500 pound gorilla? What 500 pound gorilla?
In Part I of my answer to Dr. Winfrey’s piece, I addressed the problem of treating Biblical stories of immigration as a direct proof of hypocrisy of White Evangelical Christians. In Part II Dr. Winfrey’s complaints about the NRA and their lobbying was addressed. If you have not read it, it is still accurate in light of the recent shooting in Florida. This article is the completion of the series where White Evangelical Christians and their espoused beliefs of pro-life and pro-law enforcement are addressed. The delay between part II and Part III came as the result of a circumstance which consumed a large amount of mental energy and I apologize for the delay in posting it.
From police killings of unarmed citizens, violence against individuals identifying as LGBTQ, and issues within the justice system, White Evangelical Christians are more inclined to hold anti-life views. So the question remains, how are actual lives less valuable than lives that do not yet exist?
On the surface, conflating White Evangelical Christians views on these numerous topics is hardly anti-life. In Dr. Winfrey’s discussion of immigrants, the Middle East is drawn as the birthplace of Christianity. With that context, White Evangelical Christians are called hypocritical for not welcoming individuals from the birthplace of their faith. In a different paragraph, the Dr. Winfrey completely ignores the death sentence for the LGBTQ community in the same region, specificaly Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates. Regardless of how bad it is, real or imagined, in the United States, no Christian religious group with the possible exception of Westboro Baptist Church, is calling for the summary execution of the individuals of the LGBTQ community. The Evangelical community doesn’t make it practice of assaulting members of the LGBTQ community. As a result, their views on LGBTQ do not meet the criteria of anti-life. There may be rogue individuals that do but the community does not.
I assume unarmed in Dr. Winfrey’s article is meant to raise the specter of incidents like those surrounding Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, etc. I join the author in condemning police violence. I abhor the militarization of the police. It angers me that Law Enforcement (LE) “circles the wagons” when an officer is accused of a “bad shoot.” At least in the Oscar Grant case, Johannes Mehserle stood trial. Jason Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder in the case of Laquan McDonald. In the case of Akai Gurley, Peter Liang is charged with manslaughter. In some of the other cases, I find the lack of charges questionable but not all. I’m very respectful to LE officers for one reason and one reason only: LE has the monopolistic legal use of deadly force.
It is hypocritical to treat all of these incidents with the broad brushstroke of indignation and wrong doing. Yes, we have a LE officer shooting an unarmed individual. Unarmed does not mean helpless, though. For instance, was Michael Brown unarmed? Yes. Was he just standing there with “hands up, don’t shoot?” No. The autopsy report referenced1 stated that the bullet entry wounds were not perpendicular to Michael’s body but were at a downward angle. If the wounds were perpendicular to his body then he was standing there. If the wounds were at an upward angle, Michael was fleeing (or falling backward) – no back wounds were discovered. Wounds at a downward angle indicate Brown was charging the police officer. Police do not have a reliable means to incapacitate when confronted and only in a Hollywood movie can someone shoot to wound.
No mention is made of cases similar to the recent shooting of Brian Shaw during a traffic stop by Rahmael Sal Holt either. Isn’t it hypocritical to castigate White Evangelical Christians for their support of the NRA, an advocate of an armed public, and then also castigate LE which would be called upon to disarm the public with their guns? One isn’t anti-firearm if one supports LE getting to keep theirs.
Lastly, let’s discuss the 500-pound gorilla in the room, the long discussed and argued pro-life vs pro-choice debate. Nobody is going to convince anyone to change their world view on this on the internet. Maybe over a cup of coffee and maybe if you trust the judgment of the person you are discussing this with. Even here, in the reference article you will find hypocrisy or at least willful ignorance just the same.
