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September 01, 2008

Comments

Matt K (The Bear)

Hi Paul,
Let's stop at #1. If we accept only this premise, how can a Christian ever cast a vote in American politics? The state will inevitably, and intentionally, take innocent life regardless of party affiliation. Whether it's lost in the 'spread of democracy', 'war on terror', 'national defense', the 'right to choose', etc., the right to life will always be subsumed under some other political narrative.

If the Christian still decides to participate in politics, which most do, and if it is actually based on the premise of working, volunteering, praying or voting for the righting of wrongs it is hardly idealized as nicely as your logical structure is. It is usually a lesser of two evils, which is justified from both sides in a myriad of ways.

I really appreciate what you're doing on here Paul. The right to life should outweigh the right to choose. I just don't think all Christian politics can come under your points above. I hope I made this clear by showing the difficulty of the first premise alone.

Matt K (The Bear)

Hi Paul,
Let's stop at #1. If we accept only this premise, how can a Christian ever cast a vote in American politics? The state will inevitably, and intentionally, take innocent life regardless of party affiliation. Whether it's lost in the 'spread of democracy', 'war on terror', 'national defense', the 'right to choose', etc., the right to life will always be subsumed under some other political narrative.

If the Christian still decides to participate in politics, which most do, and if it is actually based on the premise of working, volunteering, praying or voting for the righting of wrongs it is hardly idealized as nicely as your logical structure is. It is usually a lesser of two evils, which is justified from both sides in a myriad of ways.

I really appreciate what you're doing on here Paul. The right to life should outweigh the right to choose. I just don't think all Christian politics can come under your points above. I hope I made this clear by showing the difficulty of the first premise alone.

Matt K (The Bear)

I didn't mean to post anything twice. The comp/internet hates me.

Paul Martin

Well, I’m not sure about placing war and killing babies on a level field. Are there not just wars? Should we have allowed Hitler to continue his merciless quest across Europe? Or, stood idle as Japan targeted our innocent? I grant the ethical challenges with, as you note, the ‘spread of democracy.’ Yet the intention (think very hard about that word) in Iraq was not to kill the innocent. Instead, it was to expel a murderous regime. I came to vehemently oppose that war, as I concluded in 2004 that it did not qualify as a just war according to the church’s just war theory (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15546c.htm).

Let’s keep things simple. Abortion is 100% intentional. Period. It is the singling-out of a particular innocent life, with total motivation to kill that life. So abortion, when compared to just war, is never the lesser of two evils. It is purely evil, unless one upholds “the happiness of the mother” as morally superior to life itself. Just war is not purely evil. Consequently, American believers should never vote for a pro-abortion presidential candidate because the opposing pro life candidate seems hawkish. If the choice was between Obama and Pol Pot, the lesser of evils argument would hold. But against McCain, the argument you make fails.

By the way, I’m sure McCain would have never invaded Iraq, as he has always been moderate (akin to George Bush Sr. who could have taken Iraq, but didn’t). He voted for the surge because the Iraqis were murdering each other. Also, I so struggle with the notion that US foreign policies are somehow murderous. If our intentions in Iraq were evil, why would we install a democratically elected government? Why would we be planning an exit strategy? It is delusional for people to equate a war such as Iraq with blatant killing. We tried to get rid of bad guys, so that the good guys could live in freedom. I don’t agree, again, that this war was justified. It, in my mind, was wrong because just war theory requires that a war be winnable (many experts, because of polarization between Shiites and Sunnis, didn't think victory would be possible). Yet one could at least see the reasoning behind Bush's decision (911, extreme terrorists, weapons of mass destruction). Seventy seven democrats (including Biden) approved authorization. It seemed reasonable, in light of Hussein’s track record of murder, that he be removed. But, again, how can it ever be justified to allow for easy access to abortions, especially in the third trimester?



Aaron Adams

Paul,

You make persuasive arguments. The question, I suppose, becomes whether or not abortion trumps all other issues for the Christian when deciding who he or she will be voting for.

For me, this issue isn't so cut and dry. There are other issues (outside of war) that can be fit under the heading of "righting of wrongs." That is quite broad and, as I've said in previous posts, it a standard that I'm not sure any candidate will ever be able to pass.

Blessings,
AA

Paul Martin

I suppose our point of departure if found in my viewing the nature of abortion as murder, the greatest form of evil: premeditated, intentional, direct, discriminatory, sufficient for death. The other social issues (many of which I am very concerned with as well) are not the same.

