Life as Sacred, or Abortion as a Sacrament?

How “What You Love” Will Inform Your Answer

For the millions of Americans who have engaged over the past 49 years in some form of legal activism defending the rights of the unborn, June 24, 2022, will be commemorated as a day of victory for the cause of life. Yet for the countless pro-abortion activists who felt compelled to capture and curate their agonized meltdowns over the SCOTUS news on social media, the day will live on in horrid infamy.

These fiery meltdowns should not surprise us. Since the SCOTUS opinion leak in early May, passion-fueled activists in sheer acts of malevolence have vandalized churches, firebombed pregnancy resource centers, and protested at the homes of Supreme Court justices. These violent and anarchical acts carried out by pro-abortion activists are reminiscent of a religious war. Their devotion to unfettered abortion at any cost has taken on a religious zeal the most fundamental of Taliban members would respect. Their zeal brings to mind an oft-stated quip by the late conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, who said that for the radicalized left, abortion was a sacrament.

Abortion as a Sacrament?

“Sacrament” is a word pregnant with meaning. If you are Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or Evangelical, the term denotes a rite or observance symbolizing a transcendent, spiritual reality. In obedience and love for our Creator, Christians participate in sacraments such as baptism and holy communion, as acts of submission, worship, and commemoration. These holy sacraments do something in us and to us; they capture our imaginations and draw us closer to our God, so that we may grow in His likeness.

In light of this characterization, does it seem fair to characterize abortion as a sacrament for those who zealously support it? After all, does the radicalized left really love and live for the cause of abortion? Does the cause capture their imaginations and transform them into its cruel likeness?

The original stated aims of the abortion lobby were to make abortion safe, legal, and rare. With abortions being restricted to the first trimester of pregnancy, however, the lobby was not satisfied. They pushed for legal abortion up to the moment of birth, followed by gruesome partial birth abortions, and even infanticide. In spite of all these liberal abortion “protections,” the bloodlust went unsatiated. This past February, Assembly Bill 2223, introduced in the California legislature, would shield women - and anyone assisting them – from criminal prosecution for causing a baby’s death in its first month of life, if the death was due to “causes that occurred in utero” (whatever that may mean).

In 2013, when the U.S. Congress was debating a ban on abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi – an alleged practicing Catholic, defended her pro-abortion stand. On the heels of the ghoulish discovery of abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s butcher shop in Philadelphia, a reporter asked Rep. Pelosi what the moral difference was between the atrocities committed by Gosnell and the legal “safe” late-term abortions she so vociferously defended. Visibly annoyed, the Speaker remarked, “As a mother of five children, my oldest was six years old the day I brought my fifth child home from the hospital, as a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this.” For the Speaker and many in her caucus, abortion indeed is sacred.

If there is anything that can be said about the abortion lobby, it is that enough is never enough. In the name of societal progress, they march onward to brand abortion as normative practice for birth control and an icon of female autonomy - in spite of the reality that it is a death sentence for the unborn, dangerous for women, and scars the public conscious.

Abortion Lobbyists as Lovers Not Thinkers

Were we inclined to grant the benefit of the doubt to the abortion lobby – to grant that perchance their positions are informed purely by reasoned, cognitive-intellectual arguments rather than sacramental devotion - we would be remiss. We would be underestimating the power of love, as the engine driving their indefatigable passion. “Love,” as a word to characterize abortion activists may sound as idiosyncratic as “sacrament.” Yet people don’t demonstrate such zeal for a purely intellectual argument. People break the law, burn down buildings, and threaten physical violence, for something they prize, something they love.

We would similarly be remiss to view abortion advocates (or any humans) as merely being “brains on a stick,” or “thinking things,” guided solely by rational ideas and beliefs. According to Calvin College professor of philosophy James K.A. Smith, this would be a misinformed anthropology. In You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, Smith advances an anthropological model informed by the writings of the apostle Paul, early church father Irenaeus, philosopher Augustine, and others. In his synthesis, Smith argues that the implicit picture of being human is dynamic. What this means is that “[t]o be human is to be for something, directed toward something, oriented toward something.” The term given by philosophers for something oriented towards an end (a telos) or a goal is “teleological.” Humans are teleological beings.

As teleological creatures then, humans pursue the things they love, the things they worship. For Smith, the question is not whether humans will worship something or someone, it is who or what they will worship. He warns that the idols most alluring to us are not so much intellectual inventions, but rather affective projections – the fruits of disordered wants. There is no greater model of a disordered want than that expressed by the abortion lobby.

What is most disconcerting about Smith’s thesis is that our cultural labor, regardless of the occupation or position in society in which we find ourselves, is animated not so much by principles based on intellectual assent, but by “. . . habits of desire that operate under the hood of consciousness.” [1] The philosopher brilliantly adds:

[Human] making bubbles up from our imagination, which is fueled by a Story of what flourishing looks like. We all carry some governing Story in our bones that shapes our work more than we might realize because that Story has taught us what to love. . . you might not love what you think because you might not realize what Story has really captured your imagination.[2]

In light of this, the question that should be asked of the abortion lobby is, “What Story has captured their imaginations?” Is it a story about a woman’s autonomy over her own body? of sex without consequence? Or is it something more ominous?

Life Lobbyists as Lovers

Smith’s anthropological model then, posits the human not only as a thinking creature, but as one who loves, creates, and makes. Knowing that creativity – the desire to make culture and to pursue those things we find worthy of pursuit – operates outside of consciousness, Smith encourages Christians to be attentive to the formation of our imaginations, and to curate our unconscious. In a world stained with the sin of Adam, “Our imaginations, need to be restored, recalibrated, and realigned by an affective immersion in the story of God in Christ reconciling the world to himself. ”[3]

For the faithful millions who have patiently advocated for life over the past 49 years, they – like the pro-abortion lobby - are driven by a love. Few likely joined the pro-life movement because of mere scientific arguments (such as life beginning at conception as opposed to birth). The millions of pro-life activists who spent time writing their representatives in congress, writing articles and op-eds, or who financially supported their local churches and diocese efforts to advance adoption over abortion, likely did so from imaginations that were curated by a love –  love for the imago Dei who resided in the womb, and love for that pregnant woman – understanding that the abortion she seeks does not solve a problem, but rather creates different ones. Many were also likely driven by a love for the social conscious, knowing that a society advocating the wanton killing of the unborn is not a healthy society. Most significantly, many joined the pro-life movement because they were attuned enough to the heart of their Creator to value the things He valued, and to love the things He so tenderly loves.


NOTES


[1] James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016), 175.

[2] Ibid., 177.

[3] Ibid., 180.

graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno, with a BS in molecular biology and a minor in cognitive psychology. As an undergraduate, she conducted research in immunology, microbiology, behavioral and cognitive psychology, scanning tunneling microscopy and genetics - having published research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and projects in scanning tunneling microscopy. Having recently completed an M.Ed. from University of Cincinnati and a Certificate in Apologetics with the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, Emily is currently an instructional designer/content developer for Moody Bible Institute and teaches organic chemistry and physics. As a former Darwinian evolutionist, Emily now regards the intelligent design arguments more credible than those proffered by Darwinists for explaining the origin of life.

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