2006-01-24

Abortion - the war American Evangelicals can't win

Being an Evangelical Christian means, amongst many other things, that I find abortion to be morally wrong. Based on a number of fairly clear passages in the Bible, Evangelical Christians believe quite strongly that human life begins at conception. For a more detailed summary, go to the Wikipedia article on the subject.

Of course, this tends to conflict with my politically liberal side - or at least with the pro-choice narrative that many liberals have. But I will admit without shame that I see myself as an Evangelical Christian first.

Nevertheless, I feel that many American Evangelicals have got it all wrong when it comes to abortion - specifically when they approach the issue of Roe v. Wade. It cannot be doubted that a very clear majority of Americans support abortion. Polls taken throughout three decades not only indicate this clear majority, it also shows that the numbers in support of abortion are actually increasing.

A USA Today / CNN Gallop poll asked just over a thousand adults recently about various questions regarding current events. They also compared these results to previous polls to discern trend lines.

When asked whether the Supreme Court should completely overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling, 66% of people said no, while 29% said yes. Polls from 1989 to 2002 show a fairly steady 60/35 relationship between those who wish to keep the ruling (the majority) and those who wish the court to overturn it (the minority). In recent polls, the numbers in support of Roe vs Wade have increased from 60% to around 65% today, while numbers who wish to overturn have declined from 35% down to 30%.

Now being an evangelical, I can still believe that abortion is wrong since God's truth is not determined by popular opinion but by God himself. In practice, this means that I see the Bible as divinely inspired. The fact that the majority of Americans support abortion does not make it right.

But even though most evangelicals would say a hearty "Amen" to those previous three sentences, the fact is that these statistics should worry American evangelicals greatly. What these polls indicate is that America is becoming increasingly secular.

US Census figures over the years have shown that "No Religion" has grown from 8.4% in 1991 to 15.0% in 2001 - that is a massive increase and is clearly indicative of a nation that is no longer seeing itself as linked to historical Christianity At the same time, Baptists (a traditionally evangelical grouping) have declined from 19.8% to 17.2%. Newer evangelical movements like the Pentecostals and Charismatics have continued to grow, but are actually quite small in comparison to the rest of America. I don't see any reason why these census figures should change much by the next census.

Essentially my argument is this - America is getting increasingly secular and the churches are still emptying... and as a result of this, more and more people are accepting abortion as being a fact of life.

So what should evangelicals do?

What they should NOT do is what they're doing at the moment. Evangelicals are ripping their garments in woe and anger at the recent anniversary of Roe vs Wade and reaffirming themselves to direct political action to ban abortion in the United States. Money and time is spent in political tooing and froing, lobbying, letter writing and harsh words on radio. Some Christians decide to picket clinics and voice their opposition.

But while it is vitally important that Christians involve themselves in the running of worldly governments, trying to set up a law based entirely on Christian morals and beliefs in a society that has by and large rejected them is, to put it bluntly, incredibly stupid. While I concur with my fellow Evangelicals that abortion is a grevious sin, I cannot see any positive outcome with the direction my brethren are headed at the moment.

The reason is simple - the majority of American people support abortion and are not Evangelical Christians. If this simple fact were not true then maybe, just maybe, Evangelical political action may actually work.

In this article I've used two statistical pieces of evidence. The first is the USA Today / CNN Gallop poll that has been following societal trends towards abortion and which shows an increasing support for it amongst ordinary Americans. The second is the US Census figures which show an ever increasing secularity amongst American society and a marked decline in church membership, even amongst evangelicals. Do I really need to quote any more primary sources to convince anyone that American Evangelicals are declining in both number and influence?

It is obvious that Evangelicals are fighting the wrong battles: The pomposity of Justice Sunday; the naked hate of Westboro Baptist Church; the dirty politics of James Dobson; the sheer hypocrisy of Ralph Reed; the increasingly bizarre Pat Robertson; I have to admit that I am thoroughly embarrassed by all of these public expressions of Evangelical Christianity. The only reason why I remain an Evangelical, and not turn to atheism, is my solid belief that God himself shares my frustrations.

What should evangelicals do? For starters, they should, in the words of Bill O'Reilly, JUST SHUT UP. Words are cheap, and morally outraged Evangelicals are doing no one a favour when they start complaining about how un-Christian America is. What? America isn't Christian? Well duh!

The second thing evangelicals should do is get back to the basics - knowing and living the gospel of Christ and the Word of God. It's amazing, but ironically the Bible is the least read document in American churches. Instead of preaching from the Bible, most evangelicals preach a spiritualized self-help philosophy based more on Anthony Robbins than the Spirit-inspired word of God. Some even preach the "health and wealth" heresy that will ruin the lives of many once the next recession hits. Hey, fellow Evangelicals, the answer is simple - just teach what the Bible says, not what you want it to say. And preach Christ crucified, died and risen again.

The third thing evangelicals should do is interact with the world lovingly. This does not mean compromise or airy-fairly relativism, but it does mean letting your actions match your words. It also means shutting up (again) and listening to people.

And who knows, some of these people you deal with may end up becoming your friends. More than that - shock horror! - they may even choose to not have an abortion because of your influence! Chances are that this will work much better than bombing clinics or paying corrupt lobbyists to push a Roe-hating federal judge through congress...

From the Theosalient Department

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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1 comment:

Ali said...

Yes, I agree with you. Not necessarily your politics, you understand (but not necessarily not...he he).

I believe that preaching Jesus and the gospel is paramount but that it is being steadily submerged under a multitude of social concerns - abortion among them. Speak and live the gospel first. This will do more to clear the path for social change than any of men's clever and angry strategies.

But hey, I'm a New Zealander, not American.