Let me give you a quick political background. I was raised a Christian in a Republican family. In fact, at one point in time (thankfully before I was old enough to vote), I believed that anyone who voted Democrat had an imperfect understanding of what it was to be a Christian. Over the past fifteen or so years, however, I have begun identifying myself as a moderate. I spent a lot of years voting Republican purely because the Republican platform included an anti-abortion stance.
This year, I have renounced that position entirely.
Have I suddenly decided I support abortion? No. Have I become a staunch Democrat? No. But I have come to realize that the issue of abortion is one that is too complicated and emotionally fraught to be addressed simply by legislation.
I’ll try to explain my position and reasoning here, in points as simple and clear as I can make them.
- I believe abortion is wrong, but it isn’t as simple as that. Because of verses like Psalm 139:13-14, I believe that life begins at conception. At the same time, I acknowledge that many people believe that life begins at viability. In addition, I don’t feel comfortable saying that a woman who has been raped should be forced to carry a resulting pregnancy to term. I don’t believe I personally could abort even in that situation, but I have never lived through it, and I don’t believe I have the right to judge. Likewise, in cases of incest or threat to the mother’s life, I believe it would be a greater evil to force the woman to carry the pregnancy to term.
- Anti-abortion does not equal pro-life. The Republican Party and right-wing Christian organizations like to simplify the abortion issue to being “pro-life”. I used to agree with them. But in the past ten years, I have experienced the fear and anxiety and self-doubt that go along with being unemployed and uninsured. I can’t imagine being uninsured and finding myself pregnant. Many women who choose to abort do so because they don’t have the financial or emotional resources to raise a child properly. In too many cases, the so-called “pro-life” position only counts until a fetus is born. People who claim to be pro-life, who don’t care about babies born to unwed mothers or uninsured families, who don’t care about children growing up in a family that makes too much money for public assistance but too little to afford proper healthcare, who don’t care about teenagers who never complete their education because they are raising the product of an unplanned pregnancy…well, those people just aren’t pro-life. They are simply anti-abortion.
- We need to focus on creating a society where abortion is neither desired nor necessary. But the way to do that is not through legislation. It is through communication. It is through proper financial support. It is through proper emotional support. It is through devising educational alternatives for teenaged parents who have no support structure at home. It is through providing proper, thorough sex education–and through acknowledging that, while abstinence is the only fool-proof way to avoid pregnancy, abstinence-only education does not work.
- Legislation doesn’t change people’s opinions. Just look at the Constitution. At various points in our nation’s history, the Constitution has banned votes for women, votes for Blacks, and the sale of alcohol…and yet each of those are legal now. The law didn’t make people believe that it was wrong for Blacks to vote; on the contrary, people knew it was wrong to deny Blacks the right to vote, and changed the law accordingly. The law didn’t make people stop drinking alcohol. It merely created a society where moonshine whiskey and speakeasies served the illegal desires of people who defied the law.
- Everyone in America should have access to affordable, quality healthcare. I hope no one would argue against the idea that a healthier citizenry can only benefit the nation as a whole. The point that seems most in contention is that sticky question of who pays for it. Do I think government-funded healthcare is ideal? Not necessarily. Frankly, I believe that the church should take care of the needs of everyone in society. Not just people who belong to the church. Not just people the church says “deserves” it. Everyone. Jesus didn’t say, “Inasmuch as you have given a drink of water to your fellow white conservatives,” he said, “the least of these“. The person who can do you no good. The person who has no power or money. The person who has no job. The person who is a falling-down drunk whom everyone else has given up on. Everyone. We aren’t called to judge people’s worth. We are called to love them. And love isn’t a feeling. Love is an action. But unfortunately, I don’t see churches of any sect or denomination falling over themselves to provide free HIV testing for sexually active teenagers. I don’t see churches willing to teach their teenagers about condoms and birth control, despite the fact that we’re all human and imperfect, so it’s unrealistic to expect every teenager to remain absolutely abstinent. And if the church won’t do it, someone has to.
- I believe the government has no business defining marriage. The Republicans claim to be proponents of small government. They use that argument when they talk about the evils of the Affordable Care Act. And yet they conveniently ignore that same argument when they talk about the evils of gay marriage. Why should the government define marriage as one man plus one woman? Because the Bible defines it that way? Actually, the Bible depicts models of marriage that include concubines, slaves, women being forced to marry their rapists, and polygamy. One person’s “Biblical definition of marriage” is another person’s “selective interpretation of scripture.” I believe that marriages should be recognized separately by the government and the church. Allow the churches to decide for themselves what forms of marriage they will or won’t sanctify. The government should recognize any partnership of two consenting adults as a marriage. And don’t even get me started on tax breaks for married people. That’s a post for another time.
- God commanded us to be stewards of the Earth. The Republicans favor big business and huge oil companies, many of which are systematically destroying large portions of the Earth. The Republicans believe fracking and oil pipelines are the only answer to our nation’s energy needs. The Democrats are actually taking steps toward better stewardship. Regardless of whether or not you believe in global warming, or in humanity’s contributions to global warming, God’s command is in direct opposition to the notion that we should take whatever we need from this planet, without ever giving back.
What it comes down to is this: I have come to believe, through prayer and consideration and searching the scriptures, that voting in line with my beliefs requires me to vote for a party that cherishes the lives and happiness of all citizens, that is making an effort to provide healthcare and equal rights for all citizens, and that believes we must attempt to care for the Earth.
There are many people who have discussed these issues with perhaps more eloquence and political acumen than I have. I suggest you read Ellen Painter Dollar’s post on Why I am a Christian Democrat, as well as Rachel Held Evans’ many posts on the topic of abortion, particularly Let’s Talk About Abortion – With Gentleness and Civility.
In the meantime, weigh in here–with gentleness and civility–what are your thoughts?