Abortion in Russia

I think that in the West, abortion may be curbed or come to an end not through religious pressure directly, but more through overt concern for the collapse of the population. Having children will become a civic duty again, rather than killing them. We are not at that point yet at our population continues to climb, but that point will come, perhaps by the end of my own life. In Russia however, that point has arrived. Witness this news story:

Russia’s influential Orthodox Church and members of its parliament are working together to push legislation that would restrict abortions. The legislation – promoted Monday by the head of the parliamentary committee on families, women and children – would ban free abortions at government-run clinics. Russia has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, while the number of abortions is among the highest in the world.

This is of serious concern for Russia as it fights to stem a steep population decline. Committee leader Yelena Mizulina said she wants to see public debate on abortions before the legislation is submitted to parliament. Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin said the goal is to “live in a Russia without abortions.”

No Sacred Space

Writing in the London Review of Books, Keith Thomas says of sacred space and the Church:

All these practices presuppose that divinity is immanent in the world, but in a localized way. The demarcation and protection of holy spaces becomes one of the means by which religious institutions assert their claim to supernatural authority. It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that the first Christians should have rejected the whole notion of sacred space. Whereas the Greek and Roman world had been full of holy places, the early Christians were encouraged to see themselves, not buildings or sanctuaries, as the temple of the living God (II Corinthians 6.16). For them, God was ubiquitous, rather than located in some particular spot. Only in the fourth century did Christians begin to construct their own sacred topography. The driving force as the cult of the martyrs and the building of urban churches to contain their relics. It set in motion a long process by which Catholic Christianity would construct a new geography of the sacred.

This same glorification of space still exists in Protestant circles with regard to Jerusalem, the “Holy City” which is thought of as somehow closer to God than Ames, Iowa or anywhere else. The fact is that all the land is now sacred.

The Impact of Bin Laden

One thing that has always struck me about Osama Bin Laden and the entire crew of 9/11 hijackers is how such a small group could alter world history. We like to tell ourselves that one man can change the world, but almost all the time, that is not true. Even in this case, I suppose we could talk about societal forces, trends, conflicts within modernity, and so on. But at the end of the day, about 20-40 main people managed to attack us and that slaughter led to two wars, massive upheavals in society, billions or trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost or maimed.

While most Americans can’t be bothered enough by their religious commitments to get up and go to church on Sunday, Bin Laden took his religion seriously. As Thomas Fleming just wrote, “He sacrificed everything, wealth, social position, reputation, and ultimately his life for the religion in which he believed. Deluded by the evil commandments of a false prophet, he arranged the murder of people he had never met in order to retaliate against a government that oppressed his co-religionists.”

Perhaps it is easier for a small group of people to influence the world for evil, rather than for good. In most cases, it seems like efforts for good occur on a small scale, barely noticeable over time, but producing great long-range results. My hope is that Bin Laden’s attacks on us will in turn open up the entire Muslim world to the spread of the Gospel over time. Certainly, Muslim forces have experienced nothing except defeat, from Chechnya to Iraq.