The Abortion Question

In response to my recent Post-Apocalyptic Musings, my friend Ben Miller asked an earnest and important question: “given his [Obama’s] strong pro-abortion stance, isn’t it the case that a vote for him was clearly a vote for abortion? I’m not saying that everyone who voted for him was consciously pro-abortion, but it’s an unmistakably prominent part of what he stands for. I don’t see how a Christian can support a leader who’s a vocal proponent of holocaust.”  A similar sense underlay my friend Daniel Alder’s post, where he felt confident that if pastors were doing their job right, almost no church member would vote Democrat, because it was unthinkable for any faithful Christian to support a pro-abortion agenda.  In this, of course, they speak for millions of American Christians, deeming that there is simply no way to conscientiously vote for a pro-choice candidate, however preferable he might be on a range of other issues.  

 In my post, I lamented the “chasm of mutual incomprehension” that had opened up in American public life, and I am convinced that nothing is so paralyzing to life together as incomprehension.  Disagreement can be extremely fruitful and edifying, but incomprehension is sterile and provokes only frustration.  When we cannot understand why something has happened or why someone would say or do something, we are prone to become angry, and impute the worst possible motives as a way of trying to make sense of the situation.  Unable to comprehend why any rational person would do something, we find ourselves increasingly unable to think of them as a person, and thus unable to love them as a person, although we have little difficulty loving even our worst enemy if we understand what motivates him.    

It is probably safe to say that no single factor has contributed as much to the creation of this chasm of incomprehension, at least for Christians, as the issue of abortion.  The politicization of abortion, I believe, has been deeply harmful for American public life—for it has done very little in the end to mitigate the abortion problem, but it has done a great deal to dissolve the possibility of rational debate and mutual understanding in American politics and society.  So, although I am deeply sympathetic to Ben and Daniel’s concern (it was indeed one decisive reason that I did not vote for Obama), I would like to make a stab at trying to dispel a bit of the fog around this issue.  As I want to be thorough, I will confine myself primarily to the narrow question, “How could a Christian vote for a pro-abortion candidate, even while disagreeing with his policies?”  Such is the spectrum of opinion on the matter of abortion that many Christians will see this as a silly discussion with an obvious answer, and will be far more interested in discussing whether the pro-choice position is a viable one.  To other Christians, this latter discussion seems almost unthinkable.  Unfortunately, I will only touch on it briefly in my conclusion, though perhaps I can try to address it more fully another time.  But hopefully this inquiry, at least, may constitute a small baby step toward mutual understanding among Christians on this issue.

 

Before proceeding, let me first reassure my readers that I view abortion as a grave moral evil, tragic and disgusting, and consider many of the campaigners for abortion rights to have deeply compromised moral sensibilities, to put it delicately.  The following may seem like a dry academic argument to the effect, “It’s not that big a deal after all.”  That is not my purpose.  Abortion is a very big deal, and the task of saving lives from it is an urgent one.  But neither is it the only moral issue confronting our society, so there is no virtue in so single-mindedly dedicating ourselves to its opposition that we become incapable of making sound moral and political judgments on other fronts.


So, let’s first untangle the question, “How could a Christian vote for a pro-abortion candidate?” or, to use Ben’s wording, “Given Obama’s strong pro-abortion stance, isn’t it the case that a vote for him was clearly a vote for abortion?”  The contention here is that one cannot really say, as many Christians clearly have said, “I am voting for this candidate who happens to support abortion, but I am not voting for his support of abortion.”  Now, I would suggest that in Ben’s case, this question contains a couple of unvoiced premises.  Without those premises, and as it currently stands, the conclusion is not at all compelling, for it would seem to imply that our British, Canadian, Australian brothers and sisters—indeed, many foreign Christians, of many nationalities—are necessarily wrong whenever they vote for a pro-abortion candidate in their elections, as they often do.  Is that really the case?  And if so, why not?  Although I think Ben’s claim was much more specifically targeted, let me take some time to say why not, since I think many American Christians have not bothered to think this through, and I think it will help illuminate what’s really at stake.  

 It may help if we abstract from politics for the moment.  Let’s ask then whether it would be appropriate, if one were a stockholder, to vote for a new member of a company’s Board of Directors if one knew him to hold pro-abortion views (assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is not a company directly involved in the abortion industry)?  Or, how about, at the risk of trivializing too much, to vote for an American Idol contestant whom one knew to hold pro-abortion views?  Few would argue, I think, that these views should in any way constitute an automatic bar to a Christian endorsing such a candidate.  If anyone did argue that, on the basis that a Christian should never offer support to a person of such obviously depraved morality, I would suggest that this would be a very arbitrary stand to take, given that the other candidates might be of equally depraved morality on other issues (e.g., greed, toleration of adultery, love of violence, whatever).  Indeed, it is on this basis that I have little patience with Christians who go on boycotting crusades against any company that, say, gives money to Planned Parenthood.  I understand the sentiment, but why single out this single moral issue, while turning a blind eye to companies that engage in complex tax evasion or exploitation of workers? 

 Now, it would not be arbitrary if abortion did indeed constitute a uniquely grotesque perversion of morality.  For instance, I can imagine someone plausibly arguing that even for something as inconsequential as an American Idol contest, one could not support a contestant who advocated, say, rape or pedophilia or the torture of innocents.  Merely holding such views would render a person morally repugnant to a degree that no Christian should want to identify with them.  Is abortion such an issue?  I believe not, though I shall only have time to touch on this for a moment in the conclusion.

Assuming, then, there would be no automatic bar to supporting a pro-choice American Idol contestant or corporate board member, there might still be a contingent bars, of at least two types.  First, let’s imagine that one knew that this board member did not merely privately support abortion, but was an activist, and hoped to use the resources of the company to advance the cause of abortion—perhaps by giving very generously to pro-abortion causes.  In this case, one would be opposing the candidate not on the basis of his private failures of moral reasoning, but on the basis of the harm likely to be done from his gaining a leadership position.  In such a situation, voting for him might be construed as material cooperation in evil, just like knowingly providing a getaway car for a bank robbery.  Unlike the getaway car, however, it would probably be judged far, rather than near material cooperation—you would be supporting a man who probably, given the opportunity, would allocate funds to help support organizations that might well use those funds to offer more abortions—in many cases, to people who were already trying to get abortions anyway.  Even if it were merely far material cooperation, though, one would be forced to judge just how much harm he might actually do, over against the other goods he might bring.  For instance, perhaps he was committed to generous philanthropy in general, and would also try to give large donations to very good causes; or perhaps the other candidates, while not supporters of abortion, might be inclined to donate to other wicked causes; or perhaps he was the only candidate with the business acumen to keep the company running (assuming, for the sake of argument, that it were an otherwise good company doing a service to society).  Perhaps, in short, great good would come from his election; might this outweigh the harm that might come from his use of company funds to support abortion?  Possibly, possibly not.  Or perhaps the company’s policy was already to fund abortion charities, and there was little evidence the other candidates would change it. In view of such uncertainties, this would be a matter on which Christians could quite plausibly disagree.  Some Christians might support the candidate on the grounds that he would do much more good and less harm on the whole than the other candidates; some might support the other candidates on the opposite grounds; some might conclude that when they were all such bad apples, one should just keep one’s distance and vote for none of them.  So the first contingent bar is: likely to materially advance the abortion agenda by means of policies to an extent that outweighs any foreseen other goods.  (Before moving on, it’s worth pausing to notice that although this seems like a rather silly example, given that almost no stockholder ever bothers to vote on their Proxy ballot, or to research the candidates at all, perhaps this just shows to some extent our inconsistency, or unhealthy fixation with politics.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the Board of Director choices that I’ve had the opportunity to weigh in on as a stockholder were actually more consequential, in terms of the harm that might be done or averted, than some of the political candidates I’d had the opportunity to vote for.)   

