The boundaries of the evangelical tribe are political

David Sessions offers some interesting thoughts on the Rev. Billy Graham’s unusual decision to aggressively enter a partisan political dispute — “Why Moderate Billy Graham Supports North Carolina Gay Marriage Ban“:

But what appears to be a departure for Graham actually illustrates an ongoing dilemma for evangelical Christians: the fact that they’ve realized they need to change their tone while remaining determined to hold on to the old message. There have been signs of progress: young evangelicals tend to despise the legacy of the past few decades, and have begun spreading out across the political spectrum. Pseudoscientific views about the earth’s origins, climate change, and homosexuality — all of which have played outsize roles in evangelical political activism — are gradually losing their grip. But all of these developments were driven less by intellectual growth than by bad luck: the Bush administration deeply discredited the alliance between evangelicals and the GOP, and the rapid mainstream acceptance of homosexuality meant conservative Christians were increasingly seen as cruel and bigoted. To the extent conservative evangelical leaders have backed away from issues like gay marriage, it’s had more to do with desperation at this situation than enlightenment on the issue.

I think this is all accurate and helpful. Sessions helpfully distinguishes between Graham’s moderate tone and the immoderate political positions he and other such moderates have long moderately supported.

But in the next paragraph, Sessions stumbles:

That leaves them in the awkward position of downplaying political positions they still take: Focus on the Family, for example, is still just as opposed to gay marriage as it was before its image makeover, though you’ll never see anything about it on their main organization’s website. There has been little pressure from within the movement for those backing away from old culture-war narratives to substantively adjust course.

The problem here is that little phrase “from within the movement.”

The movement in question here is American evangelical Christianity — a stream or strain or tradition so notoriously hard to define that “movement” is about as precise a term as the category will allow. But by inviting us to consider the idea of “pressure from within the movement,” as opposed to pressure from outside of it, Sessions raises the difficult question of where that within/without boundary lies.

And what Sessions misses, I think, is the way that boundary is now being defined exclusively in terms of “old culture-war narratives.”

Sessions seems to accept the pretense that the so-called “gatekeepers” of American evangelicalism care about any other definition — some set of theological or cultural distinctives other than the set of mandatory culture-war stances they now exist primarily to re-enforce.

Let me be as clear as possible: For these gatekeepers, “evangelical” is not mainly a religious category. It is a political category. Or, more precisely, it is a tribal category employing political “stances” as tribal symbols. It’s not about revivalism or biblicism or pietism. It is, above all else, about opposition to homosexuality and opposition to legal abortion. Period.

What does “evangelical” mean? In America, in 2012, it means this: A white Protestant who opposes abortion and homosexuality.

If you are a white Protestant opposed to abortion and homosexuality, then there is very little that you can say or do that will cause the gatekeepers of evangelicalism to regard you as not really a member of the tribe. But no matter how orthodox your faith, no matter how revivalistic, biblicistic or pietistic your expression of that faith, if you do not oppose abortion and homosexuality, the gatekeepers will insist you are an illegitimate outsider.

This boundary is policed with great ferocity. Those who transgress it will be swiftly evicted. Everyone in the tribe knows this, which explains what Sessions says next:

Virtually no major evangelical figures or institutions have switched sides on the issue — including the liberal ones, who tend to keep their actual views quiet or vague. Evangelical gay-marriage supporters’ reluctance to take a stand, however well-intentioned it may be, allows conservative figures and groups to adopt conciliatory language and a veneer of moderation while keeping the same old content.

It’s not just public figures and donor-dependent institutions “who tend to keep their actual views quiet or vague.” More than a third of white evangelicals are pro-choice.

Sit down in a pew in any evangelical church. Look at the person to your left. Now look at the person to your right. Odds are that one of you believes something that the gatekeepers of this congregation regard as anathema, forbidden and unthinkable. That person, whichever one of you it is, is there in that pew because she or he is an evangelical Christian — because her or his story is part of the story of that religious movement and tradition, because her or his faith is an evangelical faith. Because this is where she or he belongs.

But if that person were to speak up, to “take a stand” as Sessions says, then she or he would no longer be allowed to belong where she or he belongs. So they keep quiet or vague.

This also accounts for why Sessions is able to think of “virtually no major evangelical figures” who support gay marriage. I know plenty of evangelicals who do, and who are outspoken advocates for marriage equality. I suppose none of them would count as “major figures,” but the more important point here is that the fact of their advocacy for marriage equality means that they no longer count as evangelicals.

