Saturday, August 1, 2015

When we deny a life

An unwed mother. An unwelcome, an unwanted condition in almost every culture, time and place. Well, at least until the present generation. Colombia leads the world in babies born out of wedlock at 74%, but something must happen after birth, because single parent households stands at 33%.

In Africa, Nigeria takes the lead with 59% born out of wedlock, and 58% in single parent household. It must be assumed that ‘single parent households’ means the mother with her children, even though it can be widows or widowers, or divorced parents of either sex.

In Asia, the Philippines wins hands down with 37% of babies born of unwed mothers. Not surprisingly, family-venerating countries with a conservative, if politically camouflaged, Confucian ethic score very, very low. Taiwan is highest with a measly 4%, with the same percentage of single parent families.

I guess once you make a mistake, no one will have you. China at less than 1% doesn’t surprise me. I was surprised at less than 1% for India. I think I underestimated the effect of Hinduism on its people. Their gods and goddesses procreate freely, just as our pre-Christian gods did, but their example has had the opposite effect, apparently.

Coming to Europe, Sweden, France, and the United Kingdom topped the charts, all above the 32% out of wedlock births that was a tie between Germany and Spain. The two most Catholic countries, Poland and Italy, were lowest on the chart (which only showed medium and high rates) at 20% and 18% respectively.

In the world of Islam, only two countries were represented, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both with under 1% births to unwed mothers. I suppose one reason their scores are so low is the dreadful punishment dealt out for committing such a sin.

Canada and the United States are both in the medium range, at 25% and 41% respectively. I dread to think what this really means when we remember that abortion is legal in both countries.

Abortion in Canada is not limited by criminal law but by the Canada Health Act. While some non-legal obstacles exist, Canada is one of only a few nations with no legal restrictions on abortion. It is simply a decision made by a woman with her doctor. In 2005, there were 97,254 abortions reported in Canada. I don’t know what it means when this number is footnoted by ‘It is estimated that this number represents approximately 90% of all abortions performed in Canada involving Canadian residents.’ Supposedly, this number has been decreasing since at least 1998.

In the United States, abortion is a living political issue, one that will probably come to a head after the next presidential election, as a populace frustrated with the perceivedly weak performance of the current president elects his possibly equal opposite—God grant he not be white supremacist!—and along with him a Republican dominated Congress. Though we may have homosexual ‘marriage,’ that will probably stay, because it kills no one. The short catechism in my old prayer book lists four sins ‘crying to heaven for vengeance’—murder (Genesis 4:10), sodomy (Genesis 17:20-21), oppression of the poor (Exodus 2:23), and defrauding workers of their just wages (James 5:4). In my book, abortion should be listed as well. Maybe it will be, if removing ‘sodomy’ makes room for it. Or perhaps people will soon wake up to the sober truth: abortion is murder. It does kill. It kills the most defenseless.

An unwed mother. An unwelcome, an unwanted condition in first century Palestine. Sure, marriage customs were different, as they are even today in traditional cultures. Maryam of Nazareth, a virgin daughter of Israel was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter. According to the story found in the gospels, she is visited by an angel, who announces that God has chosen her to become—it’s too much to even say it, but we do, and we must, because now we know for sure what it means—the mother of His son. Maryam is no learned theologian. Holding strictly to Jewish monotheism, she doesn’t object, ‘Seriously! How can God have a son?’ Instead, indicating that she has already accepted as true what the angels says, her concerns are very practical, ‘How is this possible, for I have known no man?’

We know the rest of the story. When and how the Holy Spirit—was Maryam the first Jew to meet the Eternal, HaShem, Adonay, as a Trinitarian Being? John the Baptist did, but not until many years later—conceived in her womb the New Adam, we do not exactly know. But after her snap decision, did she regret it? Did she experience ‘the morning after’ those misgivings that people feel when they have ‘gone too far’ with a relationship that should have been consummated in the marriage bed? It cannot have been easy to tell them, first her mother Anna, then her betrothed—how she must have feared it!—that she was ‘with child’ and have nothing, not the father’s name, not when and where it happened, only some unbelievable and wild tale of an angel pronouncing what to pious and orthodox ears was enough to make every Jew rip his garments to shreds.

Abortion existed then as it does now. It was a dangerous process, part magic, part sorcery (drug use), part mechanical, but completely secret. It had to be, because everyone knew it was wrong. They might let the child live, but by Jewish law the mother could be stoned. People may think me very impious to even mention abortion when speaking of the Theotokos, but I mean her no disrespect. I do not believe such a thought would have entered her mind, even though like the rest us she was born a sinner. But I want to point out that what to us is a charming story and a beautiful ikon did not just happen like magic. Maryam must have struggled with it. Like Jacob she must have struggled with God. Maybe this struggle began long before the angel came to her in her room. Maybe his appearance was the last match. Maybe she was at the point where a soul knows for sure that to lose is to win. Maybe she knew that what God had in store for her was a betrothal other than the one arranged by her mother with the carpenter Joseph. ‘God works in mysterious ways.’

Almighty God, Creator of all that exists, in heaven and on earth, seen and unseen, chose to become a human being by means of conception, growth as a fetus in a woman’s womb, birth as an infant, experiencing not only every human life before and after, but the life of every living creature He ever created in the unbroken, irresistible chain of evolution, recapping in nine months what His instantaneous command ‘let there be’ unfolded in uncountable ages.

And that birth of the New Adam consecrated the human womb as the gestation place of the Divine Nature, making every pilgrim who ever passes, passed, or will pass through that narrow way, a divinity, a brother or sister of the Most High, pre-eternal God, and every mother ‘more honorable than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim.’

And this is what we throw away and despise, when we deny a life.

No comments: