Faith appeals not working for Dems

Have a look at Amy Sullivan’s thoughtful piece from Slate on the Democratic Party’s declining appeal to religious voters.

An excerpt:

The Pew Research Center’s annual poll on religion and politics, released last week, shows that while 85 percent of voters say religion is important to them, only 26 percent of Americans think the Democratic Party is “friendly” to religion. That’s down from 40 percent in the summer of 2004 and 42 percent the year before that—in other words, a 16-point plunge over three years. The decline is especially troubling because it cuts across the political and religious spectra, encompassing liberals and conservatives, white and black evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. The Republican Party also experienced a drop in the percentage of Americans who say it is friendly to religion—eight points over the past year. But that decrease occurred mostly among white evangelicals and Catholics and the reasons for it seem obvious: Two years of broken promises by the GOP.

In contrast, the Democrats’ crumbling credibility on religion wasn’t caused by one thing. And that may be the problem. All at once, the party needs to counter conservative attacks, change the conventional wisdom that Democrats just aren’t religious, and expand the party’s reach to moderate religious voters. To do that, the party will need a little more faith and a whole lot more work.

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12 Comments
  1. DanielR

    Democratic politicians need to recognize what Republican politicians apparently recognized years ago; the voters who are religious are going to want to factor religion into their decision on who to vote for. While it’s very difficult to know what Christian principles and teachings of Jesus Christ are important to any one individual who professes to be a Christian, simply professing to be a Christian loudly and often will get you some votes over a candidate who keeps his faith (or lack thereof) to himself.

    Obviously President Bush benefited greatly from the Christian vote in his two elections, and has he turned out to be a great Christian? Depends on who you ask and what Christian principles are important to them. George Bush professes to be a devout Christian but in many people’s opinion falls far short. Whatever your stance on the issues, it’s easy to see he panders to the Christian right on the issues of abortion and gay marriage, utilizing “fear” politics to gain support. George Bush just as obviously does not live up to the Christian principles Jesus taught, he’s an Old Testament Leviticus & Deuteronomy Christian. He does not care about the poor and less-privileged, favoring the wealthy in any way he can in direct violation of the principles set forth in James 2:1-9.

    And yet, George Bush is seen my much of the country and the world as the “Christian” president. IMO, George Bush contributes greatly to the poor image many have of Christianity.

    To counter this the Democratic party needs reasonable, moderate men and women of faith to stand up and run for office. They need to proclaim their faith just as loudly as Republicans do, but they need to enumerate and discuss the Christian principles they hold most dear and that they will follow when making decisions in office. This way Christian voters can make a better informed choice based on the things they believe in.

    Now this is assuming that the Democratic Party has not been hijacked by the far left-wing atheist radicals like the right-wing claims. Many Democrats already believe the Republican Party has been hijacked by the Christian right-wing fundamentalists. It’s time for the moderate Christian majority to take back politics.

  2. RalphW

    DanielR:

    I am very interested in what you are proposing. Supposing you were one of those reasonable, moderate men who was running for office, what Christian principles would you be articulating when you ran for office and employing if you were elected?

  3. DanielR

    Ralph, while I will not be running for any office, not even dog catcher, I will attempt to illustrate what I mean thru some of my beliefs. To address some of the more divisive issues among Christians today:

    Abortion – I am against abortion. While I think the church and the government should do everything possible to prevent women and young girls from finding themselves in a position where they feel the need to consider abortion and to help women and girls who do find themselves considering abortion, I believe it is wrong for the government to outlaw abortion for everyone (Christians and non-christians alike) based on one perception of Christian morality and especially to want to put women in prison for it.

    I grew up and live in the south where many conservative Christian churches and leaders preach and teach abstinence only, which is arguably biblical but doesn’t work and leads to more unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. I’d propose more effort on reducing the need for abortions rather than concentrating on making it a criminal offense. Education, not criminalization, should be the focus. South Dakota passed a law that bans nearly all abortions, even in cases of incest and rape. Actions like this make these Moral Minority types, and by association all Christians, look heartless and uncaring. How, as a Christian, could anyone support a law that says a woman who is raped must bear the child of her attacker, or that a young girl made pregnant by her own father must bear that child and if she goes to another state and has an abortion she should be put in prison? Who are these people and how dare they claim to follow Jesus Christ. OK, sorry, rant over.

    Teaching evolution or creation – I believe evolution should be taught in science classes as the prevailing scientific theory, and that there should be some mention that there are other beliefs regarding the origin of the earth and life and that students who are interested are encouraged explore the issues further. I believe creation, intelligent design, etc. should be taught at home and church, not in science class.

