December 21, 2014

January 25, 2012


Three Ways Christians Rationalize Voting for Pro-Abortion Candidates

I’ve been engaged in a number of conversations lately with Christians—some of them well known orthodox Anglican thinkers and leaders—trying to justify their support for pro-abortion politicians and candidates. In almost every exchange I’ve run into slightly different forms of the same three arguments

The first goes something like this: “I agree that abortion is wrong but we cannot legislate moral choices. Instead, why don’t we simply focus on preaching the gospel. Only changed hearts will bring about a changed culture.”

The logic behind this rationalization is stunningly bad—so bad it’s hard to answer without a tinge of incredulity and exasperation. But here’s a paraphrased summary of my most common response: Right you are about changed hearts. But why the false dichotomy? One might as well say: “I agree that killing toddlers is wrong, but we cannot legislate moral choices.” Sure we can and we must. Not only do we proclaim the gospel and pray that God’s grace will change hearts and change the culture but we also put laws on the books that prevent people from killing their children.

Both/and not either/or.

The second rationalization employs logic every bit as bad if not worse than the first but a little more subtle. It goes something like this: “Yes, abortion is a great evil and yet it is merely one great evil alongside poverty, injustice, inadequate health-care and preemptive war. Why take this one great evil and elevate it above the others? I vote for the candidate who will, overall, do the most good. Every once in a while, that will mean voting for a pro-choice politician.”

The trick to this justification is to make abortion “just like” an ineffective economic policy or the failure of a particular party to resolve the health-care crisis or engaging in what some consider an unjust war. While all of these things do indeed result in destructive consequences for many people, the radical difference between abortion and any of them is that abortion is the purposeful killing of a human being. The others might result in death for many innocent people but such a result is accidental not purposeful. No free-world politician sets out purposefully to design an economic policy to kill people. Abortion has only that purpose and only that end. Comparing abortion to bad economic policy is like comparing the inept driver who accidentally swerves into oncoming traffic and kills another driver to the very good driver who purposefully drives into a crowd on the sidewalk at full speed.

In an article posted on the Christian Research Institute website Scott Klusendorf writes:

“Are pro-life advocates focused too narrowly on abortion? After all, informed voters consider many issues, not just one.

Of course abortion isn’t the only issue-any more than the treatment of slaves wasn’t the only issue in the 1860s or the treatment of Jews the only issue in the 1940s. But both were the dominant issues of their day. Thoughtful Christians attribute different importance to different issues, and give greater weight to fundamental moral questions. For example, if a man running for president told us that men had a right to beat their wives, most people would see that as reason enough to reject him, despite his expertise on foreign policy or economic reforms. The foundational principle of our republic is that all humans are equal in their fundamental dignity. What issue could be more important than that? You might as well blame politicians like Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt for focusing too narrowly on defeating the Nazis, to the neglect of other issues.”

The truth is that the ongoing , purposeful, legalized killing of innumerable unborn infants in the United States is a moral crime of such depravity that genocide, slavery, and mass murder provide the only the only legitimate comparisons.

The third rationalization involves a kind of paradigm shift. “The question is not,” some will say, “whether abortion is right or wrong. It is manifestly wrong. The question is who gets to decide? Is it right to give such power to the national government. Shouldn’t these kinds of decisions be left to the mother, the one who carries the greatest burden in caring for the unborn child? A one month old ‘fetus’ can’t survive after all unless the mother sacrifices her body to care for it? Shouldn’t she be the one who ultimately decides whether she can “

On the one hand the argument is an attempt to piggy-back on the increasingly prominent libertarian sentiment among conservatives. “Hey, if you really support less government why would you want the state getting involved in a woman’s womb?” On the other hand the argument suggests that the right to live ought to be determined by the measure of a human being’s independence.

The “libertarian” justification betrays an implicit denial of the unborn baby’s humanity. If, in fact, the unborn baby is “a baby”, then whether or not to kill it cannot be a decision left to the mother or father or both. Not even Ron Paul, I hope, would want to allow parents to kill toddlers or infants or retarded children. All these rightly enjoy the protection of the national government and the law. It should not be different for an unborn baby since “baby” it is. To argue otherwise is to implicitly accept the secularist position that a newly conceived human is somehow less human than than we are—a position both genetically and biblically repugnant.

Likewise, if we are going to define the right to live using independence or autonomy as the measure, then we will be opening a very dangerous door. There are many people who cannot survive apart from the care of another. Do they have less right to live than the more autonomous among us? Such reasoning is not very far from the “useless eater” ethics employed by health professionals in early mid-twentieth century central Europe. We are all, in fact, on some level “dependent.” Where do we draw the line?  A toddler is more autonomous than a one month old unborn baby but the toddler is far less autonomous than I am. So why draw the line at the unborn month old baby? Why not the toddler? Why not the homebound grandmother? Morally, it makes very little difference. Once you tie human life to autonomy, life becomes very cheap indeed.


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140 comments

You left out one rationalization, which happens to be my own:  The Republican Party pays lip service to the pro-life side, but does little more.

Note that, for four years during the past decade, there was a Republican president, Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, and a Republican Supreme Court.  Was any serious effort made to modify or moderate the rule of Roe v. Wade?  I don’t think so.  There was, of course, a lot of talk.

At the same time, the precarious balanced budgets of the late nineties were squandered with ill-thought-out tax cuts and two unfunded and largely unjustifiable wars.  We continued our long-term slide toward a smaller middle class (I know, that’s not a concern of many posters here).  The economy crashed.  And suddenly our government was doing something I thought I’d never see in the United States:  justifying the torture of enemy prisoners.

Please understand, yes, I have usually been a Democrat.  But I have on occasion voted for Republicans in every office from President to municipal judge, and, at the turn of the millenium, I was a registered Independent.  But the actions of Republicans under the Bush administration pushed me solidly back to the Democratic side.  I wish the Democrats would moderate their stance on abortion.  But Roe v. Wade came out of a Repubican Supreme Court, and Republicans have done as little about it as Democrats.  So naturally other issues take on a greater importance.

There is also the question of effectiveness.  I don’t want to carp about individuals, but when a serial adulterer makes “family values” a centerpiece of his campaign, he only draws scorn upon himself and the values he purports to champion.  Much better one who models family values, not merely talks about them.

I really don’t want to get into a political discussion here.  But I think it important to note that even very traditional Christians can differ about how the values of the gospel can best be furthered by the rather blunt instruments of law, politics and governance.

[1] Posted by rick allen on 1-25-2012 at 10:43 AM · [top]

Matt - I would submit that abortion is not an issue, therefore whether or not a particular candidate is pro or con does not really matter excpt as a measure of his/her personal viewpoint.  The supreme court has set national policy.  It’s no longer a “political” issue unless you are referring to appointments.

But so what.  An 8 year president gets to appoint 2-3 justices at most.  Should I vote for an anti-abortion candidate, who otherwise has views that I detest, on the basis that he/she might POSSIBLY get to appoint 2 justices who MIGHT turn out to be antiabortion.  Then we would have 6-3 or 7-2.  Or would it be better to vote for a candidate who would put into place policies that would tend to reduce the occurance of abortion.  This would be within his scope of governance.

I am very much in favour of planes not falling from the sky.  I wish that could be legislated, but as an alternative, adequate safety, training and inspection rules might significantly reduce the occurance.  And they CAN be implemented.

[2] Posted by ALREADY-GONE on 1-25-2012 at 10:49 AM · [top]

Notice rick allen that I said nothing about a political party. I was dealing specifically with the decision to vote for a candidate who explicitly supports the legalized killing of unborn babies. There is simply no excuse for doing this regardless of party preference.

[3] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-25-2012 at 10:50 AM · [top]

I like Rick’s comments and agree wholeheartedly.  Given a choice between the persons currently running for President who claim to be Republicans and the incumbent Democrat, I don’t know that I’ll vote for any of them.  Matt, does that count as a rationalization?

[4] Posted by Greg Sample on 1-25-2012 at 10:56 AM · [top]

And I might add that I think it’s impossible to separate the abortion debate from politics, so even tho Matt said nothing about political parties in his post, in my view the two are fused.  It would be akin to talking about smog and not discussing cars.

[5] Posted by Greg Sample on 1-25-2012 at 11:02 AM · [top]

ALREADY GONE,

“I would submit that abortion is not an issue, therefore whether or not a particular candidate is pro or con does not really matter excpt as a measure of his/her personal viewpoint.  The supreme court has set national policy.”

You’re kidding right? I mean, you do know that congress has the right to make laws…right?
http://www.prolifealliance.com/life at conception act.htm

As far as judicial appointments. The last 8 year president got to appoint two pro-life judges. Of course you should vote for a president who will do so in the future should there be an opportunity and of course you should not vote for a judge who will continue to legitmize the slaughter.

Speaking of legitimizing the slaughter, the executive branch actually has many means at its disposal to make sure that lots of babies are killed. President Obama has been quite proficient. Here are just several ways he’s facilitated the killing:

“January 23, 2009 – Forces taxpayers to fund pro-abortion groups that either promote or perform abortions in other nations. Decision to overturn Mexico City Policy sends part of $457 million to pro-abortion organizations.”

“February 27, 2009 – Starts the process of overturning pro-life conscience protections President Bush put in place to make sure medical staff and centers are not forced to do abortions.”

“March 9, 2009 – President Barack Obama signed an executive order forcing taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research.”

“March 10, 2009 – Reverses an executive order to press for more research into ways of obtaining embryonic stem cells without harming human life. The order Obama scrapped would have promoted new forms of stem cell research.”

“March 11, 2009 – Obama administration promotes an unlimited right to abortion at a United Nations meeting.”

“March 26 09– President Obama announced $50 million for the UNFPA, the UN population agency that has been criticized for promoting abortion and working closely with Chinese population control officials who use forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations.”

“April 23 2009– Refused to appeal a ruling requiring the FDA to allow 17-year-old girls to purchase the morning after pill without either a doctor visit or parental involvement beforehand.”

“December 17 2009– Signed a bill that overturned the 13-year-long ban on funding abortions with tax dollars in the nation’s capital.”

Of course these are selections from his record in just his first two years on office. Since then its gotten much worse as you can see here:
http://www.lifenews.com/2010/11/07/obamaabortionrecord/

But hey, what difference does it make.

[6] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-25-2012 at 11:04 AM · [top]

“Matt, does that count as a rationalization?”

Nope. Just a cop out.

[7] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-25-2012 at 11:05 AM · [top]

Hi Greg Sample:

“And I might add that I think it’s impossible to separate the abortion debate from politics, so even tho Matt said nothing about political parties in his post, in my view the two are fused.”

This either a deceptive remark or one that shows you did not read what I wrote.

I choose to think better of you so I’ll say the latter.

In fact I did not claim that one could separate abortion from politics. The post is about voting.

I did claim that it was not about “party”. And that is true. There are pro-life Democrats and Republicans and Independents. Christians, I have argued, ought never to vote for a pro-abortion candidate. That means that if there is a Pro-life Democrate and pro-abortion or “nuanced” Republican, I will vote for the Democrat.

[8] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-25-2012 at 11:10 AM · [top]

Great post, Matt. I agree that abortion is comparable only to to atrocities like genocide, slavery, and mass murder. It is so far beyond any civilized behavior. My husband just said the other day that at no time in history has any horror been perpetrated on such a scale as abortion has been in the last roughly half-century. And in response to ALREADY GONE, I was going to make exactly the points you made in [6]. The president does indeed make a difference in the abortion issue. all it takes is one justice on the Supreme Court to change the outcome of a case before the Court. The president can make many executive decisions. And look at Obama’s “interim” appointments, and at Sibelius’s edict last Friday regarding “health” coverage for employees. A president can veto legislation.
Although I’m absolutely, rabidly pro-life, I too once thought that you had to look at the whole picture when voting; but I now believe that abortion is, if not the only issue, the single most important issue to base your vote on. I suppose there are some things that would prevent me from voting for a candidate who is the only pro-ife candidate running, but it’s awfully hard to think of one. Once you believe that abortion - and not merely abortion, but abortion in such numbers - is the greatest horror ever perpetrated by man throughout history, then you have to consider the issue when voting.

[9] Posted by Nellie on 1-25-2012 at 11:49 AM · [top]

On the abortion issue hang all the law and the politicians. I mean, that the politician who bows before the Lord and acknowledges that it is God who knits us together in the womb, will be “pro-life” and may be expected to rule humbly and wisely.

[10] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 1-25-2012 at 12:40 PM · [top]

Ron Paul’s position is that abortion stands a far better chance of being outlawed at the state level than the federal.  A majority vote in both houses of Congress can overrule the Court’s jurisdiction in the Roe v. Wade decision (Paul proposed this in HR 4379), but such an initiative was never brought to a vote, all the rhetoric of “pro-life” politicians notwithstanding.  Paul also sponsored the Sanctity of Life bill in the 109th-111th Congresses.

[11] Posted by Old Hop on 1-25-2012 at 12:41 PM · [top]

The argument that Republican candidates have done little to turn back abortion is a regular one employed by the Evangelical Left (Wallis, Campolo, etc). While it is true that there are limits as to what can be done at the federal level, there have been steady strides against abortion on the state legislative level. These state efforts (waiting periods, informed parental consent, clinic regulation) may seem modest on their own, but they have an impact. We have 15-20 years of data revealing that those states enacting abortion regulations see a steeper drop in the number of abortions than those states which do not enact such regulations. Yes, we need to push our Republican officeholders to do more, but the idea that we get nothing from them on sanctity of life is absurd. Let’s also remember that we do not have federally funded abortions, thanks to past GOP lawmakers like Henry Hyde.

[12] Posted by Jeff Walton on 1-25-2012 at 12:43 PM · [top]

Well done, sir!

[13] Posted by fatherlee on 1-25-2012 at 12:45 PM · [top]

We should remember, too, that the creation and enforcement of certain “positive rights” is an inherent problem with unitary democracy—another reasons why a return to a government limited in scope (protection of life and property) is in order.

