Wednesday, July 25, 2007

abortion, mean angry people, and human life

clint has a nice post up. you should read it. it's about people who drive through our city with billboard trucks advertising the gruesomeness and cruelty of abortion. and then these people compliment their trucks with poorly informed messages of hate. just a few days ago clint called me, outraged, describing the scene just outside where he works. he held up his phone so I could hear all the yelling.

reminds me of a certain preacher who, when I was in college, would stand out on the concourse and yell at the students. he would call us drug addicts, whores, rapists and fornicators. all of us. we were all fornicators. I remember how amazing I thought he was, how amazing that he felt confident that everybody walking by fornicated. I went up to him once to talk to him, and asked, "how do you know that I use drugs?" and he replied, "well do you?" and I answered "no" and he yelled "LIIAAR!!! FORNICATOR!!!" as he pointed at me.

about a year ago, on the corner outside my office, there was I guess a traveling street missionary. he wore a lot of flannel and read the bible loudly. he seemed angry that he was having to read the bible, and he read it to us for hours, days at a time. and then one day, there was a guy dressed like jesus. another guy who didn't shave or bathe, and he was dressed in a white robe, and carrying a cross up and down 20th street. and just as I was walking by, he started yelling at the missionary.

It was too perfect. jesus fighting with the missionary. they were really getting into it too. fingers pointing and shoving and yelling. I happened to be walking by with jamika my co-worker, and I told her I had to go and talk to them, I wanted to see the fight up close, and she said "no brian, just keep walking, you are angry enough as it is." and I shrugged, and I smiled because in that moment I felt known, and then I went to eat a chicken sandwich with jamika.

back to abortion.

a few years ago, I was asked to play some music for a sav-a-life conference. at the time I was playing every sunday morning at faith presbyterian - a very conservative, somewhat stuffy church in the suburbs (a conservative, stuffy church that was surprisingly kind, warm, gentle, and encouraging to me). I remember one day sitting in a staff meeting and people were praying, and I never participated because prayer meetings really do freak me out, but I remember thinking, or feeling "jesus is after me at this exact moment" and the thought really scared me so I started thinking about something else, like how much I am uncomfortable in prayer meetings). (have you ever felt like jesus was after you? like, really after you? it's a very crazy feeling.)

anyway - a very kind lady from this church asked me to play for the sav-a-life conference. I think she ran the sav-a-life thing. I have mixed feelings about abortion (mostly with how the issue is handled), but I decided to play anyway. when I got to the event, there was some keynote speaker, I have no idea what his name was, but he was a big guy with a loud voice and an even louder ego and too much social know - the kind of guy you immediately know that you don't like. and he started chatting me up about music and I started faking like I had a call on my cell phone.

so at this event, he showed I think a video of an actual abortion. and then he started talking about the post-moderns. I hate the term post-modern, mostly because I think the term actually applies to people who are currently in their 50's, but is used to describe people in their 20's (I also hate the term "emergent", but that's another issue). but I also hate the term post modern because it is used to characterize, well, me. and at this event this guy was describing the "post moderns" and I couldn't help but feel like he was actually pretty accurately describing me. and then he talked about how the post-moderns are the enemy of the church, and how they are destroying everything. and I was thinking "hold have these people, post modern or whatever you want to call them...and they are IN your church. they are not hateful, jesus destroying people. they are believing people...I thought this was about abortion?"

to me, the issue is not about abortion or about post moderns or about hateful, angry christians. I mean, if jesus and the missionary can't get along, it definitely gives me hope that it's okay for me to not get along with the angry hateful preachers.

the issue is that human life is not sacred. my life is not sacred. your life is not sacred. it's just an unavoidable fact. iraqi lives are clearly not sacred. african lives, probably the least sacred of all. the poor in our own country, not sacred. the old - pushed aside. the homeless people who I walk by every day - hoping they don't talk to me - not sacred. I took this photo of 16th street baptist a few months ago, a constant, saddening reminder of how not-sacred human life has been in the city I love and call home.

and something I have a lot of trouble with is how many human lives god destroyed in the bible. does god think human life is sacred? I'm not making a statement about god, I'm just asking a question to which you don't have an answer.

maybe if human life was sacred abortion wouldn't exist.

maybe the fact that human life isn't sacred is darker and scarier than any of us want to admit.

maybe some day we'll learn to love the humans that have already emerged from the womb. or perhaps we'll just continue to pretend to love the unborn.

sure is easier.


susan said...