    I believe that poverty – helping the poor and vulnerable – is a religious issue. Do a candidates’ budget and tax policies reward the rich or show compassion for poor families?

    I believe that the environment – caring for God’s earth – is a religious issue. Do a candidate’s policies provide good stewardship by protecting the creation or favor corporate interests that damage it?

    I believe that telling the truth is a religious issue. Does a candidate tell the truth in justifying foreign and domestic policies? Does a candidate enforce an ethos of honesty and ethics? Do they support open government or secrecy, clandestine meetings and executive privilege?

    Most of all, I think anyone who is going to factor their religious beliefs into their political choices needs to consider all relevant issues, not just be one issue voters. If a candidate’s position on abortion is ALL you care about, stay out of politics and don’t vote because there is more to deciding who to vote for than any one issue.

    I’m not trying to say candidates’ religious beliefs need to be anything in particular or that they even have to publicize their beliefs or lack thereof, but if candidates want people who factor their religious beliefs into their political choices to consider them, they’ll have a better chance of that if they articulate their beliefs publicly. You can be pro separation of church and state without being anti-religion. You can be anti-abortion without wanting to put women in prison for it. If the Democratic Party doesn’t want to be known as the anti-religion party then candidates need to articulate their religious beliefs and let people know they are not anti-religion.

  4. RalphW

    Daniel: Thanks for the time and thought that went into your response. I’d like to do it justice if I can by showing you how your position looks from the standpoint of someone who is fairly conservative.

    First, let me rewrite your first paragraph slightly. “I am against robbery. While I think the church and the government should do everything possible to prevent people from finding themselves in a position where they feel the need to consider robbery and to help people who do find themselves considering robbery, I believe it is wrong for the government to outlaw robbery for everyone (Christians and non-christians alike) based on one perception of Christian morality (the Ten Commandments – specifically Ex 20:15) and especially to want to put people in prison for it.” Would you be satisfied if this was the best your government could say against robbery? Or suppose the crime was rape – would this be a satisfactory response? What should conservative Christians do, then, if this is the government’s response to abortion, when they view abortion as something worse than either robbery or rape?

    You say that you’d rather resort to education to prevent unwanted pregnancies. What I’d like to know is “what is there left to teach?” Kids learn pretty early these days that sex can produce babies, that condoms are recommended to prevent pregnancies (and STDs), how to put a condom on a banana and how to get free condoms from their high-school. How much more do you plan to teach them? Thirty years of sex education have done nothing to reduce the need for abortions – how many more years do you think you’ll need? There were far fewer pregnancies outside of marriage when abstinence was the only way than there are now. And how many abortions each year are due to rape and incest? Is it really right to kill a million of unborn children per year for the sake of sparing a few dozen women the need to carry the child of a rape to term so they can put it up for adoption? How many more men have sex with girls knowing that if they get the girl pregnant they can take her to a abortion center and get her an abortion without her parent’s knowledge? If you are unhappy about people being uncaring, think a moment about those who perform partial birth abortions (I can rant about this too) – and it’s these people who would get jail time under the South Dakota bill not the young girls you worry about, since that bill makes performing an abortion illegal, not getting one (see http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/abortion/sdabortionlaw06.html for the text of the bill).

    Regarding teaching evolution, who’s going to teach that the Miller-Urey experiment for creating amino acids has been shown to be irrelevant to the early earth environment? Are parents expected to show their children that creating sugars in an early earth environment is nearly impossible, and that the creation of proteins that are useful for life is out of the question? Shouldn’t science teachers explain that the spontaneous generation of DNA, together the necessary infrastructure of enzymes and metabolic structures needed to make it work is so implausible that you’d be much better off tossing a box of Scrabble tiles into the air in the hope of having them come down spelling the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address? Isn’t it worth telling children that evolution works for breeding purposes, but when it comes time to create something significant, like a workable wing or sexual reproduction, there’s no evidence that it’s up to the task?

    Regarding poverty, the war on poverty was declared forty years ago and all it seems to have accomplished is create a permanent underclass of people who are embedded in poverty. Kids are being born today whose grandparents were on food stamps. It’s time to try something different, perhaps by rewarding hard work, by allowing people (even rich people) to hold onto more of the money they earn and being slower to offer handouts to people who could with a little help earn a living on their own.

