Evangelicals have been deceived but do they know that? For many years I wondered why conservative evangelicals call themselves pro-life when many of them don’t seem to really care about the sanctity of life. I mean they might care for an unborn child, but they certainly don’t extend that same passion towards caring for the mother or the type of “life” the child will have once they are born.
The voting habits of conservative evangelicals are illuminating – and confusing. Conservative evangelicals continually demonstrate the incongruity of their argument for the sanctity of life as they frequently oppose legislation that is undoubtedly pro-life. In fact, in my article, The Only Way To Be Pro-Life Is To Be Pro-Choice I argued that the most life is preserved not through forcing a woman to carry a child to term, but by allowing that woman to provide a “life” for that child. My argument is that there is more to life than mere existence. And just because you allow a child to exist does not necessitate they will also have a life.
But going beyond the definition of what “life” means. There are other less intellectual ways that one can be pro-life. Pro-life means stuff like supporting legislation that will make it easier for people in low-income neighborhoods to afford food, clothing, and education for their children. It means providing meaningful access to health care. It means providing a path to citizenship that doesn’t entail children being held in cages and parents having to wait 10 years to become a citizen. It means understanding that you cannot discriminate against another person just because of their skin color or ethnicity or religion. I mean these are all pro-life issues, are they not?
Evangelicals Did Not Care About Abortion Until They Were Told To
I have begun writing a new book. In that book, I have a chapter where I explore modern evangelicalism’s history on the issue of abortion. Since so many evangelicals and fundamentalists have distorted history my goal was to separate fact from fiction. What I found was not only illuminating but also disturbing.
To put it bluntly, evangelicals did not care about the issue of abortion until they were told to. For example, in 1972, just months before Roe v. Wade Gallup conducted a poll that showed 68% of Republicans and only 59% of Democrats agreed with the following statement, “The decision to have an abortion should be made solely by a woman and her physician.” Years of public debate served as the context for this poll. The issue had been thoroughly vetted by the public and this was how they felt.
This is further demonstrated by the Protestant Affirmation on the Control of Human Reproduction by the Christian Medical Society that convened in 1968 to discuss the issue of abortion. In this, they state “Whether or not the performance of an induced abortion is sinful we are not agreed, but about the necessity and permissibility for it under certain circumstances we are in accord.”
Believe it or not, even the Southern Baptist Convention put out a statement in 1971 condoning abortion under certain circumstances “…to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” This position was reaffirmed in 1974 and 1976. Today their statement on abortion reads differently “We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.” Notice the word “all”.
Clearly, something has not only changed for the SBC, but for most evangelicals regarding this issue. So, what was it? As my book goes on to uncover the fight for anti-abortion measures occurred as a failed attempt to promote a racist idealogy and to continue segregation. Yup, you heard me right. (I do not have space in this article to show the evidence, but I document it in the book.) You may think those two things seem completely unrelated, but in brief, it revolved around “religious freedom”. Presidents of evangelical schools and pastors of evangelical churches (e.g. Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones to name a couple) believed that integration violated their religious freedom. They believed they should be able to choose who they educate and who they don’t. Does that sound familiar? The same tactic is being used today against the LGBTQ+ community and Christian business owners who believe they have the “religious right” to refuse services to this community.
Because racism was such a big cultural issue at this time key evangelical leaders knew they could not come right out and say that they should be allowed to segregate. Instead, they chose a roundabout way to address the issue. They chose the issue of abortion. If they could sway legislation to agree that abortion was an issue of religious freedom, then it was not a far leap to include other issues as well. We can see the results of this logic today. As a Christian business owner, I apparently have the right to refuse service to people in the LGBTQ+ community, who are by the way a protected class. I could also argue that I don’t want to provide services to African Americans based on my religion using the same type of argument.
This was the impetus behind the development of the Moral Majority and became the primary issue of the religious right heading into the 80s. It was a significant theologian and his nepotistic son who solidified this issue by providing religious propaganda for Christians who needed to be “pro-life”. The propaganda machine was the work of Francis Schaeffer and his son Frank who wrote and toured America in order to get evangelicals and fundamentalists riled up about abortion. It is Schaeffer’s vision and framework that is still in use today by religious conservatives. I interviewed Frank Schaeffer in a podcast where he tells me how their involvement in this issue came about. It is an interesting conversation that lends more credibility to what I am arguing.