Brother Jeb! I miss Brother Jeb.

bruce said...

BTM - emergent and post-modern are extraordinarily irritating - especially emergent because it doesn't really mean anything than young people doing stuff that old people don't like.

here is blog that I read occassionally on pomo church related things -

Why is it a forgone conclusion that because God destroys life and allows death that he necessarily doesn't find it sacred? On some level isn't true to say that God has the power of judgment and death? And that abortion is man taking power (if you believe in live fetuses), that is God's, and taking life unfairly? That seems to me to be the difference.

I guess the immediate counter argument is, well what about capital punishment? I am not sure it fits into the same category - CP exists for two reasons I think - 1. is historically some people were to dangerous to let live and there was no way to contain them (this isn't a good argument any more I don't think - but if I lived in 16th century france and there was a serial killer we caught - we would have to kill him I think, because our jails weren't going to hold him).
2. would be by not taking the life of someone who devalues life by rape, murder, or crimes against children you further undermine life. i am not sure this one is as convincing.

Clint Wells said...

I like the point of not valuing rights and life outside of the womb.

These people want to shout about value of life and rights UNTIL you are born and then they discredit everything they fought for when you can breathe oxygen.

Carla said...

Gosh, Brother Jeb. I couldn't remember his name. He came to my campus, too. All the stinkin' time.

TillmanTillmanTillman said...

Fantastic post. What a sweet irony, that these hateful yokels inadvertently are generating some very thoughtful discussion on the world wide interweb.

Liz said...

great post.

Robert said...

Post modern and emergent are synonymous with irresponsible, socialist, legalist...

Taylor said...

I understand that you think the main issue is that people don't realize that life is not sacred. So as a side comment, what is your opinion on the practice of abortion? No doubt you've expressed it before, but I haven't researched your blog archives.

matt terrell said...

it's hard for me to think that maybe life isn't sacred...

definatley, it seems like God disposes of enemies quickly and often in the OT... but i don't think that this is evidence of a lack of human value. if anything, i think it is evidence of the supreme value of life, not the other way around.

God loved, and still does love, His people. when Israel, even with all of her unfaithfulness and brokeness, was wronged, God responded by striking down her enemies. if someone crosses God's chosen and beloved bride wouldn't He justly respond by taking something of value away from that enemy, namely, their lives? in other words, would God be a very just God if the punishment did not fit the crime?

i feel like this is a huge part of what happened at the cross... God pouring His just wrath onto His (undeserving) Son instead of His (all-deserving) People. that all of the unfaithfulness and all of the hatred and all of the idols of Israels life and mine were poured onto Jesus as the Father poured all His wrath onto His son. it really doesn't make sense... the innocent dying for the guilty.

but in the end this is the only place where i can find hope. hope that one day there will be no blue-eyed jesus on the street pretending he's got it all figured out. and hope that one day i'll be free from trying to pretend like i've got it all figured out, too.

matt terrell said...

i have no idea if that last post made any sense. i'll probably have to clarify later.

Benj said...

Nice post.

It reminded me that I saw this guy on the street corner yesterday with a sandwich board. They read something along the lines of "The end is near, believe, repent, receive JESUS CHRIST. God personally told me so-and-so."

He was talking on a walkie-talkie pretty loudly when I drove by him. Maybe he was talking to God. I wished I wasn't late to work already and I could have listened to him a bit.

