I have never been terribly interested in politics. This might seem a strange confession coming from someone who graduated with a degree in political science. I am not sure what exactly drew me to the major originally, perhaps the fact that I really liked arguing–or, well, thoughtfully discussing issues with people. After serving as a summer intern in Washington D.C., however, I lost all hope that politics actually accomplished anything. Seeing the partisan biases and territorial attitude of so many politicians day after day was a clarifying moment for me both as a student and citizen. I felt quite immune to Potomac fever. (I loved the city itself, though. So many great restaurants!).
My apathy has remained fairly well intact until recently. The presidential election has captivated my attention, as it has so many Americans, in a way that I find quite surprising. It feels a bit like when you are waiting for your oil to be changed and pass the time by watching some random soap opera provided for your IQ-lowering entertainment. Thirty minutes ago, you didn’t know who Trish and Buff were and now suddenly you are breathless to discover if the Siamese twins Trish had are really Buff’s or those of his evil brother, Duff. I suddenly find myself utterly enthralled by the whole drama that is our election process. I’m completely hooked. But living in a fairly conservative area–this is like saying that penguins live in a relatively frigid environment–I have been carefully seeking all sides of the issues, not wanting to end up like one of our feathery Antarctic friends, huddled together with my kind, more concerned with the survival of my species than the greater good.
Fortunately for me, Jim and I do have a few friends that we greatly respect who lean a little farther to the left than ourselves. The day Barack Obama announced his running mate, I ran into one such couple at Bailey’s soccer game. While serving Cheerios to the youngsters, I asked our friends what they thought of Obama’s choice. I asked with a genuine desire to know, not in the way we so often ask questions of those who disagree with us. Per Jim’s recent post, I want to be strengthened in my own convictions through the thoughtful arguments of others or discover where my view is flawed and change my mind. One of our friends shook his head and expressed disappointment at the choice of Senator Joe Biden. He said that he had really believed that Obama wanted to reach across the aisle and start to change things. The phrase stuck with me through the rest of the day–“Reach across the aisle.” I can’t count the number of times I have heard commentators use that phrase. What struck me, though, was the fact that I don’t live on one aisle or the other. Jim and I would both consider ourselves social and fiscal conservatives but on other issues such as gun control and the death penalty, we would be more sympathetic with liberals. Our friends are greatly concerned with social justice but they are pro-life. So where does that leave us–straddling the aisle? What if you are neither red nor blue, but more purple? Where is the purple party–hanging out with Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory? When you can identify with both parties to some extent (and neither completely), how do you go about deciding whom to vote for?
I believe I found the answer this past weekend, sitting on the floor of a Denver book store. Jim and I were attending a wedding in the Mile High City and made the most of it with a date night consisting of cruising Barnes and Noble and a dinner of Indian food. Jim called me over to check out a book on Barack Obama. I can’t remember the title but it was clear the author was not a fan of Obama’s. I skimmed it with an open mind, on the lookout for the glaring exaggerations and misrepresentations I find intolerable from any party. What I read, however, was chilling. It was related to Obama’s views on abortion and specifically the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. I recently learned about this act and the work of a former nurse turned public speaker named Jill Stanek (www.jillstanek.com). I have been shamed by my ignorance and apathy regarding this act and the abortion issue as a whole.
Jim and I really wanted to refrain from making this blog political but what Obama is supporting through his opposition to this bill isn’t political; it’s permission murder. I don’t want to use our blog as a forum for demonizing one political party or another, but I will say that I cannot in good conscience vote for this man. I strongly urge you to be your own means of persuasion, to look at the issues–and not just from the mouths of the candidates but by looking at their records. Whatever the results of your investigation, at least you can pull the lever with confidence in whom and what you are supporting. Who knows, if enough of us who are neither blue nor red decide to straddle the aisle, Violet Beauregarde just might win.
I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.
It’s interesting that I too haven’t been very interested in past elections, bu this one has me hooked. Partially because of the historical implications (first African American to be nominated and first woman to be nominated as VP) but also because both candidates completely differ on how we should conduct the “war on terror” and other issues.
