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.