Hey, remember when evangelicals were pro-choice because of the Bible? What a difference 30 years makes

Jonathan Dudley’s essay at CNN today makes a good follow-up post to what we discussed here yesterday in “Revisionist memory: White evangelicals have always been at war with abortion.”

Dudley’s CNN column is titled, “When evangelicals were pro-choice.” Here’s the kicker:

Evangelicals would benefit from pausing to look back at their own history. In doing so, they might consider the possibility that they aren’t submitting to the dictates of a timeless biblical truth, but instead, to the goals of a well-organized political initiative only a little more than 30 years old.

And here’s a bigger chunk from Dudley leading up to that conclusion. What’s astonishing here, again, is not just the enormity of this reversal, but the creepy way that no acknowledgement of it is ever permitted:

By 1984, it became clear these efforts had worked. That year, InterVarsity Press published the book Brave New People, which re-stated the 1970 evangelical consensus: abortion was a tough issue and warranted in many circumstances.

An avalanche of protests met the publication, forcing InterVarsity Press to withdraw a book for the first time in its history.

“The heresy of which I appear to be guilty,” the author lamented, “is that I cannot state categorically that human/personal life commences at day one of gestation. … In order to be labeled an evangelical, it is now essential to hold a particular view of the status of the embryo and fetus.”

What the author quickly realized was that the “biblical view on abortion” had dramatically shifted over the course of a mere 15 years, from clearly stating life begins at birth to just as clearly teaching it begins at conception.

During the 2008 presidential election, Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren demonstrated the depth of this shift when he proclaimed: “The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it.”

It is hard to underestimate the political significance of this reversal. It has required the GOP presidential nominee to switch his views from pro-choice to pro-life to be a viable candidate. It has led conservative Christians to vote for politicians like Atkin and Mourdock for an entire generation.

And on November 6, it will lead millions of evangelicals to support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama out of the conviction that the Bible unequivocally forbids abortion.

But before casting their ballots, such evangelicals would benefit from pausing to look back at their own history. In doing so, they might consider the possibility that they aren’t submitting to the dictates of a timeless biblical truth, but instead, to the goals of a well-organized political initiative only a little more than 30 years old.

What happened “a little more than 30 years” ago? Dudley explains a bit of that history in his column, drawing from the longer discussion in his book Broken Words. Alan Bean recalls another part of that history. So does Gary Younge. And Randall Balmer. And Linda Greenhouse & Reva B. Siegel.

But maybe the best summary of that history is just to quote Spike and Denzel: “I say and I say it again, you’ve been had. You’ve been took. You’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok.”

See earlier here:

The ‘biblical view that’s younger than the Happy meal

Mischief follows in partisan Bible translations

False witnesses

False witnesses 2

Fantasy role-playing games

Killing in the name of

 

  • LL

    Shocked to find out that opposition to abortion is a cynical political strategy created by Republican powers that be to manipulate religious people. Shocked, I tell you. 

  • bobnelsonfr

    “The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it.”

    THIS is what kills me! I have often asked the people who say this, “Oh? Where does the Book say this? What chapter and verse?”

    I have never gotten a decent answer. I have seen verses that seem to indicate that the soul joins the body at birth, but nothing earlier.

    And of course, the occasional attempt at “science” produces gibberish.

    So… on what do these people base their “Bible says so” schtick?

  • Twig

    I shouldn’t have been as surprised about the devout Catholic who helped invent the birth control pill as I was:  http://www.gladwell.com/2000/2000_03_10_a_rock.html

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

     The answer I generally get is that it comes from Psalm 139.  Verses 13 through 16, specifically:

    13 For you created my inmost being;
        you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
        your works are wonderful,
        I know that full well.
    15 My frame was not hidden from you
        when I was made in the secret place,
        when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
    16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
        all the days ordained for me were written in your book
        before one of them came to be.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    That could be used to argue that life begins before conception and abstinence is akin to murder.

  • Lunch Meat

    Or that if a fetus is a person because God made/is making it, then literally everything ever is people because God made everything.

  • bobnelsonfr

    PepperjackCandy,

    This seems to me to be about gestation, the making of the body. I see nothing about the soul.

  • Renee

    The Old Testament laws ordain that a man who attacks a pregnant woman in a way that causes her to miscarry (i.e. aborts the fetus) has to pay a fine. Murder, by contrast, carries the death penalty, and even accidental manslaughter doesn’t get you a mere fine. The Bible explicitly treats abortion as equivalent to property damage, and not as the killing of a person.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Abortion that, one must note, does not occur at the woman’s behest. Forcing a woman to abort is a property crime. Helping a woman end an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy? Never mentioned.

