In an number of previous essays the notions of Bertrand de Jouvenel regarding political theory have been utilized. One of these ideas in particular is that government is rightly formed for a particular society and culture when its authority is freely granted by the people, that is it utilizes the authority granted to it by the people and does not have to resort to coercion. This idea of government does not stem from rights or freedoms and the “standard” contract terminology stemming from Hobbes/Lockean political philosophies. Limitations on government stems from both the withholding of authority and that what actions and freedoms state may grant to a person, does not by that granting make that action ethical or moral. For example, the Roman state (and in fact many states) granted the power of life and death to the state over individual citizens. For over 200 years, Christians were put to death for their faith under this power granted. That however, did not make it ethical or moral for a particular Roman to do put a Christian to death. Or more plainly, it was within the boundaries of Roman rule to put a Christian to death but it was unethical for individual Roman to do so. Nero as Emperor could execute Christians as such but it was unethical for Nero the man to do so.

Christians for just slightly under two thousand years have opposed abortion. A statement regarding abortion made today of and by those against abortion that fixes the idea that the act of abortion is a equivalent to murder and the actor be it the mother or the doctor, is equivalent to a murderer is not unheard of in pro-life circles. Some pro-life activists “go this far” and those criticizing the pro-life Christian position remark that this should be a logical consequence of ascribing personhood to the fetus. It is not necessary to ascribe full or even partial “personhood” to a fetus in order to oppose abortion. But even granting that, a view of government as expressed above combined with Christian ethics does not necessitate that step of equivicating abortion with murder.

In today’s modern Western states, America and Europe (West and East), it is clearly the case that the authority to regulate and therefore to permit abortion and regulation of abortion has been granted by the people of those states. In the US for example, Roe v Wade via the Supreme Court exercising authority granted by the people has clearly demarcated all abortions as legal and permissible. Therefore by the political meta-ethic noted above politically/legally speaking abortion and the actors involved in abortion (doctor, mother and other decision makers) are acting rightly in the political arena.

Now just as clearly in the light of Christian tradition this is not ethical, but a sin. I know of no teaching which contradicts this within Christian tradition or history. Some of the very earliest Christian doctrinal writing, e.g., the Didache, speaks strongly against abortion. Opposition to abortion started early and remained from the beginning. The question then becomes who do we as Christian deal with others in and out of our local community who sin. Two things are crystal clear on this regard. We must love them. And recalling St. Paul’s words to Timothy recall that, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” That is to say that of those around us who sin, and that includes all of us, it is ourselves, our own sins which need concern us before all others.

So what is a Christian to do in a democratic institution? This much seems clear, within the context of political discourse and methods (those setup within the authority of the government in question) one can work toward minimizing those things one finds wrong so long as one uses the methods accepted within and sanctioned by the authority of the state. As for those in involved in the industry and those partaking of its services; well they are sinners just like you, except that their particular sins are far less important than your own.

Finally, I think the application of these arguments used above regarding abortion can be extended to ESCR, euthanasia, and other practices within our societies which arise (and have arisen) due to the increasing biotechnological prowess our civilization acquires.

As a coda: For any who might be interested in the political philosophy of Bertrand de Jouvenel, Danial Mahoney has a succinct little summary (Bertrand De Jouvenel) although translations of Sovereignty, On Power, and A Pure Theory of Politics are also available.

Filed under: AbortionEthics & MoralityGovernmentMark O.ScienceStem Cells

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