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September 19, 2008



kind of unrelated...but seeing as you're into using the topic of the value of life to judge how one should approach the coming election, this article can't go without comment: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/21/palin.rape.exams/index.html

seems as if the conservatives just love humans that aren't born; but once you're out of the womb, you're on your own. if we're going to use the abortion issue to argue why a christian shouldn't vote for Obama, surely there is ample evidence to convince the christian that voting for (McCain and)Palin is insane.

Would be curious to hear your thoughts on this.


I couldn't resist posting this as well:

clearly health care must nearly as important as abortion if we're going to be 'pro-life'.

Paul Martin

Respectfully, I have trouble comparing the Alaskan rape policy (granting that she actually was aware) under Palin (a VP candidate), to Obama's (a presidential candidate) unequivocal opposition to the Live Birth Abortion bans.

And...um... One million lives...killed...every year (Documented by the CDC)...(why do I get the feeling that this statistic means little to those that have already decided to not vote for McCain...?) One study estimated 22,000 annual deaths from lack of health care... And as I have said, Obama supports the death penalty, and more bombs in Afganistan. So much for pro-life consistency.

It's simply not popular to vote Republican today, especially if you're a younger voter. To you younger voters leaning toward Obama...you're not...dare I say this...thinking outside the box...you're firmly blanketed by the bell curve.

Once upon a time (not too many decades ago), things like honor, sacrifice and experience were the main criterion for presidential elections. The qualifiers, then, were so different. Today, it's amazing how speeches, appearance, and political correctness can woo tens of millions. (I'm making an argument here for Hilary too, who was clearly qualified!) Fact is, ideology is a very powerful force, and can cause good people to overlook a grotesque and deliberate violation of human rights via abortion.

Aaron Adams


I would have to respectfully disagree with your blanket assessment of the reason "younger voters" are voting for Obama. I supported the candidate when there was not a chance in hell that he was going to win the candidacy. He was clearly behind the Clinton juggernaut two summers ago (over thirty points down in Iowa if I'm not mistaken). I supported him not because I was romanced by his dreamy eyes . . . heck this was way before he had any of his memorable speeches (outside of the 2004 convention speech). All of that to say that I have followed this candidate for two years, carefully studied his platforms, and find him to be a uniquely prepared and positioned candidate for this time in our nation's history. Just like you bristled at being cornered into the "crusty, old, conservative mold," I have an equally hard time being so easily labeled as a mindless member of the MTV generation - unwilling to critically engage the issues and the candidates. You wrote in your post that "To you younger voters leaning toward Obama...you're not...dare I say this...thinking outside the box...you're firmly blanketed by the bell curve," I thought it was important for you to understand that I really don't care where the box is . . . I have sought to be an informed Christian voter in this election. I hope that you don't interpret my passion for disrespect or anger, I just feel that its necessary to make clear that we're not all mindless followers of celebrity - even if that's what McCain's commercials want to make people think. Do some folks love Obama because they saw Scarlett Johanssen wearing one of his t-shirts? Sure. Am I one of them? No. I struggle to see how that characterization is any different than your fear of being tied in with Dobson, Robertson, et al.

That said . . . there are a few other things I wanted to address:

Several times I have raised the issue of whether or not you can judge a legislator's up or down vote as a true representation of a candidate's perspective on a particular issue. I'm no legislator, but I do understand that bills are subtle things and oftentimes a politician will vote a certain way not based on the name of the bill - "BORN ALIVE BILL" is a great example - because of the broader implications that bill presents.

Obama has said that he does not personally believe the abortion is right, but that he thinks that women should have the right to choose.

Is that just another example of a politician engaging in the manipulations of nuance? Perhaps. My view of my faith and abortion is such that I could never, as a public official, make a decision to support a woman's right to choose.

I suspect that Obama interprets his faith differently. From what I can glean from what he has said, his position MAY go something like this: a vast majority of women contemplating abortion labor over the difficult decision as to whether what grows inside of the womb constitutes a life and whether or not abortion constitutes taking that life. This question is largely theological, philosophical, and personal and the secular state should not "impose an answer" upon a woman. In this way, Obama is able to hold his personal position against abortion while, at the same time, advocating for a woman's right to choose in his public/secular capacity. Put another way, to advocate choice does not equate to advocating the choice that is being made.

That said, I don't agree with this/Obama's interpretation of the issues. It is misguided. It is wrong. In that way, I can agree with you that his public position as a legislator (pro-choice) does not extend human rights to the unborn.

