American Culture

Abortion and the separation of church and state

20,000,000+ reasons why separation of church and state remains a good idea

Sometimes I mull and navelgaze and don’t have the decency to refrain from posting. This may be one of those times. Indulge me if you will, or not, but if these musings strike you in some way, one way or another, I hope you’ll share where those musings lead you.

Before our most recent tragedy, Planned Parenthood and efforts to defund it were all the rage in GOP quarters, replete with Fiorina trying desperately to overtake Hillary as America’s most notable serial liar. So while we struggle through this unfortunate hiatus until the next government shutdown showdown, I got to mulling and gazing.

How many people in America actually oppose abortion? Well, and with the usual caveat regarding polls according to Gallup on May 29, 2015, it depends on how you parse it. Give or take 4 points, 37% oppose abortion in all cases, meaning anywhere from a mere third up to the losing side of a 51/49 split, and that’s if we can actually generalize to the total population from the sample of 1,024 18+ year old adults in the 50 states plus DC. One thing I gather is that if these numbers are indeed reflective of general attitudes, and more particularly, voter attitudes, it’s a close enough match that it’s impossible at this stage for either side of the issue to declare that they have a popular mandate.

This leaves me with my usually stymied position. There are those who feel, as a matter of faith, that it is absolutely a settled issue, evidence and reasoning be damned. Then there’s everyone else for whom the issue remains some combination of reason and faith (or no faith). Shall we say, a philosophical matter? As I understand it, there’s no such thing as a settled philosophical question. To settle on a certainty of this nature, as opposed to something like the value of pi, is the prerogative of faith alone. As far as I can tell, nobody on the philosophical side of the coin is trying to force abortions on anyone, and as has been noted before by Doc Slammy, nobody is pro-abortion, per se. The philosophically pro-choice advocates would do just about anything to mitigate the number of abortions performed while protecting the woman’s right of conscience to make that decision for herself.

That leaves the pro-life advocates under the lens for the moment. Unfortunately, the Gallup poll didn’t bother to collect faith demographics even though the pollsters did think to include partisan demographics, rather a slipshod oversight. So, for all we know, some percentage scalable to the overall 18+ population might have been Muslim, or Jewish, or Hindu, or Buddhist, or atheist, or unaffiliated, or other, and we’ll never know. But it does align rather well with estimates that evangelical Christians represent approximately 25.4% of Christians in the US (and only 13% globally), with Christianity being the majority religion here. Yeah, it’s squishy not-math, but that’s all that will fit in my navel while I mull.

So let’s take a moment to look at the raw numbers here.

US population: 318.9 million (2014)

US population under 18: 23.1%

Ergo, US population 18+: 76.9% or ~245.2 million

And by the by:

US Christian population (2014, loosely defined): 70.6% of adults or 173.1 million

US Evangelical Christian population: ~43.9 million or ~17.9% of the adult US population, or less than 1 in 5.

US Catholic population: 20.8% or ~51 million

Going back to Gallup, 18+ were polled, so if we generalize their results to the total 18+ population, we get 37% opposed to abortion in all cases, or ~90.7 million. Take the ~43 million evangelicals, add the ~51 million Catholics, and we’re right there in the neighborhood, give or take, but that’s still not the whole picture, as we’ll see.

Opposed in all cases strikes me as a rather fundamentalist position to take as “all cases” is pretty much absolutist in nature and supportable only by faith, as best I can reckon.

And when we see the most ardent pro-life advocates, they certainly put on a good show of piety.

And they certainly appear to make the most noise about having the only moral mandate and the sole legitimate religious mandate, as though they speak for all Christians. Why? Because, insofar as I conveniently keep sweeping allied forces together into a neat pile, half of them are the Bible-believing Christians. But which Bible, and why?

Well, I found this on the Internet, so it must be true. It certainly accords with a great many other Bible-believing sources I’ve tripped across over the years. The go-to version of the Bible, the truly inspired Bible (compared to all those other botched Bibles, dare I say, Satanically corrupted bibles with a lower-case b) is the King James Version. Why? Well, our Internet scholar (like me!) linked above explains it, regardless of the facts.

I also found another thing on the Internet recently, but since it includes a nasty ad hominem, and since it only addresses the New Testament, I’ll just recap with bullet points:

  • KJV New Testament completed in 1611 by 8 members of the Church of England (Erroneous. The task of translation was undertaken by 47 scholars, although 54 were originally approved.[7])
  • From no original texts
  • Earliest manuscripts were written down hundreds of years after the last apostle died (bears fact-checking, but I find this point dubious at best as will be seen later).
  • Over 8,000 of these old manuscripts with no two alike (hand copied, after all, and that’s the least of the issues)
  • All of those were ignored by the translators (?)
  • Instead they edited previous translations to meet with the approval of King and Parliament
  • Thus:
  • Some (but not all, by a long shot) 21st Century Christians believe the inerrant and inspired word of God to be a 17th Century edited translation of 16th Century translations of 8,000 contradictory copies of 4th Century scrolls that purport to be copies of letters lost in the 1st Century CE.

