Wednesday, April 06, 2005

pro-life?

Many of us who are anti-abortion abhor the idea of thousands upon thousands of tiny lives being killed each year. If the the laws were to change to allow abortion to happen only when the life of the mother is in critical danger, I wonder how we would respond.

Some might still hold that no abortions should be legal because it is murder. Others might leave room for a few cases of legalized abortion here and there. The idea being that to value life means also to value the life of the mother.

What seems to be inconsistent is the reality that many who hold the strictest view of abortion (no abortions under any circumstance) do so because they value life and justice. "It is not our decision to make," they might say, "that is up to God." And yet many folks who are so adamant about abortion, support the war in Iraq.

How are these views contradictory? Well, in any war there are innocent casualties. And even though our technology helps us to reduce these, there are still innocent people, numbering in the hundreds, who have been killed in Iraq to date. Is the innocent life of an unborn American child more valuable than the life of an innocent Iraqi child? Of course not. So why are we ok with war?

"But its different", some might claim. "The war is supposed to help the Iraqi people be free from the oppression and violence of Sadaam. The innocent deaths are an accidental by-product of doing good." While that is true, I don't believe the decision is different. When we decide to go to war, we decide to have "accidental innocent deaths." We know these accidents will happen and will number in the hundreds. We just don't know to whom.

I am no legal expert here but according to public.findlaw.com "an unintentional killing that results from recklessness" is involuntary manslaughter . And "a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender's obvious lack of concern for human life" is considered second degree murder. Either way, the loss of innocent life in war is a crime. And it is a crime that we know will take place when we decide to go to war.

It's a strange political position we find ourselves in when we rail against the first degree murder of the unborn innocent, but rally around war with its inevitable second degree murder and manslaughter of innocent lives. We justify these losses as mere casualties of a just-war. Our ethics are no better than the pro-choice advocate who sees the loss of the unborn as simply a loss of cell clusters in the pursuit of women's rights.

I invite all of your responses on this one. Help me understand where I have gone astray in my argument. Bring all your ideas about foundationalism, pacifism and justice and help me understand. I can no longer justify my own undertanding of the value of life and the pursuit of justice with my views on abortion and war. Teach me whatever you have to offer. Thanks.

40 Comments:

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Dave said...

I guess the first question I would ask would be one of clarification... are you speaking only of the death of innocent life? That would appear to be the case with the comparison of abortion (innocent child) and innocent bystanders killed in war... and the basic acknowledgment about being "pro-life."

The reason I think this needs to be clarified is because there is a deeper issue here. Is there ever a time that justifies death of anyone, innocent or not? Does being "pro-life" mean being against war entirely, as in the case of our Quaker friends, and the death penalty for the non-innocent? Should we have left Europe to the devices of Nazi Germany and the Pacific to the Japanese Empire?

War, in my opinion, is the complete failure of community and trust. It's nothing new to humanity. There are times, however, in which the only way in which evil can be stopped is by the use of force. In such cases, I would say war is necessary. Abortion, however, is not necessary (in most cases). The whole issue there is choice.

So, are you thinking in terms of the innocent alone, or all life... nazis and babies alike?

 
At 9:43 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I wanted to keep the argument to the "innocent" because this conversation can go in so many directions, as you just mentioned.

Its hard enough to know what to do with innocent life. More and more arguments enter in when one considers what it is to be "non-innocent".

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger tali said...

war can have positive results (the end of the holocaust) and actually save lives. the travesties of hiroshima and nagosaki quickly ended a war that otherwise would've consumed far, far more lives.

also, by "innocent bystanders" i presume you refer to non-combatants. what about conscripted soldiers?

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger Mark said...

tali,
I am not speaking of soldiers as we can too easily lump them into "non-innocent" life.
But there is no getting around the fact that when we decide to go to war, regardless of whatever problem we are trying to solve, we decide to be "ok" with the killing of innocent life.
I am still not sure that as Christians we can be "ok" with the killing of innocent life.

 
At 9:31 AM, Blogger Mark said...

tali,
Also, the commn question for those promoting non-violence is "What do we do with guys like Sadaam and Hitler?"

We pro-life people are quick to give a girl a variety of options so that she doesn't have to have an abortion. We will go to great lengths to help her save a life.

We should be just as eager or more so (since it involves more innocent lives being killed) to exhaust every possible options before going to war.

