Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Yes Virginia, the PCUSA is Pro-Choice

Thanks to the Witherspoon Society for pointing out this article by Frederick Clarkson, Maligning the Faith of Others for Political Profit. Frederick Clarkson provides a critique of Rev. Jim Berkley of the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD). Rev. Berkley works for Presbyterian Action of that three-pronged organization.

Rev. Berkley criticized the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) in a May 22nd blog entry, A Really Crass "Religious" Coalition. Berkley concluded his post:

There is no excuse for Presbyterian entities--Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options, Women's Ministries, and the Washington Office--continuing to financially support and lend our once-good name to a crassly political, morally bankrupt, abortion-at-any-cost outfit like the RCRC.

OK. Here is what Clarkson writes about RCRC:

It is a group that sounds like exactly what it is, a coalition of religious organizations that believe in the right of their members to make their own choices about matters of reproductive health including abortion -- free from the religious dictates of others or the interference of the government. RCRC comprises mostly major Christian and Jewish organizations such as the Episcopal Chuch, the YWCA, the American Jewish Committee, Conservative Judaism's Rabbinical Assembly, and agencies and caucuses of national religious organizations. RCRC carries out public policy and related public education work in Washington.

And it is perfectly natural that the PCUSA entities would be part of this organization, as Clarkson writes:

As it happens, it makes perfect sense that the Presbyterian Church (USA) would be active in RCRC. The 2.6 million member denomination, whose policy history on abortion is available on its web site has been prochoice since 1970, (before Roe v. Wade)...



36 comments:

  1. Haven't read the articles, but I do know the PCUSA does have one difference in policy from RCRC. At the last GA in 2006 the GA voted that what are called "partial birth" abortions are not morally acceptable. I believe the GA said, except in the case where not having the abortion would endanger the life of the mother. So you are mostly right.

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  2. John & Bob too,
    Doug King of Witherspoon was gracious enough to put my letter of protest on his site. I will copy it here:

    "I just saw your post about Jim Berkley written by Frederick Clarkson. Since only those who agree with Clarkson are allowed to make comments on his site, it is good to have a site where one can send a letter. I think if I had seen Clarkson's article the title alone would have clued me to the fact that it wasn't a very good article. Jim Berkley is a man of integrity whether you agree with his faith positions or not. And they are faith positions not political positions.

    I wonder if any have considered how Christians who believe abortion is the killing of babies really see the issues. It is one thing to have policies in the PCUSA which both affirm a women's right to choose abortion while still insisting it is more than a political issue since life is sacred and another to have various groups within the Church aligned with a group which actually promotes abortion. And the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice does promote abortion.

    You do no one a service when you malign a brother in Christ for their position which they hold because of their faith in Christ. You may disagree with that position, with that brother, but say why don’t agree rather than using shoddy material by someone who neither knows Jim Berkley or his good character."

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  3. The Institute for Religion and Democracy is a sleazy, vile right wing front group. Anything that comes out of the IRD should be considered in that light.

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  4. PCUSA is pro-choice only because it has elevated every liberal pastor it can find to bishop. I'm frankly shocked that Rev. Shuck isn't a bishop yet.

    Pro-choice is an indefensible position not only based on the Word but also based on what our eyes see. Being pro-choice is unequivocally anti-Christian and anti-woman.

    And, Mystical Seeker, why would a Christian care what you think about Christians? You are not a Christian.

    My question to anyone who believes is a supreme being, do you really want to be wrong about what abortion really is?

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  5. Jim Jordan, I would not generally presume that anything I have to say is so important that anyone will care what opinion I have of them, whether they be Christians or not. However, I will point out that I do not have a single opinion of "Christians". My opinion of the individual Christian depends on a lot of things. If they are they are thinking, progressive, intelligent Christians, I am likely to have a different opinion of them than if they are blithering idiots.

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  6. Mystical Seeker,
    When you write things like this:
    "The Institute for Religion and Democracy is a sleazy, vile right wing front group. Anything that comes out of the IRD should be considered in that light," you are either portraying your lack of knowledge or you are suggesting, at least to me, that you are capable of persecuting those who love Jesus. Because if you realize that the people who work for IRD, such as Jim Berkley, are doing so because of their love of Jesus Christand their desire to renew their denominations and you still say such things that is persecution.

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  7. Viola, I hardly claim to be an expert on the IRD, but based on the information I have seen on that organization and its relationships with right wing groups, I stand by my statement.

    I have no knowledge of Mr. Berkeley's motivations for working for a right wing front group. What I do know is the group's connections to the far right. Chuck Currie, for example, has documented in scrupulous detail the vile goings on of that organization in his own blog; you are welcome to research this for yourself if you are interested.

