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Archive for the tag “abortion”

Is an abortion debate possible?

Abortion is one of the issues that I have generally avoided blogging about. The reason for this is, as the Opinionated Vicar, David Keen, puts it, that “the heat/light generation ratio is so dire”. The extreme bigotry of both “sides” in the abortion “debate” make it almost impossible to discuss.

And so a hat-tip to the same Opinionated Vicar for pointing me to Mehdi Hasan: Being Pro-Life Doesn’t Make Me Any Less Of A Lefty

What I would like is for my fellow lefties and liberals to try to understand and respect the views of those of us who are pro-life, rather than demonise us as right-wing reactionaries or medieval misogynists.

One of the biggest problems with the abortion debate is that it’s asymmetric: the two sides are talking at cross-purposes. The pro-lifers speak about the right to life of the unborn baby; the pro-choicers speak about a woman’s right to choose. The moral arguments, as the Scottish philosopher Alasdair Macintyre has said, are “incommensurable”.

Another problem is that the debate forces people to choose sides: right against left, religious against secular. Some of us, however, refuse to be sliced and diced in such a simplistic and divisive manner. I consider abortion to be wrong because of, not in spite of, my progressive principles. That I am pro-life does not make me any less of a lefty.

And that made me recall how gobsmacked I was when I first saw pro-abortion views described as “liberal”. That was back in 1966, when I had recently arrived in Britain as a card-carrying Liberal, having just escaped being banned by the South African government by the skin of my teeth (I have a copy of the banning order was signed, but not delivered, because I had skipped the country and sought asylum in the UK). Back then terms like “pro-life” and “pro-choice” had not been invented, or if they had, I had never heard of them. My first reaction, at the age of 24, on hearing a pro-abortion policy being described as “liberal”, was as follows (from my diary from 4th February 1966; I had been in the UK for about 2 weeks had was staying with an Anglican priest, Canon Eric James, near Herne Hill in south London):

I woke up relatively early, and while eating breakfast discussed with Eric an article in yesterday’s “Sun” on the subject of abortion. The thing that struck me was that they spoke of the “liberal and enlightened practice of legal abortion” and “a human approach unaffected by moral attitudes” which sounded completely nonsensical.

As they put it the whole thing sounded to me like fascist piggery based fundamentally on the idea that if the existence of another person causes me inconvenience or discomfort then I am morally justified in trying to get rid of the other person. And here the fact that many of the people involved (in abortion) were married women who already had children would seem to indicate a certain amount of selfishness. And once having established the practice that it is all right to get rid of inconvenient individuals in some circumctances, then the way is open for doing it on others. If unwanted babies are to be disposed of in this manner, then why not euthanasia, which could rid society of the mental defective and the physically deformed, and possibly the old people who can no longer look after themselves and so become a burden on society.

The practice might be extended to social misfits as well — those who, while having no obvious physical or mental defects, nevertheless fail to adjust themselves to society. Political deviates would be the next on the list. Why, we’ll be back to the good old days when Jews were liquidated in the gas chambers.

Of course the good doctor in Aberdeen might say that in a liberal and enlightened country things couldn’t escalate like that — but do we live in a liberal and enlightened society? And of
course a humane approach must not be affected by moral attitudes.

How lovely for Mr Vorster, I am sure. We can embark at once on a humane and enlightened programme for all Bantu women who become pregnant. Humane, because most of them have starving children already, and another mouth to feed when there is not enough food as it is could cause them worry, and damage their mental and physical health and well-being. And the world will have cause to be grateful, because we are solving the problem of overpopulation by a liberal and enlightend practice of genocide. The foregoing, of
course, is an extensive exaggeration of what the article actually said. But such escalation would really be perilously easy. Perhaps there is something in human rights after all; if it were enshrined in law — the illiberal, unenlightened and inhumane idea that every human being from the moment of conception, had “an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

Some time later it occurred to me that they might be using “liberal” in the sense of “permissive”. Liberalising the abortion laws would make it easier for people to have abortions, just as liberalising the gun laws might make it easier for people to own and carry guns. So one might advocate “liberal” abortion laws or “liberal” gun laws, but advocating or opposing such laws might not be a reliable indication of whether or not one was liberal.

