Tuesday, February 19, 2013


This Tuesday, allow me to introduce Kenneth Daniels, a former missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Ken was born in Africa to missionary parents. I could so relate to his story of praying to receive Jesus into his young heart during a frightening thunderstorm. (I prayed through every thunderstorm I experienced between the ages of about 5 and 12.) When Ken was a teenager, the movie Peace Child inspired him to prepare for missionary work himself and after years of preparation, he ended up in Niger as a linguist and Bible translator.

But Ken had lots of questions. And kept looking for the answers. He documents his struggles with the Bible's reliability in this chapter and with the whole issue of Biblical prophecy here. The account(s) of David and Goliath gave him particular difficulty. Needless to say, his wavering belief in the Bible did not make him a model member of WBT. In his marvelously honest and detailed book Why I Believed, Ken records some of his poignant prayers from that period when he still believed in God but had serious doubts about the accuracy of the Bible. 

Ken and his family returned to the U.S. so he could spend time in counseling. His faith was temporarily restored, but he ended up resigning from Wycliffe and later embracing his atheism. 
"It's so sad." This is the most common response I have heard from family, friends, and other interested believers upon learning of my loss of faith on the mission field.
I have been told that if I had embraced a slightly different brand of Christianity, I could have avoided coming down this path....
Ken's experience feels so familiar to me. I, too, wanted to believe for many years. Like Ken, I was able to sustain it for a long time. I hear "It's so sad", as well. 

But while losing faith in God is associated with some painful adjustments, the freedom to think honestly and to make choices fearlessly is an earth-shaking relief. I imagine slaves traveling north on the Underground Railroad. When they arrived on free ground, who would say to them, "It's so sad"? Indeed, they may have left loved ones behind and suffered on the journey, but the destination--a new life to be lived in freedom--was worth the price. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Library Shelf: Evolving in Monkey Town

"I was a fundamentalist in the sense that I thought salvation means having the right opinions about God.... Good Christians, I used to think, don't change their minds."

Two years ago I ordered this book from Amazon.com and immediately knew I'd discovered a kindred spirit. I devoured it over two days.

Rachel Held Evans is one of those authors who doesn't so much share new information as express what the reader is already feeling. Rachel is brutally honest with her questions, and doesn't have to wrap up everything up neatly at the end. Evolution, after all, is an ongoing process.
She talks frankly about her experience growing up in the evangelical world, and about the aspects of Christianity that posed a challenge to her belief as she matured. Every issue she brings up here--patriotism and war, Young Earth Creationism, the Religious Right, the cosmic lottery, hell, homosexuality, the Holocaust, the Taliban, pond-scum theology, Judgment Houses, poverty, prayer, hurricanes, Christian apologetics, feminism, fundamentalism--are subjects I was already trying to make sense of. I already knew the "correct" answers, but they weren't working very well, at least not well enough to pass them on to my children.

Evolving in Monkey Town may have been the first post-modern book I ever read; certainly it was the first Christian post-modern book. The freedom to ask anything without apology and to make observations based on subjective personal experience was intoxicating. Rachel gave me permission to think. And her unwillingness to accept answers that were frayed from trying to make them fit the question emboldened me to keep searching, too.

In addition to the book and her blog, Rachel pointed me to authors she was reading, and my trips to the library became a kind of scavenger hunt:  What was theistic evolution? Where did the idea of hell come from? How did the Bible get to us? What was the role of women in the early church?

Though over time I've reached different conclusions than Rachel did, I can understand the form of Christianity she clings to today and I respect her courage. It takes a lot of courage to adapt what you believe, and Rachel is more adaptive than most. Our lives--and beliefs--will continue to evolve, and that's a good thing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Does Marriage Take Three?

With St. Valentine's Day around the corner, this beautiful article by Maren Stephenson is perfect for Testimony Tuesday:

"When Sean replaced his temple garments — the sacred underwear he’d promised to wear day and night — with boxers, I couldn't take it anymore. It was too much betrayal. I called up a neighbor with a husband like mine and cried. But instead of empathy, she offered questions that stunned me into silence. Was Sean addicted to pornography? Watching R-rated movies? What sin had brought him to this terrible place?

