Monday, January 29, 2007

A word about one issue voting. (Part 1) [Jay]

This phrase came up in an earlier post, and I have a knee jerk reaction to reading it. I have heard some Christian leaders over the years lament the one issue voting of pro-lifers because they believe that I (using first person singular for clarity) ignore other issues and it makes me easy prey for the Republican party to take advantage of me during elections. They do not have to work for my vote, so the theory goes, and now they are free to victimize the poor and down trodden with my vote in their pocket because of abortion. Abortion is at best an intractable problem and no politician is going to change it by virtue of winning an election. (House, Senate, Presidency, take your pick) Furthermore, this subject is upsetting and divisive. It only serves to confirm the worst notions about the political agenda of evangelicals and undermines political and social peace.

Let us move the problem to another time and see if the accusation makes sense. It is 1858 Frederick Douglass and I are sitting at a table and discussing politics, specifically the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. Frederick Douglass is all worked up about slavery. This is understandable because he was a former slave that lived under the terrible yoke of human bondage and suffered the destruction of his family, attempted forced illiteracy, and the humiliation of public beatings. I am fairly certain that he is overlooking the devastating effects civil unrest will have on the poor in the South and northern immigrants. Also, there must be other issues worth consideration. It is terrible that a whole race of human beings is daily being dehumanized and murdered, but we run the risk of marginalizing our political sway if we align ourselves too strongly with antislavery and abolition politicians. Consider the cost, I tell him, of fueling the emotion of an issue that breeds such rancor. Your views are too extreme and you are increasingly isolating yourself from the mainstream. What would he say?

I can tell you what he would say. I can tell you because he said it. He said that God taught that all men and women by virtue of what they were, human beings, ought to be free from the violence and indignity of slavery. He said that liberty and slavery were as opposite as light and darkness and could not dwell in the same nation forever. Finally, he said one of my favorite quotes of all time. "If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning."

Even if Stephen Douglas was an otherwise fine politician, his views on slavery and the humanity of the "Negro," as he put it, were ample reason not to want him in office representing a constituency. Do you seriously ask Frederick Douglas to set aside those things and look at a broader picture?

I think those that ask pro-lifers to do the same miss the point. I am convinced that the unborn are innocent human beings. I can not overlook the willingness of a candidate to support the killing of innocent human beings, even if that candidate is someone I might otherwise endorse. Other issues are important, but at the core of this issue is the fate of millions of lives. You either believe that we are sanctioning the killing of over 1,000,000 innocent human beings every year through surgical abortion alone or you do not. But if you do, it is insane that you would place the candidate’s position on debt relief in Africa or the welfare system on the same level. They are not equally urgent issues. The other issues involve complex bureaucratic processes and alternative political and social theories. This issue is easier. We just have to stop killing these human beings.

Frederick Douglass did have the power of being a living counter argument to the caricature of American slaves that was put forth by the anti-abolition forces. That is what I intend to explore more fully in part 2 of this post.


  1. Very nice Jay. Looking forward to part 2.

  2. I like your post, Jay. It was question-begging for pro-slavery voters to say Douglas would make life better for the republic when the very question of WHO was part of that republic--that is, did it or did it not include the Black man--was itself under dispute.

    The same can be said of Hillary Clinton, Obama, and Gulliani.

  3. SK,

    I sent a letter to Mr. Obama after he visited Saddle Back to ask him to clarify 2 points for me .

    1 - As an avowed Christian who claims there is honest disagreement over the morality of abortion amongst believers, what is his rational defense of the practice of abortion?

    2 - As one who appeals to the obligation of action in the face of absolute morality (the impact on human lives of the AIDS pandemic obligates those who can help to actually help), on what basis does he seperate the American unborn from those rights of protection and assistance? Meaning if life is precious in Africa, why not here in the US with the unborn? He is not relativist in his argument and believes in the power of the "ought," so why does the unborn fall outside of his "ought?"

    I did not honeslty expect this letter to get past his aides or to get a response, but I sleep better at night once I get this stuff off of my chest.



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