I am by no means a theological scholar. I know maybe (very strong maybe there) a little more than the lay person owed to my training in philosophy (thank you Dr. Georges Dicker) and my insatiable thirst for knowledge (thank you John Noble!) So when I wanted to understand original sin, and why it was so important to the anti-choice crowd, I did what any sane person would do: I asked an expert. Actually, I asked four of them, all friends or acquaintances who attended seminary.
Specifically, I was curious when original sin took root. Are we born or conceived in sin? My initial thinking was that if we are born, but not conceived, in sin, then the anti-choice people would believe they are protecting the one innocent form of human life. My friend, Craig Kunkle, quickly dashed that line of thinking by pointing out Psalm 51 5 to me: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” So, strike one for Christine.
I hit a long, towering foul ball on the very idea of original sin. I already knew that it had nothing to do with being a willfully bad person. I got that it was something we were born with. I took it (and while I am loath to try to read another’s mind I believe many fundamentalists do to) with being an inherently bad person. Craig, however, explained it thus to me:
We were created good, but we have a broken relationship with God from the beginning. This is because we finite humans are in a relationship with an infinite being. God is always faithful to us but we both
1) don’t keep the relationship
2) try to do good things but sometimes screw the pooch in the process.
So, okay, I get that. It’s a Sartre-esque existential crisis between us and God. The sticky part, and the part of all this that finally explains to me why the Religious Right gets so very worked up about abortion is the difference between them and actual Protestants (which Mr. Kunkle explained to me Baptists, and thus most Evangelicals at least in this country, are not really part of. Yay for learning more stuff!) For Protestants, the idea of original sin was resolved in Christ’s death and resurrection. In this act, Jesus redeemed the entire human race. Original sin, while still a problem, was forgiven at that point.
For Christian Fundamentalists, however, this is not the case. One is not redeemed until one accepts Christ as one’s savior. This, I now believe, is what causes so much furor over abortion. The child (and they see zygotes as children) unsaved is forever denied their place in heaven as they were never able to seek salvation.
Both of these positions require acceptance without proof beyond the Bible and personal faith, which is a big argument for keeping faith out of public decision-making. This question gets very heated when you inject the notion of salvation and sin into it. To me, the only questions worth asking about the abortion debate are ones of public health and society’s needs. Women lose agency when we turn their bodies’ into our spiritual battle grounds, and that is not good for anyone.