An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
"The Gospel is not about Mary. But, Mary is definitely about the Gospel." - Fr. Thomas Hopko
Today is the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. But really, it isn't something the Church would have normally made any sort of big public deal about - particularly in the age when or place where Christianity was decidedly a minority faith. And the reason being is that Mary (and indeed the rest of the Saints) really are not part of the public message of the Gospel. I was reminded of this as I listened to Fr. Thomas Hopko's podcast about this feast. Instead, the Theotokos is part of the inner Tradition of the Church.
Fr. Thomas notes that Vladimir Lossky, following St. Basil the Great and St. Ignatios of Antioch wrote that the Theotokos is not part of the Kerygma (public preaching) of the Church; she is not part of the Public Preaching of the Gospel which is Christ, Him crucified, and Risen. The Theotokos, among other teachings and traditions, belong to the inner mystery - the "silence of faith" and it is here where our understanding of the Theotokos is to be nurtured and properly understod. Only those who are part of the inner life of the Church can really understand her role and importance.
Now, if you are like me, your mind will wander immediately to gnosticism and the secret wisdom which they deemed necessary for salvation. And therein lies the difference. Understanding of these inner mysteries of the Church is not necessary for salvation, they are not in and of themselves the Truth. Truth is a person, and that is Christ - you must know Him. Far more than an intellectual asset, knowing Him and living the inner life of the Church becomes the foundation upon which the inner mysteries can be built. St. Paul hints to this idea when writing to the Church in Corinth noting the difference between milk and meat (1 Cor. 3:2)
None of this should surprise anyone. Consider that Catechumens were not allowed to be present for the latter half of the Divine Liturgy and were dismissed - and as many of you know this remnant of the service remains, though we do not shuffle anyone out anymore. Additionally Catechumen's would only hear the Gospel of John for the first time at the Paschal Liturgy as it was deemed to not be the Kerygma, but the Theology of the Church. One could say: it is meat.
It's not about keeping secrets like the Mason's (God forbid), it's really about common sense. You don't take Caluculus until you have taken Pre-Algebra, otherwise you'd think Calculus to be the work of a mad man. (maybe it is!) Last night at Great Vespers we read three Old Testament Readings which spoke of The Tabernacle, the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Closed Gate of the Sanctuary. All of them prophesying and referring to Mary who in turn, as ever, points to Christ. But comprehending that and not seeing it as absurdity cannot come easily without some grounding in Truth first.
Listen to Fr. Thomas' podcast - it is worth your time. A blessed feast everyone!
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:16 AM [+] +++
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe
I recently saw a CS Lewis quote with regard to human sexuality that had me digging out his book "Mere Christianity" to try and find the exact passage. While doing so, I fell upon reading it from the beginning which I've not done in probably over a decade or more. Lewis divides his relatively small work into "books" and the first one shares the title I've given to this post. I've made it no secret that a huge portion of my conversion to Theism arose from an internal conflict with the issue of "right and wrong" and this entire section in the book demonstrates that Lewis clearly sees the issue as paramount as well. I'd like to elaborate later (perhaps in a different post) the details of this "internal conflict", for while it certainly was in part a conflict of logic and reason, it was far more a conflict involving something deeper that is not easily explained in such terms. But, first, back to Lewis.
He begins by referring to an imaginary argument between two people in which they both clearly agree upon and accept a certain set of external premises about right and wrong and it is really only this mutual assent to some "standard of behavior" that allows them to argue (intellectually) at all. That failing, or one party rejecting the "standard of behavior" (usually rarely done - depending on the issue), then the argument becomes either an exercise in absurdity or an issue of physical domination. In Lewis' example two men are arguing over a seat and who gets to sit in it, which every child knows mysteriously hinges on the notion of whip was sitting there first, but if the intellect fails to resolve the issue then brute force will decide who gets the chair...or the food...or the sex - a highly Darwinian solution that certainly does happen, though we like it little.
But the main issue is with regards to the "standards of behavior" and where it originates. No one can possibly deny that morals, values, and ethics exist, but what is less considered by most people is whether these "standards of behavior" have a subjective or objective reality. We live our lives with a sort of default belief that they are in fact objective: e.g. killing someone is wrong PERIOD...no need to explain why...and any person or society that says otherwise is WRONG. And though we largely live this way (it's what allows us to feel good about ideas of justice or more importantly argue on the internet), we rarely stop to think about the reality of these values. Do they have an ontological existence in and of themselves or are they solely a social or personal construct? There are huge implications to our answer here.