If you’re not one of those 25% (evangelical Christians), or fewer than 1 in 5 American adults, that might seem a bit odd, and if you’re Catholic, that’s just downright heretical. Let’s not forget the King and Parliament issue mentioned above centered around the fact that the Church of England was started specifically as a heretical end run around the sanctity of marriage.

Since the Catholic church itself seems to be undergoing some kind of transformation and, over long stretches, trends toward a more figurative understanding of Scripture, except perhaps on this particular issue, I want to focus on the go-to edition of the Bible used by most, if not all, evangelical Christians as the source of their absolutist view on abortion, but first, let’s consider as an aside that prior to 1979, abortion was a Catholic issue, only then appropriated by evangelicals for political advantage against one of their own, President Carter:

But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.

Strange bedfellows, indeed.

In 1975, there were 54.5 million self-identified Catholics in the US, out of a US population of 216 million. As I can’t find the data, I’ll do an admittedly sloppy estimate based on the current 76.9% 18+ population and assume the adult population of the day was ~166 million, thus, provided the Catholics polled in ’75 were adult, they were approximately 33% of the adult US population or 1 in 3.

Then: ~20% of those polled by Gallup in ’75 opposed abortion in all cases. There’s that 1 in 5 again.

Today: that 1 in 5 has joined with the evangelical almost 1 in 5 to form a not quite 4 in 10 (or 2 in 5) population adamantly opposed to abortion, and principally because a group dominated by white, working poor, under-educated evangelical Protestants, unhappy with a peaceful Southern Baptist, joined forces with the Catholics in an early iteration of the much-demonized “community organizing” ultimately because they didn’t think their white kids should have to learn what they never knew while sitting next to black ones.

That’ll never do as the kind of explanation that suffers daylight well, and might not even work from the pulpit in most parts of the country, so there had to be some serious soul- and KJV-searching for their new-found absolutist anti-abortion pro-war, pro-death penalty, pro-life policymaking apparatus.

That meme I rendered in bullet points earlier gave me an itch in that regard that demanded at least a little scratching. Where does that absolutism come from? Again, the belief in the inerrancy of a version of the Bible specifically rendered by members of the Church of England so as to gain the approval of King and Parliament.

Let’s reframe: eight members of a church that less than one hundred socially and spiritually turbulent years prior had Henry VIII appointed its head by an act of Parliament so he could get an annulment denied him by the same papacy that had recently declared him Defender of the Faith, cobbled together an English translation to meet with the approval of their current King and Parliament, then reigning over an England that had “come to esteem their church.”

Just imagine if an American politician or political group had the temerity to re-write Scripture to better fit their personal views. No, no, not Jefferson. At least he was a Founding Father. Maybe the Conservative Bible Project, perhaps, because the “best of the public is better than a group of experts” at translating ancient languages into modern, “real Christian” English? How’s your Hebrew, ancient or otherwise? And Aramaic? And Koine Greek? Keeping with my “some, but not all” approach (tip o’ the hat to Robert Anton Wilson, RIP), not even all Christians think this is a good idea:

The Conservative Bible Project is the work mainly of unregenerate men, using unreliable source texts, employing an ungodly translation philosophy. The result is an error-filled rendition of the Scriptures that can change literally every day.

Yet this isn’t so far different from the creation of the inerrant King James Version.

Now, since I’m just a dude on the Internet who has already had recourse to another “just dude” on the Internet to justify the conclusion that the KJV is the superior choice for modern Bible-believing Christians, it only seems right that I continue to refer to other “just dudes/dudettes” on the Internet courtesy of Wikipedia to peek into the KJV sausage factory. While some of the pro-life canon derives from the New Testament, the key scriptures tend to be from the Old Testament, so I’ll keep my emphasis there and let the discerning reader pick up the New Testament threads as they will. [Ed. note: bolding below is emphasis added by yours truly.]

For their Old Testament, the translators used a text originating in the editions of the Hebrew Rabbinic Bible by Daniel Bomberg (1524/5),[122] but adjusted this to conform to the Greek LXX or Latin Vulgate in passages to which Christian tradition had attached a Christological interpretation.[123]

Source: Wikipedia article – King James Version

That’s not exactly how one does translation, that’s more like something one might find in The Conservative Bible, but okay, so what is this source, then, this Hebrew Rabbinic Bible by Bomberg?

