The Religion of Abortion
Everyone has a religion, a set of core beliefs that form one’s priorities and values and order behavior and the use of one’s time. For many, religious devotion might not involve God (or a god). Whatever one worships — one’s own desires, material prosperity, a career, social standing, etc. — is his or her deity.
Advocates of unqualified, elective abortion on demand are devotees of a particular kind of religion. Its organizing principal, that personal autonomy is the highest good, is a theological proclamation. It argues that the self is the supreme authority, the absolute arbiter of goodness and truth. So, to challenge the expression of another’s desires — most especially, so-called reproductive freedom — is nothing less than oppression, even aggression.
Religions invariably involve rites; philosopher Charles Taliaferro defines these as “repeatable symbolic action[s] involving the sacred.” This fits nicely with the practice of abortion: a rite with a sacral character, one whose significance is rooted in something divine that can be enacted by as many as so choose. In the case of abortion, the divinity is the person who decides between life and death — the mother of the unborn child.
Former evangelical Jia Tolentino, writing in The New Yorker, says of her decision to have or not have a baby (thankfully, she chose life), “that volition felt sacred.” Similarly, Rae Guerra-Lorenzo, writing in a Planned Parenthood blog, tells us that children are only “sacred” because “they are the entities into which we pour our time and love because we want to, not because we are forced to.” In other words, children only have the value we decide to give them. Thus, she writes, a “decision to have an abortion” is “sacred.”
National politicians have also gotten into the act. Senator John Fetterman (D-Pa.) wrote last year as a candidate, “Let’s be clear: The right to an abortion is sacred.” The Nevada Democratic Party articulates this claim with iron-fisted clarity: “The right to choice is sacred. ... The right to control your own body is sacred.” This is not the language of political discourse grounded in reason or science. It is theological, rooted in one’s convictions concerning divinity — the divinity of the self.
The killing of the unborn child for selfish reasons is nothing new. The ancient Canaanites engaged in child sacrifice to their god Molech, something horrific in the eyes of the God of Israel. As He commanded them, “You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the Name of your God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:21). This is a profound statement — as the Author of life, He alone has authority over life and death. To murder children, especially in the fire pit of a gruesome idol, would be to “profane” God’s Name, which represents all He is.
This strong warning did not prevent Solomon from building a “high place” to Molech (I Kings 11:7). The Lord condemns His people for constructing “high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded — nor did it enter my mind — that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin” (Jeremiah 32:35).
The Canaanite peoples and those of Israel and Judah were not unique in surrendering their little ones to the flames of a grotesque image. The Aztecs and Incas, the Druids and Carthaginians, and even in recent years, some Hindus in India, have slaughtered children to placate or gain favor from their gods.
While America’s cult of abortion does not involve the burning of an infant or brutal murder of a toddler, it produces the same result: a dead person, one suctioned from the womb, mutilated within it, or injected with a death serum as it rests within her mother. Our cult offers the unborn child not to a physical idol but one that is immaterial, the inner god of the self whose demand for complete autonomy is as potent as God’s rightful assertion of His own.
How do we challenge this false and deadly religion? The same way we call everyone to faith in Jesus, explaining that the God of the Bible — and no other god — is true and living, a loving but holy God Who calls for us to repent and believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. At the same time, we must continue defending the unborn and caring for their mothers through such means as pregnancy care centers, adoption, and taking vulnerable women into our homes. We must also advance the right of the unborn to live — a right given them by their holy Creator and, therefore, a sacred right — through legislation and public policy.
Jesus issued the most radical challenge to the cult of self ever made. “If anyone would be My disciple,” He said, “let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). To die to self and surrender to Christ is to truly live. It is this paradoxical but transformative truth we must keep holding out to those worshipping a tragic substitute for the Lord of glory — themselves.
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.