Most secularists would argue for a subjective origin of morality and that it is actually a sort of
genetic deception played upon us, that allows us to debate moral issues as if they actually had an objective existence in and of themselves. In fact, they would say, by way of a million years or more of natural selection people who shared certain moral inclinations were favored such that
in some way it allowed for their genes to be propagated at the expense of others. In other
words, we the inheritors of this evolutionarily successful genetic line are molecularly programmed to "feel" that murder is wrong -
at least most of us. Let me offer a few thoughts (and Lewis' as well) to this idea.
First, the belief that this "scientifically" explains the origin of morality is simply wrong. I do not mean to imply that it is necessarily untrue, however. What I am suggesting here is that there is hardly a shred of hard data to suggest we know that morality is genetically hard-wired in us. Rather we assume it because we have no other means of understanding it as secularists. We cannot begin to offer up a molecular level theory to explain why we largely tend to think - on a very deep level - murder is wrong. No gene to point to, no protein to act on our neurological cell receptors. This explanation is really only an idea solely based on two massive assumptions about the universe: 1) That it is wholly material and thus only material explanations as discerned by human senses can account for everything that exists and 2) Evolution and genetics can explain every aspect of our being. These two assumptions made (quite incorrectly by the way), then one MUST find a rational argument to explain why we feel the way we do about morality. And they have done so - in both a logical and reasonable way. However, there is no hard science to be found in this argument (by which I mean that no means of properly executing the scientific method to verify a hypothesis can be conducted here). I think that point is critical because too often this particular explanation for the origin of morality is billed as being the rational and intelligent man's explanation as opposed to the superstitious nonsense of the religious man. So, my point is simply that one must exercise no small degree of FAITH to affirm this explanation, and like my own faith, it is not made blindly.
A second point with regards to this explanation for the origin of morality: it opens up some very uncomfortable cans of worms. Lewis explains when referring to the world's recent (to him at the time of writing) experience with World War II:
What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a real thing which the Nazis at the bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practiced? If they had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could no more have blamed for that then for the colour of their hair.
I think it very interesting that Lewis references hair color, because in this time we really had no notion at all that a theory espousing a genetic origin for morality would come into being - at least not to the extent that it has today, and yet he rather addresses it here, albeit somewhat accidentally. What could we say were we to find a racial group who have a less well developed or perhaps even have lost the "thou shall not murder" genetic inclination? As a side, no such race has been found that I know of and to suggest any racial group which might have a slightly different genetic lineage might be more violent than others because of their genetics could get one charged with hate speech crimes! And yet, does not a genetic understanding for the origin of morality lead us precisely to this point of...well...I would say intellectual/moral distress for most of us who are horrified by ideas of eugenics or genetic superiority?
But for the sake of argument, lets us assume that the "thou shall not murder" genetic inclination is universal, but that it perhaps ebbs and flows based upon many complex factors we find in our biological makeup. I think this is an exceptionally reasonable explanation and is certainly utilized by proponents of the theory. Thus, these other factors (none of which - even though unnamed - are any less "scientific"...or so we are told) would allow a person to temporarily ignore the moral genetic inclinations in order to commit atrocities. And yet, Lewis' point stands: how can we call the act of Nazis murdering Jews wrong, if their genetic ebb and flow simply allowed them to do it...surely we cannot say they acted against their own genetic moral code and therefore are WRONG, can we? Indeed not reasonably, for how could one act against their own biological determinism? Where on earth could such a thing originate? It almost sounds like one may next appeal to a "soul", this is of course nonsense, but to call the Nazis "wrong" we must show that somehow they have acted out of alignment with humanity's genetic moral code - an impossibility for the materialist to do. We are forced to limit our argument to: "You did what your genetic make up allowed you to do and I just don't like what you did because mine forbids it." There is no weight to be wielded to notions of right and wrong when we are all biological machines.
