Go Home, Christians

May 17, 2012 | 43 comments
By

I live in a small town. We get lots of visitors and they’re all welcome, even the slednecks who take over the town once a year for a weekend of drinking and driving (up the mountain on snow machines). But a group has finally found the limit of a friendly tourist town’s welcome: Christians.

Which Christians? About fifty Christian activists from the anti-abortion group Operation Save America who are in town for the next four days. Here’s how the local paper reported yesterday’s activities: “The Kansas-based anti-abortion group Operation Save America displays graphic images of dead fetuses Wednesday on Town Square.” In the morning, they line the streets leading up to the local high school and elementary school with signs showing bloody fetuses and biblical slogans. This weekend they will target the annual Boy Scout elk antler auction held in the center of town. It is fair to conclude they are focusing their graphic and offensive (but legal) message at the youth and children of the town. They are an obnoxious bunch of Christians. Their activities are problematic on so many levels.

1. They are actually promoting abortion. The protesters are too busy offending people to notice, but the end result of their activity is to create support for the doctor in town who performs abortions — apparently the only such doctor in the state of Wyoming and who is called out by name on their signs — and to unite the community against the Christian protesters. A local blog piece, “abortion crazies met with humor, love,” about sums it up. But there is also anxiety and wariness: the doctor’s clinic here in town was bombed a few years ago (no injuries).

2. They are uniting the community. Jackson Hole United is a local group that has formed to combat the visiting Christians. Its motto: We are pro-life and pro-choice citizens of Jackson Hole standing for civility, compassion and love, united to protect our community and our children. Bumper stickers and banners sporting the slogan “civility, compassion, and love” have shown up all over town this week. Ironic, isn’t it? Diverse townsfolk uniting around civility, compassion, and love while conservative Christians line the streets promoting incivility, division, and anger.

3. This kind of puts local Christians in a tricky situation. Local churches have actually tried to defuse the situation. Here’s a quotation from another report in the local paper:

Leaders called on Paul Hayden, the pastor at Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole, to respond to questions about Operation Save America’s intentions.
 
Hayden said he and other religious leaders in Jackson met with representatives from the anti-abortion group in an attempt to compromise. He said the local leaders explained various churches’ efforts to counsel and assist women facing unplanned pregnancies to give them options to abortion.
 
“They rejected us and our work,” he said. “They basically said, ‘We don’t care about you. We care about us and our agenda.’”

It’s natural to try and distance yourself from these protesters. Hence the sign a community member is holding in the abortion crazies article: “Obscenity and hatred do not live here.” But I haven’t seen any local Christians out there with signs reading, “These people aren’t Christian.” From a Mormon perspective, that’s an interesting omission.

4. They’re still fellow Christians, aren’t they? I haven’t had the chance to strike up a conversation on this topic with any of the local ministers yet, but I am afraid it might go something like this: I am a local Latter-day Saint who opposes elective abortion in general but, in line with LDS policy, I recognize that abortion may be appropriate in some circumstances. I oppose the intentionally offensive tactics used by the protesters and applaud the firm but measured response of the community. The minister then responds: I’m glad to hear that you support our approach and share our goals. We need more people like you in our community. It’s just too bad you belong to a non-Christian cult. Those protesters are doing everything wrong and are hurting the good Christian work we are doing in this town. But at the end of the day, they are still fellow Christians, aren’t they?

Now maybe I’m wrong. Maybe some ministers would conclude that the actions of the protesters are so inconsistent with Christian ethical norms that they are deemed to be outside the fold and that I, despite being a Latter-day Saint well within those norms, might be seen as falling within the fold. But I suspect not.

It seems like there is something wrong with that likely response. My sense is that it is inconsistent to reject any connection to the views and actions of the Christian protesters, yet at the same time affirm religious fellowship with them. That is an odd inversion of the position of accepting the similar moral views and practical actions of Latter-day Saints, yet rejecting religious fellowship with Mormons. Or perhaps those seemingly inconsistent positions are tenable for political purposes (where coalitions of diverse groups are necessary to achieve desired political ends) but not for religious purposes (where fellowship or communion are defined in religious terms, not for political or social ends).

So here’s the central question: What consequences are there to how one draws the boundaries of religious fellowship or membership? Am I wrong to think that local Christians who draw the boundaries of Christian fellowship to include the obnoxious protesters (but exclude Latter-day Saints) are, by so doing, implicitly expressing support for what the protesters are doing, despite verbal statements to the contrary?

43 Responses to Go Home, Christians

  1. Adam G. on May 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Depends on the reason for drawing the lines. If my brother is a thug, I am not embracing his thuggery by letting on that he’s my brother and you aren’t. Granted if I make a big point of this, that probably is a covert way of expressing support.

    So in your Jackson Hole example, if you approach the Christian groups and they don’t take you in, that’s not covert support for the fetus picture people. But if they were publicly and unprompted saying stuff like ‘we reject these fetus picture people, but at least, you know, they’re Christian’ that would be muddying the message at least a little.

  2. Jax on May 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    This would be a great conversation to have AFTER you go talk to the ministers to find out how they really react. Having the conversation before hand is putting the cart before the horse. It may turn out that your JH ministers are open to you and your efforts to negate the negative effects this group is having on all christians in your community. In almost any group, if you act like you belong then nobody will question. If you act like you aren’t one of the group then you’ll be questioned and open to rejection. Go in using words like ‘we’,’us’,etc. and talk about how this obnoxious group is hurting ‘all of us Christians’ and ‘here is what I think we could do’…make it known you consider yourself one of them and they may not question your belonging… Go in expecting a seat at the table!

