Saturday, February 16, 2013


I am beginning to grow very tired of the arguments my Evangelical neighbors are making in their efforts to overturn Roe V Wade.  Now it must be very clear to anyone who listens to the blather of these good people that they imagine America to be a theocracy where biblical logic takes precedence over every other kind of logic we believe to be the basis of our Democracy.

Let us begin at the beginning of their logic.  First, they begin with the idea that the Bible is the Word of God, literally correct and inerrant.   This blather like their other blather is anchored in grotesque misunderstanding. First, this book they call the Bible (Latin for book) is an anthology of many texts written by a variety of hands, most of which belong to individuals without names, other than  those given them for convenience by the editors of the volume in the 4th century.  A good many of the letters of Paul, for instance, we know were not written by him. These pseudo-epigrapha are, to put it bluntly, forgeries accepted into the anthology by the sheer ignorance of the 4th century editors.

Secondly, the texts of this anthology were "massaged" (that is to say rewritten somewhat) by their editors during the amazing debates over the proposition of an influential priest named Arius, who asserted that The Son of God was a subordinate deity to God the Father. Their rewriting of scripture allowed them to defeat Arius and send us on our way into the amazing dogma of the Trinity, which virtually no Christian understands to this day. Mysteries are that way, it is explained to the trusting faithful.

This little trick of rewriting sacred text to win arguments is still being practiced by the anti-abortion editors in our own day.  So much for the idea of inerrancy.  But then there are so much evidence that demolishes this sacred cow of the evangelicals that they have (as a young graduate of the Truett seminary put it to me recently during a professional conference) created their own brand of "Yawbut" theology. To every exception to this inerrancy assertion a student might come up with his professors were always ready with a "Yes but" [or in the dialect of Texas, "Yawbut"] theological response.

Thirdly, the reason the Bible was created in the first place--the reason that editors sorted through all the many other Gospels held by ordinary Christians to be sacred text in the preceding 300 years--was that Constantine had begun to build for his new God Franchise [Christianity] massive new churches, and the priestly managers of these grand spaces needed something to read in the new system of public worship [liturgy] he was devising.  Of course, it is likely all Gospels and sacred texts were written for public reading in the early house churches which had sprung up across the Roman Empire of the first, second and third centuries.

But when the new God franchise was created by Constantine he had to--in the tradition of every good empire--standardize the text. Standardization is after all the hallmark of a good empire, weights and measures being the first Standard to be put in place.  So what was sacred and what was not sacred, what was acceptable and what was not, had to pass muster of Constantine's appointed editors and compilers.  This bible-is-the-Living-word-of-God meme is nothing more than an authorization trope designed to empower the clergy of the new God franchise. And thus we invented the Canon and cast into the outer darkness all competing texts making every effort to obliterate them and all who clung to them.

So since America is not a theocracy run by empowered Clergy, we can dispense with these Bible based arguments.  They convince no one but evangelicals of the inerrancy tribe.  What then can we agree on?
I suppose it is fair for us to agree that biological life begins when the sperm hits the ova.  It is equally fair to think that this biological life is human.  It is equally fair to think that this human life should be accorded respect once it achieves viability which medical science is pushing back further and further into the weeks after fertilization. Currently, most agree that viability occurs at seven months or 28 weeks.  Up until then Roe V Wade permits the mother to terminate the pregnancy if she chooses. Viability has occurred at 21 weeks, but the chances of survival are very challenged at 21.

So what is the status of the fetus prior to 21-28 weeks?  Our bibliocists demand that we give the conceptus all the legal rights of a Citizen from the moment of conception.  They are working over time to conceal their biblical imperatives so they will have weight in a court of law, where these decisions will be made.  Currently, the best of their arguments resides in the Potentiality argument that argues that since the embryo is potentially a Citizen it should have all the rights of a Citizen. "Best" does not necessarily mean convincing, I hasten to say.

The problem with all these arguments, of course, is that our ancestors who wrote the books of the bible were dyed-in-the-wool misogynists.  In the days of our Bedouin Hebrew ancestors, women were property with few rights.  This misogyny persists for nearly two millennial so that it has only been in the last century when women threw off the shackles of patriarchy and demanded an equal share of respect, legal rights and liberty such as Citizens have the right to expect.  So our evangelical friends argue from texts that deny the importance of woman from the outset.  These arguments are irrelevant in modern context where women have long been accorded equal rights.  Even as we speak, however, many legislators drawn from the evangelical camp struggle to strip women of these hard won rights and long to return them to the status of chattel property.  Such is the intent and purpose of these Personhood arguments, in my opinion.