But hair color still is not the closest that Lewis gets to addressing a genetic notion, for further on he comments at length in regards to what a questioner asks of him about "herd instinct" (which we would of course now understand 60 years later as an evolutionary genetic development). And so Lewis goes in depth to show the difference between herd instinct and what he calls "Moral Law" and he principally does so by examining our own curious internal debate over strangely contradictory instincts:
If two instincts are in conflict, and there is nothing in a creature's mind except those two instincts, obviously the stronger of the two must win. But at those moments when we are most conscious of the Moral Law, it usually seems to be telling us to side with the weaker of the two impulses. You probably WANT to be safe much more than you want to help the man who is drowning: but the Moral Law tells you to help him all the same. And surely it often tells us to try to make the right impulse stronger than it naturally is? I mean, we often feel it our duty to stimulate the herd instinct, by waking up our imaginations and arousing our pity and so on, so as if to get up enough steam for doing the right thing. But clearly we are not acting from instinct when we set about making an instinct stronger than it is. The thing that says to you "your herd instinct is asleep. Wake it up," cannot itself BE the herd instinct. The thing which tells you which note on the piano needs playing louder cannot itself be that note.
In a sense, he is effectively arguing against what I have termed biological determinism. He is suggesting that we, as humans - perhaps unique in a universe of matter that has very VERY strangely becoming self-aware (please consider this for some length of time) - are not slaves to our instincts (or at least we'd like to think we are not) and then questions how this could be possible (if it is possible). One could argue that the immense complexity of the human genome might possibly have evolved to the point of giving us a wide range of moral choices, but it still leaves the question unanswered as to how exactly a DECISION is ultimately arrived at. If we have some number of moral freedom genes and additionally something or some process that chooses between which genetic inclination, then we must also assume that that "choosing mechanism" has a genetic origin. And then we are back to biological determinism and left reeling because of our desire to blame and hold accountable as IF people have a real choice as opposed to simply following genetic "herd instinct."
The very essence of the idea of morality hinges upon an absolute affirmation of human freedom. Biological determinism demolishes this notion and changes what is right and what is wrong into the moral void of simply what is and what isn't. Biological morality or Darwinistic Evolutionary morality really can only say this: the strong survive and thrive; the weak either die or serve the former. THIS is the process by which a herd is strengthened, survives, and evolves to loftier manifestations. If evolution were to select for a gene that somehow convinces the strong to serve the weak, then the whole system is ruined and the evolutionary viability of the heard is undone and thus it cannot be so that such a gene would ever be "selected." And yet, I know of no human who fails to see beauty in the idea of the strong protecting the weak, though it makes no evolutionary sense, if the secularist is right we should see it as nothing less than evolutionary stupidity.
Lewis points to ideas of right and wrong as signposts within us that direct us to a deeper meaning for which science can offer no justification and no reasoning - not at least any that will not themselves render what we FEEL as being ultimately illusion because what we feel, what we believe, how we behave and how we expect others to behave assumes we are freely acting agents and NOT biological agents acting upon genetic programming.Our understanding of right and wrong is dependent on some degree of belief in our autonomy. However, the idea of morality existing as a set of external rules that through our autonomy we need to chose to follow is something not largely affirmed in the Eastern Christian tradition. In Eastern Christian thought, morality (like salvation itself) is hinged ontologically to personhood and the fact that we do not simply struggle to eventually have the ability to follow rules, but rather we are transformed in our personhood into a state of being that is united with Christ. We become who and what we are supposed to be. It's not about the law, it's about ACTUAL change and transformation of our personhood. It's about personhood fulfilled. This begs more explanation later, but draws a critical difference between eastern and western understanding of sin and soteriology. But, whether one adheres to an Eastern or Western Christian understanding of morality, they both stand in stark contrast to what the secularist understanding of reality offers in terms of rationalizing why we tend to think there is a right and a wrong and I would suggest our affinity...or our yearning for morality's absolute existence is a sign that Carl Sagan was wrong: we are made up of FAR more than "star-stuff."
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:29 AM [+] +++
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The mere mention of the word tends to raise the political hackles and typically would begin a debate between those fear-mongering about an Armageddon of socialism ripping away personal choice and quality and those believing that an impossible utopia of high quality healthcare can and should be freely available to all. I've no desire to enter that debate because like all political debates they are so rarely fruitful or uplifting. Rather, as I am leaving Uganda, I am reflecting upon my experience of having seen healthcare here, and it brings me home not armed for debate, but armed (or disarmed) with two things: gratefulness and shame. I don't really have much commentary about what I have seen at least with regards to any notion of solutions or of what SHOULD happen to fix things. The ONLY thing that I can piece together in my head at the moment is that I ( not “rich” people, not people with more time on their hands, and certainly NOT the US government – I cannot vote my way into fulfilling the command to “love my neighbor”)...I need to change and I need to do something – the theme that keeps playing in my head. I suspect it might be the Holy Spirit.
