February 28, 2010

A civil discussion about abortion (yes, it can happen!)

Last week I posted two links on Facebook to articles at Abort73.com. A few of my friends on Facebook, two of whom are Pro-choice, responded. What ensued was a really good discussion of a really controversial issue. Too often such conversations devolve into demonizing, stereotyping and other generally unhelpful tactics. I wanted to share these two conversations because the did not involve any of those things. Hopefully they can serve as a model for future discussion that is honest, challenging and fair.

The discussion is copied below:


James-Michael Smith - Food for thought...

It's a real shame that this article does not address poverty. Women of color are in poverty at incredibly disproportionate rates, a factor which often influences their decision to abort.

True. Poverty is definitely a factor that can't be denied.

there's a section on that site (which i think is mostly wack, frankly) - which kind of refers to the poverty issue in a very snide way, along with rape - on which the site's writers' stance is unacceptable to me. This does not encourage helpful dialogue on the topic (the site, not you, jms)

Melissa, are you referring to their stance on rape or their stance on abortion not being an acceptable solution to pregnancies which may result from rape? I'm familiar with their stance on the latter, but not the former.

JMS, sorry..i was not clear..referring to their stance on abortion not being an acceptable solution or option to pregnancies which may result from rape.

Gotcha. Yes, that's definitely where we differ then. Those of us who oppose abortion-on-demand see abortion after rape-based-conception as doing violence to both victims of the crime (mother and child--one fatally!) and thus only compounding the problem. It prevents the highest good from coming out of the worst of situations. The perpetrator of... See More the crime should be brought to justice and the community should rally around and support his two (or more) victims, ensuring that they are cared for physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. This is what all my fellow Christians who oppose abortion-on-demand should champion. Anything less is hypocritical and not truly "pro-life."

As an aside, almost every pro-life piece of legislation ever suggested makes exceptions in cases of rape and incest, in addition to the mother's life being in danger. And since these make up less than 3% of all abortions performed in the US annually, many abortion-opponents would be content with allowing for those options.

Another thing for the pro-life community to take on then: ending violence against women and girls in every situation. I'd love to see a partnership with Eve Ensler and V-Day!

I agree; these issues are essential human rights issues. Often it's hard though because supporters of feminist issues are hostile to those who oppose abortion-on-demand and vice-versa. This is where the issue gets complicated by one's politics and worldview. Injustice should be exposed and opposed in all its manifestations though, whether against women in the home, the school...or the womb.

Could you define what you mean by "abortion on demand"? It sounds too much like "movies on demand" in my opinion--like something done non-nonchalantly or without forethought. Or, I picture women banging on clinic doors.

yes, Katey. that would be a powerful alliance.

The rape issue is particularly disturbing to me since it is and has been used a tool of war and genocide.

per Amnesty International's information on violence against women..."Many acts of sexual violence - including rape, gang rape, abduction and sexual slavery, forced marriage, *forced pregnancy, forced maternity*, and sexual mutilation - constitute torture under customary international law. These acts are considered war crimes and constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Convention."

it's a tough subject.

Yeah, this is why it's hard for me to support Amnesty Int'l. Forced pregnancy is a crime for sure. But "forced maternity" ASSUMES that the destruction of life in the womb is not equally as oppressive and one not being allowed to do so is tantamount to torture, war crimes, etc. This, IMO, is a fundamental logical inconsistency on the part of AI ... See Moreand hinders many who would otherwise support them wholeheartedly from doing so in good conscience.

I had this discussion with a friend at my campus ministry in college. She couldn't understand why I wasn't an enthusiastic supporter of AI. But it's basically the same reason I couldn't enthusiastically vote for Obama (see the following blog entry where I discussed this with Arrested Development's frontman, Speech, for more on that! http://www.jmsmith.org/2009/12/bible-teacher-and-hip-hop-legend.html)

A lot of people aren't down with AI, and sometimes they (AI) go over the top in areas, but- in this one I'll have to peacefully disagree about the logical inconsistency.

however, i completely respect your again, well thought out take on your beliefs and am going to read your talk with Speech now...

OY. http://thinkprogress.org/2010/02/18/kansas-rape-auto/

^ That's a rhetorically poor move on the part of the lawmaker. But I assume the logic is that if you prohibit abortion in general, but allow it in cases of rape, in order to keep people who weren't raped but wanted to get an abortion for reasons aside from life-endangerment (which can be verified by a doctor for instance) from simply claiming rape... See More exemption, they must be willing to testify that they were indeed the victim of rape in a legally binding sense. I think it's an ill-worded attempt to close what could be seen as a loophole.

Also, to clarify, Katey (and anyone else reading this), "Abortion-on-demand" is the term used to describe legally unrestricted allowance for abortion--abortion as a constitutional "right"--as opposed to abortion in the 'hard cases' (such as rape, incest or danger to the mother's life). All pro-life advocates oppose abortion-on-demand, but hold varying views on some of the hard cases.

fair enough...i think even pro choice people(me) cringe at "abortion on demand" like "cable on demand" as a terminology or buzzwod/phrasek, but ...the cases as we've cited in the conversation make the area very..grey. ..in the article Katey links...Barbara Boxer has a point (in my book)...

what a beautiful, wonderful discussion. It is open and respectful dialogue like this that our society, politicians and media often do not promote. We can have no dialogue when we are entrenched in our "pro-choice"/ "pro-life" labels that are pitted against each other.