Surprisingly, we have learned more about gestation since Roe V Wade than we knew in the preceding 7,000 years.  It is nearly miraculous how much we now know about the process of gestation and in particular embryogenesis. Not withstanding this avalanche of new technical information, our evangelical friends retroject this information back into our early history assuming the authors of books like the proverbs knew what fertilization was.  One notable authority on personhood even demanded that we interpret the line in Proverbs that says "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" meant that God knew us at the point of fertilization.

Now fertilization is a microscopic event and we had no microscopes until 1590. It is impossible for these ancients to have imagined such a process.  Secondly we did not know that a woman even had an ova until 1827.  So the idea that the ancients could have imagined that God knew us when sperm and ova collided is patiently absurd. It is the very epitome of the logical error retrojection. But then if you don't believe in Critical Thinking as evangelicals mostly do not often militantly so, they could hardly protect their logic from such fallacies.

So if we begin with the idea that all women--poor, middle class and wealthy--are Citizens fully equal to men who have the right to control their own bodies, we cannot begin to accept that the State has any right to curtail their rights to control the most intimate process of her anatomy.  The ludicrous demands of our evangelical friends to demand the state reach out and seize control of a woman's uterus and its inhabitants flies directly in the face of the conservative  quest for smaller and less intrusive government possessed of fewer regulations.

This kind of governmental regulation always fails, witness the effects of such regulation in the matters of access to alcohol, marijuana, all schedule one drugs, immigration and even voting rights.

And truth to tell, they are not mounting an argument aimed at the upper classes.  Their arguments and legislation are aimed directly at poor women as witness their attack on Planned Parenthood which has been a major source of health care for poor women.

It should be obvious to any reasonable individual that what we have here is nothing less than an effort to deny women equality under the law.  Men want to return to a day when women did not compete with them in the Job Market, could not control their own money, and control their fertility.  They would like to dismantle the divorce laws, and Title IX which gives women equal access to the sports fields and programs.  They dislike women serving in the military let alone in combat. And so on and on in their not so subtle misogamy.

Those of us who really love women, and respect them to the degree that we want our wives and daughters to be equal before the law in every way a man is should be very alert to the real thrust of this personhood argument.  It is nothing less than misogyny concealed.

If these good Christian folk really loved the fetus as they say they do, wouldn't they:

1) Provide sex education of a real and meaningful sort so both women and men know how their reproductive organs work, how STDs are contracted, and how they should think about their health when they are trying to bring a child into the world?

2) Provide prenatal care to poor women who can't afford it?

3) Provide legal protection for women who have been raped and to treat rape as the heinous crime it is in ALL cases.

4) Defend a woman's constitutional rights to control her own body as vigorously as they defend their second amendment rights.

5) Provide health care to poor women so they can receive adequate care during difficult deliveries of their infants.

6) Provide health care to poor women in the difficult months after a birth so their children might not become a statistic on the mortality roles of infant death.

7) Provide preschoolers with Head Start funding so they will be ready for school

8) Provide children with a good education so poor women have some hope that their children really do have access to the American Dream.

9) Stop incarcerating the husbands and men folk of poor women through draconian drug laws and mandatory sentencing which have resulted in the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized  nation. Raising children requires a father in the home just as much as a mother.

10) Stop the massive legislative efforts both in State legislatures and Congress during the last four years to restrict a woman's ability to control her own body and the attendant media which demeans poor women as welfare queens and murders of unborn children.

11) Work to improve job prospects for the poor and middle classes. The conservative blockage of all of Obama's efforts to create jobs especially through much needed rebuilding of our infrastructure has ironically been the motivation of many families to curtail building their families through all methods of contraception and early term abortion.

12) Work to make marriage a viable institution for all segments of society.  Currently half  of all infants are born out of wedlock, and half of all marriages end in divorce.

How are we to encourage pregnant poor women to want to take their pregnancies to term if we continually leave them bereft of hope that there will be equality of opportunity for themselves and their children.

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