"...This started my brain twitching. I knew Sean was still a good person, that he still maintained the same moral standards he had when he married me. The Church was wrong about him. What else might they be wrong about? I shoved the thought away.
I hope you can read all of Maren's story. But I will just highlight one more paragraph--my favorite, for it is has been my experience as well:
"Ironically, the Mormon Church teaches that marriage can only thrive if God is an equal part of it. But when we left God out of it, we were free to love each other completely, to share the burden of our grief as two individuals with no one else."
I often used to wonder why some Christian marriages were so unpleasant, if God was truly the vital ingredient. The usual answer given was that God is more interested in our holiness than our happiness.

Speaking for myself, I would far rather have a happy marriage than a "holy" one.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Where Do Bibles Come From?

A collection from our bookshelves

  • The evolution of Yahweh-worship from polytheism. 
  • Worship of Yahweh and Asherah in ancient Palestine. 
  • The Samaritan Torah
  • The Masoretic text. 
  • Babylonian influence on Jewish theology and culture during the Captivity. 
  • The full emergence of monotheism and the philosophical difficulties it presented. 
  • The Septuagint. 
  • The development of Jewish tradition and scholarship following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
  • Rivalry between the early Christian and Pharisee sects. 
  • The size limitations of papyrus manuscripts.
  • The Council of Trent.

Each of these factors, and so many others, is bound up in the history of what we know as the Holy Bible

Children ask, "Where do babies come from?" and young Christians ask, "Where did the Bible come from?" Some teachers, and some parents, are more squeamish than others. But if one is to commit one's life to the words of the Bible, one may need more information than, "It came from God."

The books below are some that have helped me tease out the history of the Jewish/Christian scriptures. It became a sort of scavenger hunt, finding a piece here, matching it with a piece from there, until a clearer picture began to emerge. 

Most, if not all, of the authors referenced are Christian scholars. They handle the texts with respect without compromising their scholarship and I recommend them all to Christians and skeptics alike.

What Jesus Meant by Garry Wills

Wills is a historian, and a critical Catholic. In his quest to distill Jesus' meaning from the text, Wills treats each of the Gospels individually, commenting on its historical setting and intended audience chronologically, geographically, and politically. 

What Paul Meant by Garry Wills

This one gets intense. In a nutshell, Paul's letters are the oldest Christian documents, predating the organized "church", even predating the word "Christian". In his defense of Paul against charges of misogyny and anti-Semitism, Wills ends up telling us a lot about the controversial history of the New Testament, including  debate over the pseudo-Pauline epistles, later edits that changed the gender of Junia, and some interesting observations about Acts and Luke.

Whose Bible Is It? A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages by Jaroslav Pelikan

Pelikan was a professor, historian, author, and Lutheran pastor (who joined the Orthodox church late in life). His respect for the Bible and its Jewish heritage is evident throughout the work. Pelikan focuses mostly on the Old Testament here, and I found the parts about Genesis 1-3 especially illuminating. I only wished he had gone into even more detail.

The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots by T. J. Wray

Took this one along on a plane trip two years ago and couldn't put it down! Besides being chock full of interesting archaeological tidbits from the greater Palestine area, it made sense of several Old Testament passages that had puzzled me for years. The parts about King David and Job were of particular interest, and the bibliographical notes were very helpful.