[14] Posted by Old Hop on 1-25-2012 at 12:46 PM · [top]

Until we return to teaching children that there are consequences for actions, and that responsibility applies both to sex and the natural result of sex, pregnancy, we will continue to have far too many teenage pregnancies, singles older pregnancies, or unwanted married pregnancies. And until that happens, we will continue to have unlimited abortion because it is just too convenient. We really do need to teach the use of contraceptives, odius as that may seem. I read somewhere, a long time ago before the Chinese began to require abortions to limit family size, that a man may intend to withdraw before ejaculation but that when the moment comes not even the most dirt-poor Chinese farmer did not believe at that moment that he could not feed the world.
desert padre

[15] Posted by desertpadre on 1-25-2012 at 12:46 PM · [top]

That the states have done much to limit abortions I heartily applaud.  That is true federalism.

[16] Posted by Old Hop on 1-25-2012 at 12:51 PM · [top]

RE: “Not even Ron Paul, I hope, would want to allow parents to kill toddlers or infants or retarded children. All these rightly enjoy the protection of the national government and the law.”

Actually, my understanding is that Ron Paul does not support a decision to either ban or allow abortion on a national level.  He wants it decided on a state level.

RE: “The Republican Party pays lip service to the pro-life side, but does little more.”

This is simply patently untrue—either through ignorance or something worse.

Before I point out just to what extent it’s so untrue I’d like to point out that I am not a Republican, I am often repulsed by their actions [because they’re unConstitutional and in violation of the foundational principles of private property, individual liberty, and free enterprise], and I have voted for both pro-life Democrats and those of third parties.

That being said, the Republican Party and Republicans in general have accomplished immense progress in the fight against the legalized killing unborn babies.  I carefully outlined this in earlier comments back when people were displaying their ignorance and pretending as if it didn’t matter for whom they voted, and I’ll be wheeling it out every single time the pretense is tried over here at SF.

I’ll quote from the accomplishments I listed during Bush’s tenure as President:

It has been an unbelievably wonderful eight years in regards to abortion.  I have many complaints about Bush—but not his pro-life stances and decisions.  And keep in mind you’re talking to a woman who didn’t vote for a Republican for president, and I also happily voted for a Democrat for a Senate seat too.

Here’s what’s happened over the past several years:

—the courts upheld growing restrictions on abortion, including on, of course, the repellent practice of partial birth abortion
—as a result, states got to pass informed consent laws,
—states got to require ultrasounds prior to abortion
—states got to force abortion mills to operate according to the same standards as other outpatient surgical clinics

All of that led to:

—closures of private abortion mills
—in some states—like Mississippi—no institution that takes state money can perform abortions
abortions reduced by 20% since 1990

Stop and think about that for a while.  20% fewer babies were killed in the womb.

In my own city, the major abortion mill closed down in large part because it wasn’t as much of a money-making machine, due to the challenges of the state regulations forcing them to actually behave like a real medical clinic.  And Mrs. Falstaff, the reason why the states were allowed to do that is directly because of the work of those in politics, no matter the party, who are opposed to abortion.

In addition, Bush eliminated government funding for fetal stem cell research, [something I might add that McCain wanted to add back, but that’s old history].

No, the last several years have been incredibly successful regarding abortion—and cultural advances have been made, as well.  The percentage of Americans who do not approve of or accept abortions is growing steadily.  There is a cultural shift going on.

Furthermore, Bush appointed Supreme Court justices who will not somehow “discover” the new right to killing fetuses—so were a similar case to come up again before the Supreme Court, we are in better shape now than ever in the past 30 years on the SC.  All because of one man—a man that so many people hate—George W. Bush.

Yes, political action accomplished much, the vast vast majority of which by the Republican Party.  They’ve left many of their principles and platform behind, but on abortion they have been largely rock solid—and indeed one of the few hopes—for the past 20 years.  Hopefully there will be more political action so that good people will be elected [and as I’ve said, I consider Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in my choices], so that good Supreme Court justices can be appointed, so that abortion can be made illegal and until that wonderful time, so that we can make abortion as difficult and restricted as possible and so that no further Federally funded infant stem cell research is performed.

[17] Posted by Sarah on 1-25-2012 at 01:19 PM · [top]

I tend to agree almost entirely with you Matt but what does one do when the only choices are between/among candidates each of whom is “pro-choice.”  Refuse to particpate, hold one’s nose and choose the one whose views are closer to my values, or choose the worst of the choices on the theory that it mght provoke a backlash against his/her more extreme position?

[18] Posted by DaveG on 1-25-2012 at 01:25 PM · [top]

No real choice….unfortunately, is there?

[19] Posted by cennydd13 on 1-25-2012 at 01:31 PM · [top]

I should add that I am not a single-issue voter—but I am a single issue non-voter.

I won’t necessarily vote for a candidate solely because he or she is anti-abortion—but I definitely won’t vote for a candidate who is pro-abortion at all.  It’s a deal-breaker.

I’m sure the Nazis accomplished much internally within Germany prior to their hostilities against Poland, but desiring to murder all Jews would have been—I hope—a deal-breaker for me in voting for them.

Matt—to your holistic points above.  I like what you’ve said, but I think you’re leaving out the major foundational difference between the two groups of people.

Those Christians who are willing to support a pro-abortion candidate are political liberals who do not share other foundational values either: private property rights, individual liberty, the free market, limited government, and the Constitution to name just a few.  Truth is—it’s those values that are trumping their anti-abortion values.  That is, if a candidate comes along who fits the bill on their other values—in particular placing the responsibilities, freedom, and the property of individuals into the service of the State to conduct the unconstitutional central state planning that they value—then that trumps any minor quibbles about those candidates being pro-abortion.

Expanding the power, size, scope, and funding of the State in order to take away individual liberty and purport to achieve things that the State will never effectively achieve anyway and should not attempt to achieve is far more important than supporting someone who is anti-abortion.

The way they obscure that fundamental difference in morality and values is by pretending as if forcing individuals to send their money to a massive sucking central planning bureaucracy has something to do with vague “life issues” like “charity,” “eliminating poverty,” and “improving education” and those issues are an equivalent moral choice to eliminating the right of mothers to kill their babies in the womb.

Because of that much deeper and more foundational dichotomy between the two groups—the mutually antithetical foundational beliefs about the basis of our constitutional republic—it’s hopeless to engage in dialogue with them, other than to point out for others’ sakes how irrational and wrong they are, and just how staggeringly mutually opposing the two groups are.

[20] Posted by Sarah on 1-25-2012 at 01:36 PM · [top]

</blockquote>Let’s also remember that we do not have federally funded abortions… </blockquote>
Sorry, but we do have federal funding being used for abortions. In 1997, Planned Parenthood, according to their own fact sheet, they received $165 million from taxpayers and performed 165,174 abortions. They performed 305,310 in 2007 and received $363 million. 2007 is 31 years after the Hyde Amendment was crafted in 1976.

In February 2011, the House voted to eliminate about $330 million through the end of September for preventative-health services going to Planned Parenthood.

Sorry, but the Federal Government is knee deep in death and denying the rights of life and pursuit of liberty and happiness for many Americans resting in their mother’s womb.

[21] Posted by Festivus on 1-25-2012 at 01:39 PM · [top]

#21 Festivus - I correct myself—no direct, federal medicare funding for abortions. Yes, Planned Parenthood does receive federal dollars, obstensibly for their non-abortion services. We all know that restriction is a joke, but at least we don’t have Canada-style “free” abortions.

[22] Posted by Jeff Walton on 1-25-2012 at 01:52 PM · [top]

Matt+

Your first rational hits close to home, because it fits with a “mid-step” that I had to wonder through. While, I agree that only changed hearts will end this struggle, it’s kind of like the logic of how the social responsibility is second place to the Gospel.  The point I was missing was that I live in a republic, thus God expected me to use my influence, the gift He given me for being born under this type of government verses a repressive one and He would hold me accountable. While each age had some evil it battle (such as Wilberforce verses the slave trade) which is never at an end, in yet another now-not-yet situation, I am to work toward incarnating His will in this fallen world, what can not ultimately be accomplished until after Second Coming. I don’t stop worrying about the hungry because Jesus said “the poor you will always have with you,” nor do I stop trying to be more like Jesus even though I fail daily (in not by the minute), so to work for justice for those unborn is an another item Jesus expects from me.

[23] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 1-25-2012 at 01:53 PM · [top]

no direct, federal medicare funding for abortions

[22]Jeff, I sure hope they don’t have Medicare funding for abortions! That would be one for the record books! LOL I’m guessing you meant to say Medicaid.

[24] Posted by Nellie on 1-25-2012 at 02:15 PM · [top]

“You can’t legislate morality.”  How often is this thrown at conservatives.  Yet liberal/progressives do this all the time.  Just look at the use of anti-discrimination laws to force the acceptance of homosexuality and the drive to ban and eliminate smoking.

Liberals legislate morality all the time when it is their morality they want enforced.

[25] Posted by Br. Michael on 1-25-2012 at 02:25 PM · [top]

Killing your own child is wrong.  The primary duty of the government to protect it’s citizens.  Roe vs. Wade needs to be overturned.

[26] Posted by B. Hunter on 1-25-2012 at 03:08 PM · [top]

Thank you Matt, Sarah, and the Undergroundpewster!!

Any one who does not ABSOLUTELY CONDEMN, and who is not actively campaigning and voting against politicians and political party that support pro-choice legislations and policies HAS NO MORAL RIGHT TO CONDEMN anything else.

On the abortion issue hangs all the law, the prophets, and the politics.

You may rationalize till the cows come home, and you may even throw in Gringrich’s marriages into the discussion, as if it has any bearing on the subject matter, but that does not make any point.
Mr. Barrack H. Obama and his praise-singers will one day answer for their pro-choice policies and politics that are directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent human babies.
No amount of rationalization would change what is so very clear: Abortion is the intentional killing of innocent babies.
No woman has the right to kill the baby that is in her womb. The baby does not belong to her as a property!!. The baby is an autonomous human being with every right to protection and security.
If you don’t want a baby, then don’t conceive. If after conception, and for whatever reason, you don’t “want” the baby, give it up for adoption.

Some people and literally buying their Hell-Entry-Ticket with their votes, as they keep voting for Mr. Obama’s think-alikes and vote-alikes.

What is so difficult to see and understand in this abortion issue for Godness sake! What in the world!!

Fr. Kingsley Jon-Ubabuco
Arlington Texas

[27] Posted by Spiro on 1-25-2012 at 03:11 PM · [top]

Matt, thoughts from the left:
1) Most elected officials have nothing to do with the issue. When for instance, in Illinois, we elect a board to run the sewer system (we do) the commissioners have no authority or even influence on the health care system.  In cases like that it seems to me that the issue is moot.
2) The correct statement should be, it is unwise to legislate in the absence of a moral consensus. It is true that we legislate a moral issue when we for instance, send rapists to prison. But the society clearly agrees that rapists act immorally.  You, and many here may agree that abortion is immoral, the simple fact is that you have not convinced the majority. And that is why you hear, “you cannot legislate morality.” What should be said, is, “You cannot legislate a moral consensus.”
3) Even if, and for a moment I alone will, we concede that abortion is a moral ill, the fact is that our law and society often deal in what we poli sci folk call, “rights in opposition.” That is, your right of free speech and my right of privacy may both bear on the question of when and how you can shout at me.
In that case, the general tendency in American law is to adopt the least restrictive option. Arguably Roe is that option.

It is telling that many self-identified “evangelical Christians” when assured a study will be anonymous, will say at the same time that they oppose abortion and want their (grand)daughter to have a choice if she is raped. That suggests to me that there are indeed, at least as the voter see it, “rights in opposition.” In sum, you have not made the case to the society, albeit you may have to this board’s majority.

Absent a moral consensus, and given the fact that a lot of people simply think you are wrong, the society elects to trust the pregnant person. I happen to agree with that choice, but even if I did not, it is precisely where the law and the votes land. And that is why you keep loosing on the issue, even when the Republicans are in office. Shouting at me, or at other lefties, and shaming conservatives, won’t create a consensus.

Respectfully,

FWIW
jimB

[28] Posted by jimB on 1-25-2012 at 03:30 PM · [top]

28, again I disagree.  Liberals attempt to legislate moral consensus all the time.  Just look at the drive to legitimate homosexuality.  Look at the drive to remove Christianity from the public sphere.  Look at the drive to stigmatize and de-legitimate smoking, in many cases by smoking bans.  Look at the drive to legitimate illegal aliens.

Liberals use legal means to enforce their view of morality on dissenters all the time.

[29] Posted by Br. Michael on 1-25-2012 at 03:56 PM · [top]

I guess some “Christians”  just think that there are still some babies than must be killed.

[30] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 1-25-2012 at 05:01 PM · [top]

The abortion proponents really don’t understand what they do. I know, having offered them “Kill the Children” bumper stickers supporting choice and asking them to sign a petition to keep pre-born infanticide legal. For some odd reason they seem repelled.

I do think is about time to bring back that gig - with video to post.

[31] Posted by Festivus on 1-25-2012 at 06:05 PM · [top]

I think voters on the evangelical right are often decieved, opting to go with the candidate who speaks loudest and most angrily on a subject, regardless of his personal conviction.  For example, I have friends that are really fired up about Gingrich’s candidacy, largely because he talks tough, debates well, and often says the right things, including on life issues. Romney, on the other hand, is accused of being weak on this issue because of his stance while campaigning for Governor of Mass. Yet to me, the sum of Romney’s life suggests he is going to be a much more reliable on moral issues, and much more likely to find a path to actually achieve something, than Gingrich.

When I vote, I will weigh the best option for real change, even if its incremental. I will not vote for a candidate who says he or she is pro-life, if it is likely that candidate will conduct himself or herself in a way that does more harm than good for the movement. I will not vote for a candidate whose foreign policy will endanger the very liberties and protection that we hope to secure for all, just because he may say the right thing on life issues. To do so would be self defeating.