Aaron Adams

Paul,
I am struck by your argument. I will pray about it. Thank you for your thoughtful engagement of these issues.
Blessings Friend,
Aaron

Aaron Adams

Paul,

Personal note: I do hope that there is no hostility in this debate as I maintain the highest respect for you and your faith. I count you as a brother in Christ and as a friend.

While floating around the web, I did find this statement, made less that two months ago to Relevant Magazine in which Obama states his views on abortion (specifically the late term/partial birth/"born alive" abortions you have been alluding to). He has received considerable heat from left-wing folks for these statements, arguing that he is trying to weaken Roe v Wade. It is interesting to read this, I think.

"Strang: Based on emails we received, another issue of deep importance to our readers is a candidate’s stance on abortion. We largely know your platform, but there seems to be some real confusion about your position on third-trimester and partial-birth abortions. Can you clarify your stance for us?

Obama: I absolutely can, so please don’t believe the emails. I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.

The other email rumor that’s been floating around is that somehow I’m unwilling to see doctors offer life-saving care to children who were born as a result of an induced abortion. That’s just false. There was a bill that came up in Illinois that was called the “Born Alive” bill that purported to require life-saving treatment to such infants. And I did vote against that bill. The reason was that there was already a law in place in Illinois that said that you always have to supply life-saving treatment to any infant under any circumstances, and this bill actually was designed to overturn Roe v. Wade, so I didn’t think it was going to pass constitutional muster.

Ever since that time, emails have been sent out suggesting that, somehow, I would be in favor of letting an infant die in a hospital because of this particular vote. That’s not a fair characterization, and that’s not an honest characterization. It defies common sense to think that a hospital wouldn't provide life-saving treatment to an infant that was alive and had a chance of survival."

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life_article.php?id=7591

Blessings Friend,
Aaron

Matt K (The Bear)

It is true that my insertion of 'the war on terror' was rash, and I thank you for pointing it out.

I do, however, stand by my initial point that the right to life (which I think really gives context to the righting of wrongs) will eventually be subsumed under some other public narrative. In the most extreme cases (abortion) this is an easily identifiable thing, but in others (domestic social/international economic policies) it is more implicit. Given: the real impact of abortion is probably more pervasive in sheer numbers, but the issue is not simply about a candidate being hawkish. Each candidate will inevitably attempt to discipline society and it's institutions to fit into some ideological model of public, interpersonal, and international relations. We should be just as interested in judging and voting on models as we are on issues, because models can be just as systematically evil as issues making them up.

Unfortunately, the only institution I know capable of coming up with a coherent model that always supports the right to life is the church. But instead the church has allowed itself to be split between political models that are lacking in the most important area of a clear morality of love (Christ).

Since we are speaking of political models and the process of disciplining society, I want to note that it is imperative to judge the intentions *along with* the corresponding real outcomes. I find that your emphasis on intentions distorts your evaluation of abortion. If we are going by intentions alone, to support abortion, is not to support infanticide but rather to support some other feminist, humanistic ideology that has emerged over the last century (which, I would say, intention wise, is not inherently evil). Infanticide is, however, the very real outcome and is decidedly evil. It is only by looking at the outcome and judging it that we can say it is evil. Outcomes should be taken as seriously and judged as harshly as intentions…if not more so.

A point of clarification: I meant the choice between ‘the lesser of two evils’ not as a reference to war and abortion, but as a reference to the choice between two imperfect candidates who will always fail to align themselves with the ‘right to life’ that, as Mike so rightly pointed out on another post, should be extended as a judgment on every policy issue.

Matt K (The Bear)

It is true that my insertion of 'the war on terror' was rash, and I thank you for pointing it out.

I do, however, stand by my initial point that the right to life (which I think really gives context to the righting of wrongs) will eventually be subsumed under some other public narrative. In the most extreme cases (abortion) this is an easily identifiable thing, but in others (domestic social/international economic policies) it is more implicit. Given: the real impact of abortion is probably more pervasive in sheer numbers, but the issue is not simply about a candidate being hawkish. Each candidate will inevitably attempt to discipline society and it's institutions to fit into some ideological model of public, interpersonal, and international relations. We should be just as interested in judging and voting on models as we are on issues, because models can be just as systematically evil as issues making them up.

Unfortunately, the only institution I know capable of coming up with a coherent model that always supports the right to life is the church. But instead the church has allowed itself to be split between political models that are lacking in the most important area of a clear morality of love (Christ).

