting bodies. But not now – a dynamic anticipatory quiet. A “gotcha” moment pending as it were.
I began to frame my response by looking directly at her and saying: “In your life, are you like me, seeking the qualities of peace, order, stability and hope?” As I spoke these words, I had her eyeball-to-eyeball attention, and likewise with the hundreds of students and faculty. She said, “Yes.” The gotcha moment for some was being transformed into an aha moment for all.
I continued, “Is it also fair for me to assume, that like me, you also seek to live, to love, to laugh and to learn?” Again, the same focus of intensity defined the audience, the seats unmoving, and again she said, “Yes.”
So I added, “Then there is far more that unites us than divides us – we are seeking the same qualities. The question is, in the face of the hell of rape and incest: Does abortion unrape the woman and restore to her the lost qualities of peace, order, stability and hope? Or does the abortion only add further brokenness?” And I was using the term “hell” with theological accuracy.
The room continued its quiet, and I could have left it there. I knew that the resonation with the image of God, as represented by these qualities, was so complete in that moment that most students and faculty could answer the question themselves and deduce from there the reality I was addressing. I call them the POSH Ls – peace, order, stability and hope; to live, to love, to laugh and to learn.
One cardinal poison in political and top-down media life is the adversarial pursuit of the gotcha moments, seeking to entrap opposing partisan advocates and political candidates, et al. In this I have no interest.
Rather, as a minister of the Gospel, my entire interest is in serving reconciled relationships in the face of brokenness, in pursuing the wholeness of loving God and neighbor. Gotcha moments can be planned and maneuvered into existence. Aha moments, on the other hand, cannot be planned – they only happen spontaneously and unpredictably if there are healthy communicative qualities first in place.
WGAN Radio: Abortion Marketed on the Backs of Raped Women
In the fall of 1989, I was interviewed on WGAN radio in Portland, Maine. The topic of rape and incest was raised, and I sought to give answer.
Then a woman called and stated on the air that she had once been raped. Though this was radio, the stillness of the air permeated as her authority and emotions were evident. The talk show host looked at me as though I were trapped.
But she then said I was the first man she ever heard who understood her pain. And in listening to me, the hatred she had held against all men for years, drained out of her heart. Wow – I was not prepared for this. And I was later told, by friends in both Maine and New Hampshire, that this segment was aired many times thereafter.
The woman caller also stated that it is incredible for a woman who has been raped and impregnated by a man, to then allow another man to scrape out her uterus (though she did not say so, she spoke with the painful authority of one so violated). And this hit me hard. How often is the topic of rape and incest used by “feminists” to justify abortion-on-demand? On the backs of raped women?
Surprising Response of an Abortion Advocate
In 1996, I addressed a group of public high school students where my second eldest son attended. The school was sponsoring an “in service” day where outside speakers would come to address various issues for tenth graders. A dialogue was set up with me and a woman representing a “women’s rights” educational and political organization in Hartford, Connecticut. We addressed two separate sessions on the general topic of abortion, one of which my son attended.
Questions were elicited from the students, and in the first session, the issue of rape and incest was raised. I gave a brief synopsis of my understanding, including the stories of the women at UMass and on WGAN.
The resonance among the students was deep, but even more so, the feminist representing the women’s rights group did not try to dispute me. Instead she gave compliment, stating how hard it was for her to follow up after such an “eloquent and moving” answer. During the second session, her presentation of abortion-rights was muted, and much less confident than her presentation in the first session. And during the question and answer period in the second session, she deferred to me repeatedly.
I treated her graciously from the outset, and in the first session before the rape and incest question was brought up, I likewise challenged some of her assertions, especially the rhetoric of calling pro-life people “anti-choice” and “anti-women,” as well as erroneous data. I noted how none of my language involved such an accusatory nature toward abortion-rights partisans, and she responded well.
No! Says the “Pro-Choice” Physician
In 2009, I was in a social gathering, and met a woman physician whose husband is an internationally leading academic. She and I had a delightful conversation, and talked theology in the midst of a whole range of other liberal arts subjects. At one point, I was about to give definition to the image of God in wide context, using the example of the POSH Ls. Before doing so, I mentioned the context of the abortion debate at Brown, and she interjected, “I am pro-choice.”
I said no problem – this was not my focus. Then, when I came to the part of the story where I raised the question of whether or not abortion “unrapes” a woman, she jumped in energetically and graciously, “No!” She knew that an abortion does not remedy such an evil act.