[32] Posted by Going Home on 1-25-2012 at 07:04 PM · [top]

RE: “Absent a moral consensus, and given the fact that a lot of people simply think you are wrong, the society elects to trust the pregnant person. I happen to agree with that choice, but even if I did not, it is precisely where the law and the votes land. And that is why you keep loosing on the issue, even when the Republicans are in office.”

I don’t understand what that has to do with anything that Matt wrote.  First of all, we’re not continually “losing” on the issue at all!  Some great progress has been made legislatively both at the national and state levels, and further, the opinion polls are happily drifting the moral and ethical way.

Further, the only place where we’re “locked in” to losing—currently—is with the Supreme Court.  So far, Obama has only been able to “maintain” the liberal minority—and that’s *after* excellent progress was made during the GWB terms.

RE: “Shouting at me, or at other lefties . . . “

I don’t think Matt was writing this for revisionist Episcopalians.  We all understand that we don’t share the same gospel.

I believe he was writing for those who believe the Gospel—and who still wish to vote for those who support abortionists.

RE: ” . . . shaming conservatives . . . “

Well—they should certainly be ashamed, but I don’t think they will be, nor do I think that Matt’s attempting that.  Matt’s merely—rightly—pointing out their irrationality and inconsistency and immorality, particularly for others who need to recognize such things.

Mission accomplished.

[33] Posted by Sarah on 1-25-2012 at 07:33 PM · [top]

I will vote for a candidate who has extensive foreign policy experience, who knows what he’s talking about, who is a conservative, who is anti-abortion, and who is a strict constitutionalist.  Just who that candidate might be, however, is open to question.

[34] Posted by cennydd13 on 1-25-2012 at 07:34 PM · [top]

Several thoughts come to mind. I share them as someone who deplores abortion and agrees that it should be outlawed (I marched proudly in DC on Monday). I share them also as a registered independent who believes that political parties in general are antithetical to American democracy.

1) The evil of legalized abortion is wrongly compared to genocide, war, or other similar evils perpetrated by government because government is not forcing abortions but rather simply allowing them to take place. This does not absolve government from turning a blind eye to such evil, nor us for either actively or passively allowing such a condition to continue, but it is helpful to understand the nature of the situation we are dealing with if we are going to combat it effectively.

2) While it may be inconceivable to some folks to compare the evil of abortion with the evil of war, that kind of an emotional appeal hardly settles the matter. The fact is that illegal war is a situation in which government is actually producing and forcing an evil, rather than just allowing it to occur. Even in a situation where abortion is legal, the fact that it is not compulsory (as it is in China) means that we have tools to fight it, many of which Christians have admirably employed over the last four decades, such as pregnancy crisis centers. The only tool available to withstand illegal war, besides insurrection, is protest and the ballot box.

3) Rick Santorum’s work for the pro-life cause has been admirable. However, as a US senator, not only did he support illegal and immoral wars, he also supported the Bush administration policies of torture against those suspected of being enemies of the state. Now, one could make a consequentialist argument here that fewer people are harmed by torture than by abortion, but that would not relieve the Christian of the moral responsibility never to support acts of violent cruelty, even and especially against one’s enemies.

4) The one historical evil that is perhaps comparable to abortion is slavery, since this also involved a laissez-faire attitude on the part of government towards an evil being perpetrated legally by the citizenry. That being the case, it is worth noting that there are more slaves in the United States today than there were in 1860. Of course, much of the slavery in America today happens under the guise of organized crime, something that no politician or political party would be willing to publicly endorse. However, large American corporations are involved in slave labor around the globe, from the prison camps in China that make clothes for Wal-Mart to the child slave labor in Ecuador that produces chocolate for M&M/Mars. These American companies are not only not punished by our government for profiting from slavery, they are allowed to influence our electoral system by making large contributions to PACs. If it is immoral to support a politician who accepts money from Planned Parenthood, it is certainly also immoral to support a politician who accepts money from US companies involved in slavery around the world.

[35] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-25-2012 at 07:39 PM · [top]

Yea! Throw in slavery; throw in “child-labor” in Asia and SA: throw in “torture” of enemy combatant; and of course, throw in George Bush -  at the end of the day, the truth still remains: Those who support the willful killing of innocent babies in the womb have lost the moral right to criticize other issues.

Abortion is the moral compass.  If you are wrong on Abortion,  you are going in the wrong direction. 

Is there anything worse than killing a defenseless person whom you invited to your home - the womb?

What is it that makes this so difficult for well-meaning Christians to see? I don’t get it.
Again, we are talking about Christians. I can understand non-Christians struggling with this issue. But Christians?


Rationalizing, rationalizing, rationalizing, gets us to the wrong position. It always does.

Fr. Kingsley+

[36] Posted by Spiro on 1-25-2012 at 08:26 PM · [top]

to people who say they are opposed to legalized abortion but that abortion is one of many important issues, and will use this to justify voting for a pro abortion candidate, I pose this hypothetical:
Imagine a candidate who agrees with you on every single issue that you think is important.  However, there emerges indisputable evidence that he is an out and out racist.  Would you vote for him? 
Most people have to admit that they would not vote for an avowed racist under any conditions. 
This is because racism is intrinsically evil.  Well abortion is intrinsically evil too.  I think that allegedly pro life people will vote for a pro abortion candidate because they have suppressed the truth that legalized abortion is the unjustified murder of the innocent and helpless.

[37] Posted by Ordinary on 1-25-2012 at 08:28 PM · [top]

I’ve noticed that so called “pro-life” voters who vote for pro abortion candidates invariably attempt to create moral equivalence “economic justice” and abortion issue.

This is a total straw man. I’m convinced that while they may find abortion distasteful or undesireable, their overall driving passion is for the ideas of Karl Marx. They are more excited at the prospect of redistributing other people’s money in the name of “social justice” than stopping the killing of innocent humans in vast numbers.

It takes alot of wars to kill 50 million people (the number of babies I’m told have died since Roe). Besides, most of millions of deaths from war in the last century were caused by communists, so I don’t want to hear any comments equating an unjust war with abortion. There is no comparison.

[38] Posted by Capn Jack Sparrow on 1-25-2012 at 08:49 PM · [top]

Ordinary,

The point of this discussion is about Christians who rationalize their support for abortion.

Racism is an attitude or a wrongly held belief. This is changeable. 

What this has racism got to do with the abortion issue, I don’t know.  Apples and oranges.

Give me a racist any day. A racist mindset may change. But when a baby is killed in the womb, it is terminal. The situation is ABSOLUTELY irreversible.

Fr. Kiingsley+

[39] Posted by Spiro on 1-25-2012 at 08:54 PM · [top]

Sorry, I meant to say:
....attempt to create a moral equivilence between “economic justice” and the abortion issue.

[40] Posted by Capn Jack Sparrow on 1-25-2012 at 08:54 PM · [top]

Hi Fr. Jonathan,

A state going to war, even if it is for a mistaken cause (of course I am speaking hypothetically because I think the war in Iraq was a completely justified use of military power) is not equivalent the state funding or permitting the mass murder of infants.

Even in the case of an unjust war, so long as the purpose is to kill enemy soldiers and not civilians, it is as you say, evil, and yet not as morally reprehensible as funding and protecting the killing of children.

[41] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-25-2012 at 09:00 PM · [top]

Way off Topic
Is anyone else having problems with StandFirm going away suddenly and having “read google-analytics.com” in the area indicating where the browser is trying to go to? It’s driving me nuts!

[42] Posted by Marie Blocher on 1-25-2012 at 09:31 PM · [top]

No matter HOW much people may attempt to justify it or support it, abortion for purposes other than saving the life of the mother is still immoral and a sin in the eyes of the Church, and any person who calls themselves a practicing Christian should feel ashamed of themselves if they support it.  Unwanted babies can be placed for adoption if the mothers can’t care for them or support them, and the prospective fathers who are responsible for these unwanted pregnancies should and must be held fully accountable by the courts until these children reach the age of majority.

[43] Posted by cennydd13 on 1-25-2012 at 09:36 PM · [top]

Matt,

So you don’t see any difference, morally speaking, between something immoral that a state permits and something immoral that a state imposes? Is there no difference between China and America? If there were two candidates running for president, one of whom supported legal abortion and the other who supported something akin to China’s one child policy, would there be no moral difference?

Note that I’m not saying that you’re wrong that Christians should not support politicians who advocate for abortion. But I think that a thoroughly consistent approach must also mean that Christians are forced to stand against politicians who support other moral evils as well, even if they give the right answer on the abortion question. You zeroed in on what I said about illegal war—and I did not mention the Iraq war by name, although I certainly think it would fit the bill—but what about torture and slavery? Is it ok for a Christian to support a politician who stands against abortion if he also supports torture and slavery?

[44] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-25-2012 at 09:46 PM · [top]

Hi Fr. Jonathan

“So you don’t see any difference, morally speaking, between something immoral that a state permits and something immoral that a state imposes?”

Don’t think that’s quite what I said. Besides we’re really talking about something between the two. Abortion is something the state both permits and funds. It is also something the state forcibly protects.

So, if you were to ask me: Do you see the difference between a state permitting parents to take their toddlers to “clinics” to have them dismembered alive without anesthesia, funding the dismembering clinics and dismembering technicians, and forcibly protecting the dismembering and a state instead directly sending troops in to do the dismembering for the parents. I would say “yes” there is certainly a difference—the difference between say a murderer and an accomplice. 

“If there were two candidates running for president, one of whom supported legal abortion and the other who supported something akin to China’s one child policy, would there be no moral difference?”

Certainly there is. One is a knowing accomplice to the murder of millions, the other is the murderer of millions. 

But both are guilty of murder.

“what about torture and slavery? Is it ok for a Christian to support a politician who stands against abortion if he also supports torture and slavery?”

What an odd question. No. But neither is it okay to support a politician who stands against slavery and torture but for killing babies.

Again, I am answering hypothetically here without agreeing to your imaginative accusations against Sen. Santorum.

[45] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-25-2012 at 10:15 PM · [top]

Philippians 2:3b-5 (NIV)
In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Jesus is sometimes called the Divine Physician. 
Thought experiment:  Imagine Jesus curetting the limbs of the unborn, suctioning its brains, and crushing its skull with forceps.
It doesn’t work for a very simple reason. Jesus would not do it.

[46] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 1-25-2012 at 10:17 PM · [top]

Again, Fr. Jonathan:
A slave may gain his/her freedom one day, either by running away, or by legal emancipation, or buy-back, or by a change of heart of the slave-owner; a tortured person may live to tell his story, and may even get justice and recompense.

BUT an aborted child meets a terminal end. 

Moreover, the last time I checked, here in the US, the laws against unlawful detention and infliction of corporal punishment.

Again, apples to oranges.

Fr. Kingsley+
Arlington Texas

[47] Posted by Spiro on 1-25-2012 at 10:20 PM · [top]

Hi Matt,
“Again, I am answering hypothetically here without agreeing to your imaginative accusations against Sen. Santorum.”

Nothing particularly imaginative about it. Senator Santorum is very proud of his stance on torture:

http://www.salon.com/2011/05/17/santorum_mccain_enhanced_interrogation/

[48] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-25-2012 at 10:33 PM · [top]

Hi Fr. Kingsley,

If I’m reading you right, it seems that your position is that Christians may ignore grotesque moral evil if it is not lethal. Respectfully, I cannot imagine a worse compromise of our values. Certainly there are some things that are of a greater magnitude than others, but if slavery and torture do not rise to the level of things that Christians should always consistently stand against then we are reading very different Bibles.

[49] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-25-2012 at 10:38 PM · [top]

RE: “Senator Santorum is very proud of his stance on torture . . . “

Ah.

See—all the parties [of the two Christian groups] accept and agree on the definition of abortion and that under that particular definition, the act is wicked.

Not all the parties [of the two Christian groups] accept and agree on the definition of “torture” and as such thus do not agree that the act is wicked.

So again . . . the attempt to pretend moral equivalence between 1) acts that all among Christians believe are evil and should not happen and 2) acts that *not* all among Christians believe are evil and should not happen is not credible or logical.

Might as well say “since it’s wrong to not give all of one’s money to the poor in Sudan, then we’ll vote for politicians who support abortion.”  People don’t agree about the former assumption.

Again—political liberals believing political liberal things and announcing that unless political conservative believe those things, then they’re hypocrites on the thing that *both* group [supposedly] agree on, which is that abortion is evil and murder and should not be done.

[50] Posted by Sarah on 1-25-2012 at 11:02 PM · [top]

Fr. Jonathan,
Read Sarah’s #50.
If you still don’t get it, or don’t want to get it, I doubt if there is any clearer way to help you on this.

Agian, this article is on abortion. On Abortion, and not on all the evils of this world.

With sincere love and concern,

Fr. Kingsley+

[51] Posted by Spiro on 1-25-2012 at 11:11 PM · [top]

Sarah,

So the standard of whether or not something is inherently immoral and evil is an absolute consensus among Christians about it? If that’s the case, then we must also take into consideration folks like the Episcopal Church Executive Council who seem to believe that abortion is a sacrament.

If torture is not inherently morally evil, then you have a case. But the standard by which we view abortion as a moral evil is Scripture, and the same holds true for torture. Neither of these can be put to a vote.

[52] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-25-2012 at 11:32 PM · [top]

#50: The same principle was/is used very effectively by liberals to get their litmus test of issues supported by all “who professed and called themselves’’ such…Until they tried to make the assumption that all African Americans who were liberal would favor—and support- gay issues…I think that is the problem I have with the Republican Party now, the Religious Right assumes that to be religious, and “right,” on must walk lock-step with them on all issues…Sorry, now as to abortion…

[53] Posted by FrVan on 1-25-2012 at 11:38 PM · [top]

Fr. Jonathan,
This is about Christians and the abortion issue. Matt made that clear from the get go. Again, this is about Christians and abortion, not about some council and the abortion issue. The key word is “Christians”.

