Before Birth

“Before Birth”

June 26, 2016

By John Partridge*

 

Scripture: Luke 1:57-66, 80                Acts 13:22-26                 Isaiah 49:1-6

 

How many of you have noticed that our culture, over the last forty years of more, has spent a lot of time arguing over the legality, morality, and ethics of abortion from the time of conception to the moment of birth?

Don’t get yourself worked up, because this isn’t a sermon on abortion (although I have preached them).  Instead, this morning I want to bring to mind an idea about God that while it may, or may not, inform our thinking on the issue of abortion, has even bigger implications for each one of us and how we choose to live our lives.

The message of scripture is one that you have undoubtedly heard before, and it is this:

Our God is the god who goes before us.

What that means, is that God is omniscient, which means all-knowing.  God knows everything, past, present, and future.  God knows everything that is know-able and that includes the things that happen in secret.

Most likely, we’ve all heard that before.  But what does it mean?  How does that play out in history?  And how does that have anything at all to do with me?

Let’s begin this morning by reading a bit from the prophet Isaiah, who lived and wrote the words of God, about 800 years before the birth of Jesus.  (Isaiah 49:1-6)

49:1 Listen to me, you islands;
hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the Lord called me;
from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.
He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.
He said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”
But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing at all.
Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand,
and my reward is with my God.”

And now the Lord says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
and my God has been my strength—
he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Isaiah proclaims that God knew him by name, and called him to be a prophet, before he was born.  Isaiah even has a Jimmy Stewart moment that sounds like something from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  He admits that there was a time when he believed that he had worked for nothing and wasted his life, but then realized that he has worked in the service of an all-powerful God.  In the end, Isaiah trusts that whatever reward is owed to him because of his life and his work, is in the hands of a good, loving, and trustworthy God.

But Isaiah also proclaims that God has plans for the future, plans to restore Israel to its former glory, to return to Israel those whom God has protected, and finally, God intends to create a person who would call to the Gentiles so that God’s rescue and salvation could expand across the entire world.  This person was known to God, and their mission and ministry established, long before they were born.  Clearly, it is a reference, 800 years before his birth, to Jesus, the rescuer of all humanity, but it may also speak of the ministry of John the Baptist who announces the coming of Jesus.  If this passage does not speak of John indirectly, there are other passages of scripture that describe John quite clearly.  In Luke 1:57-66, 80, we hear John’s story begin this way…

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

The Old Testament prophets told of one who would come to announce the coming of the Messiah and that person was described as someone who would be like Elijah the prophet.  But closer to the time of his birth, Elizabeth and Zechariah are told about his coming, what his name was to be, and that God had already set him apart for a special ministry.  All these things were known by God long before John was conceived in his mother’s womb.

And of course, in Acts 13:22-26, Luke reminds us of another similar story.

22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’

26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.

God knew everything that David would do, long before he did it and in fact, God not only knew what David would do, God knew that David would do the things that God wanted him to do.  Further, Luke makes sure that everyone reading his letter, including both Jews and Gentiles, that God’s message of salvation has been sent to us so that we could be rescued, but also entrusted to us so that we could rescue others.

So let’s review for a moment.

Isaiah tells us that God called him to be a prophet, by name, before he was born and also that God made plans for the future of Israel at least hundreds of years in advance.  Isaiah also tells us that eight hundred years before it happened, God was already planning the arrival of the Messiah and preparing the people who would surround him.

Elizabeth and Zechariah are told that they will have a child, and what God has named him, before that child is even conceived.  In addition, the mission and ministry of that man is already known to God.

And Luke tells us that the message of Jesus Christ is intended for the children of Israel and for the rest of the world.  That message of salvation and rescue was intended for us even before we were born and it is intended for future generations even before they are born.

But so what?

How does this help us to think about abortion?

What does this mean for our lives?

First of all, I promised that this isn’t a sermon on abortion, but it is worth mentioning because it crosses paths with the main point.  As we consider the abortion debate, we may not come to the same conclusions, but regardless of our personal thoughts on these matters, it is important that we think about these things.

