Around the Shoehorn (I)

Politically active Christians are notorious for linking their political positions with biblical foundations. I mean, talk about taking cover on safe ground. Try “I hold this position because the Bible says so” – the ultimate safety blanket.

The clear question is this: how often do Biblical truths inform our political thought, and how often does our political thought twist our inferences about Biblical truths that we will then use as justification? The depths of that question are far too much for me to plumb, particularly in a blog such as this. What I can do, quite easily, is take pot shots at cases that are clearly in the second category (grasping at moral/religious justifications for our political preferences).

There are a number of prominent Christians who tend to vote for pro-choice candidates. It appears that they do so given a preference for social justice policies (most of the pro-choice politicians in question are democrats, you see). Now, I have plenty of thoughts about what social justice ought to look like, but that’s for another post. What I’m more interested with here is how these folks respond when critics point out the obvious conflict between Christian beliefs based on Biblical truths and any policy that allows infanticide as acceptable in any way, shape, or form.

The right answer, it would seem, is an exasperated mea culpa. Something along the lines of “I have no justification, whatsoever for supporting this position; but I don’t want to vote for the other guy.” But, we rarely get that. I’d even settle for “I have no justification, whatsoever for supporting this position; but I prefer this candidate’s policies on other issues which are more important to my mind than life for the pre-born.” At least now we could have a reasoned debate as to where various issues ought to rank in importance.

What does not appear to be the right answer is what we most often hear. (Note, I’m not, at this time, going to throw any of these Christians under the bus by name. They are not mine to judge. This is an open debate, and they are free to join anonymously if any are watching.) We often hear a direct justification: “well, this candidate may be pro-choice, which I oppose, but he is committed to reducing the number of abortions.” Or, we will sometimes get the standard canard: “abortion is an economic issue, and this candidates economic policies will help reduce the number of abortions.” These are flawed on a number of fronts.

First, let’s take the simple empiricism approach. Yes, reducing abortions is good. But, what if abortions do NOT decrease under a leader’s tenure? Will our friends now vote against said candidate the next time around? (I doubt it, since their decision to vote for the candidate really wasn’t based on this issue in the first place.) Or, what if the economic policies of said leader only cause greater despair? Will our friends now vote against these policies the next time around? If the argument is based on utilitarianism, then it must be open to feedback. If not, then it is based on belief and is indifferent to actual results (which is often the case with such beliefs). [As a side note, we live in one of the most prosperous eras of all history – using economic despair as any type of justification for problems is really a bit much.]

There is a more sinister issue here though. While I think there are plenty of uses for such a utilitarian viewpoint, it cannot dominate our theology. For instance, it seems perfectly acceptable to say “policy A is causing exactly the opposite of our goal, so we should abandon it” (even if we don’t fully grasp why the policy is failing). It is another thing altogether to say “policy B seems to point in the direction of a desired outcome even though the methodology runs afoul of good theology – so we’ll support it anyway.” This would open us up to a great number of untenable justifications.

For instance, the slave owners of the antebellum south were fairly convinced that slavery was a perfectly justifiable policy. After all, they were rescuing these slaves from unChristian parts of the world and converting them – thereby growing the kingdom of God. If a few get oppressed, beaten, or even killed in the process, what is that in the face of so great a good? This now seems like the  craziest of all lines of reasoning – perhaps the last 150 years have sobered our minds.

The notion that we can blithely support pro-choice candidates who “want to reduce” abortions is no different. (Though, it is perhaps less quantifiable.) We would not, with our modern sensibilities, accept the argument from the late-1930s German Christian that the oppression of the Jews was an economic problem, and that Hitler wanted to fix the economy first, which would actually reduce the number of Jews he planned to kill. This is madness! But this is where we are.

These are children, not choices. Innocent children created in God’s image are being slaughtered. Those who govern us want such insanity to be “safe, legal, and rare”. It is never safe, it should not be legal, and it is anything but rare.

The next time you’re at the ballot box, give it a think. As we see from our examples, history will judge with great clarity. And that would be enough, were history our Judge … but He has even greater clarity. So please, no rationalizations. If you want to vote a certain way, stake a claim on issues that are “more important” to you – and defend that position. But don’t try to brush aside so great an evil. It just won’t hold.

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3 Responses to Around the Shoehorn (I)

  1. suga ditch says:

    i agree with your reasoning. one problem i have is watching opportunists jump in races for public office that seem to be complete idiots. i appreciate and respect different viewpoints if they can be argued intelligently. both parties seem to play on the least common denominator way to often, reducing each side to caricatures and stereotypes. the media fans emotional responses from it’s viewers that reinforce ignorance and prejudice. when serving the public, leaders owe it to them to be able to articulate each position instead of yelling loudly. even worse are leaders that desire a certain moral or ethical code for society that they themselves are not even trying to live up to (but that’s another topic altogether).

    • nomasir says:

      Opportunists in politics? Unheard of. Politicians play politics. It’s what they do. Demonizing the other is so much easier to do, and honestly a bit more effective at getting votes. To that end, we always have to see the angles.

      I tell my pro-social-justice african-american friends (who tend to vote democrat) that the last thing the democrats want is to actually solve all the problems they claim to want to solve. It would ruin their most dependable voting bloc. To be sure, there are principled democrats who believe that government interventionism in social ills is the right solution. While I may disagree, I respect somebody who operates on principle. But the principled folks don’t seem to rise as high in politics as the opportunists.

      The same goes for republicans. There may be well intentioned republicans who actually want pro-life policies (there may be quite a few). But, as a party, they must recognize that implementing pro-life policies (e.g., criminalize abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger) would eliminate one of their biggest draws. Ardent pro-lifers would NEVER consider voting democrat, for this issue and this issue alone. (Heck, ardent pro-lifers will often not vote republican either if the candidate has any form of mild pro-choice stance.) However, if defense-of-life were the law of the land, these folks would be much more open to vote democrat. Bad politics, if you’re a republican.

      The whole thing points to a breakdown in the system. Politicians can lie-cheat-and-steal to get into office, playing on emotions the whole way. Then, in office, policies are pretty much set by the organized special interests; who are much more concerned with, well, their special interests. The media goes right along and we get a big ole mess. We need term limits, constitutional limits on power, and a host of other things. But, I’m off topic.

      As for moral and ethical codes. (funny, I originally mistyped that as “moral and ethical coeds” … but that IS a totally different topic.) My position is that government ought to defend rights and support full exercise of freedom elsewhere. Many of those moral and ethical codes fall into categories of total consent and no violation of rights. Government ought to stay out of such things. The inherent problem is that “freedom for me has to mean freedom for you … even if I don’t like the way you use it”. We haven’t grown up enough as a country to fully grasp that. Maybe we won’t (we may be regressing).

  2. Beverly Lynn says:

    Here here! You are more gracious than I. I would have mentioned name(s).

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