For the second contingent bar, let’s look at that American Idol competition.  Can one imagine a scenario in which (assuming one were a die-hard American Idol fan, determined to vote for one of the contestants, in which case one might have issues worth addressing) one ought not to vote for one on the basis of her advocacy of abortion?  Yes, I think so.  For let’s consider the fact that an American Idol winner gains a very prominent podium in our society, an opportunity to speak out (albeit rarely very coherently) about what she’s passionate about.  Perhaps even more importantly, she becomes an “idol”—someone that people respect, for whatever reason, and want to emulate.  That being the case, she is capable of doing a great deal of harm merely by standing for morally depraved behaviors, even if she has little role in practically facilitating them.  (Of course, it might well be that she would also practically facilitate them, like the corporate director we saw above, by means of charitable contributions and the like, but we’ll leave that consideration aside here.)  If the contestant’s advocacy of abortion, then, were so strong or high-profile that, by supporting her, you were likely to raise up an influential spokesperson for abortion, or a widely-adored symbol of the pro-choice cause, someone who made it “cool” to be pro-choice make the cause of abortion more respectable, this might well constitute grounds why a Christian should *not* support such a person.  This is particularly the case in the example we have given, since there is really no reason why one should feel the need to vote for an American Idol contestant…this being so, to take the time to support such a morally compromised contestant would be like going out one’s way to support vice.  Of course, there would be other conditions—e.g., a presidential election—in which one might otherwise have very good reasons to support this candidate.  In that case, one would have to weigh the goods in question against the likely evils to result from helping to elevate to prominence of a spokesman for abortion.  Again, this would be a difficult judgment to make, perhaps even more difficult than the question above, since one would be weighing a very intangible factor (how powerful is this figure as a symbol of the pro-abortion cause?) against other more concrete factors.  One can imagine Christians who otherwise largely agreed on a wide range of issues coming to different judgments on this question.  The second contingent bar then is: likely to materially advance the abortion agenda by lending it respectability or prominence to an extent that outweighs any other foreseen goods.

(It should be noted that this second consideration loses significance to the degree that the vice in question becomes a cultural norm.  That is to say, imagine a pop star who was an outspoken supporter of abortion in the 1950s.  At that time, this would have been a very bold and, to most Americans, appalling position to take.  Anyone with such views at that time would have been almost certain to stand out, to become a symbol of this depraved cause, so that she was no longer just a pop star, but known as the “pro-abortion pop star.”  Nowadays, however, abortion has become culturally accepted enough that it is highly unlikely that an individual pop star’s advocacy of it would be sufficiently striking to merit much public attention.  The same, to some extent, is true of political figures.  To elect an openly pro-choice president forty years ago, would have been a much more shocking statement than to do so now.) 

From this second point arises a closely related concern, which might be thought to constitute a third contingent bar to voting for someone who approved of abortion, and which, I suppose, is a large part of what’s going on when people say that “a vote for Obama is a vote for abortion.”  To re-use the American Idol example, imagine if the outspoken pro-choice contestant became so identified with this “cause” that a vote for her could only be considered an endorsement of the cause, a message a Christian certainly wouldn’t want to send.  There are no doubt times which such can happen—when a particular issue generates so much heat and controversy that one cannot really separate the individual from the issue, cannot pass judgment one way or another on the individual without seeming to take sides on the issue.  In such a circumstance, a Christian would no longer be able to say, “I am supporting this candidate who happens to support abortion, but I am not supporting abortion,” which is the disjunction we have been assuming throughout the discussion thus far.  Therefore, no Christian could in good conscience cast such a vote, as it would appear to send a message that they could not send.  I think that this is how many on the Christian Right currently think about the abortion issue.  However, I think this argument fails, both empirically and theoretically.  Empirically, I do not think it is really the case that in America today, a Democratic candidate, even one as clearly pro-choice as Obama, is so identified with the abortion cause as to be almost indistinguishable from it.  Or rather, he is, but only in the minds of his fervently pro-life opponents—and perhaps in the mind of his most fervently pro-choice supporters. The majority of the American electorate does not think that way, and would have little trouble understanding the reasoning of someone who said, “I do not support abortion, but I will vote for Obama for other reasons.”  Theoretically, I think it fails because one’s own intentions always remain free and separate from others’ fallible judgments about them.  Just because someone thinks that when I act in such a way, I must intend evil, does not mean I cannot act in that way, intending something else.  We are to avoid the appearance of evil, but that’s the great thing about our voting—it’s private.  If I am convinced that I need to cast my vote in such a way that would appear to others to be a vote for evil, then I just cast my vote privately, without broadcasting for whom I voted.  Or, if I do broadcast it, I explain my reasoning clearly and carefully.  Therefore, the third contingent bar—likely to appear as an endorsement of a position I cannot endorse—fails.  (Nonetheless, this is still worth taking into account as one decides how to vote.  If one has trouble, in one’s own mind, abstracting the candidate from the morally reprehensible agenda one sees them as representing, then one certainly can determine on that basis that one would rather not vote for them.)

  

All of this should clarify for us what a vote against a pro-choice candidate isn’t or shouldn’t be: it is not a refusal to associate oneself with someone who has morally objectionable views; or a refusal to take any action that may indirectly result in the advancing of wickedness—both of these, consistently advocated, would require a complete withdrawal from public life.  On the contrary, it is a refusal to advance the agenda of someone who has morally objectionable views that they are likely to put into practice or publicly advocate to an extent that will do great harm outweighing any other foreseen goods.

This being the case, it should now be readily apparent why many of foreign brothers and sisters need have little compunction in voting for candidates who support abortion.  In many of their settings, abortion is in many cases a matter of settled policy, and there are few elected representatives interested in opposing it.  If none of the candidates available is planning to make much change to abortion policy, one may lawfully vote for the candidate one expects to do the most good on other fronts.  Indeed, in such a setting, voting for a candidate who supports the status quo abortion policy is only in a very distant sense any kind of material cooperation with evil, since the evil being done is quite separate from the actions of the candidate.  Likewise, if we turn to the second contingent bar, since abortion is not, alas, highly controversial in many of these societies, even an outspoken supporter of abortion would attract little notice.  In Britain, for instance, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which a candidate could become a symbol of the “abortion cause” (there not really being such a recognizable cause) to the extent that one must avoid lending him one’s support.  In their circumstances, then, it is rarely the case that a given candidate is likely to materially advance the abortion agenda either by means of policy or by lending it respectability or prominence to an extent that necessarily outweighs any other foreseen goods.  Of course, that is not to say it is never an issue.  There are still plenty of live political issues related to abortion here in the UK and other European countries, and there may be some candidates vigorously advancing an expansion of abortion rights, whom Christians should avoid supporting on those grounds.  But in general, it’s not likely to be a highly relevant consideration.  Note also that this is not a call for European Christians to give up on this issue, because they’ve already lost the battle.  It merely means that for most of them, opposition to abortion will likely have to take other forms besides political activism, at least until such time as legal opposition to abortion again becomes a viable platform.

 

So now, let’s turn finally back to Obama.  Four basic questions will affect our judgment of the Christian’s duty in this case.  The first is, “To what extent is Obama likely to advance abortion by means of policy decisions?”  The second is, “To what extent is Obama likely to advance abortion by lending it respectability or a prominent defender?”  Ben Miller, I take it, considers the answers to both of these questions to be, “To a great extent,” and it is on this basis that he feels able to say, “Given Obama’s strong pro-abortion stance, isn’t it the case that a vote for him was clearly a vote for abortion?”  But we must ask two further questions.  The third is, “To what extent are we already like Europe?  To what extent is abortion now settled policy, accepted practice?”  The fourth is, “What are the other viable candidates (in this case, Romney) likely to do about abortion?”  

Taken together, the third and fourth enable us to reframe the first and second as follows:  “To what extent is Obama likely to advance abortion by means of policy decisions relative to what would happen if he were not elected?”  The second is, “To what extent is Obama likely to advance abortion by lending it respectability or a prominent defender relative to what would happen if he were not elected?”  Once framed this way, the difficulty of reaching a clear answer, that should bind the consciences of believers as they consider voting, becomes readily apparent.  Because I do not think that any of these questions admit of easy answers, I will not attempt to hash them out in detail, but will merely outline a few points.

