Monday, September 8, 2008

The Politics of Jesus

I am curious and surprised (and worried) by the fact that my last post generated no comment. I am already beginning to indulge in the excess of media commentary (and silliness) surrounding the intense flurry that is the American political process. And such indulgence is not necessarily healthy. I can’t wait until it’s all over, but in the meantime I am humbly praying that I don’t stray from the original purpose of this blog, which is exposing the simple truth of the Gospel to a complex culture. My logic is that it is an election year, and clearly politics make up a considerable portion of our culture’s complexity, so I have to participate in order to be faithful to my call. But, if I haven’t mentioned this yet, I welcome and depend on accountability from my readers, and at the end of the day I boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ, and acknowledge that my words and perspective are utterly meaningless outside the truth of His Word as revealed in the Bible.

A couple posts ago, I referenced an intelligent, though secular, publication that I try to frequent: The Economist. Though I still respect its economic and foreign policy perspectives and reporting, its downright disregard for any religious or spiritual competence is plain offensive. It scares me to think of the darkness and godlessness that may dominate much of England (it is a British publication). You might have to read it consistently to see this reality. The basic attitude of this publication seems to be a bit modern, in that it implies that to hold a Christian worldview is ignorant, and we should know better. It would make more sense (in the 21st century) to be postmodern, and imply that to hold any definite worldview is ignorant (even a secular one). Either way, it’s not breaking news that Christianity is kind of a big deal, and even if you don’t believe it, to refuse to acknowledge its impact on culture, and especially America, is simple stupidity. This is what got me going:

“The Palin appointment is yet more proof of the way that abortion still distorts American politics. This is as true on the left as on the right. But the Republicans seem to have gone furthest in subordinating considerations of competence and merit to pro-life purity. One of the biggest problems with the Bush administration is that it appointed so many incompetents because they were sound on Roe v Wade. Mrs Palin’s elevation suggests that, far from breaking with Mr Bush, Mr McCain is repeating his mistakes.”

Seriously, that’s absurd. This comes from an article that criticizes the appointment of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate, claiming that it reflects poor judgment, something not favorable in a Presidential candidate. Questioning her experience and ability to run the country in the situation that McCain is unable, is perfectly legitimate, though I have fewer questions about it than most. Centering your argument that her selection was poor judgment on the basis that she defends the sanctity of a human life is not only appalling, but also pretty poor judgment itself. And claiming the main reason the Bush Administration was unsuccessful was because of their “pro-life purity”? Come on.

Can I be political for a second? The pro-choice argument can be very illogical. Read this article, by a physician, who claims that Sarah Palin is hypocritical for having the test for birth defects in advance, and then deciding to have her baby Trig with Down syndrome, because her pro-life stance would deny another woman the right to make the same choice. I know, I can’t even explain it. I felt guilty and sad, but had to laugh, when I saw a fellow blogger appropriately quote the movie Billy Madison in response to this article,

“Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

I’m trying to be open-minded here; can anyone defend that this argument makes any sense? I saw this same craziness on The Daily Show, where they were mocking the fact that Sarah Palin (and now her daughter) were making the choice to have a baby; a choice, they say, would not be given to other women after the reversal of Roe v Wade. Are people really that ignorant to the emphasis of the pro-life movement, even now? Pro-life is not anti-choice; it advocates choosing life! (To be fair, the pro-choice movement isn’t always necessarily pro-abortion, but advocates the right to choose). Is everyone joking? Oh, I see. They’re joking. Ha ha.

I ask Almighty God for patience as I wait for (and plead with) people in our culture to understand the fact that abortion is not a political issue. Every party should not only be opposed to the option, but should seek to overturn the outrage that is Roe v. Wade. And lest you think I am insensitive and care only about the unborn but not the already born, please read this very well-said outline by D.A. Carson of the practical ways to address the abortion issue, which I agree with, to understand my heart. The pro-life movement does not just offer empty words about the horrors of abortion, but just as importantly offers hope, love, and service, to those affected by the choices that come with crisis pregnancy situations. It would be insane and hypocritical for someone to passionately pursue the defense of the unborn without also loving women before, during, and after these types of decisions. Jesus Christ is able and willing to heal physically and spiritually at all levels and we should be his agents of love in all of those levels.

