The views which follow are my own. Life Training Institute does not endorse candidates or parties.
When asked last week if Jesus is a Republican or Democrat, I replied: "Of course not, any more than He's a Presbyterian, Baptist, or charismatic. But it doesn't follow from this that one political party isn't more in line with biblical truth than another, or that believers can justify empowering a party that sanctions the wholesale killing of unborn human beings."
Below are five questions I think Christian leaders should consider heading into the 2010 Mid-term Elections. Remember, at the legislative level, political parties matter more than individuals. That is, the majority party, not the individual member of Congress, sets the legislative agenda and determines which bills get a hearing.
True, no political party is perfect, but that does not relieve Christians of their duty to limit evil and promote the good insofar as possible given current political realities. Put simply, that means voting (at the legislative level) for the party that, though imperfect, will best uphold the fundamental truth that all humans regardless of size, development, location, and dependency have an equal right to life in virtue of the kind of thing they are.
With that background in mind, here are my five questions:
Question #1: Should pastors lovingly challenge church members who actively support a political party that supports elective abortion?
Pastors should challenge believers and non-believers with the truth that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. And that truth should impact how we vote.
Should pastors be okay with church members supporting a party committed to elective abortion? That depends. Are we talking about new Christians or longstanding church members? For newcomers, their greatest need—and ours, for that matter—is continual immersion in the gospel. Greg Koukl puts it well: Jesus first catches his fish then he cleans them. In other words, we shouldn’t expect perfection in new converts (any more than we expect it in ourselves), but as they grow in grace, we should expect they’ll begin the process of getting in line with a biblical worldview. That worldview affirms that all humans have value because they bear the image of their maker—thus, the shedding of innocent blood is strictly forbidden. Longstanding church members should live out that biblical view in every area of their lives, including in their political affiliations. If they don’t, something is wrong with their alleged biblical worldview.
Suppose, for example, that it’s 1860 and fifty percent of professing Christians in your church are members of a political party dedicated to the proposition that an entire class of human beings can be enslaved or killed to meet the needs of the White race. If you were a pastor during that time, would this be okay? It might be excusable for new converts just coming to grips with a Christian worldview, but mature Christians?
Something is desperately wrong with my preaching if established church members are comfortable empowering a political party which asserts as one of its foundational principles the right to kill unborn humans. Again, no party is perfect, but on the question of fundamental human value, some parties are more in line with biblical truth than others. What’s wrong with Christian leaders saying that?
Question #2: What role does the gospel play in my political affiliations?
It’s hard for me to see how anyone who truly understands the biblical doctrines of justification and adoption could support a party that insists on the legal right to elective abortion. The gospel is the good news that while we were in total rebellion against God, he sent Jesus Christ to atone for our sins. As a result, we are declared justified in virtue of Christ’s righteousness not our own. But the news gets even better. Not only are we justified, we are also adopted into God’s family. That’s right—instead of destroying us for our rebellion, the Father adopts us in Christ! How can anyone who understands that truth say it’s okay to support a political party committed to destroying human beings simply because they are in the way of something we want? Being “in the way” pales in comparison to being in open rebellion against my creator, which is exactly where I was before God justified and adopted me. For the believer, that truth alone should rule out enabling a political party that promotes elective abortion wholesale.
Question #3: Liberal Christians insist that conservatives are focusing too narrowly on abortion to the exclusion of other important issues. Are pro-life Christians guilty of single issue voting?
Of course abortion isn’t the only issue—anymore than the treatment of slaves wasn’t the only issue in the 1850’s or the treatment of Jews the only issue in the 1940s. But both were the dominant issues of their day. Thoughtful Christians attribute different importance to different issues, and give greater weight to fundamental moral questions. For example, if a man running for president told us that men had a right to beat their wives, most people would see that as reason enough to reject him, despite his expertise on foreign policy or economic reforms. The foundational principle of our republic is that all humans are equal in their fundamental dignity. What issue could be more important than that?
Question #4: Some Christians say that while they don’t think abortion is a good idea, legislation is not the best way to prevent it. They contend that pro-lifers would be far more effective spending their energies “elsewhere.”
Oh? Where might that be? But there are bigger problems with this argument. For starters, our critics almost never say why abortion is not a good idea. I mean, if abortion doesn’t take the life of a defenseless human, why be opposed at all? But if it does take the life of a human without justification, why is legislating against it a bad idea? Again, we’re almost never given an answer. Moreover, pro-lifers are not out to merely “prevent” elective abortion. We want to make it unthinkable the way that killing toddlers is unthinkable to anyone with a functioning conscience. In other words, merely reducing abortion isn't necessarily pro-life. As Frank Beckwith points out, a society that has fewer abortions, but protects the legal killing of unborn humans, would still be deeply immoral. Imagine a nineteenth-century lawmaker who said that slavery was a bad idea, but owning slaves should remain legal. If those in power adopted his thinking, would this be a good society? Again, it seems critics who argue that abortion is not a good idea, but that legislating against it is mistaken, assume the unborn are not human, like slaves are. But that’s the question that must be resolved before anything else.
Question #5: In 2008, some “pro-life” advocates voted for a presidential candidate who supports elective abortion as a fundamental right. Many insisted their vote was a true pro-life vote. How do you explain this?
These well-intentioned pro-lifers wrongly assume moral equivalency by lumping abortion, war, poverty, and other issues into a single stew. They say things like “ending war is a pro-life issue just like ending abortion.” Really? To be worse than abortion, how bad would an unjust war have to be? I’m really surprised how many Catholic voters get this wrong. Catholic church teaching clearly distinguishes between moral absolutes and prudential judgments. In other words, the decision to wage war is not intrinsically evil, though it must be morally justified and prudently considered. But the deliberate killing of unborn human beings is an absolute evil and laws permitting it are scandalous. Just prior to the 2008 election, I asked one Catholic nun the following question: “Sister, with all due respect, am I right to conclude that you are willing to overlook a presidential candidate's pledge to uphold an absolute evil because he might help us avoid a contingent one?” Her reply: “I just know war is worse right now.” To which I said: “To be worse than abortion, wouldn’t an unjust war have to kill more innocent people than elective abortion does each year? The war in Iraq has resulted in 100,000 deaths total (all sides) while abortion kills 1.2 million each year! In short, the evil of abortion is far worse.
Note: This post was edited from the original version at 11:00 a.m.