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June 27, 2008

Only One Way to Be Pro-Life?

Starting the fireworks early . . . after all, they already have in my neighborhood (darn little whippersnappers!)

As many offices are up for election this November, probably the key issue on the minds of Christian voters is abortion and other life issues. No doubt, the way our laws permit and regulate abortion is a critical policy issue.

But I’m just going to throw this out there for discussion: Is there only one right way to be pro-life?

Generally, believers have frowned upon candidates who say they’re personally against abortion but cannot/won’t vote to make it illegal or restrict it severely. The view is that’s not being pro-life at all.

But for the sake of (friendly!) argument, and I’m not saying anything about my own views on this, so don’t make assumptions about why I’m posting this—consider: Is it possible to be pro-life while not focusing on legislative answers to the problem?

After all, we can pass all the anti-abortion and pro-life bills we want. But if the hearts and minds of the public are not changed, what exactly is accomplished by those pro-life laws? After all, even if Roe were overturned, it would still be up to each individual state to decide the issue, and doubtless some would keep it legal to some extent, allowing people to still choose abortion.

Choice would always be there. But if the people’s hearts are changed so that’s not a “choice” they would ever want to make, the legality of abortion wouldn’t matter, would it? In a way, the theory may go, the market would put it out of business: no demand, no supply, to put it simply.

What do you think? Keep working to pass laws that curb abortion, but work more on changing the cultural mindset? (Take the example of smoking: A growing disdain for the habit came before the restrictions on smoking—the laws trickled down from the culture, rather than the laws creating the culture.) Or put more effort on the laws, while still affecting the cultural mindset?

Is there only one way to be pro-life?

[Note: I pose this question with this past brief article from BreakPoint WorldView in mind. I encourage you to read it before commenting to see the idea behind the question. And again, by posing the question, I am only acting as a moderator for this discussion—so, please, no assumptions about my views, nor attacks on me for raising the issue.]

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Without having read the article...

Is it possible to be pro-life while not focusing on legislative answers to the problem?

...candidates who say they’re personally against abortion but cannot/won’t vote to make it illegal or restrict it severely.

Voting does not mean focusing. All it takes is one legislator to introduce the bill. The rest just vote on it (ultimately).

But if they aren't going to vote the way they believe, then they have no business being in office. Because ultimately every person is guided by what they actually believe, not what they say they believe. Because if they _say_ they are pro-life, but _vote_ (not campaign, not focus, just vote yay or nay) against fundamental pro-life issues when they have the opportunity then something is more important to them that the life of humans. Period.

Michael W. Perry

Simple, do what Jesus did about the petty and relatively harmless legalism of his day: boldly and intelligently destroy the moral credibility of those who champion an evil. Give them no peace until they change their behavior. Don't particularly fret if that isn't accompanied by a change of heart.

Recall segregation and racism. In over three terms in office FDR did essentially nothing about either without harming the adoration liberals still have for him. During the 1950s as a senator, LBJ used his considerable political skills to block Eisenhower's efforts to register more black voters in the South. And as late as 1964, Al Gore's father voted against the Civil Rights acts passed that year.

Does today's Democratic party continue its long tradition of championing slavery and segregation? No, if anything, it's a bit too brutal in behavior the other way, now targeting poor whites for discrimination.

Did their hearts change from evil to good? Did LBJ 'see the light' or the elder Gore become repentant? No, all that changed was the public image of "white only" laws. The party only changed because it had to and in the process it chose a new victim, not-yet-born babies. They changed because the majority of people in the country were no longer willing to protect "white womanhood" by tolerating lynching and they no longer accepted the belief that in any conflict between white and black, the white should always win. Goodness never came to the party. Circumstances forced them to concede that they could no longer get away with the old evil. They moved to a new evil, legalized abortion, linked by their desire to squelch the birthrates of poor blacks.

The same can happen with abortion. But it won't happen until Evangelicals are willing to give up their obsession with niceness and their unwillingness to think or engage in social debates on any terms other than, "bring them to Jesus and he'll change their hearts." Read the Gospels, Jesus did not lie awake at night fretting over the nasty things he said about Pharisees. He enjoyed going toe-to-toe with them, delighting in how upset he made them. He made it clear that following him meant big changes.

When someone does harm only to themselves, patience and tolerance is appropriate. When they are doing harm to others, however, they must be made to stop, willingly if possible, if not by the sheer force of society rejecting them as evil and beyond the pale if they don't. Victims matter more than victimizers.

