While we are on the subject of “religious freedom,” that is, Christians having a unique right, a privileged place in this country far above all other belief systems – at least according to the Supreme Court – I thought I would mention that it has always struck me as odd that a religion – Christianity again – centered on depriving people of food and healthcare and even education, and which, indeed, has a God who orders the death of untold thousands in the Old Testament can claim to be a pro-life religion. There is a whole lotta death going on for all this blather about life.
Imagine how flabbergasted I was this morning to read that Ben Carson, allegedly a representative of that same religion, one that is founded on an episode of human sacrifice (i.e. Jesus’ death), can condemn abortion as human sacrifice, and therefore as an evil that must be stopped.
It’s interesting that we sit around and call other ancient civilizations ‘heathen’ because of human sacrifice, but aren’t we actually guilty of the same thing?
Watch courtesy of Right Wing Watch:
No, I will tell you what’s interesting, Mr. Carson.
First of all, it needs be pointed out that Carson’s God, in the Old Testament, demands human sacrifice (Exodus 22:29; Ezekiel 20:26; 2 Kings 21.6; Judges 11.29-31, 32-39; Leviticus 27.28-29).
Christians today shy away from this reality and want to believe the sacrifice demanded is only figurative, but in the end, Morton Smith finds that “the arguments advanced for figurative interpretation “are indefensible; we may plausibly presume the texts mean what they say.” R.H. Sales concludes that
Sacrifice was an integral part of Hebrew ritual and worship. Important to the philosophy of the practice was the idea that blood was necessary to effect atonement or for achieving the desired relationship between man and God; also the more valuable the sacrifice the more effect it would have, and hence the highest sacrifice a man could offer was his first-born son.
In time, this human sacrifice was replaced by animal sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem, a sacrifice which, again in time, was superseded by the death of Jesus of Nazareth, as a sort of super sacrifice to end all sacrifices.
Secondly, it must be pointed out that not only does the Christian God not ban abortion in the Old Testament because fetuses are not people, but he demands his followers abort babies when cities are sacked. As I wrote here on another occasion,
Furthermore, in Exodus 21:22-25 we are told that if a man accidentally kills a pregnant woman, he is guilty of murder. Tellingly, if only the fetus dies (miscarriage) he is not guilty of murder. The fetus is not a human being in Jewish Law. God (who is said to be the author of this law) nowhere condemns or bans the killing of fetuses. He doesn’t even condemn killing. There is loads and loads of God-commanded killing in the Old Testament, including entire cities, men, women, and children.
And look, if – and I’m just using logic here – sacrifice is evil and therefore must be stopped, doesn’t that mean that everything that derives from that sacrifice is also evil: namely, Christianity?
Or, if good things can come out of “evil” – like the salvation of believers otherwise condemned – and I’m just citing Paul of Tarsus here – or the salvation of a mother who would otherwise die, or an underage victim of rape or incest as a couple of examples, then maybe that act of “evil” is not really evil at all.
I doubt many Christians today view Jesus’ offering himself up as a sacrifice as evil. It was why he was on earth, after all, as part of some over-arching divine plan.
Think back again to the atoning nature of blood sacrifice, be it human or animal, mentioned above. Paul wrote at 1 Corinthians 5:7-9,
Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Not only was Jesus a human sacrifice, his death produced a good result: the justification of his followers,
by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith (Romans 3:23).
He repeats this elsewhere, at Romans 5:9, saying,
Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.
And not only is Jesus a human sacrifice, but each of his followers is as well, says Paul:
I appeal to you, therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).
Jesus was such a sacrifice that, for Paul, he had taken the place of the Passover sacrifice, the lamb. The author of the Gospel of Mark also sees Jesus as a sacrifice (Mark 14:24) and the author of the Gospel of John has John the Baptist call Jesus the “lamb of God” (John 1:29). Paul calls Jesus’ death as a sacrifice of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
One gets the impression that Ben Carson, as usual, has not thought things through before he opened his mouth. He seems woefully unfamiliar with the tenets of his own religion and the demands of his own god, and one could reasonably suggest that he sort out his own beliefs before he tries to push them on the rest of us.
Not only is this a case of a man opening his mouth when he doesn’t know what he is talking about, but it is a case of misrepresenting abortion. Human and animal sacrifice in both the Greco-Roman and Jewish worlds were a means to gain “special favor” from a god or gods, while abortion is a medical procedure performed for various reasons, including saving the life of a mother, helping a rape or incest victim, and sometimes, aborting a fetus that cannot survive either in the womb or outside of it, none of which have anything to do with things people only believe, but things people can prove.
Ben Carson’s arguments may impress his intellectually-challenged followers (including five rather highly influential men on the Supreme Court) but actual thinking people will remain unimpressed with the arguments raised by Religious Right (and its wholly owned subsidiary, the Republican Party) in opposition to abortion. And though the Supreme Court may disagree, the First Amendment, while giving Christians and even fake Christians like Ben Carson, the right to believe what they want, it most definitely does not give them the right to legislate their beliefs.
 Morton Smith, “A Note on Burning Babies,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 95 (1975), 479.
 R.H. Sales, “Human Sacrifice in Biblical Thought,” Journal of Bible and Religion 25 (1957), 113.
 Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Third Edition. Oxford University Press, 2004, 36.