The Christian response to abortion in our western culture has been a matter of preserving the sanctity of life. Although it would seem to be cut and dry to a Christian that abortion violates that sanctity of life, it continues to face constitutional evolvement, differing worldviews, the scrutiny of the more liberal medical profession, and school text books for Christians. All of these concerns illustrate a wayward compass, lacking the ability to find true north. Society continues to weigh the simple yet complex definitions of personhood. Abortion is purported to be morally justified by pro-choice advocates in the postmodern culture. The question of what is right or wrong continues to be argued on both sides of the issue. For instance, the religious community cannot reach agreement, cites Rothstein and Williams (1983), on what a “person” consists of or when a “person” begins life.
This paper will contend that the postmodern attitude towards abortion in a theistic society has been characterized as ambivalent and such that a society, exposed to liberal schools of thought, and changing modern and family values, errs on the side of science and convenience. Further, decision makers on the pro-choice side have used their agenda to further their secular beliefs through education, and a cavalier approach to sex which gives rise to sexual promiscuity. Additionally, there have been declines in moral thresholds, church attendance, theological literacy, and respect for gender roles in the family.
Ambivalent Abortion Attitudes in a Postmodern Theistic Society
Disputes over abortion are usually very heated due to the involvement of conflicting worldviews. Abortion is going to have difficulty attempting to reside within a Christian worldview, based purely on their opposing logic. Furthermore, abortion can comfortably maintain itself within the worldview of liberal postmodernism. Challengers of abortion are aware that they are supporting the rights of human life even though they may not be cognizant that they are also supporting the Christian worldview. Also, supporters of legal abortions identify that they are securing a “woman’s right to choose” even though they may not be completely aware of their support to the postmodern worldview.
A worldview adds perspective and helps us identify with the world around us and how we deduce and appraise not only what we see but how we perceive ourselves to our understanding of life. Religion has the ability to hone a person’s worldview, which starts to develop and institute moral perspectives. “Religion serves as a main source for determining ‘right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust” (Durkheim, 1954 p. 43).
In order to have a credible understanding of the postmodern view on abortion which will be discussed next, both opposing views must be examined in order to explain why a postmodern view in a theistic society would embrace a pro-abortion stance. This will explain the difficulty in finding a common ground, in regard of the issues of abortion, and why conversion at this point is not viable especially since postmodern tenets lean toward the secular decision making.
Comparative analysis of postmodernism and theistic views: Man is a created being and has a composition pre-determined by an intelligent and purposeful design, as opposed to the secular contention where man’s indiscriminate evolvement has no predetermined nature or design. Man is an immortal spirit being in which dwells a mortal body, compared to the secular point of view where man is wholly a physical animal and or machine. Moral law governs universally through marriage, sexual activity, and family, while secularism sees morality as culturally and or individually determined. Luker (1984) sites these differing views as conflicting, “pro-choice activist women ‘share almost no common premises and very little common language’ with antiabortion activist women; in particular, the worldviews and conceptions of motherhood held by the two different groups of women are antithetical” (p. 2).
The cultural war on abortion has many fronts and those who adhere to liberal postmodernism or answer to liberal postmodern ideology are likely to frame lawful abortion as a set of rights or privileges for the women who in many cases become pregnant carelessly. Hauerwas, author of “Theologically Understood,” says that liberals not Christians in America are tempted to think of issues like abortion primarily in legal terms such as “rights.” He explains “rights as an agreement between members in a society who have nothing in common and in this context the prolife plus prochoice factions. Hauerwas states that within a liberal society such as ours, the law functions as a mediator of such disagreements. He gives an example of our system of law by saying, “Why do Christians call abortion, abortion and that is to say why Christians think that abortion is a morally problematic term?” (Hauerwas, 1991, p. 5).
Hauerwas demystifies years of elusions by calling abortion, abortion which is already an achievement based on principles. Pro-choice is pro-abortion using the phrase “termination of pregnancy,” the postmodernist has reduced the church’s involvement and reallocated the moral responsibility onto the medical profession. “For most of the twentieth century, abortion was removed from public scrutiny by defining it as a question of medical judgment” (Emerson, 1996, p. 44).
By circumventing the church we can easily foretell any future decision making within a postmodern society towards abortion. By defining that mistake as “take God out of anything and it dies” as pointed out here by Nietzsche, “parable of a madman” “Do we smell anything yet of God’s decomposition?” Isn’t this the crux of postmodern wisdom which is inserting God’s insignificance into the minds of our youth?
A culture cannot lose its philosophic center without the most serious of consequences, not just to the philosophy on which it was based but to the whole superstructure of culture and even each person’s notion of who he or she is. When God dies, both the substance and the value of everything else die too (Sire, 2004, p. 211).
This leads to the next point on Postmodernisms thinking on the sanctity of life, which has created a pro-abortion crisis in America. In the United States alone the abortion rates have increased from 898,000 in 1974 to 1,533,000 in 1980. These figures indicate that on an average day in Washington D.C., abortions are outnumbering live births. Twenty-five percent of all pregnancies are terminated in this manner and forty percent among teenagers. Approximately twenty percent of all women in the United States have had a legal abortion. Sixty percent were under twenty-five years of age, and eighty-two percent were unmarried at the time of their abortions. Sixty-nine percent of these individuals were white. This is the latest available information provided by researchers by the Henshaw, Koonin & Smith Institute (1991).
The above information shows the influential state and the wide acceptance of abortion and its use as a solution rather than as a last resort. Another way we see secular conditioning, is through what we read, which raises the question are we neglecting to effectively provide enough alternatives to abortions, such as adoption?
