Monday, November 03, 2008

On Abortion and Voting

A lot has been made about abortion in this election, and I know that that issue is central for many when considering for whom to cast their vote. I respect the zeal of the pro-life movement and their deeply held convictions. I cannot possibly address every article and argument out there on this issue, but let me offer some thoughts that reflect how my thinking on this issue has changed over time (but not from pro-life to pro-choice). I apologize for the length, but this issue is important and complex and requires some significant attention.

Let me begin with a few disclaimers. 1) I know this whole email will feel very pragmatic. It is true that I don’t choose to touch on the foundational moral and theological arguments both sides use in this issue, precisely because those are moral and theological, not legal or political. In my mind, this issue will continue on as a stalemate into the indefinite future if the goal is to convince one side or the other to change their fundamental moral and theological beliefs. That is certainly an approach some people can take, but if the last 35 years are any indication, neither side will have a 2/3 or ¾ majority anytime soon. 2) I don’t claim to think that my thoughts are unassailable. I have changed my mind many times on many issues, and I’m open to changing again on this issue. This simply represents some collected thoughts I have at this moment in time on the eve of an important election. 3) I will sometimes use the “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” labels for convenience, but I don’t like them. They divide rather than unite and are not fully accurate because they assume that pro-choice people don’t value life or are pro-abortion. I see myself as both pro-life and pro-choice, the former because I believe every abortion is a tragedy and the latter because I don’t believe criminalizing abortion is the best solution. I think the real issue is not whether one is for or against life, but whether or not one thinks the abortion decision should be outlawed/criminalized or allowed to remain legal in some way, shape, or form.

On to my thoughts for folks to consider:

