WHAT DO YOU THINK? "The Impending Battle"

by David L. Wetzell

August Higgins has a beautifully written post ("Abortion: Battle Lines Being Drawn – http://acertainslantoflight.blogspot.com/2005/11/abortion-battle-lines-being-drawn.html) at his blog, that captures the expectation for the Cultural Wars to loom large in the coming months over the nomination of Alito. He writes that:

each [foot soldier] in his gut that the impending battle could mark a turning point in the cultural wars, where the confluence of conservative-traditionalism, progressive-secularism, and an overweening, flanking, liberal-media, were setting up a political Armageddon – a decisive Red State v. Blue State, Originalism v. Activism, Christianity v. Nihilism, Life v. Choice battle for America's soul.

Just as a small hamlet in Pennsylvania became a magnet in 1863 for the convergence of Yanks and Rebs in a primal-pivotal clash to determine whether a nation half-slave and half-free could long endure, an ineluctable confluence of competing ideologies is forming now in the nation's capitol as the Left and the Right brace for a bare-knuckle brawl that could usher in a seismic shift on the Supreme Court of the land and, in time, chase Choice and the abhorrent Owner-Slave abomination that is Roe v. Wade-sanctioned abortion-on-demand from our midst.

That life is sacred and God's sublime blessing, and that those 48+ million should hold an equal station with their mothers under the law – indeed, a station to which "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them" – is worthy of an epochal battle.

The centerpiece of my response would be fallibilism. I think the civil war analogy is a useful one, though for different reasons. We white U.S. evangelicals have been fallible in our judgments as to how we should let our lights shine before others. This is true in the past and it is true today. Evidence of that is shown by Mark Noll when he considered how the Abolitionists inspired by Charles Finney sought to deal with the structural evil of slavery by using the same strategy they used to save souls, by conversion.

I agree that the number of abortions that have taken place in our country is tragic. I think it reflects both personal and structural sin. I agree with the pro-life feminist Serrin Foster that there are lots of structural changes we can make at the local levels to make it easier for women who experience an unexpected pregnancy to also experience unexpected joy and to carry the baby to term. I also agree that Roe-V-Wade and Doe-V-Bolton were examples of Judicial Activism that should have exercised more Judicial Restraint in the serious question of when we legally define the unborn as a legally-protected human being. But, because of my belief in fallibism, particularly in matters of Church-State relations, I have come to believe that directing the largesse of our political activism into trying to repeal all of Roe-V-Wade is misguided and something that should have been reconsidered a long time ago.

There are alternative political goals and strategies that may more effectively save unborn lives and free up our political capital to help save already-born lives. I have an idea that I believe would help to foster compromise on that most divisive matter. As an evangelical Christian, I do not expect the rest of the U.S. to desire the same sorts of standards that I would want for my religious community, but, as a Baptist, I also think that there is always a serious risk in trying to make legal standards the same as our community standards. This risk is that, along the way, we will need to log-roll on way too many other serious issues and, if we choose our political goals poorly – as we did with the prohibition of all alcohol in the United States – the net effect will be to harm our witness to others and set up barriers in our ability to form relationships with others wherein we can share about our faith.

That's something I think really important. And I also pragmatically think that there is no point in pressing for more than making 2nd and 3rd trimester elective abortions illegal and then using alternative measures to prevent high risk behavior, unwanted pregnancies, and early-term abortions. Beyond that, we need to change hearts, not laws, and, unfortunately, trying too hard to change certain laws can affect the former. I fear we may be repeating a form of the mistakes made by the Abolitionists and the Prohibitionists, where we've built up too much unity around a particular strategy that we've been unwilling to reconsider based on our experiences. I think we've had a lot of serious experience built up over this past 30-some years and it makes me wary of yelling full-charge ahead in the coming months.

I want to be more Christocentric in all of my life, including my political activism. For me, that includes dialoguing with some of what has been written by John Yoder on "the Politics of Jesus". I think that part of following the discipline of Christ is to reject completely the use of violence to capture the state and to engage in peaceful political actions to alter the manner in which the Sword of the State is yielded as part of how we love our neighbors as ourselves.

The issue is that how we act politically is part of our witness to others, setting up or bringing down barriers to our ability to form relationships where we can share our faiths with others. And so when I decide to act politically, the bottom line is how it will affect my witness, not whether it will prevent abortions.

That's why I'm asking for you to help me promote more dialogue across the cultural war divides on this serious issue.

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So, what do YOU think? We look forward to hearing your comments on the above essay. Just hit the reply key and share your thoughts.

(EDITOR'S REMINDER: We've had much healthy dialogue sparked by our recent invitations to readers to respond to specific news and op-ed items in the ePistle. Please note that, in reproducing these items here, we at ESA feel that the themes they discuss are worthy of debate and discussion, but our publication of them should imply neither endorsement nor condemnation of the views expressed therein. This essay appears at http://wetzell.blogspot.com/2005/11/impending-battle.html and is reproduced here by permission of the author.)

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1 Response

  1. Lola Arthur says:

    I was glad to see someone finally addressing the possibility that we are not "fighting" this issue effectively. Abortion is a SYMPTOM of a bigger problem in our society. There are a lot of reasons why women have abortions, MOST of them are due to reckless, irresponsible sexual practices. Men chasing women down, women chasing men down FOR SEX. Meaningless sexual encounters and meaningless relationships are filling the abortion clinics today. Today's sexual culture promotes FREE SEX, it's okay, it seems. Socially it's okay, legal and acceptable to society for a woman to have an affair with a married man, get pregnant and have an abortion. It's not acceptable you say? It happens EVERY DAY in this country. It's illegal for an adult to have sex with minors, but it's okay for minors to have sex with minors, she gets pregnant, they have an abortion. Or we have another single teen mother responsible for a whole other HUMAN BEING. The most popular woman at the club, drinking dancing picks up a guy she thinks is cute, takes him home, has sex, gets pregnant and has an abortion. Inappropriate sexual behaviors that impact society should be HIGHLIGHTED and people NEED to be held accountable. Why are we focusing on the END result of these scenarios? Raise awareness and hold people legally accountable for not just criminal behavior but ANY kind of Sexual Behavior that impacts society in a negative way. Infidelity, for example… if the participants of an affair that destroys a family unit were legally held accountable- let's say they had to register as sex offenders- they would think twice before having an affair- this would reduce divorce, we would have less single mothers, kids would have their fathers in the home, The Abortion rate will go down.
    I believe that a lot of the women who have had more than one abortion must also suffer from some type of mental illness, they can't stop themselves. They seem stuck in a self destructive behavior pattern. As you can see, I have given this some thought…..As Christians we strive to live "Christ Like" lives with love, compassion and understanding. Christ was also a Leader, Teacher and so it is with us. A lot of the women getting abortions use it as a form of birth control. A lot of the women getting abortions ARE NOT REAL CHRISTIANS. They may even be atheists. I'm not trying to legalize morality, but I would like to see all the people who think they are so smart actually do something about holding people accountable for their sexual behaviors that negatively impact society. This one thing would reduce the abortion rate, teen pregnancy, single mothers, foster kids- ACCOUNTABLITY,
    I did enjoy the essay, well written.

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