For a number of generations we have been stealth fully preconditioning society by removing God from public education. Here for example a member of the Texas board of education is reported saying “There seems to be a misinformed view of religion in American history, that America is somehow founded on Christianity, and Mize said, We just ask that things be historically accurate” (Castro, 2010, ¶7).
That certainly lessens the burden of trying to understand a postmodern view towards the ultimate decision to dismiss life, since a form of preconditioning has shown a dismissive attitude towards abortion. “The textbook often provides the “central focus” and “organizing framework” for courses, and students, in turn rely on textbooks as their most readily available source of information about the course topics” (Geersten, 1977, p. 102).
Postmodern theists are also finding difficulty with the abortion issue when it comes to their education as pointed out here, “Evangelicals for the most part tend to adhere to their education group rather than their religion with regards to their abortion attitudes” (Schmalzbauer, 1993, p. 6). Education will no doubt reconstruct the minds of our youth as pointed out by Evans when he commented on Wuthnow, 1988 “education is a more powerful opinion structuring force than religious discourse itself, and most studies find that the more education a respondent has, the more liberal his or her abortion attitudes” (Evans, 2002, p. 418).
This helps answer why a postmodern society raises and nurtures it’s most influential citizens into embracing such secular ideas as Humanism, Naturalism, and Theistic Existentialism.
Postmodernism is here to stay and to evolve. It is a major paradigm shift that has vast and deep impact on the world. When modernity hits hard on Christianity, many sociologists predict the inevitable demise and even eradication of Christianity by secularism (Bruce & Steve, 1996, ¶5).
Also having the primarily secularists controlling how textbooks are written and studied can only point to the trickling down effect of God within the hearts of men. “By the mid-1990’s abortion had been legal for two decades, and the population had become more educated and more secular, and other sociodemographic trends found abortion increasingly acceptable” (Strickler & Danigelis, 1999, p. 188).
There should be equal worry over issues which are of immediate concern for all such as poverty, global warming, aids prevention, war, and more. All of these are of equal value and worth investigation and debating, but abortion is not equated with the same balance of equality. Given the recent numbers of elective abortions, 1,533,000 in 1980 as sited earlier tell us that there are many women who continue to share ambivalent feelings toward abortion. “I was pregnant, I carried two unborn children and I chose, for completely selfish reasons, to deny them life so that I could better my own” (Flodin, 1990, ¶3).
If we are going to find a way to bring back the sanctity within our society, we must implement formal instructions in morals and principles as an essential component of the public school curriculum. Secularism campaigns alongside ambivalence; in America we become too complicated with our competing convictions? The answer lies in our public school system which according to the first amendment,
Public schools may not inculcate nor inhibit religion. They must be places where religion and religious conviction are treated with fairness and respect. Public schools uphold the First Amendment when they protect the religious liberty rights of students of all faiths or none. Schools demonstrate fairness when they ensure that the curriculum includes study about religion, where appropriate (Haynes, 2010, P.1).
An upward battle will continue as long as postmodernists maintain a distant relationship with God. “Teachers are permitted to wear no obtrusive jewelry, such as a cross or Star of David. But teachers should not wear proselytizing message (e.g., “Jesus Saves” T-shirt). (Haynes, 1999, p.7). Here is an example of secular reasoning,
Attorneys for Kandice Smith, a sixth-grader at Curry Middle School in Walker County, Alabama, filed a lawsuit in federal court to overturn what they called an “unconstitutional” dress code. In August, the school banned cross necklaces as part of its new dress code – claiming they are “gang symbols.” School officials threatened to discipline Smith if she didn’t hide the cross under her clothes. (Rock star, 1999, ¶4).
As long as the cross is reviewed as a “gang sign” abortion will always be consider as a first option. Postmodern societies lean towards abortion as a first consideration rather than as a last resort because it rests in their understanding of God.
The postmodern cultures, bible illiteracy clearly exemplifies the ease in which abortion decisions are made, and how religious freedom can be extrapolated from law to err on the side of the secularist, consequently making the first amendment null and void.
In conclusion, how can a Christian in a postmodern society consider abortion not as a viable solution to a complex moral issue? The abortion debate has polarized Americans like no other national problem. The abortion issue has created a vast partitioning across Americas cultural, and religious lines, which is also evident at the individual, political, and ecclesiastical levels. How then can a Christian in a postmodern theistic society protect forty percent of future teenage abortions in a society which is profoundly secular given the tenet that abortion is a right?
This certainly points to a valid concern held by many Christians, and alludes to a valid misrepresentation on prolife options within our school textbooks. “From 1988 through 1993 sampling 27 textbooks representing 16 publishers covering a period of 6 years” (Kathy Shepherd & Elaine Hall, 1994, p. 267). They referenced topics such as, abortion and legal cases such as Roe v. Wade, pro-life, birth control, teen pregnancy, and reproduction. Citations for abortion were indexed more than 60 times and adoption citations were indexed under 13 headings. Also with this study acknowledgement to abortion was tendered 4 times more page space than adoption.
The Humanist manifesto will continue as long as Gods heritage is denied in public school courses. This is happening all across America, schools are simply not teaching about God, and by leaving out His heritage the significance of abortion will continue to all future generations.
A theist in a postmodern society must find a way to respect the law of the land that does not mean they take part in it nor does it mean they have to protest, through legal channels its validity. “If we are to be effective on the other side, we ourselves will have to become less modern and more postmodern-not completely of it, of course, but more completely in it.” (McLaren, 2000, p. 168).