Fr. Kingsley+

[54] Posted by Spiro on 1-25-2012 at 11:39 PM · [top]

A couple of comments, one perhaps off topic.  First, I assume that if the republican and democrat are both pro-choice, I should vote third party or write in.  This comes up a lot for me because where i live most republicans are pro choice.  Secondly a question that is perhaps a little off topic.  What if one candidate says he’s pro life but you are not sure you trust Him, or think he’s lying to get elected or a flip flopper.  Do I go with a stated pro lifer who might be leading the polls but that I don’t trust or yet another pro lifer with better street cred?  Any advice?  This is, alas, my problem with Romney.  I, of course, will vote pro life.  I can simply write in santorum in the general election.  But if romney gets the nomination and I live in a toss up state with razor thin polls the day of the general election, I don’t know what I will do if that hypothetical presents itself.  I sure hope it doesn’t but wonder what others plan to do if Romney is the nominee.  His conversion to the cause does not feel genuine to me.  The fact that he does not even know that some forms of birth control constitute an abortifacient is truly breathtaking.

[55] Posted by Matthew on 1-25-2012 at 11:52 PM · [top]

Is there a choice when it comes to voting on a single issue… If you vote for the lesser of evils, you are bad…If you vote for an issue more important to you, in spite of another bell ringer issue, you are bad…If you live under the law, and vote accordingly, you are bad… If you don’t think you agree completely with the stance that a particular issue is always wrong or right,
and you vote that way, you are bad…If you don’t participate in the franchise of voting, because you can’t make a perfect choice without nuances, you are bad…If you don’t vote, you are bad…The choices we are left with in a fallen world are fallen. Yet, in God, I have faith that all things work to His glory, in His time, in other words, in God two wrongs can make a right… I can vote for ten things, against 8 things, not have someone with a perfect record, and God still will win. Perhaps if we continue to influence though, step by step, election by election, compromise balanced with change for the better, and with justice emerging, we can make it to the consummation….And ultimately stop abortion.

[56] Posted by FrVan on 1-25-2012 at 11:57 PM · [top]

Fr. Jonathon wrote:

“If that’s the case, then we must also take into consideration folks like the Episcopal Church Executive Council who seem to believe that abortion is a sacrament.”

Interesting allegation about TEC EC. Does JimB have any comment on that one, I wonder?

Fr Jonathon, I can’t make much comment on American politics. But I am intrigued by your argument in #52. You appear to be saying that because TEC accepts abortion, therefore all Christians are not united on this issue and therefore no Christian may claim to speak for the church as a whole. 

But what do YOU believe about TEC’s stance? If abortion is wrong and if TEC’s executive does, as you put it, consider abortion as a sacrament, why are those people being considered part of the Church at all? In which case, why are they relevant to your argument?

“But the standard by which we view abortion as a moral evil is Scripture, and the same holds true for torture. Neither of these can be put to a vote.”

Sorry, I must have missed the part where anyone suggested that “scripture is being put to a vote”. Isn’t it rather the case that scripture guides us as to how we cast our vote? Which is a different thing.

In other words, if Matt Kennedy believes that Scripture teaches us that abortion wrong, then he is entitled to urge other people to believe the same, and to urge them to let this influence the way they vote.

What’s the problem with that?

[57] Posted by MichaelA on 1-26-2012 at 12:05 AM · [top]

I don’t think the Episcopal Church understands abortion as a sacrament, “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace…”—Though I don’t get all the memos. Regardless, as an Episcopalian, I don’t think of it as so, but as a sad and fallen choice, following another sad and fallen choice…

[58] Posted by FrVan on 1-26-2012 at 12:16 AM · [top]

“Comparing abortion to bad economic policy is like comparing the inept driver who accidentally swerves into oncoming traffic and kills another driver to the very good driver who purposefully drives into a crowd on the sidewalk at full speed.” I would say it is like the driver who takes the wheel after drinking too much, and drives into a crowd, killing children, then tries to justify it…

[59] Posted by FrVan on 1-26-2012 at 12:21 AM · [top]

RE: “So the standard of whether or not something is inherently immoral and evil is an absolute consensus among Christians about it?”

Not at all—but recall that we’re not discussing whether or not abortion is inherently immoral and evil.  There is complete and total consensus on that among Christian believers.

So.  Yet again.  Try to follow the logic here.  There’s no point in trying to compare voting for a political candidate which supports something that *both sides* agrees is repulsive and evil with something that both sides *do not agree on at all* is repulsive and evil.

RE: “If that’s the case, then we must also take into consideration folks like the Episcopal Church Executive Council who seem to believe that abortion is a sacrament.”

Nope—this is a debate between two groups both of which acknowledge the other group is Christian and believes the Gospel.  So . . . those on the Executive Council aren’t a part of the discussion—that’s like hauling in the Incans and claiming one must “take into consideration” their beliefs.

RE: “If torture is not inherently morally evil . . . “

Again—we don’t accept and agree on the definition of “torture” and as such thus do not agree that the act is wicked.

If one group says “torture is defined as not feeding the prisoners steak au gratin when they request it” and the other group says “no it’s not” and then the first group says “and thus those who are opposed to abortion should also be equally opposed to ‘torture’” that is not an equivalent comparison.

In order to make the comparison, you’re going to have to come up with an equivalent about which both parties agree—and then you can try to nail the other group with hypocrisy.

But as it is, the attempt simply evokes chuckles.

[60] Posted by Sarah on 1-26-2012 at 12:23 AM · [top]

RE: “I’ve noticed that so called “pro-life” voters who vote for pro abortion candidates invariably attempt to create moral equivalence “economic justice” and abortion issue.”

Yup—or “torture” and abortion.  Or “raping Mother Earth” and abortion.  Or “cutting off unemployment at 98 weeks” and abortion.  Or “going to war” and abortion.  Or “overturning Obamacare” and abortion.

Which all goes to demonstrate what I said earlier:

Those Christians who are willing to support a pro-abortion candidate are political liberals who do not share other foundational values either: private property rights, individual liberty, the free market, limited government, and the Constitution to name just a few.  Truth is—it’s those values that are trumping their anti-abortion values.  That is, if a candidate comes along who fits the bill on their other values—in particular placing the responsibilities, freedom, and the property of individuals into the service of the State to conduct the unconstitutional central state planning that they value—then that trumps any minor quibbles about those candidates being pro-abortion.

Expanding the power, size, scope, and funding of the State in order to take away individual liberty and purport to achieve things that the State will never effectively achieve anyway and should not attempt to achieve is far more important than supporting someone who is anti-abortion.

The way they obscure that fundamental difference in morality and values is by pretending as if forcing individuals to send their money to a massive sucking central planning bureaucracy has something to do with vague “life issues” like “charity,” “eliminating poverty,” and “improving education” and those issues are an equivalent moral choice to eliminating the right of mothers to kill their babies in the womb.

Because of that much deeper and more foundational dichotomy between the two groups—the mutually antithetical foundational beliefs about the basis of our constitutional republic—it’s hopeless to engage in dialogue with them, other than to point out for others’ sakes how irrational and wrong they are, and just how staggeringly mutually opposing the two groups are.

[61] Posted by Sarah on 1-26-2012 at 12:34 AM · [top]

I wonder if pro-choice people vote for pro-lifers because of other issues? Or in spite of The Issue…

[62] Posted by FrVan on 1-26-2012 at 01:30 AM · [top]

I was going to wake up and write a lengthy response to Fr. Jonathan and Fr. Van…but I see Sarah and MichaelA have said what I would have wanted to say and probably better than I could have.

Matthew…when faced with two pro-abortion candidates, I either write-in or choose a third party candidate. In NYS we have the late Bill Buckley’s “Conservative Party” which is sometimes, though not always, a good substitute.

Also, sometimes candidates do make pro-life statements and promises in order to get elected that do not square with their past records (Romney/McCain). I don’t think there is a general rule…each candidate needs to be measured differently. In my personal dealings I like to take people at their word even if they have, in the past, not quite lived up to their promises—especially if the person is a Christian and, like all of us, in the process of being sanctified. It’s harder to apply that to the political realm wherein it is far more tempting to say what you can to get elected and then you get a 2 to 4 year breather before you have to lie again. So, again, no general rule. I think you have to weigh each conversion story independently to see whether in your view it has merit.

[63] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 06:01 AM · [top]

Do notice, dear readers, that most of the argument on this thread has come as a result of various commenters attempting different forms of the second type of rationalization I identified above…moral equivalence.

[64] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 06:02 AM · [top]

To set the record straight—
The Executive Council joined the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.  Rev Katharine Ragsdale, Dean of Episcopal Divinity School, said that abortion is a “blessing” and described a slain abortion doctor as a “saint.” 
I don’t recall the Executive Council as saying that abortion is a sacrament.  If I’m wrong, please correct me.

[65] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 1-26-2012 at 06:34 AM · [top]

Hi Sarah,

“this is a debate between two groups both of which acknowledge the other group is Christian and believes the Gospel.  So . . . those on the Executive Council aren’t a part of the discussion—that’s like hauling in the Incans and claiming one must “take into consideration” their beliefs…”

Classic. Should be engraved in marble somewhere.

[66] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 07:02 AM · [top]

What I find so sad is that this whole discussion supports the stereotype that Christians care about life only before birth:  so long as a politician calls himself “pro-life,” we are thereby obliged to support him, however much death, suffering, injustice, selfishness, hatred, exploitation and misery he promotes.

[67] Posted by rick allen on 1-26-2012 at 08:39 AM · [top]

2004 - http://www.rcrc.org/about/members.cfm

Apparently and actually the EcUSA stance was made before Ragland et alia et EC made their pronouncements and it is proudly and continuously pictured.

[68] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 1-26-2012 at 08:54 AM · [top]

Hi rick allen

“What I find so sad is that this whole discussion supports the stereotype that Christians care about life only before birth…”

yes and so what? Non-believers have lots of stereotypes about Christians and Christianity. Do you suggest undermining those stereotypes by supporting candidates who will facilitate the slaughter of babies?

We are Christians. We will be publicly slandered and scorned. It’s been that way for 2000 years. It won’t stop until Jesus comes back. Get used to it.

“so long as a politician calls himself “pro-life,” we are thereby obliged to support him”

I’m having a tough time giving you the benefit of the doubt here. Either you are purposefully misrepresenting my point or you have not read very carefully.

No where have I said we are obliged to support all pro-life candidates. I did say we are obliged not to support pro-abortion candidates.

So what is it rick…have you not read or are you just being dishonest?

[69] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 09:00 AM · [top]

Oh, nonsense. Obviously no one is sying that, [67]. Pro-life people aren’t idiots.

[70] Posted by Nellie on 1-26-2012 at 09:03 AM · [top]

Should be “saying.” Also, I see Matt has resdponded to you as well, and has put it perfectly.

[71] Posted by Nellie on 1-26-2012 at 09:06 AM · [top]

“I did say we are obliged not to support pro-abortion candidates.”

So, to make sure I understand you, if a “pro-abortion” candidate is running for any office against any opponent that is “pro-life”—that is, the first is not for outlawing abortion, and the second is, whether or not the office includes any authority over abortion issues—then you believe a Christian is obliged to support the second, whatever his stand on other issues.  Is that a fair statement of your position?

[72] Posted by rick allen on 1-26-2012 at 09:56 AM · [top]

Quoting the Rev. K. Ragsdale as an authority, outside of an ever smaller triangle on Brattle Street in Cambridge, is like asking Joan Rivers to give an opinion, most of her followers are gay, she is paid to make outrageous statements and be outspoken, and she lost any ability to make it big when she knifed Carson in the back…Then wonders why no one loves her except a fringe…

[73] Posted by FrVan on 1-26-2012 at 10:14 AM · [top]

“So, to make sure I understand you, if a “pro-abortion” candidate is running for any office against any opponent that is “pro-life”—that is, the first is not for outlawing abortion, and the second is, whether or not the office includes any authority over abortion issues—then you believe a Christian is obliged to support the second…”

Nope. We are obliged not to support the one who wants baby killing to continue. Just as we ought to oppose any candidate who supports killing the Jews or enslaving black people whatever his stand on other issues. Even if the pro-slavery candidate or pro-Jew killing candidate has no power to effect the policies he/she supports.

Something tells me that even you rick allen would not actually support a candidate with those views even if he/she could not bring them to fruition.

This is not to say one “must” support the pro-life candidate no matter what he or she believes otherwise. He/she may be a socialist or promote some other horrific policies that would not make him a good candidate. Or not. Being pro-life is, I think, a prerequisite for Christian support but it is not a guarantor of it.

[74] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 10:16 AM · [top]

MichaelA,

Fr Jonathon, I can’t make much comment on American politics. But I am intrigued by your argument in #52. You appear to be saying that because TEC accepts abortion, therefore all Christians are not united on this issue and therefore no Christian may claim to speak for the church as a whole.

Not at all. I was simply following the logic of the position that Sarah spelled out, that consensus among Christians equals moral certainty. Whether or not anyone believes that the TEC Executive Council are Christians, they would certainly call themselves Christians, and since consensus is being set out as the standard rather than biblical teaching, then their view is as fair game as anyone else’s. I don’t want to belabor this too much because we could end up in a tedious conversation about what objectively makes one a Christian, but the point was simply that a lack of consensus among American Christians about the abhorrent nature of torture does not make torture any less wrong, nor does it make it any more morally acceptable for Christians to support pro-torture candidates for political office.

But what do YOU believe about TEC’s stance? If abortion is wrong and if TEC’s executive does, as you put it, consider abortion as a sacrament, why are those people being considered part of the Church at all? In which case, why are they relevant to your argument?

I think I pretty much answered the second part of that above, but what I believe about TEC’s stance on abortion (at least if the Executive Council’s unconstitutional actions can be equated with TEC as a whole) is that it is evil and contrary to Scripture, and it matters very little to me whether or not I’m the only person on the planet who feels that way.

[75] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-26-2012 at 11:15 AM · [top]

Just as a matter of logical structure, I think the pull-quote needs to be reversed:

Comparing abortion to bad economic policy is like comparing the inept driver who accidentally swerves into oncoming traffic and kills another driver to the very good driver who purposefully drives into a crowd on the sidewalk at full speed.