After that, however, the “debate” hotted up, and the heat/light generation ratio got worse. There was so much bigotry on both sides that it became almost impossible to discuss it. Here’s one example of “pro-choice” bigotry A General Query | Clarissa’s Blog

Dear woman-hating anti-choicers, please go away to those badly written websites with horrible spelling and ridiculously stupid arguments where creatures of your ilk graze, OK? This is a blog for people who have a fully developed adult brain. You are not going to like it here anyways.

Strangely enough, I haven’t taken the advice to go away, and actually do quite like it there, because not all the posts are as bad as that one.

And then from the other side of the argument, there is this, equally bigoted: EXPOSING LIBERALS: Libs claim Abortion isn’t Murder | Rise Up America Party

Liberals are on a never ending futile mission to justify the senseless slaughter of innocent children. They claim that Abortion just kills a clump of cells, not an actual human life. Yet pictures like these tell a very different. Liberals want to rationalize what can and will not ever be rationalized: that killing babies is not Murder.

Liberals: Responsible for the biggest holocaust of our modern times since Roe Vs Wade.

So having learnt from opposite extremes on the spectrum that I am a woman-hater who lacks an adult brain and that I am responsible for the biggest holocaust of modern times, what can I say?

As Mehdi Hasan put it in the piece quoted above, the two sides were simply talking past each other. ‘The pro-lifers speak about the right to life of the unborn baby; the pro-choicers speak about a woman’s right to choose. The moral arguments, as the Scottish philosopher Alasdair Macintyre has said, are “incommensurable”.’

They are not talking about apples and oranges, which at least are both edible fruit; they are talking about chalk and cheese.

As the sociologists Peter and Brigitte Berger put it:

The issue of abortion has galvanized more passion, on both sides, than any other issue in the area under consideration here. This should not be surprising, in view of what is at stake here. For the one side, what is at stake is the fundamental right of a woman to have control over her own body and her own life. On the other side, what is at stake is the very purpose of society in protecting the life of even its weakest member. Clearly, there is an enormous cognitive gulf between the two sides, in terms of the understanding of the nature of the human person: Is the fetus a person, yes or no?

This is a cognitive issue, logically prior to any discussion of norms, for the norms of each side, one may assume, would be readily acceptable to the other side, provided the cognitive issue were resolved: The most ardent pro-abortionist does not recommend infanticide in the exercise of a woman’s right to control her own life, which presupposes that an infant has a different status from a fetus; and the most fervent anti-abortionists do not dispute a woman’s rights over her own body, but what they do dispute is that a fetus is simply part of a woman’s body.

The language used in this debate over abortion has systematically obfuscated this fundamental cognitive divide. This is already apparent in the appellations used by each side to describe its own position: “Pro-choice” versus “pro-life.” Pro-abortionists demand a woman’s right to choose for herself – which only begs the question as to whether, in the case of an abortion, she is choosing only for herself and not also for another human being. Anti-abortionists claim to be defending human life – which presupposes agreement as to when the life of a human individual begins. Both appellations, of course, have powerful emotional connotations. “Choice” is one of the key concepts of modernity, as we have argued elsewhere. Being modern entails a vast expansion in choices and thus in the control of human beings over their own lives. Conversely, to be “anti-choice” suggests a deeply reactionary and obscurantist attitude – a suggestion used to the hilt in pro-abortion propaganda. And “life,” after all, is one of the most potent words in the language. One can hardly say anything worse of political antagonists than that they are “anti-life.” As part of the language battle in this area, it is noteworthy how carefully words are chosen by each side. Pro-abortionists will always use language that avoids suggesting a human status for the fetus; anti-abortionists will regularly say “child” instead of “fetus.” Anti-abortionists, by the logic of their own position, must, then, speak of “murder” to refer to abortion and, in view of the number of abortions now taking place in the United States (more than one million annually), of “genocide.” Little room for compromise would seem possible under these circumstances, and the debates over other family issues seem mild by comparison.

Unlike Mehdi Hasan, I don’t see the question as divorced from religion. Back in 1966, when I wrote the piece quoted above, I was anti-abortion for precisely the same reason I was anti-apartheid. And the argument of the pro-abortion lobby about a women having the right to control her own body sounded very similar to the apartheid-government’s stock response to any criticism of its policies from abroad, “We will not tolerate any outside interference in our domestic affairs.”