Obama has made comments that he does not believe in late term abortion and that he does not oppose working to keep babies that have survived abortions. I do not believe that this necessarily contradicts his legislative record or even his Planned Parenthood quote that you included in a previous post. Obama, as I have said, wrongly advocates for a woman's right to choose. But his votes against bills to ban partial birth, late term, and "born alive" abortion practices is not inconsistent with his own statements favoring a ban on such practices. As I have mentioned several times, bills moving through the legislature rarely seem to be cut and dry and the name of a bill does not necessarily indicate the explicit or implicit implications of the bill's passage (John Kerry's infamous "I voted for it before I voted against it" is a great example). In each case, it seems that Obama's clearly stated objection to these bills did not arise from the fact that they banned such practices, but from the fact that these bills (a) contradicted his belief in a woman's right to choose earlier in the pregnancy, or (b) did not include language that allowed for abortions when the mother's health was at risk. While I do not hold that (a) is a moral reason to vote against the bill, it does not equate to an inconsistency between such a vote and his stated opposition - in the Strang interview for example - to third trimester, partial birth, or "born alive" abortion. As for (b), even McCain - much to the the chagrin of Palin and other conservatives - is OK with abortion in the case of rape, incest or health of the mother. I have, as I am sure you know, posted this line of thought several times, but I have yet to hear a response other than the vague denunciation that "you can't trust Obama . . . he's all words."

Secondly, I find it difficult to see how, in your final paragraph of your response to Michael, you defend Hillary over Obama and, one sentence later, slam Obama as someone who violates the human rights of abortion. Hillary is a well know and established advocate of a woman's right to choose. I reckon that your line of logic has to do with the fact that Hillary is more experienced. I'll give you that. We can have the experience argument. But it just seems that bringing her in to buoy the argument about the human rights of abortion is out of place. And this is not a slam on Hillary. I like Hillary. I preferred Obama, but would have been happy had she been the party nominee. Heck, I think that she would be faring better than Obama at this stage in the game.

McCain, Obama, and whoever else you want to throw in there is not consistent on the culture of life issues you rightfully advocate. You are able to, it seems,support McCain and denounce Obama because of your repeated insistence that abortion is the single ultimate issue by which a Christian should base his or her vote. It seems that this comes down to your oft repeated stat that abortion kills (and I have no problem with that word) 1,000,000 babies each year. I agree that it is impossible to argue that other social justice issues will result in - to put it bluntly - as high of a body count as that incurred as a result of abortion.

I suppose that I struggle with the statistical quantification of moral issues. It seems that this runs the risk of relativizing issues of right and wrong based upon certain objective criterion. Abortion is unjust and sinful. The perpetuation of a system that turns a blind eye to those that cannot afford access to basic health care in the richest nation in the world is unjust. A friend recently made a convincing argument to me that a nation spending billions each year building, planning, and strategizing on the means, technologies, and methods to kill people around the world (brings an interesting angle to our previous posts on the issue of intent, no?) is unjust. At least we don't spend billions each year inventing and designing new ways to kill babies. I know that sounds crass, but I hope you understand my rhetorical point.

Again, I respectfully ask, how we can quantify and thus relativize these issues when they are all evidence of sinful behavior. I do not suggest that you don't care about these issues, I suppose I am just wrestling with using this lens to judge moral issues.

Again, I submit these concerns and questions in all humility and goodwill and trust that you will read and process them as such.

Thanks for providing and online forum for these discussions.

Blessings brother,

Aaron Adams

I just reread your post and had two more points to add . . .
1. given what I have written above and the information I have linked to on other places throughout this site, is it really fair to say that Obama demonstrates "unequivocal" opposition of Live Birth Abortion. That seems over the top.
2. Isn't this emphasis on stats as proof that one sin (abortion) is greater than another (other social justice issues) just another manifestation of a materialist, empirical, culture that says that the most important things are the things that can be most effectively and scientifically proven. I would suggest that Christianity - an eastern, mystic, religion - does not operate under those kind of modern western constraints.

Just some ideas . . .


Paul Martin

Just read your comments. Just too tired for anything with substance. I respect your careful thought, and humble demeanor. I wonder why you were taken with Obama so early and not Clinton. Which of his platforms did you prefer over hers? (Were there any substantive differences?) I never thought that McCain's commercials did anything but underscore what appears to many (including myself) to be a cult following. The celebrity was there before the commercials. Oprah and Berlin happened prior to the Hilton and Spears comparisons.