    As for the environment, you may be glad to know that I agree with you in principle. Just make sure that you don’t sponsor programs in the name of the environment that hurt the environment. It costs more energy to create hydrogen for cars and do curb-side recycling than you get back for your efforts. Also, don’t assume that big industry has to be dirty industry – we live in a far cleaner environment than many parts of the world that are free of big industry.

    I believe in truth-telling governments as well. I also believe in a truth-telling press, and we have a lot more evidence that the press has lied to us than we have that President Bush has. I’d also prefer that both the government and the press preserve confidentiality rather than reveal all of our anti-terrorism strategies to the world, and so allow the terrorists to respond accordingly.

    These are the responses of a conservative voter to the positions you’ve taken. I don’t think any of them are inconsistent with Christianity, indeed I could offer you a Biblical justification for several of them. I also don’t think you have to be a Christian to find that they make sense (though it helps). If I were running for office, these would be the positions I’d take, and I’d hope that people whether they were Christian or not would find that they make good sense and vote for me on the basis of them. The question perhaps we should be asking is – is there room for me or candidates like me in the Democratic Party (or the Episcopal Church)?

  5. DanielR

    Yes, I’ve noticed recently that the country is very divided over the issue of whether robbery should be illegal or not.

    You’re attitude seems to be very typical of Dominionist/Fundamentalist Christians. The holier than thou attitude of “I am more righteous than you and therefore I have the God-given right (in accordance with Genesis 1:26) to tell you what to do and pass judgment on you if you do not obey me”.

    I have some friends who are fundamentalist and one who is an avowed Dominionist in favor of full theocracy. You’d like him. He also thinks abortion should be illegal under any circumstances. Of course, he also thinks it should be a capital crime. Along with adultery, fornication, homosexuality, etc.

    I love these guys but sometimes it’s hard to believe they know who Jesus Christ is. The God of the Old Testament, yes, but not Jesus. Sometimes it seems that there is no love in them, not for anyone.

    The fact that I am against abortion and have worked in education and counseling in regards to abortion prevention isn’t good enough for them, unless you want to condemn people and lock them up nothing is good enough for the Moral Minority.

    I may not have all the facts perfect on the South Dakota law, but any law that says a woman who is raped bears the responsibility for carrying any child produced by that rape to full term and then has to make the decision whether to give up a child she’s given birth to for adoption or raising the child of her rapist is inhuman. And anyone who supports such a law has no love in their soul and does not know Jesus Christ. We might as well go back to the days when you could rape a virgin, pay her father 50 shekels and make her your wife, so you could rape her any time you wanted.

    As for the rest of your arguments they’re just more of the same nonsense. You write like we disagree on teaching evolution, yet you say you just want it taught correctly. Where did I say we should brain wash our children with evolutionist propaganda? Evolution is a scientific theory and that’s what should be taught in a science class, and of course it should be taught correctly, as the theory it is with all it’s pro’s and con’s. Poverty? If you really believe the current administration cares any about the poor you’re wrong, the only way they care about the poor is about public perception and how they can spin it. Tax cuts for the rich, cutting programs to help the poor, all just business as usual for conservatives. You say you agree with me in principle on the environment but I’m sure you support the current administrations environmental policies while I deplore them.

    I never said trust the press, but your assertion that it is OK that President Bush lies to us because the press lies too is ludicrous. I was working for the government in intelligence after 9/11 and during the rush to war in Iraq, and everyone I worked with eventually resigned themselves to the fact that we were going to war with Iraq, not because intel indicated there was any justification for it, but because President Bush wanted to. He wanted to finish what he felt cost his father a second term and didn’t care about facts or intel or how many lives it eventually costs. Everyone I know still in the field believes we should begin withdrawing forces, Iraq will not stand up to defend itself until we do. I’m not talking about deserting them, but forcing them to take the lead in their civil war and supporting them as they do. This will not happen under President Bush because he cares more about how it would make him look and his legacy than he does about Iraq or American lives.

    I made the statement that the Democratic party needs reasonable, moderate men and women of faith to stand up and run for office. Obviously I do not consider you moderate nor reasonable. As for being a man of faith I guess it depends on your definition. My Dominionist friend does not consider me a “good, faithful Christian”, nor do I consider him one. While it should depend on whether you believe the Bible as a whole, it eventually comes down to what parts of the Bible you embrace and what parts you ignore.

  6. RalphW

    Daniel, I know it’s difficult, but we need to be clear on a few things.