  3. Dave on May 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks for the comments. I’m not as interested in the local community group (I’m sure they’d take all interested persons) as the general question of defining Christian identity or boundaries. It generally comes up in our discussions as: are Mormons Christian? This is a different scenario for considering the Christian identity question.

  4. Diane on May 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    This is an odd conversation. I don’t believe the focus of this article should even be why one religious group should be allowed to dis fellowship another religious group because of what one group perceives to be christian or not. And the fact that it bothers you really bothers me.

    The ultimate question is that any group in the United states still want to deny women the right to choose is what should bother you. I may, or may not believe that abortion should be legal. But, what I do know is that I don’t have the right to deny adequate care in rural areas. I don’t want to force women to underground.

    men don’t have to undergo these invasive procedures. They don’t have to fear not getting the adequate care based solely on their gender. That is what should bother you. not whether or not your considered christian enough

  5. Mike on May 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    #4 If you want to write a post on that topic I think that’s fine. Dave chose to write this one. He poses a legitimate question about defining Christianity; I don’t believe he had any intention of discussing abortion.

  6. Brad on May 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I’ve always been fascinated by how religious communities draw boundaries of inclusion and exclusion and the impact of these boundaries. Whereas the boundaries of Judaism and Islam have always been fairly easy to figure out (Judaism is very much a hereditary identity that includes even atheists, and Islam in the Muslim world is not quite the same but close) the boundaries of who is a Christian has always been perplexing. In evangelical communities, it seems that the boundaries of who is Christian is based on 1) their profession of Protestantism, 2) their adherence to a list of doctrines and beliefs, and 3) their continued identification with the Christian community through regular assembly and identification of the self as Christian.

    Yet there seems to be some latitude as to what doctrines, beliefs, and lifestyles a person may subscribe to and still be considered a Christian. Different interpretations of the Bible, so long as they are somewhat rooted in an interpretive tradition that dates back to the Protestant Reformation, are acceptable. But splinter groups, especially reformation groups that don’t consider the reformation ideas fully valid are often deemed heretical; the JWs and the LDS being the foremost among them, although the Seventh-day Adventists are often considered heretical. The Catholics are often deemed heretical as well, but there is great debate among protestant groups on this issue.

    As for the consequences of how one draws boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, it seems that those religious communities that are more inclusive or a range of identities and beliefs are more apolitical and decentralized. Whereas those communities that more exclusive are more political and have greater central authority. The sense of the ‘self’ and ‘other’ among its member is more accentuated and defined.

  7. Todd Wood on May 17, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Dave, I think both orthodoxy and orthopraxy are important in defining Christianity. (1) If the abortion doctor attended and worshipped with a local congregation who were trinitarian, that does not mean I would extend a hand of Christian fellowship to this man. (2) If one of the local Presbyterian or Lutheran ministers was a gay or lesbian activist, I would not extend Christian fellowship. (3) If the Baptist pastor, Fred Phelps, rode into J.H. on his high horse, I would say “Go Home, Hater.” Not even give him the name, Christian. A Christian is a saint. So if the person has no desire to live and conduct himself like a loving saint, then what is he? Definitely not a new creature in Christ.

    Dave, I don’t know much about Operation Save America or how they are acting in Jackson. But I have a question for you: Would there be any difference in showing graphic pictures of fetuses and graphic pictures of dead holocaust Jews?

  8. Dave on May 17, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Thanks for your comments, Todd. I find them encouraging.

    I’m guessing you are hinting at vicarious baptisms performed in LDS temples with your question. I don’t think that’s a good analogy, if only because the LDS Church sat down with the offended parties (on several occasions) and worked out agreements, although as I’m sure you’re aware there have been some slips in working that plan.

  9. Todd Wood on May 17, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    No hinting in that direction.

    But I would maintain that I do not think it is unChristian to show graphic pictures of bloody fetuses or brutalized Jews. I hear that the Boy Scouts are not attending the Elk Fest because of possible exposure to OSA and the pics. I think it to be an over reaction. In the tactics where I am more familiar, I do not mind the current ad in JHweekly (p. 5) for 180movie.com, placed there by the Right to Life of Teton County. Look at the internet movie, Dave. My two younger kids (4th and 6th grade) watched it.

    Years ago, my wife graduated as a top ten scholar at Boise State University. One day, she displayed pictures of aborted fetuses in a nursing class and half the students left the class. I don’t think she was being unChristian in her project.

  10. Dave on May 18, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Todd, I have heard conflicting reports on what is going to happen Saturday.

    I’ve only had a chance to watch the first two minutes of the movie (it deals with the Holocaust), but a movie one watches voluntarily and that comes with a warning “graphic images, viewer discretion advised” as a courtesy to the viewer (who could stop the movie at any time if desired) is a different proposition than four-foot graphic images pushed on unwilling viewers of all ages in stationary vehicles as they move stop-and-go down a crowded street to school. Likewise with medical education to a classroom of adults where students had the option to leave if they were disturbed (and some of them did).

    It seems to be the MO of the anti-abortion activists to target minors. Here, they target the schools and, on Saturday last year, Town Square where the Boy Scout activity was being held. When I lived in California there was a small group that set up similar displays at the entrance to the high school, but that was just two or three people. The operation here has about twenty-five large posters lined up alongside the road and outside the grade school and the high school.

  11. queuno on May 18, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Another example of why I don’t care if I’m considered Christian or not…

  12. Ray on May 18, 2012 at 6:56 am

    You raise a lot of interesting questions here. A related one is whether one’s politics or gospel fetishes can actually become their religion. I am reminded of the gun owners in Utah who were outraged when the church said it did not want guns in its chapels.

