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July 18, 2012

The Western Wall at an anti-abortion monument? Good intentions, bad visual

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/the_western_wall_at_an_anti-abortion_monument_good_intentions_bad_visual_39/

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In a case of using questionable means to achieve a noble end, pro-life pastors and activists in Kansas are planning to incorporate a full-size replica of the Western Wall in their proposed International Pro-Life Memorial and National Life Center. The wall will have 60 crosses in front of it, each one representing one million dead babies. The organizers have said that they want to include the wall because it is a symbol of Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, and they believe that another holocaust is taking place in the nation’s abortion clinics. While I sympathize with the organizers’ intent, they are misappropriating a powerful Jewish symbol that has nothing to do with abortion or the Holocaust to make their point.

As a Mormon, I agree that abortion is a great moral evil. The LDS Church considers abortion a serious sin, and it can be grounds for excommunication. However, the church does recognize that exceptions can be made in certain cases (e.g., when the mother’s life is threatened) after prayerful consideration, and it does not consider abortion to be murder. Moreover, it is possible for Mormons who have participated in abortions to repent and obtain forgiveness.

Notwithstanding my support for the organizers’ goals, I object to the Jewish theme of part of the proposed memorial, which my wife and I will definitely visit after it is dedicated. The Western (Wailing) Wall is Judaism’s holiest site. The placement of 60 crosses in front of the wall could be offensive to many Jews, for whom the cross represents additional Jewish suffering during centuries of Christian pogroms and persecution. In addition, while the wall is a symbol of Jewish suffering, it is not normally associated with the Holocaust, which happened 2,000 years after the wall’s construction. If the good pastors want to link the killing of babies to the Holocaust, it would be more accurate to include a gas chamber in the monument. 
   
Here is where I must tread softly. I was 100% on board with the abortion-as-modern-Holocaust argument until I went to Auschwitz a few years ago. I can’t explain why exactly, but for me there is a difference between the herding of living, breathing human beings into gas chambers and the killing of babies in utero. There certainly are parallels – for example, in both cases some people decide that others’ lives are expendable. This is especially true of viable, third-trimester babies. I get the pastors’ Holocaust argument, and admire their desire to promote the sanctity of all innocent life. That said, when you’re standing in a gas chamber at Auschwitz, something about their reasoning falls flat.
   
Of course, many Jews have also objected to the inclusion of the Wailing Wall, which one national pro-abortion Jewish organization has called “an outrageous affront to the Jewish people.” Truth be told, nothing that the pastors have proposed is nearly as “outrageous” as support for the killing of babies by people who claim to have Jewish values. Jewish law and tradition do not support the killing of the unborn in most cases, and there is nothing Jewish about being pro-abortion. On this issue the pastors are much more in tune with traditional Judaism than liberal Jews are.

This is a project that my wife and I would like to donate to if it gets off the ground, and I wish the pastors much success with fundraising and other activities. However, I do hope that they will reconsider their inclusion of the Western Wall.

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