As soon as someone begins to exert “pressure from within the movement,” that person is quickly redefined as being no longer within the movement. As soon as someone proclaims that they are an “evangelical gay-marriage supporter,” the tribal gatekeepers close ranks and loudly proclaim that this person is “not really an evangelical” at all.

Consider, for example, Jay Bakker — who as the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker surely counts as a “major evangelical figure.” Jay took a clear stand on behalf of LGBT people and was swiftly reclassified as “post-evangelical.” He’s no longer accepted as part of the tribe.

As long as we accept the gatekeepers’ tribal and political redefinition of “evangelical,” then there can never be such a thing as “evangelical gay-marriage supporters” because that redefinition of evangelical precludes support for same-sex marriage.

As long as we pretend the gatekeepers’ tribal definition is the only valid one, then anti-gay and anti-abortion is what “evangelical” means.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NR2MMC4EJXJWJMLH6IF457XL64 Alex B

    Home > Progressive Christian Channel > slacktivist

    Need I say more? (for those who are unaware, Patheos has a separate “Evangelical Channel”)

  • Kubricks_Rube

    This boundary is policed with great ferocity. Those who transgress it will be swiftly evicted.

    As Ric Grennell just learned, this goes as much for the Republican tribe as for the evangelical tribe, especially as the latter is given free rein to define the former- and being vague or quiet didn’t help him either. I’m not shedding any tears for the guy, but it’s got to be hard to get any traction with a group that doesn’t just fight to keep you from getting married, but fights to keep you from even having a job.

  • caryjamesbond

    So then, one of two possibilities. 

    Either A) Liberal Christians simply accept that just as total depravity is part of being a Calvinist, being opposed to gay marriage and abortion is part of being an evangelical, and call themselves something else.  

    Or B) you engage in a long, bitter and destructive battle to reclaim a word, which, even if you win, will just lead to the losers simple calling THEMSELVES something else. 

    If you win, if you successfully change the dialogue so that “Evangelical” means “liberal, multi-cultural supporter of LGBT and women’s rights,” then all those old angry white men aren’t suddenly gonna go “Well, shit, I guess that’s what we are now.”  They’re just gonna become “fundamentalist” or “original” or “true” or “Premillenial” or some other meaningless designation.

     There will be just as many of them as before (I assume you aren’t planning on killing them) they’ll be just as, if not more, pissed off, and since you spent a lot of time and energy fighting them, their persecution complex will have a little bit of ACTUAL persecution to feed on. 

    The only winning move is not to play.

  • TheFaithfulStone

     

    I assume you aren’t planning on killing them

    No, God will take care of that bit himself.

    Truth never triumphs—its opponents just die out – Max Planck

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    “What does “evangelical” mean? In America, in 2012, it means this: A white Protestant who opposes abortion and homosexuality.”

    My problem with this definition: it’s not clear at all you have to be a *protestant* to be accepted as an evangelical, as long as you oppose abortion and homosexuality. Consider Rick Santorum, and how he was fully accepted as One Of Us by the evangelicals, as far as I can tell.

    caryjamesbond: This may well be a worthwhile point to be making to Fred, but since I’m not an evangelical or a Christian, I’m not sure I see a problem with the scenario you outline.  I’d just be happy with an outcome where the secular media no longer believes that anti-LGBT activists speak for “Christians” or “the religious”, since anti-LGBT activists benefit from being able to position themselves in the media this way and that hurts me.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

     If you win, if you successfully change the dialogue so that
    “Evangelical” means “liberal, multi-cultural supporter of LGBT and
    women’s rights,” then all those old angry white men aren’t suddenly
    gonna go “Well, shit, I guess that’s what we are now.”

    I’m not sure that’s what Fred and those like him are actually fighting for, though.  It seems more accurate to say that Fred and those like him are fighting for a definition of evangelical that is based on something other than where one stands on the issues of abortion, homosexuality, climate change, or evolution.”  I’ve certainly not seen anywhere where Fred has suggested that James Dobson shouldn’t be allowed to call himself an evangelical because he opposes marriage equality, for example.

  • Mary Kaye

    People here have talked about the Big Four–abortion, homosexuality, climate change, evolution–but this article seems to reduce it to a Big Two.  If a prominent Evangelical spoke out about evolution or climate change, what do you think would happen?  Has it happened?