So what does this all mean?

What it means is that our God is bigger than the ways in which we often think about him.  God is all powerful (omnipotent) and all knowing (omniscient), and exists outside of time.  The creation story tells us that God created night and day, and by doing so is arguably the creator of time itself.  But regardless, God not only knows the future, God plans and prepared the future.  More importantly, God’s plans and preparations are not vague generalities, but specific plans, involving the lives, missions, and ministries of specific people that he calls by name hundreds or thousands of years in advance.  God raises up and destroys nations and shapes cultures over vast expanses of time to prepare each moment for the mission and ministry of his people.

And if you boil that down to what it means to your life and to my life, it means that God knew you, by name, hundreds and thousands of years before you were born.  God knew about you, your life, your personality, and everything about you, before the creation of the universe itself.  God knew what you would be good at, what gifts, skills, and abilities that you would have and God knew what mission and ministry he had in mind for you, for me, and for every human being ever born.

The universe is not without meaning.

This world is not without meaning.

Your life is not without meaning.

God has a plan… and you, your gifts, your skills, your abilities, your personality, are a part of that plan.

Knowing that, we are obliged to do whatever we can, through study, meditation, and prayer, and other spiritual disciplines, to discover what God has called us to do.

And then, we must help others to know Jesus Christ, and help them to understand what God has called each of them to do.

 

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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online athttps://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Why I Would Argue for the Earliest Definition of Life


    In my last two blogs, “Abortion: Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Both Right?”and “Abortion: Why Both Sides Will Lose in the Supreme Court (Again)” I explained why the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was not a clear win for either pro-choice or for pro-life supporters and why I thought that both sides would once again be disappointed if a modern Supreme Court consented to review the case. 
    But while my reading of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, modern medicine, and our current political climate lead me to believe that a review of Roe would not be substantially different than it was in 1973, I do think that there are compelling reasons that argue for a dramatic change.  Instead of beginning with biblical, theological or doctrinal reasons (which I obviously have), let’s begin with reason and logic. 
    As I have explained, Roe v. Wade was a decision that attempted to find a balance between two rights guaranteed by the Constitution, a right to privacy on the part of the mother, and a right to life on the part of the infant.  In my reading of the court’s ruling, it seems that there was never a question that both rights existed and the both deserved to be protected.  The question was, if two rights are in conflict, which has a superior claim and when (or if) does that superiority change?  I have a right to privacy in my own home, but if I were to commit criminal acts, particularly those that harmed other human beings, my right to privacy is superseded by the other person’s right to life and liberty.  This delineation is well accepted as both moral and legal.  This same question, when brought into the realm of abortion, becomes a question of a) is a pre-born infant a human being, and if yes, b) when does it become one?  The Supreme Court answers to these questions in 1973 were a) yes, and b) at the earliest point at which the infant is viable (with medical intervention).
    In 1973 the womb was something of a “black box.”  We knew that an infant developed in the mother’s womb and developed from a fertilized egg, we had all sorts of microscope slides and fetuses in jars that had been aborted at various stages of development.  What we didn’t have were the spectacular images that we have today.  Today expectant parents can sit in the office of their OB/GYN and see live 3D images of their child.  They can see that preborn infant scratch its nose, cough, sneeze, and suck its thumb.  So real are these images, that 78% of women who were considering abortion changed their minds after they had seen them.
    I’m not saying we were ignorant in 1973 and we are now “enlightened,” but what we know and what we have learned, seem to make it much harder to draw a line in the sand and say that “this” is a person with Constitutional rights, and a moment earlier “that” was not a person.  Does an infant become a person because it’s larger than it was yesterday?  If so, do tall people have more rights than short people, or do adults have a stronger right to life than children?  Does it suddenly become a person because it is no longer in the womb?  The human rights of any other “person” do not change based on location.  A person in Detroit, Michigan has no more or less rights than a person in rural China.  Location cannot, logically, convey basic human rights or take them away.  Is a preborn infant not a person because it is dependent upon its mother?  If so, then do adults on life support surrender their right to life?  We are all, in one way or another, dependent upon others for our lives.  Simply because an infant needs its mother cannot imply that it somehow has fewer rights than an infant only days or weeks older.  At other times in history, groups of people were declared a separate “class” of human being so that their rights could be denied, Jews, Gypsies, Blacks, and others.  Can we, in good conscience, declare a group of human beings, with measurable human DNA, to be a separate “class” of humans that are not entitled to human rights? 
    Biblically speaking, we know that God loves all of his children equally.  All human beings are of sacred worth.  The redemption of every person on earth was purchased by Jesus Christ at the cost of his own life.  We cannot gamble that God cares more about an infant more today, simply because yesterday it was in the womb and today it is not, or because today it is one day older than yesterday.
    I have heard various arguments from the position that Old Testament references did not consider an infant to be a “person” under the law until after it was born.  While this is arguable on a number of points, it assumes that people who lived four thousand years ago could have known any differently.  Asking this question would seem to place an unfair moral burden on ancient cultures.  How would any culture with little understanding of fetal development, no ability to detect a fetal heartbeat, no ultrasound, and no modern medical understanding of neural development have fairly ruled that a preborn infant is equal to one who independently draws breath?  Their decision on personhood was, much as it was in 1973, based upon viability.
    Please understand that I value my privacy as much or more than anyone, but regardless of my feelings or personal opinion, privacy has always taken a backseat to more important rights, and the right to life is among these.   Legally, I understand that declaring an infant to be a person too early can create other difficulties, such as the potential for criminal investigations against women who have miscarriages and certainly I understand those who struggle with knowing at what point an infant ought to be considered to be a person, especially in the earliest stages of development.    For me, however, I have few such doubts.  I believe that morals, logic and scripture declare in chorus that an infant is a person, and if an infant is a person at any point, it must be one from the very beginning.
To me, these arguments seem reasonable and logically sound.  If you can find error in the logic, I am interested in hearing your viewpoint.
———–