Thinking again in terms of four questions, how might we answer the first?  Obviously, Obama is pro-choice, and has already as President enacted policies that favor that agenda, most notably the provisions in Obamacare that leave religious institutions having to help fund abortions.  Just because abortion is already law in the US doesn’t mean it can’t be made worse by making access to abortions easier and more universal, and unfortunately, many in the Democratic Party, including Obama do seem committed to doing just that.  The President’s power to appoint judges is of course also relevant, as his selection of pro-choice justices renders it ever more unlikely that Ro v. Wade could be overturned.  I am not convinced by claims that Obama is militantly pro-choice, bloodthirsty for the expansion of abortion in a uniquely sinister way, as many on the Right seem to think, but the general orientation of his agenda is undeniable.  It is worth noting, incidentally, that it really matters little for this discussion what Obama’s private views are—perhaps personally, he really does dislike the idea of abortion, and wants it to be “safe, legal, and rare,” and is acting only under pressure from the NOW and other constituencies.  It would be nice if that were true, and would affect, perhaps, our assessment of his own moral sensibilities, but it makes little difference to our assessment of the impact of his policies. 

Regarding the second, too, we must go on the basis of public presentation, rather than private beliefs, whatever they might be.  That includes, unfortunately, campaign ads.  Of course, everyone recognizes that campaign ads are cynical vehicles of short-term manipulation, and people ought perhaps therefore to put little stock in them.  But they are a key way in which a candidate presents himself, his message, and what he stands for to the American people.  The fact that the Obama campaign decided to run so many ads defending abortion, and castigating Romney for his opposition to it, unmistakably painted Obama as the representative, the champion, of the pro-choice cause.  For him to win under such circumstances meant at least in part a victory for that cause, helping affirm it and lend it respectability.  Using someone like Sandra Fluke as a poster-child reinforces the message that “reproductive rights” are cool, and Obama is all for helping women expand them.  For some Christians I know, it was this identification with the cause of abortion by the Obama campaign, more than any particular policy decisions on the issue, that was a deal-breaker for them.

If we consider the third question, though—”to what extent are we already like Europe?”—I think many realistic Christians, particularly of a younger generation, take a pretty sober assessment of where America is now at on the abortion issue.  Are we really likely to overturn Roe v. Wade now, after forty years?  The political prospects are daunting enough alone.  But worse, it is widespread cultural acceptance of abortion that constitutes a greater obstacle than any purely political difficulties.  There is an extent to which law can affect morality, to be sure, and sometimes, law can outrun morality, as it were, insisting on conduct which does not yet command a general consensus, in hopes of creating that consensus.  The Civil Rights movement is a good example of a case where this seems to have generally worked (although some would argue that federal government policy here was too much, too fast, with long-term harmful effects on both races).  Many would cite also Wilberforce’s successful prohibition of the slave trade, but we mustn’t forget that this took twenty years of sustained effort, and was only successful when Wilberforce realized that first public perception must be re-shaped, the cultural consensus must be altered, before legislation could ever be successful.  There are many other cases in which attempts to ban a practice by law, when the citizenry were not convinced, failed abysmally—Prohibition being perhaps the most notorious.  In general, I would say that the trajectory of a society is one of the things that matters most here.  In Wilberforce’s time, factors were already at work that were moving English society in a direction that disposed them to be able to perceive and confront slavery as a grave moral evil.  Likewise in the Civil Rights movement—the public consciousness, while still stubbornly racist in many areas, was turning already in favor of the cause when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.  Because of this, the law was able to succeed, by and large, in requiring people to be moral when they didn’t want to be, and in continuing to reshape the moral consensus.  Sad to say, the moral trajectory of the American people right now is not toward a greater condemnation of abortion.  Sure, there are some signs that some progress has been made, that a majority of Americans now would consider themselves pro-life, but the majority is slim.  And perhaps more decisively, the general worldview of Americans, with the premium value they place on choice, individual liberty and “rights,” and their general distaste of having the “government” dictate anything to them, renders it unlikely that the pro-choice cause is going down anytime soon.  Even attempts to restrict abortion piecemeal, by raising the age required, or by requiring parental consent, and that sort of thing, have often run into intractable opposition.  That’s not a reason why we shouldn’t continue to fight the cause, and on every front.  But it means that perhaps we are not now at the point where we should consider a presidential election likely to make a decisive difference one way or another.  It also means that we’re at the point where we’re pretty jaded as a nation, and the mere fact of having a pro-choice President may not materially alter people’s perceptions of the issue very much.

Likewise, if we consider the fourth question,”What are the other viable candidates (in this case, Romney) likely to do about abortion?” there were two reasons to be skeptical in this case.  The first is that Romney is a weasel and a flip-flopper, who seemed intent above all on getting elected, and once elected would be intent above all on staying in office.  That being the case, I don’t have great faith that, if he found confronting abortion to prove too difficult or controversial, he would had quietly shelved the issue.  Perhaps that’s overly-cynical, but it is at least an understandable judgment to reach, and remember that our purpose here is simply to show that there exist multiple rationally-defensible answers to these question.  Second, we have to be honest about the fact that we have had 24 years of Republican presidency—at least 16 of which made a fairly strong claim to represent the interests of the “Moral Majority”—since Roe v. Wade was passed, and have seen essentially no positive effect from it.  We’ve even had a conservative majority on the court, but seen it show little indication to revisit the issue or overturn the decision.  Even if we granted that Romney was at least as reliable a pro-life candidate as Bush II or Reagan, that obviously wouldn’t show much.  Yes, it is likely, that especially with the appearance of Obamacare and such, there are issues of particular policy where Romney could influence things positively, but we should not expect anything particularly dramatic.  It is of course also the case that, thinking in terms of the second question, it might help the pro-life cause to have such a visible public advocate.  On the other hand, so entrenched are the two camps now, that it might make little difference.  

 

Where does all this leave us?  How do we answer the questions, “To what extent is Obama likely to advance abortion by means of policy decisions relative to what would happen if he were not elected?” and “To what extent is Obama likely to advance abortion by lending it respectability or a prominent defender relative to what would happen if he were not elected?”  My own personal answer was that I thought Obama could still do enough net harm on this front that I was unwilling to vote for him, but I was also unwilling to drop all other considerations and vote against him on this basis, as I spelled out a week and a half ago.  But I can readily understand arguments in either of the other directions—those who think that, given the weight of other issues, a vote for Obama was defensible, despite his abortion stance, and those who think that Obama’s position on this issue was likely to do so much imminent harm or Romney’s so much imminent good, that they felt obliged to vote for Romney.   

I hope that I have succeeded at the very least in demonstrating the complexity of the issues that must be sorted through before a summary judgment on this question is reached.  And I hope therefore that we might be more able to comprehend and accept the judgments of fellow Christians who weigh these considerations differently.  We may still disagree, but at least we needn’t be paralyzed by incomprehension.

Unfortunately, in this post, I have worked only within the sphere of assumed agreement that, ideally, we should want to legally ban abortion; I have not had the time to address the other, even more paralyzing source of incomprehension, and I shall only touch on it for a brief moment before concluding.  This is that there are some people, including some faithful Christians, who would genuinely support not merely a candidate who happens to be pro-choice, but pro-choice policy as such.  Perhaps for many Christians on the Right, this position at least remains so morally depraved as to be incomprehensible.  Of course, there are two forms that this might take—a belief that abortion should remain legal, although it is immoral, and a belief that abortion is not immoral.  Although I believe the former position is flawed, I would argue that a plausible case could be made for it, especially given certain assumptions about the nature of law that are increasingly dominant even among today’s Christians.  Even the latter view, I would want to point out, although an example of serious moral blindness, is not a unique or uniquely incomprehensible one.  Many of our Christian ancestors defended slavery, and even the slave trade, positions we now find repugnant and in many cases almost incomprehensible.  But it was only because their opponents were willing to seek to understand their sinful reasoning, and considered them capable of persuasion, that this evil was overcome.  When I hear some Christians railing about evil abortionists, I wonder sometimes if they’ve ever actually known anyone who was pro-choice.  A few, I would grant, truly merit the adjective “evil,” and deserve nothing but the most fervent opposition.  To most others, however, we owe a willingness to listen and learn, even while opposing.  There are some rational links in the chain of logic that would lead one to that position, and we must take the time to understand them if we are ever to successfully win hearts and minds.  