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    The only winning move is not to play.

    I think, perhaps, you have managed to miss the point rather spectacularly. Either that, or you are adamantly siding with the “old angry white men” and their false dichotomy.

    The options are not “Evangelical means anti-gay, anti-abortion” or “Evangelical means pro-LGBT/women’s rights”.

    Fred’s argument is that “Evangelical” means something bigger, something more, that allows for a conscionable stand against abortion but that also allows individuals to support women’s bodily autonomy. Fred’s argument is that “Evangelical” ought to have a meaning that is detatched from these political issues, apart from it. There is no “Jewish” position on abortion or women’s rights, for example; it is a faith whose definitions are both broad and stand apart from politics.

  • mud man

    Evangelical used to mean something like Bebbington’s “Four Pillars”: roughly new birth, Biblical/scriptural, active in outreach, crucicentric. Lots of people are there either from tradition or inclination or both. If a minority can establish two more pillars, then many will (do!) go along rather than give up what they have already … not so many will change to accept some completely new label, even if we could agree on what that label might be. That is, if you don’t play, you *loose*. 

    So I say we should defend Evangelicalism against the “gatekeepers” with their mandatory statements of faith and other additions to God’s Word. As for me and my house, I believe in Scripture, never in Creeds. …Easy for me to say, to be sure, an independent member of an independent church way out here in the bushes. Just goes to show, some things should not be done for Money.

  • Tonio

     That leads to the question of what “evangelical” should mean from a theological or doctrinal standpoint. Any definition will have some impact on the political positions taken by members, even though they would still have the responsibility of presenting secular arguments for those positions.

    What theology would allow for a conscionable stand against abortion and for women’s bodily autonomy at the same time? Does the former mean the evangelical decides she would never have an abortion? Or does it mean support for laws banning abortions or making them harder to obtain?

  • LL

    You know, there are worse things than to be considered “Progressive” rather than “Evangelical.” 

  • http://atthewelcometable.blogspot.com/ Lori

    “If you win, if you successfully change the dialogue so that ‘Evangelical’ means ‘liberal, multi-cultural supporter of LGBT and women’s rights,’ then all those old angry white men aren’t suddenly gonna go ‘Well, shit, I guess that’s what we are now.’…
    There will be just as many of them as before (I assume you aren’t planning on killing them)”
    Honestly, I think it’s less a matter of winning than waiting.  Because, there won’t be just as many angry old white men as there were before, or at least not the same ones.  This generation of cultural warriors is dying off, and under-40 evangelicals, in my experience, often don’t erect these same boundaries and aren’t as afraid of expressing dissent.
    I’ve said this before, but I think that’s why these old angry white men are coming down so hard.  They see where things are going, and they know that, in particular, it’s going to be impossible to keep anti-gay as one of the defining features of Christianity, even evangelical Christianity.  They’ve made it the hill they’re willing to die on, and they are dying on it.

  • ReverendRef

    I would like to point out that this isn’t only happening in the Evangelical circle — the Episcopal church, and Anglicanism as a whole, are facing the same issues.  In the early to mid 2000′s (that seems odd to say) there were the beginnings of a takeover by the RTA’s (Really True Anglicans) who hijacked the names Anglican and Orthodox.  In the U.S., they also worked to hijack buildings and grounds and steal them away to more “orthodox” sections of the Anglican Communion (namely Uganda, Nigeria and the Southern Cone).

    In the schismatic, puritanical world they have created, RTA orthodoxy means anti-gay (always) and anti-women (sometimes  — if you’re pro-women but anti-gay, that can be overlooked).

    It’s been a long, difficult period for us.  People in the U.S. and Canada have been fighting this battle for awhile.  I think people in England finally woke up and saw what was happening when the schismatics began establishing an active presence in their own backyard.  I’m not sure yet where or how this will all shake out.

    One thing we’ve learned as a group, I hope, is that you cannot play nice with these people.  Concessions and dialogue don’t work because the only thing they’re interested in is complete control and submission of others to their vision of the church.  In response, those of us on the other side are beginning to speak out more forcefully about all of this, and, I think, we are more willing to let them go and shift our focus from trying to keep them in the family to letting them go and focusing on what is important — loving God and loving neighbor.

    We are also becoming more outspoken that Orthodoxy is not defined by who you hate/exclude but by the Creeds.  And we are also beginning to take back the term Anglican by pointing out that it is not defined by a Roman-like curia but by our relationship with Canterbury.

