The Bible on Abortion: A Topic It Would Rather Passover

nawiedzenie_1It is estimated that HALF of all pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions. So, let’s be clear: if God wanted to stop abortions, this would be a great place to start. Obviously, there are definite biological reasons why an embryo might not make it, and most people (even firm believers) don’t blame God for allowing so many millions of fertilized eggs to die each year.

But many of the same people who give God a pass for allowing so many embryos to die, would like us to believe that God is punishing us for not making all abortions stop. Setting aside the fact that making abortions illegal does not cause them to stop, let’s examine what the Bible says DIRECTLY about abortion.

If men quarrel, and one strike a woman with child, and she miscarry indeed, but live herself, he shall be answerable for so much damage as the woman’s husband shall require and as arbiters shall award. But if her death ensue thereupon, he shall render life for life. —Exodus 21:22-23

 Here, the Bible’s clearest reference to a fetus being killed indicates that the fetus has some unspecified value, but it doesn’t have the value that the mother’s life has. If the mother is killed, it requires capital punishment. If the fetus dies, it’s whatever the husband demands and not capital punishment. So is a one-celled homo sapiens fully human at the moment of conception? Evidently not, according to the Bible.

The other Bible passage that deals DIRECTLY with abortion is the Ordeal of the Bitter Water. Here, the priest administers a potential abortifacient to a wife suspected of infidelity. To punish the woman impregnated by another man, the Bible commands that priests become actively involved in abortions!

If feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife of adultery, then he is to take her to the priest. Then the priest is to have the woman drink the bitter water. If she has been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the bitter water, it will go into her, and her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry. But if she is clean, she will be free and will have offspring.
Numbers 5:14,15, 26-28

Many other references to abortions and miscarriages are written purely for rhetorical purposes, with no thought of taking a stand for or against abortion.

Why was I not stillborn? Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb? —Job 3:11

Then I said, “What sorrow is mine, my mother. Oh, that I had died at birth! Jeremiah 15:10

If his soul is not filled with good, and he does not receive proper burial, I say that an aborted birth is better than he. —Ecclesiastes 6:3

No judgement on abortion here, but one of those times when you wish the Bible had an editor to ask for a less grisly analogy.

In Hosea, God is asked to curse some enemies with spontaneous abortions, because that’s what God does evidently.

Lord, give them what they deserve. Make the women miscarry, or else make them unable to nurse their babies. —Hosea 9:14

And try to find a “sanctity of life” sentiment in this passage from Genesis:

Judah was told, “Tamar is with child by prostitution.” Judah said, “Bring her forth, and let her be burned to death.” —Genesis 38:24

Not so much concern for when life begins, but plenty for when it should end: at pregnant prostitutes!

And lastly, we have these three pasages that represent all of the bloodshed condoned and often encouraged by God in the Bible. When an entire city is killed off, that’s a lot of pregnant women dying. But don’t worry, God said it was okay.

Let them perish by the sword. Let their little ones be dashed, and let the women with child be ripped up. —Hosea 13:16

Because its citizens refused to surrender the town, he killed the entire population and ripped open all the pregnant women. —2 Kings 15:16

And now slay every male, even of the children, and put to death the women that have carnally known men. But the girls and all the women that are virgins save for yourselves. —Numbers 31:17-18

Now for the Anti-Abortion Bible quotes.

Well, the ones I’ve seen put forward mention ‘birth’ or ‘wombs’ like this:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. —Jeremiah 1:5

Okay, this is mostly just Jeremiah trying to establish some street cred as a prophet, saying God chose him to be a prophet even before he was conceived. I would like to see the proof that Jeremiah had on that. I’m not sayin’ for sure that Jeremiah just made that up, but I’m just sayin’.

The Jeremiah passage does NOT say “Don’t abort,” it says “Jeremiah is awesome! Thus sayeth Jeremiah.”

NOTHING in the Bible comes close to saying “Don’t abort.” Don’t blame me; blame the Bible! It’s not hard. When the Bible wants to outlaw something, it just comes out and says it.

Never get a tattoo. I am the Lord. —Leviticus 19:28

Or

Never let a witch live. —Exodus 22:18

It’s funny how we finally stopped putting witches to death, which is clearly commanded by the Bible, while some Bible believers will grasp at any tangential verse to devise a Bible sanction against abortion.

I won’t get into why they try to make the Bible say what they want and not embrace what the Bible actually says about abortion. I would settle for them leaving the Bible out completely and making the best arguments they can. But it’s clear that if pro-lifers want to bring the Bible into the debate, the Bible is NOT on their side.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

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The 500-Year-Old Ceiling That Still Brings Down the House!

Michelangelo’s fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling turns 500 years old today! (10/31/2012) The Renaissance artist realized long ago, that the best way to make sure your painting does not get taken off the wall is to make sure your painting IS the wall.