From Brandon Withrow's excellent book review:
The rise of monotheism, which occurred between the 8th and 6th centuries B.C.E., presented a problem, according to Wray and Mobley. If God is good and the only real power, where do we lay the blame for evil? “Could it be that along with the development of monotheism is a growing existential frustration that makes it difficult for God’s people to accept a deity who is responsible for both good and evil?”
The solution to the problem of evil is Satan.
Initially, the word for Satan was “a function, rather than being a proper name,” argues Wray and Mobley. During the Diaspora, the Jews were exposed to other cultures, notably the dualism of the Persian religion. “Jewish communities were exposed to Ahriman [a Zoroastrian demon] during the Persian period, from 530 to 330 B.C.E.,” they write. “Satan as a divine opponent of the LORD and as author of evil does not appear until the second century B.C.E., by which time Jews in Babylon and Persia had been exposed to the dualism of Zoroastrianism and to its evil deity Ahriman for generations.”

The Bible: A Biography by Karen Armstrong

Armstrong's weakness is detailing her sources; I had a lot more questions after reading this book. But it is a good place to start and full of information, especially about Judaic history.

Besides describing the sometimes surprising historical context of the various Biblical texts, Armstrong spends a lot of time explaining how the interpretation of and meaning ascribed to those texts changed throughout history. Bible study methods, for both Jews and Christians, have continually evolved to meet the needs of the time. Armstrong looks at how early rabbis and the Church fathers taught students to meditate on the text and draw multiple layers of meaning out: moral, metaphorical, literal, typological, mystical, and more.

The Book: A History of the Bible by Christopher De Hamel

De Hamel traces the physical history of the Bible, from individual manuscripts to multi-volume library, to single-bound volume. He writes as a historian, and this book is not quite as readable as the rest. I learned the most from the chapter about the St. Jerome's translation of the Vulgate and how he handled the Apocryphal books. 

Like biologists following DNA mutations, history scholars can trace the family tree of a particular manuscript Bible by noting minute errors made by scribes and faithfully transmitted by later copyists.

If the Bible is God's infallible gift to man containing all the answers we ever need to know, it will stand up to scrutiny. Don't be afraid to ask where your Bible came from. You may be as surprised and fascinated as when you discovered where you came from. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fantasy, Faith, Fraud

I read incessantly. I have been reading incessantly since I learned how before I went to kindergarten. Throughout the 1980's, I scoured my parents' bookshelves for anything I could figure out; history, nursing manuals, theology - it didn't matter. Library trips were never frequent enough for me, so I often read the same books again and again.

My favorites were the inspirational little paperbacks from publishing houses like Baker or Zondervan or Whitaker House or, even further back, Logos or Creation House. They were easy to hold, very portable, handy to stash in the bathroom cabinet or under the couch for later, and often contained exciting first person narratives of escape from Nazis, torture by atheist Communists, or Bible-smuggling behind the Iron Curtain. Some were agonizing accounts of crippling accidents, drug addiction, brain damage, and poverty. Every one of them included miracles. Kathryn Kuhlman's miracle stories were good, Smith Wigglesworth was memorable, and I pondered Corrie ten Boom's vitamin bottle for decades, but Mel Tari was the miracle winner, hands down.

Momma didn't allow fantasy on our bookshelves, but Mel Tari made the Indonesian island of East Timor every bit as thrilling as Narnia or The Wizard of Oz could have been. Never mind the sick getting well. Like a Mighty Wind and its sequel, The Gentle Breeze of Jesus, had water springing out of dry ground, fruit appearing on trees, singing angels, broken bread growing back in a woman's hand, God showing movies on the clouds to weary itinerant preachers, a dead eye regrowing to match the seeing one, water turning to [non-alcoholic] wine, invisible umbrellas, non-consuming flames, corpses returning to life, shamans cutting their hair short (sure proof of God's power in the 70's!), and much, much more.

Oh, yeah. Aslan had nothing on the teenage Tari's God. It was like the book of Acts in Technicolor. Acts was my favorite Bible book, after all, but these events took place just a decade before I was born! Over time, I did wonder if Tari had exaggerated just a bit and I quit reading his books in favor of more staid Christian literature, especially stories of perseverance in the face of suffering that wasn't miraculously abated.