    I do know that Mr. Berkeley himself graced this blog earlier this year. He objected at the time to my point about the organization being a far right front group, claiming that "Certainly some conservative people and organizations provide SOME of the income for IRD.". Notice how he capitalized the word "some", as if to diminish the important role that such organizations provide. I then posted several kinds statistics about its funding from far right wing organizations--including the statistic that it received 89% of its funding from three major right wing political groups during its first 25 months, and how one of its major funders was an organization with ties to the John Birch society. No response to my statistics from Mr. Berkeley. Maybe he considers 89% to be the same as "some". I do not.

    As for the business about persecuting people "who love Jesus", give me a frigging break. Perhaps you equate "loving Jesus" with having a right wing agenda. If so, then you are certainly entitled to that opinion. However, the issue that I am focused on is the agenda of the organization that Mr. Berkeley belongs to, and the fact that it was funded by far right political organizations, and that it pursues a right wing agenda. If he wants to claim that he loves Jesus, more power to him, but that is not germane to my point about the political connections that his organization has.

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  8. I didn't even realize there was such a thing as a Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. It's very heartening to see a group such as this, especially in a religious context. They're recognizing that the ways of reducing abortions are by targeting the causes of abortions, rather than just outlawing abortions.

    And based on their FAQs, they do not promote abortions: as in, they are not urging anyone and everyone who is pregnant to have an abortion, and it sounds like they'd advocate adoption first. They realize it is a choice that some women will be faced with, and wish to make sure the women have access to safe abortions. What they promote is family planning and sex education, which work to reduce the number of abortions sought.

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  9. Jim Jordan, you're kidding right? You know that Presbyterians have no bishopric, right? I would assume that any intelligent discussion about a Presbyterian church would require some knowledge of how we govern ourselves (here's a hint: the term is "presbyterian government").

    Insofar as whether I as a person who does believe there "is a supreme being...want to be wrong about what abortion really is", I don't think that God makes the distinction between that and any other sin I might have. God in God's infinite wisdom did not deign to give us detailed instructions on the topic, so we have to make a lot of assumptions. I as a man am incapable of having an abortion, so I trust the decision of a woman, her doctor and her God. The PC(USA) has IMO taken the "radical middle" approach to abortion supported by the majority of Americans: as old Bill said, "abortion should be safe, legal and rare".

    I do have a major problem with those Christians who will get all worked up over saving the unborn and then don't give a damn about the born. Let's work on making it easier for mothers to raise healthy children in a safe, nurturing environment. Want to reduce abortions? Work on the reasons women get them. Sex education (ack!), access to contraceptives (horrors!), healthcare and daycare (nooooo!) will all help. It takes a village, indeed it takes a church.

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  10. Jim,

    Curious you noticed that! Yes, I am going to be fitted for my bishop's hat next Wednesday after tea!

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  11. Careful, John. I'm a noted iconoclast! I just might have to knock that mitre off your head come September....

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  12. flycandler,
    Of course you are correct about my "bishop" slip-up. Congrats to Rev. Shuck on the new hat, anyway.

    Your declarations are a bit sketchy from this point on.
    God in God's infinite wisdom did not deign to give us detailed instructions on the topic, so we have to make a lot of assumptions.
    Why are you ignoring a recurring theme throughout Scripture? Psalm 22:10, 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, Genesis 25:23-25, etc., etc. God was very clear: "if it's in the womb, it's because it's Mine".

    so I trust the decision of a woman, her doctor and her God.
    Do you have any proof of a decision by God FOR an abortion? The statement practically infers that "her God" is a projection of herself.

    I do have a major problem with those Christians who will get all worked up over saving the unborn and then don't give a damn about the born.

    I'm not one of those Christians BTW. Christ's call is to care for both the unborn and the born. Right-wing Christian apostasy that has (to name one example)caused thousands of deaths in Iraq does not excuse Christian left-wing apostasy regarding abortion.

    And Re: "Safe, Affordable, and Rare". Is that how you like your Prime Rib? :-)

    Regards.

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  13. Jim, the recurring theme in the Bible is (and this makes perfect sense considering the cultural and historical context) that life begins at birth.

    The second creation narrative in Genesis (which is actually thought to be older) recounts that "the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being." (2.7)

    Indeed, Ps 22.9-10 supports this ("Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother's breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.")

    Ps 139 recounts how the psalmist was "knit..together in my mother's womb". In other words, he acknowledges that while in the womb, he was incomplete.

    Jeremiah says that God told him that God knew him before God formed him in the womb. Again, work in progress.

    The Genesis narrative you mention simply states that Rebekah had a turbulent pregnancy.

    I don't see any sort of "if it's in the womb, it's Mine" theme at all, other than in the context of everything in the universe being God's (that whole immanence thing again).

    I use the phrase "a woman, her doctor and her God" in the sense that as far as law is concerned (and this is the PC(USA)'s stand in a nutshell--we don't believe this is an area in which the government should interfere), I cannot impose my religion on anyone in a society that guarantees freedom of religion, nor will I condone others' attempts to impose theirs.

