A couple weeks before the recent election I had a conversation with a professor at a mainline-denominational seminary. I asked him about the political climate within the faculty at the seminary. He said it is a one-issue topic with everyone. The only thing anyone cares about is abortion. He said he’d changed his stance a few years ago. It wasn’t that he felt any differently about the issue of abortion, but he’d realized there are many other important issues, such as poverty, with which we as Christians need to concern ourselves.
I’ve had conversations with a growing number of Christians who share this sentiment. It’s seemed particularly strong in the last year, with the latest Presidential election. Over the last four years my world view has drastically changed, and I’ve seen many of my brothers and sisters change as well. (I’ve touched on this new and ever-changing world view in previous blogs. See “Anarchism and Ecclesiastes” and “A Mainstream Counterculture”)
Here’s one of my main conclusions: We’ve been used!
We, the Church, have been used by the political system. This is not just the Republican Party, though they are a large culprit. We’ve been used by political and religious leaders seeking to create a legislative apparatus of “Trickle-down Morality”. Twenty-nine-or-so years ago Jerry Falwell et al. created the Moral Majority, which sought to establish a political coalition to make religious (particularly Christian) voters into a powerful political demographic. The Moral Majority found enormous success at delivering this demographic to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Presidential election. This was arguably the first time since the 1920s that the Church played a major role in politics. This, understandably, excited many within morally conservative religious communities. But this also began the intertwining of Christian ideals with right-wing conservative doctrine. In other words, two things that should have virtually nothing to do with each other have become nearly indistinguishable. And one thread in particular holds it all together: abortion.
Eventually Christians weren’t just concerned with issues of abortion, but also tax-breaks for the wealthy, support of war abroad and many other politically conservative ideals. Pastors have preached for congregations to support particular candidates simply because of hot-button issues, disregarding the other stances these particular candidates hold.
Today a candidate merely needs to say he’s Pro-life and he has 70% of the evangelical vote.
Today many Christians speak of a man like Barack Obama only as a “baby-killer”, even though many of his stances are incredibly gracious and charitable. He cares for the poor. He doesn’t just want welfare, though many on the right throw out words like “socialism” and “welfare state” in an act to scare people away from actually researching his stances. He wants to level the playing field so even the poorest of the poor can accomplish what suburban kids can accomplish with virtually no effort. But most Christians have no idea about this, and appear to have no concern for the social/economic apparatus which continually widens the gap between rich and poor (not to mention the fact that the rich control the entire apparatus).
Many Christians seem to only care if a candidate is labeled “pro-life”, or “Murderer”. And there are no other issues.
Abortion is a horrible act. Nearly everyone agrees, especially anyone who’s talked to a mother who has aborted a child. But it is more complicated than just a mother who wants to kill her baby, which is the way many people think of it. (In fact, it is an issue that deserves more than just one paragraph in this post, but alas…) Often abortion is a woman in great distress, feeling like she has no other choice-whether that is true or not. And Christ compels us to put more effort into caring for these women in their distress than in merely holding up placards with fetuses in front of abortion clinics three times a week. My mother recalls a doctor who lived down the street from her house when she was a child. This was before abortion was legalized, and he would perform abortions for free in his home under the safe supervision of a doctor. He had seen too many women resort to coat-hanger-type operations, which was a worse situation all-together. Abortion has been around for thousands of years. It has been around as long as unwanted pregnancies have been around, which is to say “forever”.
Abortion is… a lot more complicated than religious and political leaders on both sides make it out to be.
And, therefore, it should not be the only political issue Christians care about. What about the poor? What about war and support of oppressive regimes abroad? What about the number of dilapidated schools in EVERY city in this country? What about the state of race relations 35 years after the civil rights movement?
I’m not saying every Christian should have voted for Barack Obama. However, I am saying that nobody should vote for a candidate because of a single issue, especially such a complicated issue such as abortion.
I do believe we should no longer allow the political world to use us. We can’t let politicians dangle the issue of abortion in front of us and then lead us wherever they feel we should go.
And now I welcome any and all comments. Please let me know what you think.
The Calico Rebellion