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September 23, 2008


Kevin G.

Very articulate. This definitely resonates with me. As others have been saying on this board, if we're going to be pro-life we need to be pro-life all the way.

Let's not miss the last part of that article either. Western troops broke the vase and now it needs to be mended. It just seems to me that the "pro-life" stance is not always the obvious, easy one. Pulling out of the war might seem like it would save lives (because war kills people) but in the end you'd probably have a genocidal situation in which even more people would die (I expound on this idea more over at my blog).

Similarly, simply outlawing abortion at this point might just lead to more deaths.

Nevertheless, a candidate who says he's for decreasing the number of abortions, while fighting any law that seems like it might even vaguely infringe on Roe v. Wade, seems a little inconsistent.


Of course, good article, and I agree with most of John Paul II's opinions; although being from a failed communist country he was far too one-sided towards latin american socialism, but thats another issue in itself...

I still think that you're pulling 'pieces' from John Paul II's political ideology while failing to take on his whole political sensibility. If you look at the history of catholic political thought in the states and abroad, you have people like Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, the liberation theologians, the christian socialist in latin america and europe, etc. The one consistent theme among all these people is a consisting questioning of the grounds of the political system as such! None were content to just assume that the present system had somehow 'fallen from on high' and that all the Christian is to do is work within that system. I see a serious lack in the general political discourse of American Christians, and a lack of the recent conversation on here, of true political creativity in this catholic spirit. Sure, we can 'use' John Paul II to help proof text a pro-life stance, but I can't help but thinking John Paul II comes from a tradition that would want much more than that from us.

Paul Martin

I agree with you, Mike. I do not see the present system, in any sense, as falling "from on high." And, yes, political discourse amongst Christians is meager in America. I hope this site is one little attempt to get a few people to think more about their respective stances.

It's really silly for you to think I'm using John Paul's words as a proof text. If you stand by that comment, you, respectfully, are ignorant of his ferocious condemnation, both written and spoken, of abortion. He believed it was murder, and that Christians should work with all their means to stop it. As I keep saying, he had a consistent stance on human rights.

The great thing about hosting a blog site is the ability of the host to determine which issues are presented. Or, "what matters most." And what could matter more than the deliberate killing of pre-born babies?

While we agree on many issues, I must say without ambiguity that you are wrong about one thing. The next president WILL affect the number of abortions that are performed in the next four years. You've never heard me argue for a reversal to Roe vs. Wade. Never. (Again, the guilt by association dynamic fuses me to those neo-conservatives.) My view is simple. The laws must be such that abortions are hard to come by. The April 5-4 Supreme Court vote upheld the ban on partial birth abortions. Alito and Roberts were Bush appointees. There's really nothing to argue about here. The ban was upheld--partial birth abortions, harder to come by.

Obama will appoint revisionist judges. He's promised to do so. With the lifting of these kinds of bans, abortions become utter birth control. Result: more abortions.

We need a president that will protect such basic human rights, and, yes in the spirit of John Paul II and Mother Teresa.

Paul Martin

One more thing (and this is where we might be on very opposite ends). I agree wholeheartedly with that famous Churchill quotation:


Don't get me wrong, Plato wasn't too keen, as "every desire gets a vote."

More to say here, for sure. But I have to pack for our annual trout fishing trip.

Matt K (The Bear)


I'm going to expand on an idea that I have hinted at before, but which was overlooked. I would have to say that your analysis of abortion is fundamentally flawed because it doesn't take into account or question the system we find ourselves in.

Making abortions hard to come by is a normal, predictable step that will predictably be reversed in the inevitable 'liberalization' of public policy. This is the nature of the system.

What is possible, in my opinion, is to transform the system. Let me expand and explain this cliché.

We are presented with two flawed system-models. The pro-life republican party doesn't give a shit about assisting single mothers or poor families, but to do so would be a clear way of curbing the number of abortions. To make raising a family more feasible is systemic as well as moral - they don't seem to get this. The pro-choice democratic party doesn't give a shit about the fetus, but they do understand the systemic context of poverty and family (or so they say).

