Lesson 9: The Role of Technology

Back in the last century when ministeriums discussed their differing viewpoints in hopes of finding a resolution for the community, this joke was often told: “Three people discuss abortion. A man says he does not believe in it, because his religion says it is wrong. A woman says she does believe in it because her religion says it is okay. A father says he believes in abortion because his teenage daughter is pregnant.”

My son, who studied the effects of science and technology on society, thought this illustrated how things change when we have the technology to use science safely and efficiently. He did not mean this change necessarily made things right but that it changed the situation significantly– very significant]y.

Previously we could argue abstractly how our religion answered questions like “What is life?” and “When does life begin?” All the way back in medieval times, Thomas Aquinas claimed life begins when the soul enters the body, so abortions could be performed in the first forty days of pregnancy for boys and the first eighty for girls. Interestingly, even then, sexual privilege was a major factor.

The argument is no longer abstract in our day when modern technology makes abortion a safe procedure available to anyone. Now the misuse of science joins the misuse of religion. Both sides of our present conflict accuse the other of not following true science when defining life and when it begins. It is assumed there is one and only one way to interpret scientific analysis.

I don’t think we will find a way out of our present conflict until we once again discuss our differing ideas about “What is life?“ and “When does life begin?” I want to do that in the next two weeks. Perhaps we can prepare by reading Elizabeth’s paper on the 1991Evangrlical Lutheran Church in America’s social statement on abortion. She humbly contends it is incomplete, but I found it very helpful. You’ll find the ELCA statement, about which a few of you have asked, at the conclusion of the paper. She and I find it still very helpful as the kind of nuanced position we need right now. I hope some of you read and critique the paper and the ELCA statement to get us started.

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