There are ways to get dictators out of power without war. We are just so quick to use the method of war because it seems "easier" or "more efficient." Well, so is abortion, but we know where that leads.

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger brendar said...

I am interested that you are drawing a connection between these two issues? If you want to limit the conversation to loss of innocent life I would say that I’m against it. However none of these issues exist in a vacuum. Both war and abortion are the unfortunate result of prior indiscriminate behavior. The perpetrators of both can look back in time and say, “If only I had done the right thing yesterday I wouldn’t be faced with this difficult decision today.”

In the case of the war in Iraq (which incidentally I was against) the US waged a war primarily (I think) to remove a truly dangerous, evil man from a position that was secured and shored up by a prior US administration. The intent was to remove one person from power (if not from existence). War should be the last resort. There must be a reason to believe that not going to war and defeating this enemy would result in unimaginable catastrophe. All other options should be exhausted and as DCCowan pointed out There are times, however, in which the only way that evil can be stopped is by the use of force. This was not done well in the Iraqi war which is why I was against it.

I believe that abortion should be limited in the same way using a similar standard. In the typical case of abortion the evil dictators is not the one being removed from existence, rather the evil dictator is the perpetrator of the abortion. With abortion there must be a reason to believe that not going to war and defeating this fetus would result in unimaginable catastrophe not just an unsavory change in lifestyle.

I share your bewilderment with the incongruent views of these two issues presented by what is assumed to be the typical conservative. I think that most people have viewpoints that differ from the polarized ideals set up by mainstream politics.

I would like to add that I am a Christian and I’m okay with the fact that innocent lives are lost in war…if you want to make and omelet you’ve got to crack a couple of eggs.
Sorry for the length.

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...

I see your concern in trying to keep the aim of this discussion to the innocent, and avoid the non-innocent because it brings up a whole slew of new issues. However, in many cases, what we feel to be “non-innocent” is indeed still “innocent” but we just don’t see it. My grandfather at the age of 15 served briefly as a Nazi because he had no choice. So in war, not only are bystanders (children, mothers, etc) innocent, but many of the participants themselves are also innocent, forced against their will to fight. And many who also fight might do so for the causes, but many don’t understand the broader picture…they are brainwashed, told only one side, bribed with rewards, both physically and religiously. There will be no way to completely separate innocent and non-innocent, no matter how hard you try. As brendar pointed out, these issues are not in a vacuum.

Just for the record, I don’t agree with the death penalty (the judging to kill part infuriates me), I am pro-life unless both the mother and the baby will die without an abortion. I also agree with the “war as a last resort” idea. I was also against going to war with Iraq, for numerous and varied reasons. I only support killing to save many. Germany and Japan in WWII good decision, not getting very involved in Rwanda bad decision.

I guess what I don’t agree with is what I said before, you can’t draw a line between innocent and non-innocent, and some innocent have to die to save many more innocent. Unfortunately for us citizens of America we aren’t left with much choices voting wise. Either way we vote, we vote to kill one set of peoples and save another.

 
At 12:42 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Rebecca,
Yes I agree, it is difficult to figure out who exactly is "innocent" and who isn't. That is why I was trying to keep to what we all might agree on. That is, "innocent" are the ones who are non-combatants.
But your post gives us all the more reason not to go to war.

 
At 8:21 AM, Blogger clay carver said...

2,000,000 people were killed as a result of Saddam's actions before we entered into this war. Saddam killed the equivalent of the entire population of Baltimore City and Baltimore County combined. Heck, you could throw in Carroll Co. too and you still wouldn't equal the total number of deaths that Saddam brought to the world.

And most of those deaths were innocents. Many hundreds of thousands of those innocent lives were taken while we were allowing the inspections to "work." The mass graves testify.

Are we to be complicit in these murders through our inaction?

 
At 8:57 AM, Blogger Dave said...

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

 
At 10:01 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Dave and Clay,
There is no doubt that Sadaam had to be removed. I just don't know that war was the only way.
And Martin Luther King Jr. was right. We must act. And when we look at the ways that he acted, we see a great example of non-violence.
He could have tried to changed the civil rights laws with force. He had the power of the mob. Instead he found another way. It wasn't inaction and it wasn't violence. It was a third way. And it changed things more effectively than violence would have.
I think we could have found a third way in Iraq.

 
At 7:16 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

"I think we could have found a third way in Iraq."