Abortion: Why Both Sides Will Lose in the Supreme Court (Again)

    As I stated in my last blog (Abortion: Pro-Life/Pro-ChoiceBoth Right?), many people on both sides of the abortion debate would like to see the Supreme Court revisit their 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion in many states.  Some hope that the court would ban abortions altogether and others hope that the court would clarify and broaden Roe v. Wade so that all abortion is legalized.  At the same time, others would prefer that this not happen because, as is often the case, once the court opens the case for arguments, anything can happen.  Based on what I have read, I think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  I think that if the Supreme Court is ever willing to reconsider Roe v. Wade, both sides will be unhappy with the outcome.

Why?  
     In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the court affirmed that a woman had a constitutionally protected right to privacy until the second or third trimester[i].  The court later abandoned the trimester “framework” but affirmed that a woman had a right to abortion until the infant was viable.  Wikipedia says that “The Roe decision defined “viable” as being “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid”, adding that viability “is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.”[ii]
    For the court, the argument was never whether or not a woman had a right to abortion, but about how to discern when one right can be superior to another when two constitutionally protected rights, life and privacy, are in conflict.  For the court, there was never really a question of whether or not there was a right to life or a right to privacy.  The question was how to choose which holds a superior claim and when.  For the court in 1973, viability was the measure that worked.  When the baby was developed enough that it could survive, even with “artificial aid,” then the right to life held the superior claim.
    Neither “side” could declare a clear victory in 1973.  Abortions could be performed but could still be restricted and regulated by the states after the point of viability.  If the court were to reconsider Roe, I suspect that both sides would again be unsatisfied with the results.  Here’s why I think so: Science.
    In 1973 the court chose to use viability, even with artificial aid, as the point at which an infant secured a right to life, but the tools available to the courts, and to medical science, were limited.  It wasn’t until 1975 that ultrasound technology began to be introduced to obstetrics.  At that point, two years after Roe, a fetal heartbeat could be detected and ultrasound could show the skull and a general body shape.  Today, the available technology is dramatically different.  Now, ultrasound technology can provide three dimensional images of the fetus and parents can go home from the doctor’s office with “photographs” of their baby months before birth and long before “viability.”  While the 1973 court looked to viability as a means to determine when life began, medical science is now pushing against that boundary.  While infants in 1973 were considered viable at 28 weeks and possibly to 24 weeks, infants today routinely survive at 25 weeks and as early as 22 weeks.  While there were limited options in determining the beginning of life in 1973, today’s technology can detect a fetal heartbeat at 22 days gestation, brainwaves at six weeks and a fully functioning nervous system at 20 weeks (and some argue for an even earlier date).
    Based only on the court’s 1973 ruling, the present capabilities of medical science, and the current political winds, I think that it is very likely that a rehearing of Roe v. Wade would uphold a right to privacy (and thus a right to choose an abortion) but would also uphold more restrictive definitions of what constitutes life, when life begins, and the point at which an infant secures a right to life. 
Once again, both sides would win…
…and lose…
…and neither side would be happy with the outcome.

