2/28/2008

Obama: Comments, Criticisms, and Further Thoughts

Wow- my last post garnered more comments and interest (both on and off the Internet!) than any other since… well, since I started sharing bits and pieces of my life on blogger in 2002. Thank you Christ and Pop Culture!

Here’s what I want to do. First, I’ll review some of the feedback I’ve gotten from comments both on and off the web. In my next post, I’ll flesh out some of my thoughts on why I am voting for Obama and how I think about some of the issues involved. Keep sending in your comments! They are very helpful to me.

First, Matt Privet agrees with my McCain frustrations, but argues that not voting at all is a better approach to the problem. As a political conservative, he sees possible dangers in supporting a candidate with a more liberal stance. From a political philosophy standpoint, he makes a very strong point. As I have mentioned in a few places, I’m trying to toss a lot of those philosophical stances out for this election, focusing on trying to vote as an extension of Christian faithfulness rather than voting for political ideology. However, the conservative in me has a LOT of sympathy for his helpful point.

Next, my friend Matt Wireman lets me know that he’s not entirely convinced… and guides us to a very helpful article (and yes, Matt, I had seen it previously) discussing some of the things a president is able to do that help control the spread of abortion. Matt is right to point to this issue; it is a key problem in the question of whom to vote for. I will flesh out my understanding of this problem more in a bit, but for now let me say simply that I just do not see it. Abortion trends seem significantly unaffected by the president in office- you would think 8 years of dominating federal politics would be enough for conservatives to make at least SOME gains in abortion reduction, but I just do not see it. Still, it is a very important aspect of the discussion to consider.

Alan agrees with the problem of single-issue voting, but is struggling with the issue of Supreme Court Justice appointments. I think he is right to do so, but I would suggest that conservatives put far too much faith in the Supreme Court. Remember, they do not make law… they merely interpret it. Also, they generally try not to take cases they have already spoken on. Though we certainly desire more conservative justices, I’m no longer convinced that voting for a string of conservative presidents to try to wait for the liberal justices to die off is viable or justifiable.

Alex Fear is a Pentecostal from England (read that twice! Are you with newfrontiers at all?). He comments that the American focus on the abortion is really quite unique- at least in England, it’s barely a political issue at all. He supports the bottom approach I’ve advocated elsewhere for addressing the abortion problem through social action and heart change rather than political change. One thing that especially struck me was when he said, “The church should be offering the answer…” Amen to that. The problem is not merely abortion- it’s all the reasons for HAVING an abortion which are widely accepted as morally ok. We as a church need to offer answers of hope, help, forgiveness, and a better way forward.

He also brings up the fairly common “what about capital punishment?” argument. I actually don’t think that’s a very helpful paradigm. Capital punishment is a right of the state. I do believe Christians should lobby for leniency, and even for abolition of capital punishment, but it is not on a moral parallel with abortion. When the state kills a dangerous criminal (who have GIVEN UP their right to freedom and even life), it is protecting society. When an individual aborts their baby (who is entirely innocent), they are usually not protecting anyone or anything other than their personal interests, even if those reasons are heartbreaking ones.

My good friend Luis chimes in, supporting again the bottom-up paradigm of going after root causes rather than bulldozing with legislation. To receive a compliment from him is a mighty thing! There are few people whom I enjoy interacting with so much as him- I think we challenge each other well, and so it’s fun to agree on something!

Pastor Bill Reichart from Georgia agrees with the trend away from a purely Republican voting line, and links to a post he’s written on God’s politics.

My friend Gracelin agrees with voting for Obama in her usual subtle and nuanced style. As you’ll see, though, she’s as smart as they come and has done her homework in a variety of areas. Can you say, “future journalist?” I say yes. Probably for the NY Times before the Wall Street Journal, but one can always hope!

Outside the Internet world, two of my church's excellent elders (I won't say which two) cornered me to talk politics. They had some very helpful arguments that should be considered.

The first argued that, as an initial step, abortion should be left up to the states. Should that happen, abortion debates would be local and presidential politics would be freed to focus on other issues. This is a great scenario, but I don’t think it could last very long if it happened. The first thing the ACLU would do is go to a poor area of a large state that outlaws abortion (say, Texas) and find a woman who wants an abortion but is financially unable to leave the state. They would argue that it if the SC has not OUTLAWED abortion, then this woman is being denied her rights merely on the basis of living in a state that is against abortion. I feel that it’s the same structural problem that slavery presented- keeping the decision in the hands of the states bears too many inconsistencies to make it last.

The second pointed out that there are a million smaller decisions pertaining to abortion that are made at a lower level- and that a pro-choice president, over time, would encourage a mostly pro-choice government work force (committee chairs, bureaucratic positions, etc.) that would have negative effects across the board. This, again, is a strong point. However, as far as I know, the majority of federal bureaucratic positions are filled without regard to political stance (specifically to prevent this type of influence from the executive). Further, this gets back to the original question about abortion- will political answers really win the day?

These comments were all helpful to me, and were excellent articulations of the various problems associated with the abortion issue in the evangelical community. Thank you to everyone! I will soon write a post on my take on the abortion issue in presidential politics.

1 comment:

Alex Fear said...

Ben,

Thanks for the mention, and sorry for the delay in my reply.

I actually became 'born again' through an AOG church but now attend an independent charismatic sort of church (with Brethren roots).

Glad we can see to agree on the abortion issue. The death penalty however..

I'd argue that there is more direct references to forgiveness of sinners than there is indirect references to protecting the unborn in the bible.

The murder of an innocent, a baby born or otherwise is a tragedy, a perversion in some cases. However there are plenty of instances of babies being killed (even being eaten) in the bible where God did not intervene. In fact some of these cases God had brought judgement on a group of people which ended those lives.

Finally, there appears to be one instance of such where God actually performs an 'abortion'. The child conceived between David and Bathsheeba. That's a stillborn which God himself 'aborted'.

Now before everyone gets outraged at my 'liberal' interpretation of the bible. We have to remember how God views human lives, and indeed the human soul, is very different from how we do. David lamented and said "someday I will go to [my stillborn son], but he will never come to me". Basically David understood that he would see his son again (in heaven).

To God, humans are eternal creatures, their souls live on forever and so death is simply a doorway we are all going to go through. Therefore there is the possibility that millions of dead-before-birth-children will be alive and well and ready to receive us into fellowship (as full grown adults- who knows? We will all get new bodies).

So on the death of the innocent and the guilty- God will save and condemn. Certainly many children have probably been saved from a life of suffering, pain and hell itself because they were not given a chance to born into this world (naturally or by evil means).

I don't advocate abortion, I don't agree with it and would rather see a child 'live', but I have hope and understanding that though their brief and delicate bodies may perish, they are spared the worst this world offers and are alive in God forever.