A third way was tried for over a decade. Diplomacy. In the mean time, several hundred thousand people were murdered. Some wanted to continue to try diplomacy, some were prepared to go to war. Still others wanted to ignore the problem, lift the embargo and go home. Three ways. Two of those ways allowed Saddam to continue to kill all people groups he deemed worthless.

 
At 1:00 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Clay,
Well, if diplomacy was a third way, then we needed to find a forth.

Christian leaders tried this before we went to war. They proposed what was called The Six-Point Plan to big wigs in Washington and to Tony Blair. It was also published in the Washington Post on March 14, 2003.
It seems like a reasonable plan that could have worked. It got rid of Saddam, checked for WMD's and avoided war. But it was ignored.

Either way, these Christian leaders became a prophetic voice for peace and non-violence. "Blessed are the peace makers."

Rather than just complain and protest, they gave the world leaders another way. This seems to me to be the appropriate Christian response to war.

 
At 3:21 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3:23 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

Bush accomplished/is accomplishing every point presented in the document you mentioned.

1. Remove Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party from power.
2. Enforce coercive disarmament.
3. Foster a democratic Iraq.
4. Organize a massive humanitarian effort now for the people of Iraq.
5. Recommit to a "Roadmap to Peace" in the Middle East.
6. Reinvigorate and sustain the "war against terrorism."

So what's the difference between the process put forward by the Sojourner crowd and the Bush policy? This one sentence is the linch pin for their "third way."

"The U.N. Security Council should establish an international tribunal to indict Saddam and his top officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Huh?! This is their alternative to war? Was there any reasoning person on the planet that wondered if Saddam was responsible for war crimes? And if this process would have gone forward, Saddam could not have been removed except by war. Particularly since the proposal includes the establishment of a war crimes tribunal for "Saddam and his top officials". Proposal 1 is, in fact, a call for war.

The "third way" then is to go to war, but lets go to war later. I do not read their proposal as a prophetic voice for non-violence. It was a proposal for another layer of diplomacy in an effort to get the rest of the world ok with us going to war.

I appreciate their intentions, but I'm glad this collection of ministers didn't have the power to delay the liberation of the Iraqi people.

 
At 9:48 PM, Blogger brendar said...

Fellas, I appreciate your love for human life, but Mark's question was clearly stated. "We justify these losses as mere casualties of a just-war. Our ethics are no better than the pro-choice advocate who sees the loss of the unborn as simply a loss of cell clusters in the pursuit of women's rights. Bring all your ideas about foundationalism, pacifism and justice and help me understand. I can no longer justify my own understanding of the value of life and the pursuit of justice with my views on abortion and war."
Mark is not asking you to justify the Iraqi war on its own, but rather war in general! Certainly all of the points that DC and Clay have presented are valid and "relevant" but none of them stands alone and none of them are the reasons that the current administration provided for going to war. If the U.S. is to go to war to prevent the loss of innocent life (DCC and Clay) then where do we draw the line? How many millions have to be murdered before our tax dollars support war? Where would you draw the line? How many people would you watch being murdered before you acted? And then how would you act?

 
At 10:16 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

And Mark wrote:
"Is the innocent life of an unborn American child more valuable than the life of an innocent Iraqi child? Of course not. So why are we ok with war?"

I agree. Of course not. The innocent of Iraq are equally valuable. And that is exactly the reason I am ok with war. For a more comprehensive explanation, see my previous posts.

"Certainly all of the points that DC and Clay have presented are valid and "relevant" but none of them stands alone and none of them are the reasons that the current administration provided for going to war."

This isn't a conversation about the current administration's reasons for going to war.

 
At 10:54 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Clay,
So your position is that you are ok with the killing of innocent life for the sake of preserving other innocent lives.

One could call this position paradoxical or even contradictory. Not to say that this position is entirely invalid. It fits with the same kind of thinking that would be fine with abortions that save the mother's life.

My question then is just how do we choose which innocent lives we are ok with killing.

 
At 6:21 AM, Blogger clay carver said...

Thanks for the summary.

And you are pleased to allow a mass murderer to continue to kill innocent lives by the hundreds of thousands in order to wash your own hands of their blood.

One could call this position cowardly or even supportive of genocide. Not to say that this position is entirely invalid. Inaction and posturing are fine traits for self preservation as long as you don't allow your conscience to catch up to the continuing horror that you have perpetuated through your lack of engagement.

See how that works?