  1. The GOP has failed to deliver. Each election, GOP politicians pocket millions of votes, including an overwhelming proportion of conservative Christians, by simply saying two words: “I’m pro-life.” But where is the proof? Republicans have controlled the White House 20 of the last 28 years, appointed 9 of the last 11 Supreme Court justices, and held sway over the House and Senate much more than Democrats over the past 30 years. And what has that achieved? A few symbolic laws that don’t actually limit abortions, no significant reduction in abortions, and no closer to outlawing abortions. For “pro-lifers,” maybe it’s time to hold your party accountable. If the GOP knows it can count on ¾ of your votes every election without producing results in 35 years, why would they have any motivation to do anything at all? Politically, it actually makes more sense for them NOT to act and just let the votes keep rolling in if pro-life voters will keep electing them and not require results. In Christian lingo, we say you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. I see talking but no walking in the GOP, and they’ve had ample opportunity in control. This isn’t to say that some politicians haven’t tried, but the fact remains that 30 years of primarily Republican control has not advanced the cause much if at all in any practical ways.
  1. The limits of overturning Roe V. Wade. My sense is that the strategy of most pro-lifers is to overturn Roe, hence all the focus every presidential election on the power to appoint Supreme Court justices. The fact that 9 of the last 11 justices have been nominated by Republicans notwithstanding, I think many pro-lifers don’t understand the real limits of overturning Roe. It would not outlaw abortions, but just return the decision to the states, and there is good evidence that most states would keep abortion legal. Those states most likely to enact significant restrictions or even outlaw abortion altogether are low-abortion states anyway, and women would then just cross state lines. A recent study estimated that if Roe were overturned, the number of abortions in this country would stay roughly the same because high-abortion states would likely keep it legal and women in low-access states would travel. And this is not to mention the extreme difficulty in overturning a decided case. Even with Republicans nominating most of our current justices, only 2 have given any indication they’d be willing to re-open Roe. That’s a far cry from this magical and elusive “5th vote.” Simply, overturning Roe is unlikely, and even if it were overturned, it is not the silver bullet that many pro-lifers think that it is.
  1. The unlikelihood of criminalizing abortion. If pro-lifers are really serious about outlawing abortions, the best bet is some sort of constitutional amendment that makes abortion illegal and/or legally defines personhood at conception. One problem with that is that most Americans are against making abortion illegal, including 1/3 of evangelicals. Passing a constitutional amendment requires the highest degree of national and political consensus (as it should), and given current public opinion and the fact that American is becoming more pro-choice over time, it simply doesn’t look like it’ll happen even in the remotely distant future.
  1. The limits of criminalizing abortion. However, for the sake of argument, let’s say we as a nation could criminalize abortion. What would that do? Well, a recent study compared the abortion rate in countries where it is legal and illegal, and it found that there is actually very little difference. Making abortion illegal doesn’t stop abortions, it just makes them unsafe. Some purists may still see criminalization as a moral victory, but in practical terms, it might not mean significantly less aborted babies, and it will certainly mean more sick and dying women. Consider that unsafe abortions are the leading cause of maternal mortality in Latin America, and 1 in 3 hospital beds in Argentina is occupied by a woman suffering complications from an unsafe abortion. Making abortion illegal won’t reduce the number of abortions but will hurt lots more women.
  1. What does limit abortions? So if criminalizing abortions actually doesn’t limit abortions, what does? Contrary to some public perception, most abortions are economically-driven. I think if pro-life people understood the difficult circumstances that surround many of these unintended pregnancies, there would be much more compassion and much less judgment. Most women do not love abortion, but they find themselves in difficult circumstances, and recent research shows that robust social and economic supports for women drastically reduce the number of abortions. It isn’t rocket science to say that coming alongside scared women in desperate situations to help them, not making them criminals, is a better option for supporting women and for helping them carry their babies to term. As for reducing the unwanted or unexpected pregnancies to begin with, for all the preaching that churches do on sexual morality, religion is not the greatest predictor of marriage success or in-wedlock births – education is. Despite perceptions that college secularizes and liberalizes, only 4% of college-educated women – regardless of religious upbringing – have children out of wedlock. Education means greater economic security and the future-orientation needed to wait on having children (and to have no sex or safe sex in the meantime). College-educated women tend to marry more and get divorced less (much less than evangelicals, who have lower-than-average educational levels and a high divorce rate). Given this, it isn’t much of a logical leap to say that breaking the cycles of poverty, improving our failing schools, and giving kids a hope and a future would be more effective in the long run at reducing abortions than making them illegal.
  1. The Democratic shift to reduction. All of the reasons above show why I think the Republican approach to abortion is sorely lacking. Yelling “pro-life” works for political rallies, bumper stickers, and getting Republicans elected, but I think it fails to understand the political and legal complexity of this issue. Purists may still insist on making it illegal as a matter of morality, but I have yet to hear a compelling way that the pro-life movement can get from Point A (where we are now) to Point B (abortions criminalized nationally). Being dogmatic about criminalizing allows the pro-life movement to keep its moral purity, but it is not remotely realistic. Meanwhile, each year that passes in which there is not realistic effort to reduce abortions and find some common ground with the equally dogmatic pro-choice folks means more than million abortions occur while the shouting match continues. This year, thanks to the persistence of many Christian and other voices, the Democrats included a plank in their party platform calling for strategies to reduce abortions. Meanwhile, the Republicans made their platform more punitive and restrictive, allowing for no exceptions and including no language about reduction. (That increased “toughness” is largely a symbolic move to pander to the base, I’d argue, since none of those things are politically possible.) I actually believe that the Democrats, not the Republicans, have advanced a platform that – at the end of the day – will actually mean less abortions and more support for women, not to mention that their approach of reduction is actually politically possible RIGHT NOW because it is an approach that both “pro-life” and “pro-choice” people can support without needing to resolve their deeply-held disagreements about the origin of personhood. And there is already proof that a pro-life Democratic constituency can have some sway in how the party thinks about this issue, which gives hope – not the Dems will turn 180 degrees and support criminalization – but will consider ways to reduce.

These are some of the points that have caused me to rethink abortion as an issue. I still see abortion as tragic, but if the goal is to actually reduce abortions and not just engage in shouting matches, then I think all pro-life people ought to at least rethink what pro-life really means to them and what they see as the best ways to reduce abortions. Some may think this is a tragic slippery slope, but I encourage thinking beyond moral purity for its own sake and about what might actually work in the actual political and legal world. Is the pro-life movement satisfied with its approach over the last 35 years? What has it achieved? Are we any closer today than we were in the 1970s to significantly reducing abortions? If some say yes, I’d be very open to hearing why.

