Cooperation without Conformity

I’ve had a lot of people in the last couple of days ask me why I have such a problem with the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. As an isolated, political event, I don’t really have a problem with it. Yesterday showed that an interestingly diverse group of people can rally around a common ideal (free speech) and draw attention to social ills in a peaceful manner.

But yesterday wasn’t a single, isolated event. In fact, there’s no such thing as a single, isolated event. All events have a cause and an effect, and my concern lies within the big picture of which the CFA Appreciation Day is a part.

Using our political freedoms to exercise our faith can be a tangled, complicated mess. It’s a mess worth making, but we must be careful not to confuse faith and politics. CFA Day was a political statement, and the support was shown, by Christians, for a brother in Christ. For many, it was both a political AND a faith statement. And that’s ok.

But here’s the thing to recognize: Organized boycotts and support events tend to accelerate and polarize. The cycle becomes a cold war of revenge, and that’s an attitude and action of the world, not of Christ.

Let’s just look at the CFA Day as an example:

1. Dan Cathy makes a statement about his support of biblical marriage.

A Christian using his American right of free speech.

2. Gay activists take offense and decide to boycott Chick-fil-a.

A political/social rights group using their American right of free speech.

3. A couple of politicians declare that Chick-Fil-A will not receive any more building permits in their cities.

Politicians abusing their political power in an attempt to legislate their personal opinions.

4. Even the most liberal of newspapers and political commentators denounce the decisions of politicians and lawsuits are filed claiming the blocks on permits are illegal.

The American systems of free speech and the courts work! Freedom and democracy survive to live another day.

It could have stopped there. But instead of decelerating the situation, backing away, watching and seeing how things worked out, an Appreciation Day was announced. The situation is instead accelerated. Here’s where the problem begins.
Yesterday could have been a great day of unity and support and fun, and from what I understand, that’s exactly what it was for most people.

But for some, that’s not enough, and their political idolatry bent has been exposed. Yesterday wasn’t just about supporting a brother in Christ; it was about one upping the “enemy.” This morning, Mike Huckabee didn’t post a “Thanks for Supporting Free Speech and Dan Cathy” post on his Facebook page.

He posted this:

Talk about loving support of a brother in Christ. Looks more like an arrogant “We win, you lose” baiting of an enemy on the playground. Might as well have stuck his tongue out at the political left.

This is political gamesmanship, not Christian humility and brotherly support. Do not confuse the two.

Before I go further, let me be clear that this is not a personal attack on Mike Huckabee, nor is it a political attack from a ticked off liberal. I’m a card-carrying Republican, supporter of small government and personal responsibility. And in this case, personal responsibility means engaging others in a responsible and Christ-honoring manner.

Back to the post:
Since a politician made a political move, no one should be surprised that the left has responded in kind.

There’s a Same Sex Kiss In planned at Chick-fil-a restaurants on Friday.

Where does it stop?

Apparently not here.

Because now, instead of Christians participating in a worldly system in a Christianly manner, some Christians are adopting worldly systems to express moral displeasure with businesses.

And when it comes to boycotts, we don’t fare well. In fact, it usually just brings mockery to the name of Christ. Remember the Disney boycott declared by the SBC? Million Moms against JC Penny’s when they named Ellen as their spokesperson? Some are now threatening to boycott AMAZON.

When we play the the world’s game, the world doesn’t back down, graciously accept defeat and walk away. The world reacts and further accelerates the situation. As believers, will we continue to play the game, further polarizing people, trying to only do business only with those who believe just like us?

As believers we should use the systems put in place by God for our benefit and for us to benefit others without falling into the ugly and broken portions of the system. Government is ordained by God for our good and can be used for the good of all. Political gamesmanship is a negative use of government and Christians should have no part of it.

When Israel was in captivity in a foreign land, God gave them strict instructions to be active participants in the culture in which they lived. He told them to build houses, plant gardens, do business.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:4-7

And they were to do this, cooperate with the people of Babylon to build a mutually beneficial culture, without conforming to the behavior and beliefs of the Babylonians. They were to be in the world, but not of the world.

As believers in the political realm, we should do the same. We can cooperate without conforming.