    Of course, others might have their own opinion about it all (Deird, perhaps).  But either way, I console myself with knowledge that it’s a long arc.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    What theology would allow for a conscionable stand against abortion and for women’s bodily autonomy at the same time?

    I’m not sure any theology would allow such a thing.  But wouldn’t it be interesting if people actually started at the theology and worked their way to whatever conclusion it leads them to rather than assuming that the presupposed conclusion is proof of “good theology” and tweaking the theology retroactively?

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    “Honestly, I think it’s less a matter of winning than waiting.  Because, there won’t be just as many angry old white men as there were before, or at least not the same ones.  This generation of cultural warriors is dying off, and under-40 evangelicals, in my experience, often don’t erect these same boundaries and aren’t as afraid of expressing dissent.”

    Well– I’ve seen on a number of occasions either anecdotal claims or polling data claiming that although younger evangelicals are generally much more tolerant on homosexuality, there is little difference between younger evangelicals and the old guard on the issue of abortion. Would you agree or disagree that this is true?

  • http://atthewelcometable.blogspot.com/ Lori

    I think, on abortion, it’s hard to say.  My feeling is that abortion will likely always be a contested issue.  And, honestly, I think it’s a much less clear-cut one than gay marriage, if not at the level of legality, at least at the level of morality.  

    But I do think younger evangelicals are probably less likely to see it as a defining issue, and more willing to accept, at the very least, a range of opinions on the legality of abortion.

  • Beroli

     

    Either A) Liberal Christians simply accept that just as total
    depravity is part of being a Calvinist, being opposed to gay marriage
    and abortion is part of being an evangelical, and call themselves
    something else.  

    Or B) you engage in a long, bitter and destructive battle to reclaim a
    word, which, even if you win, will just lead to the losers simple
    calling THEMSELVES something else.

    That’s a lot of words to argue that words don’t mean things.

  • Beroli

     

    You know, there are worse things than to be considered “Progressive” rather than “Evangelical.”

    I wasn’t aware “progressive” was a Christian denomination.

    Of the eleven channels Patheos now hosts, only one of them states a political stance. I haven’t looked much at the other blogs here; perhaps none of the others would fit into the other ten channels as easily (albeit explosively) as Fred would fit into the Evangelical Christian channel.

    I doubt it.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    What theology would allow for a conscionable stand against abortion and for women’s bodily autonomy at the same time?

    Well, to start, reverse the order of those two phrases. Put women’s bodily autonomy as our first “good”, and see what flows from there. Bodily autonomy for women means women should be in control of when they become pregnant. That means access to contraception (along with comrehensive education about sex) becomes a moral good. Better access to contraception leads to fewer unplanned pregnancies, which in turn leads to fewer abortions, which is also a moral good. How about that!

    It would also be a kind of theology that goes beyond viewing an abortion as a self-contained moral event, instead placing it in the larger context of a woman’s life and her circumstances. This isn’t a new or exotic concept; “is it a sin to steal bread to feed one’s family?” is an old saw. “Is an abortion wrong if the pregnancy would kill/blind/maim the mother?” is just a variation on that theme, and a theology that goes beyond the act, to envelop the persons affected and their lives, is one that is capable of tackling tough questions.  The thief who steals bread for his family may recieve forgiveness in the church; it’s a process by which we both recognize the wrongness of an act and yet still give absolution to the sinner.

  • Kirala

    If a prominent Evangelical spoke out about evolution or climate change, what do you think would happen?  Has it happened?

    I don’t know about prominent Evangelicals, but there is this: my church, fairly darn Evangelical, contains people who are openly fine with climate change and people who are cautiously open about accepting evolution. I know of no one who openly accepts either abortion or… any situation not accepted under Amendment One, come to think of it.

    Climate change isn’t an important issue among the evangelicals I know, so it’s not heresy to accept it. Evolution is a controversial but not an automatic membership-defining issue. (Or perhaps that’s because we’re Presbyterians, which has always been more of a education/theory denomination over Passionate Sincerity – less at stake accepting a more intellectually-defensible stance.)

    Abortion and sexuality, though… well. Who cares what scientists say when the Sexular Humanists* are trying to push their worldview on social issues?

