Even for those of us who don’t live in Alabama, the outcome of the Jones-Moore election has been the topic of conversation today. One of the subtopics has been the election of a pro-choice senator to a traditionally pro-life seat, and how concerned some are that this will prove to be a setback for the pro-life cause.
Overturning Roe v. Wade
I think this concern is unwarranted for two reasons. First of all, in real life, in modern-day America, Roe v. Wade is never going to be overturned. If it were ever going to be overturned, it would have happened in 1992 with Planned Parenthood v. Casey, when eight—count ‘em, eight!—of the justices on the Supreme Court were Republican appointees, including three Reagan appointees. Instead, Roe was upheld in a 5-4 decision, and all five justices in the majority were Republican appointees.
Roe is never going to be overturned. I suspect conservative politicans know this but cynically wave the abortion flag in order to turn out the evangelical vote, sometimes for the likes of Roy Moore. Abortion was not an issue in the Alabama special election because it is not actually an issue in any election.
The Problem with Politics
Even were this not true, though, I am extremely suspicious of efforts to advance the cause of Christ through political means. What God desires from each one of us is heartfelt obedience, but heartfelt obedience is precisely what governmental action can never produce. The government can only coerce, and a sinner who has been coerced into outward obedience to the law of Christ remains a sinner still. Instead, we expand the kingdom one heart at a time.
As a result, it’s all too easy for brethren to mistake voting for discipleship and assume that voting for the “right” candidate has fulfilled their obligations as disciples. There’s been some chatter this morning about how X Candidate isn’t pro-life, merely anti-abortion. For obvious reasons, I’m not particularly interested in whether that’s true of a given candidate. However, I am extremely concerned about whether it is true of an individual Christian.
I suppose that we can prove ourselves anti-abortion by pulling a lever in a voting booth. However, being truly pro-life is a matter of discipleship, not politics. If we are truly pro-life, we will love all who live, as God loves them, and do what we can to promote their flourishing. If somebody wants to vote for anti-abortion candidates, whatever. They have not sinned. What we should truly seek to be, though, is pro-life disciples.
Here are some thoughts about what it means to be pro-life in our dealings with a couple of different groups:
I think it’s right for Christians to condemn abortion and seek to persuade others that every life is precious in the eyes of God. However, if our love for children ends at childbirth, our position is, to say the least, woefully inconsistent. There are millions of children in America who need our help.
Most obviously, Christians should show that there is no such thing as an “unwanted” child by their willingness to adopt. Those who won’t (for various reasons) go so far themselves can still help those who will by helping with Sacred Selections or simply being there for adoptive parents they know on an individual basis.
I believe there is an equally great need, and much less awareness of the need, for Christians to serve as foster parents. In fact, my wife and I plan to foster just as soon as we’ve been Tennessee residents long enough and can jump through all the certification hoops. “That’s going to be so hard,” people tell us. That may be. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a foster father. However, if I try it and can’t handle it, at least I’ll know I tried.
There are plenty of other ways to serve that don’t involve such a massive commitment. A good friend of mine helps out with a coat drive for needy Christians every fall. We are surrounded by an infinite number of opportunities. I’m not going to dictate what any particular disciple should do to help children, but every disciple should be doing something. Every one of us should be asking, “How can I help?”
This is, of course, the other half of the abortion equation, and it tends to be the half that Christians don’t like as well. On one level, this is understandable. After all, a child is innocent in the eyes of God, but most single mothers got there because they chose to sin.
However, I think it’s hypocritical for us to end our analysis there. Pro-choice folks like to scream that pro-lifers hate women, and if 99 percent of our condemnation of sex outside of marriage is focused on pregnant women, we lend substance to those charges. In reality, we should and must treat single mothers the way we want others to treat us when we are found in sin. Yes, we should call the sinner to repentance, but both before and after repentance, our treatment of them must be characterized by compassion and the love of Christ.
As part of this, we must recognize how vulnerable single mothers are, spiritually, socially, and economically. In the army of the Lord, we need to learn how to close ranks around our wounded. This means giving a sister who becomes a single mother all the help she needs for her and her child to flourish. She needs to be shown that even though we don’t love sin, we do love her and will do anything for her.
Some abortions are the product of choice (like the ghastly genocide of children with Down Syndrome in Iceland), but more are the product of desperation. Generally, women abort their children when they feel trapped and the consequences of bringing the child to term are unthinkable. When we make the future thinkable for a woman, we save her child’s life. In the church and in the community, this should be a goal for all of us.
Of course, being truly pro-life doesn’t only show itself when it comes to abortion. There are many vulnerable groups in our society who will benefit from our compassion and our care. For me, the question of what to do for such groups politically is a fraught one. However, I am in no doubt about what Jesus calls us to do individually as His disciples.