In this formulation, [abortion] is identified with [the inept driver who accidentally swerves], while [bad economic policy] is identified with [the good driver who purposefully hits pedestrians].  I think you intended the opposite, Matt.

[76] Posted by SCVJefe on 1-26-2012 at 11:39 AM · [top]

Sarah,

So.  Yet again.  Try to follow the logic here.  There’s no point in trying to compare voting for a political candidate which supports something that *both sides* agrees is repulsive and evil with something that both sides *do not agree on at all* is repulsive and evil… This is a debate between two groups both of which acknowledge the other group is Christian and believes the Gospel.  So . . . those on the Executive Council aren’t a part of the discussion—that’s like hauling in the Incans and claiming one must “take into consideration” their beliefs.

I think I followed your logic reasonably well. I am not sure, however, that you have followed mine. Is the basis upon which abortion is considered a moral evil the teaching of Holy Scripture or is it the consensus of Christians? The argument that you are advancing is that we need only to be concerned with supporting candidates who uphold moral values that most Christians would agree with. On other moral matters, we can agree to disagree. That does not make any sense. Either abortion is evil or it isn’t, regardless of popular opinion, and the same holds true for torture. In the 1860s, many American Christians believed that slavery was perfectly legitimate and even sanctioned by Scripture. Other Christians felt differently and called American slavery out for the evil that it was. We cannot absolve those who supported slavery at that time simply because there was a lack of consensus amongst believers.

Again—we don’t accept and agree on the definition of “torture” and as such thus do not agree that the act is wicked.

If one group says “torture is defined as not feeding the prisoners steak au gratin when they request it” and the other group says “no it’s not” and then the first group says “and thus those who are opposed to abortion should also be equally opposed to ‘torture’” that is not an equivalent comparison.

That is a colorful parody but it reflects nothing of the actual atrocity of torture. It is torture for someone in power to inflict severe physical and psychological pain upon another human being. It is torture to strip prisoners naked, shove their heads in bags, and make them pile onto each other, as happened at Abu Ghraib. It is torture to send electric shocks through prisoners to “make them dance” as one group of Marines did to a detainee in Iraq at a different camp in 2004. It is torture to asphyxiate a man in his sleep, to attack prisoners with dogs, to almost drown a man in the hopes of making him think he’s about to die, to sexually humiliate, to strip men naked and lead them around by a leash, to beat people, to rape, or to hang a man by the wrists until he dies, all of which have been done in the last ten years. The idea that things like this can be dismissed as “enhanced interrogation” is so foul that it is difficult not to be sick while repeating it. If it is ok for Christians to support politicians who either outright endorse such actions or even try to simply write them off as not that bad, then it is hard to see how we have the moral foundation to speak about anything at all.

In order to make the comparison, you’re going to have to come up with an equivalent about which both parties agree—and then you can try to nail the other group with hypocrisy.

But as it is, the attempt simply evokes chuckles.

I didn’t accuse anyone of hypocrisy. I didn’t even disagree with the main thrust of Matt’s article. I merely said that if we are going to stand as Christians against politicians who support legalized abortion, we ought also to stand against those who support torture and slavery, even if they happen to agree with us about abortion. I am honestly baffled as to why this is controversial. Neither abortion nor torture should be a laughing matter for Christians.

[77] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-26-2012 at 11:50 AM · [top]

Matt

Voting is an obligation of citizenship.  Just as my citizenship might oblige me to sit on a jury, or take up arms at the behest of the government, so also does my citizenship in this country obligate me to vote.  Within the Providence of God, I am offered a specific choice.  It might not be the choice I desire, but it is the choice that I am presented.  Because I am a citizen, I am obliged to exercise my franchise within the parameters of the choice laid before me.  The possible outcomes of the choice to which I make my contribution - whether for blessing or for judgment is again within the providence of God - does not change my obligation to exercise my duties as a citizen.  I would no more refuse to vote than I would refuse to wear the Uniform because I did not agree with the war. 

carl

[78] Posted by carl on 1-26-2012 at 01:04 PM · [top]

“Do notice, dear readers, that most of the argument on this thread has come as a result of various commenters attempting different forms of the second type of rationalization I identified above…moral equivalence.” True, but doesn’t make it bad or good…Right or wrong…All just pointers to something higher, the perfected vision of which we do not have, left with only human experience to describe perfection, everything will fall short…

[79] Posted by FrVan on 1-26-2012 at 01:08 PM · [top]

Hi Carl,

I don’t quite agree with you with regard to the “obligation” to vote—especially if both candidates advocate killing babies. It is certainly a right and a privelege. And I would not necessarily compare it to the obligation to serve in the military.

Nevertheless, when faced with two horrific choices, one can always write in a pro-life candidate if one feels obligated to vote.

But this thread is not about the existence or non-existence of such an obligation and nor will it become so.

[80] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 01:15 PM · [top]

The more I think about it, “torture” is a funny example (funny/strange not funny/chuckle,) in that following 9/11 it was “good,” 5 years later it was “bad.” Maybe Sarah is correct and choices and morality are situational…“whose Ox is being gored…” I had not thought so related to abortion, butshe has nearly convinced me.

[81] Posted by FrVan on 1-26-2012 at 01:23 PM · [top]

Hi Fr. Van,

“True, but doesn’t make it bad or good…Right or wrong…”

Moral equivalence arguments can be “good” and “right” so long as the two things being equivocated are in fact equal. But the moral equivalents to abortion on offer here so far are almost all of the ones I mentioned in my second point and so they are “bad” and “wrong” for the reasons explained in that point.

[82] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 01:23 PM · [top]

[80] Matt Kennedy

I presented the argument specifically because it breaks your paradigm.  I did not use any of your three rules to rationalize why I vote in every Presidential election.  Nevertheless, I shall withdraw. 

carl

[83] Posted by carl on 1-26-2012 at 01:23 PM · [top]

Matt, I agree, about specifics, am not sure there is a perfect response…Any more than I think there can be an exact/equivelent translation to scripture. But none the less, I think we can get the idea? Though maybe not?

[84] Posted by FrVan on 1-26-2012 at 01:27 PM · [top]

Hi Carl,

It does not “break my paradigm” because the “three rules” were not, in fact, “three rules”. They were three common ways Christians rationalize voting pro-abortion.

Nor did I suggest, ever, that these were the “only” three ways Christians make such rationalizations.

So your offer of a fourth does not “break” any paradigm. You have simply offered a fourth rationalization for voting for a candidate who supports the legal killing babies. People feel the obligation to vote and so are willing to lend support to one of two pro-abortionist candidates on offer. Maybe I’ll address that rationalization when I have more time.

[85] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 01:33 PM · [top]

Matt,

You did not mention torture in your second point. Would you see this as being on par with concerns of economic justice or with the issues that you did say were equivalent to abortion: “genocide, slavery, and mass murder”?

[86] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-26-2012 at 01:33 PM · [top]

Dear Carl:
I think there is a difference between arguing, as in a “spat” - and people trying to find out and test deeper questions in order to find deeper meaning… Or to understand how people may have different understandings, and greatly differing opinions and still be “christian.” Perhaps we can Devy ourselves into percentages- if you believe XYZ you are 100% Christian, but PDQ you are 75% Christian, and so on…Rate ourselves: excellent, good, bad, indifferent, or stupid/smart, Christians…Perhaps the deeper question here is what constitutes a “Christian,” and what constitutes a “Christian response” or lack thereof—or makes you less than…When does the bell ring, “You are going to Hell…”

[87] Posted by FrVan on 1-26-2012 at 01:41 PM · [top]

Hi Fr. Jonathan,

Hypothetically speaking if we could find a practice that we all agree represents torture…perhaps sticking bamboo shoots under the fingernails of juvenile shop lifters…and we then had a hypothetical candidate who supported such measures, I think it would be incumbent upon Christians not to vote for such a candidate.

But that hypothetical practice, as evil as it would be, is not “equivalent” to dismembering a baby in its mother’s womb.

So if I had a candidate on the one hand who supported dismembering unborn babies and on the other who supported sticking bamboo shoots under the fingernails of juvenile shop-lifters, I would consider the former one worse than the latter but I would vote for neither.

[88] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 01:50 PM · [top]

OH! By the way, I feel driven to point out that I am   cynical enough to believe that not one candidate is opposed to abortion for any moral, Christian, or values centered ideal. I think they would take the baby out of the womb themselves if they could get elected by doing so…the devil is in the aspiration to be President…How can I morally vote for any of them, given the critera?

[89] Posted by FrVan on 1-26-2012 at 01:53 PM · [top]

Hi Fr. Van.

“I think they would take the baby out of the womb themselves if they could get elected by doing so…”

Perhaps…although there are voting records and election records which tell you which candidates have changed positions in keeping with the election climate and which have not.

As for cynicism. As I said above, call me naive but unless there is a clear track record of unreliability and inconsistency on this issue if a candidate tells me he is pro-life I do not doubt his word until he shows it to be false.

[90] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 02:11 PM · [top]

I would certainly agree that the bamboo shoots under the nails would be torture. I sincerely hope that we would agree that the things I mentioned in #77 above are torture as well.

What is the biblical basis that you’re using for equating one form of atrocity with another? (Not a snarky question, I really do want to know.)

[91] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-26-2012 at 02:30 PM · [top]

Hi Fr. Jonathan,

Well both are certainly atrocious…but not all atrocities are equal. I hope you are not suggesting, for example, that the Vietnamese bamboo shoot treatment for US POW’s during the Vietnam war is “equivalent” to say Hitler’s mass murder of 6 million Jews?

I mean, I suppose I could cite some bible verses here…but there is also common sense.

[92] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 02:42 PM · [top]

Hi Matt,

No, I’m not saying that they’re equivalent. But I do think it is a worthwhile thing to have a sense of how the Bible teaches us that such things are wrong. Relying on common sense is helpful, but it also assumes that we can come to some agreeable definition of morality, which is a bit of a stretch in our fallen condition. I’m assuming that your thoughts on how to reason about these things have a biblical basis and not just a basis in our perception of the natural law.

[93] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-26-2012 at 02:57 PM · [top]

For the record, I would not advocate that Christians vote for either Hitler or the Viet Cong. wink

[94] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-26-2012 at 02:58 PM · [top]

“I do think it is a worthwhile thing to have a sense of how the Bible teaches us that such things are wrong.”

Me too.

“I’m assuming that your thoughts on how to reason about these things have a biblical basis and not just a basis in our perception of the natural law.”

Thanks for the assumption.

I do not have the time nor the cheek to give a bible lesson to a fellow priest who likely knows very well the biblical proscriptions with regard to both murder and inflicting intentional injury (and the differing mosaic penalties). So maybe you can be more specific. What is unbiblical to you about the idea that purposeful mass murder of babies is a worse sin than inflicting injury on a criminal or enemy combatant?

[95] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 03:10 PM · [top]

#78 Carl,

As a former election official and employee of the voter registrar of where I grew up, I applaud your post and wish more Americans thought as you do. I do wish to point out that usually you always have a choice to write in a candidate (except for President, since we’re voting for “electors”) and it is also possible not to vote in a certain race (maybe all of them if they are bond or referendum on the ballot). 2008 Presidential saw 61.7% voter turnout (highest since 1968, usually between 50-60% for presidential and half that or less in non-Presidential), which means 38.3% of Americans could not be bothered, even in a high profile race. I wished they make the effort to show up and write in “none of the above” if that is the position that truly suit their position.

[96] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 1-26-2012 at 03:17 PM · [top]

RE: ” . . . so long as a politician calls himself “pro-life,” we are thereby obliged to support him, however much death, suffering, injustice, selfishness, hatred, exploitation and misery he promotes.”

Not at all.  For instance, McCain was/is pro-life and I certainly did not support him, because of all the suffering, injustice, selfishness, hatred, exploitation, and misery he promoted with his nonsensical non-conservative views, not to mention his disinterest in the Constitution, private property, individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise.

As several others have pointed out, the only requirement Matt’s pointing out and folks like me claim is that we won’t be voting for candidates who support killing unborn babies.  We are single-issue *non*-voters.

RE: “The argument that you are advancing is that we need only to be concerned with supporting candidates who uphold moral values that most Christians would agree with.”

Not at all.  I’m merely pointing out that one cannot pretend moral equivalence between supporting persons who support 1) acts that all among Christians believe are evil and should not happen and 2) acts that *not* all among Christians believe are evil and should not happen is not credible or logical.

I might, for instance, believe it is immoral to keep a dog outdoors rather than indoors with his pack.  I might declare it is immoral to eat any chickens that were not range-fed, but instead kept in cages.  But to assert that there is a moral equivalence for Christians to vote for a candidate who supports cage-fed chickens and outdoor dogs, and for Christians to vote for a candidate who supports burning kittens alive is irrational.  I might still believe that all three activities are *evil* based on Holy Scripture.  But since the vast majority of Christians do not grant the immorality of the first two, comparing the votes of the two groups is not an apples to apples comparison and is strikingly invalid.

Of course, Christians who wish to march in the streets about the evils of cage-fed chickens and outdoor dogs are welcome to do so—it is a good and noble thing to oppose that which one believes to be immoral.  But expecting Christians to support your beliefs by voting your way on things about which the vast majority of Christians do not agree is irrational and self-centered. 

RE: “That is a colorful parody . . . “

Yes indeed—and demonstrative of a simple fact.  Christians don’t agree [unsurprisingly] on the definition of torture—but we *do* agree on the definition of abortion.

RE: “If it is ok for Christians to support politicians who either outright endorse such actions or even try to simply write them off as not that bad, then it is hard to see how we have the moral foundation to speak about anything at all.”

Well I’m comfortable—quite comfortable—with your believing that it is immoral to support politicians who do not denounce your definition of torture.

RE: “Neither abortion nor torture should be a laughing matter for Christians.”

Oh it isn’t.

