As the Impending National Debacle (aka Election Day) draws nigh (Rejoice, the end is near!), recent posts have focused on the Christian’s political dilemma. It is a testimony to the Pro-Life movement that no discussion on this can proceed without addressing their role in influencing and directing Christian voters.
The best doctrine and policy is that which is forged by challenge and reflection. It is always good to review the state of things, including the Pro-Life movement. This is not to endorse its mirror-opposite opponents, who could stand some challenge and reflection themselves, but to analyze the history and brainstorm on how to implement our stewardship of the earth as best we can in the political process.
First, two large groups of upset Americans have screamed their respective mantras for more than a quarter-century, “Pro-Choice,” “Pro-Life,” “Baby Killer,” “Woman Hater.” No persuasion occurs and no progress happens. Each side claims “converts” on occasion, but the situation remains more or less where it was following Roe vs. Wade. In an America where a majority of people are increasingly angry and frustrated about many things, the street energy of the movement is simply one cause among many.
Second, the Pro-Life movement insists that a Christian must vote on the basis of this issue, regardless of where candidates or parties stand on other matters. Further, it has identified the Republican Party as the exclusive Pro-Life vehicle, even when the GOP candidate strays very far from Christian ethics otherwise. While I believe in the morality of being pro-life, we are called to be stewards of all God’s earth. It is not responsible to vote for a candidate on the basis of one issue, even a very important one. Sincere Christian voters have given power to monsters on occasion simply because the latter mouthed appropriate Pro-Life sentiments. As Christians, we are the leaven in the lump, to raise it uniformly through our ferment. We dare not allow ourselves to be relegated to a corner of the public square, because our mandate covers the entire spectrum.
Third, the history of legislating prohibitions on a population with a majority, or large minority, not in agreement instructs that it not only doesn’t work, but spawns bad unintended consequences. Thus, Prohibition failed to stop people from drinking, but did serve to escalate the Mafia into a major conglomerate of organized crime, as it met the thirst of a population for the now illegal booze. Before Roe v Wade was not a time without abortion, but simply a time of illegal abortion or abortion done elsewhere. There is no reason to think that the successful prohibition of abortion again would have a different outcome. In such a political climate, limiting the conditions under which abortions can be done is probably more achievable, as is promotion of acceptable contraception. At present there seems no likelihood of an absolute prohibition, let alone one that wouldn’t be widely subverted. Politics, as the saying goes, is the art of the possible.
Therefore, fourth, the energy of the movement is better spent on Christian formation. When Christian leaders must legislate morality on their own people, we have already lost the battle. If the Faithful understood that the earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24) and thereby all life on it is sacred, the sanctity of life from womb to tomb would be obvious. The laity are not consumers, to be amused and placated lest they be lost to the competition. They are the people of God, who should be fully participating in the actions of the Faith, fully aware of the worldview and tenets of Christianity. An educated laity is a more positive prognosis for success than legislated prohibitions against the will of millions. It is an evangelical road, not a Pharisaical one.
Fifth, the all-encompassing concept of the earth as the Lord’s means a politician who assents to Pro-Life views cannot walk away from a child once born. To be pro-life means a consistent commitment to the well-being of all people, not just the unborn. The sanctity of life on the Lord’s earth suggests opposition to capital punishment and a narrow interpretation of what constitutes a just war. Ironically, the American Roman Catholic bishops, who are clear on this, promote electing politicians with the opposite position simply because the latter oppose abortion.
We have come to a moment when some evangelical leaders are urging a vote for a man whose swill of moral corruption includes massive avarice, greed, adultery, obscene attitudes towards women, deceit, contempt for others and endorsing of violent behaviors. Surely there are limits to what constitutes a “Christian” candidate. This is not to praise his main opponent, whose own record is well short of commendable. It is rather an argument for two things:
1. Christians should not approach elections on one issue, but on the wide spectrum of our responsibility to steward the Lord’s earth, a multi-faceted concern, and
2. The perspective of the Pro-Life movement needs to energetically widen regarding the sanctity of all life, including those already born and not near dying, the human part of the Lord’s sacred earth, and focus more on being a powerful tool of Christian education and less on being a political advocacy group.
Next week will be, mercifully, the last post on the election, and thereafter we will return to more inspiring matters.