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Life Arts    H2'ed 7/7/11

Abortion: Sacred Sanity and a Long Journey

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Fundamentalists
have begun speaking of Jesus as angrily destructive and his rejection
of violence and hatred as "wimpy". These people have helped elect a
President -- or puppet?

Yet, the core of the Abrahamist faith rejects both the roles of puppet and puppet master.

In
the Abrahamist evolution of belief, the ethically informed conscience
is a spiritual attribute, not an insult to God. Islam, possibly the most
conservative of the three Abrahamist derivatives in so many ways
unusual to Western eyes and experience -- modest dress and behavior for
both sexes, drug/alcohol/gambling sobriety and the strictest obligations
upon both men and women of marital loyalty both physically and
emotionally -- states through the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon
him) in verse 256 of Surah Al-Baqara:

        
"Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from
error:  whoever rejects Tagut and believes in Allah hath grasped the
most  trustworthy hand-hold, That never breaks. And Allah heareth and
knoweth all things."

So Allah, God, trusts us with the ability to seek the truth and find it, to determine right action.

This
merciful trust in the dissenting and compassionate conscience is
clearly manifest in the biography of Jesus, who warred with religious
authorities over narrow interpretations of religious law while hungry
people needed feeding. The conscience of the prophet Christians claim to
worship stood physically in the way of those who would punish a woman's
sexual behavior.

And
it is also manifest in the struggle of contemporary Judaism to find a
merciful theological and religious approach to the ending of injurious
(in whatever sense) pregnancies, either by miscarriage or abortion.
Author Daniel B. Sinclair states in the journal Criminal Justice Ethics,
"The non-personhood of the fetus in the criminal law provides a firm
basis for therapeutic abortion. According to the Mishnah (rabbinic
commentaries on the Torah composed during the fifth century B.C.E.), the
mother's life takes precedence over that of her fetus until birth."
Rabbi Shira Stern's opposition to abortion restriction is partly based
on her own and her husband's painful decision to abort an anencephalic
fetus. Rabbi Lynne F. Landsberg, executive director of the Union of
American Hebrew Congregation's Mid-Atlantic Council, has stated, "The
issue of abortion is profoundly religious and profoundly religious
people are overwhelmingly pro-choice."

So
we can conclude that the question of individual conscience and its
supreme testing grounds -- war, human relations between persons and
societies -- has for many centuries been a matter of dialogues of
disagreement, not absolute and incontrovertible revelation.

Those
seeking a workable compromise among differing beliefs, not dominance
through religious intrusion into the body politic, might consider these
theological reflections:

We
can believe with all our hearts in our version of The Creator, but no
one really knows His or Her true face. All three Abrahamist derivations
demand humility, from the Book of Job, where God confronts his accuser
with his ignorance, inspiring out Job's humility. Jesus' life, from
birth until (and perhaps beyond) death exemplifies an impossible
humility under frequently lonely and ultimately terrifying
circumstances. According to modern Islamic scholar Asghar Ali, "The true
servant of Allah has a sense of  utter humility and believes that only
Allah is the Greatest - 'Allahu Akbar.'This is very basic formula of
Islamic worship. Anyone who is  arrogant and has a feeling of powerful
cannot be true worshipper of Allah. A true worshipper of Allah is one
who has no trace of arrogance, of 'ananiyyah' or egotism. This has
another important implication. It negates the very concept of one being
ruler over the other and thus creates democratic ethos and human
dignity."

No
one really knows when personhood begins. When does an embryo become a
fetus, a fetus become a baby? When and how do uncountable environmental
factors, from a punch in the stomach to classical music, influence what
an almost-person might become when they emerge fully formed? How much of
what we think we know is theoretical, and how much of it will be seen
eventually as primitive knowledge, even as simply wrong?

Can
we really find in sacred texts incontrovertible answers about any
aspects of sexuality that don't involve criminal violence? Dare we base
civil law in a nation of differences on one text interpreted by fallible
angry men who were stupid and cruel enough to blame the deaths of
thousands of victims of terrorism on supporters of the right to
terminate a pregnancy?

The
United States, with its crucifying differences and a Constitution that
allows for those differences, is faced with a partially successful bid
for political dominance by people who believe themselves religious. This
brand of fascism unites corporate profits with its war aims while
uniting religious absolutism with a political war at home on those who
see deity and the function of deity in the most private and difficult of
situations with different eyes, different minds.

What
will draw us back from this precipice, where all three branches of
government are now in the hands of a major political party which has
allowed itself to be taken over and spoken for by religious absolutists?

While
we still have a working Constitution with guarantees of freedom of
speech, freedom of worship, we can take a common theological journey
that would first ask all concerned to look into our own hates, and
silences in the face of hate, and especially personal failings when our
partners' safety, both physically and psychologically, demanded
responsibility and a consideration of consequences for them as well as
ourselves.

Let us begin by reflecting how we got here.

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Kari Ann Owen Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I am a produced playwright,published essayist and doctoral level scholar in religion and literature, living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am also the widow of Silas S. Warner, creator of the original "Castle Wolfenstein".
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