It is dialogues like this that go beyond the labels to pick apart the real issues (not the black and white facade of an issue)...with that we are really able to listen to each other.

Katey's original point about poverty is well taken. Any attempt to curb abortion-on-demand (or, as I call it, abortion for convenience) is faulty if it does not address issues of poverty. ... See More

Though my stance on abortion is very similar to JMS' I did vote for Obama and I wrote about why in my note. http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=42476466446
(I think you should be able to access that...)

I wish more people were like you all, so we could have real dialogue and understanding about such important issues!

Stay tuned for the second discussion we had...


Is Chile's earthquake a 'sign of the End'?

Is Chile's earthquake a 'sign of the End'?

February 22, 2010

No room for spiritual Lone Rangers

My church, Good Shepherd, is currently in the middle of a series called "WE" which is all about community and its central role in the Christian life. So when I came across the following quote on this subject while prepping for my upcoming weekend seminar on the Book of Revelation (which I'll be teaching March 19-21 at Americus First UMC in GA), I thought it was one of the best statements on the subject I've ever come across:

The gospel is never for individuals but always for a people. Sin fragments us, separates us, and sentences us to solitary confinement. Gospel restores us, unites us, and sets us in community. The life of faith revealed and nurtured in the biblical narratives is highly personal but never merely individual: always there is a family, a tribe, a nation – church.… A believing community is the context for the life of faith…. Love cannot exist in isolation: away from others, love bloats into pride. Grace cannot be received privately: cut off from others it is perverted into greed. Hope cannot develop in solitude: separated from the community, it goes to seed in the form of fantasies.

--Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, pp.42-43

I found the quote in Ben Witherington's excellent commentary on Revelation (a work which I highly recommend!).

Walking together...

February 16, 2010

Finished the best NT theology book I've ever read

Some of you may remember that I've been reading the late G.B. Caird's "New Testament Theology" (here's my initial post on it). I bought it years ago when I saw it on sale for 50% off in a bookstore and it sat on my shelf until I recently picked it back up for some unknown reason.

That reason may well have been the prompting of the Holy Spirit...because this is the most refreshing and insightful book I've read on the NT in...well...ever!

I should be clear that this doesn't mean I always agree with Caird's conclusions. But despite occasional areas of difference, I was simply blown away by how much Caird brings out of the NT's teaching as a whole and if I were a professor I would have this on my required reading list.

Here is, in my opinion, one of the best passages in the entire book as far as summary goes. It comes from the last two paragraphs of the last chapter of the book:

Thus we come to the end of our journey. For Jesus, Israel had been called to be the saved and saving nation, the agent through whom God intended to assert His sovereignty over the rest of the world; the time had arrived when God was summoning the nation once and for all to take its place in His economy as the Son of Man. If the nation would not listen, it must pay the price; but at least Jesus, and anyone else who would share it with him, must fulfill the national destiny. The light to the Gentiles, the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, the son who clings to his Father for his very life, the king who ransoms the people for whom he must stand as surety, and the servant who dies for the many, fill out his picture of Israel as God intended it to be. So deeply does he love his nation, so fully is he identified with its life, so bitterly does he regret what he sees coming upon it, that only death can silence his reiterated and disturbing appeal. He goes to his death at the hands of a Roman judge on a charge of which he was innocent and of which his accusers, as the event proved, were guilty. And so, not only in theological truth but in historic fact, the one bore the sins of the many, confident that in him the entire Jewish nation was being nailed to the Cross, only to come to life again in a better resurrection, and that the Day of the Son of Man which would see the end of the old Israel would also see the vindication of the new.
And if the theology of the New Testament began with ways in which Jesus thought and spoke about himself and his people, it was precisely because, as the agent appointed by God to be the fulfillment of Israel's destiny, he later came to be recognized, first as the fulfiller of the destiny of the human race, and then, in consequence, as the bearer of a more-than-human authority and the embodiment of a more-than-human wisdom.
If anyone is looking for a summary of the New Testament's teaching, particularly focused on the person and work of Jesus, Caird's "New Testament Theology" should be at the top of your resource list. It's worth every penny of its admittedly hefty pricetag! (Though you can find it for half, or even a third of print cost here)

Brown student meets Jerry Falwell...

Check out my review of Kevin Roose's "The Unlikely Disciple"

And if you enjoy it, you'll also enjoy my review of Daniel Radosh's "Rapture Ready"


February 4, 2010

Ultimate Fighting...Jesus??

Ultimate Fighting...Jesus??

An article I wrote on the recent NY Times cover story about churches using MMA to reach men with the Gospel.

Also, New Testament scholar Scot McKnight was kind enough to re-post it on his blog, Jesus Creed.

JM's Audio Teaching Archive

Check out sermon.net/jmsmith for some of my messages and teaching sessions:

Bruce Lee quote of the day...