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Bishop Kenneth Carter Bishop Kenneth Carter

The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Carter is Bishop of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, headquartered in Lakeland, FL.

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Abortion, Torture and Integrity

May 15, 2009


Last Mother's Day weekend I had a renewed sense of  gratitude for the gift of my own life. I traveled a few hours south to spend Mother's Day with my mother. She celebrated her 70th birthday last month; I will be 52 in August. I am grateful that she gave birth to me as a teenager. It is a fundamental beginning point in reflecting on my own life as a gift of grace.

I picked up the copy of the First Things issue dedicated to the memory of Richard John Neuhaus. I disagreed with Neuhaus on many subjects, and politically we were often on different planets. But I do sense that his was a prophetic voice on the subject of the dignity of the human person. His is a voice that is silent in my own denomination----for example, at General Conference the subject of abortion is barely on the radar screen, overwhelmed by other (legitimate) matters. I also reflected on the controversy surrounding President Obama's speech at Notre Dame this weekend: the clarity of his moral response to torture, and yet the corresponding single-mindedness among those who are pro-life and attend that university.

I have been thinking recently about the power of a religious voice that could link the issues of abortion and torture, the latter being, in my mind, a tragic scar upon our recent political landscape. It is sad that conservatives speak on behalf of the unborn, but not the tortured; I also lament the liberal focus on torture to the exclusion of the unborn. I would also link the defense of creation (the environment) within this larger cause. Liberals and conservatives seem to be coming together on care for the creation, and while I know these labels often distort more than they reveal, this is reason for hope.

I also think a way forward might be in not casting judgment on those who practice torture or have abortions, but in first making the case that the one we might be inclined to torture may be the enemy Jesus commands us to love, and the child whose life might be terminated prior to birth might be God's gift of a more inclusive grace. I believe this to be so for gay and lesbian friends who worship in our local church. In each case we might be motivated by prevenient grace (Romans 5. 8)----the expansiveness of God's love and justice that is larger than our imaginations or categories. And in linking abortion and torture, we might not be so quick to judge those with whom we differ politically, as we choose life instead of death. 



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