Robert said...

Brian, I love you man, I identify with your experiences, but do you realize that if life isn't sacred, then (all) morality is bullshit? Mother Teresa, Nero, Jesus, Hitler, Bono... it doesn't matter. They're the all the same.

In fact, to hold that as a value (life isn't sacred) is to render your holding other values a hypocrisy (like being faithful to your wife and not killing air breathing people).

You have many good blog posts, but this isn't one of them. The fact that so few of the posters here have identified this, indicates that they could stand to read a book or two.

John in Birmingham said...

So what does "sacred" mean to you, BTM? If life doesn't merit that label, what does?

Brian T. Murphy said...

Susan – he was such an angry person, wasn’t he?

Bruce – I like telling people that the emerging church is in Africa. And I don’t think the immediate counter argument is necessarily about capital punishment, not for me. for me it’s not really an argument at all. it’s about god, and whether or not he is real at all. you know? I know all the reasons Christians give to say that god is good and that he loves humans, but that is often a very hard thing for me to believe. this is probably not a safe thing for me to say on the worstweblogintheworld.

Clint – ironic, isn’t it? and really interesting what we talked about today at lunch – how these types of people stir up in me (and people we know) very animalistic reactions – urges of violence and anger and self-protection.

Carla – were you friends with him?

Tillman – yeah. weird that 3 days after they left town (or at least 5pts) we’re still talking about them. in some ways that means that they win, and that makes me feel weird. Especially since I am used to having one point and the universe having no points. and this isn’t even the universe. It’s just a californian caravan.

Liz – thanks. you should reignite your web log.

Robert – your synonyms are pretty narrow.

Taylor – my first opinion about abortion is that it is legal, it has been legal for over 30 years, and that it will be legal for as long as any of us are alive. beyond that, what do you want me to tell you about the practice of abortion, and why would it matter to you?

Matt – glad to see you here, my friend. according to this study, god has killed 32.9 million people. that’s just a hard number for me to swallow. And I know christians are supposed to talk themselves out of questioning god and questioning who god is, but I just can’t do it. I haven’t been able to shake some of these ideas for many years now. and yeah man – you know – I grew up in sunday school and bible classes and learning all the stuff you just wrote about – and the funny thing is – none of that information is helpful anymore. you know? it just doesn’t calm the angst and unease, and even anger, about the way things are.

Benj – I love sandwich board guys. I need to start making a practice of photographing them. it would make a great coffee-table book. I wonder who was on the other end of the walkie talkie. god maybe?

Robert – you don’t love me. you love yourself. and I think you love your answers even more.

John – I don’t know. important? of value? meaningful? worth dying for? do those sound like adequate synonyms?

Taylor said...

Okay, so it's legal, what's that matter to you?

I'm still mildly curious if you have any kind of opinion about abortion beyond its current legality.

Other than my own curiosity, it doesn't really matter at all.

John in Birmingham said...

Sacred = Important; of value; meaningful; worth dying for.

Those sound fine to me. You had said human life is NOT sacred, so I thought I better figure out what you meant by sacred.

So you don't think human life is important, of value, meaningful, or worth dying for? Somehow I doubt you'd really stand by that if pressed. Surely you value your own life and the lives of your family and friends.

I think you're saying in your post that life is not sacred because many people don't treat all of life that way. But all that really proves is that people are inconsistent and hypocritical -- not that their lives aren't sacred!

Am I missing something here?

susan said...

I don't really think he WAS angry. Like so many other pastors, he was just doing a job. I don't think he believed what he preached and I don't think he was looking at it as anything other than a meal ticket. (Wow, Su. Cynical much?)

I had so much fun with Brother Jeb.