    I did not say that the country is divided on robbery. I said that your statement that you’re against abortion is as meaningless as the statement I wrote about being against robbery, since nothing you said indicated to me that you were prepared to do anything useful to stop abortion or reduce its frequency. I haven’t seen any evidence that education is useful in reducing the frequency of abortion, but if you can show me how the counselling and education work you’ve done has significantly decreased the number of abortions in your neighborhood, I’d be prepared to rethink my position.

    You accuse me of being holier-than-thou and passing judgment on others who don’t obey me, then you turn around and call me inhuman, declaring that I do not have any love in my soul and don’t know Jesus Christ because I disagree with your position on abortion. Don’t you think that’s a little judgmental? If I were to say these things about you because you seem to place so little value on the life of the unborn child, would you listen to me?

    I gather that you think that government programs are the way we should care for the poor and cutting back on any of them indicates that we hate the poor. I disagree, at least as those programs are currently implemented. The current system of government support we have in place for the poor in many cases makes the situation worse, creating generation after generation of people who are dependent on government handouts and have no idea how to get a job or manage a budget. Getting rid of programs like these that don’t work and replacing them with something that works is a good thing, and not necessarily a sign that you’re sold out to billionaires like George Soros and Bill Gates.

    If you’re serious about giving a balanced treatment to evolution, teaching both the pros and cons of the theory, I’m entirely with you. However you need to know that according to the people at http://www.natcenscied.org/ and many others like them, if you teach the cons of evolution, you’re “undermining the treatment of evolution” in the schools, and if you encourage teachers to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory,” you’re “providing a pretext for instilling scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution.” If they have their way (and so far for the most part they have), you won’t find anything in our science textbooks or curricula that indicates there is the slightest doubt that life arose spontaneously from chemicals and spontaneously acquired all of the attributes and complexity it now has. It will be entirely up the the parents to teach their children that there are more than a few uncertainties in this picture.

    I didn’t say that it’s ok that President Bush lies because the press lies too – I said that we have more evidence that the press lies than we have that President Bush lies. I could have said that there’s no evidence that President Bush has lied to us, but I rather doubt that you’d believe me. I don’t know where your evidence is that President Bush started the war merely to finish off what his father left unfinished. If you could provide some, perhaps that would qualify as evidence that Bush lied about his intent to destroy Sadaam’s support for terrorism, end his defiance of the terms of the cease fire imposed in the first war and end his brutality to his own people (among the many reasons the president gave for the invasion). Given your concern for the lives of the Iraqis, can you at least be glad that they no longer must endure Sadaam’s slaughter of his own people (which took far more lives than have been lost since he was deposed)? I don’t know how many people you know in the field, but there are some who at least who are impressed with what Iraq has accomplished in only four years (considering that it took eleven years before we ended our occupation of Germany after WWII) and feel that we should continue to support them rather than turn over their inexperienced army and government to the tender mercies of the Iranian and Syrian terrorists who are infiltrating the country.

    I don’t ignore any of the Bible. Do you?

    You earlier described your position as that of a reasonable moderate Democrat, yet in your post you call those who disagree with you inhuman, accuse them of having no love in their soul and announce that you despise the positions you think they hold. Is this what qualifies as reasonable, moderate dialog in the Democratic party? Maybe you’ve given up on real dialog with people like me, but if you’re interested in persuading any of us to consider your position, you might want to tone down your language a little, listen a bit more carefully to what we’re saying and adopt as a working hypothesis that not every conservative Republican is a Dominionist.

  7. DanielR

    Ralph, sorry if I offended anyone in my previous comments, perhaps my words were harsh and I exhibited less grace than should be expected of us all. But, I didn’t call you inhuman, I said the South Dakota law, and laws like it, are inhuman.

    My comments on your comparison of abortion and robbery were meant to be sarcastic, not serious. I think your argument there is ludicrous. I agree that abortion is a tragedy, and we should do what we can to reduce the necessity. But is an abortion a bigger tragedy than a child who’s pregnant from incest? Should a woman who’s been raped be forced by society to continue that trauma for nine months and bear the child of her rapist, and then have to decide whether to give up a child she’s given birth to for adoption or raise the child of her rapist? What’s the bigger tragedy, an abortion or a child no one wants?

    To me, anyone who supports a ban on abortion under any circumstances with no exceptions is unreasonable, especially since they are the minority wanting to impose their will on the majority. I’ll also say that anyone who supports abortion without any limits or restrictions is also unreasonable.