Lastly, I am not necessarily claiming that the Democratic Party is the best party for folks who ultimately want to see abortion criminalized. Honestly, I think that is a losing argument for Democrats. Even if the GOP has failed to deliver abortion restrictions and there is no plan nor realistic hope to do so in the distant future, at least the party is saying they’d like to criminalize as a matter of principle. My argument is more along the lines that a) criminalizing abortion in America is highly, highly improbable, regardless of one's timeline and regardless of which party has control of the WH and Congress, and b) criminalizing abortion nationally, even if it ever were accomplished, would not actually decrease abortions significantly (but would hurt a lot of already marginalized and under-supported women), and c) we know of some other ways to reduce abortions that we can start working on right away without needing to resolve the “where does life begin?” question. If those assertions are true and if the answers to the questions in the previous paragraph about the Republican approach are “no,” then I submit that pro-life folks really do have a choice of parties. This might be especially refreshing for the many people who find a lot of the Democratic social and economic policies more inviting but always get stuck on the abortion issue.

Evangelical writer Tony Campolo has said that if we find 10 children drowning in a swimming pool and we know how to save 6 right away, do we save those six, or do we not save any because our principles are offended that we can’t save all 10? I say we save the 6 and then work at saving the rest.

I am always open to the power of good arguments, so comments and questions welcome.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Be Afriad of Palin... Be Very, Very Afriad

I was fuming during the speech tonight b/c it blatantly lied about the substance of Obama's policies and personally and vehemently attacked virtually everything about him, including his motives and his service of low income people. (I hope that social workers and community organizers of the world show her what organizing looks like by organizing Obama/Biden into the WH and her back to AK.) I guess lying and personally attacking are now under the mantle of "reform." It took Washington-types a week to scrub her accent and get her delivering partisan drivel written - ironically - by a long-time GOP speechwriter. How's that for "outsider?" She spent 25 minutes delivering canned one-liners that GOP hacks sat around over whiskey coming up with for weeks and even months.

The speech had no substance whatsoever, and after day 3 of the RNC, I've still not heard a lick of new ideas, no substance about any actual issues, lots of terrorist scare tactics, and the same old GOP talking points about low taxes, less government, strong military, etc., all while ripping on elite, comso-drinking Democrats. Palin revived the stereotypes and culture wars - Obama and all Dems are unpatriotic, elitist, and San Franciscan, while GOPers are gun-toting, blue collar SOBs. It was indeed a red meat night, but it was also overly mean-spirited, shallow, dismissive, and unecessarily personal. All this while Obama and Biden haven't been scrutinizing her at all on the trail. Biden didn't even question her ability to be president when asked. But there is blood in the water now.

I can't say it better than most of the commenters on TIME's Swampland blog:
. I'm glad that the comments are 20-to-1 negative on Palin.

And I remain very worried about her super-right wing ideas and policies, which out her to the far right of McCain, who at times actually tries to be moderate in a crazy-right party. A skeptic on climate change, evolution; banning all abortions (further right than even a majority of evangelicals); censoring books in the local library; Iraq as a mission from God. And she apparently cut funding for support for pregnant teens; she might want some of that funding back, huh? And the stuff coming out said by her pastors is much more worrisome to me than Jeremiah Wright's liberation theology (which I don't find troubling at all, actually). As a Christian and a graduate of an evangelical college, I GET conservative Christianity, and we cannot afford a fundamentalist of her variety in the White House. One of these days, I keep thinking we'll put someone in the White House that accepts things like "the findings of the world scientific establishment," "facts," and "moral deliberation." Oh, for a GOP presidential candidate that sees the world in more than black-and-white.

If Palin wants to play hardball, then I hope the Obama campaign stands up to her and hits her back on all the lies in the speech and the inconsistencies in her record that are already coming to light. And if they do, I don't want to hear cries of sexism. What she did tonight - insulting the work of community organizers and tearing Obama down personally at every turn - would never be tolerated against her without being labeled sexist.

Oh... and I love a new AP story that Keith Olbermann pointed out that is criticizing the GOP for bashing the media (and the Obama people, even though Obama and Biden called her family off limits) for attacking the Palin family when they turn around and parade them on camera and on stage - including shotgun husband-to-be Levi - before national audiences to show how pro-life and pro-family she is. Don't attack them, but let us use them as political props.