  • Matri

    Wow, so abstinence is unbiblical!

  • Allison

    Ironically, this whole “life begins at conception” thing is actually stricter than the traditional Old Testament-derived morality, which more commonly held that life began at the time of “quickening”. Which makes sense — how would people living back then even know when a sperm actually met an egg? All of these ancient Biblical laws rely on extremely modern science to reliably interpret/.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Among evangelicals anyway.

  • Will Hennessy

     Well, it comes as little surprise to little ol’ “Antichrist” me that a poem written by David would be the basis for a “Biblical literalism” argument. Just like a poem written by “Moses” proves that the world is less than 10,000 years old.

    Little do they know that a poem written by Yates proves that the Antichrist has been around forever and is probably a very old man by now.

    This post wins the sarcasm award for use of quotation marks.

    And yes, I did have to crack my Bible and actually, you know, read it to remember if Ps139 was actually Davidic. Evangelicals should try reading their bibles sometime.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    It is hard to underestimate the political significance of this reversal.

    Oy, what is it with people these days?  He doesn’t even know his underestimate from his overestimate?  They’re kind of diametrically opposed to each other.  (Not that this has any bearing on his points, of course; just an aside on my part.)

  • http://2012prophecy.net DM I.M.Cango

    Fundamental Christian –  No fun, too much damn, and not enough mental.

  • http://www.facebook.com/belljt John Bell

    Yes, David was a king and thought God knitted his bones and organs. Us commoners, not necessarily.

  • He

     And the thing that kills me is that the Hebrew for that psalm is very, very ambiguous–the grammar is incoherent, the words themselves don’t really make a whole lot of sense, and yet people use it to justify trying to take control of my life!

  • [rwk]

    Okay, so let me see if I understand this. An evangelical Christian organization published a book in which the author admitted he couldn’t sign on with the standard evangelical view that life begins at conception. A backlash from the evangelical community forced the book to be withdrawn by the publisher.

    Doesn’t that show the exact opposite of what the title suggests?

    Yes, there’s a lot of politics involved, and the issue is indeed driven by entirely human agendas. But sometimes what happens is that an issue like this comes to the forefront and Christians then ask, ‘what does the bible say about this’? and try to come to a determination of what that book does say about the issue – which is seldom clear. Hence Rick Warren’s statement. Warren is not suggesting that evangelicals were always Pro-Life. He’s making a statement about why he has adopted that position, and how he came to adopt it.

    I’m the last person to make excuses for the excesses of the evangelical world view. But if you’re going to adopt a position of moral superiority over and entire religious movement then at least try to sound like an adult.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Okay, so let me see if I understand this. An evangelical Christian organization published a book in which the author admitted he couldn’t sign on with the standard evangelical view that life begins at conception. A backlash from the evangelical community forced the book to be withdrawn by the publisher.
    Doesn’t that show the exact opposite of what the title suggests?

    How so?

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

     In 1984 he published a book containing a view that had been concurrent with Evangelical thought in 1970. However, the mores by 1984 had changed.

  • um…

    That’s actually not true, in the Mishna in Ahalot 7:6 (Old Testament commentary, not identical to the Talmud passage referenced above), states that if a fetus threatens a woman’s life, she is required to abort it,

  • EllieMurasaki

    The Mishna is not authoritative to Christians, and the subject of discussion is Christian views.

  • um…

    It seemed to me the subject of this discussion was biblical interpretation at large and societal structuring past and present based roughly on circumstance and biblical ethics.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Which of course explains the word ‘evangelicals’ in the topic. Far’s I know that’s a concept Judaism doesn’t have; certainly it’s not a Jewish concept that has disproportionate political influence in the US.

  • um…

    There is no description of “the topic” this conversation has many tangents and I was just addressing an aspect of the discussion that I felt was interesting. Its not like Christians are the only ones who vote in the US, so other views are important as well. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Perhaps I should have said ‘title’. You know, the bit up top that says ‘Hey, remember when evangelicals were pro-choice because of the Bible’? And have fun finding a political candidate in the US who’s running on the strength of how Jewish they are and who expects that to be what gets them the win, in the way that right-wing Christian candidates in the US run and expect to win on their Christianity. Also have fun finding someone among the Christians Fred’s trying to persuade who thinks the Mishna’s a good place to look for what the Bible means. (I am not saying that it is not. Just that it’s not going to be any use in achieving Fred’s goal.)

