Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Advent 4 - Savior of the Nations

It’s been too long since I posted last. It is that time of the year after all. Despite the texts on being prepared and watching and waiting, I have been caught once again unprepared for Christmas. It is too hard to believe that Christmas is only a few days away. Oh well…

Last Sunday, we sang Savior of the Nations, Come (LBW 28). As I sang this hymn, I think it moved to the top of my list of “Favorite Advent Carols,” and even hymns not to be without when stranded on a desert island. In essence, while an Advent hymn, it contains the whole story, I think. The only thing is that the translation is a composite and at times lacks the power of Luther’s translation of Ambrose’s text. However, there are times when the translation does a wonderful job grabbing the mystery. Anyway, here it is. (From the Lutheran Book of Worship, hymn 28, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978)

Savior of the nations, come; Show the glory of the Son!
Ev’ry people stand in awe; Praise the perfect Son of God.

Not of human seed or worth, But from God’s own mystic breath,
Fruit in Mary’s womb begun, When God breathed the Word his Son.

Wondrous birth! Oh wondrous child Of the virgin undefiled!
Mighty God and man in one, Eager now his race to run!

God the Father is his source, Back to God he runs his course;
Down to death and hell descends, God’s high throne he reascends.

He leaves heaven to return; Trav’ling where dull hellfire burns;
Riding out, returning home As the Savior who has come.

God the Father’s precious Son Girds himself in flesh to run
For the trophies of our souls, Longer than this round earth rolls.

Shining stable in the night, Breathing vic’try with your light;
Darkness cannot hide your flame, Shining bright as Jesus’ name.

I think perhaps it is the last verse that gets to me. Shining stable in night… the preceding six verses are what that stable light means: that breath of God’s Word, the double ecstasy, the saving from death and hell. The light from that stable was Jesus. There in that stable is born the savior of the nations. Even now at Christmas, we look forward to the Passion. They are not unconnected.

Grace and Peace.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Beyond Choice?!?!??!!?

Yesterday, I was reading my most recent issue (Nov. 2004) of Science & Theology News, which was for the most part, somewhat blah. Then I ran across a review in the Bookends section. James C. Peterson reviewed the book by Alexander Sanger, Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century. The review begins:

‘We got over our shame with birth control. It is time we did so with abortion,’ closes Beyond Choice by Alexander Sanger. As the grandson of birth control activist Margaret Sanger and chairman of the International Planned Parenthood Council, Sanger advocates seeing abortion as another form of birth control. Since contraception is accepted without stigma in most circles, he thinks abortion should be as well. Both are reproductive options that Sanger believes are moral and even essential to human survival.

This appeal to human survival is Sanger’s central argument for the morality and necessity of abortion. He is convinced that the key for the protection of abortion rights is to shift public perception from abortion as anti-life to abortion as a tool for shaping humanity….

Imagine… abortion as a tool for shaping humanity. Further in the article Peterson writes, “Sanger argues that abortion offers the best cost-benefit ratio for society, the pregnant woman and possibly her partner.” So the shaping that occurs is one that is mostly a cost-benefit analysis of whether or not the pregnancy “hurts or helps the reproductive strategies that the man and woman are pursuing.” Of course what are the benefits? Are children simply one more item on a list of goods on the market for us to decide whether or not we consume them? What kind of shaping is happening when a pregnancy is given the thumbs-up or down on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis. Surely, this approach would shape humanity, but in the process of shaping, we can either improve the product or malform it.

The problems here are many. Sanger tries to place the decision in the context of helping humanity survive. But at the center is still the couple, and maybe only the woman, deciding if this pregnancy meets her needs. This rationale is not meant to advance or help anyone but the couple decide if they should keep the child or not.

Rather than turn to abortion to shape humanity, how about turning to other practices like equal pay for women in the workplace? Affordable childcare? More than a token six or twelve week maternity leave? Like parenthood, it would seem that these are all practices that could, if done correctly, be self-sacrificing, rather than self-exalting. The well-being of the other is placed at the center of the decision, and not the well-being of the individual.

Throughout it all, Sanger seems to abandon the notion of the dignity inherent in all human beings. Reducing the decision to keep or terminate a pregnancy to the basis of a cost-benefit analysis, which is most likely motivated by emotive reasoning, fails to see the life of the child as human.

This rationale will certainly shape humanity… into an even more twisted and malformed version of what it has already become.

Grace and Peace.