Man’s Law, God’s Law, And Abortion
I was perhaps six years old when I learned the difference between man’s law and God’s law. It happened when an older brother got me to watch the beginning of Les Miserables. Up until then I was mostly familiar with the Batman TV Series, wherein Batman would beat the bad guys into submission and hand them over to the police. Funny thing was, I never seemed to notice that a week or two later Batman would be battling the same villains and putting them back in jail. It seems you can’t beat someone into being good.
But Les Miserables was a different story. In this story, the good guy took the convict in and treated him like a special guest. So far as that went, I could kind of understand it. But when the bishop woke up in the morning to find the convict had departed with his silverware, I assumed the only thing for the good guy to do was track him down, beat him up, and hand him over to the police.
Except the cops got to the bad guy first and brought him back to the bishop. They were going to lock him away, but the bishop says that the convict wasn’t lying, that he had given him the silverware. More than this, he tells the convict that he forgot to also take the silver candlesticks and gives them to him. And then he tells him that with this gift he had bought back his soul from the devil and given it to God.
Well, this made little sense to a child brought up on man’s law. I mean, we may have considered ourselves a Christian nation, but I found out later our justice system had very little to do with what Christ was teaching. But though I didn’t understand it, I saw the effect such forgiveness had on the convict, who stood there every bit as uncomprehending as myself. He was so shaken that I had to stop and consider how I would feel if such kindness and forgiveness and mercy had been rendered unto me.
Well it turned out this gesture of mercy did have quite an effect on the convict. Unlike the Joker and the Riddler and the Penguin, the convict did not go back to his old ways. What happened was a complete change of heart. Without a punch being thrown, the convict was not only prevented from doing further evil, he spent the rest of his life exemplifying the justice and the compassion and the mercy that had been shown to him.
I still had quite a few years of reading Batman comic books in front of me, but this message, this example, stayed with me. Whenever I thought about it too deeply, whenever I was confronted with a real-life dilemma rather than simplistic stories of good and bad, I remembered the bishop and the convict and the mercy one is supposed to show if one wishes to call oneself a Christian.
I think of this in light of what is taking place in Texas right now regarding abortions, in light of the attitudes of those who call themselves Christian regarding the law and abortion. And it is clear to me at least that many who call themselves Christians are not exemplifying the teachings of Christ but are instead demanding that justice be delivered by the authorities. Man’s authority, not God’s.
There is little mercy to be found in the pronouncements of the “pro-life” side, no compassion, no desire to teach through personal example or to convert others to a higher way of thinking and living. Much of what I see in the pro-life movement is self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Not all, but much of it.
A few years back I watched a movie called Bella. I was under the impression from the cover of the DVD that it was a Christian-influenced movie with a pro-life message. And yet the overall impression was of sophistication and nuance, so I gave it a chance.
It was the story of a soccer player who had just signed a professional contract and was on his way to fame and wealth. In the euphoria of his good fortune, he was distracted while he was driving and hit and killed a young child. Though it was not really his fault, like any person with a working conscience, it impacted his life deeply. It cost him his soccer career as he tried to find some way of dealing with the guilt he felt and finding some redemption in his life.
He begins to find some hope for redemption, or at least some direction in his life, when he meets a young pregnant woman who is going through much inner turmoil of her own. He befriends her. He assists her. He stands by her, understanding something about the cost of getting right with one’s self.
One thing he never does is judge her. He never preaches to her, never makes himself out to be something wiser or less fallible than he really is.
What he does is show compassion. What he does is try to provide for her as much as possible a scenario where she might act from hope rather than hopelessness. And in case I didn’t mention it, never once does he presume to put himself in a position of judgement over her. I can’t help thinking this is the mature Christian approach to the issue of abortion.
Now you may disagree with me regarding the importance and necessity of man’s law. But for the love of all that’s holy, do not bring Christ into the conversation in your defense. The Bible, particularly the New Testament, is pretty clear on the idea that God’s law is contrary to man’s law. And the duty of the Christian is not to sit in judgement of others but to assist them in a righteous path.
Do you want to reduce the number of abortions? Then make the world a more hopeful place, a place filled with forgiveness rather than judgement. A world of compassion rather than cruelty. A world filled with love rather than hate. You can only provide a small amount of the love the world needs, but that can be enough to make the difference for one person.
You want more suggestions? Read the Gospels. It doesn’t mention anything about abortion, but it’s pretty clear on how to live according to Christ’s teachings.