    And please don't misquote me. I said "safe, legal and rare". Ironically, when this is the case, the number of abortions actually goes down. Outlawing medically safe abortions just means that women who can't afford to jet to Europe end up in back alleys with coat hangers or knitting needles. Yeah, it's not a pretty picture, but it's a sad reality.

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  14. Jim,

    **Why are you ignoring a recurring theme throughout Scripture? Psalm 22:10, 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, Genesis 25:23-25, etc., etc. God was very clear: "if it's in the womb, it's because it's Mine".
    **

    I know we've had this discussion previously, but I don't think you can call it a recurring theme, especially given the context of those verses. Those are indirect comments, unlike blanket statements of Jesus being the son of God, Jesus as the path to salvation, God caring about justice/the poor/the oppressed, Israel receiving the covenant. As it is, from what I've read, one of the verses Psalms 139: 15-16, is similar to an ancient belief that the unborn were formed from the dirt in the earth, and then somehow implanted in the womb. The point of the Psalms was to be poetry.

    **Do you have any proof of a decision by God FOR an abortion? The statement practically infers that "her God" is a projection of herself.**

    Directly for abortion? No. But seeing it as a crime? No, not that, either. I'm going to pull out Exodus 21: 22-23 again, because the traditional interpretation was that if a man causes a woman to miscarry, there is a financial fine. The fetus' life was not considered equal to the man's. I believe this is how Judaism has always interpreted the passage, given that under their Law, a fetus is not considered a person while in the womb.

    Do people now argue that the text can be interpreted that the harm could be either to the fetus or the mother? Yes. But the fact is that there are two possible interpretations for that text, which leaves it ambiguous.

    There's Numbers 5, and a method of a husband finding out if a wife was unfaithful: she's brought before a priest and made to drink something to determine if she was unfaithful. If she was, then the Lord may bring about a miscarriage upon her. If she is innocent, she'll be able to give birth to her child.

    There's Genesis 38, where Tamar is about to be burned, even though she is pregnant. If the children inside her were considered equal under the law, the execution would've been delayed. She wasn't executed, but that's because Judah learned that she slept with him, not just anyone.

    Now, can I infer that God is all about abortions from those texts? Of course not -- if I did reach that conclusion, it would be a matter of interpreation, not a direct statement. But the conclusion I can reach is what the status of a fetus was in that society, and in those times. There is no flat-out statement in the Bible regarding abortion, and whether or not it's wrong. Any decision for or against it is a matter of interpretation.

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  15. Hello, flycandler,
    Does the right to life precede freedom of religion? Your dance around the Bible's clearly pro-life position is amusing. You have one heck of a pogo stick.

    Last I checked those tragic back-alley abortions were done almost exclusively for the benefit of libertine men. Abortion, by the way, IS bloody, is messy, and is tragic. It's "safe, afordable, and rare" only if you are enjoying a steak afterwards and have no conscience.

    I don't expect to change your mind on abortion, but I do hope you question the solvency of your reasoning.

    Heather, we left off with you confidently proclaiming that the soul jumped into the fetus as soon as the decision was made NOT to abort [maybe I stretched that last point]. But again I will always oppose this view. "Here I stand; I can do no other."

    Take care.

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  16. Jim,

    ** we left off with you confidently proclaiming that the soul jumped into the fetus as soon as the decision was made NOT to abort [maybe I stretched that last point]. **

    No, that's not what I "proclaimed" (and yes, I do note you say that you maybe streched that last point). What I was saying in terms of when the soul entered the fetus was that it has not always been that the soul enters right at conception -- some of this was based on the formation of Adam, in that his soul entered him when he drew his first breath, as flycandler states, and as the Bible states. The same Bible which is also incredibly vague in terms of the status of a fetus, and the rights of that fetus, given by the Exodus verse I earlier mentioned. I see no groundwork for the Bible being clearly anti-abortion, or pro-abortion.

    And flycandler's also correct in terms of safe, legal and rare -- those countries where abortion is safe, legal and rare and proper sex education is given see a decrease in the number of abortions. Why? Because these policies work to address the causes behind why one seeks abortion.

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  17. Jim,

    I'm not going to get into a deepening spiral with you over abortion. People of good will can and do disagree over the subject (at least in the Presbyterian Church (USA), though I have to assume that you are not part of this particular faith tradition), and if you are unwilling to admit that I could be coming from a principled position, then I can't have a discussion. Your willingness to put words in my mouth ("safe, affordable and rare") is frankly intellectually dishonest and precludes any civilized conversation. Sorry.

    In a way, I wish the Bible did have a "clearly pro-life position". It would make this a much less ambiguous situation for Christians. The honest truth is that the Bible does not mention abortion at all except, as Heather mentioned (I thank her, as I forgot where the OT texts discussed this), to say that killing a fetus is at worst a "misdemeanor" with a civil fine attached, and even encouraging the use of abortifacients in Numbers, and that Tamar's unborn fetus had no right to life.

