A friend recently apologized for having overpromised and underdelivered when it came to a lengthy response he had planned in a debate about early Christianity. He has kids, and, alas, a real job. I understood – I’d planned on writing a third and final piece on Stewart, the one, to be honest, to which I was building up. I’m skipping it. Life, and the daily minutiae in attending to it, is far more important. And where they’re interrupted, few things are worth writing about for any length of time.
This one is, though. I don’t like abortion, and I don’t fully understand why. This is the first of many posts that try to get to the bottom of it.
Mind you, “I don’t fully understand why” isn’t an odd position here – I’m agnostic, to tell the truth, and the lack of definite answers about a number of moral issues makes for a great many moments where my feelings and my thoughts don’t always align. Abortion is one of the big ones. In light of the dialogue, and screaming match, that has surfaced as a result of the Planned Parenthood sting videos put out by the Center for Medical Progress, there’s no shortage of people willing to answer questions, and no time like the present to ask.
I should flesh out the agnostic part first – I’ve been so since college, resting there since reluctantly renouncing, and then halfway unrenouncing, my Christianity. I’ve been told it’s a hip or popular choice for my generation, but there was nothing hip about it for me at the time. It was agony. I had doubts, and questions, and unanswered questions, and an urge to find answers that regularly spilled over into self-inflicted pain. Academic questions about the historicity of the Bible, or the morality of the God of the Old Testament, were occasions to despair for days, with an occasional break to cause myself a bruise, or bleeding. God gave me questions, and no answers; I loved him, and I hated him very much.
Some 20 years later, I’m inclined to believe that most of my searching and pleading with the Lord of the Universe was more a symptom of mild mental illness than a struggle with the Creator. That, anyway, is how I was diagnosed, some 20 years later. At the time, however, my freedom from struggle was nothing more than a realization that, if I so chose, I didn’t have to figure out the answers to anything. “I don’t know” was acceptable. Hell, it was liberating. No struggle, no pleading, no begging for answers, but rest, and rest in something that afflicts us all – a complete and total lack of understanding about what God’s plans are. If he exists, and has them.
It sounds fatalistic, but, to be blunt about it, the day after was the most peaceful day I’ve ever had in my 33 years of existence. By a wide, wide margin. I imagine it’s what conversion feels like.
“I don’t know” is a wonderful thing to say, and particularly apt if you, like me, find that people think with their feelings. Knowing when and where you don’t actually know something is a huge boon to finding when people might be pulling a fast one. Morality, however, was tricky – not more or less tricky than it had been before, with Christianity, for reasons I’ll explain later, but tricky still – and I found myself deferring more and more to church authorities, be they Orthodox or Catholic priests, or the pope himself, or the broad consensus of pastors. Even agnostics, it seems, occasionally need to defer to authority.
To bring it round to the present – in light of the several Planned Parenthood videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, I’ve been re-evaluating my thoughts on abortion, thoughts which, until now, rested comfortably in “it’s wrong, but the way to fight it is not through legislation. Just fund the crap out of programs like Save the Storks.” I’m not sure anymore. To the question of both the morality of abortion and the means by which to fight it, my answer now, oddly enough, is “I don’t know.” I am decidedly less comfortable with this declaration of ignorance than I was with my first.
This, then, marks the first of a series of essays to understand what I think, or what I should think, with an eye to analytical methods that take into account one very pressing fact – we think with our feelings. I certainly do. So do you.
Please enjoy, as much as it might be possible, given the subject matter. And bear with me.