 

All of this, perhaps, has been a rather tedious way of saying not very much—“It’s complicated.  It depends.  Let’s disagree respectfully.”  Perhaps I am merely stating the obvious, but nowadays, it seems even the obvious needs stating.   With the conclusion of this third very lengthy post on contemporary politics (making up for my recent neglect of the subject on this blog), I propose to take a blogging hiatus for a week or two, while I’m away at ETS, AAR, and SBL, and then celebrating Thanksgiving and my arrival at the quarter-century mark.  I will try to reply to any comments here, but may be much slower than normal.  

76 thoughts on “The Abortion Question

  1. But I made no logical leap, Matthew. I began with the premise that Obama was the liberal progressive champion for this presidential contest. Obama self-identified as such in all his rhetoric. He ran as the liberal progressive values candidate. You can't realistically deny it, because it's common knowledge. Yet, for some reason you're reluctant to acknowledge the significance of it.The vast majority of those who voted for Obama, did so with full knowledge of his liberal progressive orientation. They know what he believes in his heart of hearts and what he cares most about achieving: equality for all, fairness prioritized above all other values. They voted for him because they share his priorities. They are in sympathy with him. This is what it means to like and trust a presidential candidate.Voting is larger than personal intention and act. There is something that happens when a single will joins with other wills and unites with them in one intention, in this case, to sympathize with Barack Obama. A synergy occurs between the leader and the group, where to want Obama as one's leader naturally leads to identification with Obama, to begin to want what Obama wants, and to dispose one to believe what Obama believes. To participate in voting for a leader is a transformative experience. It is a positive act of identification that aligns an individual’s allegiance with the leader's vision of common life and the future. And, the leader's will, with the immense pressure of the millions of other wills joined to his, exerts powerful, nearly ubiquitous, influence upon individual intellects to conform in thought to the judgment of the collective. Every phenomenon of mass enthusiasm has a reality that exceeds the workings of individual minds, and its influence continues in the individual long after the process that formed a particular allegiance is complete. Cultivating personal rapport with wicked people and empathizing with their goals is a way Christian commitment is very often compromised. Voting has powerful potential to accomplish the same. Christians who pursue irenic engagement with the culture are daily faced with the temptation to first minimize, and then excuse, even grave offenses against the natural law like abortion. These temptations must be vigorously resisted. We must remind ourselves again and again: friendship with the world is enmity with God, and, evil communications corrupt good manners.

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  2. Contraceptive use, when motivated from selfishness and lust, is a sin. Right? I think the problem of promoting sin is what people are concerned with on the issue of contraceptives. Similarly with giving needles to drug addicts and other such fallacies. The issue of life beginning at conception as already noted. I don't agree with the absurd three step recognition process ending in "encounter" for recognizing personhood, but I think the victimized unborn will be thankful for my less nuanced approach when I refuse to vote for proponents of murder. "Encounter?" It actually pains me to read such poetic nonsense and makes me a little sick as well. Do you guys remember how people passed their children through the fire to Moloch? The underlying sin we're dealing with in abortion and contraception is a similar idolatry. So yes, the people are really the protagonist in the plot here. But again, shouldn't we be voting for candidates that are explicitly pro-life? I know that I am, as one comment said, "Focused on the act of abortion" but I think that focus is warranted. It is a good focus. Would you be focused on the act of murder if someone was going to kill you? These comments referencing esoteric philosophical concepts are well and good. But, the greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor. In the context of the abortion debate the proper application of these commands is to vote for those who will preserve the life of one's neighbor. And as for, "if abortion did indeed constitute a uniquely grotesque perversion of morality", I answer simply, "it does."Theoretical arguments proving the moral validity of voting for a pro-choice candidate fail to prove that voting for President Barack Obama was the morally correct choice. Indeed, the President made the morality of our voting profoundly simple by choosing to take a stand for abortion which is a stand against life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In other countries it would be perfectly reasonable to vote for a pro-life candidate – we don't need 20,000 words to conclude this. But the American system of on-demand abortion is uniquely nefarious and there is a significant counter-current of opinion in our country as in the case of Wilberforce and the Civil Rights Movement. This is the moral issue of our time and we won't succeed in stopping this practice until we begin to take this more seriously. It sickens me and my fellow lovers of life to read such overly nuanced analysis. I think most murders and pending murders are nuanced. But the right response is to murder is to urgently and decisively stop the murders and then deal with the nuances later. Even if the murderers don't understand it. Your diagnoses of incomprehension is perhaps overblown. It is not from incomprehension that we were surprised the President won. It was from profound disappointment at the number of fellow citizens that were as heartless and ignorant as to agree with him. We always understood the position of the opposition. We're just astounded that so many people could agree with it. Would you be surprised if 51% of the country said that 2+2=5? We knew the President was running on the 2+2=5 platform but couldn't imagine 51% of us would buy into it.

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  3. Brad Littlejohn

    Andrew,The simple answer to your objection is that you simply haven't grasped what a narrow point this post was trying to make. The point of this post was merely to say that Obama's stance on abortion does not necessarily in itself constitute a bar to voting for him. It could be true that there were other reasons not to vote for him, and that would not make my argument in this post invalid (though it would make it a bit of a waste of time, granted), and among those other reasons, the one you give is a strong candidate. In my "Why I Won't Be Voting" post, I discussed this "representative" element: "Politicians are not merely officials commissioned to do certain hopefully beneficial tasks, they are individuals who represent constituencies and agendas. To vote for them is, to some extent, whether desired or not, to become identified with that constituency. A candidate's representative identity can prove immensely powerful in shaping the public square, just as much or more than any particular policies he enacts, and thus cannot be ignored." And this was a significant part of the reason for why I wouldn't be voting for either candidate.However, I think you over-play this element considerably, and fall into the common trap of over-mystifying the voting process. As I've emphasized a couple times, everything I'm saying here presupposes the argument on the The Calvinist International's essay, How Should a Christian Vote? which seeks to de-mystify the voting process and explain that, for the Christian, it is primarily just an attempt to achieve some limited greater good, not to identify oneself with some moral agenda.Moreover, I think you fall into the common mistake, which seems to characterize American politics today, of attributing *way* too much unity to the opposition. America is simply not made up of 51% of people who share a "liberal progressive agenda" (with all the elements that you attribute to that agenda) and 48% who share a conservative agenda. We conservatives know that the 48% who voted for Romney represent an extremely wide swath of views, from family values voters to free marketeers to old-fashioned conservatives to national defense hawk neocons to plain old Joes who want a job and a decent income and thought Romney would give them the best chance of it. The left is no different. There is a hard ideological core (though I would suggest that the nexus of interconnected positions you attributed to that core really doesn't hold together—redistribution of wealth, unlike most of the other elements, is, whatever you want to make of it, a venerable part of the long tradition of Christian political thought), but it represents a pretty small minority. Most Obama voters shared his views on a number of issues, and disagreed with him on a number of issues. They voted for him not to "register moral approval" of his worldview (and I'm not convinced that even he has such a coherent worldview as you suggest), but, for the most part, because they thought he was going to do more good than harm for America—on issues such as taxation, stimulating the economy, keeping America out of war, concern for the environment, etc. We need to get real and realize that most voters are too busy worrying about everyday struggles and anxieties to give a darn about these worldview issues we intellectuals are so obsessed with.Byron,I must say that I find that line of reasoning very troubling. A legitimate policy of Augustinian harm minimization requires that we are talking about achieving an imperfect good while only partially addressing the underlying evils—that's fine, though regrettable. It does not mean achieving an incomplete good by *encouraging* the underlying evils, or by encouraging other evils—that is letting the end justify the means. Given our culture's sexual mores, a policy of free and easy contraception for all seems like an encouragement and an enablement of evil, not mere health policy. That it has a morally beneficial by-product (reducing the number of abortions) only constitutes a justification in a purely utilitarian calculus. Even from a utilitarian standpoint, it seems somewhat counter-productive, since it, as I said, helps to cement the very attitudes that have led to the proliferation of abortion in the first place.Jesse,You just need to cool your jets. Your remarks in the final paragraph *confirm* my diagnosis of incomprehension. You do not understand the position of those who would vote for Obama if you think it is tantamount to a "2+2=5" platform. There may be elements of his platform that are to that extent irrational, but as I said above, there are many different reasons people voted for him, and they are not all irrational.As for your first paragraph, this is what makes me despair of evangelical ethics—evangelicals are always determined to shoot down their best allies. I can't make out what part of O'Donovan's argument—which was, in case you didn't notice, an argument *against abortion across the board*—you would find sickening.I'm also puzzled by your claim that the US's abortion policy is uniquely nefarious among developed nations. My understanding is that, on the contrary, many other nations are at least as permissive on the question; the difference is that in the US it has taken on much larger culture-war dimensions.Finally, I feel the need to just re-iterate the point that nowhere does the Bible specifically address the issue, despite the fact that we know that abortion and indeed infanticide were frequently practiced in the Ancient Near East and Roman Empire. The closest it gets is the children sacrificed to Moloch, but the main context of condemnation there was idolatry. I don't want to minimize abortion at all, or act like it's anything less than horrible, but I wonder how much we can claim to be in line with God's own priorities when we insist flatly that it is *the* most important moral issue of our time, and trumps all other considerations, given that it never seems to have been considered the most important moral issue for Israel or the early Church.