Since we are speaking of political models and the process of disciplining society, I want to note that it is imperative to judge the intentions *along with* the corresponding real outcomes. I find that your emphasis on intentions distorts your evaluation of abortion. If we are going by intentions alone, to support abortion, is not to support infanticide but rather to support some other feminist, humanistic ideology that has emerged over the last century (which, I would say, intention wise, is not inherently evil). Infanticide is, however, the very real outcome and is decidedly evil. It is only by looking at the outcome and judging it that we can say it is evil. Outcomes should be taken as seriously and judged as harshly as intentions…if not more so.

A point of clarification: I meant the choice between ‘the lesser of two evils’ not as a reference to war and abortion, but as a reference to the choice between two imperfect candidates who will always fail to align themselves with the ‘right to life’ that, as Mike so rightly pointed out on another post, should be extended as a judgment on every policy issue.

Matt K (The Bear)

seriously, the internet hates me. must be an el salvadoran thing...i'm sorry if it posted twice again.

Paul Martin

Aaron. I also see you as a friend, and respect you for your love of Jesus, your humility, and your taking these matters seriously. So, by no means do I feel any degree of personal hostility!

I struggle with the quotation from Strang. It appears to me as more of the same: nuance, lofty speeches, the posturing of oneself as, somehow, "above the fray" of divisiveness. Contrast the Strang piece to his speech to Planned Parenthood in 2007. Excerpt: "There will always be people, many of goodwill, who do not share my view on the issue of choice. On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield."

Aaron, can we settle this one issue with clarity? Can we agree that Obama does not grant human rights to the unborn? Can we agree that his words to Strang contrast his speech to Planned Parenthood, and his voting record? As Matt points-out in his recent comments, we can argue about differences between "intention" and "result/outcome," with respect to human rights. But, though the Strang speech is moving, we should consider his audience: believers, most of whom have strong views in the vitality of the unborn.

(I suppose this is one of my qualms with Obama, versus McCain. Obama has a now famous reputation for eloquence and charisma, but has little in terms of a record (though on abortion, his record is clear). McCain, on the other hand, is called "maverick" for a lifetime of voting his conscious, in spite of political fallout.)

Aaron

Matt,

I have no idea who you are or where you are from, but thank you for your well reasoned and well argued post. Very helpful addition to this discussion.
AA

Paul Martin

Matt:

I struggle with your views on intention versus outcome. Kant will argue against outcome as a basis for moral judgments, based on a term called "moral luck." Is the drunk driver who makes it home at 2:30 a.m. less culpable than the one who runs a red light, killing an innocent pedestrian? Is not a botched murder scheme as evil as a successful one? I'm inclined to think that outcomes, in such cases, are irrelevant. I also read Jesus' teachings as placing more weight on intentions than outcomes. I believe we, as believers, are not blameworthy for what we "do," but what we intend to do.

So Kant wanted to elevate the will (or intention) of the agent, versus outcomes, which are contingent. This brings us back to a difference between a policy that "might" result in an evil outcome (accidentally), versus a policy that "will" result in evil (necessarily). It seems that, from a moral/ethical perspective, you are wanting to equate the intention with outcome.

In the case of abortion, both the intention and the outcome is evil; in other polices, the intentions are for the good, though passive/indirect evil consequences are possible.

I will continue to reject the lesser of evil argument between these two candidates, as I've yet to find which particular evil policies McCain brings to the table. Obama's are lucid.

Aaron Adams

Paul,

Thanks for the kind words in your post. I almost lost it in the slew of responses that have come out of this discussion.

I agree that Obama's politics - that is his public actions as a legislator - do not extend basic human rights to the unborn (particularly in the first and second trimester).

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.

At the same time, it does not seem to me that his comments to Strang contradict his legislative record or the quote you included from Planned Parenthood. 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 elsewhere, 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. In each case, it seems that Obama's 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.

I think that Matt has raised some very interesting concerns that echo my own and I am interested to see how things move in this conversation.

One last point on the great debate between McCain and Obama: I don't think an honest look at this year's election cycle can say that McCain has not shifted his own positions to make them more palatable to certain folks in the GOP. He tempered his advocacy of immigration reform. He changed his position on Bush tax cuts which he originally said were unfair based upon the fact that it favored the rich (a clear moral issue in my opinion). His criticism of the extreme right wing of the party has been replaced with an embrace of those same folks with little or no equivocation. The McCain of 2000 was one thing. The McCain of 2008 is something else altogether.

