Back when John Kerry first made his "I believe life begins at conception" statement, a lot of the blogs I read had very salient points to make about it, and I put my own thoughts on the back burner and decided to let them simmer for a while.
Over the weekend, with the debates turning up the heat, my thoughts have come to a rolling boil, and the teakettle is starting to whistle a bit. Here I go venting some steam, so to speak...
Senator Kerry likes to say that his belief that life begins at conception is a religious belief and therefore he cannot impose it on others who do not share such convictions. I have a problem with that statement. It "sticks in my craw" as the saying goes. I think it's a cop-out.
Not that I think one's religious beliefs ought to be imposed on the masses in general. I have no problem with that statement, because I don't want other religions - and some of the more legalistic of my own religion, when it comes down to it - legislating their beliefs on me. I don't want it to become illegal to work on Sundays, for instance. Not that I want to work on Sundays myself, I really don't like it, but I don't want to force every business (including gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants) to close down on Sundays just to accommodate the "remember the Sabbath and keep it holy" scripture. Or maybe that would be Saturdays, since it's an Old Testament verse and the original reference would be to Saturdays. That would be even less convenient.
How about another example? I don't favor reinstating laws against homosexuality. I'm not supporting gay marriage either, don't get me wrong. I still think that our society needs to value the traditional family - and I think that marriage is an institution that should be nurtured and protected for the good of society. As contradictory as this might sound, I also don't believe that we need a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage. It's properly an issue for the states. (And yes, I have some libertarian tendencies - I think federal government is much too large and is sticking itself into many areas that it shouldn't.) But other than the societal impact of redefining marriage, homosexuality is a moral/religious issue. I believe, because of my religion (and yes, the Old Testament does count), that homosexual behavior is a sin.
However. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I don't think we as Christians should ostracize homosexuals, because I believe it's the behavior that's the sin, and we don't ostracize those that have (whether inborn or learned or chosen or whatever) a tendency toward other sins. We don't generally treat kleptomaniacs or compulsive liars or promiscuous heterosexuals like they are unwelcome in our churches and our homes. I think Julie from Fidler on the Roof put it very well.
Being gay - in the respect that you have same-sex attraction - may be inborn and unavoidable for many. It's the lifestyle that's a choice.Homosexual behavior is a choice - it is a lifestyle choice, whether or not you believe you have an inborn tendency to it - and it is not compatible with the choice to live as a disciple of Christ.
In any event, I don't think my religious beliefs about homosexuality should be codified into law. Nor do I think that public schools should be required to teach Creationism instead of evolution (although I think they should be required to present it impartially as an alternative belief when discussing the origin of the universe, since evolution as it relates to the origin of life is a theory and not a scientifically provable fact). I don't think that tithing 10% of one's income should be legally enforced. I don't think premarital sex should be criminalized (although I think abstinence should be presented as a very valid option and should be discussed as easily as sex is in our society).
My positions on these issues, while I believe they are good and I believe they would be good for others to share, spring directly from my religious beliefs and I agree that in the United States of America, it is not right to impose my religion on others by way of law.
When it comes to abortion, you've heard me say it before, it's not all about religion. I don't believe that life begins at conception because of my religious beliefs. There are plenty of non-Christians out there that have problems with abortion because they see an unborn baby for what it is - human life. And the premeditated act of taking a human life is murder. No, the reason I believe that life begins at conception is because any other definition of when life begins is arbitrary.
Look at the science of conception. When an egg and a sperm join together, the biological process of life begins right away. Cells begin dividing and the embryo begins growing at a very rapid pace. If it is not interfered with, and all goes normally, a human baby will be the result. If not when the egg and the sperm join, when does it become life? When it is able to live outside the mother's body without medical assistance? Does that mean that it's not alive if it's born prematurely and needs to be on a ventilator for a while? When does it become a living human being? When it looks like a real baby? When there's an identifiable heartbeat? That's possible at 6 weeks gestation, by the way - but that's still an arbitrary, artificial designation. The cells are all there, developing away before that point. The fact is, if a woman wants to be a mother, she's thinking of her unborn baby as a human life the whole time, whether or not she is a Christian. It's not about religious beliefs - it is about scientific facts and how you apply them (or try to avoid applying them) to your thought processes.
There are legitimate moral dilemmas to be explored when it comes to taking a definitive position against abortion - and as I've said before, these can boil down to religious beliefs. But Senator Kerry's attempt to avoid the sticky issue of abortion by claiming to be personally opposed for religious reasons but legally unable to impose his beliefs on others is a cop-out. Either he doesn't really believe that life begins at conception, or he's using his religious beliefs, both as an excuse to avoid taking a politically unpopular stand and as a sop to those Christians who are more liberal or moderate but still would like to see a man of faith and moral character in office.
Either way, I call it hypocricy. Your mileage may vary. My teakettle boileth over, and I'm going to go enjoy my cup of tea.