George A. Sprecace M.D., J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New London, P.C.

Point and Counterpoint: Abortion and Alternatives - Article 25, for Sunday, March 25, 2007

As announced several weeks ago, this sequence of articles explores the same ethical issues of life and death from the perspective of other major Religions.  The next two articles present in general the views of Protestantism, specifically in the words of Rev. Dr. Robert H. Bartlett, an American Baptist Minister for 36 years and a hospital chaplain for 12 years.  Rev. Bartlett first presents his view of an ethical life that informs his more specific views, to be offered next week. 

“By way of introduction, let me say that I cannot speak for all Baptists because we are not all under the same structure.  While all Baptists may adhere to certain tenets, for example Baptism by immersion and the priesthood of the believer, Southern Baptists are more evangelical while we are more Faith communities, similar to Congregationalists.  And we all have liberal as well as conservative wings.  Having said that, let me share with you three words which sustain our spiritual journey: “freedom of choice”. 

I did not make an affirmation of my Faith, by choice, until I became an adolescent.  I entered the Christian ministry after having served in the U.S. Navy during World War ll.  I have been a follower of Jesus Christ for many years, and cannot divorce my philosophy of ethics from Him. 

Jesus was truly a “man for all seasons”: He had compassion for the rejects of society.  A good example would be the woman at the well in Samaria who was an adulteress, much like Mary Magdalene.  He raised the social standing of both women after they had made their confession of Faith.  He befriended Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus.  He invited His disciples to leave their occupations to follow Him; but ultimately it was their choice.  No judgment, no condemnation; only “I want to help you”.  

As Jesus came to the end of His ministry on this earth, He had a few words to say that are pertinent for all of us regarding a personal code of ethics: “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed Me; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me…As you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25). 

In the next article, I will apply this philosophy of life to some of the pressing ethical beginning -and -end of life issues of the day.


(The following is the continuation and conclusion of Rev. Robert Bartlett’s offering.) 

There is an old story told of three members of the clergy holding their monthly get-together, and the question came up regarding “When does life begin?”  The clergy represented three faiths, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish.  The Priest made his contribution, saying  “Life commences at conception”.  The Protestant clergyman, not to be outdone, said “Life commences at the union of sperm and ovum”.  The Rabbi thought for a moment and then concluded: “Life commences when you get rid of the dog and the children move out”.  The story is apocryphal and can only make you smile.

My own answer is that human life commences at conception.  Being a parent, I do know that, once a woman has conceived, there is life and before long there is a heartbeat.  Because of that I do not believe in abortion, except where the birth of the child would cause the death of the mother.  It goes without saying that I do not speak for all other Protestants; but I do believe what I have said is pretty well accepted regardless of denomination. 

Contraception is another matter.  My denomination has not taken a position on this topic.  Note again that we are non-hierarchical, non-creeded and non-confessional.  Contraception is left up to the persons who desire to practice it.  However, if I were to look for scriptural support for contraception I “might” be able to find it in the Old Testament in the story of Onan (Genesis 38), wherein Judah, on the death of Judah’s brother, requests to have sex with his brother’s wife.  It says in the narrative that Onan spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went to be with her.  Onanism is a mode of contraception and has been with us from Old Testament days.  My own personal belief is that contraception is a non-issue and should be freely practiced.  I must add that it is unfortunate that, in countries with dense populations and scarcity of food, some method of birth control is not practiced under the auspices of the World Health Organization without influence of the Roman Catholic Church to the contrary.

Let us now move to “end of life issues”.  The fact is, we are all going to die.  The writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes has said: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to be born and a time to die” (3:1-3).  All of life is precious in the eyes of the Creator.  Euthanasia is not an option for most if not all religious people.  Suffering and pain can be controlled under most if not all circumstances by a qualified physician trained in pain management.  To overdose intentionally in order to cause a person to die is murder.  Furthermore, I believe in every person’s right to self-determination regarding end-of-life extraordinary care. 

In order to make timely use of this right, I suggest that you have not only a will, and the location of necessary documents, bank books, deeds, and insurance policies, but also a Living Will (Advanced Directive)  and a Power of Attorney for Health Care”.  Also consider an organ donor card and express your wishes regarding funeral arrangements.  As a Pastoral Minster, I urge you to make your wishes known while you are competent and have the time to do so.  Thank you.    

Rev. Dr. Robert H. Bartlett

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