When I arrived at church this morning there was some mail from yesterday, including a packet from a group calling themselves "The Judeo-Christian View" which consisted of an all-out video (two DVDs were enclosed) and paper attack on Senator Obama. Not only is the claim to represent the Judeo-Christian view overly ambitious, but these folks also scandalously misrepresent Obama's views on the two things they say are of "paramount importance" in the upcoming election: same-sex marriage (which they put in scare-quotes) and "child sacrifice" -- which is how they see abortion -- apparently all abortion, but with special emphasis on partial birth abortion, which they claim Obama "supports."
Perhaps these folks are just so hot under the collar that they can't distinguish between "supports it" and "does not support criminalizing it." Maybe they are so ignorant of the Christian tradition that they don't know that the idea that all abortion -- from conception on -- is to be considered the equivalent of murder is a relatively recent Christian development, and is not part of the Jewish legal tradition. After all Numbers 5 describes a procedure to induce an abortion in a woman suspected of adultery. And Mishnah Oholot 7.6 describes something not unlike partial birth abortion:
If a woman is in difficult labor, the child must be cut up while it is in the womb and brought out limb by limb, since the life of the mother has priority; but if the greater part has emerged, it may not be touched, since the claim of one life cannot override the claim of another life.
So there is no real "Judeo-Christian" view on the subject of abortion -- in fact there is a very wide range of positions in these traditions, and to suggest that Obama is "pro-abortion" because he is "pro-choice" is little short of mendacity and false witness. In the debate last week, Obama articulated a very pastoral and comprehensible view of the tragedy of abortion, taking a position identical to that of the Episcopal Church. John McCain literally sneered at the concept of concern for the "health" of the mother because it is so elastic a term.
There can be no elasticity for the absolute position of no abortion at any time for any reason whatsoever, even in the case of rape or incest. Obviously if you think a zygote is fully human and should have all the rights of a human being, you will see abortion as the equivalent of murder. That's a position anyone is free to adopt -- but to call it the Judeo-Christian position is a misrepresentation, since not all Jews and Christians -- as attested in Scripture and the tradition -- support this position. And to claim that Obama favors abortion is a deliberate lie.
The colorful document from the self-styled JDV also goes on to say that if the US supports same-sex marriage (which Obama doesn't, though he supports civil unions) the US will just be giving more ammunition to those crazy Muslim terrorists to attack us as infidels. There are also images of idols (with a "cute" suggestion that Obama is the latest) and further intemperate analyses. The second DVD was about the threat Islam poses to civilization as we know it, and I confess I did not pop it into the DVD player.
This packet apparently went out to parishes far and wide -- I can't imagine I am the only priest to have received a copy. But my copy, including the DVDs, when straight to where I deposit all rubbish. I am all for an intelligent discussion of the difficult issues of abortion and same-sex marriage -- or even the engagement of Islam with the rest of the world -- but this document does not represent that kind of intelligence, but rather fear, slander, and falsehood. Those who violate the commandment not to bear false witness have no place wrapping themselves in the mantle of "Judeo-Christian" values. Even giving them the benefit of the doubt that they just don't understand Obama (or the real Judeo-Christian tradition, or rather, range of traditions; or Islam for that matter) they are dangerously misleading others. Please join me in rejecting this slander and falsehood, which adds nothing to a legitimate debate on difficult issues.
Tobias Haller BSG