But “torture” is.  And Christians who attempt to conflate and make equivalent abortion and “torture” are laughable.

[97] Posted by Sarah on 1-26-2012 at 03:19 PM · [top]

Matt, I’m honestly not trying to provoke you, and I apologize if anything in my tone is coming across that way. I sincerely want to know how you think it is best to reason biblically to come to know what is or is not a greater moral evil. I’m not looking for a laundry list of citations, but maybe a general principle? But if you don’t have the time or energy at the moment to dig that far in, that’s fine. We can always pick this up another time. Grace and peace to you.

[98] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-26-2012 at 03:20 PM · [top]

I should also point out that the primary goal at this point of the rationalizers is to carefully move the thread off-topic from the three ways Christians rationalize voting for pro-abortion candidates onto their current favorite political topics, like the justice or injustice of the Iraq war, the definition and nature of enemy combatants, the Geneva Convention and to whom it applies, just war and the nature of deterrence and defense of a country, what punishments should be offered to those who torture and those who “torture,” and, of course . . . George W Bush.

From there, perhaps we could leap to the evils of welfare reform, low taxes, and not increasing funding for public schools.

Those Christians who are willing to support a pro-abortion candidate are political liberals who do not share other foundational values either: private property rights, individual liberty, the free market, limited government, and the Constitution to name just a few.  Truth is—it’s those values that are trumping their anti-abortion values.  That is, if a candidate comes along who fits the bill on their other values—in particular placing the responsibilities, freedom, and the property of individuals into the service of the State to conduct the unconstitutional central state planning that they value—then that trumps any minor quibbles about those candidates being pro-abortion.

[99] Posted by Sarah on 1-26-2012 at 03:28 PM · [top]

Dear Matt:

My problem with you on this issue that you won’t let me justify the low road of compromise and cynicism I have taken.

[100] Posted by FrVan on 1-26-2012 at 03:30 PM · [top]

Sarah,
At the risk of beating a dead horse…

RE: “The argument that you are advancing is that we need only to be concerned with supporting candidates who uphold moral values that most Christians would agree with.”

Not at all.  I’m merely pointing out that one cannot pretend moral equivalence between supporting persons who support 1) acts that all among Christians believe are evil and should not happen and 2) acts that *not* all among Christians believe are evil and should not happen is not credible or logical.

You continue to make an argument based on consensus which inevitably leads to logical fallacy. Try running your argument backwards and you might see what I mean. Your argument, at least as far as I can understand it, is:

A) Christians should not support politicians who promote gravely immoral actions

B) All Christians believe that abortion is a gravely immoral action

C) Some Christians do not believe that torture (as I defined it above in #77) is a gravely immoral action

D) Christians should not support politicians who promote abortion but may support politicians who support torture

The entire basis of your argument comes down to whether points B and C accurately reflect how we come to know whether something is immoral or not. I have stated repeatedly that I believe such a distinction can only be made objectively through the teaching of Scripture, that something is wrong if Scripture says it is wrong, regardless of how many Christians say that it isn’t. You have repeatedly replied that it is “self-centered” to think this way and that only an opinion held by “all Christians” can settle what Scripture has to say on the matter.

So, using that logic, if there are even ten legitimate Christians in the world who do not believe that abortion is immoral, but all Christians everywhere suddenly came to believe that it was immoral to eat chocolate ice cream, then the following would become true:

A) Christians should not support politicians who promote gravely immoral actions

B) All Christians believe that eating chocolate ice cream is a gravely immoral action

C) Some Christians do not believe that abortion is a gravely immoral action

D) Christians should not support politicians who promote eating chocolate ice cream but may support politicians who support abortion

Now, you could say that anyone who would not see abortion as a moral evil does not really understand the Gospel, but that would only serve to underline my point. Torture is evil and wrong because Scripture says it’s evil and wrong, regardless of how many people who say they believe in what Scripture teaches say otherwise.

Well I’m comfortable—quite comfortable—with your believing that it is immoral to support politicians who do not denounce your definition of torture.

RE: “Neither abortion nor torture should be a laughing matter for Christians.”

Oh it isn’t.

But “torture” is.  And Christians who attempt to conflate and make equivalent abortion and “torture” are laughable.

“My” definition of torture is the intentional infliction of physical or psychological harm upon another human being. I was not aware that there were other definitions. As I mentioned above, the instances of torture that have been propagated by the United States in recent years have included the following:

It is torture to strip prisoners naked, shove their heads in bags, and make them pile onto each other, as happened at Abu Ghraib. It is torture to send electric shocks through prisoners to “make them dance” as one group of Marines did to a detainee in Iraq at a different camp in 2004. It is torture to asphyxiate a man in his sleep, to attack prisoners with dogs, to almost drown a man in the hopes of making him think he’s about to die, to sexually humiliate, to strip men naked and lead them around by a leash, to beat people, to rape, or to hang a man by the wrists until he dies, all of which have been done in the last ten years.

Which of those practices do you believe the Bible would allow us to condone?

[101] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 1-26-2012 at 03:52 PM · [top]

One of the huge problems with an “all or nothing” mentality, single-issue mind set, is that it presumes that to stand by one’s single issue is to allow other issues to remain unprotected, or without support. It is to “throw out the baby with the bath water…” To not participate in a society because one facet is beyond our moral sensibility to endure, is to not only give up a voice in the society, but to give up the fight for one’s issue.

So, all the anti-abortion folks stop participation. great. If they can’t find their candidate, supporting their one issue, to the extreme they demand, they quit. Now only those favoring abortion will have a say on that issue, and others, strengthening their influence to forge power structures to keep in play their murderous schemes.

I am sure there is nothing the liberal extremists would want more than for religious conservatives to recede into the realm of the unimportant and powerless…Politically speaking.

I have a friend, who happens to be a politician, who claims his strongest chance in being elected is not a huge number turning out to vote for him, but those who don’t show up to vote. If he can get a strong enough core, he can win - not even by a true majority of people, just by those voting, and an even larger number of non-voters. He acknowledges he is not popular, but says it isn’t important.

On the School board in my town is someone who won by having 6 people write in her name, (out of thousands of possible voters) she was the only candidate and a write-in at that. Only 6 people voting! ...Know her well. Pro-abortion, and would strive to get abortion counselling accepted as a reasonable choice for students. Voting write ins for someone else, or as none of the above, but voting would have made a difference.

[102] Posted by FrVan on 1-26-2012 at 04:03 PM · [top]

This is one issue where a change in positions over time might not be a bad thing, actually. A candidate that feels insecure of his support among evangelical conservatives, yet needs their support, may be a more reliable ally on these types of issues. 

One of the changing factors at work now is the cumulative impact of the number of abortions, with so many US families impacted in one way or another.  Anger and indignation can cause one to advocate in a way that is not likely to soften the heart, and move the minds, of many.  I believe you should convey your message in a way that gives full credit to God’s infinite mercy and grace to all those so impacted in our society.

Fr. Van, in regard to your cynicism, if the truth was known I believe there are some operatives behind the most pro-life candidates who don’t want to see real progress on this issue, instead preferring that the status quo, with ever escalating debate. Its better for fundraising and firing up the “base”.

[103] Posted by Going Home on 1-26-2012 at 04:18 PM · [top]

Thank you, Matt, for initiating this important discussion.

The very issue you raise was spoken to in a joint statement by the Catholic bishops of Fort Worth and Dallas shortly before the 2008 elections.  They make the distinction between issues of prudential judgment (such as concern for the poor, immigration, the war on terror) and issues of intrinsic evil (such as abortion and euthanasia).  The bishops point out that issues of intrinsic evil and issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent; that abortion is the “defining moral issue” of the day; and that a Catholic, under normal circumstances, may not legitimately vote for a candidate who supports abortion.

As to the question of whether Republicans have done anything to promote the overturning of Roe v. Wade:  Since the time Roe was decided on on 7-2 vote, Republican presidents have appointed the following justices who are likely to vote to overturn Roe and who are still sitting on the Supreme Court:  Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito.  One more Republican appointment, and Roe may well be history.

[104] Posted by slcath on 1-26-2012 at 04:20 PM · [top]

Hi Fr. Jonathan, no offense taken, it just seemed from your questions that you had a point you were trying to make.

Biblically speaking, murder is one of the greatest sins primarily because humans are created in the image of God. To kill a human being without just cause is therefore, not only an act of horizontal violence (man v. man) but it is a blasphemous act. An act of violent aggression toward God himself. To do so in the womb where God is knitting together a child in his own image, is the height of hatred for God.

To be sure causing injury without just cause is also sinful. You are injuring an image bearer and it is also a form of blasphemy. But both the significantly lesser penalties given to those who cause injury in the OT and the fact that the image of God in man is not destroyed by injury in the way it is by death, imply that this form of blasphemy is less blasphemous than cold blooded murder.

[105] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 04:34 PM · [top]

Fr. Jonathan:
Do you believe that the use of techniques that cause fear, pain, discomfort and embarrassment against an enemy combatant is the moral equivalent of cold blooded, pre-meditated murder?

[106] Posted by Jackie on 1-26-2012 at 05:00 PM · [top]

I have not followed this thread very closely, but I have seen the issue of whether one would vote for someone who were pro-slavery has been mentioned.  I just want to point out that within the historical context of the election of 1860 Lincoln would have to be considered as having a “nuanced” position on the subject as he was personally opposed to slavery, and wanted to curtail its expansion into the Territories, but would have allowed the South to keep their slaves to save the Union.

The irony, of course, is that this non-abolitionist candidate becomes the one who is the Great Emancipator.

I am not claiming moral equivalence as a rationalization as much of trying to clarify an historical analogy that has been mentioned on and off.

[107] Posted by Richard Yale on 1-26-2012 at 05:58 PM · [top]

[Kind of a generic commentary, but touching on some of the direction of the recent directions of the banter].

The disclaimer is that I am far too ‘liberal’ for my ‘NeoCon’ friend and far too ‘conservative’ for my ‘Progressive’ friends. Actually, I had a party identity, lets just say I actually collected signatures for Ron Paul in 1988. The Libertarians were probably the best fit for me. However, this was the VERY issue that caused me to let go of any party affiliation, for the platform on abortion did not fit with my renewed love for Jesus, so I justified a little until “Ban on Partial Birth Abortion” bills came up and I truly had to face the issue.

So, in one way, I am like the ex-smoker against smoking (actually on of them too, but do not care if you want to burn an ever increasing amount up in smoke), but in another I actually am a tad sympathetic to Christian she referenced in the first paragraph of her post #99.

I am friends with a Christian brother, who loves Jesus and a committed Democrat. In person I tend to let people have their say much more than what you might think if only judging me by my blog persona. So I listen a lot to his soap box speeches, I think it took five or six time of his “I have trouble with NeoCons but who I really can’t stand are Libertarians, they anarchist,” to share that actually that was my last political party, collecting signatures and stuff and no anarchist is a different political theory, we’re more Jeffersonian (no joke, but that a huge rabbit trail, so probably best to debate me via PM or let lie). You get the point, I hear many of the arguments set forth here.


Now, I know in a million years, this friend will never vote GOP. However in his continual diatribes of one issue voter or how there is evil is _____ [Sarah hit his list pretty well], which honestly I do agree if not evils [and some are evils] then issues which Scripture would suggest the “other side” is in the wrong. Honestly, I feel as if I’ve been through a sales pitch, where this friend/Christian brother is asking me to violate my conscience as it would be for me to say he should vote “the other party.”

When I’ve had enough of it, I push back, “So what are you doing to work within the DNC to elevate candidates that I can vote for instead of being such a good ‘foot soldier’ for them to try to argue me into voting for them.” It turns out he has done little “internally” but much to debate people.

I actually agree with that the issues raised in first paragraph of Sarah’s post #99 are issues Christians need to be VERY concerned about, I hope those Christ-loving Republicans will use their influence inside their party, to choose Jesus over GOP and bring about truly a more righteous world. I’d also charge Democrat Jesus lovers to what are they doing internally bring about a godly platform?!?! My last party is small and ideologically pure, so much so as not to hold any power, thus I had to leave, but sadly I do not see too many Tony Halls (retired Dem rep. OH) anymore? Why are those concerned about the GOP sins not working inside their party to bring up candidates I could vote for? I still have many of my past leanings, but I can vote for a “labor” issue over “business” one, that lessor category for me. I wish I had more choice these days, instead I’ve often taken my own advice and gone to the polls to officially “abstain.”

[108] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 1-26-2012 at 06:35 PM · [top]

107, very good point.

At the time of his election to President, Lincoln’s position was that slavery, though morally wrong, was protected in slave states by the constitution. Sound familiar? Two other candidates for the Republican nomination, Bates and Seward, had better anti-slavery credentials. Lincoln ran on a 1960 Republican platform opposed the expansion of slavery into new territories, but did not mention the abolition of slavery in the South. 

I suppose a “pure” voter on slavery would have not voted for any named candidate in the general election, because they all said they would permit slavery. However, a more informed voter would have understood, as did the pro-slavery Southern leaders, that Lincoln’s election was the most effective means availible to curtail, and eventually end, slavery.

[109] Posted by Going Home on 1-26-2012 at 06:41 PM · [top]

[85] Matt

It does not “break my paradigm”

All three arguments you postulated in the original post follow the exact same template.

1.  Concede the evil of abortion.
2.  Trade the evil of abortion against some other criteria.

This entire thread has been focused on the sufficiency of the criteria used to make the trade.  You are asserting that there is no criteria sufficient to overturn the evil of abortion.  My argument did not follow this form.  It asserted a positive duty derived from obedience to legitimate authority.  You cannot attack it by attacking the insufficiency of the criteria in the trade.  There is no criteria.  I am not rationalizing because I make no trade.  That is how I broke your paradigm.

carl

[110] Posted by carl on 1-26-2012 at 07:06 PM · [top]

[104]slcath - It sounds like at least some of the Catholic bishops are attempting to lead on this issue. Unfortunately, my husband just learned yesterday that 52% of Catholics who voted in 2008 voted for Obama. You can’t get much more pro-abortion than he is.

