Problems with Consistency


You and I have trouble being consistent with our beliefs and stances. Sometimes, those inconsistencies are minor and overlooked by others and by ourselves. There may be issues, however, where it is worth our reconsideration.

Here is a fill-in-the-blank exercise. It is based on a statement appearing in a published article. What word would you put into the blank?

“We intuitively know the procedure is wrong. Each of us recognizes on the level of conscience that something violent and horrible occurs during ______________________. Whether or not it is permitted by law, common sense rails against our attempts to describe the procedure in sanitized and morally neutral language.”

How did you fill in that blank? Did you fill in “capital punishment” or did you fill in “abortion?” Try them both and see if they fit. Perhaps you have another word choice.

I have questions about “Pro-Life.” How and why do God-followers choose certain acts as the target for criticism? We convince ourselves that many behaviors and acts are acceptable to us. But are they acceptable to God? Guaranteed to irritate some of you readers, please struggle with me about this.

A newspaper posted a photograph from an abortion rally. The woman is holding a large sign reading “PRO-LIFE! From conception to natural death.”

The biologist part of me wants to speak to her about “conception” and the resultant embryology and what it entails; I strongly suspect that she needs to re-think that. That argument is for another time.

However, the “natural death” piece deserves consideration. What does that mean?

. . . falling to one’s death off a cliff?

. . . jumping to one’s death off a cliff?

. . . shot and killed when being robbed?

. . . shot and killed in an elementary school classroom?

. . . shot and killed during military combat?

. . . executed with a gas chamber, electric chair, or terminal sedation? 

Much of modern medical care involves drugs that clearly postpone “natural” death. Is that an acceptable activity? I am certified in basic CPR; am I to exercise that skill or is that interfering with “natural death?”

Would you not agree with me that it is discouraging and confusing to read a newspaper page that has two different articles side by side: (1) a report on an anti-abortion rally and (2) a report on a state having trouble procuring a drug to kill a convicted person and having to use an alternative drug?

The problem with our consistency (or lack of it) is that we ignore context. That is, besides the actual act, there is always a “back story” to an abortion and a capital execution. What are the circumstances that lead us to approve of either of these activities? Are those circumstances convincing? 

I am not arguing that inmates on death row have not performed heinous crimes. We all recoil at those tales and try to block the details from our minds. However, does that justify our own killing of them?

Recently, NPR ran a long interview segment with comments from workers involved in executions in several states—that is, the actual individuals who performed the executions. Many of them said their involvement had taken a secret toll on their own well-being and that their attitudes toward the process have become negative. One recounted in alarming detail how an execution is performed and noted that the participants had to “rehearse.” One time he agreed to be the criminal. He was handcuffed by the rest of the crew. Walked to the gas chamber where twenty-three others had died, he was strapped to the gurney in the tiny space with glass walls. He reported something strange started to happen and he felt he was being executed; he was no longer acting or playing along.

This should be a serious question for a Christian or otherwise rational human. When is purposefully killing another life acceptable? Are there contexts that justify it? There are holes in my arguments here, or at least debatable points. Can we not talk about this instead of us putting a “pro-life” sign in our front yard? Who will throw the first stone?

Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current hospice chaplain

One comment

  • Jim, you have courage to speak boldly. Thank you for doing that. I totally agree with your thoughts and beliefs on these topics. I have a problem with the term “Pro-Life” anyway. It implies that those who favor legal abortion are anti-life. Pro-choice does not mean one likes abortion. This topic is a personal medical decision that does not need government intrusion.


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