Also, you’d be surprised that some of young conservative evangelicals, mostly college age and just beyond, are considering voting for Obama, and lowering the abortion issue to be less important. It may be that my generation is beginning to not have the tenacity as your generation in trying to end abortion. I hope this is not the case, but this election, I think will show some very interesting traits that we have not seen before in our country. (besides have a black president or woman VP.)
Time for a confessional: When not knowing what to do once in voting and being utterly dissatisfied with the choices, this purple girl has written in Jim Spiegel. I thought about putting in your name, but remembered that though Jim said several times you should into politics, you never wanted to do it, so I thought I wouldn’t waste my vote on someone who wouldn’t take the position if elected. Sometimes you just don’t know what to do. You don’t want to not vote at all, but perhaps a write-in is mostly the same thing?
Man, I really want to really like our president for real. I think managing a family of six is good qualification for running our country, don’t you?
And why is figuring out how to cast my one vote for president a full-time job? Not to mention trying to sort through state and local elections…!
You are now the second person I have heard speak about Obama on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. I am dismayed that there is not more clear talk about this among Christians, particularly the younger generation (as David mentions, there is more than a little ennui there). At the same time, while I can’t vote pro-abortion, I’m often frustrated by some of the policies of the candidates I thus end up voting for.
Thanks for the thoughtful entry, Amy. Perhaps a few more will get riled up about crucial issues of life/death.
Brad is right. Some of us who are pro-life are choosing to make abortion less of an issue. This is tough for me as I was born in 1973 and my mother’s physicians were encouraging her to abort me. (I’ll tell you that story some other time.)
I encourage you all to check out the link I’ve included. It will help you understand Obama’s thought process. He says he supports Roe v. Wade. So, he sticks to it. You’ll see on the page why he voted the way he did. Clearly, the man is not “in favor” of killing babies who are born alive after a botched abortion. While Obama’s opinion differs from mine, I at least respect his logic and, more importantly, the fact that he wants to find ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies and to increase ways we can help women who find themselves in that terrible situation. What he had to say at the Saddleback forum impressed me. While I wish he were pro-life in the political sense, he at least acknowledges how complex the issue is and expresses compassion toward the women who find themselves there.
I have two related issues that this discussion brings to mind. One is a question for us Christians regarding the sanctity of life. The other is a campaign issue.
First, to us believers: If we’re really serious about life beginning at conception, why aren’t more of us speaking out against invetrofertilization? This is a process that creates countless lives only to have them remain frozen, be used as stem cell research fodder, or be destroyed.
Second, to the campaign: While I believe the lives of unborn children are worth protecting, I ask what are our government’s current policies are doing to protect those in need who have already been born? I’m not even going to explore my middle class angst here. Let’s pretend for a moment that my life is peachy. In the greater scheme of things, it flat out is. I’ll admit it. (This is the part where I explain why I voted for W. in 2000 and why I’m voting for Obama in November) I believe that the war in Iraq is wrong. We’re wasting billions of dollars and thousands of lives. Jim, I’ve been listening to too much Bruce Cockburn… I believe proper health care is a right. Screw profits! People need to be able to get the care they need. There are systems out there (here’s the PBS in me) that work well and in which doctors and medical professionals can make a good living. As an educator for fourteen years I’m more than a little fed up with NCLB. If the government is going to micromanage me, they could at least provide the funding necessary for me to have a fighting chance to improve. My school is “failing” by the way because nearly 25% of our student body don’t speak English as their first language and our school receives ALL the special needs students for the entire county.
Okay, I could continue. Catch me on Facebook if you need more. However, no, that was not a digression. We need a government that will take steps to care for its citizens and not just the corporations. I really do believe that Barack will do his best to provide that through thoughtful compromise.
Jason, I feel compelled to respond to your point, “If we’re really serious about life beginning at conception, why aren’t more of us speaking out against invetrofertilization.” How about ignorance. Unfortunately, Christianity and American culture co-mingle a lot at least in this country (can’t speak to whether or not this is common in other cultures but I assume so). If something has gone under the radar and become acceptable in culture without the battle that abortion has gone through, then the Church and individuals within it will often accept these things as being okay without true research into the matter.
I will give the example of birth control. I’m not Catholic, and have never been, however, my wife and I hold similar views on birth control. I cannot remember who deserves the credit for having us examine scripture and research into some of the birth control methods that are out there, but I am thankful that we did, otherwise we probably would have gone on the pill as most Christians immediately do upon getting married. In short, our biggest problem with the pill, is that its not perfect in keeping conception from occurring, but it does have a built in back up plan that will abort the child if conception were to “accidentally” occur. (Quotes because when two people engage in sexual activity I find it strange to say that a pregnancy was accidental.) We hold a stronger view on birth control than just avoiding the pill, but I will save that for another day. The point is, many Christians, with just that knowledge, I hope would at the very least be consistent with their own convictions and consider alternative birth control methods (or not using birth control at all).
Now, after that really long aside of showing how ignorance could be a huge factor that there is not more of a Christian outcry against invetrofertilization, let me point out some serious logic issues with your statement, “If we’re really serious about life beginning at conception….” Maybe I’m misunderstanding your tone, but it sounds like you are saying that the Christian voice on this issue is somehow diminished because it is not complete or equally balanced. First if it is not complete due to ignorance, then this in no way diminishes the seriousness and fervor that Christians have in defending life, and in no way should condemn their truth from being heard, merely because they are not perfect in their knowledge. Second, you make the assumption that because the media has not reported as much on invetrofertilization that there are not many, many Christians who may be against this practice. What would you suggest be done so that they gain enough attention, so that they can be taken seriously on the abortion issue? Sorry, I am not very good with words, but I hope the point has been gotten across that it is irresponsible to demean the seriousness of Christians’ feeling about life merely because of an issue which may be less known to all of us. It completely deflects the true argument.
“I at least respect his logic and, more importantly, the fact that he wants to find ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies and to increase ways we can help women who find themselves in that terrible situation.”
Sorry one more, I’m trying really hard to keep this as un-emotional and impersonal as possible, however it can be very difficult with these issues which are by nature very emotional.
Let me suggest some ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies. First, enjoy sex within the boundaries for which is was created. If more sex was happening within healthy marriages I believe this would cut down on unwanted pregnancies. Second, teach people to love, respect and look forward to having children. This is how my wife and I have avoided having unwanted pregnancies. We wanted to have children. (This can be done, as before I looked into scripture regarding children and creation I thought I didn’t want children). Third punish rapists more harshly.
I’m not sure what Obama’s methods to cut down unwanted pregnancies would be, but I’m guessing they are not similar to my proposed methods. Finally, I agree that an unwanted pregnancy is a terrible situation. It is terrible to think that people disobey God’s law. It is terrible to think that our attitude’s towards unborn children are such that it would be so cataclysmic to bear with a pregnancy for 9 months to give a child many, many years to live. However, I think you put it as, “who find themselves in that terrible situation”. Not sure I agree with that way of putting it outside of the case of rape. Since in every other case consensual sex must have taken place, in which case the pregnancy shouldn’t be seen as such a surprise.
As my wife can attest, I’m not one to get riled up in the political arena about this issue. Mostly because there are even more fundamental truths to engage the non-Christian with before trying to convince them that abortion is wrong. However, in the Christian setting I would hope to find this subject handled a little more responsibly.
“Maybe I’m misunderstanding your tone, but it sounds like you are saying that the Christian voice on this issue is somehow diminished because it is not complete or equally balanced.”
Blog-tone is very difficult to convey. My intention was not to imply that if you don’t get it all right you might as well forget it. If all or nothing is the rule, we’re all in bad shape when it comes to being like Christ! I agree with you when you say, “if it is not complete due to ignorance, then this in no way diminishes the seriousness and fervor that Christians have in defending life.” I apologize for the confusion.
I don’t know what we should do to address the invetro issue. As you rightly stately, it’s become accepted. It will be difficult to discuss without sounding like you don’t want people to have children.