    *This was initially a typo, but upon reflection, I’m keeping it as apropos.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    There is no way to know for sure if a pregnancy will kill a pregnant woman. Even today, women unexpectedly die during labor all the time. And have deadly or disabling health problems because of pregnancy. And pregnancy is a huge thing — it’s not ooh yay sunshine and flowers and the woman gets a bit chubbier and eats a lot more and then is in heinous pain for a few hours hee hee. Pregnancy is vomiting for weeks at a time, unless you’re lucky. It means horrible pain for hour upon hour, unless you’re lucky. Pregnancy and labor mean you risk death and disability. Pregnancy and labor mean your body changes permanently, no matter how awesome the pregnancy was, no matter how easy the labor was. 

    There is no way — none — to respect women’s humanity and restrict access to abortion. You restrict access to abortion, you’re saying a woman is an incubator. You’re saying that because a sperm met with a woman’s egg in her body, now her body does not belong to her any longer, it belongs to someone else.  

    Anyone who says abortion is a sin is saying that a woman who doesn’t want to go through all the bodily changes that pregnancy and labor bring, and who does not want to risk her health and life for a fetus, is sinning. We know where that leads, since women have lived it for thousands of years. Patriarchy, rape culture, misogyny, slut-shaming, and women as livestock. 

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    “That’s a lot of words to argue that words don’t mean things.”

    Let’s try it in fewer words, then: “We should have a great fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves.” — John Locke

    I don’t think it *does* matter if “evangelical” is defined the way Fred defines it, or the way James Dobson defines it, and Mr. Bond is correct in that sense. But here are some things that I think *do* matter:

    (1) How the media behaves in representing the views of different religious leaders or religious blocs in the United States, and representing certain viewpoints as “anti-religious” or “opposed by Religious Americans”.
    (2) Whether institutions (journals, colleges, etc) traditionally identified as “evangelical” (or even just mainstream southern American religious) are willing to hire, fund, etc people who do not toe a particular Republican political party line.

    I think if someone complains about “evangelical” being dominated by a particular viewpoint, they probably aren’t just complaining about how we define a word, they probably are talking about the word as a proxy for complaining about something more concrete, like one of the two above things. #1 is what I complain about in my previous post. #2 is what I suspect Fred is really concerned with, because he talks about it a lot.

  • Tricksterson

    Does Biblical/scriptural mean a literal interpretation of the Bible?  If not what does it mean?  Also please explain “new birth” and “crucicentrc”

  • http://atthewelcometable.blogspot.com/ Lori

    “There is no way – none – to respect women’s humanity and restrict access to abortion.”
    What about at 8 months?  I realize that this is, practically, a non-issue but, theoretically, should a woman be able to decide, at 8 months gestation, that she wants to have an abortion for non-medical reasons?  Are we disrespecting her humanity if we think that, at a certain point, in most cases, there may be some compelling reasons to begin to consider the interests of the fetus or the interests of society in protecting that fetus?

    Personally, I’m entirely, unequivocally in favor of women having access to abortion, on demand and for any reason, during the first trimester.  I think a good case could be made for that access extending to viability and don’t oppose that.  But I have reservations about abortion on demand for any reason after viability.  For reasons of health, absolutely.  In exceptional cases, make exceptions.  But, as a general rule, I think the Roe framework–no restrictions in the first trimester, regulated for the woman’s safety in the second trimester, with a number of limitations allowed after viability provided they don’t endanger the woman’s health or life–works very well, and does a good job of balancing women’s right to bodily autonomy with the sense most people seem to have that the fetus is, when more developed, entitled to some degree of protection.

  • mud man

    Glad you asked.

    Biblical/scriptural means if you want to know what God thinks, you go to the Bible and read it for yourself, not to some self-appointed “authority”. New Birth means “you must be born again”, that is at some point you have to reorient yourself away from the world (aka “Caesar”) and towards God (ie, “The Kingdom”). Crucicentric points to Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross (that is, your sins are forgiven). 

    You didn’t ask, but “active in outreach” means you have to concern yourself with really rescuing (feeding, freeing, healing) real people in the real world. I personally think if you do this part, Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross applies to you whether you go for the rest or not.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    There is no way to know for sure if a pregnancy will kill a pregnant woman.

    Careful with phrasing. I think that you meant “there is no way to know for sure that a pregnancy won’t kill the pregnant woman”, in which case, I agree that pregnancy is a medically risky event.

