New York Times columnist Nick Kristof made a bold historic leap in his most recent column in which he more or less pens an ode to a “Southern Christian Abortion Provider.”
Kristof, who previous wrote that he is not a particularly religious Christian, decided to ignore 2000 years of history in order to praise a child killer as near Christlike. Kristof wrote
If that seems incongruous, let’s remember that conservative Christianity’s ferocious opposition to abortion is relatively new in historical terms.
The Bible does not explicitly discuss abortion, and there’s no evidence that Christians traditionally believed that life begins at conception. St. Thomas Aquinas, the father of much of Catholic theology, believed that abortion was murder only after God imbued fetuses with a soul, at 40 days or more after conception.
This is demonstrably not true. It is not true going all the way back to when the gospel accounts themselves were written. The gospel account spends a good bit of time on Mary’s conception. Why? Because that is when the holy spirit entered her body. In fact, a belief that existed within the early church carried over from Judaism at the time was that a prophet died on the same day he was conceived.
Tertullian, one of the most famous Christian apologists of the early church, carried that belief over to give justification to Christmas falling on December 25th. Tertullian set out determining Jesus’s date of death, which he placed on March 25th, which meant Jesus was also conceived on March 25th. Therefore, nine months later, it was okay to commemorate Christ’s birth on the same day as a pagan holiday. To be clear, though, the early church put more emphasis on the death of Christ, not his birth.
Gregory of Nyssa, a famous early church leader in the monastic movement, believed life began at conception. So too did other church leaders. The argument over the indwelling of soul came later, but was never, ever confused with when life actually began.
Likewise, during the years of Roman persecution, one of the grievances the Romans had against early Christians was that they treated life as sacred. Romans would leave unwanted babies in the city dump only to see Christians rescue and raise them. Pregnant women were given great deference by the early church. The Christian treatment of life raised the hackles of Romans.
Yes, it is true that American evangelical Christians in the 1960 were not particularly good on life issues, but the Catholic and Orthodox churches has been consistent for 2000 years. Church history before 100 AD put emphasis on conception as a starting point for life.
If Kristof wants to commend a baby killer as Christian, he has that right. But he has no right to rewrite history to do it.