  13. Meldrum the Less on May 18, 2012 at 9:24 am

    A little nugget for Bro. Banack’s Christian “guests” to consider:

    Has anyone noticed that the murder rates have been falling over the last few years? Also, other measures of violent crimes are decreasing. Many are taking credit for it but at some level it remains unexplained.

    One of the economics professors at my daughter’s ivy league university has an interesting explanation. He has data that indicate the more widespread application of ABORTION following its legalization in the 1970′ and 1980’s resulted in the elimination of a significant portion of the demographic sector of the population that would have been expected to become most of both the current criminals and their victims.

    Abortion lowers future crime rates! Women who want to abort their babies and are not allowed are going to raise those unwanted children in ways where they are far more likely to become violent criminals. Abortion kills these future criminals off before they even leave the womb.

    What about the aborted children who might have beaten the odds and become productive citizens in spite of bad parents? They represent an acceptable level of collateral damage in the war against crime from a purely economic point of view. Better to kill 10 of the “enemy” than lose one of your own.

    (Help! Emergency surgery required to remove tongue firmly attached to right and left cheeks.)

  14. Dave on May 18, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Meldrum, that’s a chapter out of Levitt’s Freakonomics book. The chapter claiming that prior abortions were the cause (20 years later) of falling crime rates is highly controversial. I doubt anyone in the public policy universe is promoting abortion as an anti-crime measure. It’s a toxic idea.

  15. Chris H. on May 18, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Can’t wait to visit Jackson this weekend!

  16. Tiffany W. on May 18, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I know this has nothing to do with the post. But as a girl from Wyoming, not Jackson Hole, I find it amusing to think of an anti-abortion group descending on Jackson Hole in particular.
    Hope the town can survive the onslaught-but I’m sure they will.

  17. charlene on May 18, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Dave,
    Yes, you’re wrong. As has been pointed out before, accepting someone into yur defined group does not require that you support everything that person does.

    Drawing boundaries for inclusion/exclusion is a process of selecting specific “litmus test” criteria. LDS may be excluded from a particular Christian definition because of a specific criterion. Now you are asking the JH community to choose a different criterion to exclude someone else. Different criteria – same process.

    You can condemn the action of this group that has invaded your town, but love requires that you not reject the person (people).

  18. Andrew S. on May 18, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    This post reminds me of a post at LDS & Evangelical Conversations, “Corrupt but Christian.” From that post:

    …It would be a rare day in which I would endorse anything related to their ministry. I would not support them in any positive way. I would not choose to worship with them. I barely want to support their claim on the term “Christian”.

    And yet, I would say that they are indeed Christians. They get it right when it comes to the most important things about the Christian faith. The authentic discipleship they offer is shallow at best and rancid at worst, but they make the cut. If I were given the responsibility to ultimately judge the leadership, I’d see them in eternity but they would have the smell of sulfur on them for quite sometime.

    As for the questions that you ask in this post, Dave, I think it depends on how well people have internalized a distinction between politics and theology. It seems to me that someone like Tim (from the post above) measures one’s Christianity on a theological basis, so that is a totally separate thing than one’s politics or one’s actions. The difference between “bad Christian” and “good Christian” is in terms of how strong the discipleship (actions) are, but the difference between “Christian” and “non-Christian” are about theology, without respect to strength of discipleship.

    I think it would be an awkward position for Christians to say, “Yeah, other Christians, I can’t stand them. I don’t agree with them politically and don’t support what they do…I’d much prefer people to act like these non-Christians do.”

    That being said, with respect to what you have said here:

    My sense is that it is inconsistent to reject any connection to the views and actions of the Christian protesters, yet at the same time affirm religious fellowship with them. That is an odd inversion of the position of accepting the similar moral views and practical actions of Latter-day Saints, yet rejecting religious fellowship with Mormons

    I don’t see any inconsistency here. Rather, there is a consistent logic that says that politics and theology can be different. One can have “good” theology and bad politics, or one can have “bad” theology and good politics.

    So, I guess the questions would be these…do you think that people who share theological stances should share political stances…and do you think that the fact that people may share political stances should be evidence that they share theological backings as well?

    (p.s., T&S needs to get comment subscription by email.)

  19. Brad on May 18, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Meldrum (13), the argument that there is a correlation between the legalization of abortion and the drop in crime rates has some merit. In many urban areas there used to be a high rate of teenage pregnancies and lots of kids running around living in broken homes without a father. Statistically these kids are more likely to get involved in gangs, drugs, and prostitution as a means of survival. But with abortion rates rising those would-be gang members are not being born. Of course there are several other reasons for the drop in crime rates, but that is a topic for another discussion.

    This is observation that can be made without advocating abortion. It is merely describing one of its effects (and incidentally a positive one) on society. The question of the morality or immorality of abortion here is beyond the point.

  20. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    This would be a great conversation to have AFTER you go talk to the ministers to find out how they really react. — yes.

  21. Dave on May 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Stephen, I haven’t talked to local ministers, but Todd is a minister in Idaho Fall and he did comment above.

    I did talk with some of the anti-abortion activists this morning as they handed out leaflets around town square during the local Elkfest. One was from New York; another from St. Louis. The sponsoring organization is from Kansas, North Carolina, or Texas, depending on who you talk to. Local ministers here in Jackson oppose their activities. The activists did not identify any local congregation or local minister that supported or sponsored their activities.