    However, there are lots of ways to know when a pregnancy is dangerous, harmful, and even life-threatening. Ectopic pregnancies, to pick an easy example, can be diagnosed very early on, and are easily identified as a high risk to the mother’s health and survival.

    There is no way — none — to respect women’s humanity and restrict access to abortion.

    Please don’t put words in my mouth. We’re talking about theology, not law-making. We’re discussing moral positions, not legal ones. To pick a less charged example, the Bible advocates for children to honor their parents, and (depending on your reading) allows parents to physically discipline their children. Whether or not you think the State should be involved in drawing the line between “discipline” and “abuse”, I think we can both agree that there is a line.

    That nuance, that concept of “a line”, is what’s missing in Evangelical thinking about abortion. All abortions are sinning, and not just any kind of sin, but one of the really bad, worst kind of sins! There is no such thing as a “good” abortion, or an “acceptable” abortion in the Evangelical culture, no matter how necessary it might be. (morally/ethically) As practical, reasonable human beings, we might personally think there are, but doctrinally, all abortions are always immoral to Evangelical thinking.

    It is entirely possible to say “abortion has an ethically/morally poor outcome in the termination of a potential life” and still support those individuals who make that choice. (again, stealing to feed your family, working on the Sabbath to put food on the table, killing in self-defense, etc.)

    Anyone who says abortion is a sin is saying that a woman who doesn’t want to go through all the bodily changes that pregnancy and labor bring, and who does not want to risk her health and life for a fetus, is sinning

    My hypothetical theology argued against abortion and for contraception, meaning a sexually-active woman who doesn’t want to go through all the body changes/health risks of pregnancy has sin-free choices in contraceptive-use and abstinence.

    My hypothetical theology also recognized context, that an abortion after contraceptive failure is different than an abortion in place of contraception, and that there are all kinds of sins (lying, stealing, even sometimes killing) which are given dispensation based on circumstances.

    One does not need to be a pacifist to oppose killing. One can lend money and still oppose usury.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    should a woman be able to decide, at 8 months gestation, that she wants to have an abortion for non-medical reasons?

    Yes.
    An 8-month abortion has substantial costs, substantial risks, and is extremely rare. If a woman made an informed decision to terminate a pregnancy at that point, well, that’s what “body autonomy” means.

    Are we disrespecting her humanity…

    You’re denying her autonomy. Full stop.
    You are saying “Your judgement about your body is suspect and must be reviewed by others”.
    You are saying “You are incapable of making this judgement on your own”.
    Yes, you’re disrespecting her humanity.

    But wait, I cut that quote off midway. What else was being said?

    …if we think that, at a certain point, in most cases, there may be some compelling reasons to begin to consider the interests of the fetus or the interests of society in protecting that fetus? 

    Wow! If we think at some undefinedpoint, in certain, unspecificed cases, it might be possible that we should begin to consider? Don’t take too bold a stand there!

    Cutting out the weasel-words, we get “are we being disrespectful to consider the interests of a fetus and/or society over this person?” And the answer is still “Yes”, because the fetus doesn’t have interests. It has possible interests, imagined interests, potential interests, but when weighing potentiality with actuality, the real world wins every time. As for “the interests of society”, either you’re spouting dog-whistle racist ideology (see also: “demographic winter”) or you’re once again rating potentiality over actuality by suggesting that society’s interests in actual, real, adult citiziens are overriden by potential, not-yet-existing infants.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I can imagine there being cases where having an abortion wold be so immoral that it ought to be prevented. 

    I can not imagine a scenario where there is someone better qualified than the woman and her doctor to determine if this is one of those cases.

  • http://atthewelcometable.blogspot.com/ Lori

    The SCOTUS would disagree.  

    I think Roe was a good decision.  I think it did a good job coming up with a compromise for a contentious issue.  

    I don’t think that digging in heels on either side–trying to bar abortion before viability, or rejecting any limits on abortion after viability–would be helpful.

    Pre-viability, I’m happy to talk about “potentiality.”  After viability, it’s not that easy.  It just isn’t.  Most Americans don’t think it is.  Most non-Americans, as far as I can tell, don’t think it is.  The courts don’t think it is.  

    I won’t take the line, personally, that a fertilized egg is the same thing as a fetus two days away from birth, either morally or legally.   I think that’s overly simplistic when it comes from people wanting to outlaw abortion, and I think it’s equally over simplistic when it comes from people trying to argue for absolutely no limitations on abortion at all.  I don’t think any good comes from denying complexity when it gets in the way of our ideology.

