Beyond the Christianization of Abortion
- 2008 Oct 20
This is a follow-up to my last post, Will God Forgive Me if I Don't Vote for McCain?.
With all of my heart, I wish everyone was Christian. I wish divorce, drug abuse, alcoholism, premarital sex, spousal abuse, racism, and every sort of the exploitation and moral degradation amidst which we all live everyday was gone forever, burned away in the bright light of God's infinite, immediate love for each and every one of us.
I don't live in that place, though. I live in this one. This world. This place. This country.
Many in America are, as I am, Christian. Many ain't. But all we Americans live under the same form of government, one mandated by its defining documents to forever endeavor to balance itself, and by so doing us, on the thin line between Doing the Right Thing and Doing Whatever You Want.
You can drive whatever car you want---as long as it's licensed, and you don't drive it too fast.
You can make all the money you want---as long as you give the government the percentage it requests.
You can have all the sexual congress you want---as long as the act isn't contingent upon you or your partner getting paid for it. And so on.
I'm against abortion. I'm not against it because I'm a Christian (although a deeper knowledge and love of God can't help but give me a deeper knowledge and love of people). The primary reason I'm against abortion is because I'm human. Everyone thinks abortion is horrible. Everyone wishes no one ever felt the need to get one. Nobody gets or agrees to an abortion cavalierly; no one thinks of it as just another form of birth control.
Everyone loves babies. Everyone thinks babies are cute. No one wants anyone else to murder babies.
All people love babies. Okay? So could we Christians please stop talking about anyone---especially anyone who's actually been nominated for the office of President of the United States---as if they "support" the murder of babies? That's beneath us. We're better than that. And so are the "baby murderers" at whom we keep pointing fingers, waving signs, and screaming.
I think that when it comes to abortion, we Christians have got to agree that virtually everyone agrees on the end we all desire, which is no one ever wanting an abortion, ever. Christians, atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, car salesmen, budget analysts, movie stars, my insane next door neighbor with the rabid rottweiler---it's a certainty that 99.99% of people alive on the planet right now would agree that in a perfect world every baby would be welcomed and loved and cherished and fed and dressed in the coolest little baby clothes ever.
That relative to abortion everyone wants the exact same end---no abortions, ever---isn't in question. It's only the means by which we attain that end about which we have varying ideas. But agreeing on the end of our desire for a matter should make for a very definite cooling of the rhetoric of the conversation about the means by which we might most effectively achieve that end.
Which brings me to the point of how I can be a Christian, against abortion, and for Obama.
Obama doesn't support the murder of babies. I think it's safe to say that he's against the murder of babies, given that literally all sane humans are. Obama simply feels that ultimately, when a woman is struggling to make a decision about whether or not she should have an abortion, it's beyond the purview of its function for the government to step in and make that decision for her.
That's it. That's the entirety of his equation. The man is a Christian; he loves babies (he had babies, after all); he wishes no woman ever wanted an abortion; he doesn't think that ultimately it's the government's job to invade so deeply into the lives of its citizens that it essentially robs from them the power to make up their own minds about such an exceeding difficult, deeply personal matter.
That's a dense enough calculation to make---but it's not an immoral one. It has as much to do with an analysis of history as it does morality. It's about process, not purpose. Obama thinks the best way to avoid abortions is to dedicate all possible resources to minimizing the conditions most likely to result in a young pregnant woman deciding, for any of the terrible reasons people make such decisions, that she simply can't have her baby. He thinks the most effective way---I daresay he believes the most moral way---to eradicate abortion isn't through laws, but through education.
I can respect that approach. I get it. I'm not in any particular hurry to give the government any more power than it's already given itself (especially in the last few years) to invade peoples' personal lives. And I know what education does for people. It changes everything about them and their lives. It opens up to them vast ranges of possibilities. It gives them the power not to get into the kinds of situations that force desperate, life-denigrating actions and decisions in the first place.
I like Obama's approach to this problem. I think it's realistic, morally sound, and demands a deeper comittment that's more likely to actually stop abortions than would simply passing laws against them. All that tends to happen when you criminalize abortion is that people travel further to get them, get them in deplorable underground "clinics," or do it themselves. (Rich people, of course, continue to get them as they always have.)
What I think is important overall, especially right now, is that we Christians remember that being Christian gives us no uniquely deep claim on abhorrence to abortion. Abortion is as much a "secular" concern as it is a Christian one. When I was a teenager a Muslim friend of mine got an abortion, and the tears her father cried about it were as real as any that ever fell to earth.
I'm a Christian; I wish no one ever wanted an abortion; I wish our economy wasn't in such harrowing tatters; I wish we could gracefully exit the two wars we've now been fighting for a year longer than we fought in World War II; I'm voting for the guy whom I think offers America its best chance to gain back its power and dignity.
And you, of course, will vote for whichever team you think best prepared and qualified to do that.
We're both moral people. We both love our families, our parents, our babies. We both want what's best for everyone.
Most importantly, we're all of us---no matter our convictions or lack thereof about God---brothers and sisters.