I'm a recent college graduate who is re-engaging with my home church where I came of age spiritually throughout my teenage years. Coming from a liberal culture in the Boston Public Schools, I attended Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts institution, and really wrestled with spirituality, ethics and politics. I believe we ought to protect life in all forms, but I am frustrated at how Evangelicals have engaged in politics with a holier-than-thou attitude and a non-negotiable approach to complex public policy issues.
It's been difficult trying to articulate a Biblical view of justice, compassion and equality (therefore endorsing some "liberal" agenda items) and not be dismissed by fellow Christians as "not serious enough about faith." The assumed norm is that a Christian should have a clear conviction on life ethics and marriage and family values, and when political support for a candidate who is pro-choice – that is deemed to be an unchristian and immoral choice. This seemingly unequivocal support for pro-life candidates and the GOP is only matched by a stubborn suspicion of liberal candidates and movements which advocate for moral values such as creation care, economic stewardship, equality, peace-making and justice – all of which are prominent moral issues in the Bible. I personally believe that this type of support is encouraged by the assumption that Christians ought to stand up for what’s right while the secular society is doomed – which is an incomplete and divisive view of civic engagement. Moreover, the reality that life-ethics is such a vital issue adds to the self-righteousness of Christians that are for it. However, this is often just a proxy for conservative agenda to maintain the status quo of unfettered spending (government and individuals), free-market fundamentalism, and worst of all, not addressing the problem Christians are trying to tackle in the first place. Voting pro-life thus becomes the easy choice for Christians because it ultimately asks very little for the Christian in terms of civic engagement and in return rewards him or her with the satisfaction of standing for the truth. Why wrestle with justice, inequality, gender and sexuality in a pluralistic society when a Christian can start and end political engagement with the ballot and the picket signs? When the battle is focused on verbally attacking pro-choicers, harassing abortion clinicians, and fanning the flames of culture wars (of sexual ethics, class, and race) – it diminishes the opportunity for Christians to step in as agents of compassion, affirmation and effectiveness. This then results in extreme pro-choicers and other secularists filling the vacuum with inconsistent life-ethics and removing moral and spiritual dimension in such vital choices – leaving pregnant women with little middle-ground alternatives.
After all, public discourse is important, but uncivil debates do not serve women who are facing the decision to terminate to sustain pregnancy. Christians should be as scandalized by the daily murders via abortion as daily struggles which women face and the larger culture and narrative of gender roles, sexual ethics, social accountabilities, family, and class. Unfortunately, these conversations are quickly deemed as socialist or liberal and therefore unwelcomed in Evangelical religious discourse. A dynamic which I think shows that Evangelicals are “single-issue” voters with an underlying materialistic and individualistic agenda. I think, therefore, voting pro-life feels good, a Christian feels good to know he/she is on God’s side, but are slow to examine the causes of high-abortion rates (abortion is not always just a convenient choice), slow to lead a lifestyle of service and sacrifice (think about how frugal and generous habits can affect the community, and make room for adoption, counsel or service for women and families), and slow to see the humanity in the “other side”, the victims and those who deserve reaching out to and working with to reduce the number of abortions. Lastly, I’d like to point out that the GOP and conservatives in the political class recently have courted the Evangelical vote quite effectively, but in fact have betrayed our trust not just by acting with arrogance, exceptionalism and alienation of opponents, but also simply by being ineffective and unapologetic – which shows in the Bush Administration’s recent cutbacks of contraceptives in Africa: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/09/opinion/09kristof.html?em
If Christians can start walking humbly in this issue, God also has a host of issues He invites us to be co-workers with him on – to steward nature, to administer justice, to feed the hungry and care for the imprisoned, the sick and oppressed.
Samuel Tsoiworldview@gmail.comOctober 2008
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