Think that is an impossible goal?

There’s a tiny island off the coast of Tunisia that proves you wrong. I used to show this short video to my geography classes as a conversation starter to discuss the ways that government and culture enable us to peacefully cooperate with those who disagree with us without conforming to their religious or cultural beliefs.

We could all learn a lesson from Djerba Island.

Why this Faithful Evangelical is not Voting for Barack Obama

I don’t normally blog about political issues. I am not a staunch party line voter, either. Those who know me well know I am a political nerd and watch more MSNBC, CNN, and FOXNews than should be allowed by law. I’ve voted for Repbulicans, Democrats, and even the occassional Independent in my voting experience. But I generally keep my potentially devicive opinions concerning politics to myself in hopes of keeping every avenue possible open for sharing the Gospel with an unbelieving world. Paul says we should be all things to all men in hopes of winning some, and I usually attemtpt to follow that loosely by staying quiet concerning political issues.

However, the time eventually comes when the political season brings moral issues into play, and this year’s election is revealing a sharp contrast between what many claim to believe and how they are actually living their lives. Those who claim to be both politically liberal and evangelically Christian claim that the “right to life” is a “right-wing” fundamentalist issue in which people are close minded and “one issue” voters. A close look at Scripture would show that, under that definition, our God is Himself a right-wing fundamentalist who upholds human life above all other issues.

As the one member of creation which Scripture states was made in the image of God, as the only creature in creation given free will and a soul, as the only creature for whom Christ came to die, we should see right to life (both at the beginning and the end of a life here on earth) not as single issue voting, but as foundational to our belief system. Human life should be the starting point of consideration of any candidate. Where he or she stands on issues such as economics, health care, and the environment pale in comparison to the stance taken on life given by God.

I will not deny that issues like the war in Iraq, the current state of our economy, and our looming health care crisis are important issues. But the truth of the matter is that these issues have largely been created by poor choices of selfish American adults. Impulse, materialistic purchasing can be largely blamed for our economic crisis. We bought more than we needed with money we did not have and now we are paying the consequences. Our health issues could be slashed overnight if we would simply eat better, eat less, exercise more, and quit smoking, drinking, overworking, and overeating. We want the government to legislate solutions for our poor decisions. While the war in Iraq was created by the poor choices of a few Americans, every soldier currently serving there is in the military by choice (at least they originally enlisted by choice and therefore joined knowing that going to war was a possibility) and most would not return home early if given the chance. Those in the military generally have a high ethic of personal responsibility and dedication to seeing a job through to the end, whether or not that job was created for the right reasons.

While the issues at the top of the democratic platform have been caused largely by the choices of a self-seeking people, the issue of right to life is in the best interest of those who are not able to speak or choose for themselves. No one asks a fetus if it would like to be born. Many times, no one asks the stroke victim or the injured or the elderly if they would like to see the natural end of their days. Those at both the beginning and end of their lives usually have no voice for themselves and are at the mercy of others to seek protection and support.

We are mandated in Scripture to care for the orphaned and the widowed. These are specific terms for two large groups of people who represent one thing: a population that cannot care for itself. We would be wise to remember that, as evangelical believers, we base our belief system on the fact that we were helpless in our sin, without choice, incapable of saving ourselves, and a loving Father sent His Son to die in our place so that we would have the right to eternal life.

Separation of church and state does not mean you leave your religion in your car when enter the polling area. Scripture is clear that as Christians, all decisions we make should be made looking through the lens of Scripture with the glory of God being both the means and the ends of the decision we ultimately make.

Please read the following article carefully and with an open mind. It was not written by a right-wing, fundamentalist religious fanatic or a theologian or seminary professor, but by a secular professor of jurisprudence and senior fellow at Princeton University.

“Why Faithful Evangelicals Cannot Vote for Barack Obama”

By: Daniel L. Akin

It is incumbent upon every believer, when they are active in the American political process, to vote their conscience and to further let their conscience be guided by the Word of God. Nowhere is this more important than in the area of abortion, an issue on which God’s Word is abundantly clear. In light of recent secular media reports and pollster predictions that many evangelicals may be supporting Democratic nominee Barack Obama for president, I found the following article by Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University to be compelling. Please read it as you become more informed about the candidates and how you can vote on election day in such a way that glorifies Jesus.”

