Let’s get something straight from the outset: I have way more fear for what God thinks of my opinions and actions than I do any person or group of persons in the world. After all, Christ said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, NIV). Because of this I have a lot of problems personally with equivocating messages which are rock-solid in scripture.
Do you want an example? I thought you’d never ask.
A Marist poll of 2,001 people in December 2013 showed that 46% of Americans consider themselves “Pro-life” – to which I shrug my shoulders, unsurprised by the numbers on a straight-up question like that. Say what you will about how ~75% of Americans identify themselves as Christians and yet only 46% identify themselves as pro-life, the real issue I have is later in the Marist study. After all, I’m quite certain that many of the ~75% who identify themselves as Christian are less dedicated to Christ than they are to their baseball team, Jay-Z and Beyonce, their gluten-free diet or their favorite daytime soap. They simply answer “Christian” to the question of religion because nothing else fits any better.
So what was the issue revealed later in the Marist poll? It was found in a grid-like illustration of which group in the poll favored which restrictions on abortion (see photo). While we could spend significant time talking about all of the different groups of respondents (e.g. “Somewhat support pro-life”, “Sometimes think of self as pro-choice”, etc.), the only one I’m concerned with for the purposes of this piece are those who bucketed themselves in the “Strongly support pro-life” category. These people somehow still said that either abortion should be available anytime, or that there should be allowances at various times during the pregnancy or for certain extenuating circumstances. Only 29% of “Strongly pro-life” respondents said that, “Abortion should never be permitted under any circumstances.”
My concern with this all hinges on the logic of combining the sentiment of “strongly support[ing] pro-life” with supporting allowances of abortion under some specific circumstances. Granted, the Marist poll even included a graphic showing that 38% of respondents either think the issue is “morally acceptable” or “not a moral issue.” But that still leaves 62% of respondents who DO think it is a moral issue and presumably they would include the “strongly pro-life” people. So my argument still holds: how is it logical to say that you are “strongly pro-life” while viewing the issue as one of morality and somehow talk yourself into supporting only restrictions (not a complete ban) based on circumstance or timing?
Before I get into the dangers of this illogic, let me share three reasons why otherwise logical people might possibly think that they’re being consistent with these poll answers.
1) The way the poll was taken might have been faulty. The questions may have been unclear or presented incorrectly. This isn’t likely though, because poll after poll over the years has revealed roughly the same numbers.
2) They may have fallen prey to the libertarian ideal that the government should not legislate anything that might be considered a moral issue and instead should allow freedom and choice to remain either with the individual or with the lower level of governance. This is a relevant way to look at most things that the government sticks its fat nose into, but who is then watching out for the rights of the infant?
3) They may think that restriction is the best route to an outright ban. This might make sense because an out-and-out pragmatist would say that effecting societal change incrementally is easier than wholesale. But with abortion we are not talking about an issue which may only lead to financial waste or lost economic opportunity (though there are those elements too). We are talking about LIFE.
So the illogic of the two positions (being pro-life and only wanting restrictions on abortion) does not hold up to scrutiny. That is, unless some fourth option exists … though the chance of something else being able to rectify the two seemingly exclusive opinions seems slim to none. The ultimate question revolves around whether or not life should be protected. Therefore, when talking with wishy-washy “pro-lifers” (my term obviously), the question is no longer about WHEN life begins, the question is about WHETHER we have the right to play God in determining that the rights of one “innocent” person trump the rights of another innocent person. Essentially, the question is whether it is ever okay to exterminate a person based on convenience or circumstance.
This is where I get very frustrated with people who are seemingly on “my side” of an issue. When the issue is something of vital importance, why equivocate? Why hedge your bets? And WHY would you ever attempt to argue that life is life except when it’s not? Be consistent. Be strong. Fight like a cornered badger when addressing the vital.
We get all wrapped around the axle when we try to add shades of gray to a black and white concern. We try in vain to add acceptable levels of sin and degradation. We do our best to find the line between evil and good, but not so that we can stay away from it, so that we can balance like a high-wire artist at its edge. That kind of moral vacillation and irresolution has corrupted every human being from the time of Adam to today and it is from that state of rebellion that God calls us.
Also, God doesn’t care about peace between mankind as much as He cares about truth – so do not think that strife created by correcting immorality somehow trumps the unrighteousness of an action. I quoted Matthew 10:28 above, where Jesus is sending out the twelve to do mission work. If you continue with His words in that passage, he says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:34-37, NIV).
Jesus was never evasive about the truth. He was always certain in His statements, certain in His judgment. If we are to walk in Jesus’ steps, how can we be spineless and soft on the most horrific of unrighteous actions? How can we allow illogic to rule our sense of morality? And how can we hedge our bets spiritually for the sake of convenience … or even peace? Our charge is clear: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (Jas 1:27, NIV). Who is even more distressed than orphans and widows? The unborn child. Pure and faultless religion cares for the least able to care for themselves and remains unstained by the world. How much more “stained” can you get than by the moral vacillation of circumstance and convenience trumping life?