First published in 1524–25 by Daniel Bomberg in Venice, the Mikraot Gedolot was edited by the masoretic scholar Yaakov ben Hayyim. All of its elements – text, masorah, Targum, and commentaries were based upon the manuscripts that Ben Hayyim had at hand (although he did not always have access to the best ones according to some, Ginsburg and some others argued that it was a good representation of the Ben Asher text).

The Mikraot Gedolot of Ben Hayyim, though hailed as an extraordinary achievement, was riddled with thousands of technical errors. Objections were also raised by the Jewish readership, based on the fact that the very first printing of the Mikra’ot Gedolot was edited by Felix Pratensis, a Jew converted to Christianity. Furthermore, Bomberg, a Christian, had requested an imprimatur from the Pope. Such facts were not compatible with the supposed Jewish nature of the work; Bomberg had to produce a fresh edition under the direction of acceptable Jewish editors. Nevertheless, this first edition served as the textual model for nearly all later editions until modern times. With regard to the Biblical text, many of Ben Hayyim’s errors were later corrected by Menahem Lonzano and Shlomo Yedidiah Norzi.

The Mikraot Gedolot of Ben Hayyim served as the textus receptus for the King James Version of the Bible in 1611.

Source: Wikipedia article – Mikraot Gedolot (some citations evidently needed)

Let’s see. The translation produced for the approval of a heretical church, a church that itself resulted from schism over the sanctity of marriage, was translated from a biased translation for which the editor sought the approval of the very church from which the Church of England split in order to create a version that the Church of England, King, and Parliament would approve. This all makes sense now. Further, this work was so biased and so-Christianized as Jewish scripture that no self-respecting Jew of the day would use it, thus necessitating the same publisher to create a far more Jewish-friendly version, because, after all, the Old Testament was and remains their domain and who better to know it, critique it, and reject bastardizations of it than Jews themselves?

But what was that about a masoretic scholar? That was Jacob ben Hayyim ibn Adonijah, who later in life converted to Christianity:

Jacob’s name is known chiefly in connection with his edition of the Rabbinical Bible (1524–25), which he supplied with Masoretic notes and an introduction which discusses the Masorah, qere and ketib, and the discrepancies between the Talmudists and the Masorah. The value of his activity as a Masorite was recognized even by Elijah Levita, who, however, often finds fault with his selections.[2]

Hold on a moment. Wait. There’s a group of Jewish scholars who have discrepancies with another group of Jewish scholars on two key literary components of Judaism, and an editor from one, noted for his errors, was the editor of the biased translation used as the basis for the translation to meet with the approval of a heretical, schismatic Christian church established because sanctity of marriage? You mean even Jewish scholars didn’t always agree on their own texts?

The Masoretic[1] Text (MT, 𝕸, or \mathfrak{M}) is the authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. However, contemporary scholars seeking to understand the history of the Hebrew Bible’s text use a range of other sources.[2] These include Greek and Syriac translations, quotations from rabbinic manuscripts, the Samaritan Pentateuch and others such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Many of these are older than the Masoretic text and often contradict it.[3]

The Tanakh (/tɑːˈnɑːx/;[1] Hebrew: תַּנַ”ךְ‎, pronounced [taˈnaχ] or [təˈnax]; also Tenakh, Tenak, Tanach) or Mikra is the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The traditional Hebrew text is known as the Masoretic Text.

The Talmud (/ˈtɑːlmʊd, -məd, ˈtæl-/; Hebrew: תַּלְמוּד talmūd “instruction, learning”, from a root lmd “teach, study”) is a central text of Rabbinic Judaism.

The Talmud has two components: the Mishnah (Hebrew: משנה, c. 200 CE), a written compendium of Rabbinic Judaism’s Oral Torah (Talmud translates literally as “instruction” in Hebrew); and the Gemara (c. 500 CE), an elucidation of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Hebrew Bible. The term “Talmud” may refer to either the Gemara alone, or the Mishnah and Gemara together.

The entire Talmud consists of 63 tractates, and in standard print is over 6,200 pages long. It is written in Tannaitic Hebrew and Aramaic, and contains the teachings and opinions of thousands of pre-Christian Era rabbis on a variety of subjects, including Halakha (law), Jewish ethics, philosophy, customs, history, lore and many other topics. The Talmud is the basis for all codes of Jewish law, and is widely quoted in rabbinic literature.

By now, only one thing remains clear to me. If I want to understand what the Old Testament says, I’m deferring to Jewish scholars, especially when the version of the Old Testament accepted as inerrant by KJV Bible-believing Christians is so evidently corrupted by biased “translation” (loosely so-called) under the editorship of a Jewish scholar so eminently beholden to the heretical Christian church of his day that he eventually converted. For that matter, given the cultural context of the translation, am I entirely amiss in detecting a whiff of anti-Semitism therein? After all, the primary source material for the KJV “translation” was so out of whack with Jewish scholars that a better edition had to be published. That would be a strange influence indeed, if the inerrant KJV had its roots in the existing bigotry against God’s chosen people.

