Abortion is extremely contentious.
For more than 45 years now, there has been considerable “warfare” between pro-choice and pro-life people. Is there any way to de-escalate such negative polarization?
James Davison Hunter is a “Distinguished Professor” at the University of Virginia and author of the seminal book, Culture Wars (1991).
“The Issue of Abortion” is a major subsection of the ninth chapter of my book, Fed up with Fundamentalism, and as I mention there, Hunter has suggested that abortion could well be the catalyst for America’s next civil war.
That kind of talk didn’t end in the 1990s, though. In May of last year, the conservative Christian Post featured an online article titled “The coming civil war over abortion.” That same month, The Guardian posted “Christian rightwingers warn abortion fight could spark US civil war.”
Among Christians, abortion was primarily only a Catholic issue until Francis Schaeffer convinced Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell in 1979 to use it to gain political power – and the abortion wars have now raged for four decades among Christians as well as in society at large.
In this election year, abortion continues to be a fundamental divide in the political “wars” between the Republicans and Democrats.
Vice President Mike Pence said in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, “President Trump has stood without apology for the sanctity of human life every day of this administration. Joe Biden, he supports taxpayer funding of abortion, right up to the moment of birth.”
It has often been said truth is the first casualty in war, and Pence’s last statement is misleading and untrue.
In spite of the rhetoric being used by the Trump administration and its staunch conservative evangelical followers, there are both Catholics and evangelical Christians who are seeking to de-escalate the abortion wars by broadening their ethical concerns.
In 1972, a group of Catholic sisters organized for social justice as the Network. They became widely known because of their first Nuns on the Bus tour in 2012. (In 2014, I wrote about them and their leader, Sister Simone Campbell, here.)
Long known as just NETWORK, their website is NetworkLobby.org. They are promoting PopeFrancisVoters.org in their campaign against the current president. Even though they are Catholics, they say little about abortion and much about a broad gamut of social justice issues.
Ron Sider, the founder of Evangelicals for Social Action, is an example of a Protestant evangelical who has through the years been strongly against abortion. But long ago he began to emphasize the importance of being “completely pro-life,” publishing a book by that name in 1987.
In de-escalating the abortion wars, Sider was the editor of a book published earlier this year under the title The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth and Moral Integrity.
Jodi Picoult is a superlative novelist, and I was greatly impressed with her 2018 novel, A Spark of Light. In fact, I decided to write this blog article mainly because of reading it.
The novel is about just one day – a very fateful day when there was a shooting in an abortion clinic.
Picoult skillfully narrates the deep thoughts and convictions of all the people involved in that tragic day: the shooter, the policeman seeking to get the shooter’s hostages released, the protesters outside the clinic, the women inside the clinic and the doctors and nurses providing the abortion services.
The doctor performing the abortions that day is based on a real-life abortion doctor, Willie Parker, who tells his story in Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.
Even though it will be quite perplexing to some, Parker believes performing abortions and “speaking out on behalf of the women who want abortions” is his Christian calling and his “life’s work.”
For all of you who wonder how a Christian can justify abortion, I highly recommend reading Picoult’s novel, Parker’s book or both. Doing so thoughtfully, I believe, would go far toward de-escalating the abortion wars.
A missionary to Japan from 1966-2004, he is both professor emeritus of Seinan Gakuin University and pastor emeritus of Fukuoka International Church.