    I asked whether they targeted children with their graphic images, and they said yes they target high school students. I pointed out that some students, including grade school students, are upset enough about viewing the images that they are avoiding school this week. [The grade school is right across from the high school, so their activities are necessarily directed at students from both schools.] The activists don’t really see this as a problem, seeing the forcing of such images on children as a positive good in the case of high school students (they insist that 90% of high school students are sexually active) and even for grade school students (it might incite conversations between students and their parents on the topic).

    They produce some inapt analogies to justify forcing graphic images on minors. For example, children see lots of violence on TV. I pointed out that parents often limit TV viewing of children for just that reason, or simply prohibit it completely. The justifications they produce suggest some activists have some qualms about forcing their graphic images on children, but the gusto with which they ply their trade (one activist called it an “industry”) makes it clear many of them simply enjoy disturbing children. My sense from having talked to them is that their faux Christianity is just a cover for the enjoyment the derive from disturbing children.

  22. Alison Moore Smith on May 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    The ultimate question is that any group in the United states still want to deny women the right to choose is what should bother you.

    Can someone explain to me how an unqualified “right to choose” is worth fighting for? Forget for a minute that we’re talking about the “right to choose” to suck a baby to pieces into a sink, and ponder the other “choices” that, just maybe, we don’t think people should have the “right” to do. How about the right to rape and pillage? How about the right to poke your neighbor’s eye out? How about the right to abuse your kids and/or spouse? I don’t even have a right to shoot the deer that have stripped all the bark off our fruit trees.

    Sorry, you’re right. CHOICE! That is the ultimate value.

    I may, or may not believe that abortion should be legal. But, what I do know is that I don’t have the right to deny adequate care in rural areas. I don’t want to force women to underground.

    I know! And I hate it how we force child abusers to go underground by denying them adequate venues for beating the crap out of people. It’s horrendous.

    BTW, what’s so freaking bad about the pictures? It’s not a BABY. It’s just tissue. What’s your problem?

  23. Alison Moore Smith on May 19, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    For the record, I think there’s a very good reason for “targeting” kids. To date I have never met a child who thought it was OK to rip a baby to pieces (no matter how old) or burn a baby or stab a half-born baby in the head with scissors. Every child I’ve ever seen who, one way or another, heard about abortion and learned what it meant, was horrified.

    Somewhere along the line, people start thinking the horrific is acceptable under all sorts of banners, like “a woman’s right to choose” or “reproductive rights.” Maybe there’s something to teaching a child in the way he should go. Or something like that.

  24. Dave on May 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Alison, are you seriously suggesting that graphic images supporting whatever policy this or that group promotes ought to be shown freely to children? That parents ought to just shut up and let groups like that do their thing at the expense of their children? So those against capital punishment can show actual executions and corpses to kids? Or those opposed to bullying can show video of actual fights where kids get beaten bloody? And you think this approach is justified? I am appalled.

  25. Todd Wood on May 19, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Dave, Idaho had one capital punishment, and now they are preparing for another. It is in our local papers presently. This particular man stabbed a woman 15 times or so and then cut out her reproductive organs. But I would not show a picture of her bloody, brutalized body to my elementary aged son or any of his friends. So I am hearing you.

    But if the murderer walked around town and no one was doing anything, I would be showing her picture to the mayor, the city council, and as many parents as I could. If they ignored me, then I would desire to stir the teen community. I would seek to ignite the teens to action.

    Now, let’s say 100 abortions were committed in Wyoming last year. And how many abortion clinics are their in Wyoming? If we had just 30 abortions in Jackson Hole in 2011, I would seek to set a fire of protest in the town. And I would start first with the local ministers. And I would show them pictures if they seemed a little sleepy and unresponsive.

    I categorically reject OSA starting with the children of Jackson, if that be so. If they have true Christian motives within, they need to funnel all their zeal toward the men of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

    And Andrew S, true religion is much more than just proper theological creed. Our church family’s theme verse for 2012 is Micah 6:8.

  26. Todd Wood on May 19, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Dave, so I googled OSA and some of the Jackson Hole news. If I knew local resident, Aughenbaugh, I would have encouraged him and his alliance to pay for a free community showing of “October Baby” in the local downtown theater. On Earth Day, my wife and I saw this movie in our city theater. We were the only ones in there. And my wife, a labor and delivery nurse, cried through the whole thing.

  27. Diane on May 19, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Todd Allison

    First, Allison, you are confusing at least two different issues, One, is the right of women to have full autonomy over their reproductive rights.
    2) Child abuse. These are two very different and very Separate issues.

    Pro choice argument has nothing to do with Child abusers. Sorry. but, I think your brain is scrambled on that. Pro choice means that although I might not agree with abortion, I don’t have the right to make the decision for another family. It means I respect their right to control their family size. It means I don’t take away birth control rights like they are trying to do in certain states like Co. It means I don’t force another women to have to make a choice
    Third. You and I don’t have the right to make decisions for another woman and her husband on such a sensitive issue. That is a topic, between a husband, wife, and a family doctor. At a latter time it will become an issue for them to bring to Christ and to discuss with heavenly father to be dealt with at that time.

    Todd, its really not Christ like to bring in pictures when others are not prepared for it. In fact, its quite nasty. Its Christlike actions like what displayed explains why I am now an Atheist. There are no words in the human vocabulary to even express when I read how proud you were for her to basically emotionally assault her classmates. That wasn’t something to be proud of. That was being an emotional bully. I know with every fiber in my being that Christ would not have done that. He would have had more compassion.

    Just out of curiously, since you support these kind of tactics, do you support religious zealots bomb these clinics, who by the way not only perform abortions, but also provide other much needed gynecological care of women who otherwise might not have access? Yes, I love people who say abortion is wrong, yet, kill to get their point across… its a little hypocritical isn’t it?