I was thinking during the speech that if every group of people she offended voted for Obama, then the Dems win in a landslide. Let's hope so.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why I Trust Obama over McCain

I wrote this little blurb for a friend who is concerned about Obama's lack of experience to sit on the "global throne," as she put it. This was my quickly churned out reply:

That's a legit concern just looking at his resume, but one thing I really do like and appreciate about Obama is his intelligence and the way he so carefully morally deliberates. I think that's on display any time he answers questions. Instead of blurting out an overly simplistic black-and-white answer, he weighs both sides and seeks to see all angles. He'll have good people around him, like Biden, who bring the in-depth analysis and practical experience that he might lack. All things equal, sure, it'd be great if he had more experience in certain things. But no measure of experience can save someone who has a bad decision-making process and who oversimplifies complex things. Abraham Lincoln was an inexperienced politician, but he was wise. So with Obama, after watching him all these months, I like how he thinks and the level at which he deliberates. After 8 years of certainty headed in entirely the wrong direction, I think this country could use a little more wisdom and deliberation and a lot less running full speed ahead into the sea. Obama is a super smart dude and can learn facts about issues that might be out of his realm of experience, but you can't teach wisdom. I don't disagree with McCain on all issues, but what worries me more about him is how he seems cut from the same "black and white" worldview of Bush. It's not that I won't agree with McCain on some issues, but in what I've seen, he's a lot of tough talk and not much intellectualism. And if I may, I'm super pissed at how this country seems to want a president like the boy or girl next door (read: Bush) and not someone super smart. What's wrong with being an intellectual when we're talking about the most important job in the world?! I WANT someone smarter than me in there! McCain may seem surer, but to me, I want wisdom, not simple certitudes. Obama, to me, oozes reflection, deliberation, and thoughtfulness.

Reply to "Should pro-life voters vote for Obama?"

To your post, I guess in some ways I've forgotten how much of a stumbling block abortion remains for many Christians. To that end, thanks for reasoning out your piece.

If I may add my own conclusion on the abortion issue, I actually find myself standing in the camp of reduce but not criminalize. Safe, legal, rare. I think pro-life and pro-choice are both worn out and rather useless monikers, and it reinforces the misperceptions that those who support Roe V. Wade somehow glory in abortions and are not pro-life. (I'd argue for a consistent ethic of life, likely not an uncommon phrase to you.) I'd rather talk about those who want to criminalize vs. those who don't.

First of all, as Obama has articulated, when life begins is a moral and theological question, not a political one. In my opinion, good politicians are those who acknowledge this complexity, not spout empty, black-and-white declarations designed to continue to lock down the votes of certain unnamed demographics. Whenever one believes life begins, there is good reason to believe that criminalizing abortion will in no way end it. In fact, if I correctly recall, a recent study found that the abortion rate didn't statistically vary between countries where it was legal or illegal (sorry I don't have the citation off the top of my head). As you mention, abortions are as old as time itself, so do we want a system that criminalizes women and that will ultimately lead to abuse and desperation, or do we want a legal channel for abortions in some cases combined with a comprehensive approach to reducing unwanted pregnancies and the need for abortions? I certainly think the latter. (I understand this won't sound tenable to folks who believe absolutely that abortion at any stage for any reason is murder, but again, that is a theological position that is - in my opinion - hard to legislate in a pluralistic democracy. And actually, I think Pew has some good data that the percentage of Americans who actually favor criminalizing abortion w/o exceptions is super tiny; they just often are the loudest, as my time at the DNC last week bears out.)

This leads to a couple other thoughts. First, I think one reason the GOP position on this is so infuriating is the fact that all other policies of that party, in my opinion, wash their hands of the mothers most likely to get abortions and of their babies once they are born. According to their policies, life begins and conception and ends at birth. But they do nothing to support women at risk and nothing to support these very children once born into the world. I think this understanding is undergirded by an overly simplistic and, in my opinion, wrong notion about who is having abortions and why. This very line of reasoning was recently echoed in remarks by Bishop Charles Blake, head of the 6-million member pentecostal Church of God in Christ. Even while pro-life, he identifies openly and proudly as a Democrat because he'd rather be with a party with whom he agrees on 99% of issues than with one with whom he agrees on 1% (namely, abortion, and I'd argue that the GOP stance on this issue is political, not moral).

