Here’s a hot topic, possibly the single most divisive topic at the intersection of Christianity and politics: abortion.
I used to be a single-issue voter, and as a conservative Christian that issue was (say it with me now) abortion. Baby-killing. If a candidate was “pro-life,” he/she got my vote. End of story.
Once as I was walking into my polling place, I was approached by the local Dem candidate, doing some last-minute campaigning. “I’d be honored if you’d vote for me,” he said. “Where do you stand on abortion?” I asked. He told me he was a practicing Catholic, and believed in the sanctity of life, but also believed that the woman carrying the baby should have the right to decide. He believed in life, but was politically pro-choice.
I said I’d think about it. I voted for the pro-life Republican, but I did think about it. A lot.
Literally I had never spoken with a pro-choice person in my life. I had never heard that it’s possible to be pro-life, while at the same time allowing other people to be something else without passing judgment on them.
This is a big issue today – BINARY THINKING. With-me-or-against-me thinking.
I propose a little something called NUANCE. In that vein, here are some thoughts that dip below the surface of the abortion issue. I invite you to have a conversation about this with your one-issue-voter loved ones. (Be gentle!)
“Pro-life” really means “pro-birth.” If you don’t want women to have abortions, you believe they should have no choice but to carry babies to term and give birth, right? So let’s start by acknowledging that fact.
Republicans are definitely, proudly pro-birth.
But “pro-life” means that you are in favor of people being alive.
Who is alive?
Unborn babies are alive (that’s my belief, though some Dems disagree), but born babies are also alive. So are little children. And teenagers, adults, and senior citizens. Homosexuals are alive. And Muslims, Hindus, Mexicans, Native Americans, Blacks, the poor, the homeless, the uninsured, the undocumented are alive. Police officers are also alive. So are people living in Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan and Palestine.
In fact, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of people who are alive were already born.
How to be pro-life
So it seems to me that if you are really pro-life (not just pro-birth), you might want to see more gun control. Children are accidentally shooting each other every day with their parents’ guns. (Sometimes they shoot their parents too.)
Adults with mental health issues or vendettas walk into schools, grocery stores, and movie theatres and gun down people who are alive. If you’re truly pro-life, you want to end the tragedy of cops getting shot down—and alleged criminals losing their lives before they have a chance to prove their innocence. GUN CONTROL IS PRO-LIFE.
If you are really pro-life (not just pro-birth), you want to see an end to drone strikes that kill innocent people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other distant countries whose people are just as alive as you are. You want to see more diplomacy and less war, you want to give nations a chance to live at peace instead of threatening preemptive attacks. You do not want to start a war with Iran. ANTI-WAR IS PRO-LIFE.
If you are really pro-life (not just pro-birth), you want those un-aborted babies to enter a world where they can get enough to eat even if their moms are unemployed. You want the homeless to have a place to sleep and a warm meal even if they can’t contribute to society. You want refugees from war-torn countries to have a second chance, a place to be safe. AID TO THE POOR AND TO REFUGEES IS PRO-LIFE.
If you are really pro-life (not just pro-birth), you want teenagers—whether black or brown, Muslim, atheist or Hindu, gay or trans—to be able to walk around without fear of being shot, stabbed, or beaten: you want them to be able to go through life with the same chance at happiness that white, Christian, straight people have. CHAMPIONING MINORITIES IS PRO-LIFE.
Is it possible that a refugee or undocumented immigrant will come to the US and kill or rape or steal? Yes, it’s possible, but no more likely – in fact, much less likely – than an American-born person doing those things.
Is it possible that a person on welfare will squander their money on booze, cheat the government, or deal drugs? Yes, it’s possible – but if we who are privileged make a real way for the underprivileged to succeed, these behaviors are less likely. Also, don’t we all know people not on welfare who waste money and cheat the government?
“Pro-abortion, and you call yourself a Christian?”
When I first went public a few years back with the idea that I might vote Democratic, I got these responses: “You’re pro-choice? How can you support [a candidate] who believes in murder of a child and call yourself a Christian?” and “So you’re ok with murdering a child?”
Ok, first of all, pro-choice is not the same as pro-abortion.
I could turn that question back on my detractors: “So you want all of those babies to be born. Are you willing to pay their grocery bills and medical bills, or do you just want them to be alive without food and medicine? You call yourself a Christian?”
So…am I ok with the death of an unborn child? I am not. I am also not ok with the deaths of innocent already-born people. The fact is that electing a pro-birth president is not going to bring an end to abortion. Women will continue to have abortions. Please don’t ask me to vote for [fill in the blank] so that women who choose abortion might have to do it illegally.
Can I vote for a Democratic candidate and call myself a Christian? You bet I can. I don’t want unborn children to keep dying—although they will keep dying regardless of who is president. But if I voted for a Republican candidate, I’d be voting for more already-living people to die.
All this to say: abortion is a tragedy, but it’s not the only tragedy. Pro-choice folks are not pro-death—it’s just not that simple. And pro-birth folks are not by default pro-life. Republicans need to stop demonizing Democrats as “baby killers” and admit that their own platform is not all that holy. To “choose life” (Deut. 30:19) involves more than just closing abortion clinics.
I have a lot more to say on this subject….next time. Have you subscribed yet?