    I think the difference in how I (and Heather, if I may be presumptuous) approach this conversation and how you do is that I am willing to admit that both of us are coming from principled positions and are persons of deep moral conviction, and I am willing to engage you on what you actually say. Unless you can agree to the same, there's no point to this.

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  18. flycandler
    I am in PCUSA but I am adamantly pro-life. The PCUSA leadership is tragically wrong in its support of abortion. Jesus is opposed. Score, Jesus Infinity, PCUSA 0 - get the picture?

    And please don't misquote me. I said "safe, legal and rare". - Flycandler, 7/27/07 4:06 pm

    Your willingness to put words in my mouth ("safe, affordable and rare") is frankly intellectually dishonest and precludes any civilized conversation. - Flycandler 7/30/07 9:49 am.

    Do you mean a civilized consersation with me..or with yourself?

    Regarding killing a fetus as a misdemeanor, the same verses that Heather quoted actually show that killing a fetus is murder. I pointed that out to her months ago but apparently she is not interested in the truth.

    Your position is not principled, so, according to your own rules, there is no reason to continue this debate.

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  19. I know I should leave this well alone, but frankly, Jim, you're so hilarious that I can't help myself.

    Just a couple of observations:

    1. If you are in fact in the PC(USA), you have a lot of learning to do. Even in my church's new member classes, a brief mention of how we Presbyterians govern ourselves is made. Any Presbyterian who cares to follow news at the General Assembly or even position statements from the GAC will notice the utter lack of the word "bishop". The Reverend Shuck cannot be "promoted to bishop" by the PC(USA). On a larger scale, there isn't a monolithic leadership. We don't have a pope, and we elect our own leader every two years (our current moderator is somewhat conservative in many regards). I think it's tragic that the Church doesn't do a better job of instructing its membership on these basic kind of "Schoolhouse Rocks" structure-of-government topics.

    2. The PC(USA) leadership does not "support...abortion". The GA said very clearly in 1992 and 2006 that the church's clear role is to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and to provide moral, financial, and personal support to mothers who find themselves unintentionally pregnant. "Abortion ought to be an option of last resort." More to the point, the PC(USA) is pro-choice in the sense of the current debate in the United States. The Church believes, rightly IMO, that the government should not put itself in a position to impose governmental morals and values on a very personal and intimate decision for a woman. The Church's responsibility is to minister to women who might be considering an abortion to consider the alternatives in a loving, nonjudgmental, caring environment. Hmm.. love thy neighbor..where did I hear that before?

    3. Jesus says nothing about abortion. Period. End of story. Does your characterization of this as some sort of scoreboard in a giant game ("Score, Jesus, Infinity, PCUSA 0-Get the picture?") say something about your motives in this discussion?

    4. At the end of the day, I am curious as to why you're spending so much time on "liberal" blogs debating people who are "not principled". Even if you do hope to convert folks to your POV, why do you feel that deliberately misquoting people will make them rush to your side? The Bible may not say much on abortion, but it is quite clear on bearing false witness.

    Thanks again for the chuckle, Jim.

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  20. Hey FlyCandler,

    Remember....the Bible isn't a science book (as John and Bob tell us), and to use it that way is an abuse of intent (unless, of course, it casts doubt on the humanity of an unborn baby)!

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  21. Chris, my point is that even if one WERE to use the Bible as a science text, it doesn't support the premise that Jim was trying to foist upon it.

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  22. Jim,

    **Regarding killing a fetus as a misdemeanor, the same verses that Heather quoted actually show that killing a fetus is murder. I pointed that out to her months ago but apparently she is not interested in the truth.**

    The only verse I recall us discussing from that list is the Exodus one -- to which I pointed out that according to everything I've found, the standard interpretation (up until the Pro-Life movement) was that the loss of the fetus was equal to a monetary fine. This is not something I'm just randomly applying, nor is it something I'm twisting into the Bible.

    The other verses also demonstrate that the fetus was not afforded the same rights as someone arleady born. Otherwise, Tamar wouldn't have been nearly killed while three months pregnant, nor would a miscarriage be a method of determining whether a woman is unfaithful.

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  23. Flycandler,
    Just saw your August 1st response.
    1. Why do you return to my "bishop" slip of the tongue? This is a puerile way of giving the impression that you are correcting me.

    2. You say that PCUSA does not support abortion. Then you say, "More to the point, the PC(USA) is pro-choice in the sense of the current debate in the United States". Choose today whom you will serve, I say. Not opposing equals support.

    It's good that we see all the things that should be done to prevent the conditions that tend to lead to abortion. But the church must be clear that abortion is a terrible sin. The women who've had abortions have been severely traumatized because their conscience tells them so, not simply because someone points their finger at them.

    love thy neighbor..where did I hear that before?