What is different about the most inexperienced candidate since JFK (a war hero) and Clinton, Biden, Dodd, Edwards? What platforms, policies, and issues separated Obama from these tenured colleagues? Can you state these without research? I can tell you McCain's differences. He was hated by the far right because of McCain/Fiengold, torture, immigration, and wanting to add hundreds of thousands of troops to stop the civil war in Iraq at a time when Americans were wanting immediate withdraw.

Obama has never stood against his own party during his meager senate experience. And does it not raise issues that he announced his run while being in office less than two years? I guess that doesn't bother many people. It strikes me as incredibly presumptuous. He had no real policy differences with Clinton. He did have better style and a fresh face. (Again, please let me know WHAT differences there were?)

I guess I haven't responded to the Live-Birth bill because it, to me, is so remarkable nuanced, that I can hardly find the words. Example. Imagine that I firmly opposed hurting my children, in any form. Say I was against spankings, time-outs, restrictions, and lost privileges. Say I was outspoken, like Rousseau: "They know what's best for themselves, just let them be." Yet, in practice, I advocated all forms of punishment. Would people believe my words. Would not my actions be the final say on what I really believed? Sorry for the oft quoted "actions speak louder than words" here; but to say that Obama opposes abortion, but votes to allow women to kill their children...I don't know Aaron. It sounds like, sorry, pure nuance and political bullshit. If a political leader is morally opposed to a war, or unfair tax codes, or the killing of pre-born humans, that leader should align his vote accordingly. This is so basic that I find trouble having to put it in writing.

Modern western constraints? Materialist, empirical culture? First, most materialists are far more aligned with your views on electing liberals for the highest office in the world. No doubt on that one. (I'm tired.) How is one to evaluate social injustice? What meter is to be used? No pain meter has yet to be invented. Does not the magnitude of killings (Nazi, Pol Pot, Rwanda) underscore the level of a kind of atrocity? Fact is, the numbers have always mattered. But also the means. Killing infants by stabbing them? Pretend we're talking about only 10,000 annually.

I keep wanting to simply align myself with John Paul II and Mother Teresa, because it seems as if many younger American Protestants are onto something that they were not. That issue, for them, was paramount, as it was, and still is, the most deliberate form of killing, to the most innocent and vulnerable of all lives.

OK. I will have to think more about responding to your assertion that Obama was against the bills, though he voted for them. I would just as soon take his response to Rick Warren for my answer. But I will spend some time on this one.

This conversation has me more tired and frustrated. I will support our next president, whomever that will be. I don't hate Obama, nor liberals. I voted for Kerry and Bustimante.

I'm just leery of Obama's undeniable lack of experience, his hypocritical assertion that he's not "one of those" politicians, and his pro-death stance on abortion.

Good night.


I must admit (respectfully) that it does strike me as disingenuous to continually consider yourself 'aligned' with John Paul II and Mother Teresa. Neither of them ever voted in a US election, so its hard to use them as your model for a voting ethic. And basing ones decision for voting on a single issue is just silly. First of all, lets just be realistic, there won't be much change either way on the issue of abortion. It's just a fact. It's not going to be outlawed in the foreseeable future. Thus voting on that one issue just seems too idealistic. I feel as if you're arguing that if a candidate has a 'tough' stance on abortion, it doesn't matter what their policy is on anything else, and if they'll let the economy and health care go to hell, as long as they are tough on abortion. Isn't the abortion issue mostly used (on both sides) to pull ignorant voters? Bible belt conservatives base a vote on the single issue of 'outlawing' abortion, which will never happen; and idealistic liberals will vote for whatever candidate is more 'pro-choice' because they somehow equate murdering children with women's rights. On both sides its nothing but an idealistic tool to distract the uneducated/informed elements of the public into voting on a single issue, and an issue that is unlikely to change dramatically.

I hope you're aware that I'm honestly not a supporter of Obama, so this isn't said in an attempt to 'defend' him, but more so to critique the electoral system as such in America.

