Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why are so many Christians obsessed with the "sins" of other people?

I've read the Bible many times--twenty-seven that I can remember, all before the age of twenty-four. I have read many verses hundreds of times, having read in church as a teen and later, after rejecting religion, to refer to then when apologists used them as arguments. What I can't remember reading in the parts where the Jesus character is traipsing around Galilee is any mention of forcing people to stop committing sins.

Of course, to me, "sin" is a meaningless concept; it requires a transgression against a deity, and I don't have evidence of deities; they're all man-made myths. I suppose it could be extended to include transgressions against other people, but that's not common usage.

In any case, so many Christians seem to want to apply their concept of sin to the law, in spite of the fact that there is nothing attributed to the Jesus character that suggest that they should force other people to their way of thinking. I remember something about "Judge not, lest ye be judged." I remember something about not pointing out the mote in your neighbor's eye while ignoring the log in your own. I remember things about giving all your money to the poor, about loving your neighbor and your enemy, turning the other cheek, and so on and so forth, but I just can't seem to recall a word about forcing other people to stop sinning.

Before someone brings up the notion that Jesus didn't disregard Old Testament law (forgetting for the moment that I have no reason to buy into the idea that Jesus actually existed), let's remember that he saved a woman accused of adultery from stoning, and forgave her for her sins.

Jesus would be a really cool character if it weren't for the doctrine of hell, the weird story about him cursing a fig tree, the doctrine of hell, and the talk about hating your family if they don't believe. The values his character advanced in the Bible were humility, love, forgiveness, and charity. These, of course, are all things just as easily attributed to empathy, and do not actually require moral teaching. The concepts of turning the other cheek and loving your enemy are a bit more difficult, and seemingly counterintuitive.

Of course, I didn't create this post to be a cheerleader for Jesus; my point is that if you're going to call yourself a Christian, why not follow the teachings attributed to him and leave other people well alone? Yes, you're commanded to witness to people, but you're also supposed to proverbially shake the dust from your feet and move on when people don't listen to you. You're supposed to hang out with the sinners and live by example among them, not legislate your morality on them. Persuasion and example: that's what I got out of what I read in the Bible.

What prompted this post was a story about how a priest was arrested for praying and passing out literature in front of an abortion clinic. I suspect there's more to this story; he was probably obstructing the entrance while doing these things, which you're not supposed to do anywhere. If you're going to protest abortion--or anything else--you can't do it on private property, especially if you're obstructing the entrances to a place of business or medical services.

My question to Christians is: how is it your place to judge abortion clinics, and how is it your place to keep women from getting abortions? You believe it's murder, sure, but that's you judging other people, and carrying out your judgment. If you really believe in eternal rewards and punishments, then you'll let your god take care of things and worry about yourself, as the Jesus character in the Bible told you. "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Don't point out the mote in your neighbor's eye. There's a log in your own. Maybe.

For my part, I want abortion to stay safe and legal. I don't think I should have control over a woman's decisions about her own body, and I think she should be protected from the will of others over decisions regarding her health and private life. I don't think anyone really loves and embraces abortion, but all of the alternatives a woman has with unplanned pregnancy are difficult, and the situations leading to that decision have complications and issues, as well. There's inequality in sexual relationships, for one thing. Males do not have to make a decision that involves either an invasive medical procedure, physical changes to the body followed by a grieving process, or a life taking care of a child, often before becoming financially stable or educated enough to have marketable skills.

Let's face it: abortion is invasive. What woman would do it for fun? Women who do choose it as an option are already scared, have conflicting emotions, and are often alone in making that decision; you're compounding the situation with protests and guilt trips. What is worse is that if abortion were outlawed, we'd be back to women--young, scared, often not well-off--going to drastic measures to give themselves abortions. They'd either be done by back-alley doctors, or they'd be self-induced with coat hangers, chemicals, or other dangerous methods. Some Christians out there cheer on that risk, but they're forgetting about how they're supposed to be without sin if they're going to cast stones. I haven't met a Christian yet who says that he or she is sinless. Abortion should be safe and legal, from my perspective, because I don't want women to suffer and men aren't equally responsible for the consequences of pregnancy. From the Christian perspective, I would think abortion should be safe and legal so that women would have the chance to be forgiven and "saved" sometime before death. I don't want to presume to think for Christians, so I'm asking: am I off base here? After all, "Jane Roe" became a Christian, right?

The second option, adoption, comes with its own issues. Statistically speaking, pregnancy has more risks than abortion. More women die of complications from pregnancy than from complications from abortions. A woman's body is permanently affected by pregnancy carried all the way to term. Then, there's the possibility of grief from giving the baby up. I was adopted. I met my biological mother. She grieved for about two years. Now, in her case, she wouldn't have aborted me, but it still should have been her choice (and it was, in Ohio, in 1971, when she would have aborted me if she had chosen that option), and if she had, I would never have known.

The third option, having the mother raise the child, is expecting a lot out of women who are most likely not at a point in their lives when they can handle it financially or emotionally. It's not easy to be a single mother--just ask any single mother with little means to raise children. Unwanted children are more likely to be abused. The children often grow up without fathers. Now, I'm not saying that fathers are always a good influence, but if a couple is in a stable relationship, it's so much easier to raise one or more children. There's usually more money, the husband and wife can take turns with the children or adopt separate responsibilities to make each other's lives easier; it's definitely a better situation than single parenthood without support. It is possible to raise a child successfully in a single-parent household. I think my half-sister turned out fine, and I know several other people from single-parent homes who are okay, too. Support from other family members and from friends made all the difference, though. It should be totally up to the woman to judge whether she has the means, stability, and emotional support network to raise a child on her own.

Single mothers are often put down by Christians. I remember Dan Quayle doing it; Pat Robertson and other televangelists do it; ordinary, average Christians do it. I have heard Christians speak in hushed, shocked, affronted tones about the young woman who was pregnant, who was going to have the baby. I have heard them asking: who is going to support that child?

You. Christians, if that woman is in your church, it should be you. If you're going to be pro-life, be pro-life. Step up and take care of the ones who are born, rather than focusing on the unborn and the "sinning" mothers. Babysit the child while the woman goes to work, help her with advice that comes from experience raising children, and forgive her for her "sin" of promiscuity. After all, it is not for you to judge. Right?


Mic said...

I realize that this post is old, but WOW. Its like you took the thoughts out of my brain and wrote them down. Great post.

Sue said...

I just stumbled upon this post via Google search and it is a very intelligent post. Just one correction though - abortion was not legal in Ohio in 1971. I became pregnant in 1971 when I was a senior in high school so I have first hand knowledge of this. I do know that abortions were legal in New York state in 1971 - I know someone who traveled there to have one.