Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Love + the Single-Issue Vote

If we say we love God yet hate a brother or sister, we are liars. For if we do not love a fellow believer, whom we have seen, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen. And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love one another. — 1John 4:20-21 TNIV

I know a man who, when he was 80, had a little sick fun at the expense of the interim pastor at his rural Christian and Missionary Alliance church. Meeting the younger man at the door of the sanctuary, he engaged him in a conversation about what happens to infants who die. The pastor assured him that God in his goodness embraces infants who are gone too soon. “So, then,” said the old fellow, “I guess you’d have to say the abortionists are some of the better evangelists,” and left the young man sputtering.

It’s fair to say that old gentleman was feeling his oats when he ambushed his young preacher that day. It’s also fair to say he was feeling a little fed up with people who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.

I have friends who reject most everything John McCain has said and done in this century, but who feel he is nevertheless the only choice for president because his stance on abortion sounds like theirs.

I don’t think it is.

I think, sadly, that Senator McCain and his party today are like the son Jesus talked about who told his father he would go out into the vineyard and work, and then didn’t. And I think in these days Senator Obama and his party are like that man’s brother, who told their father he would not go into the vineyard, but then did go after all.

Consider this fractured (but loving) take on 1 John 4:20-21
If we say we love the unborn yet hate the born, we are liars. For if we do not love a living child, whom we have seen, we cannot love an unborn child, whom we have not seen. And God has given us this command: Those who love the unborn must also love the born.

I don’t trivialize abortion. I feel sick about all that abortion signifies in my culture. But I don’t trust people who claim they love the unborn while showering contempt on the born.

And then there's this from Ecclesiastes:
A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man—even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place? — Ecclesiastes 6.3-6 TNIV

In a pinch, I come down on the side of the God of mercy, whom my old mentor, his young preacher and I all agree embraces infants who are gone too soon. To the rest of us:

If you say you love the unborn, fund full health care for the born.

If you say you love the unborn, fund education from early childhood through college or trade school for the born.

If you say you love the unborn, see to it that any parent willing to work full time can earn a living wage.

If you say you love the unborn, make the world a much better place for the born.

If you say you love the unborn, prove it by loving the born.


Daniel King said...

The abortion issue has been discussed between myself and close friends this political season. I have friends who are on both extremes of the "debate" and I agree with many things they both say (even contradicting myself at times).

I think you make a great point. We should not allow this one issue to become our political compass. It is far more disturbing to me that there are some who base their vote on this issue alone yet have no moral qualms about war.

The best critique I have ever read about abortion was written in an essay by DFW called, Tense Present.

"In this reviewer's opinion, the only really coherent position on the abortion issue is one that is both Pro-Life andPro-Choice.

Argument: As of 4 March 1999, the question of defining human life in utero is hopelessly vexed. That is, given our best present medical and philosophical understandings of what makes something not just a living organism but a person, there is no way to establish at just what point during gestation a fertilized ovum becomes a human being. This conundrum, together with the basically inarguable soundness of the principle "When in irresolvable doubt about whether something is a human being or not, it is better not to kill it," appears to me to require any reasonable American to be Pro-Life. At the same time, however, the principle "When in irresolvable doubt about something, I have neither the legal nor the moral right to tell another person what to do about it, especially if that person feels that s/he is not in doubt" is an unassailable part of the Democratic pact we Americans all make with one another, a pact in which each adult citizen gets to be an autonomous moral agent; and this principle appears to me to require any reasonable American to be Pro-Choice.

This reviewer is thus, as a private citizen and an autonomous agent, both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. It is not an easy or comfortable position to maintain. Every time someone I know decides to terminate a pregnancy, I am required to believe simultaneously that she is doing the wrong thing and that she has every right to do it. Plus, of course, I have both to believe that a Pro-Life + Pro-Choice stance is the only really coherent one and to restrain myself from trying to force that position on other people whose ideological or religions convictions seem (to me) to override reason and yield a (in my opinion) wacko dogmatic position. This restraint has to be maintained even when somebody's (to me) wacko dogmatic position appears (to me) to reject the very Democratic tolerance that is keeping me from trying to force my position on him/her; it requires me not to press or argue or retaliate even when somebody calls me Satan's Minion or Just Another Shithead Male, which forbearance represents the really outer and tooth-grinding limits of my own personal Democratic Spirit."

