Few things seem to me as frightening as religious people with a cause. We got health care through the House of Representatives yesterday but only after the addition of a provision that makes sure no one can use federal health care for an abortion – or even their own self-paid-for insurance plan. The House was much more supportive of that than the health care bill itself.

Now, I’m not a big fan of abortion. I wish it would never happen. But unlike so many, I’m not really sure when life begins and not really sure that a small collection of cells with the potential to become a human being is entitled to the full protection of the law.

Isn’t it odd that the same people who are so sure of the value of pre-natal life are so ready to support the death penalty? Doesn’t that life also have potential value? How can we be so sure that the doer of evil deeds will never repent and find a way, however constrained, to be useful to society?

The polls reenforce my discomfort at the certainty of some people’s moral compass. The majority of the population, after all, denies evolution. One recent poll learned that 28% of registered Republicans believe President Obama was not born in the United States. Has anyone checked lately to see how many Americans believe the world is flat? But they know when life begins.

In the middle ages, the church taught that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ between the syllables of the word “cor-pus”in the phrase “Hoc est corpus meum.” As for me, I’m not sure of that either. It happens, sometime between the moment I enter the church and the time I leave. So, too, the cells become a human being somewhere along the line between conception and birth. Do we need to know exactly when? Do we need precise answers for all life’s ambiguities so that we can shout down our neighbors and force our certainties on them? Is there no mystery to be respected?

W.B.Yeats once wrote, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” That’s not quite fair either. (I’m also not really sure whether Yeats would lump me with “the best” or “the worst”!) I do, however, have strong convictions, and one of them is that we aren’t and can’t be sure of everything. I have to respect my neighbor’s conscience – even if he or she has no respect for mine.

I will paste in below a statement of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention on the subject of abortion in 1994. I find in that a quite commendable intensity, a balance between respect for life and respect for conscience that is seldom to be found these days.


All human life is sacred from its inception until death. . . .

We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community.

While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.

We believe that legislation concerning abortions will not address the root of the problem. We therefore express our deep conviction that any proposed legislation on the part of national or state governments regarding abortions must take special care to see that the individual conscience is respected . . .

General Convention, 1994


AnonymousNovember 18th, 2009 at 7:50 am

As always, appreciate your words of wisdom, understanding and faithfulness. Karen+

AnonymousDecember 7th, 2009 at 9:41 am

splendid. a real help

AnonymousDecember 7th, 2009 at 9:41 am

a real assistance

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