Tag Archives: Abortion

The Changing Evangelical Position on Abortion

Four decades ago, I was immersed in baptism at a Southern Baptist church. At about the same time, the Southern Baptist Convention was passing a resolution that will shock you just as it shocks me.

Today, the red line that religious conservatives have drawn most firmly is the line against abortion rights. Many evangelicals, including myself at one point, would not even consider voting for a candidate who was pro-choice. Abortion is murder. What could be more obvious? And for what does government exist if not to prevent the murder of its most vulnerable subjects?

So imagine my surprise when I recently learned that the evangelical consensus just one generation ago was pro-choice, not pro-life! The most surprising piece of history for me was the 1971 Resolution of my own Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Keep in mind that this was a resolution adopted after much prayer, listening for God’s Spirit, etc., as such resolutions always are. This is what the Southern Baptists felt God was leading them to proclaim.

June 1971

WHEREAS, Christians in the American society today are faced with difficult decisions about abortion; and

WHEREAS, Some advocate that there be no abortion legislation, thus making the decision a purely private matter between a woman and her doctor; and

WHEREAS, Others advocate no legal abortion, or would permit abortion only if the life of the mother is threatened;

Therefore, be it RESOLVED, that this Convention express the belief that society has a responsibility to affirm through the laws of the state a high view of the sanctity of human life, including fetal life, in order to protect those who cannot protect themselves; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.  [emphasis mine]

Did you catch that? The Southern Baptists just 41 years ago urged their members to work for pro-choice legislation, even allowing for abortion in the case of likely “emotional damage” to the mother (i.e., if having the baby would be just too stressful). That’s pretty darn close to abortion on demand.

They have since repudiated that position. You can trace the evolution of their position in the series of resolutions that are assembled here or on the SBC’s own Website here.

I’m not here to argue about abortion, or even about religion. I just want to share my emotional reaction when I learned that my own conservative denomination once proclaimed that God had led them to say the opposite of what he supposedly leads them to say today. It’s a lead-in to the post I promised on why I left evangelical Christianity.

First, I felt, “That’s it. These people no longer have any moral authority whatsoever with me. None. What they’re now urging on me as The Truth From God’s Unchanging Word is the opposite of what it was just within my own lifetime. They obviously have no clue. For better or worse, I’m going to have to figure stuff out on my own.”

[Edited to add:] Second, I felt surprise that I evidently had still been getting moral guidance from evangelical Christianity. I thought I had let go of that after my study of slavery in the Bible and evangelicals’ excuses for it. I felt a little sad as the last thread broke. Or at least I think it’s the last thread.

The third feeling was a little indignation that evangelical pastors have not been forthcoming about the profound shift in the evangelical position on this issue. If they had been, then their congregations (a.k.a. voters) would be more humble and maybe the country would be less polarized.

Fourth, it became more clear than ever that we cannot count on God to grant prayers for wisdom, even when we think he has. How could God lead one Bible-believing, God-honoring, prayer-filled group of Southern Baptists in 1971 to call on their members to “work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion” in the case of “emotional damage” to the mother, and then lead another prayerful group in 2003 to “lament and renounce statements and actions by previous Conventions and previous denominational leadership that offered support to the abortion culture”?

And what prayer would God answer if not a prayer for a wisdom about protecting innocent, human life? In fact, the Bible promises that God will answer such prayers generously.

This is a special case of the inefficacy of prayer, which is one of the reasons I left evangelical Christianity. More on that in my next post.

Obama Is More Pro-Life Than Romney

This weekend, I’m going to do something I have never done before. I will travel to the neighboring “battleground state” of New Hampshire and knock on doors to get out the vote for President Obama.

My main reason is that I view him as more pro-life than Governor Romney.

To many people, being pro-life is synonymous with being against abortion. Those people are are fighting a battle that was lost years ago. If presidents Reagan and Bush could not overturn Roe vs. Wade during their 16 years in office, I’m ready to conclude that abortion will remain legal in the United States for the the next 8, regardless of who is President.

The real battle for life is the battle for accessible healthcare.

If people in my extended family had not had good preventive care, several of them would probably be dead by now. For example, thanks to regular check-ups, at least 2 cases of cancer  were caught in time to save lives. If those family members had had to wait until it was time to go to the emergency room, as many poor people do, they would have died. Being pro-life means saving those lives as well as saving the unborn.

Thanks to the Massachusetts system of universal insurance on which Obamacare is modeled (and from which Romney now distances himself), my immediate family was able to obtain much-needed help when I had no income — not because I was one of the 47% who would never take responsibility for their lives, but because I was an entrepreneur starting a business. Being pro-life means caring for people who have no income as well as those who are well-off.

In her early days, America was a land of small towns where people knew and cared for each other and where medical care was primitive and inexpensive. We have grown, and there are now large sections of our cities and rural areas where virtually everyone is poor. They simply don’t have the wherewithal to help each other, especially in light of the tremendous cost of modern medicine.

Thankfully, we have grown richer as well as larger. As a society, we can now afford to take care of each other on a larger scale. Private charities and churches can help, but a church will never be an intensive-care unit. To care for each other, we need everyone to pitch in. That’s one thing that modern government is uniquely equipped to organize, however imperfectly.

President Obama understands this. Now that Mr. Romney is no longer governor of Massachusetts, he seems to have forgotten it.

Those are the reasons I think President Obama is more pro-life than Governor Romney, and those are the reasons I will travel to New Hampshire this weekend.

I hope you will consider casting your vote to re-elect the President.

Sex-Selective Abortions

[This post is a Beagle’s Bark.]

President Obama recently stated his opposition to a House bill that would have jailed doctors who knowingly perform abortions for sex-selection.

Predictably, the president has been roundly criticized by the Religious Right. Even his defenders acknowledge, “Banning abortions based on sex-selection is something everyone can sign on to in principle.”

I confess that I am uneasy about abortion. Even the most ardently pro-choice people are at some point (surely at 8-1/2 months!). I also think that the reasons the president’s deputy press secretary gave for the president’s position are dubious. So, I am not writing to defend the president’s decision on a bill that I have not even read.

Instead, I would like to challenge those who criticize the president based on their biblical convictions to take the plank out of their own eye before they attempt to take the speck of sawdust out of the president’s.

If sex-selective abortion is bad, surely sex-selective infanticide is much worse. I humbly ask my Bible-believing friends to grapple with the fact that the Bible claims God ordered exactly that.

I am thinking the book of Numbers, chapter 31. God has commanded Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites. In verses 17 and 18, Moses commands:

…kill all the boys, … but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

Lest we think that this was just Moses’ idea, remember that the chapter makes it clear throughout (verses 7, 31, 41 and 47) that Moses was doing as the Lord commanded.

So, according to the Bible, we have God selecting which children will live and which will die based solely on their sex. Isn’t that exactly what we object to in the case of sex-selective abortions? (The excuse is that this was an act of divine judgment, but see my post here for a response to that idea.)

Next, consider Psalm 139:13:

…you [God] knit me together in my mother’s womb.

The Bible says that God fashions the developing child in the womb. How does that square with the fact that up to half of all pregnancies terminate with spontaneous abortion? Are these “acts of God”? It may be argued that miscarriages are the result of The Fall, but the Bible says that God is still active in “opening and closing the womb.” One of the prophets even implores God to cause miscarriages. The Bible does not depict God as standing idly by while the consequences of The Fall work themselves out.

I will continue to grapple with the abortion issue. In return, will my religious friends wrestle honestly with these troubling Bible passages?