Please let me better explain “terrible situation.” I was referring to women who become pregnant and feel they have no way to support themselves or their child. They have no support network and few resources. Perhaps the father of the child has left, doesn’t acknowledge he’s the father, or is encouraging termination. We, as believers, need to come to the aid of such people. I also happen to believe that the state and federal governments can and should help us in this mission. You’re right. Their methods would probably not be yours. They might not be mine. However, you and I can’t expect others to follow a moral code (sexually speaking) that we believe in but that they don’t believe in. So, we need to offer assistance (alternatives to abortion, education, resources, and yes, spiritual guidance as possible). We need to be agents of mercy.
Now I’ll give you a chance to clarify your tone:
“However, in the Christian setting I would hope to find this subject handled a little more responsibly.”
Are you speaking in general or specifically?
If your intention was not to imply that if you don’t get it all right you might as well forget it, can you explain what you meant by….”If we’re really serious about life beginning at conception, why aren’t more of us speaking out against invetrofertilization?” I guess I just don’t understand the point you were trying to make here.
As someone who had difficultly conceiving to the point where my wife and I were medically considered infertile, I can definitely sympathize with those who have trouble having their own children. I have many things I could say to people struggling with that issue, in the appropriate place, but as you point out, all of these issues take great care to express in a way that while upholding ethical principles express the appropriate compassion.
I totally agree with your 4th paragraph. I would take it a step further. Personally I’m not sure how I feel about my responsibilities as a Christian in the political arena. Should I always vote pro-life regardless of other criteria? That seems very one-sided. Lets take that to the extreme. You have a pro-life (on the abortion issue) Hitler to vote for or a pro-choice alternative. In that case, the correct choice, if a choice was necessitated would be for the pro-choice candidate. Again, all of that leads into a more meta- issue of whether or not, and in what way Christians have to be and/or are permitted to be involved in politics. This is an issue I have not fleshed out for myself personally.
“I at least respect his logic and, more importantly, the fact that he wants to find ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies and to increase ways we can help women who find themselves in that terrible situation.” I guess I’m just not ready to give Obama credit for having these desires, if his methods are immoral. I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone pro-choice or pro-life who didn’t want to end unwanted pregnancies (I’d much prefer to have wanted pregnancies) or help people in terrible situations. Its part of being human to want to help others who are suffering in some way.
I was speaking specifically. I thought it inappropriate to “poo-poo” (that’s a technical term 🙂 the Christian position because it wasn’t strong enough on invetro. You stated that wan’t your intent, but as I stated, I’m not certain what the point of bringing that up was.
I think that something we oftentimes forget is that while it doesn’t get nearly the publicity, Christians and Churches are already involved in many, many ways non-politically in helping those, to avoid or who are experiencing, unwanted pregnancies. One example is my wife who volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center when we lived in Indiana. Others involve the multiple Christian couples I know who adopt children even when physically able to conceive their own. To be visible in the political arena on this issue, does not mean that the Church is not working extremely hard out of the limelight to be agents of mercy.
Politically speaking, I am not sure why the abortion issue is all-or-nothing for so many Christians. Ethically and spiritually speaking, of course, there is not room for speaking about a lesser-of-evils when ending an innocent life. However, politically, it seems there is room for such lesser-of-evils talk. I don’t think it’s realistic, for example, to think that abortion is going to be outlawed anytime soon (though I have mixed feelings about what good it would do to outlaw it as well…but that is not the point of my post). I would merely like to insert that, if it is a particular Christian’s goal to end abortion and it is unlikely that abortion will be snuffed out in the near-term, perhaps we should turn our attention to a smaller step on the way to that goal. One such step could be preventing unwanted pregnancies by culturally-acceptable means. That is very small, perhaps, but it would be the first step to changing the way women’s choices are discussed from “continue pregnancy or abort pregnancy” to “get pregnant or don’t get pregnant.” That seems like no small undertaking to me: redefining the argument by subtler means.
