Friday, November 07, 2008

A few comments about the "issues"

1) Abortion: I am anti-abortion and pro-choice. I support a woman's right to have an abortion if that's what she chooses to do, but I would never personally encourage a woman to have an abortion for birth control reasons. I suport a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy that has put her own life or health in danger, or in cases where the fetus is malformed or has serious genetic anomolies.

However, I cannot support late term abortions, because even though some of these procedures can be performed humanely (as opposed to, say, partial birth abortion), I see no reason why a woman in the 7th month or later should not have already made up her mind about whether or not to abort. My personal opinion is that the fetus becomes a viable human being when it reaches the stage where it could live outside it's mother's body. To me, aborting a baby after that time is akin to murder. Even in cases of medical necessity, there is no reason why the baby could not be taken intact by C-section, as opposed to aborted in the womb. The baby could then be put up for adoption. I could only support late term abortions in rare cases where the medical situation made C-section impossible, and the mother's life or health was in danger from the pregnancy or labor.

In cases of rape and incest, I support a woman terminating such a prenancy.

2) Healthcare: Strongly related to the abortion issue is the issue of healthcare. 40 million Americans (about 15%) don't have any health insurance at all. Twice that many are underinsured, making the total of underinsured and uninsured people in this country near the 50% mark, or 1 in 2. Mothers unquestionably will sometimes choose abortion simply because they can't afford the doctor bills. If we are going to have a consistent view in this country of the sanctity of life, we MUST do something about our healthcare crisis. Part of the government's constitutionally-mandated responsiblities is to provide for the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for its citizens. If ensuring that all Americans have affordable access to good medical care does not fall under the umbrella of "life," then I don't know what does.

It is significant to point out that the United States is the only major developed, industrialized country on earth with no federal health insurance plan. Other countries that have put such a plan in place have not descended into socialism, and the doctors and nurses and healthcare workers have not been sent to the poor house because they can't make money anymore. Suggesting that a federal health insurance option is like "socialized medicine" is not only a case of political spin, it's an outright lie. People who can afford good private health insurance should be able to continue to get that. Those who can't should have the option to have federal health insurance. Such a plan would require strong checks and balances and strong oversight to ensure it wasn't taken advantage of to the degredation of hardworking people.

3) Death Penalty: I am opposed to the death penalty, because I believe that our country should be focusing on the sanctity of life, not ending life. With it being known beyond a shadow of a doubt that innocent people have been executed, and knowing that there is no way to ever know with absolute certainty that a person committed a crime they have been concvited of, I do not believe any government should have the power to put people to death. But even if we could somehow be 100% certain that a criminal had committed a certain crime, I still would not support the death penalty, because I do not believe that any civilized government should have the power to kill people, for any reason. The country should be focused more on ending poverty, and thereby reducing crime, rather than worrying about which criminals to put to death. Countries - such as Japan - which have extremely low poverty rates, also have extremely low crime rates, and very little murder. There's a lesson to be learned there.

And that doesn't even address the issue of the huge state expense associated with all the judicial processes that are involved in death penalty cases. It's far more expensive to keep someone on death row than to simply incarcerate them for life. Taxes could probably be lowered across the board just by eliminating the death penalty (that's probably an overstatement, but you get the point).

4) Homosexuality: I don't believe homosexuality is a sin, but I do believe it is a "sin" to discriminate against homosexuals by disallowing them the same rights as married people. Marriage ceremonies in churches are just that - ceremonies. They are not legally binding. The thing that makes a marriage legally binding is the civil union - the certificate of marriage that the government gives you. Religious views on homosexuality should have no bearing on the government's choice about who can and can't have a civil union. Denying gays the right to get legally married is simple discrimination. And amending the constituion - either of a specific state or the U.S. constituion - to deny gay marriage is simply a case of legalizing discriminatory practices. Whether a constitution is amended or not, denying gays the same rights as straights is discriminatory. It can't be anything else.

Christians who are opposed to gay marriage need to recognize that "marriage" is a government contract, not a holy union. The church is what makes it a holy union, but that's only if the couple wants to have a ceremony in a church. There is certainy nothing requiring two people to have a church ceremony. Suggesting gays can't get married would be like saying atheists can't get married. Homosexuals are living in sin, so they can't have a holy union, and atheists don't believe in God, so they can't have a holy union either. But do I hear any Christians suggesting atheists shouldn't be allowed to have a government conract of marriage? Of course not, because that would be ridiculous. But it's no less ridiculous than saying two gay people can't get married.

Just because a Christian may not approve of the choices gays make, does not give those Christians the right to discriminate against gays, any more than they have a right to discriminate against atheists, Jews, Muslims, or Rastafarians. Those people aren't going to have a marriage ceremony in a Christian church either, but they still are going to have a government certificate of marriage. Why should gays be excluded from that? It's simple discrimination.

5) God: I believe in God, and I follow and attempt to emulate the life and teachings of Jesus as they were remembered and creatively told in the New Testament. I do not, however, believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. I believe it is a significantly human text, describing ways in which ancient Jews attempted to connect and unify with God. What I take from the New Testament are the teachings about love, compassion, kindness, and humility, and the warnings against greed and selfishness. I believe the overpowering message of the New Testament is about abundant life in the here and now, more so than about anything that happens after death.

It's those warnings against greed and selfishness that I think far too many Chrisitans either ignore outright, or only give blithe lipservice to. Jesus talked about greed and money more than just about any other topic. He warned continually about the dangers of greed, and made it clear that anyone who pursues wealth and material possessions is not living in union with God. You can't serve both God and money, Jesus is recorded as saying. That's why I find it ironic when I pass churches on Sunday morning and see them filled with luxury automobiles, decorated with fancy statues and expensive ornamentations, and populated largely by upper middle class people in expensive clothes. Our entire social system is built on the pursuit of wealth - something Jesus assured us was a direct road toward disunity with God. Far too many Christians conveniently ignore that.

We like to think that we are living a Christ-like life (and I include myself in this), but most all of us are actually deeply involved in the pursuit of wealth, and this keeps us from really living like Jesus told us to live.

And if we're living in pursuit of wealth, then we are living in sin, and therefore is it reasonable to say we're any different than the abortion doctors and homosexuals? Jesus never mentioned abortion or homosexuality, but he sure did talk a lot about greed and money.

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