Each major poetical party in the United States is accusing the other of something that party holds up as a badge of honor, and it all centers around their stance on abortion – infanticide versus women’s reproductive rights. So much depends upon how you frame an argument.
It seems strange today, speaking as a liberal, that Republicans would make abortion front and center their number one platform. After all, the country is mired in a war overseas and suffering domestically from an economic crisis. If abortion came to an end today, we would still be at war and our economy would still be in the tank.
There would be no significant improvement for Americans.
But that’s just it, say some of these Republicans. Bizarre though it may sound to the Post-Enlightenment mind, they actually believe that their god is punishing America for its immorality, and that if we as a nation just cleaned up our act everything would be okay.
What’s truly bizarre about this is that it all comes down to a law code embraced by one small religion during the Bronze Age – Israel. To make matters still more bizarre is that these modern Christians don’t actually endorse the Jewish law themselves. No, they cherry pick it, pointing out something here and there while ignoring the rest.
Examples of things outlawed and not:
- It is not wrong to own slaves; in fact you can sell your own daughter into slavery
- It is wrong to eat pork (no more bacon for you!)
- It is wrong to eat certain birds
- It is wrong to eat shellfish (be careful what you pick at Red Lobster!)
- It is wrong to lie with another man as you would lie with a woman
- There is no mention of a woman lying with another woman (no seed spilling is involved)
- It is wrong to engage in incest
- It is wrong to cut the hair over your ears or to trim your beard
- You must stone your adulterous wife
- You must stone your disobedient children
- It is not wrong for unmarried people to have sex
- It is not wrong to have more than one wife (polygyny)
It must be stressed here that nowhere in the Bible does God rescind some of these laws while insisting others be kept. Even if you claim Acts 10 negates dietary restrictions – which by the way flat out contradicts Jesus’ claim in Matthew that he came to fulfill the Law (5:17) and that not an iota of the Law should pass away (5:18) – God still doesn’t permit you to shave your beard or free you from stoning your disobedient child. Why then, if fundamentalist Christians believe that this god is punishing America for sin do they believe they as flawed humans have a right to decide which laws apply and why do not?
And the key point? Abortion, which fundamentalist Christians so fervently condemn as forbidden, isn’t even listed.
They will cover this embarrassment by claiming that the commandment “Thou shall not kill” settles things, but it does not. First of all, it doesn’t say “kill” it says “murder.” Okay then, they will say we are murdering infants. But from the perspective of Jewish Law, the Law of Moses, those laws that God himself wrote, the law we are arguing about, we are not murdering infants; the ancient Jews did not count infants as people, let alone fetuses: Leviticus 27:6 puts a monetary value on children, but only when they reach one month of age, and in Numbers 3:15 a census counts only those one month old and above – children under a month old, and fetuses, are not people.
In the Mishnah a fetus becomes a person only when “the greater part of the head” has emerged from the womb and it clearly states that the life of the mother has priority over the life of the fetus.
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.
So while they are saying that the Ten Commandments are being violated daily and that God is punishing us for impiety, they are themselves violating laws that do exist and complaining about something that isn’t even in the law, and that was in fact not considered murder according to their god, who, by the way, also ordered human sacrifice be conducted on his behalf.
If this all isn’t enough to make you shake your head, I don’t know what will. And yet our entire political landscape has been set topsy turvy by Christian fundamentalists. Clearly, it is illogical to claim homosexuality is a sin while continuing to eat pork and birds and failing to stone your children when they talk back. God doesn’t say keep this law and ignore those. And homosexuality is another fundamentalist complaint. But as pointed out, their god doesn’t include lesbian sex as homosexual sex (no seed involved), nor does he say anywhere in the law that marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman. “Traditional marriage” is a myth. There are rules governing polygyny (Exodus 21:10, Deuteronomy 25:5-10, Deuteronomy 21:15-17, Deuteronomy 17:17) but it is nowhere forbidden. It was taking place during Jesus’ lifetime. Jesus not once mentions it.
We could at least expect fundamentalists to get their own religious scriptures right, but they can’t seem to do that. Far too often, the most fanatically motivated fundamentalists have seemingly not read the Bible at all. They will spout all sorts of things the Bible supposedly says but if you check you will see that it is not true at all, that they must have been told something by a parent or by an ill-informed pastor and they have carried the belief with them from that point on, not bothering to check facts themselves, rather like all those folks learning that God wrote the Constitution who say, “I was never told this before!” or Glenn Beck whining, “Why aren’t they talking about this?”
Because it’s not true. At least do the rest of us the courtesy, before you start trumpeted Mosaic Law as the solution to all our problems, to read it and get it right. If you endorse any of it you must endorse all of it, because your God nowhere gives you the freedom to cherry pick laws to keep while ignoring the rest. And if you can’t be bothered to pick up a book and read, not even your own holy book, at least do us the favor of keeping your tongues behind your teeth, and let the rest of us get some sleep.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.