Sometimes Right is Wrong


    Not long ago my wife, Patti, and I attended a seminar with Dr. Terry Wardle at Ashland Seminary.  During one session Dr. Wardle noted that sometimes the question is not whether something is right or wrong, but whether it is loving or unloving.  This idea struck me and I immediately wrote it in my notebook.  While this may not always be the case, this is a wonderful lens by which we can examine our choices as we live out our faith.  Checking to see if our actions are loving or unloving is a great way to get closer to deciding, “What would Jesus do?” 
   
    Some will object that Jesus was the perfect man and lived his life without sin, and so, he could not have done wrong.  And yet, he did.  During his ministry, Jesus seemed often to be at odds with the Pharisees, men who devoted their lived to following “the rules” and, in fact, devised rules stricter than those contained in the Law so that, by following these ‘new and improved’ rules, they would never, even accidently, violate the Law.  Simply put, the Pharisees made it their business never to break a rule.  They were devoted to living that was always right and never wrong but if this is so, why were they so often at odds with Jesus?
    The Pharisees began to hate Jesus and plot for his humiliation and, ultimately, his destruction when Jesus repeatedly revealed their hypocrisy and the failure of their rules-based morality.  Jesus pointed out that what they had achieved was like white washing a tomb; it looked pretty on the outside bur remained full of corruption on the inside.  The Pharisees were known to tithe from everything they earned, every increase that God granted to them, even to the point of giving ten percent of the growth from their herb gardens and yet some of them had elderly parents whom they allowed to starve.  They justified their actions by saying that all their money was “Corban” or, dedicated to God.  They had followed one rule so vigorously, that they missed the bigger ideas of “love your neighbor” and “honor your father and mother.”  They had done what was “right” but had failed to be loving.  As Jesus saw it, they had missed the point.
    At the same time, the Pharisees attacks against Jesus revolved around what they perceived as his wrongdoing.  Jesus and his followers were rule breakers.  Jesus sat down with sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, outcasts, and ate with them.  No self respecting, rule-following, religious person would be seen socializing, let alone sharing food, with “those people,” and yet, Jesus did.  As Jesus and his followers were walking through a field on the Sabbath, they were hungry and the disciples began to pick heads of grain, rub them between their hands to remove the chaff, and eat them.  The Pharisees asked Jesus why he allowed them to do wrong. Clearly they were harvesting on the Sabbath, and everyone knew that harvesting was work and work was not permitted on the Sabbath.  They made the same accusation against Jesus when he healed a man on the Sabbath.  Since healing was “work,” obviously Jesus had done wrong.  Again, as Jesus saw it, they had missed the point.
    In each case, the Pharisees wanted to follow the rules, to do what was right, but Jesus wasn’t as concerned with right and wrong as he was with being loving.  Jesus believed that the Pharisees had missed the point when following “the rules” caused them to be unloving.
    If we see ourselves in the mirror held up by the Pharisees, we should.  The Pharisees weren’t bad people; they were the church leaders and teachers of their day.  Like the Pharisees, I think sometimes we get so focused on “the rules” that we miss the point.  When people of faith debate issues like homosexuality, abortion, capital punishment and other “religious” issues in the public square we often carve out positions that we believe are “right” and yet, at the same time, fail miserably at being loving.  That doesn’t mean that we have to accept sin, Jesus didn’t, but Jesus found a way to be loving even if it broke a few rules.
    As we enter the public square we must ask ourselves if our arguments are right, but also if they are loving.  Because…
Sometimes, right is wrong.

Politicians, Rape and Bad Theology (Part 2)


The answer is that God doesn’t want that. 

Just because God loves life doesn’t mean that he intends for every person to come into being. 
Wait. 
What? 
Just because God loves life doesn’t mean that he intends for every person to come into being.
    Some people will read that and conclude that if God does not intend for some people to be born, then some people are not wanted by God.  Nothing could be further from the truth but in order to see why, we have to think carefully.
    Consider this example: If a birthmother chooses to give up her baby for adoption, it has nothing at all to do with the goodness of the child.  Many of those children will assume they were adopted because their birthmother didn’t want them or that they weren’t good enough, or that something was wrong with them.  Many suffer for years until they understand that their birthmother wasn’t keeping them even if they wereperfect.  Birthmothers give up their children because they are unwilling or unable to be a parent.  Their choice has nothing to do with the perceived “goodness” of their child.  Often, birthmothers would like nothing more than to keep their child but understand that, for a variety or reasons, they cannot. 
    Giving a child up for adoption has nothing to do with being “wanted” and neither does rape.  Just because God doesn’t intend for a woman to become pregnant as a result of rape, doesn’t mean that God will not love the child that is produced.  
He does.  
    I am the fourth child in my family.  I was born five years after my next older brother.  It is well known that my parents thought they were done having children.  I was an accident.  My existence is unintended but I have never had any doubt that my parents welcomed me, wanted me and loved me since the moment that they knew I was coming.
    God does not want women to be raped nor does he want them to suffer the emotional trauma that will follow them through an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy.  Even so, that does not mean that he does not love and value that child from the moment of its conception.  
He does. 
    What’s left to us, is an unwanted choice between two unpleasant outcomes.  We must choose between the emotional and psychological pain and suffering that will inevitably come with the pregnancy, and the destruction of that unique and valuable life that has been created as well as the emotional and psychological pain and suffering follows that choice.   
Neither choice is a good one.
This is a complicated and difficult theological problem. 
When politicians try to oversimplify it, they sound stupid.

(Click here to go back to Part 1)

Politicians, Rape and Bad Theology (Part 1)


    What is it about politicians this year?  I know it’s an election year, and I know that politicians often say (and do) downright dumb things, but it seems that this year an unusually large number of politicians are saying them.  Some of these things we can just laugh at, but as a pastor I cringe whenever politicians make pronouncements about theology and religion.  Several things have been said this year that defy common sense.

    Most recently, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said that that pregnancy resulting from rape can be “something that God intended.”   He has since clarified his remarks and made it clear that God does not advocate violence or rape but that if a child is conceived through rape, that this is something that God intended to happen.
    In order to even begin we need to review what we know about God.  First, God is good.  Not everyone believes this, but Christians do.  We believe that God created human beings for a reason and that even though we don’t always understand why, God loves us and wants what is best for us.  Second, God is omniscient, which means all knowing.  The Bible tells us that God knows everything that has happened and everything that will happen.  Before he created the universe he knew everything about us.  Third, everything that happens does not happen because God wantsit to happen.  The whole story of Adam and Eve teaches us that human beings are stubborn and will do things that God commands them not to do, things that hurt themselves and others.
    Saying that rape is a part of God’s plan is patently ridiculous.  Rape is violent, brutal and is both physically and emotionally damaging.  Victims of rape often require years of therapy and some are never the same again.  It seems obvious that this isn’t something that anyone ‘good’ would want.  Richard Mourdock has essentially acknowledged this in his explanation but I don’t understand his assertion that a pregnancy as a result of a rape is something that God intends.
    I suspect that Mourdock’s thinking is that since God is a good God, and also a God that is the creator and protector of life, that once a life has begun in the womb, that this must be something that God intended.  Frankly, I don’t follow that logic.  Pregnancy as the result of a rape can add a significant emotional burden to a woman who is already suffering the effects of the original trauma.  The pregnancy can, and will, stir the memories of her rape over and over again and each time they return, those memories will cause the victim more pain.  Again, I come back to the question, “How can a good God want that?”