I was a Liberal, and joined the Liberal Party because I was a Christian. And the Liberal Party, it seemed to me, advocated political policies that were most in accord with Christian anthropology. That is not to say that the Liberal Party was a Christian party. Many of its members were Christian, but many were Hindus, Jews, Muslims, atheists or agnostics. They might have had a variety of reasons for supporting such policies at the mundane level, and it was at that level that we agreed.

On the question of taking the life of another Orthodox Christianity seems to approach the matter differently from Western Christianity, or from Western secular humanism. In Western thought there seems to be a strand of legalism — the notion that there can be a “just” war, or “justifiable” homicide. In Orthodoxy killing someone, whether in battle or by abortion, is always a sin that needs to be confessed. One cannot say, “I am a soldier obeying lawful orders, and therefore killing the enemy is not a sin, and is therefore justified.” And the same with abortion. Whether it is legally permitted or not, abortion is a sin and to be confessed. But the Church does not exist to punish sinners, but it is rather a hospital in which they can be healed. There is thus a distinction between what is “right” and what is “moral”. It coincides roughly with the distinction between “law” and “gospel”.
As a Liberal, I support the concept of human rights because if applied properly, it can help to mitigate the effects of human unlovingness and human sinfulness. Laws cannot force people to love one another, but they can mitigate the effects of human hatred. Justice is good, but Christians are called to go beyond justice to love. At its best, justice is congealed love.

This difference, between rights and morality, between the legal rights of a citizen and the calling of a Christian, has been well expressed here Second Terrace: Fire in the Theater: Rights and Christians:

An American citizen has many rights. A Christian has none — all he has are invitations to virtue, and the promise of beatitude.

An American has a right to bear arms. A Christian may make such a claim, but not as a Christian. I’m sure that a Christian can go hunting and can even keep something for the defense of his home (although that possibility is even less supported for a priest). But I am even surer that a Christian — as a Christian — cannot ever demand the right to possess and traffic in assault munitions.

An American has a right to terminate a fetus. A Christian does not.

An American has a right to engage in sexual activity outside the contours of a sacramentalized union of a man and woman. A Christian does not. He or she, whether we like it or not, is asked to surrender not only homosexual activity, but also heterosexual activity that is before or outside of traditional marriage. He is requested to devote himself to not only physical chastity, but also to the “chastity of the imagination” — a concept, I’m sure, is not the most popular of positions.

An American has the right to accumulate wealth, and to deny comfort to his neighbor and pollute the environment in the process of doing so. A Christian does not. Wealth is given to Christians, as St. Paul and the Prophets and the Fathers make painfully clear, solely for the sake of “kenotic” giving away. It was only the Reformation that made the idea of “wealth-protection” a Christian possibility.

And the rest of that post is worth reading too.

Recurring issues

Tip of the day: if you can’t work out what to do to stop an issue from recurring, you probably haven’t found the root cause.

Someone posted that on Twitter recently.

Two issues that I find keep recurring are abortion and homosexuality.

Wherever I look in online forums people keep discussing them ad nauseam and ad bored-I-am.

American Evangelical Christians seem to be obsessed with the former, while Anglicans everywhere are obsessed with the latter.

And it is indeed quite probable that I have not found the root cause.

If anyone has found the root cause, please let me know.

Two evils for the price of one: abortion and pro-lifers

I think that wilful abortion is evil, and a violation of human rights. But there are times when I think pro-lifers are just as evil, especially when I come across things like this, found via a link on Facebook.

The person who posted it on Facebook introduced the link by saying “The Obama administration rules that stock holders aren’t really owners and have no real say in the operation of the business they hold shares in.”

I was curious and had a look at the site.

Obama agency rules Pepsi use of cells derived from aborted fetus ‘ordinary business’ |

In a decision delivered Feb 28th, President Obama’s Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruled that PepsiCo’s use of cells derived from aborted fetal remains in their research and development agreement with Senomyx to produce flavor enhancers falls under “ordinary business operations.”

I became curious about “President Obama’s agency”, and discovered that the site that mentioned it couldn’t even get the name right. I think they were referring to this:

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (frequently abbreviated SEC) is a federal agency[2] which holds primary responsibility for enforcing the federal securities laws and regulating the securities industry, the nation’s stock and options exchanges, and other electronic securities markets in the United States. In addition to the 1934 Act that created it, the SEC enforces the Securities Act of 1933, the Trust Indenture Act of 1939, the Investment Company Act of 1940, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 and other statutes. The SEC was created by section 4 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (now codified as 15 U.S.C. 78d and commonly referred to as the 1934 Act).