Obama’s Abortion Extremism

Robert P. George

Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States.  He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate.  Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.

Yet there are Catholics and Evangelicals—even self-identified pro-life Catholics and Evangelicals—who aggressively promote Obama’s candidacy and even declare him the preferred candidate from the pro-life point of view.

What is going on here?

I have examined the arguments advanced by Obama’s self-identified pro-life supporters, and they are spectacularly weak.  It is nearly unfathomable to me that those advancing them can honestly believe what they are saying.  But before proving my claims about Obama’s abortion extremism, let me explain why I have described Obama as “pro-abortion” rather than “pro-choice.”

According to the standard argument for the distinction between these labels, nobody is pro-abortion.  Everybody would prefer a world without abortions.  After all, what woman would deliberately get pregnant just to have an abortion?  But given the world as it is, sometimes women find themselves with unplanned pregnancies at times in their lives when having a baby would present significant problems for them.  So even if abortion is not medically required, it should be permitted, made as widely available as possible and, when necessary, paid for with taxpayers’ money.

The defect in this argument can easily be brought into focus if we shift to the moral question that vexed an earlier generation of Americans: slavery.  Many people at the time of the American founding would have preferred a world without slavery but nonetheless opposed abolition.  Such people—Thomas Jefferson was one—reasoned that, given the world as it was, with slavery woven into the fabric of society just as it had often been throughout history, the economic consequences of abolition for society as a whole and for owners of plantations and other businesses that relied on slave labor would be dire.  Many people who argued in this way were not monsters but honest and sincere, albeit profoundly mistaken.  Some (though not Jefferson) showed their personal opposition to slavery by declining to own slaves themselves or freeing slaves whom they had purchased or inherited.  They certainly didn’t think anyone should be forced to own slaves.  Still, they maintained that slavery should remain a legally permitted option and be given constitutional protection.

Would we describe such people, not as pro-slavery, but as “pro-choice”?  Of course we would not.  It wouldn’t matter to us that they were “personally opposed” to slavery, or that they wished that slavery were “unnecessary,” or that they wouldn’t dream of forcing anyone to own slaves.  We would hoot at the faux sophistication of a placard that said “Against slavery?  Don’t own one.”  We would observe that the fundamental divide is between people who believe that law and public power should permit slavery, and those who think that owning slaves is an unjust choice that should be prohibited.

Just for the sake of argument, though, let us assume that there could be a morally meaningful distinction between being “pro-abortion” and being “pro-choice.”  Who would qualify for the latter description?  Barack Obama certainly would not.  For, unlike his running mate Joe Biden, Obama does not think that abortion is a purely private choice that public authority should refrain from getting involved in.  Now, Senator Biden is hardly pro-life.  He believes that the killing of the unborn should be legally permitted and relatively unencumbered.  But unlike Obama, at least Biden would not use taxpayer dollars to fund abortion, thereby leaving Americans free to choose not to implicate themselves in it.  If we stretch things to create a meaningful category called “pro-choice,” then Biden might be a plausible candidate for the label; at least he respects your choice or mine not to facilitate deliberate feticide.

The same cannot be said for Barack Obama.  For starters, he has promised to seek repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which has for many years protected pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions that are not necessary to save the life of the mother and are not the result of rape or incest.  The abortion industry laments that this longstanding federal law, according to the pro-abortion group NARAL, “forces about half the women who would otherwise have abortions to carry unintended pregnancies to term and bear children against their wishes instead.”  In other words, a whole lot of people who are alive today would have been exterminated in utero were it not for the Hyde Amendment. Obama has promised to reverse the situation so that abortions that the industry complains are not happening (because the federal government is not subsidizing them) would happen.  That is why people who profit from abortion love Obama even more than they do his running mate.