Will this happen? Maybe not. Deeply embedded in Evangelicalism is a fundamental heresy--the denial of the existence of real evil in this world, evil closely connected with what some people do.

Evil, for Evangelicals, is a petty faux pas, a technically that means you've got to join our Jesus Club. You see it in the often repeated but silly claim made by many preachers that every sin is equivalent to every other, every sinner as bad as every other. Biblically that's nonsense. The Bible is pervaded with statements that detail the difference between sins and between sinners.

Once, for many months, I pondered why Jesus spent so much time beating up on the Pharisees for such petty things. If I'd been troubled by a medical problem for years, I'd be delighted if a physician told me on Friday, "All you need is a simple surgery. Come in Monday, and your troubles are over." I wouldn't yell at him, "What do you mean Monday, why can't you fix it now?" Yet that's precisely what Jesus does with his healings. He doesn't let petty rules about Sabbath-keeping delay him even one day.

In the end, I concluded that, Jesus wasn't teaching us to go ballistic over little things. He was teaching us that whatever evil that's in our power to oppose should be opposed, there is no evil so petty it can be passed over. And of course, the greater the evil, the greater should be our intelligent and well-executed attacks on those who promote and do that evil.

In short , we should, with great intelligence and skill, be treating the champions of legalized abortion, the Obamas the Clintons and the Kennedys, every bit an harshly as Jesus treated the Pharisees of his day. They shouldn't get a moment's peace.

Will their hearts change? Probably not. They'll simply move on the new evils that we'll also have to fight. But that's the nature of life in our troubled world, that's why God has us here. That's why Jesus warned that if we do as he wants we'll be hated.

I might add that this is relevant to an earlier discussion about why men don't care for church. Genuine masculinity values being respected over being liked. If we behave more like Jesus and genuine men and less like a Milquetoast, even our foes will begin to respect us. As is, they regard us, in the immortal words of the Washington Post, as "poorly educated older women." And they are right, that's precisely how we act, weak, inarticulate and obsessed with being liked for our niceness.

For those who'd like to get started with this, I suggest these readings:

1. The Gospels read with kids Sunday School blinders taken off. Look at what Jesus actually does and says, not what Miss Tilly told you in Sunday School when you were seven.

2. E. M. Forester's The Good Shepherd. It tells of a Christian who's captain of a destroyer in WWII, protecting the sheep of his convoy from the wolves in U-boats. It's built around Jesus statement that a good shepherd is willing to die fighting the wolves in order to save the sheep. Evangelicals seem to have forgotten that wolves and sheep exist. They seem incapable of fighting anyone, except maybe in a fit of hysteria.

3. Anything by G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton knew how to engage in intellectual combat, keeping the respect of his foes while reducing to absurdity the 'heresies' they were advancing. He fought with integrity, but he also fought to win. Visit the American Chesterton Society website (Chesterton.org) for a description of his numerous books. Anyone who reads C. S. Lewis should also read Chesterton.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movement that Led to Nazism and World War II.


Clarification for direction of discussion: "change of heart" in the question in the post refers to that of the public, not the lawmakers. That is, creating a culture that values life (by offering alternatives to abortion, by showing the sheer folly and evil that abortion is -- for e.g., the tech advances w/ ultrasound, and with clear, reasoned arguments that show it is wrong -- and other means of changing attitudes toward human life's sanctity). And two, doing so, not to make people like Christians or make the Church "look nicer" -- but in the interest of truly ending abortion (i.e., bringing society to a point where even if abortion's legal, no one wants to take advantage of it because society looks down on it).

So, the question again is about putting more stock in changing public attitude to look down on abortion, not choose it (analogy to smoking) to bring about its end, and less stock in passing laws to curb/end abortion (which could just lead to backlash, going elsewhere for abortion, etc., analogy to Prohibition).

Okay, continue conversation.