Was Obama even alive in 1934, when this particular agency was created? Will it cease to exist when his term of office ends? This really is a prize piece of vicious and malicious misreporting, and with such standards of dishonesty and lack of integrity I would not trust anything found on that site.

Yes, I’d boycott Pepsi too, if it were available and if the report were true, but it is wrapped up with so much deliberate misreporting that I wouldn’t trust anything in that story.

Fifty years ago folk singer Jeremy Taylor did a rap piece called Joburg talking blues, in the course of which the supposedly American narrator said, “In America there’s two things we can’t stand: the one’s segregation, and the other’s niggers.”

When I read pieces like this, I feel a bit like that narrator. There are two things I can’t stand. The one’s abortion, and the other’s pro-lifers.

The link between abortion and assisted suicide

This blog post on abortion and assisted suicide set me thinking about the ways in which society likes to kill people, and the moment we get rid of one means, we tend to introduce others.

Ordered Liberty: The link between abortion and assisted suicide:

prudential problems are only secondary objections in regard to the practice of assisted suicide. The primary problem is that it still involves the deliberate, intentional killing of an innocent human being. To kill an innocent, even to prevent suffering, is to violate a moral law deeply ingrained in our nature. To create a system where such killing is protected and celebrated is a distortion of proper human community, and like ripples in a pond, that distortion with flow outward to have effects which none of us can fully anticipate.

(Hat-tip to A conservative blog for peace)

And it turned my thoughts to capital punishment, which some people would like to see return to the statute book, though I haven’t seen as many bumper stickers in favour of it as there were ten years ago.

It was the mention in the Ordered Liberty post of taking the life of an innocent human being. Of course in the case of captial punishment there has been due legal process, and the executee has had his or her day and say in court.

As the song puts it:

I learned that murderers die for their crimes
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.

And it occurred to me that capital punishment might be acceptable if it were reintroduced with one proviso: if it should ever be shown that a person put to death by order of a court was actually innocent of the capital crime they were charged with, then the judge and the prosecutor (if the prosecutor demanded the death penalty) should, within three months, suffer the same fate as the vindicated accused, with no appeal, no reprieve, no remission. They could, however, the option of going to a thanatorium and being assisted in suicide earlier, if they chose to do so — at their own expense, of course.

Detective novels and moral relativism

When is killing another person legitimate? What criteria do you use to decide? Does the fact that something is legal make it morally acceptable?

This book raises these questions and more.

Spoiler alert: if you have not read this book, and want to read it, stop reading now. This post contains spoilers that reveal important elements of the plot.

Strange AffairStrange Affair by Peter Robinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Though this is a whodunit, the thing that stands out about it for me is the way it reflects the inconsistent and ever-changing moral values of society. And that makes it indeed a strange affair.

Writers of whodunits like to involve their fictional detectives in current crimes in the news, and so Peter Robinson involves Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks in human trafficking and related crimes. It is hard to imagine such things happening in North Yorkshire, where Banks is based, so the story begins with a mysterious phone call from Banks’s brother Roy, who lives in London. Banks, who is on leave, travels to see his brother, who is not at home, and appears to be missing. His brother’s disappearance also seems to be linked to a murder victim in North Yorkshire, whose death is being investigated by Detective Inspector
Annie Cabbot, who is in charge while Banks is on leave.

It transpires that Roy Banks hsd been murdered too, in a similar fashion to the Yorkshire victim, who turns out to be Roy’s latest girlfriend, whom he had sent to his brother to report their suspicions about human trafficking and prostitution. The girlfriend, Jennifer Clewes, worked in the management side of a chain of abortion clinics, and Roy Banks had met her when he took his previous girlfriend, Corinne, there for an abortion. There are several “late girls”, who come to the clinic after hours when they are pregnant. They are prostitutes, many of whom have been abducted in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, brought there by their pimps, and too afraid to speak of their sexual slavery. An exception is Carmen Petri, who does not want an abortion, and is older and more sophisticated than the other girls. She agrees to have her baby adopted by Gareth Lambert, a wealthy businessman who has invested in the human trafficking and other schemes of dubious legality.

