Monday, November 1, 2010

Pro-Life Christians and the Mid-Term Elections [Scott]

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.

13 comments:

  1. Very good answer to the first question! immensely helpful.

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  2. I completely agree with you about not supporting politicians who think it's okay to kill unborn babies. But it sounds like you're saying that a pre-born American baby's life is of more value than an Iraqi or Afghani or Pakistani child's. Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed by American forces in those countries in an undeclared, unconstitutional, and unnecessary war. Unmanned drones operated from 7,000 miles away by a joy stick are being used to indiscriminately bomb Pakistani villages. How can you say that this is any less murder than abortion? I am grieved that so many Christians say that they are pro-life but see nothing wrong with supporting our government's slaughter of innocents abroad. This is schizophrenic and unbiblical.

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  3. This post is well thought-out, but is largely based on the fallacious notion that there is a party that is actually pro-life, rather than the actuality that one party puts this issue in its platform for political expediency, and then "each [candidate] does what is right in his own eyes".

    I, personally, mostly support candidates within this expedient party, but I can no longer convince myself that abortion (or the lack thereof) has any relevance to party affiliation.

    Frankly, I think that to say that "at the legislative level, political parties matter more than individuals" is very cynical. And this comes from a guy who barely sees the point in voting anymore.

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  4. settingrushfires,
    You blow lots of smoke but provide little substance.

    First, your argument attacks a strawman on two counts. We do not say an unborn human has more value than born humans. We say that all humans have an equal right to life. Moreover, pro-life advocates do not claim that it is always wrong to take human life. We say it's always wrong to take human life without justification, and we believe elective abortion does just that while war may do it, but not necessarily so. In other words, war is a contingent evil; elective abortion is an absolute one.

    Second, you present lots of unsupported claims. You assert the war against terror is unjust, but present no argument to defend such a claim. You also claim thousands of innocent civilians have been killed (as happens in all wars) but present no argument as to why, in this case, that in itself makes this war unjust. You also claim the war is unconstitutional and unnecessary, yet, again, provide no argument for those claims. You also claim our military personnel are deliberately immoral, using, as you say, "joysticks" to indiscriminately bomb Pakistani villages. Oh? How do you know this?

    Before you slam pro-lifers for their alleged inconsistencies, perhaps you should devote your attention to writing a more carefully argued piece. That's always better than being a flamethrower.

    Oh, you may also want to review this post:
    http://prolifetraining.com/FiveMinute9.asp

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  5. Dear SK, if you go to my blog, you can read lots of information that backs up what I say. I wasn't intending to write an essay in my comment. Also, I get my information from a wide array of sources, not just the mainstream media, unlike the vast majority of conservative Christians. At any rate, my point is that murder is murder, and murder is wrong.

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  6. Settingbrushfires:

    Your assertions here (which do not constitute an argument, as Scott has pointed out) are unconvincing to say the least, and for the reasons Scott gives. But what really undermines your case is saying things like "unmanned drones ... are being used to indiscriminately bomb Pakistani villages."

    That, sir, is an outrageous and unjustified claim to make. Indiscriminately? If you have ever had even the slightest connection to the military you would know how ludicrous that statement is. Our military personel operate under the most strict rules of engagement (ROE) you could ever imagine. They are regularly placed in harm's way, and regularly endure casualties as a result -- precisely BECAUSE they discriminate so carefully about where their weapons are deployed.

    The narrative you are parroting with that statement is offensive to me personally, but, more importantly to the men and women who place themselves at risk because they adhere to ROE that FAVOR THE ENEMY they are fighting. I would never be so naive as to say that innocent civilians are never harmed. But if and when they are, it is accidental. It is NEVER indiscriminate. And it is never because they have been directly and intentionally targeted as is the case with an unborn fetus who is aborted.

    The fact that you attempt to equate the two is irresponsible.

    You can try to make the case (which you have NOT done so far) for your point of view here anytime, but do not attempt to do so by disparaging the motives and character of those who make your way of life possible, please.

