Written by Dr. Greg Fiebig
I accepted the invitation to participate in the SGA Forum on Life Versus Choice because I thought it might be a way to negotiate some middle ground between the seemingly divergent views on life and choice.
As I explained during the forum, when it comes to the issue at hand, pro-life versus pro-choice, I am conflicted. I hold two seemingly divergent views, also known as Cognitive Dissonance. I am equally pro-life and pro-choice. My pro-choice perspective comes from my understanding of the Fall of Man in the Book of Genesis:
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
While God certainly indicated (commanded) that Adam and Eve were not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he allowed them the freedom of choice to do so. To be sure, there were consequences. There are consequences to each and every choice we make. A person who chooses an abortion must live with the consequences. A person who chooses adoption must live with the consequences. A person who chooses to have the baby must live with those consequences as well.
Regardless of whether abortion is legal or illegal, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, people still have the right to choose, just as Adam and Eve had the right to choose against God’s command in the Garden of Eden.
While I was serving on the staff of a local church in Missouri, one of the couples in our church who had recently given birth to their second child discovered that they were expecting a third, a mere 13 months later.
When they met with their doctor to confirm the pregnancy, the doctor, a devote Catholic, working at an equally Catholic hospital, in a town named Maryville (you do the math!), advised the young couple to terminate the pregnancy. He warned them that given the woman’s previous two caesarian births, one five years prior and one less than 6 months earlier, that she was at too great a risk to have another baby so soon. The distressed uterine wall would be unable to sustain the stress of pregnancy on the mother or the child. In fact, he told them that if they saw the pregnancy through to the end, either she or the baby, likely both, would die. You are no doubt aware that the Catholic position on abortion is equally as pro-life as the Wesleyan position. So you can imagine the concern this raised in the minds of the young couple.
How might you have advised the young wife? The husband? As a young woman, what would your response have been to the stark reality of facing your own death? Would you sacrifice your life for the outside chance that your unborn child might survive? As the husband, would you sacrifice the life of your wife for an unborn child that would likely not survive the birth process?
The young couple consulted with another doctor in an adjacent town whose counsel was to let him worry about the life and death issues. In fact, he said, “I’ve never lost a mother or baby in a case like this before, and I don’t intend to do so now. Let me worry about the complications.” While relieved, the couple still struggled with uncertainty. Which of these doctors was right?
I mentioned earlier that I am equally pro-life and pro-choice. My wife, Marilyn and I were that couple.
My wife and I chose to place our trust in the second doctor and in the providence of God. We have been married for over thirty years and our third child (yes, the one with the complicated birth), Jeff, and his wife gave birth to their first child, a daughter, and our granddaughter, named Quinn, nearly one year ago now.
So you see, my cognitive dissonance is strong. I believe theologically in free will while at the same time believing practically in the sanctity of life. While my wife and I chose life, I must recognize that other young couples in our situation may have chosen to terminate the pregnancy, and quite frankly, I would have understood why.
And here’s the irony: if you think I’m conflicted about this, so is the Wesleyan church. As one person pointed out on Facebook in response to the Sojourn article entitled, “SGA Forum Discusses the Definition of Life,” Wesleyans fundamentally affirm the sanctity of life. Those very same Wesleyans also fundamentally affirm a person’s right to choose. In their twenty-one “Articles of Religion,” they affirm an individual’s Personal Choice:
We believe that humanity’s creation in the image of God included ability to choose between right and wrong. You will need to scroll down the page to article number eight. I was essentially presenting that particular article of faith during the SGA Forum on Life and Choice. Perhaps, you will begin to understand my own cognitive dissonance on the matter as you begin to understand theirs.
And so, a couple of days after the forum, I am sad. I naively thought that mature Christians could have a hospitable conversation about difficult issues. In an effort to negotiate some middle ground and help to alleviate some of the polarity, I failed. I can only hope that the afterlife of the conversation, or lack thereof, might open more irenic conversations in the future.