Monday, January 30, 2006

Rethinking Abortion

In college I was pro-choice. After reading Francis Schaefer and Everett Koop (Whatever Happened to the Human Race?) and Bernard Nathanson (Aborting America), I became pro-life and have been ever since. Why the change? New information I wasn't aware of. For example, Nathanson exposes some of the lies of the pre-Roe v Wade prochoice legal arguments and explains his transformation from being a co-founder of NARAL and a leading abortionist to recognizing the humaness of "alpha" (the fetus) and becoming a pro-life advocate. (I challenge everyone to read this book, whatever your side. Nathanson doesn't write as a right-winger but as an abortion movement insider). Koop brought his perspective as a pediatric surgeon and the value of human life. In 1989 I was arrested along with 800 others in Los Angeles at an Operation Rescue (OR) in front of a clinic and spent 3 days in jail. That was an eye-opening experience.

Although I'm still strongly prolife, my stance has shifted over the years as I continue to learn new information. I no longer believe that abortion should be in the same category as murder, except perhaps in some extreme late-term circumstances. I now have no issue with allowing exceptions for abortion for rape or incest. I no longer think that we should have a nationwide ban on abortion, but instead we should allow the States to decide through the legislative process. Although my experience with OR was positive (the media and pro-choice counter demonstrators revealed extreme bias against us), I have found later statements by an OR founder to be divisive and out-of-line.

Today, my main peeve with more traditional pro-life stance is the all-or-nothing and black-and-white attitude. It is our way or the highway and no room for compromise. My main peeve with the common pro-choice position is its disingenousness and unwillingness to face facts. If they were truly pro-choice, they would welcome the nationwide network of pregnancy help centers and encourage women to consider their services. They would admit the lies of their past (e.g. the exagerated claims on the number of deaths from backalley abortions, that "Roe" was not raped as was claimed in the case, and that she is now pro-life), and the fact that the Roe v Wade decision is based on flawed legal logic which is increasingly being conceded by pro-choice analysts. For example, see Cohen and Kinsley, (Kinsley: "Although I'm pro-choice, I was taught in law school, and still believe, that Roe v Wade is a muddle of bad reasoning... and judicial overreaching.")

It's interesting that Cohen has shifted within a pro-choice position and is now closer to mine. Perhaps this is a one way to solve the abortion dilemma. Each side get honest and take steps toward each other.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Extremism and Hypocrisy

The statements I heard from politicians at MLK day events were laughable. Hillary Clinton said Congress was like a southern plantation (How? Are they holding slaves?!!) and Bush was the worst-ever President. New Orleans Mayor Nagin said God was punishing America with hurricanes for the Iraq war (a left version of Robertson?) and that God wanted his city to be majority black (a chocolate city). How outrageous and irrelevant to what Martin Luther King espoused! Why all this divisive talk on MLK day? Actually Nagin's statement was racist. How do you know? Just switch the terms. Imagine the outcry if a white mayor said God wanted his city to be majority white!

Not to be outdone, Al Gore compared Bush's wiretapping of Americans to the FBI's dispicable surveillance of King. Seems Dems just used the day to make extreme political attacks. This criticism of wiretapping suspected terrorists and people talking to them boggles me. Presidents have historically used executive powers for this purpose. People conveniently forget that Democrats Clinton and Carter did. Clinton ordered physical searches without warrants here. Carter ordered electonic surveillance without court orders here. There are times when this is a good idea for national security. Court orders can take too long to get when suspected terrorists are plotting and time is cruical.

Of course these liberals don't have a monopoly on crazy statements or hypocrisy. Pat Robertson made another wild statement a few weeks ago about Ariel Sharon (He said "it may be that Sharon's being punished for giving up Gaza") and that the book of Joel shows that to give land to the Palestians is sin. This last one is a great example of Bible abuse. The book of Joel is not speaking to the middle east situation thousands of years in the future! To twist scripture to accuse Sharon is outrageous. And of course for more hypocrisy, there's conservative Christian leader Ralph Reed who didn't see any conflict of interest asking evangelicals for money to block tribal casinos in the south when he knew another tribal casino was paying his firm for the work (via Jack Abramoff). This casino hired Abramoff and Reed to gain a monopoly. Reed didn't bother telling evangelicals that they were actually encouraging gambling, not where they lived, but just down the road or across the state border!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Bible and Homosexuality

If my evangelical friends thought I had gone overboard with my call to A New Reformation, they will think I’ve gone off the deep end with this assessment of homosexuality and the Bible!

I have to admit, for years I have wondered how anyone could defend homosexuality in light of certain passages of the Bible. But that was before I did an honest study of those passages and discovered misinterpretations, AND before I learned that several words in those passages are almost certainly mistranslated! I believe these misinterpretations and mistranslations are grave injustices that need to be rectified.

A few observations that are undeniable: Female homosexuality was never condemned in the Old Testament, hence it was not against God’s law. Female homosexuality is only mentioned once in the New Testament in a seven-word phrase, in the context of idolatry. (Romans 1). There is no Hebrew or Greek word in the Bible that is equivalent to our modern term “homosexual.” The word homosexual first appeared in English Bibles in the 1946 RSV version. The word “sodomite”, referring to a male homosexual, is not in the original Hebrew or Greek. The two words most often translated “homosexual” are the Greek words “malakos” and “arsenokoitai,” obscure Greek terms whose translations are disputed by scholars.

The fact that female homosexuality is not condemned in the OT is amazing. If God was against all forms of homosexuality, why did He mention only male homosexuality in the Holiness code of Leviticus? The code also includes specific laws against incest (spelled out with attention to every conceivable sexual liaison), adultery, rape, and bestiality, but no law against female homosexuality. Its absence is a mystery, unless only certain forms of homosexuality are condemned. In addition, the NT teaches that “new covenant” believers have been released from the OT law. We are not obligated to obey the law, unless it becomes necessary in order to keep Christ’s law of love.

Context—literary, cultural, historical—is King when it comes to proper interpretation of the Bible. The passage in Romans condemning homosexuality is in the context of idolatry. The people doing these shameful acts are not worshiping the one true God, but idols. Are the acts shameful because they are homosexual or because they are part of idol worship? Shrine prostitution, with both male and females, was not uncommon in the Roman empire and among pagans throughout Israel’s history.

The term malakos is translated “effeminate”, “male prostitutes”, or “homosexuals”, depending on the version and literally means “soft” as an adjective. “Arsenokoitai” literally means “male bed”, and is translated “abusers of themselves with mankind” (KJV), “homosexual offenders”, or “sodomites.” Put in their historical context, malakos probably means “catamite” (New Jerusalem Bible), which is the young teen or boy in the common-for-the-day Greek/Roman pederastic relationship, with “arsenokoitai” probably referring to the men who used them sexually.

The church’s traditional view of homosexuality has not adequately explained these facts and perpetuates misunderstanding by not drawing attention to historical and cultural circumstances and the problems with the term “homosexual” as an English equivalent to the original Greek words. For a more detailed study, check the link on the title of this post.

Good Rich Samaritans

I was pleasantly surprised to see Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono as Time's Persons of the Year for 2005. I had mentioned them in previous posts on Black-and-White Thinking and Caring for the Poor and Fighting Poverty. It's great to see some good press on big business (so often stereotyped and demonized) and a serious entertainer activist. The Gates are doing amazing things in healthcare research and Bono has influenced politiicians to provide debt relief for developing nations and more money for AIDS programs. There's even a nice article about the odd couple, 41 Bush and Bill Clinton working together to raise relief funds.