    Bob

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  7. Brendt,
    It's not cynical to say parties matter more than individuals. At the legislative level, it's reality. ro-life Dems are no good to us whatsoever. Remember Bart Stupak and Bob Casey? They are a spineless bunch. But even more important, they are enablers of evil, even if they hadn't caved to Pelosi and Reid. Remember, each of these so-called pro-life democrats voted to make the former Speaker of the House and the latter Majority Leader in the Senate. That vote alone set the legislative agenda and allowed the remaining Dems to promote evil wholesale.

    Let's hope today that the term "pro-life Democrat" dies forever.

    By the way, Dennis Prager has an excellent post today on why voting for parties rather than individuals is key.

    http://townhall.com/columnists/DennisPrager/2010/11/02/why_i_now_vote_party,_not_individual

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  8. Mike,

    Thank you for pointing out that article. I used to have a lot of respect for Mr Prager. But anyone who says that "[t]he Republican Party ... is ... the party of small government" is clearly under the incessant influence of some serious hallucinogens.

    Smaller than what the Democrats want? Sure.

    Small? Prager needs to change his last name to Spicoli.

    Props to you for approaching the issue regarding social issues. But Prager's out of his mind to contend that the Reps are far more desirable than the Dems fiscally.

    I'm pretty doggone conservative - the last Dem I voted for was Jimmy Carter, when my 5th-grade teacher held a straw poll of us students. And today I went out and voted straight party Rep except for one office (for which I voted for the Libertarian candidate).

    And, at the federal level, I'll even grant that party is more important for this election, if for no other reason than to put the brakes on all this "change". But a general principle can not be drawn in reaction to one clown who conned the nation two years ago.

    The best we can hope for is that the Reps (if they take control of Congress) will fight the President simply because he is of a different party, and not because of any actual principles. To think otherwise is to give them way too much credit and (IMHO) flies in the face of Jesus' command to be "wise as serpents".

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  9. Brendt, You didn't read Prager carefully enough. He said the GOP is "now" the party of small goverment (finally), thanks to the antics of Pelosi, Reid, and Obama. I think he's right. The people going to the polls today will demand that, or the GOP is toast. I think they'll have to conform to the wishes of the voters.

    Cudos to you on two fronts. First, thanks for voting straight GOP today. Second, I agree we needed to do that in order to stop the Obama agenda.

    Best,
    Mike

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  10. I caught and understood the "now" and "finally". I just don't believe it for a second.

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  11. I want to begin by saying I am completely against abortion. I would never do anything to knowingly support the murder or unjust taking of anyone's life. However, I don't think voting for a party or individual is as direct as supporting abortion, murder, or the taking of an innocent life.

    One thing I agree with you about is that no party is perfect. Where I might disagree with you is that I don't think the issues are as finite as you put it. Politics are much more complex than simply one issue.

    Q1) Would you also suggest that Pastors spend time informing their congregation on the evils of Capitalism and the economic theft of the American people? It seems that the politic of our day is so corrupt, a pastor wouldn't be able to confront all the evils involved and still teach the fundamentals of God's Word.

    Q2) We've had a republican president and I think we're worse off because of it. We've been in the majority and we've suffered for it. I don't think much would change even if every political office was held by the GOP. My point, everything we see is a reaction. We may be ahead now and force our agenda down the throat of the governing authority (i.e. We the people) but during the next election there will be another swing to the left.

    Q3) I've already mentioned that there are other issues I consider are important to understand. I don't think there is an absolute formula for choosing a political candidate. I think the issue is a little more complex than you might present it. I'm not saying it's not an issue, but I think the issue is much more complex.

    Q4) I believe abortion is a murder. I don't just think that it's 'a bad idea.' I know it is wrong. However, I don't think that legislation is the best way of abolishing it. I'm not suggesting we abandon legislation, but I think that there might be more affective manners in having an affect on this grave evil. Perhaps if we were to reach into the pockets of people that support these views we might be able to see a change in the moral fabric of America and effectively influence the governing authority (i.e.We the People).

    Q5) Not everyone who voted for Obama was as ignorant of the issues as you propose. Though I did not vote for him, choosing a candidate is much more complex than just one issue. I believe that Bush committed some grave errors and Obama is just the reaction to those evils, as the Tea Party is a reaction to Obama. etc. It's a political tug of war and nobody is winning.

