Thursday, January 24, 2013

When A Pro-Life Pastor Votes Pro-Choice [SK]

On Election Day 2012, a sizable minority of self-described “evangelicals” voted for a presidential candidate dedicated to the proposition that an entire class of human beings can be set aside to be killed. 

One of them was my former college pastor, a man who profoundly impacted me for good during my early 20s. Before chastising him, keep in mind that he personally raised funds to help the local crisis pregnancy center. So did his church. Yet he publicly voiced his support for the most pro-abortion president to date. Here’s a portion of what he posted on Election Day:
I am often asked how I can support our President and vote for him when his party platform supports abortion rights and gay marriage. Here is my reply. I do not agree with everything in either party's platform, but I weigh the overall stance toward people that is found in those platforms. While abortion is certainly wrong, I do not believe in single-issue voting. Neither do I see one sin as worse than all the others; to do so strikes me as hypocritical. When the Church attempts to impose its morals on society, it only breeds resentment among unsaved people.
He went on to observe that “Christian” is now synonymous with “judgmental” and that addressing people’s morals before introducing them to Jesus is backwards. “Moral standards are addressed to the Church, not to our neighbors.” He then said that “freedom of choice for behavior (abortion, homosexuality, etc.) isn’t that different from freedom of choice for belief (Mormonism, Scientology, etc.).” The response from a few of his former students was swift and biting, though some agreed. Below is the comment I posted the next day:
Dear Daniel,

Hopefully those questioning you will pause to consider the ministry impact you’ve made on many of us, all of it fruitful. They would do well to engage you through the lens of profound gratitude! I hope my own thoughts are conveyed through that very lens.

First, I’m wondering if you could clear this statement up for me. “While abortion is certainly wrong, I do not believe in single-issue voting. Neither do I see one sin as worse than all the others; to do so strikes me as hypocritical.”

Why do you think abortion is “certainly” wrong?

If your answer is that it unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being (the only reason I see for saying it’s “certainly” wrong), why shouldn’t that be a dominant moral issue at the ballot box? Suppose a head of state has an excellent foreign policy and a good health-care plan, but he and his party are committed to the proposition that men can legally beat their wives. Wouldn’t that be reason enough to reject that party? Of course, you’re right to say that abortion isn’t the only issue any more than slavery was the only issue in 1860 or the treatment of Jews the only issue in 1940. But both were the dominant issues of the day. What’s wrong with Christians giving greater weight to those dominant issues?

Second, I’m unclear what you meant when you said abortion was no worse than other sins. Are you suggesting that dismembering a human fetus is morally equivalent to stealing a pencil? Perhaps you meant that, judicially speaking, all humans—regardless of their specific sins—are equally guilty of rebellion against their Maker. Thus, they equally need a Savior to pay their sins. If so, I agree. But does it follow from this that all sins are morally equivalent in terms of the evil done?

Third, I was unclear about this statement: “When the Church attempts to impose its morals on society, it only breeds resentment among unsaved people.” Is promoting legal protection for unborn humans an example of “imposing” views on society? If so, why should we see it that way? I don’t think pro-life Christians are “imposing” their views any more than abolitionist Christians were imposing theirs or the Reverend King was imposing his. Rather, they’re “proposing” them in hopes their fellow citizens will vote them into law. That’s how a constitutional republic like ours works. We’re not looking to establish a theocracy that we impose on non-Christians, only a more just society for the weakest members of the human family.

Finally, you are right to say that Christians must be gracious in our interactions with non-believers. I grieve thinking about times I’ve fallen short of that standard. Thank you for that important reminder about unduly offending people. The gospel is offensive enough!

Thankfully, we don’t have to choose between standing up for our moral convictions or pointing people to Jesus. We can do both. Last Thursday night, I debated Dr. Malcom Potts, an abortionist, in front of a largely secular audience at U.C. Berkeley. After the event, ten students from the skeptics/atheist club stuck around to converse with me for 75 minutes. They loved it! They thanked me for being an intelligent Christian and for making a case for life based on science and philosophy. True, they didn’t fall on their knees and repent, but I did give them something to think about. To quote my good friend Greg Koukl, don’t worry about closing the deal—put a pebble in their shoe.

With kindest regards and deep gratitude, Scott
There were other concerns with his post. As my friend Dr. Marc Newman points out, can you imagine Dietrich Bonhoeffer writing, “Freedom of choice for behavior (killing Jews or homosexuals, etc.) isn’t that different from freedom of choice for belief (Mormonism, Scientology, etc.)?” No one ever eviscerated me for rejecting or accepting Mormonism. But over a million unborn humans are destroyed each year in the name of abortion-choice.

I grieve that my former pastor supports a party where 90 percent of its current House membership voted against a bill protecting unborn females from sex-selection abortions. He voted for a party that supports forcing religious groups to fund insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs. He voted for a party that says doctors must perform or refer for abortion or go out of business. While he’s worried about Christians forcing their views on others, the party he supports is forcing Christians to comply with abortion mandates or face legal prosecution.

“It is important to note that nearly all moral issues are eventually politicized,” writes Pastor Michael Spencer. “But the fact that moral issues often become hotly contested political issues must not render them off-limits for the Church. Remember, slavery was also once a highly politicized issue and yet love for black brothers and sisters obligated white pastors and the church to boldly condemn the moral crime of slavery and to speak up for those who had no voice.”

Pastors committed to a biblical worldview must reconnect Christian thought and action, and promote a better understanding of what it means to have dual citizenship. Paul used his effectively for the kingdom. I pray that one day my former pastor will, too.


  1. Let's complete that sentence in the title,shall we? When a pro-life pastor votes pro-choice, he forfeits all claim to the "pro-life" title. Moreover, he forfeits all claim to be an authentic pastor. He is "the blind leading the blind".

  2. Restore-DC, I think you leave out another option--namely, pastors who love Jesus, want to promote kingdom values, but who've not thought through their positions. The are morally untutored, not morally bankrupt. In today's relativistic culture, it's a challenge for pastors--like all of us--to remain true to biblical principles.

    I know Daniel, believe him to be a man of character, and trust that one day he will rethink things. When he does, I don't want accusations that he "forfeits all claim to be an authentic pastor" get in the way. That's simply not true of the man.

  3. SK,
    You are the best judge of this Pastor's love for the kingdom. But clearly, he doesn't seem to be a shining example of "transformed by the renewal of your mind." Perhaps more transformed by the removal of this mind? Harsh I know. But not as harsh as the last baby who received the knife.

    Our words to those who proclaim to be followers of Christ must be one of rebuke with the intention of restoration. Otherwise, Paul would advice we have nothing to do with them. Hopefully Daniel will read your blog, accept the rebuke and repent of his ways.


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