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It's not meant to be limiting, but the only justifiable basis for patriotism from a Christian perspective. Just War is based not upon threat to our own lives, but to threats against our neighbors... to be sure, few modern wars could live up to traditional just war ideals--indeed, it may be doubtful that even the last "good war" that most people point to, i.e. WWII, would pass an examination of having been fought as a just war, despite being justified on just war grounds.
I went back and re-read some of my materials tonight when I had a few minutes and confirmed what I thought, which is that the Rabbinic discussions of when life begins, like those of Thomas Aquinas and others, which led them to talk about when the soul enters the child, were heavily influenced by Aristotle, Plato and the Stoics (since none of these groups existed in a vacuum). The perspective you mention is one that is similar to where Aquinas winds up via the thought of Aristotle (the best "science" of the day). At any rate, my understanding is that Judaism has only legitimated abortion in cases where there is a threat to the woman's life... I recall reading that in "Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought" and "20th Century Jewish Thought" though I have neither with me.
Bakke actually has a more extended discussion of the tradition as well. I think the primary thing to remember is that while Christianity and Judaism are separate faiths, they do share a common ethical framework in many ways. It would be wrong, i think, to allow concern over contemporary social and political persuasions to make us reinterpret a history that is well attested, though caution over how some might take things out of context is important. I've added some of Bakke's discussion of specifically Jewish sources below the "more" link above... since I'm away from my books, I have to rely on Google books and my memory, so take it for what it's worth.
I'm at a conference in MS and can't reply at length. I will say that the early Christian beliefs about the sanctity of life can clearly be traced back to Jewish critiques of pagan practice (Molech was not looked on with fondeness), which were extended and popularized by the early Church. At the same time, it's important to remember that Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism do not so much have a parent-child relationship, as a sibling relationship with 2nd Temple Judaism, and that some of the traditions of Rabbinic Judaism are a development of those earlier practices. contemporary Judaism may best be looked at as an older sibling, who has maintained the original language of the parent, but looking to it as definitive of the tradition, so that if something is a certain way in contemporary or even early Rabbinic Judaism, and different in early Christianity, then it is assumed that Rabbinic Judaism is closer, it isn't always the case.
At any rate, you're right that the primary impetus to ethical discussion in Judaism has been the survival of the Jewish people, and the influence of the frontier. It is, I think, allowing too much of the culture war mentality to enter into the discussion to play down the Jewish critique of such pagan customs. Jews may have privileged the life of the mother, but they never (as far as I know) defended the exposure of children, widespread abortion, infanticide or the power of life and death exercised (in theory) by a Roman Pater Familias. nonetheless, I think your caution may be warranted for those who might've made some assumptions about the culture war from the opposite direction.
I think there are some places to look for some interesting inter-relation however, some of which Bakke highlights, between contemporary Christianity and Judaism, and the ways each arrived where they are. It's also important to note that Christianity isn't uniform about when life begins. The western church has been much more nuanced about that, using the science of the day to talk abotu ensoulment etc... whereas the Eastern church has avoided those questions. It would be interested to look at the history of those questions and interpretations in Rabbinic Judaism and to look at the multiplicity of thoughts that likely existed in 2nd Temple Judaism. I'll have to look into that more later. If you find anything that relates to that, please post it or share it. Thanks for the conversation.
I think this situation plays itself out in a self-defeating way in many congregations. During my brief time ministering in congregations I have heard repeated laments that there are so few youth or "young" adults (and in most Episcopal Churches, "young" seems to refer to anyone below 50... which makes sense given the increasing average age of many of our small congregations).
Despite these laments however, there is a common theme. When you get folks to talk through their desires, what comes out is that they actually want the young adults to come in and take over roles in what is already going on--in other words, many of these folks, who have been very faithful in their involvement and we should not forget that--want to "retire" and pass on the hard work to other, younger members. The problem is two-fold: they don't recognize that most younger folks have no interest in continuing things as they have set them up. Many of our Church organizations are simply unattractive to younger adults and they don't have the time or inclination to allow themselves to be drafted into doing the grunt work for things they don't find inspiring or useful.
When new new leadership emerges despite these challenges there is often a struggle for control as the long-time members don't understand why things are changing and try to re-exert control. In the end, many of the younger members are disgusted by the behavior and simply leave. When this happens, the organization or congregation are back where they started, except that they're a year or two closer to the death of the organization as they continue in terminal decline.
The problem with that scenerio--and I don't doubt that it may come to pass--is that the folks who try to flee the corporate world will likely be assuming there are positions available in the church that will pay a living wage. Those positions are drying up, and will continue to do so. Trends indicate that the two types of congregations that are becoming more prevalent are large congregations of over 1000 members, and small congregations of under 100. The reasons for this are complex, but what is happening is not that small congregations are disappearing, but rather that mid-size congregations (often consiered large in the Episcopal landscape) are being pulled in two as people seek more intimacy and gravitate toward smaller congregations, as they simultaneously burn themselves out trying to offer the programming that people expect, which is offered at a much higher level in very large congregations.
It's actually rather ironic that I have found myself in successive full-time ministry positions since I recognized this trend was occurring before I went to seminary and even during my discernment process indicated my expectation and desire to be bi-vocational. Of course, I envisioned myself teaching at a university and serving a congregation, and those academic jobs--at least in the liberal arts--are drying up as well. So I'm reevaluating what other field I may be involved in, but I don't imagine that I will spend my entire ministry employed full-time by the church. Indeed, I shudder to think about it because I think the pay-for-ministry model warps the pastoral relationship. But that's another discussion.
I also noticed that, in the area right around us where the flooding hit, the older houses were build up at least a half level--often more--and seemed to escape the worst damage, while newer homes were build on low crawl-spaces or slabs and, of course, received worse damage. It makes me wonder what happened that folks decided they no longer needed to build up...
At any rate, it was very sad seeing folks getting their things out of their homes on Monday and today...
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