Twenty years later, when I was trying to shore up my faith in God and his powers to reverse nature, I remembered Mel Tari. Looking back at his stories after a few foreign trips myself, they seemed oddly "westernized" for 1960's Indonesia, but perhaps that was the fault of translation. Surely if Tari was genuine, he would have caught attention since. What had he been up to since his books became so popular?

So I googled Mel Tari. And what should turn up but a conviction for fraud in 1994. Nice. Shareholder in an American resort? Maybe my childhood hero was just another con-man who could spin an ear-catching yarn to eager Christian publishing houses in the 1970's and 80's. Like Jack Chick's buddy, John Todd. Like Mike Warnke, "ex-Satanist High Priest". Like Rebecca Brown, a mentally disturbed doctor who had her medical license revoked. And like Crying Wind, whose claims were investigated by Moody Press 20 years after they published her "testimony".

On a hunch, I looked up Cliff Dudley, Mel Tari's co-author who suggested publishing the tales in the first place. Turns out Dudley (now deceased) also co-authored Tammy Faye Bakker's I Gotta Be Me and Run to the Roar. In 1978, he co-authored the volume Choose Life or Death: The Reams Biological Theory of Ionization with Carey Reams, (an agronomist who promoted treating cancer with fasting and lemon juice, and had been convicted of practicing medicine without a license). And with Sidney Custodio, there was Love-Hungry Priest. (Custodio's name now shows up on lists of sexual abuse allegations against priests in California.)

Honestly, I really don't care if God had a celestial movie projector on an island north of Australia before VHS tapes. Angelic singing? Josh Groban's voice is beauty enough for me. And as handy as regenerative bread may be, it seems it is not available in stores. Or to malnourished African children. Now if there was a God who was able to keep his followers from falling, that would be nice. Able to keep them from abusing kids, lying to their fans, scaring people senseless, and taking money that was meant to help the needy. All in God's name, of course.

Mel, of course, stands by his story. He's still out there preaching and praying in Jesus' name, alongside claims that he's walked on water. And, hey, if silver jewelry is turning to gold at Mel Tari's evangelistic healing meetings, maybe I really am missing out.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Permission To Be Outrageous

This is the year of speaking up.

For the last fourteen years, I have pondered, questioned, studied, asked more questions, tested, questioned again. I have watched my friends in pain, and felt the same pain in myself. I have realized the consequences of "being strong for too long", and I have reached out to others for help. I have felt betrayed. I have been angry at my own ignorance, angry at deceit and manipulation, angry at the unfairness and cruelty in the world. For a while, the ground seemed to be shifting under my feet and it took all my energy not to lose my balance. Like a woman in labor, I had to focus inward and find my inner strength. I had to learn to relax, to calm myself and let the process unfold.

During the worst of that transitional time, three hugs stand out as momentous healing events. One winter Saturday at the art museum, I asked a stranger for a hug. Though she didn't know me, she wrapped me in her arms and I was reassured and comforted. At a Christmas coffee, one of my neighbors gave me a warm, enveloping hug. On an autumn night at a Starbucks near Dallas, I met an author who had changed my life and when I left to go back to my hotel, she pulled me close in a big, comforting hug. Each of these women shared with me from herself and let me draw on her courage and strength when I was in a fragile place.

I am a stronger woman now. Most days, the ground again seems firm under my feet. It is a time for looking outward again, for seeing where I fit in this world and what difference I can make. And I have given myself permission to speak out. When I was 16, I traded away that freedom. I exchanged the uninhibited expression of my feelings and my beliefs for a mess of pottage (or, in my case, a Walkman). Now that I am reclaiming that expression, my real self is growing again: impassioned, bold, and willing to take risks.

Instead of anger simmering inside, now is time for what Sue Monk Kidd calls "outrage". This year, I will be outrageous. I will not be silent. I may voice what I think, sometimes even shocking things. When I confront ignorance, cruelty, falsehood, or hypocrisy, I can challenge it--whether that means emailing a school principal or college professor, writing a blog post, or doing something more outrageous.

