This week I am continuing answering the brown bag sermon questions from the “lost service” a few weeks ago. This one is a doozy:
Q: In my reading of the New Testament, I don’t find any instance in which Jesus directly said anything about abortion, one way or another. Am I missing something?
So the short answer is that Jesus, in the Gospels, never specifically tackles the question of the ethics of abortion, despite the common usage of abortifacients and debate within the both Jewish and Hellenic communities regarding the practice. Jesus did speak frequently about the Kingdom of God, God, the true nature of love, the hypocrisy of some of the Jewish religious practices as they were popularly conducted, and of course a lot about money. Those, for the people who recorded his teachings, seemed to be the priority.
Now it is possible to reach out and draw from passages far and wide small strands of theological thought and weave together your own conclusions about the ethics of abortion and its relation to self-determination, benevolence, the sanctity of life, women’s rights, and a host of other salient issues therein. But at that point, to use the classic “three legged stool of Anglican theology metaphor” you are in all likelihood relying much more on the teachings of whatever faith community you are a part of (Tradition) or your own personal reflections and bias on the issue (Reason, hopefully), than you are on Scripture specifically.
Now a sidebar: when I was ordained 18 years ago and began doing these brown bag sermons I told myself that I would not address my own thoughts from the pulpit on the issue of abortion, despite having very complicated, nuanced feelings on the matter. The reason for that is that this issue has, in general and in our own time and society in particular, such deep emotional and cultural gravitas that it deserves the respect of dialogue that the pulpit (or an e-newsletter article) simply can not give to it. This is, whether it was in my initial response or in this article, just me (a cis hetero white male) talking without immediate contact and engagement with the dozens if not hundreds of people who will read it. And for something this volatile, this reactive, that is not loving the people for whom this is an issue, regardless of their own positions. I hope that makes sense, and you can appreciate my position on the matter.
Thank you for the question, and I hope my answer helped.