    I bet your one of those protestors who say protect the child, yet, when comes to actually doing something like CASA you leave it to the state to take care of them because that’s good enough. And trust me, its not good enough. Institutional neglect is a beautiful thing. I lived it for well over 16 years as a child of foster care. Minimal care at best.

    My view point, lets take better care of the children who are ALREADY Here who are in foster care and receive abysmal care. Instead of worrying about the ones who aren’t even here yet. That makes a hell of a lot more sense to me.

    Here’s something else I will leave you with, How about we leave the repentance process to Christ, instead of injecting ourselves into a process we have no business being in?

  28. Diane on May 20, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Allison

    If you are going to use the argument that you need to teach a child “the way to go” then you have to allow that same chidl the right to decide for themselves male/female personal decisions that are none of anyone Else’s right to make but themselves. Otherwise you keep them a child for the rest of their life

  29. Peter LLC on May 20, 2012 at 10:51 am

    I don’t even have a right to shoot the deer that have stripped all the bark off our fruit trees.

    Actually, you just might: “Occasionally, the [Utah] Division [of Wildlife Resources] issues depredation permits. These permits allow hunters to remove nuisance animals that affect homeowners and livestock.”

  30. Brad on May 20, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Alison, you’re making the clear argument that abortion is equivalent to murder. Just curious, how do you view abortions in the case of rape or incest? Would those still be equivalent to murder? After all it isn’t the fetus’ fault that the father committed a major sin that resulted in his his/her conception.

    (I know this is off topic, but I’m just curious as to how those who make the murder argument explain this).

  31. Diane on May 20, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Actually, what Allison is advocating is the emotional and psychological abuse of women she doesn’t know in order to enforce her will on some else.

    Meldrum

    So that ten might “live” are you kidding me. Where are they going to live? In foster Care, like I said, the foster care system is completely broken.

    Minimal medical attention, minimal adult supervision, not enough social workers, hmm, not enough proper vetting of foster care.

  32. Todd Wood on May 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    “You and I don’t have the right to make decisions for another woman and her husband on such a sensitive issue. That is a topic, between a husband, wife, and a family doctor.”

    Perhaps one could sit down with Dr. Brent Blue in Jackson and ask him how many husbands there are involved in women’s lives when they consider abortions. And does Emerg-A-Care provide any leads on loving parents who desire to adopt. And would the patient like a chaplain or minister for counsel or advice?

    “Todd, it’s really not Christ like to bring in pictures when others are not prepared for it. In fact, it’s quite nasty.”

    Abortions are nasty, messy, and bloody. If one were to discover graphic pictures of body parts caused by certain procedures in town, why can’t one bring these pictures before the men who are impregnating the women and girls. None of them would be prepared, but sometimes men (and some of the teenage male athletes) need to be confronted with truth. And for them, a picture can be worth a thousand words.

    “There are no words in the human vocabulary to even express when I read how proud you were for her to basically emotionally assault her classmates.”

    Actually, I got the story wrong about my wife. It was 20 years ago (1992), and she rehearsed the facts again for me. She didn’t show real pictures. In that class, she and her team working on their fetal research presentation simply showed medical sketches of abortion procedures. Half the nursing class didn’t want to see the basic textbook illustrations. She and her classmates politely announced to the class prior hand before showing the pictures in order to give classmates the option of leaving. I applaud her courage. It was not the politically correct thing to do.

    “Just out of curiously, since you support these kind of tactics, do you support religious zealots bomb these clinics”

    No. I do not.

    “Institutional neglect is a beautiful thing. I lived it for well over 16 years as a child of foster care. Minimal care at best.”

    Diane, I am sorry. Christian people ought to be the most fervent advocates for the orphans. And it is the worst damage when “Christians” in a community are the abusers or those who do nothing. Again just recently, our local newspaper did a front page article of a teen girl who was repeatedly raped by a teacher. What hurt her most is that the community (a small Idaho town) shunned or ignored her when she told the police.

    Back to Dave, when it comes to pastors and conservative evangelicals in town, I would imagine that Mountain View Baptist Church would be pro-OSA. But you might find alternative responses from the ministers of Cornerstone, Community Bible, First Baptist, etc., who tackle the serious issue of abortion in other ways. Who knows what debates / rebukes / concerns / suggestions have already transpired in phone calls or street conversations there in Jackson. Pastor Tim Gray is the leader of the Jackson Hole Youth Alliance. It would be interesting to talk to him. Two questions are very important to me when thinking of Christian boundaries: (1) What do you believe about Christ? (2) And how do you think His grace will transform your conduct?

  33. Jax on May 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    I’m sorry it is so lengthy, but Dallin H. Oaks comments on this are to specific to this conversation to leave out. And as a Judge and Apostle, he is keenly aware of the legalities and spiritual side of the abortion issue…

    [Note: the following long quotation is from “Weightier Matters,” a BYU devotional talk given by Elder Oaks in 1999.]

    Few concepts have more potential to mislead us than the idea that choice or agency is an ultimate goal. For Latter-day Saints, this potential confusion is partly a product of the fact that moral agency—the right to choose—is a fundamental condition of mortal life. Without this precious gift of God, the purpose of mortal life could not be realized. To secure our agency in mortality we fought a mighty contest the book of Revelation calls a “war in heaven.” This premortal contest ended with the devil and his angels being cast out of heaven and being denied the opportunity of having a body in mortal life (see Revelation 12:7–9).

    But our war to secure agency was won. The test in this postwar mortal estate is not to secure choice but to use it—to choose good instead of evil so that we can achieve our eternal goals. In mortality, choice is a method, not a goal.

