Newsweek‘s Eleanor Clift just wrote a column on how the battle over national health care now includes significant debate over the role of abortion within public health plans.
I’m not going to engage the question of universal health care or the matter of publicly funded abortions. I do not support either of these matters. What peaked my interest in reading the piece was this paragraph:
All the familiar protest figures are suiting up for their first big battle since the family feud over Terri Schiavo’s right to die devolved into a national debate over what’s euphemistically termed “the culture of life.” Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry and a band of noisy supporters disrupted a town-hall meeting this week in Virginia, shouting down featured speaker Howard Dean, a physician, and calling him a baby-killer. The Rev. Pat Mahoney, who led the protests at Schiavo’s Florida hospice, showed up in Martha’s Vineyard looking for some media action. “It’s hard to imagine we’ve progressed as a nation,” says Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. “I hope we’re just seeing the bitter end of this thing.”
What particularly caught my attention was this last quotation in which the president of Planned Parenthood speaks of her hope that America has reached “the bitter end” of the abortion divide. She expresses weariness in this statement. She yearns for a day when the nation will have reached the end of its internal battle, when “progress” will sweep away division over what she would call “a woman’s right to choose.”
There is much to discuss in this piece, but this last sentiment struck me as one evangelicals need to watch out for. Everywhere, an emotive populace couches the terms of debate in terms of emotion and physicality. “We’re just tired of the arguing,” we hear. “Can’t we stop this infighting?” A younger generation expresses their desire to transcend bitterness and division: “We’re tired of fighting over stuff–I want to follow leaders who focus on hope, not arguments over truth.”
This all sounds right on target. But it’s really an open invitation to evangelicals and others who represent the “culture of life” to stand down. If one looks at this kind of language and thought carefully, one sees that it is a devil’s bargain. We’re all tired, says the common wisdom. Just tired of this fighting and this division and this needless bickering. That’s all very premodern. We’re modern now. We don’t fight about stuff. We work together, partnering on common causes, charting a new way forward.
Young evangelicals: be very careful about buying this line. Many of us accept it as an entree to progressive culture. We opt out of the evangelical ghetto in search of broader cultural acceptance and collaboration. Where our elders fought turf wars over hard issues, we seek for common ground in social justice. This can be good, if it leads to genuine justice and improved welfare. But in many areas, it does not. In the area of abortion, it does not.
It is the height of folly to disregard the fetus in pursuit of the approval of the ambient culture. We may all feel weary and tired, and we may dislike division, but we need to sober up when it comes to the ideological divides before us. There is a war, a spiritual war, that is unfolding all around us. It’s between light and dark. Culture of life vs. culture of death (see Al Mohler on this point–he’s shaped my own thinking). God vs. Satan. On the particular issue before us, this means that some people in this world want to murder babies. Others do not want to do so. Where we cannot agree that it is in the best interest of women and children to avoid abortions, we have no common ground. There is no room to give here. There is no compromise to be reached. However much we may want to find peace and common cause in this world, Christians cannot link arms with agents of death.
The Christian life is never called easy or lightweight in Scripture. It is brutal in some respects. It involves shouldering a spiritual cross, with all of the attendant pain that carrying a 100-lb piece of splintered wood would involve (Matthew 16:24). Righteousness does not advance in an evil world by weak hearts and accommodating minds. It goes forward by the power of God’s Spirit (Acts 1:8). It does not advance when Christians give in to the culture of death and its ploys.
Next time you’re tempted to speak of “being weary” about division and disagreement, next time you want to “work for common causes,” remember the fetus. Pray hard on this matter–let articles like this move you from just anger to focused, believing prayer. Give time and money to crisis pregnacy centers. Remember what’s at stake. The lives of babies. That, and the sheer weight of the fact that you represent the living God in a world of death and sin, should be sufficient to push you onward in the long, difficult fight for righteousness and true justice.