  • Héctor Muñoz Huerta

    Catholic church has always been consistent in opposing abortion.

    From a purely moral point of view it’s a matter of deciding whose right is most relevant for society and for God: the right of the unborn to live or the right of the mother to reject unwanted responsibilities and physical burdens.

    Any debate trying to define the moment of pregnancy on which human life has started is irrelevant because the effect of the action is the same on any moment: an original and individual expression of humanity is destroyed.

    If as a society we decide the right of the mother is prioritary to the right of the unborn, then society must allow intentional abortions. If as a society we decide the right of the unborn for life is prioritary to that of the mother to reject unwanted responsibilities and burdens then intentional abortions must be banned.

    From a Christian point of view the principles of charity, love, sacrifice and God’s command to be fruitful and multiply should give you an idea of whose right must be prioritary for him. Remember when Christ said: What you do to the least of my people you, that do to me..

  • EllieMurasaki

    Why should the fetus always take priority over the pregnant person, even when the pregnant person needs treatment such as chemo where trying to do the treatment while pregnant will end badly, even when the fetus has no chance of survival such as with an ectopic pregnancy or as with Savita in Ireland? And why, if the Catholic Church truly wishes to reduce abortion, does the Catholic Church also so vehemently oppose measures such as comprehensive sex ed and increased contraceptive use that would, y’know, actually reduce abortion?

  • Héctor Muñoz Huerta

    Ellie because Catholicism is a very stoic religion and stoicism dictates that adherence to moral principles and duties is more important than the wellbeing of people. That mindset is obviously not very pragmatical but at least it’s bulletproof coherent unlike evangelical more utilitarian philosophy.

    Last time I checked the Catholic Church didn’t oppose sex education. Contraception is a tricky topic because although the Church recognizes the right of the individual to control his reproduction the church rejects most contraceptive methods that interfere with the natural course of a pregnancy because of sotic coherence to it’s principles.Why should the woman give up her comfort, time and resources and not the fetus his life? Well because “What you do to the least of my people you, that do to me” and also because in the core of Christianism lies the principle of self sacrifice for the weakest and less fortunate.

    I don’t claim the right to tell people what to do or to condem them for doing it but I think it is very clear which moral stance must a Christian take.

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

    Hmm

    Anti-Abortion

    Firstname Middlename Lastname

    Patronizing, insistent, slightly condescending tone replete with admonishments

    Hello, it’s clearly Ginny Bain Allen in new cape and cloak.

  • Turcano

    Good God man, what have you done?!  We had it safely contained!  Now you’ve doomed us all!

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

    The Kraken has been released, has it?

  • EllieMurasaki

    adherence to moral principles and duties is more important than the wellbeing of people

    I have no idea what this is saying. The only way it doesn’t contradict itself is if one supposes that ‘moral principles and duties’ has the possibility of being in conflict with ‘the wellbeing of people’, but that can’t be right.

    the right of the individual to control his reproduction

    That’s our problem right there. The Catholic Church, I know for a fact, does not recognize the existence of trans men or genderqueer individuals, and most pregnancy-capable people are cis women.

    Why should the woman give up her comfort, time and resources and not the fetus his life? Well because “What you do to the least of my people you, that do to me” and also because in the core of Christianism lies the principle of self sacrifice for the weakest and less fortunate.

    Little while ago in Ireland, there was a woman who was miscarrying at under twenty weeks along. A fetus at under twenty weeks has zero chance of survival outside the uterus, so there wasn’t going to be any way to keep that fetus alive. No one would give her an abortion because Ireland is a Catholic country and the fetus wasn’t quite dead. After a week or so of agony, this woman died. Her name was Savita, and the actions that led to her death are entirely in keeping with Catholic doctrine. How, how is killing her a moral act? And supposing a doctor had provided her that abortion and then gotten prosecuted for it, wouldn’t that have been an act of self-sacrifice for Savita’s benefit?

    (I don’t think it’s even worth explaining to you that an unwanted fetus is an intrusion that the pregnant person has the right to evict at any time without notice or explanation, not a person. Fetuses aren’t people until they’re babies, which is to say after they’re born, though if the parents want to behave as though the fetus is a person, they have the right to do so and I wouldn’t dream of interfering.)