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  4. Brad Littlejohn

    Just a brief follow-up to my remarks to Byron:What if someone argued that, in order to minimize racial violence, governments should zone cities into separate white and black regions, or subsidize the construction of racially-segregated public housing? In a situation characterized by severe racial tensions, this might well have the immediate effect of lowering the hate crimes rate, and let's face it, what's worse—racially-motivated murder or just feelings of racial animosity? But we don't call this Augustinian harm minimization; we call it "apartheid."Obviously, this scenario is not analogous to what you're arguing in all respects, but it still seems to successfully highlight the problem with your "encourage sinful attitudes while minimizing the number of evil deeds" strategy.

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  5. Just to clarify:When we understand that the issue we're ultimately dealing with here is idolatry, I think we realize that the bible does address the issue. Also, the commandment to do no murder addresses the issue. There are many other theological issues.I take no offense at the comment "cool your jets." And, I will certainly be more careful in posts on your blog, It is yours after all. However, it is a helpful comment in that it illustrates what I see as precisely the problem. Namely, a seemingly apathetic or academic approach to the issue of abortion/murder/idolatry. Also, what evangelical ethics are you referring to? Is that a defined system of ethics?

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  6. Daniel Bakken

    Brad,Thank you for finally breaking through the incomprehension from which we suffer daily. It's kind of you to descend from the lofty heights of academic theology to enlighten us. No doubt dialogue with benighted believers of the Bible-thumping variety taxes your patience.You have demystified the magical and mysterious process of voting. Your many words have persuaded me that my liberal Christian friends are faithful followers of Jesus when they praise Barack Obama. This blog post has widened our narrow world beyond the petty squabbles which divide us (like abortion) so we can focus on truly important problems like corporate tax evasion and the lack of universal health insurance.Thank you for making it your life's work to recover Protestant casuistry and two kingdoms theology. These crucial teachings desperately matter to everyone in the pews. We welcome a more empathetic, more voluble, and more academic future. Forward!

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  7. Daniel: One of the preconditions of good satire is that the flaws of the intended target be actually recognizable in the irony. Bald-faced lying about the intended target (e.g., like implying Brad thinks abortion is a "petty squabble" and somehow only trivial in comparison to corporate tax evasion) makes the literary device far less effective. FWIW.

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  8. Joseph Minich

    Daniel…seriously? I'm perplexed by this recent crusade against Brad (here and at DW's joint). Not being an NSA boy myself, perhaps I've missed some secret code that is going on between you. I hope so, because I cannot make heads or tails out of your comments. You are, in fact, talking about Littlejohn, right? Perhaps I've completely missed the way in which your comments represent any intellectually moral attempt to understand Brad's point or interpret his character, but then again, I do sometimes miss the plain ol' truth. You portray Brad (here and elsewhere) as an academic wonder-kid (mostly of his own imagining) who has become drunken on the wine of liberal academia and now seeks to correct the faults of his former fundamentalist country-bumpkin pals. And of course, Brad is young, inexperienced, and far from the trenches of any real war – more like the pot-smoking Berkeley liberal than the uneducated soldier in Saigon. And lo, he has the audacity to blog how things "really" are. Again, seriously? I haven't noticed any of this behavior in Brad either previously or in these recent threads. I've interacted with Brad (privately and in this forum) over the past year or two and have always found him to be immensely respectful, patient, and humble. I've even disagreed with him before and I was never treated as someone that he needed to convert – but as someone with whom he could genuinely dialogue and from whom he could learn. And I'm quite sure that I come from stock far higher in the country-bumpkin bleachers than any of his NSA pals. Hell, I don't even know Latin (beyond the five solas). And even then, Brad has never come off as the intellectual super-star feeding the less educated in the academic soup-kitchen. In reality, Brad is just willing to dialogue with folks. He's willing to be wrong, as well. In case you haven't noticed, he's actually changed rather "popular" positions (much more likely to get him back-slaps in the academic world) because of dialogues just like the one that you are smacking him over. The dude has got character – a lot of it – the kind that God commends. So man, please stop this nonsense. It is transparent. It is unfair. And most importantly, it is not honoring to the name of Christ. Brother, I'd kindly suggest a re-read of 1 Corinthians 13.

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  9. Tim Enloe

    As a fellow former NSA student with Brad and you, I'll just say, Daniel, that your behavior on this thread has been reprehensible. If what you got out of NSA was an ethic of rapaciously mocking whatever challenges your own views (especially when you think your own views to be "obviously" correct), you wasted your time and money and didn't get the point of the education. Brad has taken the tools he got at NSA and honed them in his graduate work. I've seen him courageously challenge his own beliefs on some fairly substantial points over the last three years. Rather than mock and rip and tear at those who told him he was wrong, he sucked it up, started digging deeper into the sources, engaged with them justly and soberly, and had no qualms about eventually admitting, in public, that his earlier views had been wrong. That takes guts, and so for you to come along and regale him as if he's betrayed the simple, God's-honest truth in the name of a pretended academic respectability that violates the plain words of the Bible is really more of a sad commentary on yourself than on him. And this is not to mention your outlandish slurs on classical Protestant thought by way of mocking casuistry and the two kingdoms doctrines. Maybe along with revisiting 1 Cor. 13, as Joseph suggests, you might consider graduating from your sophomore year at NSA – where most of us regularly assaulted our teachers and peers with our worst characteristics – and move on with your life by developing a healthy sense of self-criticism that can help you not fear that which is different and so respond to it more constructively than you have.

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  10. Daniel Bakken

    I didn't expect to be welcome at a blog where academic speculation is held in such reverence. I have clearly blasphemed against casuistry and the two kingdoms. I will endeavor to restrain my irreverence in the future.I may have wasted my years at NSA, but I presume to be neither a teacher of theology and morals, nor a correcter of pastors and elders. I'm a tradesman sitting in the pews saying that if this garbage is what you're selling, I'm not buying.If Brad made a case for his position from Scripture or even the Church Fathers I would give it the time of day. But I'm treating these clever scholarly assertions with exactly the respect they deserve. I cheerfully acknowledge the authority of Scripture, but never casuistry as practiced by theology students.

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  11. Daniel Bakken

    Brad writes that abortion "was indeed one decisive reason that I did not vote for Obama." As if there there were all sorts of good reasons to vote Obama, and he might have, except for the abortion issue.Brad believes it would be wrong for him to vote Obama, yet he won't say it's wrong for other Christians. If it's okay for other Christians to vote Obama, then why should Brad feel reluctant to do so? But if it's really wrong for Brad to vote Obama, then it's likewise wrong for other Christians.Morals are useless when they don't provide universal standards. You're personally opposed to Obama for reasons of moral conviction, but they're not strong enough for you to warn anyone else about them. That is why your position is ridiculous.