Second, I think the Religious Right has done a fine job brainwashing the country into binary thinking on this issue, namely, if you believe in God or are a Christian, then you must favor criminalization. If fact, a large number of church denominations have official "safe, legal, rare" stances, theologically argued and grounded. The Methodist Church is one, which is why one can say that Hillary Clinton was actually in line with her church's teaching on this issue (despite the vehemence against her from so many Christian conservatives). Another is my church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I encourage anyone to check out their abortion statement and truly follow it's theological reasoning and level of moral deliberation and discourse:

Whether or not one is convinced, I'd hope that the space can be created to acknowledge that sincere Christians who take their faith and the Bible seriously can support Roe v. Wade.

To this last point, I'd also like to point out something Randall Balmer dug up in his recent book (Thy Kingdom Come) about the issue of abortion. As a historian, he argues that the catalyzing factor for the Moral Majority was not Roe V. Wade, but rather, a lower court decision against Bob Jones' discrimination against non-white students. Balmer argues that abortion was only added to the agenda in the late 1970s, years after Roe v. Wade. As part of the case he makes, he points out that the Southern Baptist Convention actually passed resolutions several times in the 1970s affirming Roe v. Wade. Again, this fact might not change minds, but I'm of the opinion that the Religious Right has damaged this issue almost beyond repair by making political hay off of it for the last 30 years. It was begun as a political ploy, not out of moral outrage.

Forgive the long post, and thanks again for your note. Comments welcome!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

First Thoughts on Palin as McCain's VP

I was utterly shocked when this was announced. Upon further review, I can see more and more how it makes sense on paper for McCain, but the fact remains that he just put someone unqualified within arms reach of the presidency of the free world. For all the hay McCain just made of Obama's inexperience, how can he then pick someone younger with less experienced than Obama by his side? That leads me to conclude that all of the "not ready to lead" stuff was sheer hot air, mere political calculation to win an election, not sincere concern or critique. So I'm to believe from McCain that Obama is "not ready to lead," but Palin is a "maverick outsider" with the ability to theoretically step into the presidency in 4 months? I call that two-faced, McCain. You lose all credibility. You're another Rovian hack guided solely by political calculation, not America's security or best interests. Even if Obama's choice was also calculated, I feel good about Biden because he has substantial national and international experience and I feel could comfortably step into the top job. Palin seems like pure political pandering designed to get past Nov. 4, not someone who stands out among others as ready to lead on the world's biggest stage tomorrow. How else can we explain how Palin was picked over Romney, Ridge, Pawlenty, Hutchinson, Snowe, or Huckabee? "Outsider" is not synonymous with "qualified."

But what bothers me the most about this pick is that McCain only met her once. It's clear to me this was a purely political calculation, designed to give McCain the best shot at winning and reaching key demographics. Was that slogan "Country First" or "Pander to Win an Election at All Costs," John? Apparently, appealing to key demographics now substitutes for knowing someone and their judgment personally. Having a strategic resume is secondary to actually being qualified. Would you hire a corporate CEO after one in-person meeting? And I'm to believe that someone whose greatest experience is 18 months as a small-state governor and mayor of a town with less people than my neighborhood is the most qualified person to potentially lead the free world. I saw it reported today that it only took her 112,000 votes to win the governorship of Alaska, and moreover, Karl Rove called Tim Kaine (governor of Virginia and mayor of Richmond, 103rd largest U.S. city) too inexperienced for the VP slot on the Dem side. Hmmm... so where does that put having a journalism degree, being a hockey Mom, and being mayor of a town of 9,000 on Rove's grid? I know Obama has limited legislative experience compared to some, but the dude graduated from Harvard Law, edited the Harvard Law Review, and was a constitutional law professor before his legislating days, and he served in the STATE legislature and CONGRESS. And 18 million people saw his resume and chose him.

Let's applaud her life and accomplishments, but while this might be sleek political calculation to win in November, I shudder to think that someone with less experience than some of my 30-something friends might be leader of free world and have the reins of the world's largest economy and the most complicated foreign policy position in the history of the world. Being a small town mayor, mom, and journalism student don't qualify you to be on the world's biggest stage.