    I’m not for unlimited, unrestricted, on-demand abortion and I don’t know many who are, but I know lots of conservatives are for an absolute ban on abortion with no exception for incest or rape. And I stand by my statement that anyone supports such laws does not understand the love Jesus Christ has for us if they do not have the compassion in them to consider that an abortion may be the best option for a child pregnant from incest or a woman who’s been raped. I was probably being unfair to say I don’t think some people really know Jesus Christ, but how can a person look on a child who’s been the victim of incest and gotten pregnant and not care enough to consider that abortion might be the best option for that child and yet still claim to love and follow Jesus Christ? What do you think Jesus would do?

    I think abortion is a tragedy and that it occurs way too often, but that sometimes, for some people it is the best option. Sometimes it is a better option than an unwanted, unloved child. And don’t tell me that every child can be adopted into a loving Christian family because the number of children who bounce from foster home to foster home and are never adopted is proof that’s not true.

    As for calling you holier than thou, I said your attitude seems typical of the holier than thou minority who wants to impose their will on the majority. The majority of Americans favors legal abortion with some limits and restrictions. If you can’t even get a consensus of Christians to agree with your position, why should a minority of Christians be able to decide the law not only for the majority of Christians but for all non-christians as well? To me that is a holier than thou attitude.

    On evolution, I agree that it should be taught accurately, as you suggest. Do you agree that it is evolution that should be taught in public school science classes and not Intelligent Design?

    Revamping and fixing the government programs for the poor has been going on since President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act and before that and needs to continue. Under President Bush we’ve had less a revamping of programs for the poor and more of a dismantling.

    I’m not particularly hopeful of persuading you or most anti-abortion conservatives to consider a more moderate position like legalized abortion with limits, restrictions, parental notification, etc. Republicans are supposed to favor smaller, less intrusive government, but the one place you want the government to intrude more is our bedrooms and our private lives. I have to agree with the Supreme Court when they say that some things are of such a personal, private nature that the govt. has no business regulating them.

    On another note; why do you call yourselves “Pro-life”? You’re not pro-life, you’re anti-choice. The opposite of pro-life would be anti-life, I certainly don’t think those who support a woman’s right to have a abortion are anti-life, whereas the opposite of pro-choice would be anti-choice which certainly seems to accurately describe those who don’t want women to have the choice of having an abortion or not. How can Republicans call themselves pro-life when the majority of them support the death penalty? Isn’t opposing abortion out of a reverence for life but supporting the death penalty somewhat hypocritical?

  8. RalphW

    Daniel, I’m impressed. I was thinking that there wasn’t much more we were going to be able to say to each other, but you substantially altered the tone of the discussion and now there’s lots of room to keep talking.

    I think that a large part of our disagreement stems from different perspectives on the unborn child and what is done when a woman has an abortion. You say abortion is a tragedy. How big a tragedy is it? What would you honestly compare it to, and what would you say is the magnitude of the loss resulting from having an abortion? When we have clearly answered this question, it will be easier to say what Jesus would do when presented with the option of having a young girl have an abortion.

    Regarding your concern for the woman who’s been raped, it is also worth looking at the side of the child conceived by the rape. Here’s a story of one at least who’s glad she wasn’t aborted: http://www.righttoliferoch.org/nforgotten.htm, and here’s the organization she founded: http://www.stigmatized.org/information.htm

    You say that you are not for unlimited unrestricted on-demand abortion, but that is in fact what the courts have required since Roe v. Wade. Would you be willing to see the Supreme Court rescinded Roe v. Wade and turn the responsibility for this decision back to the states? This would allow those states where public opinion runs strongly against abortion to pass laws like those of South Dakota, while permitting those states which support the current status quo to pass laws allowing minors to have abortions without their parents’ knowledge or consent. As you’ve noted, this may not completely please the absolutists, but they would certainly be happier than they are now and they’d be free if they wished to continue the battle for the hearts and minds of individuals at the state level.

    Your concern about children being unwanted or unloved has long been a standard argument for abortion, but there is no evidence that the children born since Roe v. Wade have felt more wanted or loved than they did before. If anything the trend appears to be in the opposite direction, with the evidence being that children are valued less than they were before. In some places, families with more than three children are now called “breeders” and are the objects of either pity or scorn. Under such circumstances we will certainly find it more difficult both to encourage women to keep children they would otherwise have aborted or to find people who are willing to adopt the children women cannot raise on their own. This is another reason why decisions on what laws to pass regarding abortion should be left to the states rather than enforced nationally. Those states whose people place a higher value on children will be the more likely to restrict abortion, but will also have a better environment into which children can be adopted.

