Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Still Fed Up with Fundamentalism’s View of Three Other Issues

Abortion. Homosexuality. Capital punishment. These are the three highly controversial issues dealt with in the ninth chapter of my book Fed Up with Fundamentalism, which is currently being (slightly) revised and updated. And, yes, I am fed up with the predominant conservative evangelical views on all three of these highly contentious issues. 
What about Abortion?
As I write in the ninth chapter of Fed Up . . ., back in 1986 I felt too intimidated to attend a political rally in Kansas City because of the protesters who had gathered outside the venue, yelling “Baby killer! Baby killer!” as the candidate who had come to speak was noted for her acceptance of abortion in some cases.
Obviously, these were anti-abortion (aka “pro-life”) people protesting the “pro-choice” (aka pro-abortion) position of Harriet Woods, the senatorial candidate and the sitting Lieutenant Governor—the first woman ever elected to statewide office in Missouri.
Following the long tradition of the Catholic Church, in recent decades most conservative evangelical Christians have adopted the view that human life begins at conception, so all abortions are the same as murder, for they kill human beings. That view was the basis for the raucous protests against Woods (1927~2007).
However, neither science nor the Bible unambiguously specifies when human life begins. Thus, most of us non-fundamentalist Christians hold that abortion, especially when done in the first trimester, should be legal, safe, and rare.
What about LBGTQ Equality?
The LGBTQ issue is the second explosive matter that partly explains the overwhelming support of DJT by conservative evangelicals from before his election in 2016 to the present. Although it is hard to know what DJT actually believes on any issue, it is clear that Clinton was/is not only “pro-choice” but also advocates LBGTQ equality.
Most conservative evangelical Christians “cherry-pick” Bible verses to strongly oppose equality for practicing homosexual persons or the right of gays/lesbians to marry.
Although the right to marry has been granted by the Supreme Court (in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision of 2015), many evangelicals continue to oppose same-sex marriage just as they still oppose abortion despite the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973.
I am fed up with the negative, judgmental, “holier-than-thou” attitude of most conservative evangelicals on this issue as well. Not only do they condemn even “monogamous” homosexual activity, they covertly support discrimination against and harassment of LGBTQ persons.
And now, legislation which seeks to protect gays/lesbians from mistreatment is seen by some evangelicals as curtailing their (the evangelicals’ own) religious freedom! Surely, though, religious freedom, which I continue to advocate strongly, can never be condoned if that “freedom” results in harming other people.
What about Capital Punishment?
It cannot be denied that the Old Testament not only condones capital punishment, it even commands it.
It is not surprising, therefore, that fundamentalists and most conservative evangelicals who view the Old and New Testaments as equally inspired and equally the inerrant Word of God, which is to be literally interpreted and followed, are also people who generally favor the use of capital punishment.
It seems disingenuous, though, to base the legitimacy, or the necessity, of capital punishment in contemporary society because of the teachings of the Bible but then completely disregard the many commands—such as for cursing parents (Ex. 21:17), profaning the Sabbath (Ex. 31:14), or committing adultery (Lev. 20:10)—for the use of capital punishment in the Old Testament.
Most of us Christians who are not, or no longer, fundamentalists or conservative evangelicals recognize the clear call for capital punishment for various crimes/”sins” in the Old Testament. However, based on the teachings of Jesus, we believe that Christians should oppose, rather than affirm, capital punishment.


  1. Comments on today's article have been slow in coming. At this point I have received comments from three local Thinking Friends, and I appreciate hearing from each of them.

    Bruce Morgan: "Well said, Leroy. Thumbs up. Fundamentalism is an affront to God, not an honoring of God."

    Temp Sparkman: "Morning, Leroy. So reasonable, or shall I say, Christian?"

    George Melby: "Good Morning! Thank you for your continued enlightenment regarding FwF discussions."

  2. Early this afternoon I received the following comments from Thinking Friend Truett Baker in Arizona:

    "Your ninth chapter is challenging to respond too and I could write a page or more on each subject. We are mostly in agreement with viewpoints on these subjects. Here is my brief response.

    "An egg is an egg and an embryo is an embryo. We don't call eggs, chickens. They are eggs. To attribute personhood to an egg or embryo is nonsense. However, There is so much about the beginning of life that we don't know. It something like trying to determine at what age is accountability?

