As election day nears, the frenzy grows. It's difficult to find "normal commercials" on television anymore, and I'm prepared to go on a Facebook hiatus as it has become a cavalcade of spin for their candidates and causes.
Anyone who reads my blog understands that I've held a lifelong fascination with politics. I remember election night in 1984 as Ronald Reagan's blue wave [yes, back then the colors of the states were switched] ushered in his re-election. I can name my congressional representatives [both national and state] and know the names of all of our city council people. For the longest time I assumed my life would be engulfed in the political realm but I guess that wasn't God's plan for my life.
That said, I do not make endorsements as that is the lot I chose in life with my vocation as a minister. As our church has yet to get our 501c3 status, I could legally come out in the pulpit and tell our people who to vote for and face no repercussions from the IRS. But I have family, friends, and parishioners on both sides of the aisle and I prefer to wield my influence in more productive ways.
Still, I feel compelled before our election to discuss what is perhaps the most divisive issue in this country: abortion. I realize that many of you who read this blog are incredibly passionate about this issue, but I will proceed nonetheless, keeping comments open on this post, pleading for maturity in dialogue about a controversial issue. And I realize that there might very well be women reading this who have had an abortion and my heart goes out to you. This is not meant to be a treatise of judgement of the past. Rather, it is meant to project to the future and the implications of this issue on this and generations to come.
ABORTION IS WRONG
Yes, abortion is wrong. I can say this confidently as a man of faith because it is part of my Christian heritage. The church arrived at this conclusion by virtue of systematics [i.e., these is no "Thou Shalt Not Abort" verse in the Bible, but we can construct a solid theology that states as much through a careful examination of the Scriptures]. This position also matches early church tradition. Throughout the Roman world, in the days of the early church, children were seen as less than human. Therefore, if a child was born with any kind of defect [including the child's sex], then there were usually hillsides or dumps were they could be deposited. Christians, however, were notorious for going to these places, rescuing the babies, and adopting them as their own. That's why many conclude that Paul's diatribe in Ephesians 1:5 ["In love (God) predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ"] does not reference Calvinistic theology, but rather this practice of saving discarded children. Despite times when the church hasn't lived up to it, a theology of life is present in Christian theology throughout history.
I should note that one could also show that abortion is wrong without using a Judeo-Christian ethic. We can cite Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative and propose that abortion creates a moral law that creates a negative universal precedent. Abortion is also a rejection of Thomas Jefferson's great plea for humanity's unalienable rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Humans have the freedom to do what they want in this world so long as it does not violate the freedoms of others.* The right of "choice," when it comes to abortion, is a violation of the rights of the unborn. While at one time, the polemic against this was to a scientific discussion concerning when life begins, this is hardly a matter of contention anymore because science has shown us that there is life at contention. So even people who care nothing about faith and the Bible should be concerned about this issue.**
And now to the issue at hand: there are many Christians [Protestant and Catholic, orthodox and liberal] who have grown tired of the issue of abortion and its dominance in the American political arena. These folks are looking to either reframe the abortion arguments or dismiss the topic altogether. Some of the statements that have emerged as a result of this seem to be consistent with a theology of life, but I would argue that they are actually red herrings that need to be confronted. Here are some of the ones I hear the most lately:
1. If you were really about life, you wouldn't support the death penalty. This statement can be easily deconstructed through a Biblical hermeneutic by contrasting the two lives in question: that of a baby and a murderer. I really have no desire to do so now, but I will opine that if you cannot see the difference between the termination of the life of a condemned killer to that of an unborn child then you need to reevaluate your ethical priorities. Also, many people use a similar line concerning the war in Iraq and the civilian casualties there. Whether or not the conflict can be declared a "just war" is debatable, but it still doesn't deny the fact that abortion is the willful termination of innocent life and such a comparison is "apples to oranges."
2. We don't need to be one-issue voters. The point here is that if you reject a candidate based on merely only one issue then you are acting irresponsibly. This is a naive statement. First, every one one of us has a hierarchy of issues that determines our voting preferences. For some, it's simple party affiliation. For others it's the war, or the economy, or abortion. So even though we claim to be even-keeled, we are actually predisposed towards certain issues more than others. Second, what if that "one-issue" was the subtraction of over 40 million people from our society?*** Tell me what other political issues has such a deep impact. There is none. So demeaning those who vote using the abortion stance as their litmus test is a perfectly acceptable practice.
3. We need to concentrate more on the issues that lead to abortion. This is the most persuasive of them all because it's actually true. Americans have been woefully ignorant of the economic/social issues that lead to abortion. Hamilton County, Ohio [the county in which I live] has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the country. Pregnant mothers often feel helpless and need guidance to seek out the many avenues of support that are available to them. But even though there's a long way to go in fixing the situation, this does not entitle a person to end the life of a child— these concepts are not mutually exclusive. I agree that people who wave the banner of life need to explore the many different aspects of it, but that does not negate the tragedy of baby genocide.
It's my opinion that these arguments have emerged because Christians want to feel justified in voting for pro-abortion candidates. But do not deceive yourself into believing that the issue of abortion does not matter. If you are a Christian, it is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest issue. If you are not a Christian, then I would argue that it still matters. When you enter the voting booth, you need to consider the implications of the abortion issue. Try as you may, you cannot ignore that this is still the preeminent issue of our time. It depends our attention and our thoughtful consideration.
For some of you, the preceding thoughts have brought you to the following conclusion: "HA! This is how the Republicans understand the issue of abortion, so you're telling me to vote the G.O.P.!" And to that I would respond, "not really." Just four years ago, all three branches of the federal government were dominated by the Republican Party; this happened for the first time since the Roe Vs. Wade decision in 1973. If there was ever an opportunity for the Republican Party to make a move, this was it. Their response: silence. So even though this has been a political issue that the G.O.P. has embraced, I really wonder if their actions rivaled their words.
Sounds like I'm straddling both sides of the fence here, but I promise I'm not. What I want to urge you to do is not to cop out. Don't opt for the easy excuses I listed above. Explore your electoral options and develop a reasoning behind your decision.
In the end, respect life.
* The most perplexing issue of the Libertarian Party platform is that of abortion. Basically the party passes on the issue, saying government should not be involved in such matters. This has spawned the group Libertarians for Life which argues the very point that I was trying to make here.
** It is interesting that some of the more "liberal" lobbies out there still support abortion rights when it actually harms their constituencies. For instance, feminist rights groups such as the N.O.W. think that women's rights is furthered by permitting abortions. But one can assume that half on the aborted pregnancies in America would have resulted in the birth of more women. So the argument appears to be that we're for women who want to terminate women. Additionally, the vast amount of selective abortions in China are done to girl babies.
Another group that has supported abortion rights is the NAACP. Ironically, abortion is the highest killer among African Americans.
*** Although the exact number of abortions since the judgement of Roe vs. Wade in 1973 is placed as high as 50 million, 40 million is likely a safe estimate.