Another major point to consider in the creation of the KJV “translation” is the historical context and how this translation came about. In 1604, three years before Jamestown was even settled, King James convened the Hampton Court Conference:

The newly crowned King James convened the Hampton Court Conference in 1604. That gathering proposed a new English version in response to the perceived problems of earlier translations as detected by the Puritan faction of the Church of England.


Instructions were given to the translators that were intended to limit the Puritan influence on this new translation. The Bishop of London added a qualification that the translators would add no marginal notes (which had been an issue in the Geneva Bible).[6] King James cited two passages in the Geneva translation where he found the marginal notes offensive:[42] Exodus 1:19, where the Geneva Bible had commended the example of civil disobedience showed by the Hebrew midwives, and also II Chronicles 15:16, where the Geneva Bible had criticized King Asa for not having executed his idolatrous grandmother, Queen Maachah.[42] Further, the King gave the translators instructions designed to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology of the Church of England.[6] Certain Greek and Hebrew words were to be translated in a manner that reflected the traditional usage of the church.[6]

Again, that is not how translation is done. For that matter, just how inerrant can the translation be when it was created with the specific instruction from King James to conform to the heretical church headed by the earlier King Henry VIII specifically to allow for what was scripturally forbidden?

Further, while I previously made much of the publisher Bomberg and the editor Hayyim, creators of the Mikraot Gedolot, which served as the textus receptus, or

“the succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament which constituted the translation base for the original German Luther Bible, the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Version, and most other Reformation-era New Testament translations throughout Western and Central Europe,”

it must be noted that even that dubious work wasn’t the principle source of translation:

The text of the Bishops’ Bible would serve as the primary guide for the translators, and the familiar proper names of the biblical characters would all be retained. If the Bishops’ Bible was deemed problematic in any situation, the translators were permitted to consult other translations from a pre-approved list: the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew’s Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible. In addition, later scholars have detected an influence on the Authorized Version from the translations of Taverner’s Bible and the New Testament of the Douay–Rheims Bible.[43] It is for this reason that the flyleaf of most printings of the Authorized Version observes that the text had been “translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by His Majesty’s special commandment.”

Translations of translations within translations wrapped in a crisp layer of regal imperative to adhere to the tenets of a heretical and schismatic church. Inerrant, you see.

So now I think we have arrived at a place where I can put the current political kabuki into some historical perspective.

England was ruled by a king who couldn’t get an annulment from the pope so parliament made King Henry VIII head of the state church. What’s all this, then? Heresy and apostasy? Decade after decade of bloody political and religious turmoil ensue. Less than a hundred years later, a few years before Jamestown is even founded, King James convenes a conference of translators charged with creating a new Bible that placates Puritans, but not too much, and that pays due diligence to the heretical church of state. Not thrilled with the lack of reform in this church, Puritans, a general pain in James’ behind, make their way to the New World in 1618, only to be co-opted centuries later by poor and lower middle-class under-educated white Protestants who would wither and wilt under the stringent social order of those same Puritans, the ones we can thank for being a “Christian” nation that could barely tolerate Catholics at first, except in Maryland. This historical re-write was all in the interest of preventing black kids from learning with their pure, lily-white white kids and drinking water from the same spigot because jigaboo cooties. Since they couldn’t make sufficient political hay out of not loving their neighbors, judging, and various and sundry anti-Jesus sentiments, they hitched their political horse back to the Catholic church under the banner of being anti-abortion, thus giving us a form of “community organizing” to make anything the future black, Kenyan, seekrit Mooslim socialist, communist dictator in chief did in Chicago before hitting his stride in politics to shame. To shore up their most ardent arguments, they make significant recourse to the above-described translation as the sole inerrant version suitable for the real Bible-believer, which, as we’ve seen, has all the tell-tale signs of itself being a political sham, and, failing to make a sufficiently strong case on the basis of that fudged Scripture now turn to all manner of false witness from footage likely taken as a criminal act and then taken out of context to candidate after candidate that would fail a come-to-Jesus meeting without some serious contrition and repentance for their lies, hatred, xenophobia, failure to love neighbors, failure to love enemies, and even blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Maybe I need to look for different spiritual guidance when it comes to the issue of abortion. So far I’m not sure I’m trusting my immortal soul to the cadre I’ve just described. And since I’ve already decided that when it comes to matters Old Testament I’d far rather trust Jewish scholars, I should probably see what I can find.

Oh, here we go.

Rabbi Raymond A. Zwerin & Rabbi Richard J. Shapiro have an article entitled, “Jewish Perspectives on Abortion” at the website for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Wait, what? Haven’t we been told by 1 in 5 adult Americans, 1 in 3 adult Americans, 2 in 5 adult Americans over and over again that religion is on their side?