  • http://atthewelcometable.blogspot.com/ Lori

    I think there’s a significant difference between saying “Women have an inalienable right to have a third trimester abortion for any reason” and “If a woman and her doctor determine that a third trimester abortion is necessary, she should be able to access one.”  I have no problem with the latter.  It’s the former I take issue with, and that I especially think would be an incredibly problematic to take politically on an issue that is so contested.

  • Ursula L

    What about at 8 months?  I realize that this is, practically, a non-issue but, theoretically, should a woman be able to decide, at 8 months gestation, that she wants to have an abortion for non-medical reasons?  Are we disrespecting her humanity if we think that, at a certain point, in most cases, there may be some compelling reasons to begin to consider the interests of the fetus or the interests of society in protecting that fetus?

    Do you have any evidence that this actually happens with significant frequency?  Because unless you have evidence of this happening, then it isn’t something to base policy on.  

    The women I know who have had later abortions have done so when other serious problems developed or were discovered later in pregnancy.  

    And when you’re in the middle of a medical crisis, the last thing you need is to have restrictions on your treatment based on a fantasy fear of women having 8 month abortions for fun.  

    Or to have your doctors have to delay treatment because people with no medical degrees have made laws that require medically unnecessary or inappropriate delays or interventions.  Or have your doctors afraid to give you appropriate treatment because if someone later decides to cause trouble, they could be put in prison for saving your life.  

  • Tricksterson

    True but they shouldn’t be considered mutually exclusive.

  • Tricksterson

    I’m glad you answered that last one because I made an incorrect assumption about what it meant.  I thought it meant recruiting people into the flock, going door to door etc.  Unfortunately I suspect many evangelicals have the same interpretation I did.  I like your version better.

  • Ken

     

    People here have talked about the Big Four–abortion, homosexuality, climate change, evolution

    One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong…

    Answer C, climate change. Opposition to abortion, homosexuality, and evolution come from their reading of scripture, and thus have their roots in religion, but climate change was put on the list because of the political alliance with the Republicans.  (And the Republicans only swung that way recently because of their own tribal hatred of Al Gore, though I’m sure the oil money helped.)

  • Mary Kaye

     Ken write: 

    Opposition to abortion, homosexuality, and
    evolution come from their reading of scripture, and thus have their
    roots in religion, but climate change was put on the list because of the
    political alliance with the Republicans. 

    I’m not entirely convinced.

    I think another way to look at it is that a certain strain of cultural conservatism loathes anything that challenges the narrative that elite white male Christians are the lords of the universe and everything else is subordinate to them.  There are a lot of hates that are explained by this general principle:

    misogyny, which I believe drives the more strident opposition to abortion and to contraceptives

    racism

    nationalism, which is one of the drivers of hatred for climate change–what do you mean *we* have to restrict ourselves to protect *your* coastline?  (And yes, I know this is stupid.  But people do think it.)

    homophobia, which I see as reflecting the challenge that homosexuality, especially male homosexuality, poses to the hierarchical model of family and marriage

    a narrative of the world in which the elite are Special, which drives hate for evolution (and in previous generations heliocentrism)

    It’s no accident that we are seeing anti-miscegenation rhetoric recycled as anti-marriage-equality rhetoric.  They have the same root:  protect the Great Chain of Being and keep us at the top!

    All of these things are older than Al Gore’s political rise by *far*.  I remember the Moral Majority attacking “ecology” and “conservationism” as Satanic in the 1970′s.  At root, those things challenge the idea that the Earth is the elite’s to exploit.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Folks?

    Canada has no law regarding criminal penalties for abortions.

    We haven’t descended into hellfire and damnation yet.

    Too bad more of the anti-abortion folks haven’t profited by our example to fold up their tents and go home.

  • Lori

    Honestly, what I’m seeing in the comments feels a bit like tribalism of a different kind to me.

    I’m not saying that abortion should be illegal!  I’m saying that I *like* Roe.  I mean, seriously, we live in a country (if you’re in the U.S.) where Roe is under attack.  Arguing “Roe doesn’t go far enough” isn’t really going to fly politically.  

    But, there seems to be a knee-jerk reaction among some liberals that you aren’t a real liberal, you aren’t pro-choice enough, unless you are willing to say that elective, non-medical abortions should be legal up until the moment of delivery and remain silent on the question of the morality of abortion.