Also, pulling the experience card is a bit silly too. Does Obama's education and experience in community organizing count for nothing? Doesn't that show that a)he's a smart guy and b)has actually experienced what its like to work amongst the poor in our cities? Do you really think McCain has ever met a poor person? He's busy flying between his 7 houses and driving his 13 cars. Let's just be clear here, Obama and Bidden are both well educated from respected insitutions where they graduated at the top of their classes. McCain was in the bottom 10% of his class at the Naval Academy, and Palin has some community college credits. Are you really going to say education doesn't count as experience? And once again, Palin doesn't have any experience, and she's involved in this whole picture too. She ran a town of about 7,000 people, and thinks the fact she can see Russia from Alaska gives her foreign policy experience. Give me a freaking break, putting that woman in the white house is a joke, and as much as we can avoid the issue, the credentials of vice presidential candidates are an issue. Now, I say all this acknowledging Bidden isn't that great either, but my god, I'd rather have him in the white house than Palin any day of the week!

I must agree with Aaron on the fact that you're characterizations of Obama and abortion seem quite overstated. YES, his response to Rick Warren was stupid...but so is McCain's fake story about drawing 'crosses in the sand' in Vietnam. Better a dumb answer than a manipulative lie meant to play into religious emotions.

One last thing, if you're going to keep aligning yourself with recent catholic heros, we must at least consider the teaching of many of the recent encyclicals on social and economic issues. If anyone in US politics took those seriously, we'd have to re-structure our entire system of economics and production in a radical way. Yes, the Church is clearly pro life. But the church is also clearly anti-capitalism, anti-multinational corporations, anti-free market and anti-private ownership of the means of production.

I guess it just seems as if the two party system keeps us all busy arguing between two options so none of us actually takes the time to consider the possibility of anything else; which is absurd, because the Church should be coming up with political alternatives that make the state nervous, rather than encourage both parties.

that's all I got for now.

Aaron Adams


Thanks for your always thoughtful reply. Let me address a few issues:

1. Stereotyping
It is disheartening that you didn't withdraw your characterization of all young (hey, I'm only 32) Obama supporters as blind followers of political celebrity. McCain's portrayal of Obama's celebrity and your own admitted agreement to it is, I respectfully submit, a rather broad generalization.

What if Obama came out with a commercial in which a banjo played in the background. McCain is superimposed upon images of riotous ho-downs, confederate flags, and silly looking "country bumpkins?" It would, of course, be a not so subtle portrayal of the left's UNFAIR stereotype of unsophisticated small-town Americans blindly following McCain because he loves guns and god and hates gays.

Has McCain played to the core small town, rural, blue collar Republican base that has blown GWB into the White House in 2000 and 2004? Yes (and, in the process has lost he edge of his maverick status that you herald in your response above). But an Obama ad that shows such characterizations of his supporters would be unfair to McCain and those supporters because it is a caricature of the candidate and the reason why folks would vote for him.

Likewise, has Obama played to the celebrity side of his persona from time to time? Yes. And, a bit too much for my taste on some occassions. That does not negate who he is, what he has accomplished and what he potentially brings to the White House. To say that an Obama supporter is the same person who logs onto USWEEKLY.com each night to see what Paris Hilton did that day is no different than saying a McCain supporter is an ill-informed, Fox-news watching, reactionary, war mongering, hater of the poor. Neither holds water. It seems, however, that you are adamant that the only reason someone could support Obama is if they have drunk the Kool-Aid of celebrity and/or delusion. That's just not true.

I know you're going to roll your eyes at this one, but I would like you to compare the experience (amount of time) of Lincoln and Obama spent in Washington prior to their election (still pending in Obama's case) to the White House. I AM ONLY TALKING ABOUT EXPERIENCE HERE. I am not saying that Obama is Lincoln. I am saying that it is valid to say that neither man possessed much national political experience prior to their respective runs at the presidency. Both served extended periods of time in Illinois state government. Both were lawyers.

As Michael says, it really depends on what kind of experience and honor you are looking for. McCain has a record and history that is incredibly moving and should be applauded at every turn. But is there not honor in working your way up from humble cricumstances, becoming the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, graduating from one of the nations most prestigious institutions, eschewing a six figure income to work on behalf of poor and disenfranchised communities with local churches, spending many years tackling the issues of a major metropolitan area like Chicago in the state legislature, and becoming a constitutional law scholar and professor at a well known university? I think so. Is the experience different than Hillary, McCain, et al? Yes. Is it qualitatively worse? I'm not sure. If you can demonstrate to me that Obama is not bright and not engaged on the issues and is not able to lead, then that's one thing. But to dismiss him just because he doesn't have the face time in D.C. seems to me to be a stretch.

