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Let's Consider Abortion

by Tim Isbell, 9/30/2016. Updated 9/1/2019
#abortion, also available by typing bit.ly/considerabortion into any browser.

This post is for the many conservative Christians who vote primarily, or wholly, on the issue of abortion. I am a retired, ordained pastor in a Christian tradition slightly right of the political center. Earlier, I posted three articles on the upcoming election and thought these were enough. But I feel prompted to post one more.

I don’t like the process of abortion. Abortion in our family or church would break my heart, but it would not impact my love for the member who chose it. If I were a doctor, I would target other areas of medicine, just like, when I was an engineer I was selective about the electronics I designed.

I’m quite aware that some of our country’s laws and thinking are, at least, somewhat “informed” by Christian faith, and that most of our early immigrants came from culturally Christian countries. But I’ve never thought of the United States as a “Christian nation.” In my personal Christian faith, and in my public preaching and teaching, I follow a deep tradition where followers of the Lord Jesus live according to the principles of God's Alternate Kingdom while living as responsibly as possible at postal addresses in this world. An Old Testament example is Daniel, who lived as a "resident alien" in Babylon for most of his life - through multiple brutal regimes!

As such, I do not want to live under a government that creates laws that require abortion. Fortunately, that’s not a concern - our current laws only allow for abortion, and there’s no threat beyond that. I can live taxpayers money paying for abortions because I accept that we live in a pluralistic country where anyone who wants to opt-into Christian faith can do so. This was a revolutionary element of New Testament Christian faith. For the same reason, I can live with taxpayer money going to pay for capital punishment, weapons of war, and other such things. As for who should make the decision of whether or not to abort the baby, this must be the mother. 

So I consider imposing one religion's ways on a pluralistic society as theologically inappropriate and completely against the New Testament. This side of Jesus' return, I don't think God wants a Christian theocracy or any other theocracy. Throughout history, Christians who dominated political life have embarrassed the cause of Christ.  

Beyond the above, I think it's a blessing that God expects his followers to live within pluralistic societies. One benefit is that the non-Christian context provides a healthy mix of people to whom we Christians can offer the grace of Christian faith. This side of Jesus' return, such an opportunity to spread the Good News is exactly where I think God wants us to live.

Several other principles run just as deep as abortion. One is welcoming and embracing refugees, immigrants, and strangers. This teaching threads through the Old and New Testaments. Indeed, due to the threat of persecution, Jesus’ family was a refugee family in Egypt. We may fear or mistrust refugees and immigrants, but Jesus calls us to “be not afraid.” We are to live with courage and faith as we embrace all kinds of people. There is a vast difference in the positions of the two candidates. One advocates continuing our country’s long history of providing a home for refugees and immigrants, and the other advocates building walls, physical and legal, to keep them out. Is there any doubt where Jesus stands on this? 

Another issue running just as deep in Christian faith is a concern for, and even preferential treatment of, the poor and needy. Our economy created massive wealth in the past couple of decades, but almost all of it went to the already very wealthy. Even the middle class was left behind. The enormous imbalance of wealth between the very rich and the rest of Americans underscores the seriousness of this problem. One candidate advocates taxing the ultra-wealthy and using the money to catalyze job creation for the rest. The other candidate supports lowering the taxes on the wealthy because he says it will create employment for the rest of us - which is simply not true in our current situation. Is there any doubt where Jesus stands on this? 

There are other issues, of course. But these are enough to make the point: Neither party represents Christian faith, and I don't expect them to do so. The Democratic party doesn't claim Christian faith at all, yet they advocate some policies that are at the core of Christian faith. The Republican party loudly declares deep Christian faith, yet they advocate several policies that directly oppose Christian faith. In actual behavior and attitudes, neither party is anywhere close to Christian. At least the Democrats are not hypocrites. 

What we Christians need is a country where we are free to live as citizens of the Alternate Kingdom, alongside as big a slice of the world as possible. God wants this for us so that we can do precisely what 1 Peter 3.15 teaches: “Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks for the reason for the hope they see in us.” The Democratic party does not help us in this endeavor. But the hypocrisy of the Republican party makes the job of an authentic Christian much more difficult. From where I sit, I think Jesus sees the Republican Right about the same way he saw the first-century Pharisees.

So, here’s my summary:

  • Regarding abortion: We do not yet live in heaven. The current American laws on abortion are more conducive to Christians sharing the Good News than if the law enforced an anti-abortion position. Indeed, the often ugly opposition of religious people to abortion is an impediment to the gospel.
  • Regarding refugees and immigrants: I see the Democratic position as far more Christian than the opposing candidate.
  • Regarding the under-resourced: I see the Democratic position as far more Christian than the opposing candidate.
For what it’s worth, I’ve registered as “no party” for the past several years and voted for presidential candidates from both major parties. I'm watching the political discourse pretty closely, but it's too early to choose a candidate for 2020. I can't see any way that I can vote for Donald Trump, so I'm hoping for the unlikely - a moderate Republican to win the primary. As for the Democrats, I hear some ideas I like and some I don't, so I'm waiting for more data. 

Blessings,
Tim

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