The Legal Status of the Embryo/Fetus
According to Jewish law, a fetus is not considered a full human being and has no juridical personality of its own. While recognizing the potentiality of becoming human, Rashi, the great 12th century commentator on the Bible and Talmud, states clearly of the fetus “lav nefesh hu – it is not a person.” The Talmud contains the expression “ubar yerech imo – the fetus is as the thigh of its mother,” i.e., the fetus is deemed to be part and parcel of the pregnant women’s body.

The biblical foundation for this statement is Exodus 21:22ff:

When men fight and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the woman’s husband may exact from him, the payment to be based on reckoning. But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life…

The Jewish legal interpretation of this passage states specifically that only monetary compensation is necessary for one who causes the death of a fetus. The unborn fetus is not worthy of the “life for life” punishment demanded if the woman herself is killed. This clearly implies that the fetus is not accorded the same legal status as the woman herself, namely that of independent human being.

Further proof of the Jewish legal principle that the fetus is to be regarded as part of the pregnant woman is contained in two examples from the Talmud. The first involves the sale of a cow which, subsequent to sale, is found to be pregnant. The legal determination is that the fetus in the womb of the cow belongs to the buyer, and that the seller can make no claim for further compensation. The second example concerns the conversion to Judaism of a woman who is pregnant. Jewish law regards the conversion valid for her future child as well, requiring no separate conversion for it after birth.

While all of the above is not totally sufficient to determine the Jewish attitude toward abortion, it does set the stage. Jewish law is quite clear: while the fetus in the womb is to be protected as a potential human being, it has no personhood; it is not a bar kayamah (a viable, living being), thus, it is not accorded any of the right or privileges of a human being.

There’s more, and there’s nuances, so it’s definitely worth the time to read the whole article and give it consideration. But surely this must be some kind of weirdo Jewish fringe, right?

From the next level up at the website, under A Matter of Faith, Conscience and Justice:

Faith traditions such as the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Association, and Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Judaism support reproductive choice as the most responsible position a religious institution can take on this issue.

Nope, not unless one considers three well-regarded forms of Judaism a fringe, that is.

But wait, there’s more:

Together, these religions represent over 20 million Americans. Religious and religiously-affiliated organizations from these and other traditions, as well as independent religious organizations such as Catholics for Choice, are also doing incredible work to combat the notion that all religious people or institutions are always anti-abortion.

Hold on a cotton-pickin’ minute here. 20 million? I don’t have the clarification that they necessarily mean “adult” here, but that’s the likely and most honest scenario (compared to inflating the number with children). So that’s ~8% of the adult US population. And in a rational, loving way, they’re saying:

There are as many viewpoints and beliefs about issues having to do with our reproductive lives as there are denominations, clergy, and faith leaders. One thing you should know is that there is broad consensus that the moral agency of human beings – especially that of a woman when making decisions about her reproductive life – is God-given. One narrow, religious viewpoint is not representative of what most Americans believe.

We believe that decisions about our reproductive lives (such as whether or not to terminate a pregnancy) should be left to the person, in consultation with their loved ones, trusted medical professionals, and their faith.

So, going back to that Gallup poll, 78% of American adults believe that abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances, 42% believe it should be legal in most, if not all circumstances, 36% believe it should be legal if only in very limited circumstances. Coinciding with that, 8% of American adults, by virtue of faith, agree with at least the 36% and quite likely the 42% and maybe the 78%.

Yet, somehow, the loudest crowd with the shakiest theology and a horrifying penchant for all manner of overlapping and publicly self-cannibalizing sins from racial and ethnic bigotry to false witness to hypocrisy to blasphemy to the only slightly less reproachable inability or unwillingness to show a little humility and admit that maybe God is actually bigger, more loving, and more compassionate than their wildest nightmare/fantasies run amok can admit, has the audacity to claim the spiritual high ground.

And here’s the thing. I love ’em. I support their right to free speech. I support their freedom of religion. But if I’m looking for spiritual guidance, I think I’m going to err on the side of love and compassion, my own harsh rhetoric notwithstanding. I’m going to err on the side of the distinct likelihood that Jews know their only holy scripture and what to make of it better than anyone else. And as a good, patriotic American, I’m going to err in favor of the way our constitutional republic was designed, if only as a matter of wishful thinking. We have a representative government. And when there’s one or two people in a room of five, those one or two simply do not get to dictate what the other three do. That’s not how our government is supposed to work.

