ByDr. Prior is a research professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a columnist for the Religion News Service.
image above: linkshare.whatfinger.com
WN: Our intensely individualistic Western culture is the very inverse of the spirit of ubuntu: in turn, of our being made in the image of the Trinity. Ubuntu says a person is a person through other persons.
In relation to Christian belief, this post powerfully challenges the “Christian” anti-abortion commitment: White, Conservative, Christian Friend—I Wish You Really Were Pro-Life–showing it to be too often more anti-Christ. From that post:
WN: The highlighted article below is truly powerful and wise!
Likewise in relation to the article: I am not a “progressive,” because too many “progressives” I read are not consistently pro-Life. They (of course not all) favour the use of abortion as birth control, elevating women’s right to choose to a fetish, thereby exhibiting a cavalier attitude towards Life, while in fact reflecting a culture of Death. They are the mirror opposite to the self-described “pro-Life” advocates, who (not all) support slaughter of the “born,” so long as they are America’s (or whatever nation’s they inhabit) enemies. Both camps are committed to destroy Life that “gets in the way.” Both are narcissistic and hedonistic.
I can tell by how often your heavy burden for the sanctity of life evaporates upon delivery. In so many cases this compassion really has a nine-month expiration date, as if life begins at conception but ends upon leaving the birth canal. The completion of that third trimester is actually the shelf life of your passionate regard for much of the living.
As to individualism, Alfred Russel Wallace proposed another non-classist view of evolution, explained in the video below, that sociologically did not lead to a mentality––survival of the fittest––as a fundamental driver of human existence: Social Darwinism. Darwin however was as classist as they come. He writes in The Origin of the Species:
Hence, as more individuals are produced than can possibly survive, there must in every case be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species, or with the physical conditions of life. It is the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms.”
Positing this universal Malthusian struggle among all the individual organisms of the earth, permitted Darwin, as Desmond and Moore (Darwin, 1991, p. 267) put it, to “appeal to a better class of audience”—the class of industrialists and capitalists to which he and his family belonged. Of course, it also provided him with an arena of individual competition in which natural selection could act. But he probably would not have chosen such an axiom for his theory if he had not been a member of the upper class. –– A Gentleman Naturalist, Macroevolution.net
We read in Western Individualism and Spirituality, by Ashley Riley (My name is Ashley–many people close to me just call me Ash–and you’re in My Sacred Space.):
Because Western values are ingrained with Social Darwinism, our capitalist society has a strong belief that competition is part and parcel to survival, and those who survive––and thrive––are indeed the fittest. As a result, we have a tendency to measure success based on who is doing the best, the most, being outstanding, or exceptional. This inherently lends itself toward using society’s most privileged as the yardstick.
Imagine what society might look like if we had embraced Wallace’s mechanism of evolution instead of Darwin’s? If we then only measured our success based on how well our most vulnerable were doing?
This is one of the fundamental shifts in our mentality and values that we need to make if we want to move toward a more conscious paradigm of living. We can start by understanding how individualism and Social Darwinism have infiltrated not only our social systems and mentalities around business, but also how it’s infiltrated our values and belief systems.
While her way to spirituality is not mine, I find there is much wisdom on her website.
In the context of Western individualism, wisdom shines out as well in the article highlighted below. I oppose however the enshrinement in law of an anti-abortion creed–as much as I oppose a pro-choice imposition too. You may ask where that leaves me. I frankly do not know . . .
Roe v. Wade’s reversal has elicited cries of anger and despair from those who feel a sense of dread for the future of women and the future of America.
I understand that feeling of dread.
As a pro-life advocate, I lament with those who feel they have lost a basic human right, as well as moral agency and hope for the future. But for me it is Roe that brought these losses.
Roe stripped from the prenatal child the right to continue to live and grow, safe and free from intentional harm. If you believe, as I do, that abortion unjustly ends the life of a being that is fully human, a life that exists independently of the will of the mother, is self-organizing and unique, developing yet complete in itself, then you will understand Roe not as a ruling that liberates but as one that dehumanizes, first the fetus, then the rest of us.
Further, Roe elevated radical autonomy over moral agency. Roe struck down the hope that is inherent in every human life, whether new or old, for as long as life remains.