    My thoughts. I don't agree with the notion that anyone who votes for a democrat is weak or immature. I also don't understand how you can be so confident to judge another man's servant based on who they vote for.

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  12. Q3) I've already mentioned that there are other issues I consider are important to understand. I don't think there is an absolute formula for choosing a political candidate. I think the issue is a little more complex than you might present it. I'm not saying it's not an issue, but I think the issue is much more complex.

    Q4) I believe abortion is a murder. I don't just think that it's 'a bad idea.' I know it is wrong. However, I don't think that legislation is the best way of abolishing it. I'm not suggesting we abandon legislation, but I think that there might be more affective manners in having an affect on this grave evil. Perhaps if we were to reach into the pockets of people that support these views we might be able to see a change in the moral fabric of America and effectively influence the governing authority (i.e.We the People).

    Q5) Not everyone who voted for Obama was as ignorant of the issues as you propose. Though I did not vote for him, choosing a candidate is much more complex than just one issue. I believe that Bush committed some grave errors and Obama is just the reaction to those evils, as the Tea Party is a reaction to Obama. etc. It's a political tug of war and nobody is winning.

    My thoughts. I don't agree with the notion that anyone who votes for a democrat is weak or immature. I also don't understand how you can be so confident to judge another man's servant based on who they vote for.

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  13. Worthy,

    1) Why should I believe that capitalism is evil? You present no argument for this; you merely assert it. True, capitalism is not perfect, but no economic system is. Thus, we must take the best option available to us given what we have to work with. What system is better? Socialism? If so, you need to argue for that. Taking a cheap shot at capitalism won't do. Moreover, capitalism creates wealth and employs the poor. Why is that a bad thing? Is it bad simply because some misuse their wealth to exploit others? That exploitation sometimes occurs is a given, but on balance, is that enough to declare the whole free market system evil? Do you really think socialistic nations don’t exploit the poor? You'll have to do better than merely make an assertion. Here's a suggestion. Pick up Jay Wesley Richard's book "Why Capitalism is the Solution and not the Problem" and try interacting with his evidence before you take cheap shots at the very system that made America great and allowed you the freedom to comment on this post.

    2) You assert that we are worse off for having Republican Presidents. Really? How so? Again, you present no argument for this, just an unsupported assertion. So why should I believe it? You really think a health care bill that allows funding for abortion and trillions more in fiscal debt (since Obama took over) is no different than a GOP Prez who would restrain those things? Give me a break.

    3) You say my formula is too simplistic for choosing a candidate, but yet again, you simply assert this without saying why. Okay, what is your formula? And why is it better than mine? I need an argument for your claims. And be prepared to explain how anything could be more important than upholding the fundamental premise that our nation was founded on, namely, that all humans have value in virtue of the kind of thing they are, creatures endowed by the Creator with certain natural rights. One political party denies that. The other, more or less affirms it. What could be more important than that?

    4) You say restricting abortion is not the best way to stop it. Oh? Why not? Suppose our government allowed men to beat their wives. Instead of outlawing that brutal behavior, would it be better to provide federally funded counseling for men? What exactly do you propose as an alternative while we allow unborn humans to be slaughtered wholesale? Again, I’m all ears to hear your specific proposal, along with your reasons for thinking it’s better than providing unborn humans with legal protection.

    5) You say we need to consider more than one issue when choosing a candidate. Yes, there are many issues, but not all issues are morally equivalent. As I mentioned in the post, if a candidate had great foreign and superb economic policies, but wanted to keep it legal for men to beat their wives, should we vote for him? Thoughtful Christians give differing weight to the more important moral issues of their day. You wrongly assume all these issues have equal moral weight. If you think that’s the case, fine. But you’ll need to argue for it.

    Finally, you assert that I’m wrong to say that voting for Democrats indicates a flaw in one’s moral reasoning. Okay, why am I wrong to think that? Suppose it is 1860 and your friends support a political party sworn to uphold the rights of slave owners. If your friends—professing Christians all (we’ll assume)—supported that party, would you be okay with that? Would you consider them mature Christians or would you think them somehow flawed in their alleged Christian worldview?

    I sincerely hope you’ll say the latter.

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