  • Héctor Muñoz Huerta

    “The only way it doesn’t contradict itself is if one supposes that ‘moral
    principles and duties’ has the possibility of being in conflict with
    ‘the wellbeing of people’, but that can’t be right.”

    For Catholic religion it is more important for people to adhere to moral principles than to adhere to their personal wellbeing. It’s the stoic idea of doing the right thing no matter what. Stoic philosophy predates Christianism and is indeed one of the most popular mindsets in the world although most people don’t realize it.

    “The Catholic Church, I know for a fact, does not recognize the existence of trans men or genderqueer individuals”

    Well, from my personal point of view they might alter their bodies and personal presentation to match that of the opposite sex but they still are men or women down deep their reptilian brain. You would need to rewire their brain for them to stop having male or female brains which have structural differences. Yet I do not deny their right to present themselves as they find it more suitable.

    “How, how is killing her a moral act?”

    Well first she was not intentionally killed but wrongly cared. That misfortunate situation happened for a lack of proper understanding of ethics and bureaucracy. As far as I can remember the Catholic church doesn’t oppose abortions when the life of the mother is compromised.

    “I don’t think it’s even worth explaining to you that an unwanted fetus
    is an intrusion that the pregnant person has the right to evict at any
    time without notice or explanation, not a person.”

    Now, considering a fetus and intruder into a woman’s body is actually giving him qualities that he effectively doesn’t have yet such as the power to intrude. Most pregnant women become pregnant through consensual sex, they get themselves pregnant. They are responsible for being pregnant as much as the man who had sex with them. A fetus can’t be burdened with such responsibility.

    Now, I was exposing a way of understanding the ethical dilemma of abortion, as a matter of conflicting rights and then I analized how this dilemma could be solved socially and through the values of Christianism.

    I am not proposing to ban abortion to all society but I do think that as Christians we must be coherent with principles that dictate that we must surrender our personal wellbeing for our moral duties such as charity and compassion, and direct instructions such as being fruitful and multiply or have the most considerations for the weakest.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The essence of morality–the essence of charity and compassion as well–is to minimize the harm done to people and to maximize happiness where that does not conflict with minimizing harm. If following a moral principle involves doing harm that could be avoided, especially if the harm could be avoided easily and without causing greater harm, then ‘moral’ is not an adjective that applies.

    Consent to sex is not consent to becoming pregnant unless the sex act is a deliberate attempt at conception. Consent to becoming pregnant is not consent to staying pregnant. And let’s not forget that some people who become pregnant did not consent to the sex act in question.

    Speaking as a genderqueer individual: fuck you.

  • Lunch Meat

    Well because “What you do to the least of my people you, that do to me”
    and also because in the core of Christianism lies the principle of self
    sacrifice for the weakest and less fortunate.

    So you’re in favor of requiring everyone to donate all the organs they can safely spare while alive, and all of the viable organs after death, to make sure that no one ever has to die for lack of an organ, right?

    And you’re in favor of requiring everyone with an extra room or couch to allow a homeless person to live there when it’s freezing cold or burning hot outside, to make sure that no one ever has to die of exposure, right?

    And you’re in favor of requiring everyone with extra money to feed someone who doesn’t have food, to make sure no one ever has to die of starvation, right?

    …right?

  • Lunch Meat

    I do think that as Christians we must be coherent with principles that dictate that we must surrender our personal wellbeing for our moral
    duties such as charity and compassion, and direct instructions such as
    being fruitful and multiply or have the most considerations for the
    weakest.

    I am a Christian who wants as many kids as I can afford and take care of. I am on birth control because that number is currently 0. If I became pregnant right now, I would not have an abortion and we would make do, unless a) the fetus was going to die anyway, b) I was going to die, or c) the fetus had serious health problems that we couldn’t afford (and we are the ones who will decide what “can’t afford” means). We are also registered organ donors, and we donate to charity whatever we can, and we volunteer whenever we can. These are my religious convictions, and thus I enforce them only on me. I do not shame or judge those who have decided they cannot make the same commitments I have made.

