Getting into the Word
Cawthorn sparks outrage after using phrase 'earthen vessels' in anti-abortion speech
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) has come under fire after commenting on abortion during a House floor speech Friday, Daily Kos reports.
The 26-year-old pro-Trump congressman — who has a history of inflammatory rhetoric and has been accused of sexually harassing college classmates — began with a thought experiment in which he compared a fetus being aborted to a Polaroid picture being ripped up before it could fully develop.
This analogy, borrowed from anti-abortion activist Seth Gruber, prompted HuffPost writer Sara Boboltz to pen a piece headlined "Madison Cawthorn Thinks Your Pregnancy Is A Polaroid Or A Sunset Or Something."
Cawthorn's next argument sparked even more outrage. "Precious works of our creator, formed and set apart, meet death before they breathe life," he said. "Eternal souls woven into earthen vessels sanctified by almighty God and endowed with the miracle of life are denied their birth." Author, diplomat, and Oxford academic Dr. Jennifer Cassidy tweeted a clip of Cawthorn's remarks, which soon went viral. In her post, Cassidy wrote that Cawthorn had compared American women to earthen vessels.
Several other Twitter users agreed with her interpretation.
This interpretation, however, is difficult to square with context of the biblical passage to which Cawthorn was alluding. He appears to have been quoting 2 Corinthians, an early Christian letter generally attributed to the apostle Paul. In the New King James translation, the passage reads, "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us."
Since Paul includes himself as one of the "earthen vessels," the term cannot refer solely to women. Many biblical scholars view it as a reference to the physical bodies humans possess. With this interpretation in mind, it seems Cawthorn, a vocal evangelical Christian, was using "earthen vessels" to refer not to the mother's body, but to the body of the unborn baby.