While preparing this week’s Christian Carnival, which I hosted at my Participatory Bible Study Blog, I encounter a post on how Christians should make voting choices, What’s a Deal Breaker?, which is actually the end of a series.
In general, this is an excellent article, in my view, because it discusses prioritizing one’s values and goals and thus making more intelligent choices between candidates. This would be a substantial improvement over the process of eliminating candidates based on a limited number of test issues, which sometimes results in an unnecessary and wasted third party choice.
The “deal breaker” that the author, Chris Brooks, proposes, however, is abortion. Now I can easily understand how someone might make this a deal breaker issue. If one holds that all abortion is murder and should not be distinguished in any way from killing after birth, then one is probably painted into a corner simply by means of words. I would note that the logical conclusion of such a view, which few people make, is that the penalty should be the same for all involved. (Those who have drawn this conclusion have often made very tragic choices.)
When I describe myself as “anti-abortion” I do not mean such a position. I don’t support the current exception-free Republican platform plank on the matter. I do, however, regard abortion as something we should sincerely hope to reduce to those specifically chosen exceptions.
In calling this a deal breaker issue, Chris says:
On abortion, I really didnt want to argue whether abortion is wrong both because people rarely change their minds in this debate and because I think most Christians already think it is wrong. Instead I focused on those Christians who believe abortion is wrong and yet support keeping it legal. I made the case that IF you think abortion is wrong, supporting its legalization makes you, in Gods eyes, guilty of aiding and abetting abortion. Supporting those who want to keep it legal is the same thing. [Note that the link here refers to his lengthier earlier discussion of this issue.]
This is a position that I believe is logically flawed. I hear it expressed repeatedly. There is an unstated assumption in there, that “making something illegal” is always the best way to attempt to put a stop to it or reduce its incidence.
Murder is illegal, and yet it happens every day. The sale and use of quite a number of drugs are illegal, yet we have one of the worst drug problems in the world here in this country where we are purportedly fighting a drug war. I could cite many examples, including the fact that speeding is also illegal, yet it happens more often than not on most roads here in my own county.
The reason I cite murder and drugs, however, is that I would advocate different approaches to dealing with them. Willful taking of human life (outside the womb, and I do make such a distinction) should be illegal, and that is the key element in fighting that type of behavior, though I don’t think it is the only element.
I personally would prefer at least some relaxation of laws on drugs, if not outright legalization, and an effort to reduce their use and the damage that they do by other means. It’s interesting that I often get similar responses to this call for legalization. I must want to get high without risking jail! But the fact is that I don’t use alcohol, much less illegal drugs, and I would have no intention of doing so were they legal. I am against them, but I believe that the best way to fight them is not through our current unproductive (or counterproductive) drug war.
In the case of abortion, I believe that the fact that we are applying the law inside another person’s body is significant. The fact that the majority of people in this country do not see abortion in the same way as murder is also significant. Why? Am I arguing that people’s opinions changes moral imperatives? Not at all. But it does change what is the most effective approach to dealing with an issue.
It’s not my purpose here to make a full case for abortion being legal, even though I deplore it in most cases. My purpose is simply to point out that people can and do differ on how to deal with a problem, even when they may agree on the desirable result.
Crossposted to RedBlueChristian.com.