[111] Posted by Nellie on 1-26-2012 at 07:22 PM · [top]

Hi Carl,

I don’t think you’ve understood the point of this post. It was not to offer a “paradigm or suggest that the three rationalizations above are the only reasons Christians might choose to vote for a pro-abortionist.

The post merely reported some common ways in my experience that Christians rationalize immoral decisions.

You have observed similarities in these three common rationalizations.

Congratulations.

But you did not “break my paradigm” since I have not offered a paradigm.

Now, you say that you have not offered a rationalization but:

“asserted a positive duty derived from obedience to legitimate authority.”

You are right that I would not categorize this as a rationalization. It’s rather an example of moral confusion.

The person who believes thus truly believes that the right to vote and the privelege of voting somehow constitutes a moral imperative to vote (perhaps linked to Romans 13) that trumps the moral imperative not to vote for a candidate who will facilitate the killing of babies. This argument is something akin to what we might say about paying taxes. Just because some of my taxes may go to fund baby killing mills, I am still, probably under the obligation to obey the tax laws. After all Romans 13 was written when the rulers being obeyed were far worse than our own and the taxes being paid could be used for things at least as horrific as abortion.

However the “obligation” to vote is not the same as the “legal requirement” to pay taxes. Those who choose not to vote violate no law or ordinance. It is a free decision perfectly acceptable under the law.

So, while I personally might write in a candidate, there is no moral imperative to vote at all for any candidate, especially a murderous one.

[112] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-26-2012 at 07:58 PM · [top]

RE: “You continue to make an argument based on consensus which inevitably leads to logical fallacy.”

No.

I am not arguing that something is or is not immoral based on consensus.  If it is wrong to eat cage-fed chickens and I am the only one who believes it then it is still immoral.

I am pointing out [not arguing, but asserting] that those who attempt to compare those voting for candidates who believe in and support eating cage-fed chickens to those voting for candidates who believe in and support burning kittens alive are engaging in the very tendentious and unconnected acts of “changing the subject,” “blurring distinctions,” and developing false equivalences.  It may or may not be immoral to eat cage-fed chickens.  But asserting that it is the same thing to vote for candidates who support eating cage-fed chickens and voting for candidates who believe in and support burning kittens alive—when the person doing the voting in no way believes that eating cage-fed chickens is immoral—is an invalid comparison.  You cannot compare the two acts not because both actions may or may not be immoral as they may well be but because the Christian doing the voting does not believe the eating of cage-fed chickens is immoral but does believe that burning kittens alive is!

The Christian has not violated his or her conscience at all [though it may well be that the Christian’s conscience is seared and that the Holy Spirit has not yet convicted him or her of the gross immorality of eating cage-fed chickens.]

To repeat [although I understand that it does no good to repeat for Fr. Jonathan at all], in order to make a valid comparison one must come up with something that the Christian actually agrees is immoral!  Otherwise you have a different problem—one of education and conviction.

That is why this thread is entirely useless, for instance, for those who happily support abortion and think it a lovely sacrament.  They are not violating something they believe immoral by voting for a candidate who support abortion [though of course it *is* immoral to do so] so a post explaining rationalizations is quite useless; the non-Christian abortion-is-a-sacrament people need no rationalization.  The problem for them is conviction of sin, not hypocrisy or willful evil for refusing to vote against something they believe to be evil—since they do not believe it is evil at all!

RE: “Your argument, at least as far as I can understand it, is: . . . “

It’s not an argument at all.  I’m pointing out the falseness and tendentiousness of your invalid equivalence.  I’ve made no statements at all about torture other than to point out that Christians don’t agree about its definitions and that torture is not a laughing matter.  I have further not at all stated that one should support politicians who support torture.  So none of your summary of my assertions is accurate.

RE: ““My” definition of torture . . . “

Note that I’m completely indifferent to your definition of torture nor have I asked for it as it has no bearing at all on rationalizations for voting for somebody who supports an act that you and I both agree is intrinsically evil [or at least so you say].  Hiving off onto a discussion of the definition of torture—while a distraction and rabbit trail for which no doubt you would be grateful—is as useless as hiving off onto a discussion of the definitions of poverty and Christian responsibility towards it—a complete red herring that takes away from Matt’s excellent discussion of the rationalizations Christians give to justify voting for pro-abortion candidates.

At this point the entire series of your comments serve as a sort of “living icon” of Matt’s second rationalization.

[113] Posted by Sarah on 1-26-2012 at 09:06 PM · [top]

This thread is already quite massive in size, but having read through it all, there are some concerns that I still have not seen raised.

What I wonder is how exactly one defines a “pro-abortion candidate.” Take John McCain; while he was undeniably better than Barack Obama on life issues, he still supports embryonic stem cell research. Does that make him pro-abortion, or does he get a pass.

Or take Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. She has said on multiple occasions that she does not want Roe v. Wade overturned, but she almost always votes the ‘right way’ when abortion-related votes come up in the Senate (most recently, she voted to defund Planned Parenthood). According to Matt, could a Christian vote for her?

Or here’s an even better question: what if Kay Bailey Hutchison were running against a pro-life Democrat? If the Democrat wins, he helps keep Democrats in the Senate majority. Is the Senate Democratic leadership really going to let any good pro-life legislation pass the Senate? I don’t think so. On the other hand, if Hutchison wins, she’ll help toward obtaining a Republican majority. Republican leadership would be far more likely to press for pro-life legislation, and based on her past voting record, Hutchison would probably vote for it anyway.

Or how about this: forget Hutchison and take a Republican who is more thoroughly pro-choice like Olympia. If Snowe were running against a pro-choice Democrat, would you say there was no difference? The health care bill which resulted in this contraceptive mandate was passed with the support of every Democrat and the opposition of every Republican, Snowe included. Had there been one more pro-choice Republican in the Senate in place of any of the Democrats, the health care bill would probably not be law today.

In summary, I think that saving unborn lives does call for strategically voting for pro-choice politicians under some special sets of circumstances.

[114] Posted by LDW1988 on 1-27-2012 at 12:37 AM · [top]

[112] Matt Kennedy

I don’t think you’ve understood the point of this post.

No, I evidently didn’t understand.  I thought you were attempting to establish the truth of your premise by defeating the arguments against it.  It was self-evident to me that the arguments you were refuting were too narrow to allow you to claim victory. Now I see that you were simply asserting the truth of your position and judging all counter-arguments against that truth claim.

You have observed similarities in these three common rationalizations.

Yes, well, I’m a Systems Engineer.  It’s what I do.  I systematize things.

But you did not “break my paradigm” since I have not offered a paradigm.

You are correct.  I understand why you denied ownership now.

As for the rest, I didn’t develop my argument because you told me not to do so.  You didn’t actually respond to what I would have said.  I continued on the thread only to get you to see that the basis of your argument was too narrow.  But that point is now moot as well.

And my wife is telling me to go to bed…

carl.

[115] Posted by carl on 1-27-2012 at 12:56 AM · [top]

Hi Carl,

“No, I evidently didn’t understand.  I thought you were attempting to establish the truth of your premise by defeating the arguments against it.’

Well I was certainly demonstrating the truth of the premise by defeating “three” of the arguments against it. Not “the” arguments against it. That would have taken a much longer article.

“It was self-evident to me that the arguments you were refuting were too narrow to allow you to claim victory.”

If you have another form of the three rationalizations above, I’d love to hear it. I could be reading you wrongly, but you seem to be passively suggesting that I have constructed weak arguments for the purpose of putting them down. That would imply that I have actually lied in the post itself where stated that I was presenting three of the most common arguments I have heard.

I hope that is not what you are suggesting and that I am reading you wrong but if not then you need to come out and say so explicitly. Passive aggression is unbecoming.

I assure you that I have not been attempting to strawman this. These really are what I have encountered.

Again, if you know of a stronger way to put one of these three rationalizations, that would certainly be “on topic.”

“I’ Now I see that you were simply asserting the truth of your position and judging all counter-arguments against that truth claim.”

Not really. I was presenting three real counter arguments to three real rationalizations Christians offer for voting pro-death.

You presented one reason Christians might make that choice as if you were breaking a paradigm i had constructed. But I had constructed no paradigm. And, indeed, it was not a rationalization. It was, as I suggested above, a misunderstanding of Christian duty. It would be interesting to pursue that reasoning in more depth at another time but this thread

“As for the rest, I didn’t develop my argument because you told me not to do so.  You didn’t actually respond to what I would have said.  I continued on the thread only to get you to see that the basis of your argument was too narrow.”

It would indeed be “too narrow” if I were considering: “all possible reasons Christians might vote for an abortion supporting candidate”. But, again, that was not what I purported to do.

Within the scope of what I have laid out, I would be happy to hear, as I mentioned above, a stronger form of one of the rationalizations above.

“And my wife is telling me to go to bed…”

good call. Mine was too.

[116] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-27-2012 at 09:46 AM · [top]

I think this has been a good discussion, and I appreciate our moderator’s patient replies.  I am still unconvinced, though, about what I think is his bedrock principle, that no Christian can ever vote for a pro-choice politician.

I think the Catholic bishops’ statement cited by one of the posters above is relevant.  They are certainly not wishy-washy on the issue of abortion, yet their stand is rather less absolute than Rev. Kennedy’s:  Abortion is a grave moral evil, but, when a voter is faced with a range of moral evils, he must do his best to choose between them, either by voting for the least bad, or by refraining from voting.

I do not condemn the “don’t vote at all” option.  Withdrawal from the world has always been a legitimate choice for Christians who feel the evil of the world in the political realm is too entangling.  But I don’t think it’s an imperative.

Another poster has decried what she has called “off topic” discussions of other moral evils which have been at issue in past elections.  I can only respond that the question of voting is always one of practical, real-world choices, that I have never participated in any up-or-down referendum on abortion, but that every election involves a range of judgments.  I also continue to be of the opionion that, with respect to any self-proclaimed pro-life candidate, it is legitimate to try to ascertain the genuineness of his convictions, whether he in fact has the intention to implement those convictions, and whether his office really has the power to do so.

Here is one last, real life example.  Some years ago the Republicans of Louisiana named Davids Dukes as their nominee for governor, a proud former leader of a faction of the Ku Klux Klan, who articulated strong pro-life convictions with respect to abortion.  His Democratic opponent, Edwin Edwards, was an old scoundrel in the best Louisiana tradition, and no opponent of abortion.  I well rememeber doing a double-take on first seeing the bumper sticker:  “Vote for the Crook.  It’s important!”

I was not a Louisianan at the time, but, if I had been, I would have certainly voted for the crook.  Rev. Kennedy, I am sure, would have abstained from voting (or might have voted for a third person, which practically amounts to the same thing).  I think his would have been a legitimately Christian vote.  But I think mine would have been as well.

[117] Posted by rick allen on 1-27-2012 at 10:01 AM · [top]

Hi LDW1988

good question I think:

“what if Kay Bailey Hutchison were running against a pro-life Democrat? If the Democrat wins, he helps keep Democrats in the Senate majority. Is the Senate Democratic leadership really going to let any good pro-life legislation pass the Senate? I don’t think so. On the other hand, if Hutchison wins, she’ll help toward obtaining a Republican majority. Republican leadership would be far more likely to press for pro-life legislation, and based on her past voting record, Hutchison would probably vote for it anyway.”

Here’s one problem I see with that reasoning.

As you probably know, the GOP is presently at war with itself…the moderate wing despises the social conservative wing, hates the fact that they have to mouth social conservative platitudes to get elected. They desperately wish that they could drop all of the values stuff and just be good old-fashioned Rockefeller blue blood Republicans.

So their strategy seems to be: put up moderate after moderate for election and then tell the base: look so and so is not as extreme as you yokels are but hey, she’s she’s more in line with your values than her Party of Death opponent.

So we toddle off to the polls and elect the moderate republican.

And that simply encourages more of the same kind of tactic from the moderate wing…and to the extent that it works the Party itself moves left socially and soon, if we comply, the conservative voice will be effectively muffled.

So while short term, yes, voting for a pro-choice moderate republican may seem the most helpful way to promote the pro-life cause…over the long term I fear the opposite is true. Long-term it will result in less clout.

However, if both parties recognize that pro-life people (believe it or not we are now the majority http://www.gallup.com/poll/118399/more-americans-pro-life-than-pro-choice-first-time.aspx ) will vote their convictions no matter what, we cut them off at the pass. You want to win elections, give us pro-life candidates. You want to lose, fine—put up your Kay Baily Hutchinsons and lose. 

But that kind of transformation can only happen if pro-life people do not buy into the “vote for our abortionist cause he’s better than their abortionist” sophistry.

Now if you feel a moral obligation to vote and there is no pro-life candidate, I believe that all states allow write-in candidates. Is that true?

[118] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-27-2012 at 10:01 AM · [top]

[116] Matt Kennedy

I hope that is not what you are suggesting and that I am reading you wrong but if not then you need to come out and say so explicitly. Passive aggression is unbecoming.

No, I wasn’t.  Remember that I imposed a model on this discussion.  I didn’t see you as presenting three arguments but three variants of one argument.  The relative strength of any given variant would be totally dependent upon the moral trade-off made by that variant.  I also saw this argument being presented as a necessary generic template for any Christian position on the matter.  A Christian must admit the evil of abortion.  To justify voting around the issue, he must apply some compensatory moral condition.  This is what I kept calling your paradigm in the argument.  I thought your purpose was to establish a general principal by example through these cases - the general principal being “Any argument based on the paradigm is always false because no trade is sufficient.  The argument always fails.  Therefore there is never a reason to vote for a pro-abortion candidate” 

So I said to myself, “Self, your position is outside the paradigm he is fighting.  It is orthonormal to this entire discussion.  He can’t reach his desired conclusion by the means he is employing.”  Press fast forward, and you said

I don’t think you’ve understood the point of this post.