But this barely scratches the surface of Obama’s extremism.  He has promised that “the first thing I’d do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act” (known as FOCA). This proposed legislation would create a federally guaranteed “fundamental right” to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, including, as Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has noted in a statement condemning the proposed Act, “a right to abort a fully developed child in the final weeks for undefined ‘health’ reasons.”  In essence, FOCA would abolish virtually every existing state and federal limitation on abortion, including parental consent and notification laws for minors and conscience protections for pro-life citizens working in the health-care industry—protections against being forced to participate in the practice of abortion or else lose their jobs.  The pro-abortion National Organization for Women has proclaimed with approval that FOCA would “sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies.”

It gets worse.  Obama, unlike even many “pro-choice” legislators, opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions and condemned the Supreme Court decision that upheld legislation banning this heinous practice.  He has referred to a baby conceived inadvertently by a young woman as a “punishment” that she should not endure.  He has stated that women’s equality requires access to abortion on demand.  Appallingly, he wishes to strip federal funding from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers that provide alternatives to abortion for pregnant women in need.  There is certainly nothing “pro-choice” about that.

But it gets even worse.  When pro-life members of Obama’s own party in Congress proposed the so-called “95-10” legislation to strengthen the social safety net for poor women and, they hoped, reduce the number of abortions by 95% in ten years, Obama refused to support it.  This legislation would not have made a single abortion illegal.  It simply sought to make it easier for pregnant women to make the choice not to abort their babies.  Here was a concrete test of whether Obama was “pro-choice” rather than pro-abortion.  He flunked.  Then he flunked again by opposing the inclusion of unborn children in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-Chip)—which would have helped to save unborn babies without making abortion illegal. Many implacably “pro-choice” members of Congress like Edward Kennedy supported it.  But Barack Obama stood resolutely with the most stalwart abortion advocates in opposing it.

It gets worse yet.  In an act of breathtaking injustice which the Obama campaign lied about until critics produced documentary proof of what he had done, as an Illinois state senator Obama opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist’s unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability.  This legislation would not have banned any abortions.  Indeed, it included a specific provision ensuring that it did not affect abortion laws.  (This is what Obama and his campaign lied about until they were caught.)  The federal version of the bill passed unanimously in the United States Senate, winning the support of such ardent advocates of legal abortion as John Kerry and Barbara Boxer.  But Barack Obama opposed it and worked to defeat it.  For him, a child marked for abortion gets no protection—even ordinary medical or comfort care—even if she is born alive and entirely separated from her mother.  So Obama has favored protecting what is literally a form of infanticide.

You may be thinking, It can’t get worse than that.  But it does.

For several years, Americans have been debating the use for biomedical research of embryos produced by in vitro fertilization (originally for reproductive purposes) but now left in a frozen condition in cryopreservation units.  President Bush has restricted the use of federal funds for stem-cell research of the type that makes use of these embryos and destroys them in the process.  I support the President’s restriction, but some legislators with excellent pro-life records, including John McCain, argue that the use of federal money should be permitted where the embryos are going to be discarded or die anyway as the result of the parents’ decision.  Senator Obama, too, wants to lift the restriction.

But Obama would not stop there.  He has co-sponsored a bill—strongly opposed by McCain—that would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed.  In fact, the bill Obama co-sponsored would require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning.  It would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term.  This “clone and kill” bill would, if enacted, bring something to America that has heretofore existed only in China—the equivalent of legally mandated abortion.  In an audacious act of deceit, Obama and his co-sponsors misleadingly call this an anti-cloning bill.  But it is nothing of the kind.  What it bans is not cloning, but allowing the embryonic children produced by cloning to survive.

Can it get still worse?  Yes.

Decent people of every persuasion hold out the increasingly realistic hope of resolving the moral issue surrounding embryonic stem-cell research by developing methods to produce the exact equivalent of embryonic stem cells without using (or producing) embryos.  But when a bill was introduced in the United States Senate to put a modest amount of federal money into research to develop these methods, Barack Obama was one of the few senators who opposed it.  From any rational vantage point, this is unconscionable.  Why would someone not wish to find a method of producing the pluripotent cells scientists want that all Americans could enthusiastically endorse?  Why create and kill human embryos when there are alternatives that do not require the taking of nascent human lives?  It is as if Obama is opposed to stem-cell research unless it involves killing human embryos.