    Regarding evolution, I would teach something like the following: “The generally accepted view among scientists today is that life arose as a result of the unguided combination of non-living materials and that living creatures evolved to their current level of diversity by a process of natural selection from variations caused by the random mutation of the genes of previously generations. While there is no doubt that the process of evolution caused by random mutation and natural selection (RM&NS) can cause variations among organisms, some scientists are not convinced that life could have spontaneously originated from non-living materials or that it could have acquired its more complex characteristics through RM&NS alone. Some who have expressed this doubt have suggested that it is only through the intervention of some kind of intelligence that life with the kind of complexity that we now see could have come into existence.” Unfortunately, efforts to include statements like this in state curricula have so far been struck down as violations of the separation of church and state.

    Regarding care for the poor, my wife and I support a small denominationally based organization located in downtown Los Angeles called “Hope Again” that does case management and counselling for people who want to get off the street and learn to take care of themselves. For a fraction of the cost of welfare, they have helped thousands of people get homes, get jobs and get their lives together again. Federal support of such organizations would doubtless be ruled a violation of the separation of church and state (and they might not want it anyhow if it meant the intrusion of federal supervision and regulation), but if I had my choice, I’d rather put my money into organizations like these than into federal programs any day. If the churches mobilize to form more organizations like these, I suspect we could do a lot more to combat systemic poverty than any number of federal programs could.

    Laws like the South Dakota law against doctors performing abortions are not an intrusion into “our bedrooms and private lives,” they are simply a restatement of the Hippocratic Oath (not, by the way, either a Christian or a Republican document), by which doctors have sworn for over 2000 years that they would “not give to a woman an abortive remedy” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/doctors/oath_classical.html). You can do what you want in your bedroom in South Dakota, but if you don’t like the results, you can’t go to a doctor to “fix it.”

    The reason pro-life people can oppose abortion and support the death penalty at the same time is that we can tell the difference between innocent and guilty life. The unborn child is innocent of any crime, some people are guilty of crimes that are severe enough to warrant their being put to death. To say that someone could torture and murder a dozen people and not deserve the death penalty is to be guilty of an irreverance towards the lives of the victims.

  9. I commented in response to DanielR on Friday. I was told that my post was being held for review by the moderator, which is fine. It is now Tuesday and my post is still not on the blog. May I know why it has not been posted, or if at some point it will be? If it is not posted, I would at least like to have the opportunity to direct DanielR to my infrequently used blog site (http://spinningclay.blogspot.com/) where we can continue the discussion if we don’t continue it here.

  10. I’m trying a second time with what I posted on Friday…

    Daniel, I’m impressed. I was thinking that there wasn’t much more we were going to be able to say to each other, but you substantially altered the tone of the discussion and now there’s lots of room to keep talking.

    I think that a large part of our disagreement stems from different perspectives on the unborn child and what is done when a woman has an abortion. You say abortion is a tragedy. How big a tragedy is it? What would you honestly compare it to, and what would you say is the magnitude of the loss resulting from having an abortion? When we have clearly answered this question, it will be easier to say what Jesus would do when presented with the option of having a young girl have an abortion.

    Regarding your concern for the woman who’s been raped, it is also worth looking at the side of the child conceived by the rape. Here’s a story of one at least who’s glad she wasn’t aborted: http://www.righttoliferoch.org/nforgotten.htm, and here’s the organization she founded: http://www.stigmatized.org/information.htm

    You say that you are not for unlimited unrestricted on-demand abortion, but that is in fact what the courts have required since Roe v. Wade. Would you be willing to see the Supreme Court rescinded Roe v. Wade and turn the responsibility for this decision back to the states? This would allow those states where public opinion runs strongly against abortion to pass laws like those of South Dakota, while permitting those states which support the current status quo to pass laws allowing minors to have abortions without their parents’ knowledge or consent. As you’ve noted, this may not completely please the absolutists, but they would certainly be happier than they are now and they’d be free if they wished to continue the battle for the hearts and minds of individuals at the state level.

    Your concern about children being unwanted or unloved has long been a standard argument for abortion, but there is no evidence that the children born since Roe v. Wade have felt more wanted or loved than they did before. If anything the trend appears to be in the opposite direction, with the evidence being that children are valued less than they were before. In some places, families with more than three children are now called “breeders” and are the objects of either pity or scorn. Under such circumstances we will certainly find it more difficult both to encourage women to keep children they would otherwise have aborted or to find people who are willing to adopt the children women cannot raise on their own. This is another reason why decisions on what laws to pass regarding abortion should be left to the states rather than enforced nationally. Those states whose people place a higher value on children will be the more likely to restrict abortion, but will also have a better environment into which children can be adopted.