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  12. Daniel Bakken

    Brad,I have misjudged you. I'm sorry for the biting satire. Please forgive my harsh words. I disagree with you, but I'll endeavor to keep my criticism more charitable and constructive in the future. I hope you'll read my last two comments in that light.Merry Christmas,Daniel

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  13. Brad – Your racial violence/apartheid example is quite different from the situation with abortion/contraception. Apartheid is itself already morally wicked (as well as encouraging further wickedness) while contraception is not itself wicked (the claims of RC friends notwithstanding). Whether or not it encourages further wickedness is not straightforwardly clear.When compulsory seat-belts were first introduced into some countries, the rate of driving fatalities did not decline because people started driving more recklessly. But after a few years, there were rapid declines as driving behaviour shifted back to its usual level of recklessness.The evidence linking access to affordable and effective contraception (compared to unaffordable or less effective contraception) with an increase in wickedness is very hard to come by. Perhaps one could argue that the original arrival of more effective contraception was one triggering factor in the sexual revolution of the 60s, but there is no going back in any straightforward way to pre-60s sexuality (and there all kinds of gains of the cultural revolutions of the 60s that are to be applauded too). In a post sexual revolution society in which contraception is ubiquitous and normal, then ensuring that people have access to the most affordable and effective forms is a fairly straightforward moral good in my book.

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  14. Brad Littlejohn

    Dan,Thanks, all is forgiven. We'll leave this discussion there for now. And Byron,Still disagree, but given that this is really a very distinct line of conversation from most of the rest of this comments thread, and that the post in question is like a month old, and that I could use a little break from controversy at least on one front, I'll let this lie for now.

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  15. Daniel Bakken

    Brad,Thanks for extending forgiveness. Now back to critiquing your post:

    "…many Christians will see this as a silly discussion with an obvious answer…"

    Why are you surprised when one actually shows up and starts laughing at your silly word games?

    "…I lamented the "chasm of mutual incomprehension" that had opened up in American public life, and I am convinced that nothing is so paralyzing to life together as incomprehension."

    John described your chasm of mutual incomprehension this way: "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." It's darkness which doesn't understand light. But light by its nature comprehends and overcomes darkness. What fellowship ("life together") does light have with darkness?

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  16. Daniel Bakken

    Brad accuses me of judging others using principles I made up myself:

    You, on the other hand, are determined to judge all other Christians at the bar of an extra-Scriptural principle that you have exalted as absolutely normative—"Never vote for someone complicit in grave evil (of which abortion is an example)." And then you suggest that I'm engaged in the kind of Pharisaical reasoning that Jesus would've condemned. The shoe, I think, is on the other foot.

    My extra-Scriptural Pharisaical reasoning is actually straight from the Prophets. Isaiah has hard words for pro-abortion leaders (the rulers of Sodom) and anyone supporting them (the people of Gomorrah):

    Hear the word of the Lord,You rulers of Sodom;Give ear to the law of our God,You people of Gomorrah:“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?”Says the Lord.“I have had enough of burnt offerings of ramsAnd the fat of fed cattle.I do not delight in the blood of bulls,Or of lambs or goats.“When you come to appear before Me,Who has required this from your hand,To trample My courts?Bring no more futile sacrifices;Incense is an abomination to Me.The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.Your New Moons and your appointed feastsMy soul hates;They are a trouble to Me,I am weary of bearing them.When you spread out your hands,I will hide My eyes from you;Even though you make many prayers,I will not hear.Your hands are full of blood.“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.Cease to do evil,Learn to do good;Seek justice,Rebuke the oppressor;Defend the fatherless,Plead for the widow.“Come now, and let us reason together,”Says the Lord,“Though your sins are like scarlet,They shall be as white as snow;Though they are red like crimson,They shall be as wool.If you are willing and obedient,You shall eat the good of the land;But if you refuse and rebel,You shall be devoured by the sword”;For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.How the faithful city has become a harlot!It was full of justice;Righteousness lodged in it,But now murderers.Your silver has become dross,Your wine mixed with water.Your princes are rebellious,And companions of thieves;Everyone loves bribes,And follows after rewards.They do not defend the fatherless,Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.

    God judges his people more severely than those outside. Jeremiah won't let us off easy either:

    ‘For among My people are found wicked men;They lie in wait as one who sets snares;They set a trap;They catch men.As a cage is full of birds,So their houses are full of deceit.Therefore they have become great and grown rich.They have grown fat, they are sleek;Yes, they surpass the deeds of the wicked;They do not plead the cause,The cause of the fatherless;Yet they prosper,And the right of the needy they do not defend.Shall I not punish them for these things?’ says the Lord.‘Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?’

    The wicked men are found among "My people," not only Planned Parenthood activists and those who murder babies. We share their guilt when we do not defend the fatherless.The Prophet Jeremiah provides this simple voting guide: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place." Please explain how a vote for Barack Obama isn't the exact opposite of what God here commands. No doubt the venerable traditions of Protestant casuistry and two kingdoms theology will excuse us from our duty to heed these warnings.

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  17. Matthew N. Petersen

    DanI'm confused, I thought this sort of polemic was what you apologized for. The issue is that the Scriptures no where say that a vote for Obama is to endorse him fully, and a Christian could consistently believe that voting for Obama was the best way to care for the fatherless and widow, for instance, because of Obamacare, because of his economic plans, and because of his environmental policy. Another could argue that abortion outweighs those issues. And Scripture does not adjudicate between the two. Let each be convinced in his own mind.Aj: http://bit.ly/SMs7P9

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  18. Brad,You write, “The point of this post was merely to say that Obama's stance on abortion does not necessarily in itself constitute a bar to voting for him.”Sure, I understand people who personally oppose abortion may decide to vote for Obama because of other reasons they find compelling. Besides, the cat’s already out of the bag and there’s no way Roe is going to be reversed any time soon. I get it; I just don’t think the reasoning is sound.The reasoning is unsound because it fails to account for the significant place abortion occupies in Obama’s moral agenda. It avoids identifying abortion’s role in facilitating the kind of society he’s groping towards. Pregnancy and childbirth will always be obstacles for liberal progressivism to overcome in order to achieve the level of equal involvement and equal pay for women in the workforce liberal progressives want.Further, it fails to explain why abortion’s still a divisive issue if public policy has already been set in stone. Sure, you mentioned the general truth of the representative element in politics. However, you failed to forthrightly evaluate Obama’s constituency and agenda as Escalante and Wedgeworth do:“The Democrats’ full embrace of the culture of death makes voting for them very difficult on Christian principles. They have been shameless in their identification of “healthcare” with abortion and even outright unchastity and immorality, and they have made no secret that “women’s rights” is a euphemism for abortion. And while we demur from hasty judgments that Obamacare directly equals theft, it is certainly true that the bureaucratic welfare State in its present form is directly destructive of civil society and the family, and Obamacare will very likely make things worse for actual hospitals, doctors, and patients.”Despite dangers of “mystifying the voting process”, my position is that a vote for Obama registers a basic, if general, approval of where he’s taking the country. And, Christians—especially—should be heavily weighing the moral vision of each of the *candidates* they’re considering endorsing. I’m not arguing based on what the voting process abstractly is for the Christian. I’m arguing based on: a) what voting objectively is, and especially, b) what it means to vote for Barack Obama. And, I’m well aware that not everyone who voted for Obama presently is consciously committed to every element of the liberal progressive agenda. Such isn’t necessary for my analysis to be true, though. The vast majority of Obama’s supporters are partisans of that agenda because they acquiesce in the ideal outcome held forth by that agenda as good: fairness (or, social justice). Every sex, sexual orientation, race, color, culture, etc., must be equally distributed throughout every sector of society, ultimately, in equal numbers. The level of difficulty encountered in rectifying “inequality” will inevitably be seen as proof of on-going and deep-seated institutional sexism, racism, bigotry, etc. This is what “fairness” apart from natural law and divine justice means: homogeneity, androgyny, sameness. It is the rejection of the hierarchical principle, the principle of order. Fairness must ultimately lead to the purely egalitarian society.In time, Americans seduced by the liberal progressive god will come to willingly embrace each and every measure necessary to achieve the liberal progressive paradise they crave.So, I do not argue against economic re-distribution per se. I reject Obama’s type of re-distribution which finds its root motivation in the egalitarian impulse and its logic in liberal progressivism.Brad, you write:“Most Obama voters shared his views on a number of issues, and disagreed with him on a number of issues. They voted for him not to "register moral approval" of his worldview (and I'm not convinced that even he has such a coherent worldview as you suggest), Your method of breaking everything down into separate or tangential (if at all related) issues merely serves to hide the forest for the trees. BTW, I don’t think the liberal progressive w…v is coherent at all.You continue:“but, for the most part, because they thought he was going to do more good than harm for America—on issues such as taxation, stimulating the economy, keeping America out of war, concern for the environment, etc. We need to get real and realize that most voters are too busy worrying about everyday struggles and anxieties to give a darn about these worldview issues we intellectuals are so obsessed with.”This is just special pleading. The masses didn’t vote for Obama because they carefully examined each issue as you have done. They voted for Obama because they bought into some very simple ideas:1. Taxation: The rich need to pay their fair share. 2. Economy: More government spending on education (!), welfare, and corporate bailouts will get us through these tough economic times.3. War: Let’s reduce our support for Israel and increase our support for her enemies. It’s more *fair*. Also, it’s okay to destabilize regimes in the Middle East as long as a Democrat is doing it. Things will be better once Kaddafi, Mubarak, and Assad are out of the picture.4. Environment: Climate change is *in large part* anthropogenic (caused by human activities).Need I go into the particulars of how each of these positions—rather, orientations—illustrates the liberal progressive paradigm?It's not necessary to be some kind of high falutin' intellectual to think in terms of a dominant cultural paradigm.