If your faith, as laid out above, quite possibly chock full of error, and your ministers of faith, quite likely leading you into the sins laid out above, tell you that abortion is wrong, I respect that. That’s between you and your Maker. Don’t get one. Don’t bother telling us about the sanctity of marriage and family when you won’t look at your own Scripture and see the evidence in your face that the concept of marriage has morphed many times and make heroes of philanderers, pedophiles, sex offenders, and public servants and political candidates that treat divorce like a hobby. Don’t try to convince us of how very pro-life and pious you are as Texas breaks records for executions, the US breaks records for mass incarceration, and you rattle sabers for war as though the dead children and civilians we create overseas are any less worthy of life as a fetus that only has Scriptural protection in your tortured interpretation of a poor translation of poor translations. As for the rest of us across faiths and no faith, I think we’re going to take our chances. And please, if you’re rooting for the liars, the haters, the cheats, and the blasphemers in your own midst, spare us the holier than thou spiel altogether. Jesus might have dined with you, but he’s not of you, and the rest of us have grave, grave doubts you are of him. Get right with Him before you decide you’ve been divinely annointed to rule over the rest of us in all your corrupted glory.

This is EXACTLY why we have separation of church and state, and rather than lament our insistence on it, you should be thanking God, your lucky stars, and whatever else you thank, because we all share this country together. It’s not your country. You don’t get to take it back. We’re all here. And if you manage to tear us apart, you will have taken it upon yourselves to undo the peace that our first settlers up through our Founding Fathers managed to cobble together out of a social fabric born of the weariness of religious bloodshed. The rest of America, the 3 in 5, will gladly continue to extend amicable toleration to you and to all faiths, but not at the expense of cowing to your lust for power. And please, don’t pull a Puritan today. There’s no more new worlds ready for you to settle, and besides, you’re just not made of the same stuff. Oh, and if you think it’s the Christian thing to do to “take back America” by force, all 2 of 5 of you, please tell us which guns Jesus recommends killing people with first.

8 replies »

    • Then please edify all of us with your tremendous sense of history, replete with citations. I think I made a clear case that you did nothing to counter that the only absolutist position on this issue is clearly faith-based. I further made the point that said position, at best, is representative of fewer than 2 in 5 adult American, hardly a mandate of any nature. I further made the point that insofar as that minority of adult Americans is concerned, while they audaciously attempt to claim the moral high ground for their own as though they have the only legitimate opinion on the matter, there’s another 8% of religious Americans who disagree with that absolutist view, thus making the lie plain and clear.

      So with effort after effort after effort to infringe American’s right to privacy (read: Roe v Wade) in a matter best left to the woman, her family, her medical professionals, and her clergy (if she has clergy), on what basis do you expect other Americans to believe that attempts to legislate a purely religious perspective are anything but Congress making laws respecting religion (see also: first amendment)?

      You might also wish to re-read the section in this post that briefly covers the period of English history in which the KJV was created with a religious/political ax to grind then go back and read some more detailed history on that period, plus a little before and a little after, just to round out your missing context. Bloody religious conflict over these sorts of theological questions are EXACTLY why we have separation of church and state, and the meaning is abundantly clear to anyone that dispenses with their arbitrary prejudices concerning faith…it is not the government’s job to legislate the spiritual dictates of the religious community, however small or large that community, in this case, less than 20% of the adult population.

      I eagerly await your much improved response. I’m amenable to correction, but what you’ve said thus far isn’t it.

    • Actually, that’s exactly what it means. You need to read more, and it’s unlikely that your preacher or the people you’re listening to on FOX are constitutional scholars.

  1. Where to begin? Isn’t there a saying in logic, “When a basic premise is wrong, the whole thing is a house of cards”? Probably not that exactly, but that mixed statement seems to flow with Frank’s writing. From where I sit, a deacon in a Southern Baptist church in small-town Kansas, the number of Christians using the KJV is very small. I was only a kid when Carter was up for re-election, but weren’t schools desegregated by that time? Mine all were in Kansas and Oklahoma. I have a hard time believing that was even an issue. But, besides those red-herrings, there are some good points worth dwelling on.

  2. Thank you for your comment, RetroHound. It is always a pleasure to receive what feels like genuine engagement, especially on such sensitive topics.

    I’ll confess. For being as wordy as I can be when attempting to make what I think is a complex argument, sometimes what seems clear to me as it goes from mind to fingers turns out to not be so clear at all on the receiving end. As I understand it, that’s usually a failure to communicate on the part of the writer. Mea culpa.

    Part of the problem, I think, is that I put the strongest part of my argument toward the end, trying to build up to it by pointing out what I perceived to be the special significance of the opposition position. The stronger part, I believe, is that the nature of our republic is such that majorities and pluralities are generally thought to be the ones to carry the day, at least when the votes are tallied. Please pardon me for generalizing here, as you possibly consider yourself part of the population I’m talking about broadly as “evangelical Christians,” but according to the best data I could locate from census data and Pew, 19% is a sizable population, but only coming close to a plurality in conjunction with the other dominant political ally in this respect, Catholic Americans, then still coming in at under 40% of the adult population. So I remain unclear as to how the other 60% should be beholden to the views of the 40%.