"My question then is just how do we choose which innocent lives we are ok with killing."

We don't choose. We didn't choose. If Saddam had given up, no life would have been lost. He chose to put his people's life in danger. We chose to remove him from power with the least loss of life possible. He chose to kill as many people as he could in order to stay in power.

We are not ok with the taking of any innocent lives. But sometimes, we don't get to make that choice.

 
At 6:28 AM, Blogger clay carver said...

Mark, this isn't a question of allowing or causing innocent lives to be lost. That's done. Out of our hands. Innocent lives were and would be lost regardless of our action or inaction.

So the starting point is this: innocent lives will be lost. The question should be, "How do we reduce the number of innocent lives lost?"

 
At 6:38 AM, Blogger brendar said...

Why stop at Iraq Clay? There are certainly many other countries that are killing their own innocent citizens.

 
At 7:52 AM, Blogger clay carver said...

We shouldn't stop there. We won't stop there. In the future I am sure there will be other genocidal maniacs that are so obtuse that they will cut through our general disinterest in the oppressed. So obtuse, even, that they cut through politics.

But if Saddam is a debatable target for removal, the bar is obviously set so high (low?) that we can expect decades of neglect before we muster the will to liberate another people group.

 
At 7:54 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Clay,
"Not going to war" does not equal "inaction." I am not for posturing or inaction. I am for a different kind of action. Just because we haven't often taken the non-violent options, doesn't mean they aren't out there.

 
At 8:08 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Also,
I think that when we look at the life of Jesus, we see him "liberating" in a different way.

He didn't overthrow Caesar with his armies. It was a much slower process than that. He was "subversive" with his liberation.

And I am sure that with his "inefficient" way of liberating, there were innocent lives lost in the mean time. But it was not Jesus who was responsible for those lives lost.

I don't think this makes Jesus "inactive" or one who "postures." I think he was trying to liberate the innocent while loving his enemies.

 
At 8:11 AM, Blogger clay carver said...

But you haven't presented another option. The "third way" presented by the Sojourner crowd is "war after a war crimes tribunal wastes time telling us that Saddam is committing war crimes." Whenever true intervention came of the process, it would still be violent. Either that or Saddam would be left in power to continue his disregard of human life.

Until you present a viable non-violent alternative, I'll have to stand by my uncharitable response to your uncharitable assessment of my position. ;)

 
At 8:26 AM, Blogger clay carver said...

"I think that when we look at the life of Jesus, we see him "liberating" in a different way. "

Imagine another world power at the time of Christ. A world power that could have stopped the abuses of Rome but chose not to. Do you think Jesus would have affirmed their inaction?

I don't think he would. Either way, the situations aren't the same. Claiming Jesus response as supportive of non-violence in all situations is quite a stretch.

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Clay,
I am sure Jesus would speak out against inaction. But Jesus seems to lay down his life for his friends and enemies.

I can't see him wanting one world power to overthrow another world power by force. In that case he would just trade one Caesar for another.

I do think he would want action. I do think he would want his followers to stick up for the weak and the oppressed. I am not so sure he would want us to do that by way of war.

But you are right in that we need more options. We need more non-violent options that are active and aren't just complain filled protests. And it may be the job of the Church to imagine these new ways. Maybe that is part of our task in the Kingdom of God.

 
At 8:54 AM, Blogger clay carver said...

"I can't see him wanting one world power to overthrow another world power by force. In that case he would just trade one Caesar for another."

I disagree with your position here. One dictatorial government that kills by the hundreds of thousands is not the same as a government elected by the people of Iraq to govern the people of Iraq. I believe one form of governance to be superior to the other.

"We need more non-violent options that are active and aren't just complain filled protests. And it may be the job of the Church to imagine these new ways. Maybe that is part of our task in the Kingdom of God."

Mark, I welcome that. I fully agree with you. We should work toward non-violent resolution. I have no idea what they might be, but if one were hit on I would be first in line for its implimentation.

But I have to believe that we are responsible to act now on behalf of the oppressed even when violence is the only recourse left to us. To date, no viable non-violent option has been proposed to oppose dictators like Saddam.

We may be option poor at the moment, we may only have one coin, but I believe we would be in the wrong to bury that coin.

 
At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You must be joking...

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger tali said...

the only other real options are either to send in a sniper (which would likely cause a retaliatory bloodbath) or to tighten trade embargoes. (so we could starve those innocents into death instead of blowing them up. much better.)

criticism without a constructive alternative is just whining.

