Posted by: ewoba | January 31, 2009

Obama and the Culture of Death?

Peter Dunn posted this quote from Miguel Guaniba in the American Thinker:

By Obama’s own reckoning, the heroic efforts of those who have bravely stood in defense of innocent human life in the womb — and long endured ridicule from the press for their dissenting views — have been reduced to nothing more than pointless efforts to engage in what is ultimately a “stale and fruitless debate”. The unimaginable grief and discord this issue has wrought upon countless lives and relationships at home and abroad have been reduced to nothing more than “petty grievances”. The devout religious convictions of those  who have nurtured an abiding compassion and unwavering fidelity to the fundamental principle that every human life is endowed with inviolable dignity and inestimable worth by the creator of all life, barely rise to the status of “worn out dogmas”.

With the magic stroke of his executive pen, Obama has declared his intentions that no ground will be given and no prisoners spared.

Dunn’s posting was intended to show how Miguel Guanipa “eloquently critiques Obama statements about his rescinding of the Bush abortions funding policy,” saying that ”Obama is not the unifier that his campaign claimed.” It is not my role to decide whether the president is successful in unifying his country. Rather I seize the opportunity to reflect on an issue in American Christianity that is troubling to me, that is, an apparent confusion between church life and politics. I wonder if as a church we are mistaken regarding the nature and means of our combat when it comes to abortion.

I heard then presidential candidate Obama say that he is against abortion but does not think the government should legally ban it. His reason seems to be that the government, which is for people with different beliefs and values, cannot enforce a law that violates the freedom of others to believe differently. I know that this principle seems to have been used to violate also the freedom of the church in this country, but here is my question: Is abortion an issue so dominant in American politics because of past Christian influence? Would the issue be dealt with differently if Christianity represented, say 3% of the country? Obama’s position makes me  wonder if there is any serious ground for someone to be morally and religiously against abortion, and yet maintain that it is not the government to take legal action against or for it.

For a biblical analogy, I’m thinking of the Sermon on the Mount. Some scholars believe that this teaching cannot be applied to those who are not already in the kingdom. Perhaps this is the wrong example, but I keep thinking about abortion in America as part of a larger issue, that of the relation of church and state. Should Christian doctrine and ethics be applied to non-Christians? Has abortion become such a politically sensitive issue because of a broad moral ground or a distinctly Christian concern? Is there a way to discuss abortion in the public sphere without turning it into an exclusively Christian concern? Has the church’s attitude on the issue influenced politics enough? If so, has there been a real change to the equation?  (Some statistics suggest that the attitude of the governing party [Democratic or Republican] toward abortion has no impact on the state of the problem).

I wonder, simply, if the church is fighting a real problem (I believe abortion is a moral, social, spiritual issue with serious political and economic implications) the wrong way. Why is abortion a problem inside the church itself? Rather than tackling the root of the problem, are we deceptively focusing on its symptoms? Take, for instance, the question of divorce. Apparently, we are not comfortable talking about the stagering divorce rate in the church, and yet the Bible teaches plainly about it. From Genesis to Revelation we have plenty of teaching about marriage, family, and divorce. Now, the only biblical reason for divorce is infidelity. Yet many Christians divorce for numerous other reasons, some of which serve nothing but an egocentric culture. This is a “within-the-church-issue,” where we are all under the authority of Scripture, and yet we barely talk about this scourge. On the other hand, abortion receives far less treatment in the Bible that we can only get a clear biblical picture about it through deductions. The Bible, certainly, teaches against abortion, but compared to the issue of divorce, we have far less clear teaching. Yet we have become so loud in politics about abortion that one would think it is among the main teachings of the Bible. Meanwhile, many plain teachings of the Scripture are neglected and some, like divorce, could prove to be as serious as abortion.

I know the fight against abortion can be approached, ultimately, as a defense of the voiceless, the powerless, the innocent, and the little one among us. This, clearly, is a central teaching of the Scripture. At the same time, divorce takes so much a toll, too, and the majority of its victims are equally voiceless, powerless, innocent, and little. How is it, then, that the one issue is so prominent in our political action and the other completely absent not only from politics but, sadly, even from church talk? Aren’t we hiding behind abortion to avoid talking about the greatest toll on church life and ministry, that which has made us so similar to the world that we are ashamed of talking about it, because, of course, the world would quickly silence us on that issue?

Someone might also argue, correctly, that because of America’s leadership in the world, what happens here is being exported or copied by the rest of the world, so abortion should be fought here in America to avoid a worldwide influence. I could not agree more. But, again, what about all the other dirty stuff being exported, like the disrespect of marriage among Christians? Why aren’t Christians taking stance politically against it?

There are other issues, in addition to divorce, that I have found detrimental to the mission of the church, issues that are very serious, and I don’t understand why the church would be so silent about them and talk so much about abortion with little impact on the church, still less on the wider culture. Many pro-life advocates, if they were to admit it, at some point in their life have been “undeclared” pro-choice. That was when, in the foolishness of their youth and in violation of the teaching of the God in the name of whom they take abortion into politics, they ceded to promiscuous life style and faced so-called “unwanted pregnancy.” How many of them did, indeed, murder innocent beings? Many of them have now recovered from their dark past, and I praise God they have recovered. But I ask, did it take a gornmental law against abortion to turn them into pro-life advocates? Was it not because of the Spirit through the Word by the ministry of faithful servants of God who ministered to them?

If the law changed nothing to the behavior of those who were INSIDE the church, what makes us think that it will change the conduct of those OUTSIDE the church? Is it a matter of law or politics? Truly the law is always important and has a disuasive role in society, and politics does influence our lives as Christians, but does that justify the tendency to approach abortion as an issue essentially legal or political? Are we justified to define our evangelicalism by our POLITICAL and LEGAL stand toward abortion?

I’m not taking the issue of abortion lightly–it is the last thing I would want to communicate. But I wonder if as a church we have lost our bearings and are fighting the good fight the wrong manner. I’m wondering how credible we are and how right our approach to abortion is. Can the world acknowledge us by our fruits? Or are we attempting in a desperate Pharisean approach to hammer the ethic of the kingdom into the head of the uncircumcised? In a word, are we fighting our good fight against abortion the right way? It is shocking to me that the pregnancy of an unwed teen would become the symbol of the pro-life movement and would be used by the media in conservative circles to push the political agenda of a candidate. Shouldn’t we be ashamed of the violation of Christian ethics that led to the pregnancy in the first place? Does the end justify the means? If we were to forget politics for a moment and begin to work inside the church, I would expect our political action to have far more impact than what we are currently doing.


Responses

  1. […] Elisee Ouoba on the issue of the church’s stance on abortion 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 […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: