"I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land which the LORD swore he would give..." Deuteronomy 30:19-20
For years, the abortion lobby has used a very pointed argument to push their agenda: rape. They keep insisting that abortion must be kept legal because of rape. "Would you force a raped woman to carry that fetus in her womb?" The question carries a tremendous resonance, a resonance so great that most of us cannot figure out how to answer the question without sounding like someone who has sympathies for the rapist. There’s a reason for that.
The Culture of Use
Years ago, Pope John Paul II noted that the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is use. This is true precisely because we are each made in the image and likeness of God.
As you know, the only thing that distinguishes the three Persons of the Trinity is the relationship of love between them. Father begets Son, Son is begotten. Father and Son breathe forth Spirit, Spirit is breathed. Each of the three Persons of the Godhead gives Himself away as gift to each of the other two Persons. Each Person cherishes, treasures, cares for the Divine Persons who give Himself. Now, just as the persons of the Godhead are distinguished only by their relations, it is only our relationship to God that make us persons. Nothing more.
This is very important. It is God who makes us persons. His call to each of us, His invitation to communion with Him – this is what makes us persons. As part of the invitation, He gives us everything we need to participate in His communion: He gives us our intellects, our wills, and the capacity to love as He loves. As Boethius said, a person is an individual substance of a rational nature. That definition explains the "what," but it doesn’t explain the "why." Why is a rational nature important to being a person? Because rationality is necessary to do what God calls us to do: be in communion with Him, be a person. That is, our rational nature defines us as persons, but it is a consequence of something prior. That "something prior" is His call to us to be in communion with Him. Our personhood is really a response to His call, a response only made possible through the gift of intellect and will, the gift of rational nature, the gift of personhood. Our persons are responses to His Persons, our rational nature is the instrument through which we respond.
The Virtue of Justice
Now, justice means making sure another person receives his due. The only reason someone has something due him is precisely because he images God. Thus, justice is part of each person’s being. It is an innate recognition of every relationship: you to me, me to you, each of us to God. Because I am in the image of God, I must necessarily recognize God’s image wherever I find it, and I must give His image proper reverence.
And this is why use is the opposite of love. Someone who loves another person, reverences another person, thereby acknowledges that person’s relationship to God. But, oddly enough, someone who hates another person also acknowledges the other person’s relationship with God: he simply despises both that person and God for having such a relationship. Hatred at least has eyes for the truth. Hatred sees the relationships and acknowledges them, even if it is a negative acknowledgement. But with use, it is different.
When we treat others as mere objects to be used, we pretend that they have no relationship with God: God does not call them to Himself. Since personhood depends on relationship, we are actually pretending they are not persons at all. Deliberate use of another denies the intrinsic worth and beauty of the relationships between Persons and persons. But denying God’s call denies divine relationships and divine relationships are precisely what define the Trinitarian Persons. So, when we deny anyone’s personhood, we deny the very existence of the Trinity.
And this is why the connection between abortion and rape is so hard for us to talk about. You see, we have all forgotten these facts. We live in a culture of death which is to say, we live in a culture of use. Using people as objects is so basic to our lives that it is bred in our bones, it is part of the sea we swim.
Let me illustrate with an example. I know two young women. Both were raped in their teens, one raped on her sixteenth birthday, the other when she was eighteen. Both became pregnant as a result of the rape. Both had abortions. One repented of the abortion. The other did not.
In both cases, the young women had formed a relationship with the rapist: their rapists were a friend made at a party and a boyfriend, respectively. In both cases, the young men in question were called by God to reverence these young women as gifts. In each case, God gave an image of Himself, the woman, to the young man. If the men had treated them with respect, these men would have been gifted with the marvelous joy of counting these women as friends, possibly the young men were even called to lead a long life of loving care and service to these young women.
But instead, in both cases, the young men decided to treat the women as objects. They brutally attacked the divine images God had given unto them. Like the iconoclasts before them, these young men shattered the images of God so that they might worship their own human power instead.
Now, in both cases, God replied to the outrage perpetrated by the rapists by turning to the victimized woman and breathing forth in her the gift of life. He alone has the power to grant life, to breathe forth life in the womb. If He did not desire to grant this gift, the rape would have been sterile, as so many rapes are.
But instead, He gave unto each woman another image of Himself, a source of life and of healing implanted within her being. Just as He had called the young men to respect and revere the young women He had entrusted to their care, so He called the young women to respect and revere the young children He had entrusted to their care.
In the Image of the Rapist
In both cases, each woman, shattered by the violence of the sin visited upon her, turned and visited the same violence she had experienced upon one much weaker than herself. She focused the same level of violence upon not just an acquaintance or friend, but her own child. In each case, the child, being not so strong as her mother, died from this level of violence.
So, in each case, the rapist had made the woman into an image of himself. He had brutally attacked an innocent image of God; as a consequence of his evil, she had likewise brutally attacked an innocent image of God.
When these correspondences were pointed out to the first woman, she repented. She saw the truth, embraced it, and turned from this path.
When these correspondences were pointed out to the second woman, she did not repent. Instead, she said, "You have no right to pass judgement, it is not your place to do so… As I stated previously it is between God and myself…. You are being hypocritical in the fact that you want to quote God, but yet you wish to pass judgement… I believe I did the right thing and if you don't like it, you don't have to because you don't know me and you don't know what it is like to be mutilated on the inside like I was."
You see, the culture of use calls us to pass judgement on the rapist (the other), but not on the one who acts in the image of the rapist (me). Likewise, we can put God in the dock, accuse Him of all the evil we want, but I who am made in His image and likeness – I am innocent. As certain men said at trial in Germany years ago, "I was only doing what was expected. I am innocent of the blood of these people." The rapist made me do it. The devil made me do it. The Fuehrer made me do it.
Abortion is iconoclasm. Rapists are iconoclasts. That’s why the question resonates. That’s why we can’t figure out how to answer it. Abortion and iconoclasm are both very closely linked to rape. Famously Protestant America is built on famously Protestant iconoclasm.
Today, we shatter God’s image, destroy every reference to Him in the public sphere, destroy every image of Him we can find in the culture. Put another way, we rape the public sphere, we watch women get raped, then we insist they rape themselves because rape is an inalienable right found in the shadowy penumbra of the Constitution itself. More than a right: abortion/rape is a duty required to maintain the iconoclastic culture.
The choice is before us: we can be Deathocrats, whether Rockefeller Republicans, Clinton disciples or libertarian lurkers. Or we can oppose the iconoclastic heresy and fight for life. But we must choose a side. One thing is sure: as long as we tolerate abortion, we are all inexorably become a nation of rapists.