With one more vacancy on the Supreme Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a woman’s fundamental right to choose [to have an abortion] for the first time since Roe v. Wade. The next president may be asked to nominate that Supreme Court justice.
Throughout my career, I’ve been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
In response to such statements from the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, as well as to the party’s 2008 platform, Charles J. Chaput, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Denver, pulled no punches in an address last week to a conference of Catholic women.
I believe that Senator Obama, whatever his other talents, is the most committed ‘abortion-rights’ presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973….
The party platform Senator Obama runs on this year is not only aggressively ‘pro-choice;’ it has also removed any suggestion that killing an unborn child might be a regrettable thing.
On the question of homicide against the unborn child — and let’s remember that the great Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer explicitly called abortion ‘murder’ — the Democratic platform that emerged from Denver in August 2008 is clearly anti-life.
Archbishop Chaput isn’t alone among Catholic leaders. One political commentator observed that “the Roman Catholic leadership has never been this united or this vocal in denouncing the agenda of a nominee.”
In Scranton, Pa., hometown of Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, Catholic bishop Joseph Martino directed his priests to read a pastoral letter at all masses on Oct. 4 and Oct. 5 in which the bishop noted that that “pro-choice candidates” are living out a “tragic irony”: they “have come to support homicide — the gravest injustice a society can tolerate — in the name of ‘social justice.'”
Although an uninformed observer might see such statements as “political,” the reality is that these and other Catholic leaders are simply urging Catholics to live out long-held moral teachings of the Church, teachings that through the centuries have often run counter to the prevailing culture.
And the appeals made by these leaders are being presented clearly in the context of Christian discipleship. As Bishop Martino put it in his pastoral letter: “Our Lord, Jesus Christ…does not ask us to take up his Cross only to have us leave it at the voting booth door.”
Strong language. Not the sort of thing you would hear from any Methodist leaders I know.
But let’s think about this.
Aren’t we, too, a people who — as Christian disciples — profess belief in the “sanctity of unborn human life” (UM Book of Discipline)? Don’t we say that we “cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control” (which account for an estimated 75 percent of abortions) and we “unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection”?
Perhaps we aren’t as bold in our speech as the Catholics (Hmm, didn’t we used to be “back in the day”?), but at least we’re willing to take up our cross and carry it into the voting booth!
Or are we? Do we still have the conviction to live out a biblically rooted moral code that runs counter the culture?
Thinking more: I sense that many United Methodists (and other Christians) are leaning toward voting for Sen. Obama, not so much because they agree with his economic and social views, or because they are confident regarding his judgment, but because of a sense of “white guilt” over past sins. By voting for Sen. Obama, they somehow hope to “make up for” the sins of the past.
Yes, we have racial sins in our past, nationally and denominationally. And we ought to decry them.
But shouldn’t we be more concerned about the sins of the present and the future? After all, these are the sins over which we have some control.
The reality is that left unchecked, legal abortion — which Sen. Obama is squarely behind — will continue to claim hundreds of thousands of innocent lives each year. And (speaking of race-based sin) let us remember that abortion disproportionately affects black and Hispanic children. The abortion rate for black women is 49 per 1,000 women. For Hispanic women, the rate is 33 per 1,000. The rate for white women is 13 per 1,000.
In other words, while abortion is violence against children generally, it has its severest cultural impact among black and Hispanic populations. Do we want to be complicit in this, just so we can feel better about our past?
We need to remember that the first General Rule of the United Methodist Church is: “Do no harm.”
UPDATE: From “Faithful Citizenship — Respect for Life,” issued Oct. 23 by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia:
The human dignity that we proclaim works two ways: it affords us a great privilege but it also demands a responsibility. The feeble defense ‘I did not know’ cannot be used by any responsible person in our time when confronted with the reality of abortion. We do know. We know because we can reason and think and see….
It is not a question of politics but a question of the gravest of intrinsic evils; and just as the reality of what it is cannot be explained away, neither can our responsibility.
A word about California, Florida, and Arizona, where the definition of marriage will on the ballot on Nov. 4. As United Methodists, we say we “affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in…shared fidelity between a man and a woman.” We even “support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Will these precepts regarding marriage, rooted in two-thousand years of Christian teaching, make any difference to Methodist voters in those states? I hope so, but I’m not too sure. Indeed, some UMs in California are working on the opposite side of the issue.
At least the Lutherans (LCMS) are willing to stand up for what they say they believe.
The UM Book of Discipline reminds us (Article XII, The Confession of Faith) of the biblical truth that someday we will all “stand under the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ.” A sobering thought.
John Wesley, in his sermon The Good Steward (PDF), wrote that one aspect of that judgment is likely to be this question from the Judge: “Didst thou employ… whatever advantages thou hadst by education, whatever share of learning, [and] whatever knowledge… was committed thee, for the promoting of virtue in the world?”
Because we live in society in which people have the privilege of electing their leaders, a key means available to us for promoting virtue is the voting booth. May we take up that responsibility with a keen sense of our stewardship.
Here is a personal prayer for Election 2008 (I hope you will make it your own):
Righteous Judge, I am a steward of what belongs to you. By your Spirit and your Word, help me to judge righteously in the choices I make in this election, to the end that your will may done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
- Party Platforms and the UMC – part one | part two
- Democrats, Methodists, and Abortion Policy
- ‘Enough is Enough’