    Regarding evolution, I would teach something like the following: “The generally accepted view among scientists today is that life arose as a result of the random combination of non-living materials and that living creatures evolved to their current level of diversity by a process of natural selection from variations caused by the random mutation of the genes of previously existing creatures. While there is no doubt that the process of evolution caused by random mutation and natural selection (RM&NS) can cause variations among organisms, some scientists are not convinced that life could have spontaneously originated from non-living materials or that it could have acquired its more complex characteristics through RM&NS alone. Some who have expressed this doubt have suggested that it is only through the intervention of some kind of intelligence that life with the kind of complexity that we now see could have come into existence.” Unfortunately, efforts to include statements like this in state curricula have so far been struck down as violations of the separation of church and state.

    Regarding care for the poor, my wife and I support a small denominationally based organization located in downtown Los Angeles called “Hope Again” that does case management and counselling for people who want to get off the street and learn to take care of themselves. For a fraction of the cost of welfare, they have helped thousands of people get homes, get jobs and get their lives together again. Federal support of such organizations would doubtless be ruled a violation of the separation of church and state (and they might not want it anyhow if it meant the intrusion of federal supervision and regulation), but if I had my choice, I’d rather put my money into organizations like these than into federal programs any day. If the churches mobilize to form more organizations like these, I suspect we could do a lot more to combat systemic poverty than any number of federal programs could.

    Laws like the South Dakota law against doctors performing abortions are not an intrusion into “our bedrooms and private lives,” they are simply a restatement of the Hippocratic Oath (not, by the way, either a Christian or a Republican document), by which doctors have sworn for over 2000 years that they would “not give to a woman an abortive remedy” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/doctors/oath_classical.html). You can do what you want in your bedroom in South Dakota, but if you don’t like the results, you can’t go to a doctor to “fix it.”

    The reason pro-life people can oppose abortion and support the death penalty at the same time is that we can tell the difference between innocent and guilty life. The unborn child is innocent of any crime, some people are guilty of crimes that are severe enough to warrant their being put to death. To say that someone could torture and murder a dozen people and not deserve the death penalty is to be guilty of an irreverance towards the lives of the victims.

  11. DanielR

    Ralph, I posted 2 responses on your blog, but I haven’t heard from you. I’ll post them here now and hope I don’t offend Jim with the tone.

    OK, here goes. Let’s talk about abortion, we can hit the other issues later. I’ll say it again, I’m against abortion. I think it’s a tragedy that happens far too often. But I don’t think we, as Christians, should be able to make it illegal for everyone else. That smacks of Dominionism to me. I think the decision should be up to the individuals involved, within appropriate limits of course. And I applaud Christians who work to help women find other alternatives; responsible birth control is a better option than abortion. For some women adoption may be a better option than abortion, assuming the child can be adopted, which is not always the case as evidenced by the numbers of children in the system who are not getting adopted and will never be adopted. I’m open to compromise, meaning reasonable limits and restrictions on abortion without outlawing it completely.

    It seems to be the anti-abortion people who are not willing to compromise. Most people I’ve talked to who support a woman’s right to choose say some limits and restrictions are fine. After that it’s a matter of what limits are acceptable. Should abortion to determine the sex of a child be legal? I think the vast majority would say no. Should a woman be able to abort a fetus that is grossly malformed and not likely to live? I think a higher percentage would say yes to that. Should a 16 year-old girl who’s pregnant from incest be able to have an abortion? How about a 12 year-old? Or a 9 year-old? It seems to be only the anti-abortion advocates who are unwilling to compromise and want to say the 9 year-old who’s pregnant from incest or the woman who’s been raped shouldn’t be able to have an abortion.

    How big a tragedy is it? I think that depends on the circumstances. As an example take a 12 year-old girl who’s been raped by her father, is it a bigger tragedy for her to have an abortion or for you to force her to carry that child to term and give birth when her little body is not ready for that, and then to have to decide whether to keep and raise a child when she herself is still a child? What do you think would be the bigger tragedy? Of course, in my opinion it doesn’t matter what you think, because the decision should be up to the individual and, in the case of a minor, her parents or guardians. Why should you be able to decide for them?