I do not support Obama's stance on abortion. You frequently seem frustrated that the readers of your blog cannot "grasp" your consistent life perspective. I have not read anyone on your blog that disagrees that this is what we would like to see become the "law of the land" in the US. But, given that a consistent life candidate is available to vote for, we, like you, have had to make a choice based on what is available to us.

I bring up Obama's record on abortion not to defend it. I have been painstaking in my attempts to say that I do not agree that he is right. But I do disagree with the contention that he is a liar when he says that (a) he is personally against abortion and (b) he is a liar/inconsistent when he says that he does not support late term abortion or the idea of letting a baby die on a table if it survives an abortion (the born alive bill).

Regarding (a): you bring up the analogy of a father who professes to be in opposition to any form of discipline (spanking, timeouts, etc) and then, in practice, enforcing the strictest kinds of punishment. With all due respect, that analogy doesn’t work in the case of Obama. I suggested that my interpretation is that he sees the personhood of the fetus in the first and second trimester as a philosophical and theological issue and, as such, is not one that can be mandated by the state. While he may personally, philosophically and theologically oppose abortion, he is a representative of the state and understands his role as a elected representative of the people as being one that cannot base decisions based on a personal philosophical and theological interpretation of when a fetus becomes a person. Do I think that he is right? No. Would I do the same as an elected official? My faith and my conscience would not allow me to do so. Do I think that one can logically hold this point of view – opposition to abortion as an individual and support of a woman’s right to choose as a public representative of a secular democratic state? I tend to think I can believe that. The reason why the analogy doesn’t work is because your role as a father is not one in which you represent other people. Your home, my home, is a dictatorship. We – and our wives ☺ - run things based upon our values and beliefs. Think if you were to be were elected to represent parents in your area of Orange County on the issue of how to discipline their children. As an elected official of this “parenting congress” your vote, together with those of the other representatives would make policy on how parents were to discipline their children. Though you may personally believe in strict punishment or no punishment, you would have to carefully consider if you would vote for your personal parenting style – your interpretation – or to let parents choose to discipline based upon their own moral wrestling with the issue. You have to admit that the role of a secular representative is fundamentally different than an individual moral agent making decisions on his or her own. Again, I do not agree with Obama and would not do or advocate the same things if I were in his position. However, it is too far for me to say that he cannot logically hold these two “identities” in tension without being a liar.

Regarding (b): I think I have made my point here in previous posts. My understanding is that Obama opposed the Live Birth bill because he saw the details of it as an implicit assault on Roe v Wade (see (a) above). Similarly, Obama voted against the bill(s) opposing late term/partial birth abortions because the bills did not include provisions that protected the life or health of the mother.


Just to clarify, I never suggested that materialists voted one way or another. I was trying to suggest is that we live in a culture in which we judge all sorts of things based upon external measurable quantities. I do think that this is an unfortunate since I don’t see the Christian faith as quantifiable in the way that our modern western culture would like it to be. This can be evidenced in the endless parade in recent years of “new atheists.” I agree that these folks are more likely to vote for “liberals.” At the same time, I cannot see how one can argue that our culture is not dominated – on the left and the right – by a mindset that says we have to “see in order to believe.” I brought this issue up to express my concern with the quantification of morality. Perhaps it is the only way, but I have a hard time accepting it.

I write all of the above in respect and pray that you understand it as such. Thank you again for your engagement on these issues.

Blessings brother,

Aaron Adams

Just wanted to say thanks for being a great guy Paul. You're a big part of our history as a couple and I wanted to say thanks and blessings on you and your family.


Paul Martin

Thank you, Aaron. Your graciousness is so evident. And you humble me with your astuteness (though I believe you are fundamentally misguided on a few key points).

We're off for a fishing trip now, but we'd love to have you all over in the next few weeks. I'll have Erica get in touch with Sarah.

Love you, my friend.

Aaron Adams


Thanks to you for your kind words. We would love to come over soon. Then we can solve this whole issue by arm wrestling over the right to life! I'll wrestle left handed since I'm a godless liberal and you'll wrestle right handed since you're a gay bashing, bible thumping, fundamentalist!

But I must say that you are leaving me hanging a bit here. What a cliff hanger you leave me with by not responding! Only the veiled: you are fundamentally misguided!

I have to admit that I am not a trained debater in philosophical argumentation. I am only a lowly doctoral candidate in literature. We analyze. We don't really argue.

So be merciful to me!


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