It also is crucial to understand (for me also) this issue in the larger context of all abortions, and not be ultimately distracted by the hard cases (rape, etc.) that are very difficult to handle (and very rare in comparison). D.A. Carson explains this much better than I could. It is in these cases that the pro-life movement should focus specifically on showing Christ-like love and selfless service to those affected, so people would know what we are really about, while at the same time not compromising our ultimate stance on the issue (it is possible to do both).

Speaking of judgment, please understand that even though I defend the sanctity of human life, still my only hope for salvation in front of The Judge of the Universe is the righteousness of God imputed to me graciously through the blood of Jesus Christ. I pray, on my knees, that those who neglect the defense of the “least of these” in the womb know, or hear something about and believe in, this Jesus, or their fate is beyond regrettable, and something I wish not on my worst enemy. Of course, the fact that they neglect these unborn in the womb would not be the ultimate reason for their fate; mine would be the same were it not for Jesus.

For the record, I do stand behind what I stated in my last post: I truly believe that if you harbor the attitude that this type of monstrosity is acceptable, or even an option, then there is no telling the horrors that you are ultimately capable of; in policy domestic, foreign, or otherwise. What I mean by this is that at the end of the day, policy, even experience, does not matter as much as virtue. This Christianity Today article that I have linked to before, refreshingly confirmed this in my mind. Barack Obama would fervently disagree with me. I wonder if he’s read this article (or is reading my blog)?

If you aren’t willing to passionately defend the most helpless members of our society, how can I trust that you will defend anyone else in our country, who may be struggling as a result of a bad economy, or lack of health care, or terrorism, or natural disasters, or lack of quality education, or whatever? If your moral framework can actually look point blank at the vivid description of partial-birth abortion, and still be ok with it, why the heck would I trust you to handle decisions every day that hold the life of millions of people in your hands? If you are negligent towards life that has yet to have the capacity to make up its mind, how negligent and brutal will you be towards life that has made up its mind, and disagrees with you? If you consider a baby "punishment", what do you consider a gift? All this does not even mention the power and ugliness of indwelling sin, which even present in the most faithful pro-life believer could unleash disaster outside of the continuous (daily) sovereign grace of God through Jesus Christ. As Albert Mohler says, "At our best, we are sinners whose sin contaminates our highest aspirations and most noble actions."

Am I exaggerating?

I am not saying that the President of the United States should be required to be an authentic born-again believer washed by the blood of Jesus (though wouldn’t that be wonderful!) – good, noble Presidents have not been - that type of requirement would not work in the structure of our country. But I am saying that the sanctity of life is such a fundamental matter that I have a right to use it as a barometer of how trustworthy, and how pure, and how logical, and how compassionate, and how competent, a person’s judgment is, especially if that person has intentions of leading the free world, where honesty, purity, logic, compassion, competence, and judgment are kinda important. To me it is a much better barometer than the details of some pie-in-the-sky reform policy, for example. And contrary to The Economist, I think it is a fine barometer to use, and evidence of good judgment, in selecting a vice president; maybe the best.

The good news is that God is Sovereign; despite politics, opinions, and even our sin. Please keep reminding me of that. And Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which we are saved, and everyone who calls on Him will be saved. My words are no doubt inadequate. In addition to His Word (the Bible), I would lead you to two amazing resources, that I plan to devour in order to better sort out the quagmire of integrating Christian faith in politics.

The Politics of Jesus

Culture Shift

Whew. I didn't even really tackle traditional marriage, care for the poor, the environment, or teaching of creationism in school (in addition to the "theory" of evolution); or taxes. Oh my. God willing, my next post will be my follow-up on how to specifically articulate what the Gospel is. That's way more important anyway.


dottie said...

Just to add another log to the fire, check out this article:

I found this quote to be of particular interest, “The moral debate over abortion is, in fact, an insoluble distraction. On the one hand are compelling arguments about autonomy, on the other, compelling arguments about competing autonomies, and the sanctity of life. Both sides of the argument inspire passions, but neither persuades. In the end, the war of words is internecine; everyone loses. An opportunity for unified purpose and unified progress is squandered.”