People have praised his upside-down artistic achievement for most of these five centuries—though I believe it was El Greco who saw the ceiling and basically said, “Yeah, I coulda done better.” So instead of addressing the artistic achievement of the ceiling, I thought I’d reveal a few of its most endearing oddities and the corresponding Bible quotes.

This first scene I’ve chosen shows an unflattering angle of God as he creates a fairly un-majestic bush, recalling this Bible verse:

And again the Lord said, “Behold there is a place near me, and thou shalt stand upon the rock. And when my glory shall pass by, I will set thee in a hole of the rock, and protect thee with my right hand, till I pass. And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my back parts, but my face thou canst not see.” —Exodus 33:20-23

The next image is one you don’t see often in religious paintings: Noah as an old naked, drunk. Not to say that Michelangelo was plagiarizing himself, but it’s basically the “Creation of Adam” composition but with the Adam/Noah figure too wasted to point back to the finger that’s pointing at him. But hey, it’s a big ceiling; all those little kids touring the Vatican would hardly even notice the passed out 600-year-old man exposing himself, right?

He drank some wine, got drunk, and lay naked inside his tent. —Genesis 9:21

We also have Moses’ cure for those who were dying from being bitten by the fiery serpents that God was sending down to them. All you had to do back in those days was look at the brass serpent Moses put on top of a pole, and you would not die. I don’t know if this cure still works. Next time you’re bitten by a snake, you may want to ask to your doctor if Brass Serpent Beholding is right for you.

And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he was made well. —Numbers 21:9

One of the many prophets that Michelangelo painted was Ezekiel. The Book of Ezekiel has this underpreached treasure:

Your kerchiefs also will I tear, and ye shall know that I am the Lord. —Ezekiel 13:21

as well as this one:

And he said to me, “This is the house of the kitchens wherein the ministers of the house of the Lord shall boil the victims of the people.” —Ezekiel 46:24

 

And finally, this lovely scene of Judith, who, after beheading Holofernes, needed to stash the head somewhere!

And she struck twice upon his neck, and cut off his head, and took off his canopy from the pillars, and rolled away his headless body. And after a while she went out, and delivered the head of Holofernes to her maid, and bade her put it into her wallet. —Judith 13:10-11

So congratulations Michelangelo for having created such a lasting work of art, that still amazes to this day. 500 years is a very long time indeed. How long, you ask? 500 years is exactly the amount of time it took until Noah was finally able to father his three sons.

After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth. —Genesis 5:32

I can only hope my paintings are still around in 500 years, but with medical advances and clean living, I’m quite confident that I will still be around fathering children to populate my space ark.

 Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

Boo! Unto Others

Angry RepublicansWho could have predicted that a rousing chorus of boos would erupt at a Republican Presidential debate at the mere mention of an ethical principle championed by Jesus and, maybe more importantly, Ronald Reagan.

Some in the crowd, having just heard Newt Gingrich’s gung-ho endorsement of killing America’s enemies, were in no mood to embrace Ron Paul’s call for applying the Golden Rule to America’s foreign policy.

To hear a crowd of nominally-Christian conservatives shout down one of the world’s best loved social precepts was like having them jeer at Betty White singing “God Bless America” to a box of puppies.

So as a quick refresher (as some people evidently need), Jesus was a big fan of the Golden Rule. Repeatedly throughout the New Testament you find quotes like this:

Do to others as you would have them do to you. —Luke 6:31

Before you think Jesus was just a pushover, there is this contrasting quote:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword! —Matthew 10:34

Regarding Newt Gingrich’s call to kill your enemies, a different Bible quote comes to mind from the ever-warring book of Joshua. God is so eager to let the Israelites continue the slaughter of the Amorites that he decides to stop the sun from moving in the sky for a whole day! (It probably would have been less taxing to just invent some night vision goggles.)

So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies. Is this event not recorded in the Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day. —Joshua 10:13

By the way, It doesn’t help you prove that the 36 straight hours of daylight actually happened, when you tell people to look it up in a book that no longer exists.

Depending on his mood, God can clearly take either side in this foreign policy debate, but how do other world religions feel about the Golden Rule? It turns out that Jesus was in fact a late-comer to this superlative maxim. As can be seen below, it is the closest thing we have to a universally recommended principle of human conduct, for some 4,000 years running.