    Yes, and you must oppose the murder of your neighbor's child as part of that love.

    3. Jesus says nothing about abortion. Period. End of story.

    Are you really that biblically illiterate?
    John 1 begins "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Then it identifies this Word as Jesus Christ. Where did he get that idea? From Jesus Himself, of course. "Before Abraham was, I AM" - (John 8:58). Also, "if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9) - etc., etc.

    Wow, what does that say about your motives? The biblegatewayed-the-word-abortion-and-got-zero-results argument shows you really don't want to dig too deep. You've thrown the whole biblical narrative under the bus.

    I would recommend joining a bible study group so you can be as well-versed on the Word as you are on the PCUSA's Rules of Order.


    [Flycandler] Does your characterization of this as some sort of scoreboard in a giant game ("Score, Jesus, Infinity, PCUSA 0-Get the picture?") say something about your motives in this discussion?


    Phillipians 3:7-8 reads..."But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ"

    The PCUSA is a temporary, worldly organization like any other. A little perspective might do you good.

    4. At the end of the day, I am curious as to why you're spending so much time on "liberal" blogs debating people who are "not principled".

    If you want to know, I have had worse run-ins with conservatives. I believe misguided ideas should be challenged, don't you? Particularly if they claim to speak for Jesus Christ.

    As for bearing false witness, I see your point about "safe, legal, and rare" as opposed to "safe, affordable, and rare" (the latter being drubbed into us by the media). Turns out I was doing you a favor. The word "legal" is far more egregious than the word "affordable" by the way. And it still sounds like you are ordering a steak.

    Blessings, and may your God go with you.:-)

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  24. Jim, you are a never ceasing source of amusement. How do you come up with these things?

    1. 'Tweren't no "slip of the tongue" to repeatedly refer to a nonexistent office and a nonexistent "promotion" process. It reflects a pretty profound misunderstanding of Presbyterian governance (which again is, as the term would imply, a presbyterian one) and that if you truly are a member of the PC(USA), the lousy job we have done of educating our membership about the nature of the church. The really puerile way of putting it would be "Jim, you're either not a Presbyterian, really ignorant, or both," but I would never say that on a Pastor's blog ;-)

    2. "Not opposing equals support." Fascinating. Does that mean because I have never heard you denounce the actions of the Sudanese government in Darfur that you are supportive of genocide? Besides, as some dude once said, "whoever is not against us is for us".

    3. Thanks for the biggest stretch in the history of Biblical hermeneutics. I have NEVER heard John 1 used to prove that abortion is a mortal sin. While I am glad that Joseph never made Mary take a drink of that abortifacient that Numbers approves (instead of crosses, we'd wear scarlet "A"s on our lapels), I still find it a stretch to say that because Christ is part of the Triune God therefore terminating a pregnancy is deicide? Isn't that idolatry to say that all fetuses are God?

    BTW, I don't think you'll find any rational person who will say that the PC(USA) is not "a temporary worldly organization" (EXCEPT (and it's an important exception) that as a Church of Jesus Christ it is part of the Body of Jesus Christ, which is eternal). We all acknowledge that the bits of the church that are run by humans will be fallible because human beings are fallible. The church has been both right and wrong on many important issues for almost 2000 years.

    4. I am unaware of anyone in the media drubbing away at "safe, affordable and rare" (unless it was Faux News trying to mischaracterize the debate). "Safe, legal and rare" is a quote from President Bill Clinton and encapsulates how most Americans feel about the issue. And yes, I prefer the proper formulation of that phrase. Illegal abortions usually end up killing or maiming young women in addition to terminating the pregnancy. I strongly suggest you scroll up to the more recent blog posts to see how John's friend Bob (a self-identified evangelical pastor) actually agrees with President Clinton and me on this. As a gay man, I am doubly unqualified to make this decision for millions of women I do not know.

    And please do us a favor and drop the steak analogy. It makes you sound like you have some pathological Freudian cannibalism complex.

    Aside from your obsession with snacking on embryos, good laughs as always.

    Blessings, and may our God go with both of us.

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  25. Greetings Flycandler,

    1. 95% of my friends at church have no idea what PCUSA is or that we belong to them. And, you know what, I'm not going to be the one to tell them! :-)

    2. You say you support legal abortion. That is support, even if you say it should be "rare". How does this sound? I support the genocide in Darfur but I feel it should be kept to a minimum. [You are quite correct to think of genocide as a comparison BTW.]

    3. Abortion biblically banned, a stretch? Maybe so. Jesus represents the Father, who revealed Himself to us in the OT, but since we follow Jesus, the Father coulda been wrong....Matter of fact, I don't even know why we study the OT. If it's all what Jesus the man said that matters then the OT is 100% obsolete. [I'm obviously being facetious].

    Numbers 5: 23-27 (if this is the passage you referred to regarding an "abortifacient") does not describe an abortifacient. It is also a punishment that is later covered by the blood of Christ.