The historical Jewish views on the fetus are only partially documented in the Bible. In Exodus 21, if a fight between two individuals caused a pregnant woman to miscarry, the fetus had value and the loss had to be dealt with. It was treated akin to property damage as the worth of the unborn was stated, and once paid, everyone went about their business. The Bible as a reference document only speaks to miscarriage. While the Romans permitted abortion, infanticide and child abandonment, the Bible is completely silent on abortion. Thus, any view on abortion must be inferred from passages such as Luke 1: 39-44, Jeremiah 1:4-5 and Job 10:2, 8-9. To equate miscarriage and abortion on demand is a stretch.
Philosophers have been arguing what life is since the beginning of time. From the Legal Information Institute, the following synopsis provides the context for life as seen by the Supreme Court in the Roe v Wade decision in 19732.
The Court divided the pregnancy period into three trimesters. During the first trimester, the decision to terminate the pregnancy was solely at the discretion of the woman. After the first trimester, the state could “regulate procedure.” During the second trimester, the state could regulate (but not outlaw) abortions in the interests of the mother’s health. After the second trimester, the fetus became viable, and the state could regulate or outlaw abortions in the interest of the potential life except when necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.
The term “viable” then became an important legal concept. Sandra Day O’Connor argued3 some ten years later (1983) that Roe was headed for a “collision course with itself.” In this opinion, she argued that technological improvements would continually push the point of fetal viability closer to the beginning of pregnancy thus allowing the states greater opportunity to regulate the right to an abortion.
Justice O’Connor was prescient. Doctors in 1983 believed a fetus couldn’t become viable (capable of prolonged life outside the mother’s womb) until the 23rd week (down from 24th week when Roe v Wade became law). Several months ago, a story was published about a baby born at 21 weeks and 4 days, weighing 15 ounces, and is now at least 3 years old. Admittedly, this is exceedingly rare but the limits of what is viable are being reduced. This is science and its capability. The freezing and storage of human embryos started in 1984 and these are allowed to develop before freezing. The bottom line is that the way things were in 1973 aren’t exactly a representation of what is possible now. It’s worth noting that Webster’s is a dictionary, not a science text book. It defines “ain’t.”
Finally, it’s common to hold both a pro-choice and pro-life stance, to believe that the embryo is life (and the science of developmental biology would indicate that what is going on in the embryo is decidedly human from fertilization onward) and at the same time believe it is extreme hubris to dictate one’s personal morals on the matter to another individual, thus disallowing them the ability to make their own moral decisions in life.
There is much to be upset about with respect to the Evangelical community, even the white ones. To make the charges applicable, however, a reasonable understanding of history is in order. We agree that the whole of the Middle Eastern public shouldn’t be judged by a few miscreants (not to mention the odds of a terrorist killing anyone here in the US currently stands as less likely than surviving a lighting strike). By the same token, a few miscreants shouldn’t taint the vast majority of firearm owners who have never committed a violent act, much less used a firearm in anger. The Christian, not just the Evangelical ones, should do a better job of managing the love they are asked to share with all people, not some select sample set while remembering that we are all, every one of us, still sinners. It was Christ that said no one is good except the Father.
The point here is that hypocrisy is often in our own living room, sitting in our favorite seat. It’s not just White Evangelical Christians that have it but also article writers for National Monitor. That includes me. I think the most heinous act any group does is to assume they have the right to dictate the life of another. Here many Christians, again, not just the White Evangelical ones, fall prey to the trappings of politics to use government to basically usher in God’s kingdom on earth. But this is what each political party does. Get control and start barking orders to the ones who aren’t in power. The Bible is not a book on group think or government policy. The Bible is a call to each individual who espouses its beliefs to be about the calling, not using the voting booth to get it done by proxy.
Matthew 7:5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
We are all too eager to engage in the second part while avoiding, like the plague, the first part. It’s those three fingers pointing back at us when we point at another we’d prefer to ignore.
- ^Department of Justics Report Regarding the Criminal Investigation into the Shooting Death of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson
- ^Roe v. Wade (1973)
- ^Roe vs. Wade: 25 years later A decision greatly undermined