There is a time and a need to look for solutions to both our own healthcare issues and the rest of the world’s healthcare issues – which I can assure you, the majority of which are FAR worse than our own. So much so, that at this moment I feel ashamed to think about what we take to be our healthcare problems. This is a gut-level reaction, because like many things in Uganda, seeing the quality and availability of healthcare here will hit you HARD in the gut. I don't think I can write or show pictures well enough or extensively enough to make my point - though I will try. One MUST experience it for it to have its full effect. As anyone will tell you who has been to a missions trip or something akin to it in a third world country, you can coach, train, and educate all you like beforehand, but once the boots are on the ground then all bets are off. Now you see, feel, smell, and taste...imagination is no longer required and some will find it unbearable - especially so when you see what is to be seen in healthcare.
Even the poorest of US health clinics or hospitals cannot come anywhere near comparing to what I have seen. If they did, they would be shut down immediately. I kept thinking about times in the US when I have heard patients requesting private hospital rooms as I see the crowded wards around here – patients often on floors for lack of beds (beds were mostly ancient, by the way and I saw more than one patient without a mattress of any kind. More to the point, while I observed some surgeries and wandered about the various wards of Mulago Hospital and the UCI, I kept asking myself to imagine what I would feel if one of my kids were a patient here. It is VERY hard to fathom being able to bear it...I'm ashamed to admit. Because, how can I call these people my friends (which I do) and yet say to myself: “Goodness, I’d NEVER allow my child to be treated here, it’s deplorable. Sub-par. Dirty. Old equipment. Gross. Unsafe. Cracked and dirty walls. Broken windows. Lights not working. Exposed wiring. Is that mold? Bugs. Shabby construction. Over-crowded. Loud. Screaming children with impossibly large tumors deforming their faces. Repairs done with cardboard and duct tape, Nurse to patient ratios: God only knows.” And yet, I’d know, for my Ugandan friends their children have no other options. And really, for many of them such an experience isn't MUCH different than their daily lives at home, which for a family my size might well be a single room shanty with nothing but mats on the floor for beds. It’s the sort of stuff that one can imagine Sally Struthers wandering through making appeals on behalf of the people around her...amidst the mire of poverty.
Many of us know the happiness of coming home to comfort after being out camping for a while...for most Ugandans, there is no “going home” because they are “roughing it” everyday at home. I suppose this is why they really don't recoil at the sight of things in the hospital like I do. Some areas of the hospital look more like scenes from a zombie apocalypse movie rather than a functioning hospital. And I must say I was a little taken aback by the quality of sterility that was being maintained which was wholly behavioral and had nothing whatsoever to do with lack of money. I'm still processing that little concern – is it ignorance (I don't think so), is it apathy (perhaps), or is it a generally lower level of expectations? Whatever the reasons, it certainly added to what would be my apprehension of having my kids be treated here – probably a much bigger concern than the general discomfort a rich man (like me) experiences when being amidst a profoundly resource poor environment and not having an immediate escape route.
The Project House is always our escape. It is a akin to the sort of place the superwealthy of Uganda live, and there we can kick off our shoes, sit on the veranda in comfort and ease and marvel at all we've seen and witnessed. One colleague who was in a different surgical theatre than I, told me as we reflected on the day's experiences, that she had to leave the place because the whole wing reeked of feces, urine, and blood. It was overwhelming she said.
This is the main entrance to the surgical theaters where staff obtain
their scrubs, change and then enter the doorway in the picture to go to
the room where the patient will be arriving shortly.
One of the many transport beds for patients. I've seen them look worse than this by far.
An examine Room
A ward at the cancer institute - soon to be in use.
The last two pictures were from my first series of trips - the crowds were too much to take more pictures at Mulago. As I've said before, I do not like to photograph people without permission and so avoided doing so - not to mention how bad would I look snapping pictures in a place full of sick people....REALLY sick people.
Near the last day of my most recent trip, I noticed an elderly man who was obviously in very bad shape, propped up against a younger man who I took to be his son. They were sitting in the dirt out in front of our main clinic offices, as do many people - although some are lucky enough to have a mat, a blanket or some cardboard. The younger man was embracing his elder and was allowing him to lean fully against him...almost as if in his lap. He spoke to him in Lugandan, but the man did not respond - he was not doing well. As he shifted some, the younger man gingerly covered the older man with a blanket so as to give him some privacy because he had a urinary catheter in place and his pants were unbuttoned. As with many other patients who could be seen lying about, he also had an IV line setup, but was receiving no drugs at the moment...no pain killers...no fluids. And they sat on the ground in the hot sun amidst the dirt.