    Of course, mortals must still resolve many questions concerning what restrictions or consequences should be placed upon choices. But those questions come under the heading of freedom, not agency. Many do not understand that important fact. For example, when I was serving here at BYU, I heard many arguments on BYU’s Honor Code or dress and grooming standards that went like this: “It is wrong for BYU to take away my free agency by forcing me to keep certain rules in order to be admitted or permitted to continue as a student.” If that silly reasoning were valid, then the Lord, who gave us our agency, took it away when he gave the Ten Commandments. We are responsible to use our agency in a world of choices. It will not do to pretend that our agency has been taken away when we are not free to exercise it without unwelcome consequences.

    Because choice is a method, choices can be exercised either way on any matter, and our choices can serve any goal. Therefore, those who consider freedom of choice as a goal can easily slip into the position of trying to justify any choice that is made. “Choice” can even become a slogan to justify one particular choice. For example, in the 1990s, one who says “I am pro-choice” is clearly understood as opposing any legal restrictions upon a woman’s choice to abort a fetus at any point in her pregnancy.

    More than 30 years ago, as a young law professor, I published one of the earliest articles on the legal consequences of abortion. Since that time I have been a knowledgeable observer of the national debate and the unfortunate Supreme Court decisions on the so-called “right to abortion.” I have been fascinated with how cleverly those who sought and now defend legalized abortion on demand have moved the issue away from a debate on the moral, ethical, and medical pros and cons of legal restrictions on abortion and focused the debate on the slogan or issue of choice. The slogan or sound bite “pro-choice” has had an almost magical effect in justifying abortion and in neutralizing opposition to it.

    Pro-choice slogans have been particularly seductive to Latter-day Saints because we know that moral agency, which can be described as the power of choice, is a fundamental necessity in the gospel plan. All Latter-day Saints are pro-choice according to that theological definition. But being pro-choice on the need for moral agency does not end the matter for us. Choice is a method, not the ultimate goal. We are accountable for our choices, and only righteous choices will move us toward our eternal goals.

    In this effort, Latter-day Saints follow the teachings of the prophets. On this subject our prophetic guidance is clear. The Lord commanded, “Thou shalt not . . . kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). The Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience. Our members are taught that, subject only to some very rare exceptions, they must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. That direction tells us what we need to do on the weightier matters of the law, the choices that will move us toward eternal life.

    My young brothers and sisters, in today’s world we are not true to our teachings if we are merely pro-choice. We must stand up for the right choice. Those who persist in refusing to think beyond slogans and sound bites like pro-choice wander from the goals they pretend to espouse and wind up giving their support to results they might not support if those results were presented without disguise.

    For example, consider the uses some have made of the possible exceptions to our firm teachings against abortion. Our leaders have taught that the only possible exceptions are when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or a competent physician has determined that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Because abortion is a most serious matter, we are counseled that it should be considered only after the persons responsible have consulted with their bishops and received divine confirmation through prayer.

    Some Latter-day Saints say they deplore abortion, but they give these exceptional circumstances as a basis for their pro-choice position that the law should allow abortion on demand in all circumstances. Such persons should face the reality that the circumstances described in these three exceptions are extremely rare. For example, conception by incest or rape—the circumstance most commonly cited by those who use exceptions to argue for abortion on demand—are involved in only a tiny minority of abortions. More than 95 percent of the millions of abortions performed each year extinguish the life of a fetus conceived by consensual relations. Thus the effect in over 95 percent of abortions is not to vindicate choice but to avoid its consequences (see Russell M. Nelson, “Reverence for Life,” Ensign, May 1985, pp. 11–14). Using arguments of “choice” to try to justify altering the consequences of choice is a classic case of omitting what the Savior called “the weightier matters of the law.”

    A prominent basis for the secular or philosophical arguments for abortion on demand is the argument that a woman should have control over her own body. Just last week I received a letter from a thoughtful Latter-day Saint outside the United States who analyzed that argument in secular terms. Since his analysis reaches the same conclusion I have urged on religious grounds, I quote it here for the benefit of those most subject to persuasion on this basis:

    Every woman has, within the limits of nature, the right to choose what will or will not happen to her body. Every woman has, at the same time, the responsibility for the way she uses her body. If by her choice she behaves in such a way that a human fetus is conceived, she has not only the right to, but also the responsibility for that fetus. If it is an unwanted pregnancy, she is not justified in ending it with the claim that it interferes with her right to choose. She herself chose what would happen to her body by risking pregnancy. She had her choice. If she has no better reason, her conscience should tell her that abortion would be a highly irresponsible choice.

    What constitutes a good reason? Since a human fetus has intrinsic and infinite human value, the only good reason for an abortion would be the violation or deprivation of, or the threat to the woman’s right to choose what will or will not happen to her body. Social, educational, financial, and personal considerations alone do not outweigh the value of the life that is in the fetus. These considerations by themselves may properly lead to the decision to place the baby for adoption after its birth, but not to end its existence in utero.

    The woman’s right to choose what will or will not happen to her body is obviously violated by rape or incest. When conception results in such a case, the woman has the moral as well as the legal right to an abortion because the condition of pregnancy is the result of someone else’s irresponsibility, not hers. She does not have to take responsibility for it. To force her by law to carry the fetus to term would be a further violation of her right. She also has the right to refuse an abortion. This would give her the right to the fetus and also the responsibility for it. She could later relinquish this right and this responsibility through the process of placing the baby for adoption after it is born. Whichever way is a responsible choice.