We'll see what reaction is to this pick, but I fear that Americans are so eager for a candidate like the boy or girl next door that they'll forget that the boys and girls next door are not qualified to be president of the United States. This job takes a million types of skills and savvy, and I want someone super qualified for it, not someone with less education and experience than people I know.

The danger for Obama-Biden in all of this is that any attacks might be taken along gender lines. Even after re-reading this post, I fear that some might say that I'm thinking she's unqualified b/c she's a woman. I can hear the angry retorts now - don't I think woman can make good judgments? Don't you think women are smart and capable? Doesn't being a Mom count for anything? There's a real danger here for Obama, and I'm actually glad to see that the first post-Palin ad doesn't even mention her by name. For the record, I'd happily vote for an Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket. I believe Clinton is qualified, and I trust her judgment on a national and international stage. I hope that people can separate out gender and see that we are looking at one of the most inexperienced politicians nominated for this post in history. It makes for good media for a day or so, but I'm not sure I want the guy who's the mayor of the town where I went to high school (pop. 6,500) brokering trade deals with China (pop. 1.3 billion) or peace deals with Russia (pop. 142 million). It seems farcical to me that people are touting her executive experience, as though less than 2 years of governing Alaska is supposed to put my mind at ease. And people are saying that her lack of experience doesn't matter as much since she's the VP, but folks, VPs are meant to take over for the President (which might happen with a 72-year old McCain with a history of health issues), not secure some women voters and sure up the pro-life base. In fact, one woman I've talked with has even said that this pick actually disrespects women, for it seems clear that this pick is much less about her qualifications and much more about her gender and appeal to certain demographics. The question isn't about whether or not she is qualified, but about a buzz factor, a shake-up. My friend questions whether this is a great day for woman; is this a signal that accomplished, qualified women are now seen as equals to accomplished, qualified men, or is this just the work of cynical, calculating politicians using a woman to win an election? Are we to believe that Sarah Palin is the most qualified person or woman for this post?

I'm very interested to see how this plays out in the press and among the electorate. Part of me thinks that the Dems should now win 40 states, but then I pull back and worry that this might make it more competitive even yet. Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Begging the Question

Last week, Michael Gerson had a thoughtful piece in the Washington Post about how Obama may be able to make inroads with some flaky evangelicals, but that in the final analysis, his poor record on abortion makes him unpalatable for most tried-and-true evangelicals. This is because, opines Gerson, abortion is "the issue that matters most."

I don't question Gerson's analysis of evangelical voting motives, which I think he gets right. What I do question is why and how abortion remains - even for many younger Catholics and evangelicals - the issue that matters most. Mike, can you enlighten me? It can and does certainly matter, but why does it matter most? Gerson seems to make some attempt at an answer by stating that "the protection of innocent life is not one issue among many, it is the most basic, foundational commitment of a just society." Really? So if "the protection of innocent life" = "abortion," then a just society is fundamentally measured by criminalizing abortion. Hmmm... I need to take Foundations of Democracy 101 over again, apparently.

His explanation sounds touching, but even if we grant that this is the case, then I still question how evangelicals somehow make "protection of innocent life" = "abortion first, last and only" at the exclusion of issues like war, torture, and the alleviation of domestic and international poverty. As I pointed out in my last blog post, evangelicals are still the demographic in America most committed to the Iraq war, which has death, destruction, and deception written all over it. Sorry, Mike, but the stands of a majority of evangelicals on other "innocent life" issues don't do much to firm up your touching tribute to their "protection of innocent life" credentials in my eyes.

This equation of abortion with protecting innocent life and this still entrenched sense that abortion is THE evangelical issue again demonstrates to me how insidiously effective the Religious Right has been over the past 30 years in making this THE issue for evangelical voters, even ones who also are starting to care about poverty, the environment, torture, etc. In Randall Balmer's recent book about the Religious Right, he points out that the selection of abortion as an issue for the Right was not the catalyzing factor for its creation, as many believe, but that it was an afterthought in the late 70s, over 5 years after Roe v. Wade. Most scandalous to me of Balmer's evidence is the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention actually voted for resolutions throughout the 1970s that affirmed legal abortions. Apparently "protection of innocent life" and"criminalizing abortion" were not synonymous for the SBC in the 1970s. God may not change, but apparently, biblical interpretations and political strategies do. Balmer rightly accuses evangelicals of selective literalism, and I ask with him how evangelicals, most of whom are biblical literalists, make abortion the core issue when the Bible is silent on the matter. I'll happily concede that the Bible wholly supports the sacredness and sanctity of human life, but there is nothing biblical that restricts that theological concept to fetuses only. Unfortunately, you wouldn't know that from looking at the beliefs and voting behaviors of many evangelicals, and certainly not the beliefs of the tired talking heads of the Religious Right.