I was told the old man was terminal and nothing could be done for him. There were no beds available for him in which to die with some relative comfort as many of us would expect to see when such a scene is enacted in America. No, he died on the red Ugandan dirt, held up and embraced in his son's arms. Not a few times are the roles reversed and parents hold their children as they die here...of what in America would have been a largely curable cancer. This hard fact gut punches you: your child is far more likely to die here than the same child were he or she born in America. More parents weep here than at home.
Now, what have I got to complain about today....hmmm...
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:37 AM [+] +++
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
What to do with what I'm seeing
As many of you know, I am back in Uganda again - quite unexpectedly up until a couple of months ago. I'm now working with the Uganda Program Full-time and I could not be happier about it. However, today was an emotionally difficult day. I've talked and blogged many times about how hard it can be to see so many people suffering the effects of their cancer (and treatment) in conditions most Americans would find deplorable. I've talked about how the patients and families often just camp around the facility grounds because it is really their only option. You can meander the campus and see people with IV's for their chemo lying on the ground in obvious and profound discomfort. No fancy beds, no attending nurses...sometimes there is family to help. Conditions have improved since our program started working with the Uganda Cancer Institute, but it is still painful to see how much further we have to go. HERE are a few pics that will give some perspective.
There are a thousand scenarios here everyday that could readily lead one to just break down into tears. For me today it was young boy laying on the sidewalk - about my eldest son's age. He had had his right leg amputated at the knee and was here for chemo. I saw him and his mother walking to their appointment earlier in the day with the boy on handmade tree-branch crutches. But now, I found him lying on the sidewalk atop a small mat, vomiting into a bucket and crying. His mother was holding him and trying to comfort him. What can one do? Perhaps foolishly I paused and asked if I could do anything to help. I felt awful. I still feel awful. Receiving assurance from the mother that her boy would be okay, I slipped quickly away because I was losing my composure.
It is so easy for me to get wrapped up in the "awfulness" of my "trials" and my "suffering." But, OBVIOUSLY, I am utterly unfamiliar with suffering. I have NO right to complain. I have NO right to be depressed. Suffering is a NATURAL part of life for so many other people in the world, and for some ridiculous reason I feel the need to express my complaints in terms of "rights." As I type little children are dying of curable cancers in their mothers' and fathers' arms just up the road from here. I have seen them first-hand and I am wholly undone. I repent. I repent. I repent. God forgive me for the blind and stupid magnitude I ascribe to my "suffering" in the first world.
Now before I get into this, I want to be sure I restate my own distaste for the great American "culture war" of which I am a conscientious objector. As I've said many times before, I believe the whole affair stems from BOTH sides putting FAR too much faith and hope in the "princes and sons of men." However, I affirm very strongly the notion that human life is sacred and deserves protection from the moment of conception and having been directed to the aforementioned article and asked to offer a few thoughts, I'll happily do so...from an ORTHODOX Christian perspective.
I emphasize that this will be an Orthodox Christian perspective because it is quite clear that both the article and the website in general is intended to engage and argue with right-leaning evangelical Christians. Clearly, the article is principally armed for battle in a "proof-text" war. And while I have no doubt that an evangelical could engage this particular battle (and probably win - at least to the degree that any "proof-text" battle can be won), the Orthodox Church doesn't fight such battles because the overall field or context makes no sense to us, for it is situated and completely dependent upon a foundation that we don't affirm to begin with: Sola Scriptura. In fact, the existence of the article itself speaks to the basic problem of Sola Scriptura. But, That's another topic.
It has always been my impression that self-proclaimed Christian Liberals are usually NOT fans of literalist interpretations of the Bible, and yet this author is determined to prove (right off the bat) that the Scripture's various renderings of man taking in breath demonstrates that we do not "receive" a soul until our lungs are flooded with a gas, composed of 78% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen (plus a number of other less fun and exciting gasses), called air. And, we are lead to believe that this is what is intended when, for example, God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" and made Adam a living being with a soul. The author overtly states that this act of God is exactly synonymous with Adam taking his first literal breath and thus the same for all of Adam's progeny. Of course, this is not at all what the text is intended to convey and the author carries the mistake even furthering completely forgetting that the word for breath and Spirit is the same in Hebrew. God does not need an infant to receive a bit of Nitrogen and Oxygen into his or her lungs in order for His Spirit to breath Life into them and create in them a soul. And even if He did, we should not have to remind anyone that an unborn child is flooded with these gasses via their mother who is regularly respiring the gasses on their child's behalf. If a baby's soul is somehow carried to them through the aforementioned gasses, then surely God could deliver it through his or hers mothers lungs, no? And if those calling themselves "the Christian left" wish to be literalists then we should note uniqueness of Adam in that he had
no means of receiving breath from the womb of an already living mother
and thus the analogy is rather lacking, isn't it? Additionally, if we MUST be literalists, there is no mention of God needing to pump air into Adam's rib to make Eve a living being! Are we seriously going to argue that God's Spirit of Life requires that the biological function of gas exchange in a baby's lungs must take place before a child can be considered to have a soul? Really?
