By John J. Collins from 2020
Christians who turn to Scripture to trump political debates on abortion should be reminded that the Bible does not actually say anything at all on the topic. On this issue there is no divine revelation to be had.
(RNS) — One of the standout images of contemporary politics is that of President Donald Trump, probably the most profane person to ever occupy the White House, holding a Bible in front of a boarded-up St. John’s Lafayette Church, a sign to his evangelical Christian supporters of his unwavering bond with them.
That bond hangs on the president’s championing of evangelicals’ pro-life beliefs. It’s that same impulse that has brought Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative Catholic, to the doorstep of the Supreme Court. Regardless of the president’s personal morality, the argument runs that Trump backs “biblical values” and so can be viewed as an agent of God.
It’s worth noting at this pass in American history that the supposed “biblical values” he champions often have little basis in the Bible. This disconnect is nowhere more evident than in the debate about abortion and the supposed “right to life.”
The Bible’s ambivalence on the subject of a right to life begins in its first book, Genesis. In chapter 9, God tells Noah after the flood: “Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed, for in his own image God made humankind.”
Since human beings are created in the image of God, life is protected, but the penalty for bloodshed is more bloodshed. God can even demand human sacrifice on occasion, most famously in the case of Abraham and Isaac, and the death penalty is routinely in the Bible for all sorts of offenses. The Bible, in fact, lacks any discourse of human rights. Life is a gift from God: The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.
The debate about a right to life is not primarily concerned with the death penalty, however, but with abortion. Given the importance conservative Christians, Catholic and Protestant, have granted abortion in recent years, some might assume that their own opposition stems, in some way, from biblical teachings. But in the entire corpus of biblical law, abortion is never mentioned.