    Which reminds me that you didn't reveal your translation of Psalm 22:9-10 that supposedly shows the baby is not God's until it is born. The Hebrew clearly shows the meaning of the baby in the womb belonging to God.

    4. [Flycandler] I strongly suggest you scroll up to the more recent blog posts to see how John's friend Bob (a self-identified evangelical pastor) actually agrees with President Clinton and me on this.

    No thanks! I can only stand so much in one day. I'll bookmark it and look it up after Roe v. Wade is struck down [i.e. when most Americans WON'T agree with Bill Clinton].

    I can already hear you rolling over in laughter at my hopelessly provincial arguments. I have enjoyed entertaining you. Blessings to you and may our God take both of us with Him.

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  26. Jim,

    **if this is the passage you referred to regarding an "abortifacient") does not describe an abortifacient. It is also a punishment that is later covered by the blood of Christ.
    **

    Numbers 5: 23-28 describes a process where if the woman is guilty, it will make the woman suffer a miscarriage -- that's a process that deliberatly ends a pregnancy, which is what abortion does.

    **Which reminds me that you didn't reveal your translation of Psalm 22:9-10 that supposedly shows the baby is not God's until it is born. **

    I'll take a stab at this.

    New King James Version:

    But You are He who took me out of the womb;
    You made me trust while on my mother's breasts.
    I was cast upon You from birth
    From my Mother's womb.

    New Living Translation:

    Yet you brought me safetly from my mother's womb
    and led me to trust you at my mother's breast.
    I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
    You have been my God from the moment I was born.

    The Message, although that's a paraphrase, and so not the best support:

    And to think you were my midwife at my birth,
    setting me at my mother's breats.
    When I left the womb you cradled me;
    since the moment of birth you've been my God.

    Any link I've found directly to the Hebrew doesn't translate every word. It links to a few words, such as 'womb' 'cast' 'mother's breasts' and the order is left up to the translator, as well as where things fall grammatically. If I'm remembering how Hebrew works, it often likes to duplicate the thought, which it does here. From the moment of birth, the person has been thrown at God -- God has known this person and held this person from the moment the person exited the womb. The way the first three lines work indicates a concept starting from the moment of birth, and the fourth line is used to support that. The 'from my mother's womb' emphasises that it's a connection immediatly set upon exiting one's mother.

    The line that you say clearly shows God being God while in the womb is "I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly." But given the context of the verse, and how Hebrew works, which is more likely? That it refers to while in the womb, or that it refers to belonging to God from leaving the womb?

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  27. Hi Heather
    The KJV Strong's translation for verse 10 is
    22:10
    I was cast (8717) upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.

    The word used for "womb" is specifically womb, the Hebrew word "rechem". The Hebrew words for "Mother's belly" are "ame beten" or specifically mother's (ame) and beten alternating between "womb" or "belly".

    It is good to look up these individual translations of words when so much depends on their meaning.

    If God started the being in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16 et al) then wouldn't it be God's from that point logically? You would have to presume that we are accidental until that time that we leave the womb, which negates the belief that we are specifically a work of God.

    Put simply, God is pro-life. We should all be glad that that is the truth! :-)

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  28. Jim,

    I'm not disputing the Hebrew words for womb or mother's belly -- as I said, the links to the Hebrew words I found offered translations for those words. What the translations don't do is offer a translation for every word found in the King James version. The order and the "filler words" seem left up to the discretion of the translator (the order of arrangement, such as what the other translations say, with God from the moment of birth, the moment of exiting the mother's belly). And again -- from what I found, Hebrew tends to duplicate itself. It's a form of poetry. The rest of the Psalms is set up that God is that person's God from the moment of birth. "Thought art my God from birth, which is another way of saying I was cast upont thee from the womb." Which ties back into the formation of Adam, because he became a living creature/soul *after* he took his first breath. As in, after God breathed into him the breath of life. Without that breath, it was just a complex form of dirt.

    **If God started the being in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16 et al) then wouldn't it be God's from that point logically?**

    This is the same Psalms that has a line of: 'my body is no mystery to thee, how I was secretly kneaded into shape and patterend in the depths of the earth. (King James itself has "My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.") All of this is on line 15 of Psalms 139.

    What do we do with that portion, which from what I've read, reflects a belief that the fetus is created in the earth, and then somehow transplated into the mother's womb. If this is simply a metaphor, then what is the line between making that a metaphor, and taking everything else in that verse literally? As it is, the entire process starts in the ground, based on this verse. And this verse makes no mention of when the very identity of the person, the soul becomes part of the person.

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  29. Hi Heather,
    You wrote The order and the "filler words" seem left up to the discretion of the translator (the order of arrangement, such as what the other translations say, with God from the moment of birth, the moment of exiting the mother's belly).