    The man who wrote those words also applied the same reasoning to the other exceptions allowed by our doctrine—life of the mother and a baby that will not survive birth.

    I conclude this discussion of choice with two more short points.

    If we say we are anti-abortion in our personal life but pro-choice in public policy, we are saying that we will not use our influence to establish public policies that encourage righteous choices on matters God’s servants have defined as serious sins. I urge Latter-day Saints who have taken that position to ask themselves which other grievous sins should be decriminalized or smiled on by the law on this theory that persons should not be hampered in their choices. Should we decriminalize or lighten the legal consequences of child abuse? of cruelty to animals? of pollution? of fraud? of fathers who choose to abandon their families for greater freedom or convenience?

    Similarly, some reach the pro-choice position by saying we should not legislate morality. Those who take this position should realize that the law of crimes legislates nothing but morality. Should we repeal all laws with a moral basis so our government will not punish any choices some persons consider immoral? Such an action would wipe out virtually all of the laws against crimes.

  34. Dave on May 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Jax, normally I would delete a comment with an 18-paragraph quotation, but in this case I just added a link to the source and formatted it as a quotation. Please don’t make it a habit.

  35. Jax on May 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Sorry dave, If you could give me link to teach me to give links I’ll do that in the future…

  36. Diane on May 20, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Jax

    So, I guess since you clearly don’t favor abortion, you rather women go back to the day like using a coat hanger, or go to some quack to perform a botched a surgery, so when a woman is ready to make a decision to have a child she can’t.

    This is not a moral law. This is a law against women and women’s reproductive choices. Period. Let me throw the question back act you. Why is it any less heinous to force a woman to carry a fetus to term when a private decision has been made between her/ her partner and a license professional ? Do you really think its’ any less emotionally damaging for all parties involved regardless of how a baby is conceived?

    You don’t have the right to interfere in another “adult” person’s life. You don’t have the right to deny access to care, which also includes the denial of birth control (which also btw does much more than prevent pregnancy), mammograms, and pap smears. Closing these clinics in rural areas does all of this and more.

    Moral law, I don’t need any one telling me that its not appropriate for me to judge another persons’ decision unless I’ve walked thru that person’s shoes.

    How about people stay the heck out of my bedroom/ and discussions about my care with my personal doctor and I’ll stay the heck out of yours.

  37. Jax on May 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Diane, your suggestion that I prefer women use a hanger is idiotic. The whole basis of the ‘pro-life’ argument is that abortion is a serious sin… and I therefore see it as an equally serious sin whether it be a hangar or a vacuum. If the woman has CHOSEN to have sex then she has chosen pregnancy as a possible consequence. That is why a Supreme Court Justice (Utah) and an Apostle said that “Thus the effect in over 95 percent of abortions is not to vindicate choice but to avoid its consequences…” You aren’t talking about choice as much as you are talking about giving people a way to avoid responsibility for choice.

    Why is it not as “heinous” to outlaw on-demand abortion? Because it is akin to murder. Extend your thinking a little bit and you could have just as easily have asked this, “Why is it any less heinous to force a mother to nuture a child to adulthood when a private decision has been made between her/her partner and a licensed professional? Do you really think it is any less emotionally damaging for all parties involved regardless of how old a baby is?” You may have missed it but that is exactly the argument that MANY pro-abortion advocates have made. A article was published in an Aussie magazine about how Ethical it could be to kill a baby already born in order to avoid the same emotional/financial/physical hardships that are cited to justify abortion.

    You may not feel you need anyone telling you what is appropriate or moral, but since that is the calling of prophets and Apostles you can ignore them at your own peril.

    God Bless!

  38. Diane on May 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Jax
    “If the woman has CHOSEN to have sex then she has chosen pregnancy as a possible consequence. ”

    Are you kidding me? Women don’t have sex by themselves. The have sex with guess what a Man. And they get pregnant by a man. And they choose that decision together. Not separately as you tried to intimate. But I find that to date man has to deal with consequences that you so eloquently refer to.

    If we really want to solve the issue than lets get DNA testing and once paternity is proven have the man stand in the middle of the town square with a sign around their neck saying” I couldn’t keep my own zipper, zipped and I got a woman pregnant as a result.” And then lets force that male invasive procedures like a forced sterilization so that he can’t get anyone else pregnant. Yes, I think I like that approach. Though we will never see that happen. Why? Because men are never held accountable for their actions. They are not the ones being demonized. Men are not the one who are being forced to have invasive procedures like trans vaginal ultrasounds. Men are not being denied basic health care services which also include reproduction services, but, for women, hey, you know, its all okay. Because as we all know women have been blamed for sex and sexual sin since the time of Eve.

    And by the way not everyone believes in the Apostles, or Prophets for that matter, so again, why do evangelicals and Mormons have the right to push their own religious beliefs on people who have clearly stated that they don’t want it their lives?

    This not a issue for the church to involve themselves in any more than Prop 8 was.

  39. Jax on May 20, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Diane,

    It is just as heinous for a man to force a woman to have an abortion… but I didn’t mention the men because neither did you… you said it was a “law against women and women’s reproductive choices”… no mention of men at all. But you bring it up it is worth noting that church policy is against supporting or paying for an abortion as well – much like it would be a sin to support or pay for someone to be murdered – the man/parents/guardians/etc are equally guilty of the plot to kill.

    Your second paragraph makes it sound like getting pregnant is the sin and that men should be punished for it. While some of these aborted pregancies are surely the result of sin, that makes for a poor reason to exaserbate the problem with more sin. You’ve tried to switch argument mid-stream here. Men do have consequences… just different ones BTW.

