In the interest of full disclosure: I did not support Mr. Biden in the election in any way. I also specifically refrained from posting this until after the election, lest I be accused of trying to influence the election or support a candidate.
For the last four years while Donald Trump has been president, I have heard people talk about Pro-Life commitments and the need to maintain political power even if that means supporting a man of seriously flawed character. However, now that Mr. Biden appears to be president-elect I believe it is time for Pro-Life Christians to sit down and seriously reconsider how we approach elections and political issues from a pro-life ethic. I say this for two reasons. First, as I talk with people outside the Church they tell me Christians seem hypocritical in talking about morality and supporting people like Mr. Trump. Second, I do take Romans 13 seriously that we are to work with the government as much as possible and a full-frontal demand for an end to abortion will make little progress with the incoming administration.
Others have documented Mr. Trump’s lack of moral character and Evangelical attempts to whitewash his conduct to justify supporting him, so I do not feel I need to delve into the subject. However, I will say that Christians who backed him should have pushed him harder to follow through with his promises. For instance Mr. Trump’s policies have been linked to increases in abortion globally & domestically (not to mention an increase in Planned Parenthood financing). On top of this Mr. Trump repeatedly tried to deport Christians from this country. But Christians I spoke to either were unaware of these facts or felt powerless to speak out against such actions because it would lead others to support pro-choice Democrats. The result has been Christians have been viewed as being hand-in-glove with the GOP and unable to truly change the world. We are often so beholden to Republican power that we are become impotent to call out elected officials in their failures.
On some level I am thankful for this chance to correct this issue in the Church. We no longer can pander to political power. It is time for us to change course; and there are two options, line up in fierce opposition to the new regime or find ways to work with Mr. Biden’s government. I fear Evangelical Christians will embrace the former option. I think this shows both unimaginative leadership and a lack of intelligence. We should not allow ourselves to be hemmed into such a small box, we should not allow the person in office to stop us in pushing Pro-Life values. I find there is far more to gain by working with those with whom we disagree, and so I will lay out the case for working with the new administration. I base my decision on two passages from the New Testament (both words of Jesus).
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 10:9
See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16
The first passage should be somewhat self-explanatory. We live in a divided country, and we are called to be peacemakers. Many Christians are happy to fan the flames of a culture war and reject being called “children of God”; rather than pointing out the sins of others we need to chart a course which brings healing and allows others to recognize the Church as wise and thoughtful. Some might accuse me of compromising my values right here, but this is the beauty of the second verse I quoted. I am not compromising my Pro-Life stance I am thinking through what it means to be Pro-Life and applying it to different arenas.
We must begin to recognize the difference between Pro-Life the issue and Pro-Life the ethic. Pro-Life the issue is essentially anti-abortion, people who ascribe to this view simply want to end legal abortions in this country. Pro-Life the ethic is recognizing that issues of justice, economics, healthcare, and climate can be Pro-Life issues. Being Pro-Life for me is to reject abortion in the same way I reject slave-labor or segregation because these systems do not hold to life as sacred. Being Pro-Life begins in the recognition:
“In a society that ranks everything from football teams to “the best chili in New York,” an attitude of relative worth can easily seep into the church. The association of people who follow Jesus, though, should not operate like a military machine or a corporation. The church Jesus founded is more like a family in which the special-needs child has as much worth as his sister the Rhodes scholar. ”Paul Brand & Philip Yancey “Fearfully and Wonderfully”
When we recognize life is sacred and we must work to improve the lives of our sisters and brothers we begin to ask the “how” questions. These questions force me to consider how I can work with the current powers to create a nation which values life as sacred.
Matthew 10 is about Jesus sending out the disciples into the wider world to proclaim the Gospel. Jesus recognizes the world does not want to hear the message the disciples are proclaiming and counsels the disciples to be wise. I take this verse to reference Genesis 3 and the deceit of the Serpent. The Serpent played on the desires of the first couple, giving them guidance to accomplish his ends but doing so in a way that sounded pleasant to them. We might say the Serpent used an end-around to catch humanity off guard. This is what Jesus suggests in dealing with the wolves– appear gentle and harmless like a dove, meanwhile use all the creativity and resourcefulness you can muster to land the message. Frankly, we have failed miserably in living this out as a political reality since the 1970’s, and now Christians suffer the consequences rising and falling with the power and prestige of the GOP.
So how do we live out this policy with Mr. Biden as president in relation to the issue of abortion? First is we drop overt pressure to be Pro-Life (in the issue sense of the word), and accept the fact the current administration will not end abortion. Next we consider the stated concerns of the administration, like reforming inner-cities. We pressure the government to provide help to low-income areas and to work with (including funding) religious non-profits. Christians can then tap into government funds to provide all manner of education and help for those women most likely to have abortions. We are also in the position to provide other services which help those in the most impoverished areas of the country. We further work with the government to improve the foster care and adoption agencies in the country, allowing more real alternatives to women who might be considering abortion. Thirdly, since the President-elect will want to push some form of healthcare reform, we work to make this system as beneficial as possible to further the sanctity of life from birth til death.
If the studies above are to be believed, there is every reason to think that supporting policies which improve the lives of low income families will lead to a decrease in abortions. Again, many in the Pro-Life camp often fail to consider that abortion is not isolated from the rest of life. Helping a Pro-Choice president in these areas might have a consequence of lowering the demand for abortions. Personally, I would rather have abortions legal and not desired than illegal and wanted. I think America will be better off when women do not want abortions, making their legality a moot point. Following this policy not only makes Christians peacemakers in a time of unrest, it helps accomplish the values of the Kingdom.
These are just a few examples of how Christians can support a Pro-Choice government and maintain an ethic committed to Pro-Life values. Another benefit to working with Pro-Choice administrations is we can redirect funding which currently goes into lobbying. I cannot find complete numbers but it seems one group is spending $52 million on Republican election campaigns in 2020. Imagine if these funds were directed toward helping people instead of re-electing politicians. I recognize there will probably always be a need for some lobbying, but if we learn to work with administrations regardless of this issue we will certainly have less need of spending money in Washington, allowing us to contribute more to actually helping lives.
We as Christians can and should do better in engaging the political arena. We have been far too wrapped up in a single issue and beholden to a single party for far too long. I am dismayed that “Pro-Life” simply means anti-abortion, rather than a larger ethic of life. I am further dismayed that so many people only consider this narrow idea of Pro-Life when voting. In the end we support terrible candidates because they say, “I am Pro-Life”. We must begin to recognize that Pro-Life means life inside and outside the womb. Pro-Life extends beyond birth to ensure that everyone living has a quality life (at least as far as we can provide). Being Pro-Life has wide reaching consequences, it should impact our views on prison reform, poverty, climate and creation care, education, and so many other areas. If life means something in these areas then we have plenty of room to work across aisles in D.C..
Sadly, Christians do not expand their view, such myopia leaves us stuck in a culture war which we create and have little hope of winning. All we are doing is leaving ourselves unable to use creative strategies to honestly undercut the tide of abortion in this country. Can we finally decide that we are Pro-Life, and seek to improve the lives of all in this country? Can we finally use our creativity to further the ethics of Jesus, rather than committing ourselves to a tired and flawed concept of voting for the politician who claims to stand against abortion. I will never look forward to the day when Roe v. Wade is repealed; I look forward to helping people see the true value and sanctity of life.