Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dietrich and the Sea Turtles

Today I read this abortion quote by German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question of whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of its life. And that is nothing but murder." (1940-3)

Indeed. Pretty old quote, by the way.

Here's how we handle this concept in South Carolina Wednesday Sunday School:

Who went to the beach last year? Lots of hands go up. Which beaches did you go to? Myrtle Beach! Edisto Island! Garden City! Pawley's! Folly Beach!

OK, who has seen the sea turtle nests with the fences around them and the signs? Bunch of hands go up again. I ask someone to tell the class what we are talking about.

Who has seen the baby turtles hatch? I haven't, but the occasional child has, and will describe it vividly.

And who has seen an adult sea turtle? No-one, except at an aquarium.

Easy question: if I were to catch and eat fish or crabs at the beach, is that OK? That's OK, we go crabbing, it's ok to eat them. And we eat the fish that we catch.
How about if I caught a sea turtle, could I eat it? NO! That's against the law!
Yes, because sea turtles are protected. There aren't many of them, so to kill even one would be bad.

But here's tonight's trick question: I know it's illegal to kill a sea turtle, but why are the nests protected? (I am playing stupid here) Because we have to protect the turtles!

(More stupid) Yes, but there are no turtles in the nest. But there are eggs in the nest!

C'mon, turtle eggs aren't turtles.....don't y'all know that? It's pretty obvious to me. Yes but there's a baby turtle in the egg, Stratopops! (How dense can I be?)

Well, maybe when they're about to hatch, but at first the eggs are just full of goop, like chicken eggs. Could I make myself some scrambled turtle eggs if I made sure they had just been laid, and I couldn't see even a tiny turtle in them? If the cops came, I'd just say, well, there weren't any turtles in the eggs yet. No, it's still going to be a turtle, you can't ever eat it.

Yeah, but look: not all the eggs hatch, and not all the hatchlings get into the sea, not all of those that do live very long, sometimes just a few minutes. Considering how few eggs actually become independent turtles in the sea, can't we say the eggs are just possible turtles, potential turtles, and I can eat them? No, it's still the same as killing a turtle, even if all the eggs wouldn't make turtles anyway.

OK (I finally see the light). Let's think about human babies for a bit. We all know it's wrong to kill a baby. I take out my plastic fetus. And it's wrong to kill a little fetus like this one even if it doesn't look like a regular baby yet, right? It's still a baby even if it's weird-looking.

Yes. I put a dot on the board. This dot is bigger than either a human embryo, or a turtle embryo when they are just a few days old; they are very small, almost invisible. You might not even be able to tell the turtle from the human under a microscope. If it's just a dot of cells, then is it ok to kill a turtle embryo? No, it's already a turtle even if it's a little dot.

Right...and how about the human embryo? It's just like with the turtle, it's a baby the whole time.
So if you kill a turtle embryo what do you kill? A turtle.
And how about a human embryo? You'd be killing a baby, a person.
And what's that called when you kill an unborn baby? Abortion.