Heidi Renee said...

beautiful Jim. I just watched a wonderful video discussion on the Matthew 25 Network between Martin Sheen & another man (I don't remember his name) that gave much life to this for me too.

renee altson said...

thank you.

Nate said...

Jim, I was linked to this post by a friend.

While I can agree with some of the individual sentences in your post, taken as a whole I find your logic severely lax. Stated another way, your position seems to be "YOU don't have the moral ground to vote against the murder of innocent babies by the millions each year UNLESS YOU are also committed to funding full healthcare, education, and guaranteed wages for all people."

That is absolute poppycock. By no stretch of the imagination would a reasonable, moral person - and particularly a follower of Christ - say the same thing about the Jewish Holocaust: "you don't have the moral ground to oppose the Nazi genocide of the Jews unless you are also committed to paying for their healthcare, education, and employment."

The issues of education, healthcare, the economy, the war(s), the poor - these are all important issues that should have Christ-followers at their forefronts!

However, the wholesale murder of millions of babies stands apart - it is in a different category, a category that is unambiguously evil and, therefore, in opposition to the will of God. Any and every follower of Christ is commanded, by God, to oppose evil and to support righteousness... where the two are "gray" there is room for debate.

Black Pete said...

Jim, thank you for a sane word amid such insanity.

jim hancock said...

Nate, I’m saying our struggle is not against flesh and blood and this is not a one-front war.

I’m not persuaded of the equivalence between Nazi genocide and legal abortion — from where I’m viewing the world, abortion is ambiguously evil — somewhat in spirit of the David Foster Wallace passage Daniel included in his comment above.

I know that’s beyond the pale for you because you are convinced abortion is murder. I know we don’t share the same certainty about what God does in the womb. I see how that leads you to question my faith, my intellectual rigor, or both.

What does not seem to be in dispute between us is that life is endlessly unsafe for the born. Going directly to the extremes, every day there are 27,000 excess deaths (as they say in the morbidity tables) — a number that is less obscene than the 42,000 daily excess deaths when I started paying attention to this in 1983 but still horrific at the granular level of 27,000 families grieving when we had the means to prevent the death of their child, parent, sibling...

That’s nearly 10 million unnecessary deaths a year...down from somewhere north of 15 million 25 years ago...not down nearly enough.

Likewise, the incidence of abortion has been reduced dramatically from its statistical highs and that is good news in a qualified way. I think we would agree that zero abortions would be about right because zero would reflect the shalom of God radiating from our households into the communities where we are committed to serving the common good. Zero would signify that the kingdom of God had broken out among us.

Or would it?

Even if I concede the possibility that Senator McCain has become a true believer in the cause (and I would say the proof of the pudding is in the eating) he remains, as far as I can tell, uncommitted to addressing the conditions in which abortion and much else flourishes.

I’m asking my friends, you among them, to look at a bigger picture of engagement and prevention that does not conflate everything into this one thing.

Amanda Bartell said...

Warning: The following link contains very graphic pictures of babies that have been aborted.

To me seeing these pictures only strengthens my resolve to fight for life. Life of the born AND the unborn. It does not need to be either or. Also, being pro-life does not nor has it ever meant to me that I hate those who are pro choice. It doesn't mean that I value the life of an unborn child over the life of one that has been born. It simply means that I value LIFE.

Liz said...

just think about what you are saying here: let's substitute "newborn" for "unborn"....how would you feel if someone suggested killing newborns who are almost certain to have a doomed life??? I doubt you would see that as an appropriate way to deal with issues. This is a way to deflect off and minimize the seriousness of murdering a baby in its mother's womb. The irony is that "christian liberals" would rather fight for the life of a convicted rapist/pedophile, whatever have you than for the life of an innocent baby that did not ask to be conceived.