    As for the woman who was conceived of rape and the organization she founded, I applaud her for following her convictions. I would assume that anyone who is born is glad they weren’t aborted no matter what the circumstances of their conception. As far as I see it her case has no bearing on whether another woman who is raped should have the option of having an abortion.

    As for leaving it up to the individual states, that’s a bad idea. Making it illegal in some states and legal in others restricts abortion to those who live in a state where it’s legal and those who are wealthy enough to travel to a state where it is legal. Sure, that would reduce the number of abortions, mainly for the poor who can’t afford to travel to another state where it’s legal. Hardly an equitable system.

    The Supreme Court decision was based on a principle of law that had been established in cases prior to the Roe decision; a principle of law which interprets the Constitution as guaranteeing a “fundamental right to privacy” , i.e. issues the govt. has no business regulating, not because the Justices like abortion.

    The Roe decision was made in 1973 but that principle of law had been evolving for a while. In the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut case the Supreme Court recognized a “right of privacy” which inheres in the various provisions of the Bill of Rights, primarily the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Due Process clause had long been held to have a “substantive” component, providing protection for certain fundamental rights. The ruling in Griswold recognized constitutional protection for the possession of birth control as part of an intimate sphere of marital privacy, and the reasoning of that case had been extended to protect the possession of birth control by non-married couples in 1972’s Eisenstadt v. Baird.

    To reverse the Roe decision the court would have to hold that individuals have no right to privacy in any form from government intrusion. In the Griswold case the law in question prohibited the use of “any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception.” By a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court invalidated the law on the grounds that it violated the “right to marital privacy.” In his dissenting opinion Justice Potter Stewart called the Connecticut statute “an uncommonly silly law,” but stated that he thought it was nevertheless constitutional.

    In the Eisenstadt case, the law criminalized the use of contraceptives by unmarried couples only, married couples were free to use contraceptives as they desired but since unmarried individuals should not be having sex in the first place they had no need of contraception and therefore were legally prohibited from using them. Yeah, that makes sense. In it’s ruling the court said “If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”

    The court also struck down a New York law criminalizing distribution of contraceptives to minors under 16, for privacy reasons and also because state law allowed minors under 16 to get married (with parental consent). Minors could get married but not use contraceptives? What morons thought that was a good idea?

    So, am I in favor of the Supreme Court reversing it’s decision on Roe? Nope. I don’t want the government telling women of all religions and beliefs that they can’t have abortions based on your version of Christian morality. You can’t even get all Christians to agree with you.

    So, how about it? Legalized abortion with appropriate limits and restrictions. Parental consent? OK, as long as there is a judicial bypass process in cases where it is appropriate. No partial birth abortion, unless for reasons I wouldn’t understand it’s necessary to save the mother’s life? Prohibitions against late term abortions unless necessary for the health of the mother? Mandatory counseling before an abortion? IQ testing for the woman to make sure she understands what she’s doing? IQ testing for the fetus to make sure we don’t abort any potential geniuses? What are appropriate limits? I’m open to compromise, are you?

  12. DanielR

    And reply #2;

    OK, come on, you can do better than that.

    “Laws like the South Dakota law against doctors performing abortions are not an intrusion into “our bedrooms and private lives,” they are simply a restatement of the Hippocratic Oath”???

    So it would be OK with you if women have abortions, as long as they’re not performed by doctors?

    Although mostly of historical and traditional value, the oath is considered a rite of passage for practitioners of medicine. And while the original, written in the 4th century BC, does prohibit abortion, it’s my understanding that most doctors don’t take the original Hippocratic Oath. Rather, they take the Declaration of Geneva or some similarly updated oath.

    The Declaration of Geneva was adopted by the General Assembly of the World Medical Association at Geneva in 1948 and amended by the 22nd World Medical Assembly at Sydney in 1968. It is a declaration of physicians’ dedication to the humanitarian goals of medicine. The Declaration of Geneva was intended to update the Oath of Hippocrates, which was no longer suited to modern conditions.

    It’s my understanding that in the 1970s most American medical schools abandoned the Hippocratic Oath as part of graduation ceremonies, usually substituting a version modified to something considered more politically up to date, like the Declaration of Geneva.

    Not surprisingly the Declaration of Geneva, or most other updated versions of the oath, does not contain the prohibition against abortion.

    I really can’t believe that part of your argument is that we should base our laws on an oath from the 4th century B.C. Do you also want adultery and homosexuality to be capital crimes in accordance with Old Testament scripture?

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