Baha’i: Choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself. —Lawh’i ‘Ibn’i Dhib, “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf” 30

Brahmanism: This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you. —Mahabharata 5:1517

Buddhism (560 BCE): Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. —Udana-Varga 5.18

Confucianism: Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. —Analects 15:23

Egypt (2000 BC): Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do. —The Eloquent Peasant

Greece (400 BCE): Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others. —Socrates

Hinduism (3200 BCE): One should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated. —The Hitopadesa

Islam: Not one of you is a believer until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” —Fortieth Hadith of an-Nawawi 13

Jainism: One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.” —Sutrakritanga 1:11:33

Judaism (1300 BCE): Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. —Leviticus 19:18

Sikhism: Treat others as thou wouldst be treated thyself. —Adi Granth

Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as our own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. —T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien

Zoroastrianism (600 BCE): That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself. —Dadistan-I-Dinik, 94:5

Is the Golden Rule the ideal military strategy? By itself, probably not, but it’s a reasonable start. I strongly believe in the Golden Rule, and I teach “Treat people the way you want to be treated” to my kids; however, I add my own corollary which is “But don’t let people walk all over you either.”

I’d like to take a second, before you think I’m just out to bash Republicans, to gIve credit where credit is due: a Republican candidate for President advocated we employ the Golden Rule in making foreign policy. Surprisingly, as it turns out, that was a pretty gutsy move. And after he wrapped up and had mentioned wanting to bring the troops home, many in the crowd applauded. So it’s likely that a small minority in the crowd that night were anti-Golden Rule.

But the issue still remains: why do some Christian conservatives, who like to claim this is a Christian nation, seem oblivious to certain sayings of Jesus? Several studies reveal that conservatives in general display less empathy than do other groups.* The Golden Rule is all about seeing things from the other person’s point of view and recognizing our common humanity. It could be that all Christians tend to avoid dwelling on the teachings of Jesus that don’t fit their worldview.

If they were paying attention, they would realize that Jesus’ version goes beyond some of the negatively-stated, do-no-harm-types of Golden Rules and is actually a positive, proactive version. But if they won’t listen to him, maybe they’ll listen to the words of someone they seem to love even more:

We might come closer to balancing the budget if all of us lived closer to the Commandments and the Golden Rule. —Ronald Reagan

* Pratto, Felicia; Sidanius, Jim; Stallworth, Lisa M.; Malle, Bertram F. (1994). “Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

Don’t Worry, Threat on Obama Is Just a Funny Bible Quote

Some of our leaders are admittedly not the most tech-savvy.

But what happens when you combine the modern know-how of forwarding an e-mail with the intense anti-Obama attitude of Kansas’ Speaker of the House? You get Mike O’Neal, who recently e-mailed what he thought was a hilarious bumper sticker that suggested we should “Pray for Obama. Psalms 109:8.”

Let his days be few, and let another take his office. —Psalms 109:8

Some have taken offense that a prominent public figure would promote a Bible verse that urges God to execute the speedy demise of an enemy. You would think that a public official would think twice before suggesting anyone bump off a President. Rather than deviously sending out a threatening political statement, it’s much more likely that Speaker O’Neal was thoughtlessly giddy after learning a fact about his sacred scripture that some of us long ago discovered: the Bible contains some surprising and at times downright laughable little gems.

O’Neal defended the use of the quote by saying that he just meant the second half of the quote, not the whole part about the killing thing. What we’ve learned in this particular news story is that some conservative Christians, who often complain about people using such quotes out of context, are more than eager to use them out of context when it suits their purposes.

So what is the missing context of Psalms 109:8? If the phrase “Let his days be few” isn’t clear enough, the verse that follows makes it clearer than a Soldier of Fortune classified ad.

May his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. —Psalms 109:9

So if Bible believers don’t have a problem exploring the Bible’s wild side, I’m sure that Speaker O’Neal won’t mind if I offer a few suggestions for a “Pray for O’Neal” bumper sticker. We’re all just having some fun here, right Mike?

1. Pray for O’Neal: Luke 6:35   But love your enemies, and do them good.

2. Pray for O’Neal: Psalms 34:13   Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.

3. Pray for O’Neal: Psalms 38:5   My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.

You will notice that it is actually possible to find appropriate quotes from the Bible that don’t contemplate killing anyone. (Of course, you may have to search around a bit to find them.)

On the somewhat serious side, this does lead to an interesting legal situation:

• Psalms 109:8 threatens to shorten someone’s life.

• The verse is tied to the President of the United States.

• Biblical literalists undoubtedly believe God could make good on this threat if he wanted to.

• It is illegal to make physical threats against the President.

So are they allowed to make this threatening statement with impunity by saying that it’s just a joke? Have you tried making a threat on an airplane and then claiming it was just a joke? If so, I hope your flight crew had the absolutely best sense of humor in the whole, entire world and that you had a good lawyer all lined up.

So I do think that O’Neal’s usage of Psalm 109 was extremely injudicious, mean-spirited toward Obama and to those who respectfully pray for our leaders, AND it was meant as a joke. I also think that violence-encouraging political speech is to be avoided for the good of us all. But, on the other hand, if this episode indicates that Christians are willing to lighten up and explore the unconventional passages of the Bible, then welcome aboard!

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.