What's scary is the knowledge that some of his followers didn't realize he was just kidding.


matt said...

i just wrote a nice response and it got deleted by an errant finger. damn.


yea, it was kind of sunday school. but i didn't mean it in a shut-you-down, stop-doubting-god kind of way. i meant it in a this-is-how-i-begin-wrestling-with-these-things kind of way.

and i'm with you on not understanding god, and i would never ask you or anyone not to wrestle tough questions to the ground. i tried to read isaiah last year and had to stop 15 chapters in because it was too heavy and dark. it didn't sound like the god i grew up with.

i like that you ask difficult questions and say difficult things. it's why i read your blog today.

Robert said...

I love both of us, but hopefully not enough to cause the guys with the trucks to yell at us.

Trip Ethridge said...

I'm encouraged when you talk about being uncomfortable in prayer meetings. I've always denied being uncomfortable because I thought it was rediculous, but truthfully I can't wait for them to be over. My first step is to always try to avoid them, and I've been pretty successful at that.

Patrick Sewell said...

Unh huh. That's the good stuff....

bruce said...

btm - it may not be safe to say that kind of thing in most churches - let alone this blog. I will have to adopt your emerging church answer - very incredible.

You are right - 'a' counter argument would have been better than 'the immediate.' I will have to ponder what you said about the existence of God. What do you think about God having the power to damn and to judge? This eases the angst for me. I am also not so sure that any death necessarily devalues life. What cheapens life about abortion I think would be that life is seen as expendable for more desirable ends (convenience) and that life of another is ended innocently.

Brian T. Murphy said...

taylor - it means that the pro-life people lost this fight 30 years ago. my personal feelings about abortion are that I don't care about it.

john - you love semantics. sure. brooke, for example. her life is sacred to me. I don't know what I'm saying, other than that anyone who thinks abortion is a big deal because human life is a big deal needs to come up with a better argument.

susan - that IS cynical. saying that pastors just preach what the people want to hear for their meal ticket. well done.

matt - I hope you didn't feel like I was giving you a hard time with my earlier comment, because that was certainly not my intention. your thoughts are always welcome here. yeah I just think this stuff is harder to understand than the package that gets delivered to christian children. this is why I am way more scared of what my kids will learn in sunday school than in public school. and vacation bible school. out of the question entirely.

robert - yeah don't tell that to the californians.

trip - I think there are a lot of us out there. we just stay quiet for the most part.

patrick - what, specifically?

bruce - seems worth mentioning that I wasn't talking so much about death de-valuing life, as much as the way humans treat eachother. god having the power to damn and judge is an interesting point. I'm still thinking about that.

matt said...

no worries, my friend.

Athanasius said...

Number of people God has chosen not to destroy, even though they merited it: 50-100 Billion.

I too struggle with the idea of God killing millions, oddly I struggle with it more than the concept of hell - probably because I don't believe in hell most of the time. Meredith G. Kline has written some good stuff about an inbreaking eschatology that has helped me, but I doubt you are looking for book recommendations.

I like your posts - I liked a lot of what you said here about the hipocracy of the pro-life agenda and just people in general. But the fact is, human life does have value. Read Jonah 4. Read Psalm 8. I don't know what else to say, unless you are expressing concerns more about the character of God and what whether he is credible when he talks about his relationship with man.

John said...

interesting conversation. just started reading your blog recently, but very much enjoying the discussions.

rich said...

Hey Brian, I've met you at RMC. I'm sure you already know this, but considering that faith looks like talking to yourself when you begin to doubt God's goodness, sovereignty, reality, etc. (eg. Ps. 73), I thought I'd put these reminders out there of why these deaths (sovereignly administered) have happened, and what we might think about them. (Whenever I doubt those things, this is the struggle I have to go through.)

The first principle is that while human life is sacred (Gen.9:5-6), it is not as sacred as the holiness of God, hence the penalty of death for Adam and Eve in the garden. This also explains all the deaths in the wilderness. Though God is kind and gentle, he's also not to be trifled with (thus the lion, Aslan). Human life does not carry ultimate weight in God's sight. It carries objective weight in that God's image is bestowed on us, and that we are his creation. Obviously, God stooped down to save life through Jesus, but not b/c he ought to do so, but instead b/c he "condescended" (the old sense of the word) to do so. Also, the death of Jesus simultaneously declares that God's holiness and justice have greater weight than human life, and yet God has graciously decided to love and rescue those he loved.

