Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Abortion and the Weight of Glory

Marcy at Marcy's Musings wrote recently about The New View of Abortion . This "new view" is embodied in Dr. George Tiller "the Killer" of Wichita KS. Tiller is the medical director of Women's Health Care Services, an abortion clinic specializing in late-term procedures.

Tiller's clinic is unique in that, rather than trying to persuade women that what they are disposing of is not human -- a difficult case to make for a late term abortion -- women are offered grief counseling, photos, memorabilia, funerary services, and "spiritual care" (more here) -- including baptism of their aborted infants. (Yeah, that makes sense: kill them and then baptize them.) Indeed, in the counseling process, patients are shown photos and given information about fetal development. They are also informed of their rights according to Kansas law. It's all very clean and above board.

The "chaplaincy" page on Dr. Tiller's website states that "abortion is acceptable in ten of the world's religions and in Christianity many denominations affirm and uphold the right of a woman to make the choice of abortion." Sorry, Dr. Tiller, but right and wrong is not determined by consensus of the world's religions. And within the Christian church, abortion has been soundly and universally condemned by the historic church from its inception, in every century but our own.

The pro-life movement has won a victory. The ignorance --willful or genuine-- of the mainstream "it isn't human; it isn't a baby" argument is crumbling under the tread of thousands of "tiny feet". But in its stead, an uglier and deeper evil has reared its head: rather than kill believing -- or persuading ourselves -- that we are simply removing unwanted tissue, now we kill what we acknowledge to be human, premeditated murder in full flower, and then desecrate the comfort of heaven and the sacrament of baptism by using them not to comfort the repentant, but to assuage the consciences of the guilty. "Your child is going to a better place. He won't suffer anymore." God be praised for His infinite mercy that that is true -- for the babies.

But the power of baptism resides in the death of Christ and in the Divine Name of the Triune God -- so the second commandment is broken as well as the fifth. Luther's Small Catechism defines the second commandment in this way: "We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use Satanic arts, lie or deceive by His Name, but call upon it in every trouble (including an unwanted pregnancy or a terminally handicapped child), pray, praise, and give thanks." Thus the new abortion is infinitely more harmful to the souls of the women involved than the former, as if the whole thing weren't both damning and damnable to begin with. There is no love in that. Tiller's baptisms belie him; they have nothing to do with the concern for the souls of babies, because he cares nothing for the souls of women -- the body, the opportunities and comforts of the world, maybe, but not the soul. And so the demon has returned, found his house swept clean, and has brought seven of his fellows, so that the latter state of the man -- and society -- is worse than the first.

Dr. Tiller, I am ashamed to say, is a Lutheran. He is even an elder in his church, but it is a liberal church in a liberal synod which has drifted far astray from the Lutheran Confessions. He ought to be excommunicated, according to the Scriptures, according to the canons of the ancient church, according to Luther. Instead he enjoys the protection and blessing of his church. Two theological errors are at the root of George Tiller's twisted humanitarianism: Gospel without Law, and the theology of glory. It is the Law in all its harshness which gives the Gospel its sweetness. When the Gospel is preached without the Law, Christ's death is an atonement for nothing, and grace is cheap -- "There is no right or wrong, just what's right for you." But what does Jesus say? He who is forgiven much, loves much. When we lessen the seriousness of sin and the weight of its penalty, we lessen love.

The Theology of Glory is any theology which attempts to sidestep the cross and its sufferings. It is best illustrated by the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, when Satan tempts Jesus to bypass the cross by using His divine power to establish his Kingdom. Tiller presents himself as a Christian humanitarian because he performs late-term abortion on babies which have terminal genetic conditions. This is one of the two circumstances in which late -term (post-viable) abortions are permitted under Kansas law. Examples include spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, and fatal dwarfism. Isn't it the duty of doctors, especially Christian doctors, to end suffering? Yes, it is right to alleviate suffering, but within the bounds of God's Law. And yes, it is the duty of doctors to save life, but not to decide when it should end.

Aren't these children going to die anyway -- why should they be allowed to suffer pain and difficulty, when death will take them to heaven and ultimate healing? This is where the theology of glory really causes us to stumble. Suffering came into the world as the result of sin. But in taking up the suffering of the cross, Jesus Christ absorbed it into Himself and transformed it. When we suffer as Christians, we suffer with Christ, and if we suffer with Him, we will be glorified with Him. This is the theology of the Cross, which stands in opposition to the theology of glory. Christ Himself suffers not only for us, but in us and with us. In our suffering we are united with Him in His suffering; His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

We cannot eliminate suffering by eliminating the sufferers. In this life God calls upon us to suffer, even little babies, who are made in His image, who share fully in the condition of humanity, and who participate fully in the riches of God's grace through baptism. Some of us suffer much, some of us little, and those of us who suffer little are called to serve those who suffer much, and to take up their burdens. We'd like to spare those children their time of pain, spare their families the emotional agony of caring for them, and the overwhelming expense of paying for that care. But we must do so unselfishly, by not sparing ourselves the spiritual burden of crying with them and praying for them, the temporal burden of providing respite for their families, and the financial burden of giving up our movies and our eating out to share in the medical expenses. If we really believed in eternal life, rather than hastening little ones on to glory through murderous means, we would recognize, as St. Paul teaches us, that our sufferings here are small in comparison to the incomparable weight of glory which will be ours in heaven.

4 comments:

Mama bird said...

Dr. Tiller, I am ashamed to say, is a Lutheran. He is even an elder in his church, but it is a liberal church in a liberal synod which has drifted far astray from the Lutheran Confessions.]]

since Luther started out as a Catholic Priest, and in fact remained very 'catholic' in his sensibilities in things like Liturgy, contraception and abortion, he must be rolling about in his grave right now.

In fact, I dare say our Founding fathers are probably flipping around as well.

Abortion is NOT an inalienable right...ever.

Wonderful post.

~M~

Anonymous said...

You silly, ignorant, superstitious woman: who are you to decree that mothers must be forced to bear children who are destined to suffer and die in agony?

God has told you this? I don't think so.

I hope never to have to make a decision whether or not to abort such a fetus myself, but if I do have to make it, I will make it without assistance from some narrow-minded bible thumper, thank you very much.

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