Monday, May 25, 2009

How the anti-abortion movement cooperates with the culture

Over the weekend and while visiting another blog, one of the other posters accused me of selling out to the prevailing culture because I didn't take a stronger, more militant anti-abortion stance. While I do oppose legal abortion, I responded that the movement has itself sold out in that way.

That post reminded me why, despite my belief that abortion is morally wrong and should be made illegal, I've never been involved. Far from transforming the culture, the movement has generally been transformed by it -- and thus has become generally ineffective. The reason is that it has focused like a laser beam on only that, ignoring other issues surrounding the sanctity of human life, and thus cannot reconcile its stated goals with its tactics.

I was actually stunned to learn why the "religious right" even adopted the issue of abortion in the first place -- as moral cover for its more nefarious goals: It started in response to the Carter Administration's siccing the Internal Revenue Service on private Christian academies in the South that had sprung up the decade before in response to court-ordered desegregation in public schools.

Anyway, the movement became more active in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan as president, the assumption being that he would appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade. It got to the point where fighting abortion seemed to be the only function of the evangelical church, with people getting "saved" and almost immediately sent out on protests. Eventually, as time came and went and no serious challenges to Roe were being made, some people decided that more radical action was needed -- enter the so-called ministry called Operation Rescue.

All that, however, went by the board when Bill Clinton became president, and by this time battle fatigue set in.

The first problem is that the Scripture never tells us to "take over" the culture; while in this country we have the right to vote and demonstrate, that doesn't mean that we Christians should demand to have our voices heard and threaten those who don't toe our line. Rather, the Christian faith is by definition counter-cultural -- we do things differently and for different reasons, chief of which is the reality that, unless a person actually knows God, he or she simply cannot consistently obey Biblical principles. We should do what we do because we answer to a different King, not because we want to make this world into a monastery -- eventually, the "world" will rebel.

So what does this have to to with abortion? Plenty. First, we believers should protect, nurture and treasure each other and thus not leave people vulnerable to sexual activity in the first place. Then, we should clearly promote the sanctity of all of life -- minorities, the aged, the indigent -- by arguing and working for just treatment for everyone. (And that doesn't raise money or outrage -- which is the point.) It's not simply about changing laws; it's about subverting culture so that God will be glorified.

Decades ago I had a brief correspondence with a staff member of a major ministry that, like others in those days, was obsessed with ending legal abortion. She asked me about how I could stand before God in the judgment and justify "[letting] those babies die." I responded, "I'd rather hear that question than 'Why did you not reflect Me?'"

That's the bottom line. Because if we continue to allow the culture to determine our response we end up playing their game by their rules -- and we will eventually lose. Best rather to seek God for His will and operating out of His unlimited resources.

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