I want to thank you for your commentary on the American church. It is useful, because as a doctoral student in America, you may be able see things to which we ourselves are blind. I am in Canada, so I am not aware of how such issues affect the church in the US except through my reading. I am not an anti-abortion activist. But I am opposed to the practice and I also see it as an important issue for judging the character of a political candidate.
With regard to abortions, the reason it makes no difference which party is in power is that the policy is no longer determined by a democratically elected legislatures; in 1973, the judicial branch, the Supreme Court of the United States, took away the authority to decide the legality of abortion from the legislative branches–this is an usurpation of democracy, taking the right from the people to form the laws that will govern them. The Supreme Court decision in 1973, Roe vs. Wade, wiped out all of the abortion laws in 50 states. It went from being a public policy issue to the privacy issue regarding woman’s right to do with her own body what she wants. There is a series of seminal articles on this subject in First Things November 1996.
If the Bible doesn’t address the issue in detail, I think it is because abortions were by comparison relatively rare in Antiquity, for two reasons: First, the culture was more similar to Africa in that people saw children as a blessing and not a burden. Secondly, there were less effective technologies for procuring safe abortions. So the abortions existed on a much smaller scale. There are a few texts which show that the early Christians disfavored both abortion and infanticide.
I think it is hard to know how many people in the church, particularly the evangelical churches that we know, have had themselves an abortion. Thank the Lord that those who confess their sins to him receive forgiveness. I believe though that if abortions were not easily available and so encouraged, then there would be fewer of them that occurred. So the laws make a big difference. As a result of the legality of abortions since 1973, over 40 million abortions have taken place in the US. This indicates that abortion has done away with about 15% of the current population of the US and all of these people who were murdered would be today under the age of 37 years old. This is a holocaust of major proportions. The number would be undoubtedly much smaller if abortions were illegal, and if the physicians were penalized by force of law-the threat of punishment has a great affect on behavior-look how many pay their taxes only because they fear the consequences for not doing so. Adoptions would be more frequent too, as the mothers who felt themselves unable to care for a child would give up more children for adoption. As a childless couple, my wife and I are profoundly affected by the lack of possibilities for adoption. We can even say that our own child is dead, because we once told a young woman friend about to have an abortion that we would gladly receive the child as our own, she said callously, “Have your own baby.” But how do you mourn for someone never given a chance to see the light of day?
When you refer to divorce, you hit on a very sore spot for us. But I think if we can solve one problem, we may be able to solve the other as well. It has to do with a basic orientation in which the individual’s needs and rights have taken precedence over the community. In Africa, communities take precedence over individuals. But here, the community and the family is less important than the self. So naturally, people make decisions to seek their own personal happiness even if those decisions cause the unhappiness of others.
For many Christians of delicate conscience, the issue of abortion is one of defending the defenseless. This means fighting the genocide, just as we would try to fight Hitler to stop the Holocaust, or to fight other evil despots who kill innocent people. I think that is commendable. So I would not want to reproach pro-life activists, except certain extremists who take up arms. When the Romans were having gladiator fights, it was only right that some Christians protest the slaughter. It is right to stand for a just cause. Whether we are doing it the best way or not, I am unable to say. I don’t think it is as simple as wishing to enforce our own ethic on the world unwilling to follow, but it is a question acting justly in an unjust world. Cf. Micah 6.8: “He hath shown thee O man what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” If others are unable to see the justice of this cause, it is because the god of this world has blinded their eyes.