Please, if you have the time check out this link. The discussion in the comments is an excellent well thought out discourse on this subject. Let me copy word for word the first two comments as it is an excellent response to Lezlie’s comment (which seems to be a common position taken against the pro-life movement in the political realm). The first section would be similar to Lezlie’s thoughts and the second would be a better way of phrasing any response I could come up with.
Biden’s statement was not the same as Pelosi’s. Pelosi tried to make a theological argument that was way beyond her training and experience. She should have just apologized for trying to tell the Church what the Church professed and believed.
Biden made a political point. He professed his adherence to the Church’s stance on abortion, but noted his reluctance to impose his religious views on those that don’t share the Church’s views.
I don’t agree with Biden but it does raise a point:
Which of the Church’s mortal sins should be criminalized? Contraception? Blasphemy?
How much consensus is necessary to invoke natural law?
The imposition of criminal offenses is determined in our country by democratic means, through our legislatures and Congress, under the strictures of our Constitution, as interpreted by the courts.. Thirty plus years of opposition to Roe v. Wade have not changed the democratic equation or the judicial reality.
Abortion does have causes: selfishness, careerism, materialism, the dehumanization of all life, etc. Maybe a frontal assault on those would produce real results — the kind of results that years of clamoring for criminalization have not. If the purpose is to stop abortions, why not at least try?
on September 7, 2008 at 9:42 pm2 Ed
The vast majority of pro-life efforts in this country are directed at directly helping women and girls in unexpected pregnancies. For every one person participating in a political effort to criminalize or even bring US law more in line with say, most European law, you probably have 10 or 20 people involved down at the local crisis pregnancy center or related efforts (say the 40 days for life thing going on now around the country) to try to change hearts and minds and directly assist women and girls in the decision for life.
Catholic dioceses could always do much more in this area, but I am pretty sure that most of them expend more time and effort and financial resources in Respect Life educational programs, crisis pregancy centers and Project Rachel post-abortion counseling than they do in political efforts. Because, of course, they’re really not supposed to do the latter anyway.
Give credit to the prolife movement where it is due, and to all the thousands of people across the country who have sacrificed much to personally work to help unborn babies and their mothers.”
End of comments:
To sum up:
We need to remember, political activism and ground roots efforts are not mutually exclusive, and just because the Church through the media might be more visible in the political arena does not mean we should discount the perhaps much more overwhelming effort the Church is already putting forth in the world.
Amy, these are such great thoughts. I wish I would have read them sooner. It’s disheartening for me to hear so many with a purported Christian worldview overlooking this bestial act. Yes, in many respects it is the “deal breaker” and ought to be. If we cannot trust a politician on how they would treat a child in utero, how can we trust them to govern it on the outside?
And there are many, many other problems with the great and powerful O. Socialism would be one. Using socialism to “fix” the family, all while contributing to its breakdown would be the other. Double speak a third. It goes on.
As to the issue of invitro – I would refer us all to http://www.snowflakes.org. A group of Christians who adopt fertilized embryos, saving them from stem cell research and giving them a home and a life. I would add that many social conservatives are displeased with McCain on his view toward stem cells. Yet, he has certainly grown on that issue and there’s reason to hope he will continue to move toward a culture of life
Not to mention the issue of judges. This presidential pick will be the tipping point for Roe, one way or the other. If Obama, then we have another quarter or more century of judges who “discover” the word “abortion” within the Constitution, even though you have to rearrange the letters and look in “penumbras” to find it. If McCain, it could very well mean the end of Roe within a decade. We’re that close. And we could go on. McCain would work to defund Planned Parenthood. Obama would increase its funding. McCain would support a ban on partial birth abortion. Obama would not. McCain would encourage adoption (and is an adoptive father himself), Obama is slow to join. McCain would allow faith based funding of pregnancy care centers, Obama would – assuming they will not discriminate (if even on religious conviction) based upon one’s worldview in the hiring process. Yikes.
More links – Learn more about Born Alive through the PAC of the same name – http://www.bornalivetruth.org/
And, shameless self-promotion: http://www.herald-dispatch.com/opinions/x1103068660/All-children-deserve-the-right-to-live