Oh.  You were just assuming the truth of your premise, and attacking three arguments on the basis of that assumption.  The model wasn’t really there.  Well, it was there.  It just didn’t figure in your thoughts.  That explains btw my shock at being told I was off-topic.  I thought I dead on target

This was in some sense a “target of opportunity” thread for me.  It provided an opportunity to work through an idea that I hold but haven’t really developed extensively, or exposed to hostile fire.  There is on occasion a lot of creative destruction in my posts because I use them for exactly those purposes.  The lesson for me is “Be careful of models.”

carl

[119] Posted by carl on 1-27-2012 at 01:47 PM · [top]

However, if both parties recognize that pro-life people (believe it or not we are now the majority http://www.gallup.com/poll/118399/more-americans-pro-life-than-pro-choice-first-time.aspx ) will vote their convictions no matter what, we cut them off at the pass. You want to win elections, give us pro-life candidates. You want to lose, fine—put up your Kay Baily Hutchinsons and lose.

Preach it, brother!

[120] Posted by Sarah on 1-27-2012 at 03:07 PM · [top]

Interesting Gallup poll.  However, I would doubt that there is a true majority that “will vote their convictions no matter what.” The other data in the survey suggests that many who call themselves “pro-life” have what has been called here a “nuanced” position tending away from abortion, but unwilling to prohibit it in all circumstances. Those espousing an abolitionist position is only 22%.

[121] Posted by Richard Yale on 1-27-2012 at 03:37 PM · [top]

Amen to Rev. Kennedy’s article.

Unfortunately, It’s hardly surprising to see so many Bible-believing Christians capitulate on the issue of abortion in voting. (I know I’ll be hated for this…but…) Bible-believing Christians have largely capitulated in using birth-control even though it is now known that there is a serious possibility (which no pro-birth-control advocate that I know of can rule out) that it may act as an abortive. The arguments I’ve heard for using birth-control in spite of this are at least as weak as those used for voting for pro-abortion candidates (and generally hinge on the possibility that it might not actually act as an abortive—hardly a persuasive argument). I’ll duck for cover. 

God Bless,
W.A. Scott

p.s. Please feel free to delete my post if it is too far off topic.

[122] Posted by William on 1-27-2012 at 03:56 PM · [top]

I agree whole-heartedly, Matt.  When faced with a pro-abortion candidate vs. even a moderately pro-life one…the choice is clear—we must support life.

Your references to infanticide too, historically, hit the target regarding early Christianity:  It was fully legal to murder your unwanted toddler in pagan Roman days…and many did, usually by leaving the child out-doors to die by exposure. 

Christians won the hearts and minds of the Romans though….in a large measure to their rescuing these abandoned children—and their care and attention for the weakest members of society. 

In the ancient world too—not unlike Mother Theresa’s Calcutta—the sick, elderly and dying were also often just abandoned and left alone to die, and Christians became known as those who never allowed anyone to die alone…

May God pierce through the flawed logic and hard hearts of those Christians who politically support pro-abortion candidates.  May Christian leaders and laymen return to the example of our earliest brethren—rescuing the children, and showing real care for the sick and dying.

[123] Posted by banned4Life on 1-27-2012 at 06:11 PM · [top]

As one of those whom this topic was aimed, I was pleased to see some people (esp. Fr. Jonathan) take up Matt’s challenge.  To summarize, yes, some Christians believe that killing thousands intentionally in unjust wars may be morally equivalent to permitting a regimen to continue that permits the killing of millions of babies.  Others disagree (and others disagree about whether specific wars are unjust) but still moral equivalency remains an issue for the first group.

I think it’s also strange to say that voting for a candidate is the same as supporting them.  I don’t think Carl’s argument about a duty to vote per se survives Matt’s point about write-in candidates, but I don’t see the problem with voting for a less terrible candidate.  In the 2008 election, the only candidate I gave money to was Huckabee, but in the end I voted for Obama, knowing his terrible views on abortion, because the only realistic options were McCain and Obama.  A vote is a tool for helping choose one’s leaders; it is not an endorsement. 

If I read Matt correctly, he wouldn’t vote for either of two pro-abortion candidates and would abstain or vote in a write-in.  Other Christians would hold their nose and vote for the better of the realistic candidates.  I think Matt should add the “lesser of two evils” argument as a fourth category beyond the three he mentions.  Someone can vote for the lesser of two evils even if they aren’t making moral equivalencies.

[124] Posted by John Boyland on 1-28-2012 at 10:22 AM · [top]

John Boyland,
I don’t understand. You gave money to Huckabee but then voted for Obama. ??? I mean, I didn’t like McCain either but this doesn’t make any sense to my weak mind.

[125] Posted by Anne Kennedy on 1-28-2012 at 10:38 AM · [top]

[124] John Boyland

A ‘write-in’ vote (especially in a Presidential election) does not fulfill the duty.  It is a form of protest that the voter performs with full knowledge that he is thereby removing himself from the decision-making process.  It amounts to a vote of abstention.  The duty of the voter is to choose.  He is not supposed to pretend to choose.  He is not to fulfill the letter of the duty but the spirit of the duty.

carl

[126] Posted by carl on 1-28-2012 at 10:54 AM · [top]

carl #126,
  OK.  Would it be fair to say then, that you would believe one should vote for the lesser of the realistic evils?  I would agree.

[127] Posted by John Boyland on 1-28-2012 at 11:10 AM · [top]

Yes Carl, but when the choice is something like ‘vote for me and you can kill all the children you want’ against ‘vote for me and you can only kill the children I allow you to’, I write on my voting card, ‘none of the above’. Its not abdicating responsibility, its saying a loud ‘NO’ to evil on every side and then going out to scoop as many babies as possible out of the hands of their enemies. Voting for ‘you can only kill the babies I allow you to’ does not constitute a moral choice, even if it feels nicer than voting to kill all the babies everywhere.

[128] Posted by Anne Kennedy on 1-28-2012 at 03:03 PM · [top]

[128] Anne Kennedy

Its not abdicating responsibility, its saying a loud ‘NO’ to evil on every side

Saying a loud ‘No’ to whom, though.  Who is listening?  What purpose does it serve?  The choice of ‘None of the above’ acts exactly as a refusal to vote.  One of the two undesired outcomes will be realized.  You have only given yourself the ability to say “I had no part in this.”  That is a noble if futile gesture of dubious value.

If I were elected to a legislature (a ridiculous notion, I know, but this is a thought exercise), I would vote for any measure that restricted access to abortion.  I would not demand a perfect solution when a perfect solution is not achievable.  I would settle for a better solution.  There is always tomorrow to tighten the ratchet further.  We should never make ‘the Perfect’ the enemy of ‘the Better.’

carl

[129] Posted by carl on 1-28-2012 at 03:53 PM · [top]

My favorite one is, “If we can just agree to work together towards a better society, there will be less abortions.  You’re not against less abortions, are you?” 

The response I’ve been working on goes something like this:  Last year, my brother in law, who resided in the Philippines, was brutally murdered.  We don’t know if it was the ice pick to the chest that killed him, or the bludgeon to the head.  To make a long story short, the cops over there couldn’t catch the flu, and they are about as currupt as they come.  Even the victim’s friend on the police force, wasn’t that much help. 

Later, I found out that this is actually not the worst place one can live in the Philippines.  A friend of ours, told me that where she grew up, a lady was eviscerated in broad daylight.  One week later, the townspeople were partying in the spot where she was murdered. 

It would appear that people in the Philippines are okay with the ineptitude and curruption of their government, as they are okay with the occasional murder, rape, or kidnapping that happens a few feet from where they live.  They don’t let it get them down, and they don’t let themselves get divided over such things.  So in a way, they have a better society than we do .. Why don’t you guys go live over there? 

By the same token, I would also write-in a cantidate if faced with two pro-abortion cantidates.  Yes, it’s a game of inches, but I think the same commenter pointed out earlier that it’s a game of yards, too.

[130] Posted by J Eppinga on 1-28-2012 at 08:36 PM · [top]

RE: “If I read Matt correctly, he wouldn’t vote for either of two pro-abortion candidates and would abstain or vote in a write-in.”

A lot of us are like that.  Not voting for specific candidates is a good exercise so that both parties may be kept honest.  If parties believe they can get away with putting up non-conservatives they will do so more and more and more, and to more of an extreme.

That’s why I’m very pleased that I did not vote for McCain.  The Republican Party lost literally *millions* of voters who had even voted for Bush in 2004—but not McCain in 2008.  Parties take note of such things.

Eventually, of course, there will be a third party.  It will be a sad thing—as it takes a good 25 or more years to build a credible one, and in the meantime, America will suffer greatly. 

But those are the consequences of organizations losing their way and their identity.  It’s easy to see the parallels with The Episcopal Church.  Some “moderates” were appalled that people wouldn’t vote for a man like Bishop Parsley for Presiding Bishop.  But Jefferts Schori was precisely the right choice for TEC.  Parsley would have continued the obfuscating and the “gentle slope down to hell” as opposed to the Schori plunge, which has communicated loudly and clearly to the masses and hastened the loss of TEC’s credibility.

At any rate, a vote for neither is sometimes an excellent choice—it offers valuable information to the entities offering the products up for sale to the market and they have the option to adjust their product offering—or not.

[131] Posted by Sarah on 1-28-2012 at 10:08 PM · [top]

#118 & #120

Oh HOW I long for that day!!!!!!

[Somewhat skeptical ... but only showing that I live too close to Washington, DC and my sin of unbelief ... May Jesus forgive me and help my unbelief].

[132] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 1-28-2012 at 11:24 PM · [top]

Ah, yes.  The old ‘punish the party for producing the wrong kind of candidate’ trick.  Or you could vote in the primary elections ... which exist to determine exactly what kind of candidate the party wants to nominate.  So perhaps it should be called the old ‘punish the party because my preferred candidate wasn’t nominated’ trick.  Well, he must have been someone’s preferred candidate or he wouldn’t have won the nomination.  It’s not like the members of the [insert Party Name here] National Committee sit around and discuss whose turn it is to be nominated by the party to stand for President. 

But wait.  Perhaps you are not a member of the [insert Party Name here] Party.  So having abdicated the ability to influence the nomination process, you now employ the old ‘I refuse to participate but I demand you take account of me anyways’ trick.  Which is quickly followed by the old (and very hollow) ‘Otherwise I shall go and start my own [insert Party Name here] Party’ trick.  Which inevitably fails.  There hasn’t been a major political party change in the US since 1854.  It took the nation-shattering issue of slavery to collapse the Whigs and dismember the Democrats so the Republican party could emerge.  Third-parties grow like weeds and whither away into obscurity (like Ross Perot) or they languish in permanent irrelevance (like the Libertarians.)  They do not (because they cannot) challenge the bi-partisan arrangement of politics.

So what do we have?

1. I participated and lost.
2. I refused to participate and (strangely enough) the candidates I would prefer didn’t win.

As a result, I shall stay home and abdicate my franchise.  I shall punish the [insert Party Name here] Party for its effrontery in refusing to prefer my positions despite my [minority status/non-voting status.]

I understand this attitude.  The temptation to indulge it is enormous.  I remember well John McCain’s campaign in 2000, and all the things he said.  But it was my responsibility to participate in a choice central to the future of the nation.  So I put aside my feelings and chose as I thought best for the nation.  And I did it knowing full well that McCain would lose.  After all, the margin of victory is an important piece of information to communicate to the victor.

carl

[133] Posted by carl on 1-29-2012 at 12:03 PM · [top]

Hi Carl, I think you are trying to make a law out of something that is not a law. Tying up burdens etc.

[134] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-29-2012 at 01:51 PM · [top]

[134] Matt Kennedy

I have never used the word ‘law.’  I have used the word ‘duty.’  It was not law that condemned Daniel Buckley for sneaking onto one of Titanic’s lifeboats while dressed as a woman.  It was not law that turned Bruce Ismay into a shunned recluse for surviving his own ship’s disaster.  It was not law that impelled Henry Harris to step aside from a life boat in favor of women and children - knowing full-well he faced certain death as a result.  It was not law that motivated the Joseph Bell and his engineers to stay at their posts to provide the ship with power for as long as possible.  It was duty.  The duty derives from the responsibility assumed. 

carl

[135] Posted by carl on 1-29-2012 at 02:51 PM · [top]

“It would appear that people in the Philippines are okay with the ineptitude and curruption of their government, as they are okay with the occasional murder, rape, or kidnapping that happens a few feet from where they live.  They don’t let it get them down, and they don’t let themselves get divided over such things.  So in a way, they have a better society than we do .. Why don’t you guys go live over there?”

Interestingly, abortion is prohibited by the Philippines constitution.

[136] Posted by rick allen on 1-29-2012 at 03:24 PM · [top]

Phil 2. Even if the men on the Titanic did not know the law of God, they were still acting in accordance with the law. You are adding a law that is simply without foundation in scripture

[137] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-29-2012 at 04:59 PM · [top]

Matt #137,
  I don’t understand.  You don’t like it that carl says that one must vote for the lesser of two evils, while you seem to be saying that one must abstain.  You’re both proposing moral laws about voting, aren’t you? 

And Sarah lauds voting for the apparently worse of two evils in order to force a confrontation.  But I don’t see her saying that it was NECESSARY to vote for Obama in 2008 for that reason.

[138] Posted by John Boyland on 1-29-2012 at 07:21 PM · [top]

Nope. I’m saying that if given a choice one must not support the mass murder of babies. And in this nation we have a choice.

[139] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-29-2012 at 07:44 PM · [top]

Interestingly, abortion is prohibited by the Philippines constitution.

Interestingly, I am not surprised, since I am married to a Filipina and am aware of the influence that the Roman Catholic Church has had on the Philippines. 

Also interesting, you’ve not grasped my thesis.  The people of the Philippines are .. relaxed (at worst), or resigned (at best) to murder. 

And I was comparing that state of affairs to the US, where some of us are .. relaxed (at worst), or resigned (at best) to murder.

[140] Posted by J Eppinga on 1-29-2012 at 10:05 PM · [top]

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