Finally, please indulge me and allow me a moment to speak in an unmeasured way about how I feel about this election. We have been discussing reasons that one would not vote for Obama, namely the issue of abortion. As you can tell from my posts, I support Obama's candidacy for president. I am persuaded that Obama's economic platform does far more to redress the staggering income disparity that has characterized the haves from the have-nots for the past eight years. That is a justice issue and one that is very important to me. Scripture runs counter to a trickle down notion of economics that Bush and now McCain adhere to. Scripture argues that those that have more are responsible to those that have less. We are our brother's keeper.

Secondly - and this is very personal to me - I find that the health care system in the United States is grossly inadequate and unjust. You know the health problems that my wife has. I have watched her suffer and we have not been able to - in the richest country in the world - afford the treatments she needs. Of course, no one will take her. She has a pre-existing condition. No one wants to insure a house on fire. That's fine when you're talking about property, but it does not work when you are talking about people. I am convinced that the free market left as it is has the capacity to ethically deal with the problems within the health care system. I am incensed when I see suffering - some of it much worse than my wife's - that occurs needlessly throughout this country because conservatives have been able to scare Americans with monster stories of "big government." Is the NHS perfect? No. Is it more ethical and moral than what we have here? Hell yes. I am not necessarily advocating a single-payer system. But I sure as hell don't think that eight years of Bush (and McCain has not offered ANY sort of substantive change from Bush on this issue) has made any kind of dent in this problem. I can refer you to specific studies that state that as many as 22,000 Americans die each year as a result of having no health insurance. Even if that number is reduced by a third, you have 14,000 Americans dying each year because of failure to act on this issue. This issue is moral. This issue is about life. This issue is about justice. This issue is, in my estimation, a Christ-issue. Perhaps because of my personal connection to this issue, I cannot view this election with the kind of removed logic necessary. Perhaps I am being played like a fiddle by an opportunistic politician. Still, I see nothing more than talk and the same old tired Republican solutions that just don't work coming from McCain. This is not consistent with a culture of life that men and women of God that we both admire - people like Mother Teresa and JP II - argued for.

Again, please forgive my informal and unmeasured tone. That last bit was me speaking as a husband and a father and an incensed citizen.

That is why McCain can't have my vote. I'm not convinced that it is a real issue for him beyond the "My friends, health insurance is too expensive" line that he throws out at every town hall meeting followed by the same old rhetoric about the evils of socialized medicine (the audience gasps!) Like you and I used to joke about, we're all getting slapped around by Adam Smith's invisible hand and I'm tired of it.

I'm just being honest.

Aaron Adams

reading back through the post, I see a startling number of typos and grammatical errors. Please forgive me. I've been teaching freshmen all day.

Peace Brother,
Aaron

Matt K (The Bear)

'lesser of two evils' was an unfortunate choice of diction on my part. I wasn't referring to McCain or Obama specifically, but saying that in every election there is a choice between two imperfect candidates. Nor was I attempting to say either was evil (again, a very poor choice in diction), but just went with the colloquialism, which is probably not a wise choice in discussions such as these =)

Also, Aaron thank you for input and especially your honest reflection, as it adds a lot of texture to any otherwise abstract logic structures. Your consistently kind words also remind us of our context.

Jarred Lawrence Romley

Abortion for me is a personal issue, because my mother had to make the choice between her unborn fetus and her husband at the time. Thankfully she chose me and this world is forever changed because of her choice :)!

Is the real issue here abortion? Absolutely not! The real issue here is control. What do I mean by this? Well, if we're honest with ourselves protestant and catholic abortion rates are just as high as those in secular America. Just think for a moment how many so called Christian women have had abortions? And that's just the tip of the ice berg (hey pastors…the elephant in the room isn’t just porn, its abortion too!).

Control is a very interesting proposition within the church, because for 1700 years they have been convincing the public that we need them more than they need us. Where in reality the opposite is true, and this generation is slowly beginning to realize this.

In my 26 years within the church, I have realized that the issues the church can't control inside its walls, the more they try to control outside its walls. An example of this is Gay Marriage. The church has tried to convince us that gay marriage will destroy the family, where in reality what destroys the family is divorce. Ironically divorce rates are now higher inside the church than outside (nice job Baby Boomers!). Coincidence, I think not!