    If you want to take that stance, that’s fine.  But, it’s going to alienate a whole lot of people otherwise on your side.

    I give to Planned Parenthood and the RCRC.  I’ve worked PP booths at events and had anti-choicers yell at me.  But, apparently, I’m not pro-choice enough because I’m okay with the law staying as it is, which bars non-medical abortions in the eighth month of pregnancy.

    This kind of gate-keeping is just not very useful, wherever it happens.

  • Tricksterson

    Conservative opposition to the idea of climate change goes back to the late 80s at least, although to be fair there was less evidence in favor of it back then.  I think at the root it’s the idea of restriction, the idea that there are limits  that causes it.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Of course, others might have their own opinion about it all (Deird, perhaps).

    To be honest, I’m still working out how I fit into the whole debacle.
    - I am pro-women, and so is my church.
    - I am pro-QUILTBAG folk, and my church is not.
    - I have yet to tell anyone at my church this.

    I have only recently gotten used to what I think myself; I still need to figure out what this should mean for me in practice. (Do I picket my church with signs supporting marriage equality? Stay silent unless people ask me? Or what?)

    It’s hard to decide what I should be doing. I just hope that, when I do decide, I’ll have the guts to do it rather than sticking with the safe option.

    In response, those of us on the other side are beginning to speak out more forcefully about all of this, and, I think, we are more willing to let them go and shift our focus from trying to keep them in the family to letting them go and focusing on what is important — loving God and loving neighbor.

    We are also becoming more outspoken that Orthodoxy is not defined by who you hate/exclude but by the Creeds.

    Agreed. And word.

  • Ursula L

    But, there seems to be a knee-jerk reaction among some liberals that you aren’t a real liberal, you aren’t pro-choice enough, unless you are willing to say that elective, non-medical abortions should be legal up until the moment of delivery and remain silent on the question of the morality of abortion. 

    It’s actually a very, very practical question.

    How do you write a law that effectively bans elective, non-medical abortions (at any point in pregnancy) in a way that it doesn’t inhibit a doctor’s options and decision making during a crisis?  

    If the a doctor has to stop and ask, before treating, “does this meet the legal standard for offering this care?”  rather than “is this the appropriate medical standard of care?” then a very sick woman will be having her treatment artificially complicated by a badly written law.Or worse, so the doctor doesn’t have to ask “if I provide this medically appropriate care, will I be able to protect myself if a third party without medical training challenges my medical opinion in court?” If you think “well, maybe it would be okay to have a law that limits elective abortions but does not limit medically necessary abortions or inhibit doctors from offering and providing that care, then you need to have a good specific example of how to frame such a law so the law actually works that way.   Roe tried to provide for the distinction you want – that late term abortions could be provided when medically necessary, but not elective late term abortions.And Roe has failed to effectively protect access to medically necessary late term abortions, or to protect the doctors who perform late term (or any) abortions.  The vast majority of women in the US today do not have local access to an emergency late-term abortion. And this access is blocked because of laws that were at least nominally intended only to limit elective abortions. 

    The effect of legal restrictions on abortion is that most ob/gyns, not being lawyers, aren’t comfortable having to make a decision about the legality of the treatment.  So they refuse to perform abortions at all and refer women to specialists who are willing to handle both the medical and the legal issues.  Any ob/gyn willing to perform abortions is quickly overwhelmed by the number of referrals, and has little time for providing ordinary ob/gyn care.  

    And you wind up unable to get an early abortion at your regular doctor, where it ought to be available, unable to get a medically necessary late term abortion from your local doctor, local emergency room, or local hospital’s ob/gyn ward, where it should be available as appropriate medical care. 

    And the mess is entirely because a bunch of people without medical training, in Roe, thought that it should be okay to limit access to an 8 month elective abortion without limiting access to medically necessary abortions.  Which is a nice idea.  But we have decades of evidence showing that it doesn’t actually work that way. 

  • ReverendRef

     I have only recently gotten used to what I think myself; I still need to
    figure out what this should mean for me in practice. (Do I picket my
    church with signs supporting marriage equality? Stay silent unless
    people ask me? Or what?)

    I have no idea what your priest is like, but maybe start with him (I’m assuming a male priest there).  The dialogue you have with him might open him up to considering how the church should be supportive of all people regardless of race, gender or orientation.  And putting into words how you feel might help you to figure out what it means for you in practice.


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