I would venture to guess you wholeheartedly disagree with this physician’s conclusion about the moral debate being an insoluble distraction, since you have written about the sanctity of life as a theological—and not a political (or personal, as some would say?)—issue. I think, however, that there is merit to his statement. This side of heaven, in a world that doesn’t entirely acknowledge Jesus as Savior and God as Sovereign, what would bring unified purpose and progress to this very polarizing issue? What would inspire passion and have the capacity to persuade? Is that even possible? If it is, then we should pursue it.

I think it's clear how hurtful the pro-life/pro-choice rhetoric can be when we realize we are speaking to individuals with unique (and possibly unspeakably painful) life stories—not just nameless, faceless potential members of the so-called opposition. This is to say that the debate can’t be mere rhetoric, (not that I’m accusing you of that—I’m not.) but so often, all that people throw around are words that express the opinion of their camp, and they fail to actually interact with the people their abstract concepts have a direct impact on. This is just another reason I think the work of the Life Centers and other such Crisis Pregnancy Centers is so critical. It’s one thing to hold an anti-abortion sign in front of a Planned Parenthood Clinic, for example; it’s another thing entirely to speak with compassion, grace, and love to a woman who sees no other option—to dissuade a scared college girl from choosing abortion, for example, even though she thinks life as she knows it will begin to unravel, beginning with expulsion from her very conservative university when anyone finds out she’s pregnant.

I agree with you that it is essential to defend the most helpless members of our society (after all, I wrote my entire MA thesis about being a voice for the voiceless—I’d be insane and hypocritical not to live that out), and I too would like to see a day where abortion is not seen as a viable option for women in desperate situations (and I get the irony of my use of that adjective…). I’d like to see a day where women aren’t in desperate situations or even prompted to contemplate the most painful decision of their lives.

I question, however, the necessity to engage in this battle primarily in the political/legal sphere. If Roe v. Wade were actually overturned (which didn’t happen in the last 8 years under, potentially, the most-conducive circumstances), that mere legal victory wouldn’t do much in the way of changing hearts and opinions. To use a buzzword/phrase I try to avoid, it would have to be a more pervasive paradigm shift. Clearly, I’m in the camp that favors more comprehensive education (providing well-rounded information about abstinence, adoption, abortion, contraception, and consequences, among other things.) If Roe v. Wade were overturned, and the legality of abortion either no longer in question or determined by the states, we’d need to seek to create a culture that truly supports all life and works to demonstrate that support in tangible ways, through access to quality health care, education, and a means of livelihood... meaning that just b/c abortion would be illegal, it wouldn’t mean people wouldn’t continue to seek it as an option. Our challenge then would be to reframe the culture of thought around the issue of life and pregnancy into one that so values the entire lives of babies and women (and fathers) that abortion doesn’t seem like an appealing option even in the least. Even in the most dire of situations. And I suppose that really is what our challenge is under Roe v. Wade even now…

Does this novel count as a comment? :-P

Joey Elliott said...

Comments in the form of a novel count just fine. As you know, I try not to overcomplicate things. So I'm about life, no exceptions, and love, no exceptions; and the details of how all that works out are up to God. By His grace, and for His glory, I will support life, and also love, in all circumstances. And in response to the doctor, the "moral debate" over abortion is certainly not a distraction, but the main point. Saying that he is anti-abortion I would think means that he agrees that abortion is morally wrong. The political debate over abortion, however, is certainly a distraction, and the reason that, to me, it’s not ultimately a political issue. And is it fair to say that the persuasiveness (or lack there of) of the pro-life stance should not effect our defense of it, just as the persuasiveness of the Gospel should not prevent our proclamation of it? In other words, we defend it (and proclaim it) and God takes care of the outcomes as to how many people believe or are “persuaded”.

Clarification from the post: the only reason I even mentioned Roe v Wade by name (and hence made it political/legal) was so I could link to the Quiz. It is revealing. Probably "overturn" is not the most realistic word to use - but certainly "modify" is worth pursuing (at least as a step towards united progress). The motive behind Roe is questionable when you consider the scope of what it allows.

The pro-life focus, I think, is mostly about making progress in preventing the abortions that happen because people don't like the sex of their baby (for example), or because selfishness or laziness leads them to it as the only choice (which are the majority), and not as much the unique, very difficult situations where the decision is agonized over. And then the pro-life focus is also about loving and serving those who agonize over the decision just as much (if not more) than those in every other case. Both the effect abortion can have and the healing Christ can provide should be part of the focus always, while in the end hoping to prevent the act altogether.