Elections and Abortion (Version 2.0)

After a week of thinking about and discussing my previous blog post with various people, I concede that my blog was too politically directed. I certainly have a lot to learn about blogging (and being a pastor, for that matter) and, if I had it to do over again, I would word it differently and would not have attacked Barack Obama so directly as I did. I was, as one “anonymous” comment posted on my previous blog said, “thinking out loud.” I had not thought of blogging so much as me presenting a kind of essay rather than just having a kind of conversation. People who are used to having conversations with me know that in such conversations I tend to pose one argument (via provocative questions and statements), then before the conversation is over, I’ll be arguing the other side through asking the opposite questions. To the frustration of many (i.e., my wife and those who have been on our staff team the longest), this has always been my style of thinking through and discussing and deciding controversial issues. I personally like to have my assumptions and beliefs challenged through hard, even provocative questions. That’s my personality.

And I sometimes forget that when I do that to others who view me as an authority because I’m a pastor, they can too easily misunderstand my intentions. In other words, I didn’t mean to take such an authoritative political stand through my positing my statements and questions. So I underestimated how my “thinking out loud” (or, in my case, asking questions out loud) would constitute an endorsement for the opposing candidate in the minds of many, AND the underlying (though unintended) assertion that if you’re a Christian you must not vote for Barack Obama. I understand how that happened, and I admit that it was my miscommunication. But it was not intentional. And it is not what I believe. As I stated in a subsequent comment to the blog, there are good reasons why good Christians want to vote for Barack Obama.

So let me take a stab at it again, but this time worded more responsibly and not so politically.

Personally, I view the issue of abortion as primarily a biblical issue and a vertical issue (i.e., an issue of who we believe God is) more than a political issue. Here’s my reasoning (and I’ll try not to confuse the issue by being too provocative):

1. Every human being is created in the image of God. This is the first and foremost truth the Bible tells us—“So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them” (Genesis 1:27, TNIV). Notice what the Bible emphasizes through repetition and poetic word placement. It is the image of the God of the universe that is imprinted on every single human being. That’s what gives every human being more value and worth and significance than anything else created on earth. And it means that God is the owner of every human life. And this is the crux of the issue of all crimes of human commodity industries like slavery and all human genocide movements like the Holocaust. No one owns another human being except God. This is why murder is so wrong. And this is why suicide is a sin: it is the ultimate action of believing in self-ownership over our lives. (By the way, sacrificing our lives for the lives of others is not the same as suicide. Jesus laid down his life for the lives of others. Suicide is the taking of our own life.) And this is the paramount issue in all our personal sins. We think we own our own lives and have a right to live them as we see fit: in our sexuality, our possessions, our life ambitions, our life expectations, our marriages, our vocations, etc. Of course, this is disastrously untrue. It is not the reality in which we truly live. And eventually that will become obvious to everyone as they stand before their life’s True Owner and give an account for their lives. Because God is the Creator of all human life, and he has created all human life in his image, all human life inherently possesses the glory of God and the ownership of God. A master does not legitimately own a slave, a government does not legitimately own its people, and a mother does not legitimately own her child, even her child in her womb. For that matter, the mother does not even legitimately own her own body to do with it what she pleases. Only God does.

2. God will hold us accountable for the unjust taking of any human life. After the flood, God said to Noah—“And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. Whoever sheds human blood, by human beings shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made humankind” (Genesis 9:5-6, TNIV). This biblical passage tells us three important biblical truths: 1) though very sinful, all humans beings still retain the image of God upon their lives, 2) God takes his ownership over all human beings VERY seriously, and 3) there is such a thing as a just killing of another human being (i.e., those who have killed other human beings unjustly). Now, I feel the need to add that we know from Romans 13 that only governments are given the authority by God to determine and carry out this just killing. Not individuals. The important thing from this passage is that God still emphasizes, even after sin has entered the human race, that every human being is sacred and significant and has value and glory as being created in the image of God.

3. A human being still in the womb is created in God’s image and owned by God and has all the worth and glory and significance as does any born human being. God makes it very clear in his Word, in Psalm 139:13-17, that God is intimately involved with us and lovingly relates with us even while we are still being created in our mother’s womb. In Luke 1:15, it says that even when John the Baptist was in his mother’s womb he was filled with God’s Holy Spirit. And in Luke 1:44, because he was filled with God’s Spirit even in the womb, John’s mother said to Mary, “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” Here God is relating to him in such a way that he is filled with God’s Spirit even in the womb and his personality is such already that he rejoices at hearing the voice of Mary.

All of this means that God makes it very clear that human beings are sacred, glorious, significant, and loved by God and owned by God even when still in the womb. The mother may not want this child, but the mother doesn’t own this child. Even if the child is the product of rape or incest (as with the case of many biblical characters), this child is owned by God, and gloriously significant in his eyes.

So, I don’t see abortion—the killing of unborn human beings because they are unwanted—as a political issue so much as a biblical, spiritual issue. No one should seek to expand the legal rights and funding to kill unwanted children created in God’s image.

That’s why my hope is that we as Christians will hold any political leader or potential leader accountable for everything he or she does and says on this issue of abortion, as well as the rights of the infants born alive from failed abortions. We should not and cannot give any political leader a pass on this significant moral and spiritual issue just because he or she says nice things about other things we care about.

As Christians, we of all people should understand that the wrong side of history was often the most popular position at that time. It was unpopular to be against black slavery in the 1850’s. It was unpopular to be for civil rights in the 1940’s and 50’s. It was unpopular to be for Jewish rights in Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s. And it’s often too easy to drink the culture’s coolaid and be on the wrong side of history.

The truth is, I don’t care who you vote for as much as how you came to that decision biblically. In all candor, my cynicism has reached a point where I’m not sure it really matters as much as we all get told every four years it matters. The younger you are, the more you tend to think elections and politics matter. That’s fine. I was the same way. And maybe it does matter and I’m becoming a crotchety old man. Just like John McCain.

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