In other words, and as the conversation continued, the common reality of the image of God between us is evident.[For a full theological and legal treatise on human abortion, and the biblical basis for redressing the evil of rape and incest, see Changing the Language of the Abortion Debate (johnrankinbooks.com).]
Jesus, in the Face of His Enemies
A Paradigm for Church & State: The Nature of the Level Playing Field
So often, the instinct in political culture is that an admixture of religion and politics is wrong. And certainly, any religion that seeks to impose itself – whether pagan or secular in nature – is evil and dangerous.
But what is the nature of a truly biblical faith? As I write about in depth elsewhere, here are some summary observations:
- The biblical order of creation, in Genesis 1-2, in entirely proactive, where all is created as good.
- In Genesis 2, we have the only positive definition of human freedom in history – the freedom for the good.
- This freedom for the good can only happen on a level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally, where trust is fully in place.
- All pagan religions and secular constructs are by definition reactive, where there is no understanding of a good creation, but only the presence of evil.
- All pagan religions and secular constructs can only imagine a negative freedom from violation.
- This freedom from is rooted in the assumption of gods and goddesses – with human despots in their service – for the imposition of slavery on everyone else, and where distrust rules.
In Genesis 2, there are three positive realities set against three negative ones: 1) good versus evil; 2) freedom versus slavery; and 3) life versus death. The good = freedom = life; evil = slavery = death. The biblical versus the pagan and secular.
Which do we wish to choose?
The level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally is oft referenced in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and fulfilled in Jesus when he faces his plotting enemies during Passover Week. The whole debate is political, for Jesus comes as both Servant and King (though his enemies do not understand how and why), but they prefer a human king instead – Caesar – a tyrant. Why? To serve Jesus as King is to love your neighbor as yourself and to care for the poor and needy. To serve a pagan or secular king is to become part of a power structure where you can rationalize the hate of neighbor and, in self-aggrandizing purposes, rationalize the trampling of the poor and needy.
How therefore, does Jesus handle his plotting enemies?
The Gospel of Matthew is the most political of the four gospels, beginning in the first verse by declaring Jesus as “the Son of David.” Which is to say, he is proclaimed as the Son of the founding King in Jerusalem, and thus a threat to the political power of Herod the Great, then his son, Herod the Tetrarch.
In Matthew 21, as Jesus enters Jerusalem, and the praises he receives from the people include “Hosanna to the Son of David,” his Messianic nature is confessed. All the religious elitists are in bed with the political elitists. They have agreed to a false separation of temple and state, where the Romans grant them their religious sphere with its influence and money, so long as they do not enter the public square and seek to advance the social justice of the Law of Moses. They can have their religion, so long as it is castrated.
Jesus exposes the parallel idolatries of Rome and the temple, and thus the estates of the religious elitists. His very nature threatens all the hypocrisies in place that trample the poor and needy. So, when he is challenged, first by the chief priests, it is because Jesus allows the children in the temple courts to proclaim him the Son of David (21:14-15).
In 21:16, the chief priests try to rebuke Jesus for this, but instead he quotes the eighth psalm that celebrates the strength of the children’s praise. He stops his quote short of the next clause in the psalm, that which declares such praise will “silence the foe and vengeful,” a reference to the enemies of the Messiah. Since the chief priests, and all rabbis and teachers of the law, have the entire Hebrew Scriptures memorized, they literally continue on with this clause in their heads. And they know Jesus is treating them as enemies of the Messiah who will be self-silenced.
Thus, they are motivated not to be silenced, which means if they disprove him in fulfilling this Messianic prophecy, ergo, he cannot thus be the Messiah, and he can be dismissed as a fraud.
Thus, they concoct a strategy of questions to silence Jesus.
First, in 21:23-27, the chief priests and some of the elders of the people seek to entrap Jesus on the question of credentials, asking where he gains his authority to do what he does. They are disciples of “accredited” rabbis in the city of Jerusalem, whereas he is an itinerant and “unaccredited” preacher from the rural north, adjacent to Galilean Gentile country.
So, Jesus answers with a question, typically rabbinic, where he gives them a level playing field for honest debate. Where, he asks, does John the Baptist gain his authority? To paraphrase: “Answer me and I will answer you.” If the chief priests and elders say John’s authority is from God, then Jesus can ask why they do not believe in John, and also believe in him, Jesus, to whom John testified. This they will not do, for John and Jesus both threaten their positions of worldly power.
They will not answer that John has self-assigned or human authority, for they are fearful of the people who hold John is a prophet. As Luke’s gospel points out here (20:6), they fear the people will thus stone them.
