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Beyond Alabama

I could write about the Alabama abortion law, and the seductive power of perverted religion. But I won’t, or at least not to the exclusion of the bigger picture, because, not having had to face having an abortion, I do not feel I have a right to speak to the horror of being in that position. I have no right, except to demand something more than mercy from the religious Right in America, those who seem indifferent to the suffering being endured by the women concerned. It is as if a woman who is pregnant by her own father, or who has been raped, possibly by a partner, is roughly the equivalent of a football, something to be kicked around the religious political morality field, as she may well have been in life. The abortion issue is not about the difference between right and wrong, or even between life and death. It is ultimately about playing hard, and winning – in sexual politics.

The sexual power games being played out in Alabama and other conservative States, reflect those of the wider political spectrum. In their Machiavellian way, the players obscure the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, light and dark. Given the malignant power of America’s current President, who has been described as the most amoral in modern history, such a situation is, of its very nature, hopeless. It is hopeless because it is without a God who defines the paradigms of good and evil within which issues like abortion, to name only one, can be discussed, rather than played out. Such a God has a merciful face.

We see this face most clearly through the ambiguity and paradox of the Gospels and in so many of the half finished sayings of Jesus. Take the story of the woman caught in adultery (‘caught’ – really?) and the almost non-verbal exchange that takes place between the Christ and her accusers. He asks which of them is without sin, and then reveals the secrets of their own hearts to them by drawing patterns in the sand. Perhaps one or more of them was her rapist, or the bullying partner forcing himself on her because it was somehow ordained by God.

On the other hand, perhaps not. Perhaps they had simply lost sight of the purpose of the Law they were there to uphold, a Law designed to make it easier for people to know God. Perhaps, they, like so many politicians today, were simply lost in the dark corridors of power, which they had created for themselves. Because of the power issues that are really at stake, political battles of all descriptions are being waged in the dark, or what in French might be called le néant, the absence of anything, especially the absence of those elements which give life and lead to wisdom. These battles lead to a collective sense of hopelessness, the moral darkness which we are all inhabiting.

The knowledge of a merciful God is the embodiment of hope and should therefore be the ground on which laws are made, and to which they return all of us who are called to obey them. Only in allowing for the possibility of knowing and being known by this merciful God is it possible to entertain the idea of justice, in all human relations. The same is true in regard to the healing of which our materialist western societies are so desperately in need. It is our own need for healing which cries out to us from the earth which we have raped and rendered sterile for its many other creatures.

There is a connection to be made between the loveless Alabama ruling on abortion and the equally loveless abortion of life in all its forms in the natural world. The connection begins and ends with mercy.

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