    The "filler" words are words that are plainly clear. The key words that Strong's highlights are the ones that control the meaning. The language is Hebrew so this discussion needn't get bogged down by multiple English translations.

    While I appreciate your diligence, it seems you're doing some serious acrobatics to justify the idea that God claims the child only when it exits the mother's belly.

    But we all know God's work started well before that. Here's an analogy to your argument. I'm writing this response on a notepad. I get a quarter of the way through and my daughter grabs the paper and tears it up. Like your God, I'd say, "that's OK, honey, I wasn't finished anyway."

    Then I get halfway through my response and my daughter comes and tears up that page too. "That's OK, honey, I wasn't finished anyway".

    I could go on but I hope you see the illogic of only counting something as protected only when it's finished.

    That's what my eyes tell me as well, Heather. One cannot watch a video of an abortion and not be repulsed by the truth that a few months later that fetus would have been a healthy baby.

    At the very least we must err on the side of life. We have lost an entire generation of Americans to abortion and tens of millions of women have been traumatized.

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  30. Oh, Jim, you do make me laugh in my haughty provincial way as I relax on a back porch in the red clay hills of Georgia having just eaten a plate of grits with a glass of sweet tea (from Waffle House, seriously, it's where I had lunch).

    Has it occurred to you that if 95% of your friends at church aren't aware that it's Presbyterian, perhaps you should go outside and look at the sign. I think it's entirely possible you wandered into a Catholic, Methodist or Episcopalian church by accident. If it is true that such a large segment of a congregation of a Presbyterian church, no matter what stripe, doesn't know that they are Presbyterian or (more importantly) what their constitutional role as members is within the church, it reflects very badly on your pastor and Session. Where's an uppity consistory when you need it? We gots a rolodex of executive presbyters round here somewhere...

    Jim, bubbe, there is so much projection here I feel like an IMAX screen! These overwhelming evidences for God supporting Pat Robertson's political views on abortion law simply do not exist. Your strongest case is a verse from a Psalm wherein the singer praises God for helping put him together in his mother's womb and claiming him at birth. However, if I were held to every word I sing in a hymn, oy vay! Yesterday, we sung "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing". Even though I sung "Here I raise my Ebenezer", I did not so so as it would probably violate local obscenity laws.

    I find it interesting that you bring up yet another "Schoolhouse Rocks" moment, this time on a topic that "Schoolhouse Rocks" probably covered.

    Much of the outrage amongst the anti-choice crowd about Roe comes from the fact that it was NOT a majority view of the American people in 1973. It was NOT decided by the American people or indeed by any elected representative. Seven unelected justices ruled a Texas statute (and therefore, all equivalent statues in every other state) unconstitutional.

    If Roe is ever struck down (which is pretty unlikely at this point--Karl Rove is probably telling John Roberts not to go there as the GOP will permanently lose one of their most valuable campaign issues), it will, ironically, be AGAINST the will of a majority of the American people and be done by a cabal of five or more unelected judges. I don't change my opinion based on how the Supreme Court rules and from what I can tell you don't either.

    Is abortion a sickening medical procedure for us laypersons to observe? Sure. You want to see something REALLY disgusting, try open heart surgery (which is also pretty traumatic). I think Leviticus is pretty clear on colonoscopies (if performed by a male doctor), yet it didn't stop our President a couple weeks ago.

    And yes, it's a fact that during the Bill "Safe, legal and Rare" Clinton, the number of abortions performed in the United States actually dropped. If you want to stop abortions, give young people access to good sexual education (which can advise them not to have sex til they get married but also give an honest, frank look at the mechanics of conception) and reliable birth control.

    FWIW, you can rest assured Jim that I will never get an abortion nor put someone in the position wherein they would feel a need to get one.

    Remember to check that sign next Sunday.

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  31. Jim,

    **The "filler" words are words that are plainly clear. The key words that Strong's highlights are the ones that control the meaning. The language is Hebrew so this discussion needn't get bogged down by multiple English translations. **

    Given that we're both relying on translations, I'm presuming that you can't read Hebrew (for I know I can't). Therefore, we are relying on those who can read it, and have translated it. So it doesn't work to say that the language is Hebrew, when we can only go based on the translations we see of certain words, and English Bibles themselves.

    The “filler words” I referred to was what wasn’t offered a Hebrew word on the Psalms in King James – “I was [cast] upon thee from the [womb]. Thou art my [God] from my [mother’s belly].” The words in the bracket are those that actually had a link to a Hebrew word. That’s four words in total, compared to the eleven others. Those eleven words were the “filler” I referred to, that connected the Hebrew to each other, and why I say it's up to the discretion of the translator, considering all the variety we see.

    And the fact is that no matter what verse is being discussed, it will get bogged down by English translations. It’s remarkable how many Bibles are out there that can have several key verses almost say radically different things, with the same Greek/Hebrew word. Or even Hebrew to Greek. Just look at the Hebrew word for young woman which was translated into Greek as ‘virgin’ and the discussion it created between scholars as to how the virgin birth came about.