I will particularly challenge misogyny and patriarchy, religious or secular. I will tell the truth about my story, and share other stories that have been guideposts for me. As women, we need to stick together. To quote Sue Monk Kidd again, "When we set out on a woman's journey, we are often swimming a high and unruly sea, and we seem to know that the important thing is to swim together--to send out our vibrations, our stories, so that no one gets lost."

If those stories seem outrageous, so be it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On Letting Go of God

For Testimony Tuesday, I'd like to introduce you to actress and writer Julia Sweeney. Julia's voice kept me company on a drive to Kansas City last spring and I loved her immediately. So much that I listened again on the way back. Again with my husband. And then with my 9-year-old, who was also captivated. For weeks, she would beg on the way to school, "Can we listen to more of Letting Go of God?"

Click here to listen to the opening story in Julia's delightful and humorous monologue performance.

I could relate to so much of Julia's journey--evaluating the Church after staring down cults, exploring the historical origins of the Biblical canon, seeking to distill the truth out of the whole ancient package of Judeo-Christianity, considering the attractions of other belief systems, the natural progression from religious to scientific discovery, and learning to think in new ways. After years of trying to make the pieces fit, sometimes being honest with one's self and one's family means admitting it doesn't work.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What Happened on the Damascus Road?

I used to believe the Bible was God's letter to mankind. That it was truth itself and could never be contradicted. I accepted that the stories contained therein actually happened in the manner described. I was sure the books were recorded (and translated) accurately through the centuries. Any appearance of error or confusion was merely a faulty interpretation. 

This approach worked for me the first 15 times I read the Bible in its entirety. Until one day I reread the story of Saul's Damascus Road experience. And I was flummoxed. 

The story of Paul's "conversion" from Judaism to Christianity appears three times in the book of Acts. None of these agrees with the others, or with Paul's own account of his calling by Jesus in his Epistle to the Galatians. Let's compare the stories.

Acts 9, told by narrator:

First, Saul gets letters from the high priest authorizing him to go to Damascus and drag male or female Jewish Christ-followers back to Jerusalem for prosecution and imprisonment. (No word on how this was going to be accomplished. Were the Roman authorities in Syria in the habit of letting the Sanhedrin make kidnapping raids from Judea? The writer doesn't explain the political and legal details he so relished in The Gospel of Luke. We know the Sanhedrin there lacked the authority to put anyone to death.)

Anyway, "a light from the sky suddenly blazed around him, and he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice speaking to him”. His companions “stood there speechless, for they had heard the voice but could see no one." Saul got up, but was blinded so they led him into Damascus where he remained sightless for three days until a disciple named Ananias came, at Jesus' request, so that Paul could see again and "be filled with the Holy Spirit."

Afterward, “Saul stayed with the disciples in Damascus for some time. Without delay he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues. . .proving beyond doubt that this man is Christ.” But “the Jews made a plot to kill Saul”, so the Christians helped him escape and sent him back to Jerusalem.  “When Saul reached Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples. But they were all afraid of him" until Barnabas properly introduced him and explained the situation.  

“After that Saul joined with them in all their activities in Jerusalem” until again there were “several attempts on his life”. At that point the brothers gave him a ride to Caesarea and "sent him off to Tarsus.”

Acts 22, told by Paul to a Jerusalem mob:

At the beginning of Paul's account, “a light from the sky suddenly blazed around me. I fell to the ground, and I heard a voice. . . My companions naturally saw the light, but they did not hear the voice." 

Saul ends up in the city: “I was blinded by the light. . . my companions had to take me by the hand and so I came to Damascus." A devout Jew named Ananias comes to visit and has a fuller message. "Get up and be baptized! Be clean from your sins as you call on His name.” No word on healing here. 

Paul doesn't say any more about Damascus: “. . . after my return to Jerusalem. . . I fell into a trance and saw Jesus. . . He said to me, ‘Make haste and leave Jerusalem at once. . . Go, for I will send you far away to the gentiles.”