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  19. Daniel – the way you frame your quotes from Jeremiah apparently implies that you believe the contemporary USA is a fairly direct parallel of OT Israel and is in some way the people of God. Have I misunderstood?Andrew – 1. The rich do need to pay their fair share.2. Most discretionary federal government spending goes to the military.3. You really think that Israel is at the forefront of Democratic voters' minds? Obama has frequently been to the right of Bush in his support for the Israeli government and its crimes. As for destabilising regimes: do you have proof that the Obama administration has been instigating such instability? The US State Dept continued to support Mubarak longer than any other developed nation. One significant trigger for much of the instability was the publication of the US State Dept files by WikiLeaks – an act that the Obama administration has aggressively sought to prosecute (with more than a little double standards showing).4. Another significant trigger for the Arab Spring was a global food price spike (all the initial demonstrations were about the price of bread), with three main causes: (a) biofuels policies in the EU and US (with bipartisan support), (b) speculation on financial markets centred in London and NYC and (c) extreme weather events made more likely by anthropogenic climate change, an issue on which the US has long been the single largest roadblock to a serious international agreement. Accepting the mainstream science on climate is not liberal. It is accepted by the hippies at the CIA and Pentagon and was first raised on the international stage by Margaret Thatcher, who helped kick off the UN process to address it. It is supported by explicit statements from the national scientific academies of every major developed nation (and pretty much all the rest of the world that have a credible national scientific academy) and has been accepted by every single national government in the world (of all stripes).

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  20. Daniel Bakken

    Byron, I don't believe America is the new Israel. I was primarily referring to the American church, since the topic is Christians voting. It's clear from the New Testament that the church is the new Israel. Therefore warnings given to Israel now apply to the church. As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:

    Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

    That said, I think warnings from the Prophets could apply to America and other modern nations, without believing any of them are the new Israel. God judges pagan nations and empires for great evil.

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  21. Byron,First of all, I’d like to get something out of the way. You write to Daniel,"…the way you frame your quotes from Jeremiah apparently implies that you believe the contemporary USA is a fairly direct parallel of OT Israel etc."There's someone you really ought to get to know. His name is Steve Zrimec and he runs interference for Darryl "2K" Hart. Steve writes over at The Confessional Outhouse, but is also a heavy contributor to the discussions at Hart's Old Life. His thought processes bear a marked similarity to yours and I'm sure you could cooperate together in your endeavors to make Christianity safe for liberal progressivism.Second, Byron, thank you for demonstrating how far you agree with the basic ideas I presented as representative of liberal progressivism. It’s good to have a verified target to shoot at.You write (to me):"The rich do need to pay their fair share."Sure they do. Give me definitions of "rich" and "fair share" and we can discuss what percentage of their income can equitably be confiscated for the public good. What liberal progressives think is fair isn’t necessarily so.More, more, more is neither a reasonable nor just demand.Until you start acknowledging limits, Byron, there's no hope for you. There's a limit beyond which it is unjust to tax. This limit is independent of the urgent needs of the poor. Once maximum just tax revenues are allocated, additional expenses cannot be afforded. The USG cannot (and shall not) afford everything it is currently attempting to do. "Most discretionary federal government spending goes to the military."Perhaps you could explain the relevance of this fact. ISTM, more flexibility is needed for military needs. Domestic needs can be fairly anticipated and planned for. Why aren't you being honest about all the mandatory domestic items that far exceed military spending?In order to have more funding for critical social needs that you want, cuts should be made to the least necessary and least effective items on the budget.Besides, to bring up military spending here distracts from my point. The things I listed (welfare, education, corporate bailouts) only serve to maintain the current impractical status quo and do nothing to grow the economy or improve present unacceptable social conditions."You really think that Israel is at the forefront of Democratic voters' minds? Obama has frequently been to the right of Bush in his support for the Israeli government and its crimes."You're right. It was a poor example. A better one would have been the widespread idea that diplomatic negotiations and bilateral alliances have a better chance of achieving peace than terms dictated from a position of strength—the ability and will to direct harsh retributive action against populations unwilling to peacefully comply."As for destabilizing regimes: do you have proof that the Obama administration has been instigating such instability?"Did I say instigate? No. But, Kaddafi would still be in power without our aid and support of the rebels. Mubarak's military regime could easily have squashed the opposition and Assad's regime would presently be secure. Didn't you learn anything from Iran (1979)? Oh, I know; you were probably born in 1981. "One significant trigger for much of the instability was the publication of the US State Dept files by WikiLeaks … Another significant trigger for the Arab Spring was a global food price spike, etc.”These are historical catalysts, not personal causes. You entirely leave out the intentional political element. Arab Spring was not a spontaneous uprising of “the people.” Anyone who thinks this is a romantic fool. It was a massive organized political takeover orchestrated by up-and-coming Islamist groups to overthrow the old secular regimes throughout the region. The Islamists felt free to move because they had assurances of support from Washington. In 2010, Barack Obama initiated a major shift in U.S. foreign policy: to cease emphasizing stability and to support “change” and “democracy” in the area. For documentation, see David Ignatius’ article, “Obama’s Calculated Gamble”.After the revolution in Libya began, when the Libyan rebels looked like they might lose, the U.S., the U.K., and France stepped in. This signaled to rebels all over the region that they could count on the West’s active support of their power grab. The difference between Republican and Democratic presidential administrations in their respective efforts to democratize the Middle East is the difference between sanity and lunacy. Bush II took over two countries and imposed new constitutions, committing the U.S. to stay as long as necessary to give the infant republics their best chance of survival without being hijacked by Islamic extremists. Our hope was to withdraw after stabilization, allowing self-government to proceed.Obama has allowed chaos to unleash throughout the entire region, romantically hoping the outcome will be beneficial to Western interests. The U.S. was repaid on September 11, 2001 for its support of the Afghan Mujahedeen during the Soviet occupation. I’m sure the Islamic Brotherhood is eagerly looking forward to a similar opportunity to repay us for our support of the Arab Spring. “Accepting the mainstream science on climate is not liberal. It is accepted by the hippies at the CIA and Pentagon and was first raised on the international stage by Margaret Thatcher, who helped kick off the UN process to address it, etc.”Please provide the quantitative effect of any anthropogenic factor on any global climate metric you wish. For example, enlighten us on how much atmospheric CO2 is produced by human activity—within say, a 20-point range of accuracy. This figure should be supported by the independent research of several scientific authorities.Let me save you some time. You won’t find any such figure, because atmospheric measurements do not (and cannot) correlate cause and effect by themselves, especially causes and effects as complex as “human activity” and “the earth’s climate.” Discrete causal phenomena must be observed and measured; discrete phenomenal effects must likewise be observed and measured. Patterns must actually be observed to occur. Eventually, quantitative effects must be predicted with a degree of reliability. All these things must be happening in order for genuine science to be taking place. “Scientists agree” and “Scientists have found” represent two very different realms of knowledge requiring very different levels of assent. The first is a class of opinion—informed opinion, but opinion nonetheless. The second represents knowledge that has been discovered through actual empirical observation. If the world were governed by honest inquiry, with a minimum of politicized science, I’d normally defer to the “consensus of scientific opinion.” However, the scientific research establishment has been sublimated through the corrupting influences of research grants, peer review, and bureaucratization. There is rarely such a thing as independent science anymore; scientific organizations mainly serve to produce grist for the political mill in the form of scientific study papers.Read Dr. Bruce Charlton on science.The U.S. and every other major developed nation is governed by a liberal regime. Margaret Thatcher was a right-liberal. All liberals, both right-liberals and left-liberals, naively believe “Science” tells us truths about the world, that it can predict the future, and that scientific “facts” imply what actions ought to be taken.The idea that human activities are currently rendering the world uninhabitable or are disrupting the planet’s eco-system on a globally disastrous scale is preposterous. It’s the stuff of apocalyptic science fiction.However, climate change is a highly useful political concept, much more useful than global warming. It was necessary to replace “global warming” language with “climate change” language, because every area of human activity must be subjected to the control of technological experts in interests of ecological sustainability. It’s all about cowing the populace into compliance under the rule of their techno-bureaucratic masters.

