I’ve never claimed to be an evangelical, which will make many evangelicals happy. However, others do pin that term on me, including my friend, Keith DeRose. Keith is a philosopher at Yale and a Class-A blog lurker and commenter (he will also guest blog for me here on occasion).
Keith recently left a comment on Rich Mouw’s blog which he pointed me to in the wake of my pre-election posts on Obama and abortion. As usual, Keith brings up a great argument, and one that many of us (evangelical or not) should consider. Because, if we cannot answer this question, we’re just not being honest:
Of course one can be “concerned about abortion-on-demand,” while seeing
that as just one issue among many. But I think the most important thing
for “multi-issue evangelicals” (MIEs) to explain in order to make their
position intelligible is the exact nature of such concern. For here’s
the problem. Many evangelicals for whom abortion is — or at least
approaches being — *the* all-important moral/political issue of our day
think that way because they think that abortion, from the moment of
conception on, is murder – the moral equivalent of killing an
eight-year-old child, for instance. Thus, abortion in our nation (and
in many others) is mass murder on a huge scale. So OF COURSE this will
be a dominant issue for them.
They — and I, too, looking at it from the
other direction — then have a hard time understanding MIEs who (to give
a caricature of the reasoning, but one designed to highlight the
serious problem) will tell them, say, before voting, “Yes, I’m with you
on abortion. But that widespread mass baby murder that happens
throughout our land every day is just one issue for me. I also want
some nice recycling programs.”
Well, one way that that’s a gross
caricature is that, in giving such a speech, an MIE won’t explicitly
say that they agree that abortion is mass murder on a huge scale. But
they also won’t (at least typically) explicitly deny it. As is common
for those trying to maintain a “big tent,” that’s left vague &
But there does usually seem (in, for instance, the recent
“Evangelical Manifesto“) a suggestion that you mean to be standing with
the strong pro-lifers on the issue of abortion, but only demur when it
comes to make that a dominant concern, to the point that it crowds out
other issues. But *shouldn’t* it crowd out issues, if the problem
really is one of mass murder on an enormous scale? At least, some
explaining seems called for.
Perhaps some MIEs think abortion is a very
bad problem, but it’s somehow not mass murder on an enormous scale, and
so there’s room to negotiate between that and other important concerns.
Or maybe there’s some epistemic component to the position: Some MIEs
may think that abortion *might* be mass-baby-murder, but aren’t really
sure about that, and so there’s room to be swayed by other concerns. Or
maybe there are some MIEs who do think, quite confidently, that
abortion in our land is mass-baby-murder, but think nonetheless that
these other issues are so important as to compete with that problem.
And of course, different MIEs may fall into different of these
categories. In that case, nobody can speak for all MIEs on this issue,
but these possibilities should be explained: “Some of us think this
way, some that, and some this other…” But that’s what needs explaining,
it seems to me.