Yesterday I wrote about how the abortion issue has shifted within our culture. I suggested that we needed to take a new approach to creating a culture of life and to the end of saving as many of the unborn as possible.
First some history. Evangelicals came to the pro-life issue several years after Roman Catholics. They initially even showed a willingness to accept it until people like C. Everett Koop, Francis Schaeffer and Harold O. J. Brown began to inform them of their mistakes. Then evangelicals responded the way they often respond. They got emotionally and passionately involved. Some even made this the "single most important issue" of our time. The rhetoric employed made it sound like a Nazi-like holocaust was unfolding in the United States. This approach, in my view, made things worse. Even if you believe that a real human life is taken in an abortion, and I strongly do, serious ethical consideration will force you to approach this issue differently than the way we understand the Holocaust. Language of "equivalency" in this case actually harmed the movement. It amounted to "the little boy who cried fire" much too often. We lost the moral high ground and the real reason was the sexual revolution, not Roe v. Wade. The church lost the abortion issue twenty-five years before Roe v. Wade and still doesn't understand how or why.
We should also ask a question I rarely hear emotionally charged pro-life advocates ask: "Do you want to criminalize the mothers who choose abortion?"
But Catholics always had a solid answer on abortion since they had a more healthy wholistic view of sexual ethics in general. The problem is that Catholics are now about 50-50 on the issue of abortion. The less faithful they are to Mass attendance the more likely they are to embrace abortion. Even the American bishops are sending some confusing signals and do not completely agree with each other about how to respond to this issue. (They agree on pro-life itself but not on a response to their members who disagree!)
Pope Benedict XVI has a lot more wisdom to offer than most realize. In September, speaking in France, the pope approved the separation of church and state openly. (Does anyone realize how much of a shift this is from 100 years ago?) But the pope rightly reminded us that the church has an "irreplacable role" in forming the conscience of people and helping them "create a basic ethical consensus in society."
This is what the church in America, including many non-Catholic churches, have been doing but their approach has had a "scattershot" effect. By 2008 we can see that these uncoordinated and ineffective responses have had diminishing results. The U.S. Bishops sugest that a new program be launched to educate Catholics and help them form a Christian conscience. The approach will be largely free of political partisanship.
I resonnate with this reading of Benedict XVI's words. I pray that many of you will find ways to educate Christians in your churches without making this into another round of partisan political rhetoric at each election time. This is the only way we can make a real difference and we ought to realize it at this point in time. Every pastor and church leader who reads this blog has to know that you are presently leading a number of people who have had abortions and a number who will yet have one unless they are taught clearly the moral reasons to respond to life more positively.
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What is remembered more often is not the Pope’s measured response but the priests and bishops that refuse communion because someone openly advocates voting for a Democrat.