The efficacy of the Religious Right in making abortion THE issue for Christian voters, even in 2008, also obscures that fact that many Christian denominations have officially adopted "safe, legal, and rare" and their biblically-based policy (including the Southern Baptists initially; talk about flip-flopping). To listen to Gerson and others, one would think that devout Christians only have one option on this issue, when millions of Christians and a majority of Americans favor "legal in all or most cases" (51%) to "illegal in all or most cases" (43%). That doesn't make most Americans baby-killers or unconcerned with the protection of human life, but it does beg the question about what now is 30 years of Republican political rhetoric at election time and actual public policy that is sensible, holistic, and constitutional.

So Mike, humor me and please tell me again why abortion is and should be THE issue for evangelicals? My Bible and poly sci texts apparently need some dusting off.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Chrsitians with Blood on Their Hands

I never write on this thing anymore... but here's a thought I didn't want to lose.

Sarah Posner writes this in a recent edition of the FundamentaList:

"Notably, evangelicals remain the biggest proponents of the Iraq war, with 57% agreeing with the statement that "the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq," a much higher percentage than any other religious grouping, and the only religious group in which a majority expressed support for the war. Support for the war was at 64% among what the Calvin study termed "traditionalist" (or conservative) evangelicals -- comprising about half of all evangelicals. Between his support for overturning Roe v. Wade and his enthusiasm for the war, McCain seems to have two big evangelical issues working in his favor with the religious right base which is supposedly so discontented with him."

I still just completely frustrates, confuses, exasperates, and incenses me that evangelicals - the American Christians with the highest measures of biblical literalism and church attendance - are also the religious group still most in support of going to war in the first place, even after the revelation of every conceivable piece of evidence - from within (read: McClellan) and without - saying that this war was ill-conceived and even more poorly executed. Why are CHRISTIANS - of all people - so bent on defending this war? I recently overheard even Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptists' policy arm - saying that this war was poorly carried out and is now a mess. But even folks who admit that still seem to have some barrier to actually admitting that this war was wrong from the start. Despite the President's dismally low approval rating and the 2006 Democratic election wins, it still seems there are more people than there should be who remain convinced that this war was a good thing from the start. That's dogma, plain and simple. I've heard no compelling reasons to support that dogma.

Lastly, many folks think that Iraq is such a ringing success in large part because they have a democratically elected Parliament. Well, if the group of people singing the praises of Iraq's "self-governance" should sit up and take note that of the recent visit to DC of a delegation of Iraqi Parliament officials. They offered a letter, signed by a majority of the 275-member Parliament, saying that they "strongly reject any military-security, economic, commercial, agricultural, investment, or political agreement with the United States that is not linked to clear mechanisms that obligate the occupying [their word, not mine] American military forces to fully withdraw from Iraq." How's that for self-government?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Robertson Effect

A recent poll cited in The Washington Times found the following results when asked about Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani:

"29 percent said Mr. Robertson's endorsement made them less likely to support Mr. Giuliani, while only 6 percent said they now are more likely to support him. That was consistent across all such demographic categories as age, party affiliation and income."

Yikes... I didn't realize that an endorsement was meant to alienate 5 times as many people as it brings in. More proof-positive that Robertson and Falwell (now decreased) are marginal at best when it comes to the power-brokers and influencers of the Religious Right. Well... maybe not totally true, since it seems that Robertson indeed has influence - negative influence.

While this is instructive about what many of us already knew about who may and may not be wielding influence in the Religious Right, there is also a good lesson here for those on the Religious Left -- there is no sense making hay with scathing critiques of folks like Pat. He's old news, even to tried and true Religious Right followers.

For an interesting perspective on Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani, see Paul Waldman's piece "Loving Robertson" in The American Prospect.