I'm not sure overturning Roe would do anything. It would leave abortion laws up to the states, in which case anyone who wanted an abortion in Arizona, where it would probably be made illegal, could just drive over to California, where it would probably be made legal. In other words, total babies killed would not drastically reduce. This is, though, only speculation. While I'm not on board with everything Mike said up there, it seems obvious to me that the best way to fight abortion would be to get creative. Someone should start a chain of clinics to counteract damage done by Planned Parenthood or similar clinics. Educate people about what abortion really is, and attempt to persuade them to see it as an evil, boldly and winsomely.
The other problem with just making abortion illegal is, really, what do you do with the people who get abortions? There will undoubtedly still be abortions even in places where it is made illegal. I know of no other wrong action that has disappeared simply because it is made illegal. People still murder each other, so they'll probably still kill babies. What do we do with them? Do we put them in prison? Anyone who reads this blog should know prison doesn't really do anything other than harden criminals who often just repeat their crimes. Do we just fine them or something?

And Paul, people who refuse to legislate their belief that abortion is wrong are not ignoring their beliefs when legislating. They simply believe that it is not appropriate to criminalize abortion ,and this belief outweighs their belief that abortion is wrong when considering abortion legislation. This is one belief superseeding another, not one belief being irresponsibly ignored. I'm not saying I agree with this way of thinking (I don't), just that you seem to have misrepresented the views of people like Sen. Obama.

Gina Dalfonzo

"Someone should start a chain of clinics to counteract damage done by Planned Parenthood or similar clinics. Educate people about what abortion really is, and attempt to persuade them to see it as an evil, boldly and winsomely."

They're already out there. That's pretty much what crisis pregnancy centers are doing. I guess you could say they're not so much presenting it as an evil as just persuading one mother at a time to choose better options for her baby, but the effect, I think, is the same. There are a lot of unsung heroes doing this work every day, and as you say, Sy, they counteract a lot of damage.


We must do all these things.

But when it comes to voting, to knowingly vote for a pro-abort (or pro any other intrinsic evil) candidate is to be an accessory. It is "Material cooperation with intrinsic evil." Romans 6 says that we have died with Christ to sin and risen with Him to eternal life, we are not to live in sin anymore. To deliberately choose evil over resisting evil is to reject Christ and salvation. It is literally damning.

We know which major candidate is pro-infanticde and promises to over-turn any laws restricting abortion and infanticide in anyway, and that that candidate also promises to enforce the sacrilege of homosexual 'marriage' upon everyone in this country - including the churches.

Unless he repents, whomever you choose to vote for, you cannot vote for him and hope for eternal life - unless you truly repent later (Including of any sin of presumption that you can go a head and choose to sin and counting on repenting later)


Labrialum, It would be really difficult to find a presidential candidate who's agenda and actions exactly line up with the message of Christ. In fact, I think the same passage you quoted kind of defeats your point. If we have risen in Christ, then we clearly have not risen by any power of our own. This is because no person, including politicians (perhaps especially politicians), can overcome sin. Anyone running for office will inevitably make decisions that are counter to the message of Christ by virtue of their human nature. Voting for anyone is voting evil into power precisely because they are human, and not capable of being alive in Christ at all times. We thus, when voting, choose the lesser of two evils, and not the good over the evil. We must ask for guidance and wisdom in this decision. Those of us who choose wrongly will be forgiven if we ask.
That said, another thing to bring up when talking about being pro-life and voting accordingly is the question of whether abortion is the only life issue. For example, 3,000 children world wide die daily of preventable diseases. This is a life issue I would think. And how many hundreds of thousands have died in Iraq now? Capital punishment anyone? There is a broad range of life issues that are not usually discussed by those who pronounce themselves pro-life, and we need to drastically expand the conversation.
And yes, Gina, I'd actually completely forgotten about them. So they clearly are, as you say, unsung heros. We need more people like them. And we also need more churches who are willing to walk with and love women with unwanted pregnancies. If we truely are pro-life, when a girl gets pregnant in our neighborhood, it should be the Christians who are there to support and guide her from day one. As Shane Claiborne is fond of pointing out, if everyone in the church was willing to do what mother Taresa did and tell mothers with unwanted pregnancies, "give me your baby," we would put those abortion clinics out of business.


Well said, Sy.


Sy and CLH,
You are right in saying that no candidate is going to be perfect, but that is no cause for voting for a candidate who openly promotes and promises intrinsic evil.

God does make distinctions in this area.

There -are- more than two political parties in this country. The GOP was formed by the abolitionists who were being ignored by the Whigs. The GOP should take notice of its own history.

The fascists made the trains run on time and got Germany and Italy out of the Great Depression. Did that justify voting for them?