How this relates to our conversation:
Abortion is indeed evil, and none of us have challenged you on this because we accept this premise, so you can stop trying to convince us of this point. But it is not disconnected from larger institutional realities. I am under the impression that the Democrats’ system-model allows families to feel secure with the responsibility of life. This is important because fear is a large part of a decision to get an abortion. But I agree with you that it is awful and even evil.

What is my resting point then? Well it is this:

IF I am going to vote I'm going to do so in favor of the system I think is closest to taking care of the 'least of these' rather than as characterizing them as dogs waiting under the table for scraps that happen to 'trickle down' to them. (crude, I know)

BUT, though I vote for this system, I recognize that it is inherently flawed and I push for a transformation that I think can only come from the church. This transformation then works on the transformation of society, communities, families and individuals that supports the idea of caring for your neighbor and of sacrificing your abundance in favor of the 'least of these'. Inherently included in this category, and maybe the most deserving of this label, is the unborn child. To make this more feasible, it is important that the family is supported by the system. And though I align with Mike on most things, I don't think we can ignore the reality of the state. For now, it is the governance we are faced with and it is important to move it toward a more true parody of the church even as we recognize it is a parody.

I know that the Democratic position on abortion is contrary to the ‘least of these’ logic (as is the Republican social policy), but I see it as being more easily transformed by a Christian community. It better provides for people and their familial security, which I cannot separate from the choice between abortion or not. But I don’t accept the morality of either the Republicans or the Democrats, and so I have to inherently reject their system-models as ‘good’.

My hope is that the church moves toward being a true social body with an ‘other’ ethic (system-model) that cares for the ‘least of these’ totally and completely. It is my hope that the demonstration of this ethic of relating will lead to a more just society (a characteristic of which will be a decline in abortions). I have to reject your proposed means of reducing the number of abortions by voting for McCain. It falls within the existing political model of this ethic, which will inherently keep moving in a direction that only increases abortions, and it doesn’t treat the issue holistically.

If I misrepresented you above, just correct the crap out of me.

Matt K (The Bear)

Also Paul,

It was not my point to be attacking, but rather to be clear. I have looked over my post and want to make sure I explicitly say that, so nothing is misinterpreted. I respect you as a thinker and I regret that we were not able to embark on these conversations in person while you were my pastor. But nonetheless, blessings and enjoy your fishing trip!


Thank you for providing a bit more information on the situation with judges and the partial birth abortion laws; obviously my previous statements failed to take that into account, and were subsequently misguided.

The one thing which I still find problematic about your position is where one draws the line on the abortion issue. What I mean is, you've made it very clear that abortion 'trumps' many other issues for you when it comes to political and voting priority. So it seems as if you're willing to sacrifice certain 'lesser' issues for the sake of electing someone who would lessen access to abortion. The question is, how far do you take this logic? At what point does terrible policy on other big issues override good abortion policy? I agree with you fully that one of the candidates has a better policy on abortion, but doesn't that at some point serve as a 'get out of jail free card' on other issues? I guess what I'm asking is, what would it take for you to think otherwise on this? And how much are you willing to sacrifice otherwise to ensure good abortion policy?

In regards to John Paul II, I don't mean at all to downplay his absolute commitment to life, my only point there is that a properly catholic position on this issue involves MUCH more than just voting once every four years to ensure marginally better abortion policy. I'm still convinced by the Hauerwas argument that abortion is primarily an issue for the church, and clearly, the united states government is not the Church; and I still think it is dangerous to ever guess how someone who has never voted in a US election would vote. I'm just weary about saying things like "The Pope would clearly support X for the presidency"; it seems dangerous to me, because as I completely agree that someone like John Paul II would want to elect a candidate who had a tough abortion policy, he would be appalled and much of the neo-conservative economic policy (which we've recently seen show its true colors) and lack of access to health care and social services.

And on your last point, you are completely correct, we are on opposite ends when it comes to that Churchill quotation! The problem with agreeing with that statement is he may very well be correct, but how are we to know? We don't live in a democracy, it's quite clear that the United States is a plutocracy, money CLEARLY rules things, and affects access to every realm of the political, from who gets to run, from who gets to vote. So let's at least be honest and not act like America is anything else than a plutocracy with a democracy costume on.

Hope your fishing trip is a good time!

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