Ultimately, the abortion issue was a smokescreen that allowed nefarious evangelical leaders to exercise their political will. If someone were to look at the issue more closely they would recognize that there are far greater issues to be concerned about than this one.
Is There Any Biblical Support For Anti-Abortion?
No. To prove this I decided to go to the Focus on the Family website and find their biblical support for being anti-abortion. Here was their “biblical proof”.
Psalm 130. This is used to demonstrate that life has value because we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God while still in the womb.
Clearly, this is hyperbole. First, God does not carefully put together every single child that has ever been born. Perhaps he created the mechanism, but that was the extent of his involvement. If this were the case then how do you explain miscarriages, deformities, or disabilities? Did God make a mistake while he was putting the child together? The author of the psalm is using poetic license and is NOT intending that his words be taken literally.
Psalm 50. Says absolutely nothing about abortion or anything even closely related to it.
Luke 1. Again no clue why this is cited. It says nothing about the issue.
Jeremiah 1:4-5. The argument here is that God knew Jeremiah while he was still in the womb and clearly God gives every person a purpose, so to deny that is to deny what God has made.
This argument doesn’t advocate anything that resembles being against abortion. All God is saying to Jeremiah is that he had a plan for Jeremiah’s life even before he was born. That may be true of Jeremiah, but that is not necessarily a universal axiom. It emphasizes Jeremiah’s importance, not an unborn child’s importance. I would be more concerned about the Platonic undertones this verse seems to underscore.
Isaiah 49:1. Same meaning and argument above.
That is it, folks!
The only additional argument I would add that I have heard is that God cares for the unborn because he cares for innocent life. If this is true, then why did God tell the Hebrews to kill the Canaanites? Including innocent children. What about Job? He was a righteous man who had done nothing wrong according to God himself and yet Satan was allowed to do pretty much anything he wanted to him. What about the flood? Surely, not every single human being was bad. What about the thousands of Ethiopians that were killed (2 Chronicles 14:12-13)? God even kills 500 thousand of his own (2 Chronicles 13:17). What about the Philistines? I could go on and on.
If this doesn’t demonstrate the extent to which evangelicals have been deceived I don’t know what does.
Why Is Manipulating Evangelicals So Easy?
Ever since Francis Schaeffer’s involvement the issue has become the primary focus of Republicans and conservative evangelicals since. In fact, it has become so important to this group that it is one of the primary reasons that Donald Trump was elected as President in 2016. The abortion issue has so impassioned this voting bloc that they were willing to overlook all of the moral failures of Trump to protect the unborn.
Evangelicals tend to be manipulated easier not because of something they have done per se, but because of evangelical leaders who have almost complete control over the minds and hearts of their people. Evangelical leaders have carefully created trust with their people based on manipulation and lies. They have used scripture, which is of the utmost importance to evangelicals, and twisted it to make it say things it does not – as illustrated above. And because of the lack of questioning allowed in evangelicalism, people just accept it.
Or have they?
According to Lifeway Research (an evangelical think tank), 7 out of 10 abortions are performed on Christian women. I wish I had time to get into this one, but I will have to leave you with that fact to chew on. Get my book when it comes out to see a more in-depth discussion on this issue.
Some Closing Thoughts
Until evangelicals are permitted to think for themselves they will always be easily manipulated. The control that evangelical leaders have over their people is the primary reason for all of the problems within evangelicalism – including their significant attendance decline. Every single problem in evangelicalism stems from the inability of lay people to challenge authority.
It is okay to be passionate about this issue. But, it should not be the issue that drives everything you do. It should not be of such importance that you are willing to overlook the immoral degeneracy of someone like Donald Trump.
Evangelicals, please begin questioning things and stop accepting them just because someone told you it is true. Become a critical thinker. Jesus needs competent representation in the world.
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