Why I Stand With the Catholic Church

   In recent weeks the President of the United States and his Administration announced that all employers would be required to provide health coverage that included coverage for birth control and abortifacients regardless of the employer’s religious affiliation.  What this means is that religious institutions will be required by law to provide the means to do something that the parent religion considers to be a violation of conscience.  The federal government has told the Catholic Church that its hospitals, its adoption services, and its other outreach branches, as well as Methodist Hospitals, Baptist Hospitals and Jewish  and Muslim charity and community centers, that they must all provide this benefit to their employees regardless of whether or not this is a violation of the teachings of their religion.  I want to be clear, I am not a Catholic but this is serious stuff and it is important for all of us regardless of religion.
   I have heard friends say that the complaints against the government are just a power play by entrenched male power interests in the church to oppose necessary health provisions for women but I don’t think so.  It was the Catholic Church (and a few other churches) who built charity hospitals to provide care to the poor when medical care was something only the wealthy could afford (did you ever wonder why so many hospitals have Saint something in their name or end in Methodist, Baptist, or Catholic Hospital?)  It was the Catholic Church who built one of the biggest AIDS clinics in San Francisco when many hospitals were afraid to treat AIDS patients.  The caring and compassion of the church, particularly in the field of medicine, has been repeatedly demonstrated.  
   What’s more, the consistency of the Catholic Church is well established.  As a Protestant, I do not have a problem with birth control but draw the line at abortion and abortifacients because we believe that a child in the womb, a fertilized egg implanted and growing in the uterus, is a life.  Somehow, those of Protestant faith believe that a fertilized egg is not necessarily a life, but once it has ‘taken root’ it becomes a life.   This is a pretty fine line.  The Catholic Church doesn’t try to split hairs and it never has, they believe that a fertilized egg is a human being, period.  The position of the Catholic Church has never changed on this and although I do not agree, I have great respect for the consistency of their argument.  Life is life.
   For the government to say that the Catholic Church (and all other churches) must provide benefits that it believes are morally unconscionable is, to me, a clear violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.  What if the government re-instituted the draft to support the military?  In such a draft, undoubtedly, persons would be drafted that, for religious or moral reasons, choose not to carry a gun or to be placed in a situation where they might be required to kill another human being.  For that reason, our nation has allowed these persons to become conscientious objectors, and we allow them to serve their country in another capacity.  One of my uncles served in the Korean Conflict as a medic for that reason.  If our government is allowed to force people of faith to provide birth control and abortion inducing drugs against their will, is it any stretch at all to imagine that conscientious objectors could be forced to carry a gun into combat?  Can American Indians be prohibited from ceremonies that require the use of peyote?  Could Muslims be prevented from making daily prayers during the workday?  The principle is exactly the same.  If religious objections are overruled for one, they can be overruled for anyone.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
– U.S. Constitution, 1st Amendment, Article 3.
   If the government is permitted to prevent Catholics and others from exercising their religion, and their conscience, in this way, what other Constitutional rights will it find “inconvenient” tomorrow? 
I am not a Catholic and though I respect the Catholic Church I often do not agree with it.  My position on birth control is different than the one held by the Catholic Church.  Even so, I think they are right and the government is wrong.  I stand in support.  Will you?