The author goes on further to put forth other verses in which "breath" is required for "life." And again I would suggest we are talking about more than simple biological respiration and that God is not limited to this biological function in order to somehow create a soul in a human being. I'd suggest that this act of creation is a profound mystery that we know little about and likely we should take great caution when approaching God's mysteries. Hopefully, this only amuses the bodiless hosts immensely by our speculating and suggesting this mystery only happens when we engage in respiration. So, really, the whole point of the article ("When a fetus becomes a living being") seems an exercise in futility when taken to its logical conclusion.
The article then dabbles in Old Testament Laws a bit, but I'd advise ALL Christians and especially liberal ones to tread carefully when trying to build a case on the authority of Old Testament Law and certainly when trying to prove on ontological reality based on extrapolating the meaning or purpose of said laws. I'd suggest we end up painting ourselves into a very uncomfortable corner.
The author ends by simply saying that Jesus never specifically mentioned abortion and therefore, the author concludes that it must not have been considered a sin. Saying that if abortion were such a terrible sin, then surely Jesus would have said something, instead: "He [Jesus] said nothing." Wow, that's a huge leap of faith, isn't it? Are we sure of this inclusion that apparant silence in Gospel records implies absolute consent? Let's quote St. John from his Gospel: "And there are also many
other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I
suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that
would be written. Amen." Again, Sola Scriptura is befuddling us here.
For the most part, as I said before, the author is seeking to argue with evangelicals. For the Orthodox Church, the stance against abortion is not derived from proof-texts, but rather from a much broader and all encompassing understanding of the Christian Faith. Beginning first with Holy Tradition and then extending into the inner depths of our understanding of God's nature, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Life of the Holy Spirit in us, and all aspects of what it means to live a life in dedication to God. We rely not on an individual interpretation of Holy Scripture, but rather on the whole body of Holy Tradition - a living and breathing Tradition handed down to us from the very beginning.
There is virtually no end to the quotes from Church Mothers and Fathers, or Canons of the Church throughout her 2,000 year history which speak out against abortion as a grievous sin. Even as far back as the Didache (aka "The Teaching of the Twelve" often dated as early as some parts of the New Testament itself) which speaks without confusion: "thou shalt not murder a child by
abortion nor kill them when born." And so while the Christian right and left can continue the proof-text battle, I would simply suggest the weight of history, tradition, and common sense outweighs the notion that God requires our lungs to respire in order for us to obtain our souls.
Abortion is a political hot button issue. I do not know how or if we can ever get to the point where abortion is illegal again. It's a complex topic, but this complexity does not change the reality. War is also a complex issue, but it does not change it's ugliness. Having worked in a pathology lab for a couple of years I've personally seen the torn apart bodies of aborted "fetuses" which horrifically and very clearly looked to me like tiny murdered babies. It changed my opinion on the matter, for at the time I was in the camp of those calling themselves the "Christian Left." However, I do not now consider myself in the camp of the "Christian Right," but I do believe very firmly that abortion is an act that ends the life of a human being. I do not, however, believe that we are in place where laws can instantly fix this ugly situation where our culture has perverted the notion of sex to an act of personal gratification and that the natural "consequence" (aka: blessing) of this act (a new human person) is an unbearable burden that can be dealt with through a simple medical act no different (so we are told) than removing a cyst. To be unable to see that selfishness is the root of all that leads us to this place, is a spiritual blindness than no law of man can address. This is not to say that I think we should not engage in the political discussion, but I think we might consider a different strategy than holding signs and "screaming" at one another on the internet. Abortion is something that rather than being angry about and painting signs with slogans that convince no one, I think we should be weeping over and filling the skies with our prayers, and additionally reaching out with physical acts of love to those around us to show the true value of human.