    The pro-life movement, on the other hand, wants to restrict/ban all abortions, even for those who already have more kids than they can afford, even for those who would have to choose between working and taking care of the child, even for those who are disabled and physically can’t take care of a child, even for those whom pregnancy would maim or kill, even for those who are children themselves, even for those who made one stupid mistake as a teenager/young adult and will now have to pay for it for the rest of their lives, even for those who were forced or pressured into sex, even for those who were pressured or forced to not use birth control, even for those currently being abused by their romantic partner. They advocate for all this while restricting access to and education about birth control and sex, reducing the social safety net, calling women without children selfish and women with too many children sluts and welfare queens, and lying about abortion, contraception, and the people who advocate for/provide them. They require sacrifices from others but are not willing to commit to them themselves. They bind heavy burdens on people’s backs and do not lift a finger to help carry them.

    Which of these positions is coherent?

  • Héctor Muñoz Huerta

    Ellie, by your closing line I assume any possible dialogue between us is now impossible.

    I just want to say that having sex without the intention to become pregnant still makes you responsible if you get pregnant, not the fetus, because it is your actions that bring him to existance, not his. By modern social standars it is ok for women to reject this responsibility, I don’t claim the right to oppose this personal choice of others but as a Christian I also have to be coherent with my principles.

  • Héctor Muñoz Huerta

    I’m in favour that any person that feel compelled to care for others this way can have the freedom to do so.

    The social docrtine of the Catholic Church states that you are entitled to own all you legitimately need to fulfill your needs and that any exceeding property is better used to the benefit of less fortunate people.

  • Héctor Muñoz Huerta

     I never said I am Pro Life.

  • Lunch Meat

    The social docrtine of the Catholic Church states that you are entitled
    to own all you legitimately need to fulfill your needs and that any
    exceeding property is better used to the benefit of less fortunate
    people.

    So why don’t we hear them complaining about rich people who don’t care for the poor as much as we do about women who have abortions? What’s the difference? Why should a woman be shamed if she does not care for a fetus that she did not choose to create, but everyone else should only care for others if they “feel” like it?

    If a woman is responsible for her fetus because she created it, then is it a moral necessity for a person’s biological parents to donate organs to them if needed? Aren’t the parents just as responsible for born children?

    I never said I am Pro Life.

    No, you just implied that anyone who chooses abortion is a bad Christian because they’re incoherent.* I’m proving that’s not the case.

    *

    I don’t claim the right to tell people what to do or to condem them for
    doing it but I think it is very clear which moral stance must a
    Christian take.

  • Héctor Muñoz Huerta

    Yes, if you are naming yourself Christian you should be coherent with Christian principles although we are all deemed to fail to different degrees on this pursuit.

    The institution of Roman Church has certainly failed to enforce enough indoctrination on the fair distribution of wealth as it does on the respect of reproductive morality.

  • Lunch Meat

    So. You’ve read my explanation of my views on reproductive morality. Do you still think your view is the only coherent Christian one? If so, please explain what’s incoherent about mine.

  • Héctor Muñoz Huerta

     You are entitled to have your view as I am to have mine.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh, no, we can still talk, you just have to acknowledge that gender is not biologically determined and even if it were that wouldn’t matter, and you have to acknowledge that I do not fit into your nice neat gender binary.
    To that end, I would appreciate it if all y’all would use ‘ze’ as my pronoun, at least on this thread. The timing’s because I don’t believe I want Hector to know what my usual pronoun is, but I’ve been thinking for a while that I might want to start getting used to hearing a gender-neutral pronoun for my often-agender self.

    Oh, and Hector? Having an abortion rather than having a baby that one cannot adequately love and care for (and unwanted children are rarely adequately loved) is a completely responsible choice for a pregnant person to make.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    Hmm

    Anti-Abortion

    Firstname Middlename Lastname

    Patronizing, insistent, slightly condescending tone replete with admonishments

    Hello, it’s clearly Ginny Bain Allen in new cape and cloak.

    Can’t be her. Catholics are on her list of people who don’t count as human.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    From a purely moral point of view it’s a matter of deciding whose right
    is most relevant for society and for God: the right of the unborn to
    live or the right of the mother to reject unwanted responsibilities and
    physical burdens.
    Be a human being who is endowed by her creator with the right to control her own body

    FTFY.

  • Héctor Muñoz Huerta

    So basically I have to accept your artificial conception of gender identity to have a decent conversation or go fuck myself.

  • Héctor Muñoz Huerta

     Yes, the way to reject the unwanted responsibility of pregnancy is controlling her body.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m not the one who invented the gender binary. Therefore when you say ‘[EllieMurasaki's] artificial conception of gender identity’, you are saying a thing that is false and also utter bullshit.


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