The moral cognitive dissonanance comes up when Banks discovers that Gareth Lambert does not intend to adopt Carmen’s child and bring her up as his own. He rather wants to use the child as the source of a heart for his own ailing daughter. Banks shows extreme moral revulsion towards this idea, as well as to Gareth’s role in the betrayal and murder of his brother.

The moral inconsistency lies in the fact that what Gareth proposes to do with the baby is not all that different from embryonic stem cell research, which many people find morally acceptable. In Britain, according to the novel, abortion is legal up to the age of 24 weeks. So in the book there is no there is no great moral revulsion about killing a child up to that age. But if it happens at 40 weeks, and for the purpose of harvesting organs for a heart transplant, then it suddenly becomes morally repuslive. And I want to ask why?

Surely the same arguments that are used in favour of embryonic stem cell research can equally be used for harvesting organs from unwanted children who are only a few weeks older?

Moral relativism is nothing new, of course, and one can expect detecive novels to reflect the current mores of the society in which they are written. Perhaps a detective novel written 50 or more years ago would reflect the same moral revulsion in the protagonist when confronted with any form of abortion, and those running the abortion clinics might be seen as the villains of the piece.

What stands out in this book, however, is the enormous difference that 16 weeks makes. An act that would be acceptable when the child is 24 weeks old becomes morally reprehensible when it is 40 weeks old. Perhaps in another 50 years, in a more enlightened age, people will see the inconsistency and shift the boundary to allow organs to be harvested from unwanted children up to school age, puberty, or even later, and, if anyone questions it, will say that “this is, after all, the 21st century”, and will look down on the quaint ideas expressed by Alan Banks as “so 20th century”.

O tempora! O mores!

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Universal health care tends to cut the abortion rate

Apparently some people in the USA are opposed to universal healthcare on the grounds that it will increase the abortion rate. It seems that they are operating on a faulty premiss.

T.R. Reid – Universal health care tends to cut the abortion rate –

Increasing health-care coverage is one of the most powerful tools for reducing the number of abortions — a fact proved by years of experience in other industrialized nations. All the other advanced, free-market democracies provide health-care coverage for everybody. And all of them have lower rates of abortion than does the United States.

This is not a coincidence. There’s a direct connection between greater health coverage and lower abortion rates. To oppose expanded coverage in the name of restricting abortion gets things exactly backward. It’s like saying you won’t fix the broken furnace in a schoolhouse because you’re against pneumonia. Nonsense! Fixing the furnace will reduce the rate of pneumonia. In the same way, expanding health-care coverage will reduce the rate of abortion.

At least, that’s the lesson from every other rich democracy.

Catholic Nurse Sues Hospital over Abortion

Catholic Nurse Sues NY Hospital over Abortion – US – CBN News – Christian News 24-7 –

A Catholic nurse is suing Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City for forcing her to participate in a late term abortion and violating her rights of conscience.

The Tuesday lawsuit claims hospital administrators told nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo the abortion was an emergency and insisted she participate in the second-trimester abortion or face possible termination. The woman was 22 weeks pregnant.

A case of “terminate or be terminated”?

There is something in this story that someone is not telling us. Without the missing piece of the puzzle it is not possible to make sense of the actions of the participants in the story.

The missing piece is the nature of the “emergency”.

Some news stories are mysteries because not enough is known at the time — the cause of a plane crash, for example. B ut this is one of those that are mysteries because the people who tell the story know but won’t tell.

Perhaps the truth will come out when the case comes to court, but will the new media be bothered to tell us the missing bits then?

Unfavourable opinions of religions

In my previous post I commented on a survey that asked whether people had a favourable or unfavourable opinion of a religion (in this case Wicca), and said I would be among those who was neutral or had no opinion.

But the question was raised if the people who practised the religion did things one disapproved of, what then?

I disapprove of some practices of some adherents of some religions, but one can’t blame a religion for the behaviour of its followers.

Where a practice is something I believe to be wrong or immoral and intimately bound up with the practice of the religion, that is something else, and probably deserves a separate discussion, and is not something that can easily be determined by a survey questionnaire.

Let me give an example of practices that I believe to be wrong or immoral, but which are closely bound up with the practice of a religion.

