Upon realizing that Darwin was half right – that life is the co-evolution of spirit and biological forms – I set out to re-read the Bible front-to-back in preparation for the writing of The Soul Comes First. What I came to appreciate was the enormously disciplined purpose that is manifested in that history. The Earth was provided to us, the angels, as a place upon which to do work on our souls. The hope is that nothing will be destroyed, only repurposed in more functional configurations.
There are formulations in the Bible that still baffle me – one is the “made in his image” concept. As science and engineering has progressed, it is harder and harder to imagine that we could ever emulate the source of this creation. But I am enamored of the idea that we, too, possess the creative spark. We too can be constructive and disciplined in the creative choices that we make.
It is from this perspective that I find the whole framing of the fetal rights debate to be distasteful. In the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, the religious right propagated the dichotomy of “pro-life” versus “pro-abortion.” I am offended by the claiming of the former by a community that supports unrestricted gun rights, capital punishment and the destruction of the middle class through the reallocation of wealth to a financial elite. The proponents of parental responsibility, realizing that they had allowed themselves to be tagged with an ugly label, took up “pro-choice.” This is no less tendentious to me: what woman would ever choose to be subjected to such an invasive surgical procedure, except under the most humiliating and desperate of circumstances?
As the years have passed, it is clear that “pro-life” has a powerful emotional force to it. Doctors were assassinated and facilities were bombed. By being recorded surreptitiously, clinicians are made to fear discussing medical procedures with their colleagues. Protesters stand outside clinics to abuse verbally the women that enter them. A local pastor, having felt obligated by his affiliation to attend one such event, admitted to me that he realized half-way through that “this is not how Jesus would address this issue.”
What truly offends me, however, is the use of this issue for political purposes. The 2012 Republican campaign came across as offensively anti-woman. The tone being adopted in this election cycle is decidedly more nuanced: candidates are testifying as to the power of the paternal bond that was awakened by viewing an ultrasound, or the joy that they have received as grandparents of a 20-month premie. It is hard to argue that this isn’t the way that it should be. Parents should anticipate joyfully the arrival of a child. Grandparents of means should be committed to the survival of their descendents.
But is that the reality faced by most women seeking abortions? How many of them have a father to share the ultrasound with? And how many of them could have enjoyed a major-college education on the million-dollar investment made on that one baby?
But this is still the wrong tone, because being born into the world is not principally to serve the needs of a parent or a grand-parent. It is to serve the needs of the soul that is bound to the fetus. And here is where things become far more complex. Given that human souls did not exist for the first four billion years of evolutionary history, how does a human soul evolve? Only through the slow accretion of virtues and attributes. As the human population grows, where do new souls come from? Well, from among the spirits of other species. I have encountered bears, wolves, musk oxen and praying mantises, not to mention serpents.
The meshing of disparate body and soul is a fragile process, and sometimes just doesn’t come off well. Sixty percent of all pregnancies abort spontaneously and naturally. A twenty-month miscarriage may be only a more delayed manifestation of a dysfunctional integration. If the fetus chooses not to come to term, who are we to play God with its life?
And so I come back to the original issue: God was, is and will continue to be conscious and incredibly intentional regarding the process of our spiritual evolution. As we have chosen the path of the knowledge of good and evil, so must we. Stop talking about gestation as a mechanical process. Stop using the law to project your experience of life onto others that lack your resources. Start paying attention to the spiritual consequences of being born into a world that denies you comfort and security, where the volunteer in the inner city is told “thank-you for coming down and letting these children just be children for a while.”
Rather than punishing children for the poor choices of their parents, invest in ensuring that every act of conception is consummated with a life that serves to advance the self-creation of the spirit that is brought into the world. Stop judging people that prefer to wait to have a child until they can do a proper job of caring for it, and stop trying to destroy the organizations that provide the services that support their decision making. Choose rather to participate in the divine purpose: be pro-creation.