So, they say, “We don’t know.” This is the pretension of ignorance per Cain, who pretended not to know where his brother was, for he had just killed him. (In the same vein, the 1973 Roe v Wade decision feigned ignorance as to the biological origins of discrete human life.) So Jesus does not answer them, and they have nothing more to say. An aha moment, for the people at least.
Second, in 22:15-22, some disciples of the Pharisees team up with some Herodians to try and entrap Jesus on the question of paying taxes to Caesar. Now, the Pharisees are orthodox, and in some sense, awaiting the Messiah, but more on political terms that justify their own positions and pride. They hate the Herodians, turncoat Jews who support the political party of Herod, and are therefore fundamentally anti-Messianic. But they both hate Jesus more, so they form a temporary and negative alliance (per the ancient Near Eastern proverb, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” at least until the mutual enemy is dispatched, old grievances return between former enemies, and the momentary alliance is quickly forgotten).
The double trap is this: On the one hand, if Jesus says to pay taxes, the Pharisees can call him an idolater for handling a coin that calls Caesar god, he cannot be the Messiah, and thus dismissed as a fraud; and on the other hand, if Jesus says not to pay taxes, the Herodians can charge him with sedition, and have him crucified accordingly. Gotcha, both ways, they think.
But Jesus asks for a definition of terms, the power of informed choice, as it were, the very predicate for the level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally. Namely, whose portraiture is on the Roman coin? So they bring him a denarius, with a picture of Tiberius Caesar, and the inscription, “Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus.” Now, we have a conflict between the true Son of God, Jesus, and a false son of god, Tiberius.
Jesus answers by telling them to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God. In other words, Jesus is saying to the Pharisees, if Tiberius Caesar is such a fool to believe himself the son of god, let him have his coin, and see what good it does him in the presence of the true Son of God at the end of the age. And to the Herodians, he says that the real portraiture that matters is the image of God in which we are all made, so give God your heart, soul, mind and strength, and do not give it to Herod. Paying taxes is no big deal; worship God alone. They are dumbfounded and have nothing further to say. Another aha moment, for the people at least.
Third, in 22:23-33, the wealthy Sadducees, theologically heterodox if not heretical, seek to entrap Jesus on the question of the resurrection and angels, for they believe in neither. Jesus says they know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God on the matter. He points out how God addresses the Sadducees, as well as for all Jews, as the God of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and God is the God of the living not the dead. Thus, implied, if there is no resurrection, then their God is also dead (to them) when he speaks of Abraham et al. in the present tense. And accordingly, the Sadducees are dead people walking. They have no answer. And thus again, an aha moment, for the people at least.
Fourth and finally, in 22:34-46, the Pharisees get together again, and one honest teacher of the law happens to pass by (so identified in Mark 12:28-33), and he sees how well Jesus has answered. So he asks him concerning the greatest commandment, and Jesus answers (to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves). The rest of the Pharisees are just standing there, nothing more to say. So, Jesus asks them concerning the Christ’s identity, and they answer the “Son of David.” He thus quizzes them on a prophecy from Psalm 110 concerning the Messiah, and as a result, we arrive at the concluding statement by Matthew summing up the whole debate: “No one was powerful enough to answer him a word, and from that day forward no one dared to question him further.” The final aha moment, for the honest teacher of the law, and for the people, at least.
Thus, in the face of his bitter opponents, Jesus affords them the level playing field, inviting their toughest questions. The four questions concern these arenas:
- Church (as it were) and state;
- Theological nitpicking; and
- Theological grandstanding.
Jesus exposes elitism and its concern for “credentials,” gives the level playing field for honest debate, loves hard questions, reveals the pretension of ignorance, employs the power of informed choice, reveals the idolatries in the debate over temple and state, exposes religious idolatry, and finally, sets things straight with true theology. This is quite comprehensive in addressing any and all political debates, from that of human abortion on outward.
The key is this: Jesus gives his sworn enemies full hospitality to rake him over the coals with their toughest questions, the dishonest silence themselves, and the one identified honest elite is commended by Jesus (in Mark 12). If the believing church were to grasp and employ the wisdom here, we will speed along the winning of legal protection equally for women and their unborn, and in bringing freedom, justice and mercy to all human politics.
This means proactively going where the toughest questions are being expressed in the court of public debate; to create an honest level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally; address the central issues; define the terms honestly; and gain the driver’s seat for success.
To grasp the depth of this theology at a more relaxed pace – in story as well as the teaching – see Jesus, in the Face of His Enemies (available at johnrankinbooks.com).