But of course it will take longer for abortion to become unthinkable, which is the real goal of the pro-life movement.
I joined the movement decades ago. My friends and co-laborers in the movement across the political spectrum have over the years established and worked in pregnancy help centers. We have opened our rooms and homes to women who needed them. We have educated them about prevention, alternatives, resources, employment, schooling and empowerment. We have offered help at doctors’ offices and abortion clinics. We have held baby showers, attended weddings, kindergarten graduations and legislative sessions. We have cried with those who regretted their choices, and we have cried with those who didn’t (but cried anyway). We have marched and protested.
Still, I was, like my fellow evangelicals, a Johnny-come-lately in a long line of people who have opposed abortion and infanticide and tried to defend vulnerable life.
Members of the early Christian church within the ancient Roman world rescued abandoned infants (often those who were female or otherwise deemed inferior) from certain death. In the 19th century, a newspaper created by prominent suffragists, The Revolution, published articles that called abortion “infanticide” and “child-murder.” The pro-life movement in America before Roe was dominated by Catholics who then generally skewed Democrat, and who fought for legal protections for the unborn and expansions of the social safety net.
Roe and its legacy radicalized those of us in the current movement. Legalized elective abortion was the consolation prize given to women in 1973 for the centuries of inequality and oppression that stemmed from their sin of not being men. While every mother and every father should want their children, our status as human beings at any stage of life should not depend on who wants us or whether we are wanted at all.
It is only when we inject into the issue questions of subjectivity (like wantedness) or religions (like ensoulment), existential ones (like sentience), theological ones (like human dignity) or sociological ones (like quality of life), that we find ample room for uncertainty and disagreement. These are important, enduring questions. But they are not questions upon which the basic, inalienable right of an individual life should depend.
The judicial fiat of Roe v. Wade jump-started the culture wars that have poisoned our political process and brought us to a place of polarization and unbridgeable division. Indeed, this division has been capitalized on by far too many pundits and politicians, for whom a position on abortion does not appear to be a sincerely held belief, but merely an issue they can (and do) leverage for votes or monetize for financial gain. Such betrayal casts a shadow on the overturning of Roe, which has been for me and many others a long-awaited event.
Even so, making abortion unthinkable might start with the law, but it won’t end there. For it is not only the supply of abortion that matters but also the demand. I lament the impoverishment of a social imagination that cannot conceive of a world in which women can flourish without abortion.
I think we will imagine it someday. Of course abortion, like all violence, abuse and injustice, will always be with us. But laws don’t only prevent — laws teach and form the ways in which we envision our world and the ways in which we can and should live with one another.Since Roe, our culture has increasingly come to understand that it’s not merely “our bodies, ourselves” but also “our communities, ourselves.” Our bodies live and move among other bodies — whether for good or ill. We are our brother’s and our sister’s keepers, and it does take a village to become who we are. Thankfully, America’s romance with radical autonomy and rugged individualism is cooling. Roe gave our nation some of the most liberal abortion laws in the industrialized world and a high rate of abortion compared with that of many other industrialized countries, in no small part because of our individualist cultural and economic ethos.
Imagine what society might look like if we had embraced Wallace’s mechanism of evolution instead of Darwin’s? If we then only measured our success based on how well our most vulnerable were doing?—Ashley Riley
Accordingly, in a recent Times Opinion essay, Patrick T. Brown acknowledged the need for “a broader vision of policy than just prohibiting access to abortion.” A post-Roe world, he wrote, “is one that compels a greater claim on public resources to support expectant mothers” and demands that we “take seriously the challenges that women and families experience not only during and immediately after pregnancy but also in the years that follow.”
The conservative think tank where Mr. Brown is a fellow, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has developed a robust, holistic Life and Family Initiative aimed at protecting the lives of prenatal children and offering concrete support to the families in which they will be born. California’s Catholic bishops have also outlined a commitment to support women, children and families. And the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has included in its 2022 public policy agenda a range of issues beyond its ongoing focus on abortion, including alleviating hunger and strengthening low-income families.
We can do better than asking women (and men) to choose between their children and themselves. I see the overturning of Roe as the first step in getting there. Then, to make abortion unthinkable, we must make it unwanted.
Please click on: I Prayed and Protested to End Roe.