    For as long as a woman tries to care for her child then she is afforded all possible care; the only care ever denied women by anti-abortion laws is health care after she (and partner) has stopped caring and has begun to “hate her own blood”.

    Why should LDS people try to uphold moral laws even though other don’t believe in our prophets? Now you are being silly. Again, I’ll refer to the former Supreme Court Justice:

    If we say we are anti-abortion in our personal life but pro-choice in public policy, we are saying that we will not use our influence to establish public policies that encourage righteous choices on matters God’s servants have defined as serious sins. I urge Latter-day Saints who have taken that position to ask themselves which other grievous sins should be decriminalized or smiled on by the law on this theory that persons should not be hampered in their choices. Should we decriminalize or lighten the legal consequences of child abuse? of cruelty to animals? of pollution? of fraud? of fathers who choose to abandon their families for greater freedom or convenience?

    Similarly, some reach the pro-choice position by saying we should not legislate morality. Those who take this position should realize that the law of crimes legislates nothing but morality. Should we repeal all laws with a moral basis so our government will not punish any choices some persons consider immoral? Such an action would wipe out virtually all of the laws against crimes.

    If all law is based on morality, the only difference from country to country is WHOSE morality is encoded in law. As long as it is going to be someone’s morality, shouldn’t we do our best to make it ours?

  40. Diane on May 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    For as long as a woman tries to care for her child then she is afforded all possible care; the only care ever denied women by anti-abortion laws is health care after she (and partner) has stopped caring and has begun to “hate her own blood”.

    I can’t even begin to elaborate the silliness behind this argument. Really, Actually, no in rural areas care is limited and basic at best. That’s why care in these clinics are so vital. Like I’ve stated before , these clinics do not just perform abortions, they perform a whole host of other services as well like basic gyn, give birth control, mammograms, diabetes, etc.

    The reason why why the Susan G Korman foundation received such a backlash was because in withdrawing funding for these clinics they were denying basic affordable healthcare for many woman who would otherwise not have the access you claim. Women in this country saw it for what it was pure hypocrisy. To date the Korman foundation states that over all fund raising drives for the Race for Cure have been down ever since.

    And again, like I said earlier, The Mormon Church, and Evangelicals need to stop proselytizing morality on people who have not asked for it.

  41. Brad on May 20, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    I remember reading Elder Oaks’ talk on abortion a while back and I just reread it. My take from it is that Elder Oaks is not equating abortion with murder since he argues that abortion is justified in the case of rape or incest. His main argument is that abortion is not justified because people have to pay the penalties for irresponsibility. I think that he makes a strong case from a moral standpoint. But from a legislative standpoint, it seems like he is trying to legislate morality. I fully agree that having an abortion is immoral (not murder, at least in the early stages), but I also believe that having an adulterous affair is immoral too. But the unfortunate reality is that by legislating too many moral issues (which are subjective in and of themselves), the law itself can become oppressive and unjust. Imagine if everything that the church regarded as immoral were to be penalized by law. If someone had premarital sex they would have to pay a fine and have their record blotched, perhaps even serve some jail time. The problem is that many in the US don’t regard some things to be immoral. Many think alcohol consumption is perfectly fine. Trying to penalize that could result in major social rifts and severely disrupt the harmony in our society.

    The Islamic regime in Iran, the regime in Saudi Arabia, and the Taliban in Afghanistan have essentially tried to legislate morality to extreme degrees. It hasn’t made their societies more moral. I’m not saying that the LDS church is as extreme as those cases. Rather I’m trying to say that we need a secular government that provides freedom of religion and also freedom from religion. Religions shouldn’t be able to impose their moral visions on people especially when our reality is one in which multiple moralities do exist.

  42. Jax on May 20, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    “But from a legislative standpoint, it seems like he is trying to legislate morality.”

    If he read his words

    Similarly, some reach the pro-choice position by saying we should not legislate morality. Those who take this position should realize that the law of crimes legislates nothing but morality. Should we repeal all laws with a moral basis so our government will not punish any choices some persons consider immoral?

    it is obvious that IS what he is talking about for the precise reason ALL LAWS ARE BASED ON MORALITY. Why not have it based on LDS morals?

    He doesn’t equate abortion with murder (abortion=murder) but he does quote the Lord, “Thou shalt not . . . kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6) which makes is fairly clear he is saying abortion is LIKE UNTO MURDER, which is what I tried to convey saying abortion is akin to murder.

    Does anyone find it odd that in most states if you kill a pregnant woman you can/will be charged with a double homicide for killing two people (mother and child) but if you only kill the child there is nothing wrong?

  43. Dave on May 20, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Thanks for the discussion, everyone. After I exercise my author’s prerogative to make a final comment, I will close comments.

    Jax, I think Elder Oaks was kind of speaking loosely in that talk. Yes, much criminal law has a moral origin or component. But even some criminal law is not a moral violation (breaking the speed limit on a freeway is not a moral transgression). And there are immoral acts that do not give rise to criminal liability: adultery, lying, gratuitous and demeaning insults, breaking promises. So he is exaggerating the link between law and morality for effect.

    Furthermore, any attempt to take his (exaggerated) claim and run with it is problematic in our increasingly diverse and pluralistic society. Whose morality do you want to legislate into law? Selectively incorporating certain moral requirements or prohibitions into law (with the political process determining which requirements from each various viewpoint to incorporate) is actually a pretty good compromise given our pluralistic society. True, the LDS prohibition on alcoholic drinks is not enacted as law, but neither is a prohibition on teaching evolution in schools, eating fish on Friday, or publishing objective history on the subject of Islam. The system we have seems better than the realistically available alternatives.