    It also sounds like you actually read the Politico piece that I linked. Thank you for that. That’s another breath of fresh air in the comments section, here or anywhere. As the article pointed out, the desegregation issue itself wasn’t necessarily contemporaneous with the Carter election. The specific issue dates back to a legal challenge in 1969. As a result of desegregation, many white families in Holmes County, Mississippi pulled their kids from the newly desegregated public schools and placed them in segregated private, non-profit schools started in the mid-60’s as a response to desegregation. The Nixon administration apparently sympathized with the sentiments of the plaintiffs and directed the IRS to deny non-profit status to segregated schools. Now, the schools may have been able to continue as for-profit entities, I’m not sure, but certainly at greater expense without that tax status.

    I find it rather telling that the esteemed Rev. Falwell famously misdirected the argument:

    “Falwell was furious. “In some states,” he famously complained, “It’s easier to open a massage parlor than a Christian school.””

    Clearly the intent of the IRS questionnaires about racial policy, directed at the types of schools that just happened to be segregated, Christian private/charitable schools, was about race and not about Christianity. But I suppose saying “It’s easier to open a massage parlor than a racially segregated school,” wouldn’t play quite so well for the desired political theater. What I didn’t see mentioned in the article was any organized resistance among charitable Christian private schools denouncing the ones that were segregated. If you know of any such history, I’d certainly welcome it.

    And it was the first such school to receive one of those IRS inquiries, Bob Jones University, that unabashedly stood its racist grounds:

    “One such school, Bob Jones University—a fundamentalist college in Greenville, South Carolina—was especially obdurate. The IRS had sent its first letter to Bob Jones University in November 1970 to ascertain whether or not it discriminated on the basis of race. The school responded defiantly: It did not admit African Americans.”

    Having recapped those pieces, I hope you can see why and how I brought desegregation into the argument. It’s all spelled out rather clearly.

    By the way, thank you for the time you dedicate to be of service to of our congregation. I’ve known deacons in a different SBC church back in the New Orleans area. Fine, upstanding folks who carried a tremendous weight for the church. I’m heartened to learn that your congregation largely eschews the KJV. My gladness extends exactly for the grounds I laid out above. Granted, I’m no theologian, so perhaps a consultation with someone with their DD (or similar) might clarify some of the points in which I may have erred, yet the general principles hold, I believe. As such, they remain central to my argument.

    While I have learned over the years to hold my fellow Americans of faith in higher esteem that I used to, largely as a result of my own personal crises of faith, and I respect that, as a matter of faith, some but not all evangelicals (that 19% again) consider themselves “Bible believing Christians” with an emphasis on the inerrancy of the Word of God, neither I, nor a great many other Americans, share that special faith. One of the beautiful things about faith is that faith is simply that which one knows and feels with deepest conviction with, without, or regardless of any rational evidence. It brings a great deal of peace, meaning, and certainty to those that have it in that degree. As Dan Brown’s character Robert Langdon said, “Faith is a gift that I have yet to receive.” So, while I have chosen to believe in deity, call it God or what have you, and my understanding of that deity is my own, it’s not exactly faith. This demands that I use my God-given reason to the best of my humble ability.

    And here we arrive full-circle at the strongest part of my case. While some of the 19% of adult Americans ardently believe in the inerrancy of the Holy Bible and some but not all claim to have the one, true walk of faith, it’s not even just that they are a minority in general, but that they don’t even necessarily represent all of Christianity, much less all of religiously-minded Americans as evidenced in the statements I presented by way of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

    If my tone sounds at times strident, I beg your indulgence. Imagine for a moment being part of the remaining 60% of the nation, or the 80% of the nation who thinks, feels, and believes differently and having the views of a very vocal minority thrust upon them with repeated attempts to turn those voices to laws. Our history is such that our government has been very accommodating of all faiths. And time and time again it seems to be this one particularly narrow spectrum of faith that insists that its views, knowable only by their particular faith, contrary to evidence and reason, absolutely must carry the day. It is wearisome. While this debate rages on, decade after decade, we are facing not just the clash of religion and state, but the health and welfare of women, families, and entire communities side by side with yet another threat to shut down our federal government, thus drawing into this faith-based initiative as collateral damage the men, women, and the families that depend on them, who work in government roles that would be affected by such a shutdown.

    Even if there’s backpay for those workers once the storm has blown by, how many banks holding their mortgages are going to extend lenience for missing payments? How many grocers will take their IOU’s? How many gas stations? How many 5&10’s when it’s time to purchase school supplies, or clothing stores when the kids need new shoes? This collaboration between these particular faithful and the politicians who pander to them seems to care not one whit for the health and welfare of all those who could be injured in a conflict not of their own making, and why?