This ultimate manifestation of Obama’s extremism brings us back to the puzzle of his pro-life Catholic and Evangelical apologists.

They typically do not deny the facts I have reported.  They could not; each one is a matter of public record.  But despite Obama’s injustices against the most vulnerable human beings, and despite the extraordinary support he receives from the industry that profits from killing the unborn (which should be a good indicator of where he stands), some Obama supporters insist that he is the better candidate from the pro-life point of view.

They say that his economic and social policies would so diminish the demand for abortion that the overall number would actually go down—despite the federal subsidizing of abortion and the elimination of hundreds of pro-life laws.  The way to save lots of unborn babies, they say, is to vote for the pro-abortion—oops! “pro-choice”—candidate.  They tell us not to worry that Obama opposes the Hyde Amendment, the Mexico City Policy (against funding abortion abroad), parental consent and notification laws, conscience protections, and the funding of alternatives to embryo-destructive research.  They ask us to look past his support for Roe v. Wade, the Freedom of Choice Act, partial-birth abortion, and human cloning and embryo-killing.  An Obama presidency, they insist, means less killing of the unborn.

This is delusional.

We know that the federal and state pro-life laws and policies that Obama has promised to sweep away (and that John McCain would protect) save thousands of lives every year.  The rigorous studies conducted by Professor Michael New and other social scientists have removed any doubt.  In some cases, as we have seen, even the abortion lobby confirms the truth of what these scholars have determined.  Nor can we ignore the effect of the message that Obama and his policies would send: that abortion is a legitimate solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancies (so clearly legitimate that taxpayers should be forced to pay for it).

But for a moment let’s suppose, against all the evidence, that Obama’s proposals would reduce the number of abortions, even while subsidizing the killing with taxpayer dollars.  Even so, many more unborn human beings would likely be killed under Obama than under McCain.  A Congress controlled by strong Democratic majorities under Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would enact the bill authorizing the mass industrial production of human embryos by cloning for research in which they are killed.  As president, Obama would sign it.  The number of tiny humans created and killed under this legislation (assuming that an efficient human cloning technique is soon perfected) could dwarf the number of lives saved as a result of the reduced demand for abortion—even if we take a delusionally optimistic view of what that number would be.

Barack Obama and John McCain differ on many important issues about which reasonable people of goodwill, including pro-life Americans of every faith, disagree: how best to fight international terrorism, how to restore economic growth and prosperity, how to distribute the tax burden and reduce poverty, etc.

But on abortion and the industrial creation of embryos for destructive research, there is a profound difference of moral principle, not just prudence.  These questions reveal the character and judgment of each man.  Barack Obama is deeply committed to the belief that members of an entire class of human beings have no rights that others must respect.  Across the spectrum of pro-life concerns for the unborn, he would deny these tiny members of the human family the basic protection of the laws.  Over the next four to eight years, as many as three U.S. Supreme Court justices are likely to retire. Obama enthusiastically supports Roe v. Wade and would appoint judges who would protect that morally and constitutionally disastrous decision and even expand its scope.  Indeed, in an interview in Glamour magazine, he promised to apply a litmus test for Supreme Court nominations:  jurists who do not support Roe will not be considered for appointment by Obama.  John McCain, by contrast, opposes Roe and would appoint judges likely to overturn it.  This would not make abortion illegal, but it would return the issue to the forums of democratic deliberation, where pro-life Americans could engage in a fair debate to persuade fellow citizens that killing the unborn is no way to address the problems of pregnant women in need.

What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be?  Barack Obama’s America is one in which being human just isn’t enough to warrant care and protection.  It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin.  It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights.  In Obama’s America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the laws.  In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: “that question is above my pay grade.”  It was a profoundly disingenuous answer:  For even at a state senator’s pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty.  His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling:  human beings have no rights until infancy—and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.

In the end, the efforts of Obama’s apologists to depict their man as the true pro-life candidate that Catholics and Evangelicals may and even should vote for, doesn’t even amount to a nice try.  Voting for the most extreme pro-abortion political candidate in American history is not the way to save unborn babies.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.  He serves on the President’s Council on Bioethics and on UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST).  George is a Senior Fellow of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New Jersey.