Don't get me wrong, abortion is an act that ends the heartbeat of a fetus. But instead of the church forcing its values on the public (of which a majority do not share the same ones), it should focus on taking care of the scarlet letters it places on teenage girls like Gov. Palin's daughter, which coincidently pushes girls into their local planned parenthood instead of into their own pastor’s office. Logically, if the church really wants to get rid of abortions it should begin by passing out condoms in its Youth Groups, and quit encouraging Blogs like this who make Barak Obama out to being nothing more than a baby killer.

Jarred Lawrence Romley
Ex-Youth Pastor

Paul Martin

Thanks Jarred for your comments. I can't imagine a world without you! If you think about that real hard for a moment, you might begin to grasp the heart of my choosing this topic. Under no circumstances should a life be intentionally stopped. Why? Because of YOUR current life! Look at it! It turned-out wonderfully. My wife's mother contemplated as your mother did. And look what has happened! Life! What could have come of those tens of millions of aborted lives? The heart of my passion here is so incredibly opposed to the hate-mongering history of the evangelical right. I despise their self-righteousness, picketing, and politicization of this issue. Which is why I quote Mother Teresa who said the following:

"Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted, and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child, and be loved by the child. From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortions. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents, and have grown up so full of love and joy!"

In such a kind of spirit, FOR justice, I am compelled to help believers give this issue serious and sober thought.

I agree with you that we shouldn't place those letters on pregnant unwed mothers, such as Sarah Palin's daughter. But I'm fairly sure that the foes of the McCain campaign, not the church, was responsible for the irresponsible parading of this normal young lady. And whether we support Gov. Palin or not, I so commend her for expressing with such authenticity something to the effect of "my family has it's highs and lows, its joys and sorrows." Was it not so amazing to see this young lady, with her future husband, standing in front of the world. Proud, scared, embarassed, and with that little one. Her baby could have so easily been aborted, for what some would have called good reason.

(I wonder how the liberals would have treated this issue, had abortion been chosen?)

Passing out condoms in youth group?

I'm not aware of any churches that are supporting this particular blog site. This is my own site, with my own ideas.

Obama is, by no means, a baby killer. Yet it is the policies of our leaders that result in the welfare of our citizens. With respect to this issue in particular, Christians will need to decide whether an act that (as you say) "ends the heartbeat of a fetus" is of greater moral peril than other likely injustices resulting from the proposed policies of the other candidate. Aaron's last post (above) makes a compelling case for what he believes to be the immorality of McCain's heath care policy, when compared to Obama's. (I must say that I was unmoved by Aaron's comparison between the alleged 22,000 who die each year from lack of health care. Annual abortions are estimated somewhere around 1,000,000.)

I am proud for the many wonderful lobbies which come from within church, and aimed to reform (control?) unjust policies outside the church. These church-based initiatives have ended racial inequality (cf. MLK), brought attention to the AIDS crisis (cf. Rick Warren), and encouraged the proper care of our planet (Evangelical Environmental Network). As a matter of pure fact, Senator Obama is very clear about his devotion to church, and this devotion as being the basis for his campaign. He has been very forthright about the need for control--namely, the changing of policies which he deems unjust.

This all brings us squarely back to the abortion issue.

There's more to say.

1. Most psychologists reject the notion that divorce is what "kills families." Studies show that a civil divorce is better for emotional well-being of the kids than a contentious marriage.

2. The Center for Disease Control does not discriminate with respect to the religion of the woman having the abortion. So I'm not sure how you support your claim that more Christians are having abortions.

3. Interesting remarks regarding the church trying to control people, and "them" needing "us," etc. Aren't we, them? Aren't people the church? I'm not sure that "the church" can be generalized in such a way. Are pastors trying to encourage a certain kind of lifestyle? Yes. Are congregants hoping to be encouraged/supported/uplifted/challenged/accepted from their leaders? Yes. So I think the relationship between "the church" and congregant (though, again, that is a false dichotomy) cuts both ways. And I'm not aware of any cases where a congregant is being "controlled" with respect to freedom of religion and worship. Are we not all free to choose our places of worship?

I think Senator Obama would reject your characterization of the church as somehow being "controlling" through the exercising of it mission through government. If he did, he'd have to condemn himself!

OK. This was written sloppily. But I thank you for engaging in this conversation.

Jarred Lawrence Romley

touche.

I appreciate your willingness to take on this issue, and I appreciate you reading my self righteous response :)!

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