    Because only some Americans, not a majority, not a plurality, insist as an article of faith on something that is entirely arguable from other positions of faith. Hence my citation of a statement by esteemed rabbis, learned scholars who arguably know the Old Testament, and thus the roots and foundation of the New, better than anyone. Hence my calling attention to the fact that other Christians regard the beginning of human personhood, on solid historical and biblical ground, and in accordance with modern medicine as “the golden moment,” that first breath.

    So while I do absolutely support your right, and the rights of your fellow faithful, to believe as you will, and speak as you will, and expect that your faith will remain unshaken by any inconvenient points I’ve raised, I’ve felt called to raise these points of contention in the interest of the continuance of our peaceful republic, maintained in large part by the separation of church and state, with an eye to the improved health and welfare of women who benefit from such Planned Parenthood-facilitated services such as early breast cancer detection, treatment for PCOS and endometriosis, detection and treatment of STI’s (that may well have been introduced by unfaithful spouses and partners through no fault of their own), and even prenatal care for those women who do choose to carry their unborn to term and rely, due to financial restrictions, on Planned Parenthood to facilitate that care as well. To the extent that Planned Parenthood also facilitates abortion, that remains, as both the law of the land and a matter of faith for no less than 8% of the adult population, a personal matter of privacy and soul-searching for the woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy, even if it’s the “wrong” clergy or no clergy at all.

    Personally, my best wish is that ardent believers could be waived the obligation to pay federal taxes at all insofar as those taxes may or ,may not ever be applied to spending issues that run counter to their faith. I wish it so that as a matter of equitable treatment, those of us who are opposed to federal subsidies for war profiteers and spending on the implements of mass murder under the rubric of “war” could stop being required to submit our own blood money. But that’s just not how the republic works, either.

    I look forward to your further thoughts on this matter. Best wishes.

  3. Frank, thank you for that lengthy, detailed, respectful response. I won’t argue your numbers, they seem about right.

    Here’s one problem I have with your argument though: “I further made the point that insofar as that minority of adult Americans is concerned, while they audaciously attempt to claim the moral high ground for their own as though they have the only legitimate opinion on the matter, there’s another 8% of religious Americans who disagree with that absolutist view, thus making the lie plain and clear.” How many laws would get passed and wrongs righted if we had to wait for a majority mandate? Isn’t a “moral higher ground” where most social issue laws reside? Abolition of slavery, civil rights, prohibition, Obamacare, etc.

    The Politico article was interesting, but I’m not sure I buy the whole argument. Perhaps I see it too much from below, and not from the top-level strategy perspective. I do find all of those spotlight-grabbing Evangelical leaders an embarrassment, as I do things like Bob Jones University.

    It’s interesting also, that segregation was avoided by the leaders because they knew it would not galvanize the masses. That’s because the masses of Evangelicals see all people as children of God and oppose segregation. Yet, we keep getting tarred with that brush. Pisses me off.

    Surely there are atheists who are pro-life. The way I came around to it was from my college biology textbook. In the first chapter they defined life; growing, cells dividing, consuming energy… Wow, all that stuff happens at conception!

    “And when there’s one or two people in a room of five, those one or two simply do not get to dictate what the other three do. That’s not how our government is supposed to work.” If only this were true. But it’s not.

    As to parochial schools, I don’t really know anything about them. I attended public schools and have not really read about or studied them.

    It’s now well after midnight, and I’d like to conclude with some points I agree with. I (and about everyone in my church) would agree that not all Christians believe in Biblical inerrancy. Your quote from the Jewish scholars was interesting and is something I’m going to follow up on.

  4. For me, the issue begins and ends at bodily autonomy. If you’re against a women’s right to choose what she does with her own body then you should also favor mandatory blood and organ donation.

  5. To me it’s all about the developmental continuum from fertilized egg to fully autonomous self aware sentient beings. The religious generally define this state as possessing a “soul” and usually restrict it’s application to our own species. Like most continuums it’s impossible to place a marker at the precise point where an organism is sentient or imbued with a soul and religions have a wide range of accepted markers such as the “quickening” or at first breath.

    Aside from religions and “sins” against hypothetical gods, abortion seems to be a moral or ethical issue. Since morality requires the engagement of two sentient beings and fetuses are not yet sentient, abortion should remain a choice for the woman. The fetus develops into the pre-born baby and remains in dreamless sleep states (what would a fetus dream about?) until it is born and awakened and assaulted with exposure to the world. Throughout this time all animals lack self-awareness and sentience. Some animals gradually become self-aware after birth sufficient and continued brain development. Those animals who have achieved sentience should generally be treated with empathy and respect.