Acts 26, Paul to Governor Festus and King Agrippa:

"I saw a light from the sky, blazing all about me and my fellow-travellers. We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice”. No remarks on blindness at all in this version. "... First in Damascus and then in Jerusalem, through the whole of Judea, and to the gentiles, I preached”.

Galatians 1, Paul's own account:

In this letter, Paul describes how he received the gospel “as a direct revelation from Jesus”. 
It “pleased God. . . that I might proclaim [Jesus]” to the Gentiles. “I did not even go to Jerusalem to meet” the apostles but “went away to Arabia and later came back to Damascus.” Not until three years later did Paul go “to Jerusalem to see Cephas” and met no one else save “James, the Lord’s brother”.

All this I am telling you is, I assure you before God, the plain truth. Later I visited districts in Syria and Cilicia, but I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judaea. All they knew. . . was the saying: ‘The man who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.'"

So. . . what actually happened? 

Was there a voice? Who heard it? Was there a light? Who saw it? Was Paul near Damascus, or somewhere else? Was he alone or with companions? Did he go to Jerusalem next, or Arabia? Did the apostles in Jerusalem know him before as a zealous hatchet man for the Sanhedrin, or did they only hear of him as a Jew-turned-preacher up north? Did Barnabas introduce him to all the brothers in Jerusalem, or did he quietly meet with just Peter and James? 

If Paul was an actual person, then there are actual answers to these questions. The Bible does not give the facts, instead offering something more like "choose-your-own-adventure". If Paul was the author of Galatians, and if he wrote the truth, then the author of Acts wrote fiction. (And vice versa.) If Acts is a historical "novel", what can we conclude of the Gospel of Luke, penned by the same writer and the only book to bring up Mary's virginity? Paul's letters, after all, are the oldest documents of Christianity, and he never mentions Mary, much less makes a claim that Jesus was conceived without human sperm. Nor does Paul mention Christ's ascension into the clouds, a story only told in--you guessed it--Acts and Luke (and added later in a postscript to the Gospel of Mark).

What do you think actually happened on the Damascus Road?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Why We Need Abortion

Abortion is nothing new. For as long as sexual intimacy has provided pleasure and birth has been painful and life-threatening, some women have taken their fate into their own hands and attempted to prevent "nature" from taking her course. 

In her article for the New York Times, Kate Manning lists some of the dangerous and horrible methods used by desperate women throughout history to induce miscarriage. In the mid-1800's, newspapers carried numerous advertisements for abortifacient remedies. And in 1930, one-fifth of the reported maternal deaths were caused by [illegal] abortion. 
"What is most striking about this history of probes and poisons is that throughout all recorded time, there have been women so desperate to end a pregnancy that they were willing to endure excruciating pain and considerable risk, including infection, sterility, permanent injury, puncture and hemorrhage, to say nothing of shame and ostracism. Where abortion was illegal, they risked prosecution and imprisonment. And death, of course."
Consider Jan Wilberg's story of her risky and illegal abortion in 1967 after a single sexual encounter with her boyfriend. A teenager, a college freshman, Jan did not have the security of a home herself in which to raise a child. Neither was the boyfriend prepared to provide one. She describes the feeling of being trapped in a dark corner while her boyfriend could be nonchalant:
"It wasn’t right to punish women who have been cornered by circumstances — unplanned pregnancy, no job, no money, no options — by daring them to find the $250 illegal abortionist in their city or worse. It wasn’t right that women should have to pay for a mistake with their fear, risk their future health and their very lives while men could walk away and be free." [emphasis mine]
Today, thanks to brave doctors, good medical schools, and Roe v. Wade, abortion is among our safest procedures. Bearing a child carries more risks than abortion. According to Amnesty International's report on maternal health, nearly half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended and two women die of pregnancy/birth complications every day. African-American women are four times more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related complications. If the pregnancy is deemed high-risk, those odds are even higher. According to the 2010 report, the state of Georgia has a maternal mortality rate of 20.5 per 100,000 live births and reporting of maternal death is not even mandatory there!
"More than a third of all women who give birth in the USA – 1.7 million women each year – experience some type of complication that has an adverse effect on their health."
According to a study by ANSIRH of the effects of abortion on women's health and economic situation, specifically comparing women who received abortions with those who wanted abortions but could not obtain them (turnaways), the women who received abortions were better off than those who continued the unwanted pregnancy.
"When a woman is denied the abortion she wants, she is statistically more likely to wind up unemployed, on public assistance, and below the poverty line.
"Turnaways were more likely to stay in a relationship with an abusive partner than women who got abortions. A year after being denied an abortion, 7% reported an incident of domestic violence in the last six months. 3% of women who received abortions reported domestic violence in the same time period. Foster emphasized that this wasn't because the turnaways were more likely to get into abusive relationships. It was simply that getting abortions allowed women to get out of such relationships more easily....
"... the Turnaway Study found no indication that there were lasting, harmful negative emotions associated with getting an abortion. The only emotional difference between the two groups at one year was that the turnaways were more stressed.
"...But turnaways did face a greater health risk from giving birth. Even late stage abortions are safer than giving birth. The researchers said at the APHA meeting: 
'We find physical health complications are more common and severe following birth (38% experience limited activity, average 10 days) compared to abortion (24% limited activity, average 2.7 days). There were no severe complications after abortion; after birth complications included seizure, fractured pelvis, infection and hemorrhage. We find no differences in chronic health conditions at 1 week or one year after seeking abortion.'"
 [emphasis mine]