    "I don't believe that homosexuality is a choice. Who would choose what the LBGTQ people go through? Being homosexual is not a sin. Behaving in homosexual ways is a sin.

    "I really struggle with war and capital punishment. In a perfect world, I would see both as wrong. We live in a sinful world that has its values all twisted up. I was taught as a child that dancing, playing cards, alcohol use, playing ball on Sundays, smoking and most movies were all wrong. That would also include 'mixed bathing' at summer church camps. Most Christians would question those conservative values today. I remember WW II and latter conflicts very well. Would it be God's will to allow despotism and evil forces in the world to enslave us? I can't imagine that. I think our choices have to be made in the context of a fallen society.

    "Thanks again for another thoughtful blog."

    1. Thanks, Truett, for your comments--and there is much I could write in response also, especially about your fourth paragraph. But at this point, I will just make the following response to your third paragraph.

      I, of course, agree that homosexuality is not a choice in most cases. But it seems to me that it is awfully harsh to say that behaving in homosexual ways is always a sin. I can appreciate those--mainly Catholic priests and nuns, but some others also--who choose lifelong celibacy. But for those of us who are heterosexuals and who have enjoyed a lifetime of marital happiness and sexual intimacy to say that people who through no choice of their own are required to be celibate for their whole lifetime or to be condemned as sinners because of their choosing same-sex intimacy seems, to me, to be a very questionable stance.

  3. Yesterday I posted a link to this article on Facebook, and there is discussion there related to Truett's chicken and egg comment. Those of you who are my Facebook friends might like to look at that Oct. 31 discussion.

  4. I think most people are pro-life, it's just that people have a variety of definitions of "life." The anti-abortion flavor of pro-life seems to depend on the radical individualism of modern capitalism and its reflection in fundamentalist Christianity. This is an empty abstraction that leaves no room for compromise, since it leaves no room for consideration of context (otherwise known in classical economics as "externalities). Most liberals look at life more as a group function, less as an individual concern. We worry more about the viability of whole species, not so much at the success of any one individual. USA has the Endangered Species Act, not the Individual Animals Act. (Although PETA might be working on one!). Of course, one way to save a species is to save its individuals, but this is as part of a complex of value, not as the solitary value. Indeed, modern conservatives seem more and more to only value life as an empty abstraction, as they not only oppose abortion, but also having the government guarantee any healthcare or welfare support to anyone, including pregnant women.

    On all these subjects it depends on whether you find value in empty abstract laws, or in living social contexts. If all one cares about is "right is right, and wrong is wrong" then it does not matter how much suffering and destruction the "right" answer causes, because the context is irrelevant. If one cares deeply about consequences, this disregard of consequences seems sheer madness. One of the few things conservatives and liberals agree on is that we stand on the precipice of destruction, caused by the other side.

    1. Thanks for your thought-provoking comments, Craig.

      I was especially interested in your concluding sentence. While it is likely generally true, there are some exceptions. I have read only part of it, but Steven Pinker's 2018 book “Enlightenment Now” is a comprehensive look at progress in world history. Pinker perhaps could be accurately labeled as a "secular humanist."

      As one website says, "Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard, puts data in context to show how health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge and happiness are on the rise worldwide."

  5. Since your comments on these three issues quickly become political and not only theological, I will chime in here and mention a book I am reading, George Lakoff's The Little Blue Book. Lakoff talks about "framing" issues and how every political perspective is moral in the eyes of the one promoting it. So, everyone is for "life," everyone is for "justice" and fairness. In our public discussions of abortion rights, for example, we progressives cannot allow fundamentalists to claim the higher ground centered on "life;" we have to frame our perspective in terms of Life and kindness and humanity toward those children who are born. Not only the ability of the parent(s) to provide material needs, but keep hammering away at what kind of life a child will have when society has forced the mother to give birth. The Right to Choose is of course, very important to me, but we need to join the discussion on Life and not only about Rights. In addition, the biblical passages quoted by both pro-birth supporters and LGBTQ-haters are so limited in number and scope, that I have decided my approach just may be: That's all you got??!!