When Protestant missionaries evangelised the Kikuyu (Gikuyu) people of central Kenya, they strongly disapproved of some features of Kikuyu culture, such as polygamy and female circumcision, and urged the British authorities (Kenya was at that time a British colony) to assist them in suppressing them. They demanded that all teachers in church schools (and all schools for Africans in Kenya were church schools) take an oath against female circumcision. As a result two independent school associations were formed, the Kikuyu Karing’a Educational Association and the Kikuyu Independent Schools Association. The former became affiliated with the Orthodox Church, and the latter with the African Independent Pentecostal Church (for more details, see my article on Orthodox mission in tropical Africa).

Female circumcision (female genital mutilation) was an integral part of Kikuyu religion and culture, but Christianity generally opposes bodily mutilation (Protestant missionaries in China, for example, started the Natural Foot Society to counter the Chinese practice of binding the feet of female children to keep them small). So the Protestant approach was to suppress practices that they regarded as immoral, and to seek the aid of the government in doing so, thus linking mission and colonialism.

The Orthodox Church, however, did not begin with moral denunciations of practices it thought immoral. Polygamists could be baptised, but after baptism further marriages were discouraged. Now, after 70 years, polygamy and female circumcision are not practised by Kikuyu people who are Orthodox Christians, but this was not achieved by a direct frontal attack on Kikuyu culture. The Orthodox approach was that people need first to know Christ, to worship the Triune God, and and then gradually be transformed into the image of God, not by human laws and prohibitions and sanctions and punishments, but by the working of the Holy Spirit.

Female circumcision is still practised in some parts of Africa, and some Westerners still make an issue of it, and those who do are not always puritanical Protestant missionaries, but are often quite secular. They regard African cultures that do such things as barbarous, and, like the puritanical Protestant missionaries, campaign for laws to be passed against them, yet their own cultures practise wholesale abortion, which seems equally barbarous to many Africans (and to many Christians outside Africa). What lies behind it, in the case of both the Protestant missionaries and the secular social reformers, is Western cultural imperialism.

So there are two things here.

One is the behaviour of some adherents of a religion. Is that adequate cause for indicating disapproval of a religion?

Some people cite the Inquisition and the Crusades as examples to show that Christianity is an evil religion that one should disapprove of. But I think it is silly to blame a religion for the behaviour of some of its followers. The Crusades and the Inquisition were products of certain periods of human history, and show that Christians, like other people, sometimes succumb to social forces and sometimes even mistakenly identify these with mandates of their religions. One can say the same of suicide bombings and pogroms and various other things.

In the case of Wicca, it is clear that some Wiccans have created a myth of “the Burning Times”, which they have quite deliberately and consciously used to fan the flames of hatred against Christians. Should I therefore disapprove of Wicca? No, because not all Wiccans do this, and some have spoken quite strongly against it. One cannot blame a religion for the behaviour of its followers, unless that behaviour is an integral part of following the religion.

And that brings us back to the second thing. Female circumcision was an integral part of Kikuyu traditional religion and culture, which is why the attack on it by Protestant missionaries was seen as a direct attack on Kikuyu culture and part of a scheme by the colonial government to deprive the Kikuyu people of their land. The Protestant missionaries demanded oaths against female circumcision, and, almost as a counter to that, the Mau Mau movement began demanding oaths to recover the land, and suddenly the Kenya colonial government began denouncing “oath-taking” as the greatest evil of all, and to punish people for doing that, and detaining them if they were even suspected of it.

And this is a point at which I follow the Orthodox missionary tradition, which is not to denounce the religions and cultures of others. All human religion and all human culture is fallen, including my own, and needs to be transformed by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit. This can be seen in the missionary instructions of St Innocent of Alaska

On no account show open contempt for their manner of living, customs, etc., however these may appear deserving of it, for nothing insults and irritates savages so much as showing them open contempt and making fun of them and anything belonging to them.

Even if one disagrees with their culture and customs, one can show respect for people. One can disagree with their theology, and can say why one does. as St John of Damascus did in pointing out where Islamic theology differed from Orthodox theology (he regarded Islam as a Christian heresy). But it should be done in an atmosphere of respect. It is fashionable nowadays in some Western to belittle the notion of respect, and to despise it as mere “political correctness”, and that is something I think worthy of disapproval!