We can see that even if a woman is able to give up her baby for adoption, carrying a pregnancy to term is no simple solution. Of course human life starts at conception, agrees Mary Elizabeth Williams, but the story doesn't stop there: "Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal."
"... We make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise." [emphasis mine]
Besides, most women having abortions are already mothers raising children. The choice is as much about those children's lives as about the mother's. Yes, abstinence prevents pregnancy, but how effectively can a married woman use that? Every contraceptive method fails, and not every sexual encounter can be planned against in advance (I am speaking of rape, including marital rape, but one could also include carelessness caused by alcohol). There are women who long to be mothers to the children they have, and another pregnancy would prevent them from caring for the little ones that already need them desperately.

Those families holding signs in the Life Chain, will they pay for a planned-against birth? Will the crisis pregnancy center provide iron tablets? Perhaps the nuns protesting contraceptives will reimburse a woman's employer for missed days of work? Cover antidepressants and counseling? Provide daycare? In ten years, who will help cover college bills for the older children? Or ought their education be sacrificed to provide food and daycare for the surprise addition to the family? Choosing to raise a child is a commitment that far outlasts the free diapers, crib, or donated maternity clothes. It spans decades and affects every life choice from then on.

Personally, I believe there are worse fates a human being could suffer than being aborted before taking a breath. Abortion needs to be legal because we value human life. I was "pro-life" because life was cheap, men were designed to reproduce themselves, women were intended to bear men's children, and we wanted as many Christians as possible. When I realized the value of each human being, the immense responsibility of parenthood, the lifetime effects of childhood nurture on the adult psyche, and the awful societal price of ignorance, poverty, and abuse, my view of abortion evolved, too. This is why I am glad that a courageous doctor is reopening a women's clinic in Wichita, at the same location where the late Dr. Tiller provided abortions until his murder.

Last week, Michelle Kinsey Bruns told her story to a train car filled with Catholic teenagers on their way home from the annual "March for Life" in Washington, D.C. "By eighteen it had begun to seem I might survive my childhood, but I didn’t believe I could survive being responsible for someone else’s. Since then, though, I have survived and thrived in a way that would have quite simply not been possible without the abortion that cleared a path for me to eventually get here." [emphasis mine]

As long as human beings begin their growth inside women's bodies, we will need abortion. As long as women can conceive against their will, we will need abortion. As long as human birth is difficult, we will need abortion. As long as we believe children are precious, we will need abortion.