People have forgotten how to think. One of the first things we have to do if we are going to promote the Christian worldview as The Point states, is to teach people how to -think-, and then teach them the first things which our government school system (and most colleges and universities) no longer teach.

Those who choose wrongly will be forgiven, not merely if they ask as you put it, but if they unfeignedly repent. God doesn't grant forgiveness to those who choose to sin presumptively and knowingly choose to never repent of both the sin and the sin of presumption.

As you mention diseases you show the problem I'm talking abuut. Diseases happen as part of this fallen world. They are not deliberate acts by those empowered by government the way abortion and infanticide are. Of course we should fight disease, but you cannot confuse the severity of voting for someone promising to enforce intrinsic evils upon us, with someone who doesn't believe that the Constitution delegates infinite power to the federal government to try to bring about an unachievable utopia all over the Earth. Fighting these diseases is something for the global Church to do, not a regional civil government. Jesus taught on the one hand that we must assist the poor and resist poverty, and also that "the poor you will have with you always." He did not equate that with deliberate and very brutal murder of babies.

As to the crisis pregnancies; that is exactly what Christians -are- doing. This is putting abortionists out of business and the feminist movement is having an outcry that those going into medicine -must- be taught abortion and give abortions regardless of their beliefs, due to the 'shortage' of abortionists.

Let us consider this from the Christian worldview: Human beings are
sinners. Power tends to corrupt. Is it best to put that kind of power in
the hands of a group of people who's only legitimate powers are those
which are specific and delegated, and only in service to the people of a
certain geographic area? Should we give that civil government the power
to go overseas, over all the Earth and establish the kind of command and
control necessary to achieve the utopian vision of a world without
hunger or sickness? Is it really better to try to have even more
invasions and occupations (for that is what it would take) to create a
world-wide empire and police state? Would that -really- help the poor
and the sick as much as personally giving more money to Christian
missions, local churches in the afflicted areas, and Doctors Without
Borders? From the Biblical perspective, it would not; giving that kind
of power to the civil government would be disasterous, and would be a leaning on
the arm of the flesh, rather than doing things God's way. Further, it is
failing to distinguish between the already and the not yet, it is an
attempt to immanentize the eschaton, to establish the kingdom of God on
Earth by military force and human might instead of by God through God's
means and God's times.

Is deliberately murdering babies and the little ones whom Jesus
commanded be let to come unto Him no worse than not specifically
speaking a great deal about using coercive govenrment power to bring aid
to the suffering areas? (in fact, the current administration has done -a
great deal- of such foreign aid, though you don't tend to hear about it).
Biblically, the deliberate brutal murder of the little ones, and forcing
Christians to participate or give up helping those in need, and the
forcing upon the Church the sacrilege and blasphemy of homosexual
'marriage' - the equivalent of a black mass(!) are FAR worse than not
using the civil government to help the poor overseas.

Men of good will can disagree with one another on the best way to help
the sick and the poor. They CANNOT disagree about murding babies,
infants and the sick or infirm, or about the sacrilege and blasphemy of
homosexual 'marriage.'

Men of good will can disagree on what is the wisest and best course of action to take, but they CANNOT disagree on the difference between right and wrong.


labrialumn, I think there is an inconsistancy in your above post. It seems that you deplore the use of government power to combat poverty or disease, but not to combat abortion and homosexual marriage. Why is this? Abortion and homosexual marriage are also the result of a fallen world, like poverty and disease. They are all deplorable in the eyes of God. By what criteria do we decide which life issues (homosexuality is hardly a life issue, but you brought it up) we are to use government force to effect? This is, I think, where the reevaluation of our approach to life issues needs to take place.
As for your comments about forgiveness being withheld to those who do not correctly atone through the asking of forgiveness for all the sins they have committed, I cannot see this point as you do. I trust that I have been forgiven through the cross, and nothing I could ever do. I ruthlessly search for the sins in my life to extract them from me, but not because my salvation depends on it. I do it rather because of the love and thankfullness I feel for the God who has made himself known to me through the cross and resurrection of Jesus. But to say that I need to ask forgiveness for every single sin I ever commit lest In ot be forgiven is to say that Jesus' sacrifice for me wasn't enough. I need to sufficiently add my own religious uprightness to his forgiveness in order to be truely forgiven. This is why, when voting, I can rest assured that, if I choose incorrectly, I will be forgiven, and God's kingdom will continue to come despite my mistake.

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