Secondly, the flood was not only a holy God's just response to man's sin (though it was "unjust" in that he spared Noah and his family), it also had a restorative impact. This aspect of God's work is a big aspect of the flood, God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the nations sacrificing their kids to Molech, Egypt etc. These were nations and peoples that were killing (among other things) those less powerful than them, and doing so without remorse. God's judgement on these people was a deliverance of those who were oppressed and whose families, etc. were being slaughtered.

So in one sense, you are right: human life is not the ultimate sacred in God's sight. But in another sense you are wrong; human life is sacred in the sight of God, seen in God's image being bestowed on mankind, seen even in God's destruction of people who were bent on murder, etc., and seen ultimately in God's sending his Son.

Responses we ought to have to death:

Recognize that it's bad, that it's an enemy. But also recognize that God's doing something about it, even though it all hasn't happened as fast as we want it to (the last enemy to be destroyed is death, 1 Cor 15:26). But it's also a means that God uses to wake us up to the fact that it's what we all deserve. Thus Jesus says Luke 13:2-3.

Anonymous said...

"sacredness of human life" DOES the form of an idealistic notion. it's like Justice, Loyalty, Truth, or Love in their purest platonic forms. none occur uniformily, but we deeply feel like they should. it always stirs us up when these concepts of morality collide with reality.

Willis Blog said...

BTM - We've finally settled down enough here in Troy that I can read your blog again. My lived experience of reading your posts is difficult to put into words, but I'll try: Reading your words reminds me that I am not alone. I am strangely comforted by your honest cynicism. Thank you for doing the hard work of putting your thoughts into words.

Brian T. Murphy said...

Matt – look forward to hearing what you and luke did this weekend.

Athanasius – 50 – 100 billion people deserve god-murder. yup. that pretty much lines up with what I was taught about christianity. I think it’s the easy answer for these types of questions, but it’s an answer that is increasingly difficult for me to accept. and the fact is, even with your eschatology and your bible verses, human life does not have that much value.

John – please visit as often as you like.

Rich – hey man. yeah I know you from rmc. welcome to theworstweblogintheworld. and look – this isn’t about being right and wrong. you seem to have a lot of answers and a lot of christianity figured out. that’s cool. I am totally willing to accept that faith in jesus, for you, looks like a lot of answers, and theological correctness. me? I just don’t have the answers anymore, and they don’t give me hope (really, they never did).

Anon – interesting point. so I guess you would say that along these lines, peace, purity, balance…that they also exist.

Willis Blog – you seriously are way too kind to me. always good to hear from you, brad. Wish we could visit more often.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not our lives are sacred really depends on the beholder...cows are sacred in one culture and no one gives a shit about them in another. I guess the question is does God condsider human life sacred? And if He doesn't, why the hell did he create it?

P.S. You don't know me, that's why I'm signing under anonymous :)

Supabloggasuprememama said...

ok so there were a lot of issues in this post...Not sure which to comment on, so I'll just say this: I remember the guy in AU! Jamin and I sat there one day so we could hear how ridiculous he really was. He scared me.

TR said...

I think God kills people because life is sacred to Him, but not as sacred as His glory.

Giving up #2 for #1 is the ultimate sacrifice. Abraham and Isaac? Or Jesus? It's not like God goes around killing other people without taking it full on Himself. It would be odd of Him to make such a big deal out of His own death and not to make a big deal out of anybody else's.

It seems to me that the question is not whether God thinks life is sacred, but what is it about Himself that He is so in love with that He will kill millions for it?

Is He right? Is He just? Or merely an egomaniac?