Leonard Pitts jr (republished Spokesman-Review 16 November 2009) is entirely correct about human inconsistency in life and death matters. And wrong that the Roman Catholic Church is actually consistent in opposing both abortion and the death penalty. Let’s put it bluntly, that the church is only now in opposition to these irreversible decisions but it can hardly square such positions with a history of violence. Nor can it square such positions with the bible. Where God’s word actually does support warfare—as long as it is righteous. Will allow the death penalty—as long as it is the ultimate penalty against biblical crime. In short, according to the bible, God himself put the power of life and death into the hands of man and most outposts as well as bastions of religiosity were more than willing to take advantage of it. Very few beliefs would have been exceptions to God inspired violence.
Which is why it is indeed possible to be pro-choice and generally against capital punishment. Because neither position is actually based on a certitude.
Unlike Mr. Pitts, I am in favor of capital punishment; and heaved a grateful sigh of relief when John Allen Muhammad was put to death for acts of domestic terrorism in the greater Washington, DC area. But like Mr. Pitts, I recognize that once the decision is made and the switch is pulled or the needle injected, it is irreversible. If a mistake was made about the person against whom a death sentence was indeed carried out, it is an act that can not be undone. Which is why we need a certainty (not certitude) that the person condemned is indeed the perpetrator who did it. With Muhammad and also Timothy McVeigh, there was no question.
Yes, today “Christians” will declare the fetus to be an innocent (or defenseless or helpless) when it comes to “abortion on demand.” But even “Christians” can not square such views with such biblical certitudes as God visiting the sins of the fathers unto the children… And the ways in which He does so are described in the majority in the Old Testament/Tanakh and to a more minor extent in the new. Anything from miscarriage to infanticide by invading armies to wholesale holocaust style wars by His chosen people against non-believers. Indeed, God could even allow mothers to become cannibals of their own children as a form of punishment against a sinning people.
So, the “Christian” view of the fetus as “innocent” has a decided problem with the biblical declarations that if they die under such heinous circumstances, then they are not.
So, how can “certitude” be defined in this day and age? An unbending view of always being right? Because this is how you view the world, this is the only correct view to have? Try another one, certitude is one of the definitions of radical. If a person who holds a view that can be defined as a certitude, it is a view that does not allow for contrary facts, it does not admit contrary opinions, it does not entertain in the slightest a contrary doubt about one’s personal opinion. The person who carries a certitude when it comes to religious and political positions looks upon the world from a truly narrow perspective. It is a matter of us or myself v “the other.”
That being said, certitudes can lead to violence. Scott Roeder after all decided that he could be the judge, jury and even executioner of an abortion provider: Dr. George Tiller. He could take a unique and individual life in the name of other unique and individual lives who have no more guarantees of being born after Dr. Tiller’s murder than before Roeder carried out the act. Roeder could set aside biblical law against murder in the name of “defending” the other, the fetus. And acting out of anger or even hatred of Dr. Tiller’s legal practice, he set aside the teachings of Christ that hatred is the same as murder. Dr. Tiller’s legal practice (in the state of Kansas, no less) could come between Christ’s commands to love one’s neighbor—in order to be truly righteous—and Mr. Roeder’s certitudes about abortion. When Roeder visited death upon “the other” he forgot what defines a human in his act of certitude.
How about the certitude of Nidal Hasan? An Army psychiatrist with real and legitimate questions about the U.S. presence in the Middle East? But in answering those questions, he doesn’t get out of the military, he does not resign his commission; he instead turns his weapons on his fellow soldiers! As though killing them will change U.S. policy ref the War on Terror. It won’t change that policy and it does make the situation more difficult for the vast majority of American Muslims whether civilian in the U.S. or serving in the U.S. Military (that to be Muslim is not an unforgivable stigma) as very well expressed by Raeed N. Tayeh (same paper same day). Just as it makes it far more easy for “Christians” such as Cal Thomas to forget the tenets of his faith. One’s “neighbor” after all, isn’t always a fellow Christian in a country of religious diversity.
Not if one can capitalize on fear and hysteria instead.
Why is pro-choice actually not a position of certitude? Simple really. No pro-choicer in good standing dictates the decision made by individual women, only defending their right to make such a decision. On the other hand, what do anti-abortionists have to defend when it comes to their political positions? The fact that their political positions don’t square with a violent religious history, violent extremism among their own faction and the condoned by God violence in the bible. That’s a lot of inconsistency to defend.