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger brendar said...

So the church should be calling for war against the administrations of Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir (Sudan), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Than Shwe (Burma), Kim Jong Il (North Korea) and Hu Jintao (China)?

 
At 2:31 PM, Blogger Mark said...

brendar,
Indeed, the Church should use our resources toward creating new non-violent options rather than toward advocating war.
We should be peace-makers. We see this kind of dialog going on in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. People on both sides are trying to create non-violent solutions. And most of them are Christians.
I think that if we prophetically challenged the option of war, we will help to make room for new options.

 
At 3:29 PM, Blogger tali said...

i'm on the edge of my seat waiting to hear them

 
At 5:50 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

"So the church should be calling for war against the administrations of Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir (Sudan), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Than Shwe (Burma), Kim Jong Il (North Korea) and Hu Jintao (China)?"

The church should be calling the world to view the children of Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma, and North Korea as their own. The church should treat these atrocities the way they would if their own child were murdered, their own wives raped. We should call the world to react in the same way we would if this were happening to our families. The church should call the world to love them the way we love ourselves. Decide what action that would be and act accordingly.

If my daughter is being attacked and I can do something about it, I will not wait to act until all other options have been exhausted. I will respond with as much force as might be needed to save her. If I am one to wait and act cautiously, I can't say I would be much use to her.

 
At 7:22 PM, Blogger brendar said...

"The church should treat these atrocities the way they would if their own child were murdered...If my daughter is being attacked and I can do something about it, I will not wait to act until all other options have been exhausted."

CLAY?!?! Your daughter is being raped and murdered in Burma right now and you are doing nothing about it. Stop talking in hypothetical blither blather soft soap. It is easy to support a war that your huge government has already begun to wage (by executive fiat). You are not acting like someone whose family is being assaulted; you are acting like someone who was told by the US government that their family was being assaulted in Iraq.

 
At 7:29 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8:06 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

Its true. I'm not much use to the daughters of Burma. I am not treating them like my own. I'm not loving my neighbor as myself. I'm not doing enough. I'm doing nothing.

But I can't agree with you that either the Great Commandment or the abuse of children of Burma is hypothetical. They are real and fundamentally related to each other. We, the church, should make that clear. We are wrong for not viewing the children of Burma like we do our own. We're wrong for our inaction. We are complicit in their condition as we ignore them and/or wax eloquent over non-existent non-violent responses to their condition.




The proceeding has been a public service announcement from the office of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Man, don't pay attention to a blog for a few days and look what happens.

I think the timing of this discussion being at the same time as the Iraq war complicates it. Given our history with Iraq, we had to do something. Desert Storm happening and us leaving Saddam in power and the trade embargos made us partly responsible for the suffering over there. Something needed to happen, and it really should have happened years ago.

If we could put the war out of the conversation... and focus on what we can do now to prevent similar attrocities from happening in the world. We all agree that we want to prevent them. We just don't all agree on what to do after we have ignored them. Anyways... good discussion peeps...

 
At 9:45 PM, Blogger Mike - HotFudgeSunday.com said...

Maybe our cops shouldn't have guns. We don't want anyone to accidently get hurt, you know.

Sometimes wars have the potential to prevent more abuse than they cause. The option for no loss of life is not always a choice we have the luxury of having.

 
At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before even proceeding with this interesting question, the facts should be a little clearer...there have not been "hundreds" of innocents killed in Iraq, there have been thousands, perhaps up to 100,000.

Many of the military troops killed were consigned into service and forced to "die like men" when our smart bombs started falling from the sky, you can easily find accounts of this if you do some research.

I dislike aborton a great deal. However, it does not make sense for the same person to be anti-abortion and pro-war.

Especially if there was any way the war could be avoided!

While one might be able to justify the War in Afghanistian on some levels, it is very obvious they we didn't do absolutely everything we could to avoid a war in Iraq.

To some, it seems that American Christians care much more about unborn American babies than they do about already-born Iraqi men, women, and children.

No wonder a lot of them have a hard time taking Christians seriously.

(The that George Bush was enthusiastically re-elected by Evangelical Christians due to his perceived positions on gay marriage and abortion also makes it seem like these 'key' issues will allow a 'Christian' president to act as he wants, without being held accountable, as long as he makes the correct statements regarding certain issues).

 

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