    Like

  22. ***Here is my comment with working hyperlinks***Byron,First of all, I’d like to get something out of the way. You write to Daniel,"…the way you frame your quotes from Jeremiah apparently implies that you believe the contemporary USA is a fairly direct parallel of OT Israel etc."There's someone you really ought to get to know. His name is Steve Zrimec and he runs interference for Darryl "2K" Hart. Steve writes over at The Confessional Outhouse, but is also a heavy contributor to the discussions at Hart's Old Life. His thought processes bear a marked similarity to yours and I'm sure you could cooperate together in your endeavors to make Christianity safe for liberal progressivism.Second, Byron, thank you for demonstrating how far you agree with the basic ideas I presented as representative of liberal progressivism. It’s good to have a verified target to shoot at.You write (to me):"The rich do need to pay their fair share."Sure they do. Give me definitions of "rich" and "fair share" and we can discuss what percentage of their income can equitably be confiscated for the public good. What liberal progressives think is fair isn’t necessarily so.More, more, more is neither a reasonable nor just demand.Until you start acknowledging limits, Byron, there's no hope for you. There's a limit beyond which it is unjust to tax. This limit is independent of the urgent needs of the poor. Once maximum just tax revenues are allocated, additional expenses cannot be afforded. The USG cannot (and shall not) afford everything it is currently attempting to do. "Most discretionary federal government spending goes to the military."Perhaps you could explain the relevance of this fact. ISTM, more flexibility is needed for military needs. Domestic needs can be fairly anticipated and planned for. Why aren't you being honest about all the mandatory domestic items that far exceed military spending?In order to have more funding for critical social needs that you want, cuts should be made to the least necessary and least effective items on the budget.Besides, to bring up military spending here distracts from my point. The things I listed (welfare, education, corporate bailouts) only serve to maintain the current impractical status quo and do nothing to grow the economy or improve present unacceptable social conditions."You really think that Israel is at the forefront of Democratic voters' minds? Obama has frequently been to the right of Bush in his support for the Israeli government and its crimes."You're right. It was a poor example. A better one would have been the widespread idea that diplomatic negotiations and bilateral alliances have a better chance of achieving peace than terms dictated from a position of strength—the ability and will to direct harsh retributive action against populations unwilling to peacefully comply."As for destabilizing regimes: do you have proof that the Obama administration has been instigating such instability?"Did I say instigate? No. But, Kaddafi would still be in power without our aid and support of the rebels. Mubarak's military regime could easily have squashed the opposition and Assad's regime would presently be secure. Didn't you learn anything from Iran (1979)? Oh, I know; you were probably born in 1981. "One significant trigger for much of the instability was the publication of the US State Dept files by WikiLeaks … Another significant trigger for the Arab Spring was a global food price spike, etc.”These are historical catalysts, not personal causes. You entirely leave out the intentional political element. Arab Spring was not a spontaneous uprising of “the people.” Anyone who thinks this is a romantic fool. It was a massive organized political takeover orchestrated by up-and-coming Islamist groups to overthrow the old secular regimes throughout the region. The Islamists felt free to move because they had assurances of support from Washington. In 2010, Barack Obama initiated a major shift in U.S. foreign policy: to cease emphasizing stability and to support “change” and “democracy” in the area. For documentation, see David Ignatius’ article, “Obama’s Calculated Gamble”.After the revolution in Libya began, when the Libyan rebels looked like they might lose, the U.S., the U.K., and France stepped in. This signaled to rebels all over the region that they could count on the West’s active support of their power grab. The difference between Republican and Democratic presidential administrations in their respective efforts to democratize the Middle East is the difference between sanity and lunacy. Bush II took over two countries and imposed new constitutions, committing the U.S. to stay as long as necessary to give the infant republics their best chance of survival without being hijacked by Islamic extremists. Our hope was to withdraw after stabilization, allowing self-government to proceed.Obama has allowed chaos to unleash throughout the entire region, romantically hoping the outcome will be beneficial to Western interests. The U.S. was repaid on September 11, 2001 for its support of the Afghan Mujahedeen during the Soviet occupation. I’m sure the Islamic Brotherhood is eagerly looking forward to a similar opportunity to repay us for our support of the Arab Spring. “Accepting the mainstream science on climate is not liberal. It is accepted by the hippies at the CIA and Pentagon and was first raised on the international stage by Margaret Thatcher, who helped kick off the UN process to address it, etc.”Please provide the quantitative effect of any anthropogenic factor on any global climate metric you wish. For example, enlighten us on how much atmospheric CO2 is produced by human activity—within say, a 20-point range of accuracy. This figure should be supported by the independent research of several scientific authorities.Let me save you some time. You won’t find any such figure, because atmospheric measurements do not (and cannot) correlate cause and effect by themselves, especially causes and effects as complex as “human activity” and “the earth’s climate.” Discrete causal phenomena must be observed and measured; discrete phenomenal effects must likewise be observed and measured. Patterns must actually be observed to occur. Eventually, quantitative effects must be predicted with a degree of reliability. All these things must be happening in order for genuine science to be taking place. “Scientists agree” and “Scientists have found” represent two very different realms of knowledge requiring very different levels of assent. The first is a class of opinion—informed opinion, but opinion nonetheless. The second represents knowledge that has been discovered through actual empirical observation. If the world were governed by honest inquiry, with a minimum of politicized science, I’d normally defer to the “consensus of scientific opinion.” However, the scientific research establishment has been sublimated through the corrupting influences of research grants, peer review, and bureaucratization. There is rarely such a thing as independent science anymore; scientific organizations mainly serve to produce grist for the political mill in the form of scientific study papers.Read Dr. Bruce Charlton on science.The U.S. and every other major developed nation is governed by a liberal regime. Margaret Thatcher was a right-liberal. All liberals, both right-liberals and left-liberals, naively believe “Science” tells us truths about the world, that it can predict the future, and that scientific “facts” imply what actions ought to be taken.The idea that human activities are currently rendering the world uninhabitable or are disrupting the planet’s eco-system on a globally disastrous scale is preposterous. It’s the stuff of apocalyptic science fiction.However, climate change is a highly useful political concept, much more useful than global warming. It was necessary to replace “global warming” language with “climate change” language, because every area of human activity must be subject to the control of technological experts in interests of ecological sustainability. It’s all about cowing the populace into compliance under the rule of their techno-bureaucratic masters.

    Like

  23. Scott

    Ban abortion such that women with unwanted pregnancies are forced to carry them to term against their wishes? Ain't gonna happen. Ask your female friends why they had their abortion if you're interested in hearing what situations might lead to 1 out of every 3 women to undergo such a procedure. Regarding politics, abortion is simply a vote getter for pro-life candidates offering up empty promises of banning abortion and deliver nothing in return once elected. Aside from that, abortion bans simply can not stand up to legal challenges and will be struck down by court after court as unconstitutional just like most all other restrictions such as gun control, sodomy laws, interracial marriage bans, same sex marriage bans, segregation, and so on.

    Like

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