    **it seems you're doing some serious acrobatics to justify the idea that God claims the child only when it exits the mother's belly. **

    Except those “acrobatics” have involved verses that actually touch on the termination of the pregnancy or the potential termination of the pregnancy, and therefore how the fetus is viewed. It involves mentioning the Hebrew duplication, or a metaphorical line in a Psalms that leads one to question how it is determine to take everything else literally, when that metaphorical line is attached to the very verse used by the pro-life movement. (Well, at least the Christians in the pro-life movement), or taking one of the best examples we have of when the soul becomes part of the body. It involves looking at a variety of translations, to get an idea of the wide range out there.

    ** I'm writing this response on a notepad. I get a quarter of the way through and my daughter grabs the paper and tears it up.**

    My argument is the same as flycandler’s: that the Bible is vague on the status of the fetus, which is why I keep mentioning the “pregnancy termination” verses. If there were a burning building with both a three month old baby and a fetus in the first trimester, the Bible seems pretty clear that you save the three month old if you can only save one.

    **We have lost an entire generation of Americans to abortion and tens of millions of women have been traumatized.**

    Tens of millions? I’m sure we’re going to disagree with this as well, but the studies I’ve seen show a higher psychological benefit, compared to those who had to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. Am I saying that someone hops on the table, has an abortion and then cheerfully goes on her way? Of course not. But from a majority of the stories I’ve read from women who have had abortions, they didn’t make the choice out of “convenience,” but due to a variety of factors, and didn’t make the decision casually. They made the best choice they could, taking their economic situation, other children and husband/partner into account.

    But if we truly want to stop them, then we have to do what is shown to work: better sex education and reliable birth control. Yes, I do want to stop them. Many on the pro-choice side do. The difference is that simply outlawing them won't work.

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  32. Flycandler or perhaps fly-off-the-handle-er :-)

    You need to re-read my comments about my fellow presbyters not knowing they are part of the PCUSA. Of course they know they're Presbyterians, or as Homer Simpson would say, doh. I'll pardon your Emily Litella moment. That should even us out (with my bishop faux pax that is).

    As for Bill "Ah Like Ma Steak Rare" Clinton, there are three reasons abortions dropped:

    1) Ultrasound, moms can now see what they are aborting [and watch as it waves back at them].
    2) Laws that make getting an abortion more difficult.
    3) Young people are rejecting the idea of abortion in growing numbers because they realize they could have been one themselves.

    [I'm not taking all credit away from good ol' Bill, though]

    I agree with you 100% about education. Encouraging abstinence plus a thorough education on the subject of sex is needed. Less mystery about it the better.

    I could inundate you with Bible verses that put God's interests from the moment of conception but I think the story of Jesus' birth would suffice. The Christ child story didn't begin at the time of his birth, but probably 8 months before [when Mary realized she was pregnant]. I hope you will always be open to reconsidering that position.

    Georgia must be beautiful this time of year. Hope you enjoyed your lunch!

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  33. Jim, for those of you who weren't aware (which is probably everyone) has been "debating" me behind my back on his blog without informing me he was doing so. It's always fun to have a punching bag who can't respond, especially when you twist his words!

    For the last damn time, Jim, neither I nor President Clinton said anything about abortion needing to be "safe, affordable and rare". You went so far as to argue "me" on the "affordable" point (and making a weird economic argument), which is a point I never made!

    Jim, darling, you need to learn the first rule of holes: WHEN YOU'RE IN ONE, STOP DIGGING.

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  34. FLYCANDLER
    FRONT PORCH
    Near a WAFFLE HOUSE
    GEORGIA (look for red clay hills)

    Sorry to give out your personal information!

    Further, I apologize for copying and pasting your untenable positions. Surely you've changed your mind by now....Buy a box of Tums and stop going to Waffle House, will ya?

    P.S. - This has been hilarious. Do I have your permission to post a Part Three?

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  35. Well, gosh it's thoughtful of you to ask if you can write about me after doing it TWICE without letting me know. No, I'd rather not be trashed in absentia, but so far you've not proven to me that you are honorable enough to honor such a request.

    You have a bizarrely twisted worldview and I hope you get help. I pity you.

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  36. I repeat
    FLYCANDLER
    FRONT PORCH
    Near a WAFFLE HOUSE
    GEORGIA (look for red clay hills)

    Now I'm gonna post that everywhere! Sir, you are anonymous, or should I say anonymouse?

    Christ came so that we might have life and have it abundantly [and extend that assurance to others]. My message to you, my friend, is "Get a life".

    This will be my last post here on this thread. I don't want you to herniate a disk or choke on your grits. Feel free to continue to bleat and groan with impunity.

    Blessings, and may our God forgive you.

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