Finding the Voice of God in the Abortion Debate

Donald Trump won the Presidential election of 2016 because he campaigned as strongly pro-life. Roy Moore, despite allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers, came close to winning the recent Senate election in Alabama because he was also right on this issue among Evangelical Christians. The sacredness of human life is a fundamental conviction of millions of Christians—Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and mainline Christians alike. Finding the right answer to the agonizing question of when to allow for a legal abortion has done more to divide Christians than any other political issue.

To gain insight on the abortion issue and to learn how the other side thinks, I read Politics According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem. Grudem is a conservative Christian who strongly opposes legalized abortion. While the issue of abortion is not directly dealt with in the Bible, Grudem had no problem finding passages he could interpret in a way that indicated God’s strong opposition to legalized abortion.

A central component of the human mind is a mental operating system composed of our basic values, instincts, and assumptions. This mental construct comes from early childhood experiences, values inherited from parents, personality traits, and adult experiences that reinforce this mindset. Our mental operating system defines reality as we know it. What fascinated me about Grudem’s book is that his conclusions regarding political theology came from his mental operating system rather than from the Christian Bible.

Politics According to the Bible could have been written by a staff member from the Republican National Committee or the Trump White House. There are no surprises in the book. I would have been impressed if he had deviated from mainline Republican thinking just once. If he had talked about immigrants in terms of the many passages in the Old Testament calling for them to be treated with compassion and understanding I would have said amen. Fifty years ago the Kerner Commission was established to look into the cause of the race riots in the 1960s. The Commission concluded that we live in a society characterized by two nations that are separate and unequal. Things haven’t changed much. If Grudem had apologized to African Americans for our history of slavery and continued racism, I would be drawing different conclusions about his book. Instead this is a book about small government, school choice, low taxes, a strong military, greatly reduced government regulation, an out of control Environmental Protection Agency, and the absolute right to own a gun.

His method of analysis jumps out at you. His conclusions come from his mental operating system, deeply held political values that have been with him for a long time.  Once he has arrived at a political position, he then searches scripture for supporting passages. When I came to this conclusion, I smiled to myself and quietly said “gotcha.” Ironically my “gotcha” moment had nothing to do with Grudem and was all about me. I am his mirror opposite. The source of many of my liberal opinions on politics come from my mental operating system. I am pro-choice because being pro-choice has become a mandatory litmus test of liberal politics.

God works differently. With regard to abortion, I had an experience forty-five years ago that changed my life. When I witnessed the birth of our second child, goodness, beauty, and love spread throughout that hospital delivery room. I was awestruck, deeply humbled, and so much in love. The experience penetrated deeply beneath my mental operating system and changed the way I looked out at the world. Watching my beautiful wife hold our precious new daughter did me in. The message from God contained within that experience was both simple and powerful: life is sacred. The idea of aborting that fetus would have been repugnant to me.

Bill Clinton once said that abortion should be legal, safe, and rare. I agree with him. Let’s look at the safe part of the formula and create an imaginary scenario. Let’s assume Roe v. Wade has been overturned and abortion has become illegal in this country. Now imagine a terrified teenager who becomes pregnant; and, in desperation, has an abortion from an unqualified provider. The teenager dies as a result. Because she is the daughter of a close friend, I attend her funeral. What is my heart telling me now?  I can imagine a very different message from God.

God does not make pronouncements about political issues or provide us with moral laws. Many Christians disagree and point to the Ten Commandments to support their position. I love pointing out to those Christians that there are two different sets of Ten Commandments in the Old Testament. See chapters 20 and 34 of Exodus. A second set became necessary because God got angry and destroyed the first set. After calming down, God promises Moses he will give him a new set exactly like the first one, but for some reason God changes his mind. The Ten Commandments in chapter 34 of Exodus have nothing in common with the set in chapter 20. Old Testament scholars explain this discrepancy by arguing the two sets of commandments did not come from God, but rather from human beings who collected societal regulations and placed them in their stories about Moses on the mountain.

God communicates to humans through messages of goodness and love. These messages contain no specific instructions, which leads to the possibility that different individuals will interpret the experience in different ways. There are no black and white answers from God to complex human dilemmas like abortion. As a result, it is best for government to remain on the sidelines and allow those directly involved to make the very difficult decisions regarding what is the most loving response for the specific situation they are dealing with.

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