St Innocent of Alaska also disapproved of the linking of mission and colonialism, when he said,

2. On arriving in some settlement of savages, thou shall on no account say that thou art sent by any government, or give thyself out for some kind of official functionary, but appear disguise of poor wanderer, a sincere well-wisher to his fellow-men, who has come for a single purpose of showing them the means to attain prosperity and, as far as possible, guiding them to their quest


12. Ancient customs, so long as they are not contrary to Christianity, need not to be too abruptly broken up; but it should be explained to converts that they are merely tolerated.

So tolerance is an Orthodox missionary principle. Some things cannot be tolerated, as contrary to Christianity, such as human sacrifice. In this, I think Fr Thomas Hopko’s account of tolerance is worth repeating:

Tolerance is always in order when it means that we coexist peacefully with people whose ideas and manners differ from our own, even when to do so is to risk the impression that truth is relative and all customs and mores are equally acceptable (as happens in North America).

Tolerance is never in order when it means that we remain idle before wickedness which harms human beings and destroys God’s creation.

To be tolerant is to be neither indifferent nor relativistic. Neither is it to sanction injustice or to be permissive of evil. Injustice is intolerable and evil has no rights. But the only weapons which Christians may use against injustice and evil are personal persuasion and political legislation, both of which are to be enacted in an atmosphere of respect. While Christians are permitted under certain conditions to participate in police and military actions to enforce civil laws and to oppose criminality, we may not obey evil laws nor resort to evil actions in defence of the good. This means that Christians are inevitably called to suffer in this age, and perhaps even to die. This is our gospel, our witness and our defence.

So generally my attitude towards religions other than my own is one of tolerance. I neither approve nor disapprove of them. I may approve of some of their beliefs or practices, and disapprove of others, but recognise that if these are integral parts of the religion that they cannot be abruptly separated without destroying the whole, therefore I cannot either approve or disapprove of the whole, unless the whole thing is evil or based on evil, and such religions are rare.

I disapprove of the Hindu caste system and sutti, I don’t disapprove of Hinduism. I disapprove of Jewish support for Zionism, but don’t disapprove of Judaism, and recognise that Zionism is a secular movement, and is no more necessarily tied to Judaism than crusades and crusading and pogroms are tied to Christianity.

There are also some aspects of these and other religions that I might approve of, though that does not necessarily mean that I approve of the religion per se, nor that it would be right for me as an Orthodox Christian to believe and practise them. I used to think, and to some extent still do, that Jack Kerouac’s Zen Catholicism was quite cool, but Orthodox Christianity has different, and I believe better, ways of achieving similar ends.

Pro-War is Not Pro-Life! � Thicket & Thorp

Pro-War is Not Pro-Life! Thicket & Thorp:

All the sins against humanity, abortion, euthanasia, war, violence, and victimization of all kinds, are the results of depersonalization. Whether it is “the unwanted pregnancy”, or worse, “the fetus” rather than “my son” or “my daughter;” whether it is “the enemy” rather than Joe or Harry (maybe Ahmed or Mohammed), the same depersonalization allows us to fulfill our own selfishness against the obstacle to my will. How many of our elderly, our parents and grandparents, live forgotten in isolation and loneliness? How many Afghan, Iraqi, Palestinian and American youths will we sacrifice to agonizing injuries and deaths for the sake of our political will? They are called “soldiers,” or “enemy combatants” or “civilian casualties” or any variety of other euphemisms to deny their personhood. But ask their parents or children! Pro-war is NOT pro-life! God weeps for our callousness.

A Message from Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America. Read the whole thing here.

Pro-War is Not Pro-Life! � Thicket & Thorp

Pro-War is Not Pro-Life! Thicket & Thorp:

All the sins against humanity, abortion, euthanasia, war, violence, and victimization of all kinds, are the results of depersonalization. Whether it is “the unwanted pregnancy”, or worse, “the fetus” rather than “my son” or “my daughter;” whether it is “the enemy” rather than Joe or Harry (maybe Ahmed or Mohammed), the same depersonalization allows us to fulfill our own selfishness against the obstacle to my will. How many of our elderly, our parents and grandparents, live forgotten in isolation and loneliness? How many Afghan, Iraqi, Palestinian and American youths will we sacrifice to agonizing injuries and deaths for the sake of our political will? They are called “soldiers,” or “enemy combatants” or “civilian casualties” or any variety of other euphemisms to deny their personhood. But ask their parents or children! Pro-war is NOT pro-life! God weeps for our callousness.

A Message from Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America. Read the whole thing here.

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