I have a lovely Christian friend who is willing to listen and talk about our different worldviews and beliefs. Today we disagreed on whether the Christian worldview is like a circle. He didn’t think so. He said it is something between a circle and an unnamed, unnameable shape. We came to the end of our drive before we ever came to any agreement, and I came rather late to the idea of seeking first to understand, before I sought to be understood.
I think the term I was actually looking for was “closed system.” Good old dictionary.com says a closed system is “a complete and seemingly unchangeable set of doctrines, ideas, or things; a self-contained system that is unaffected by outside influences.” And while my former faith, in its history, has had changes in doctrines over the years, there is still an aspect of it that is closed.
Closed does not equal closed-minded, although certainly there are adherents who are closed-minded. With any belief system, when you have basic tenets and assumptions that the rest of your system in based on, then the system is going to be a closed system.
I’ve been thinking about the abortion debate a lot lately. Let’s say someone believes that an abortion is the act of taking the life of a human being. They will start with the belief that each fertilized egg is a human, not simply a “potential” human. With that underlying assumption, then each act of abortion, no matter the circumstances or how far along the pregnancy is, will be taking the life of a human. This someone also will believe that it is wrong to take the life of a human. And will most likely believe that it is up to those of us who have power and autonomy to take care of those who are not able to take care of themselves. I would think this person would also believe then that a woman should carry a pregnancy to term. Maybe this person would allow for killing the baby or terminating the pregnancy if the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, but that idea can be expressed in multiple ways.
So, if a pro-choice person and a pro-life person are going to have a discussion, how can there be any agreement when the fundamental assumptions are completely opposed? The circle of belief for the anti-abortion person would be as follows: Every fertilized egg is a human. We respect and value every human life. We believe that babies should be protected in their mothers’ wombs, and should not be able to be killed, no matter how young they are and how viable. Therefore, abortion is wrong. Do not do it.
The pro-choice person on the other hand may also be opposed to abortion personally, but surely has accepted the idea that no one has the right to tell another woman that she must carry or must not carry a pregnancy to full-term. They may use the term “products of conception,” rather than fetus, or baby.
It seems to me that there are two very different belief systems at work here. One says the unborn child is the priority. The other says the rights of the woman are the priority. Do I have that right? That’s my understanding. Therefore, if this is the case, pro-choice and pro-life people do not have any common ground whatsoever.
I hear people talking about how pro-life people are opposed to free contraceptives, paid parental leave rights, subsidized pre-school, and other family support systems. When I hear people talking about how Someone should hand out free condoms, I wonder if they really understand that there are plenty of men who are not interested in using condoms, and plenty of women, seemingly, who are willing to have a sexual relationship without one rather than insisting on using a condom. In other words, I think you actually could make contraception free to every person in the US and that would not reduce the abortion rate by much at all. That is my intuition: This article gives some data about the facts of the matter.
Nowhere do I ever hear anyone talk about the fact that there are times when a pregnancy is unwelcome, but ultimately transforms into a welcome or even life-changing experience.
I suppose the bottom line is actually do I have to submit to any other authority other than my own? I suggest that pro-choice people tend to answer that question NO, and pro-life tend to answer it YES.
Back to my original thesis. Christianity, as one of many belief systems, is a closed system. When a Christian and an atheist or agnostic have a conversation, the Christian starts from the point of view that God created everything, God is in control, and the Bible supports that and more. It just seems logical to me that if the atheist or agnostic believes in evolution and therefore not in God as creator, believes that the Bible is a book that is important to many but not the authoritative manual for everything, and that there doesn’t seem to be anything or anyone in control, then the conversation is going to be like two people in burst-proof bubbles shooting comments back and forth and ultimately nothing changes.
Unless the two sides of any debate can decide on some common ground, how can there ever be consensus? I think part of my role in this life is to be a person who finds common ground with others, and who helps those with opposing views to find common ground. Not exactly sure how that is going to work, but I do feel like it is part of who I am and what I want to bring to our world.