Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pro-life orthodoxy

A recent article from, a comprehensively right-wing news site, tries to nail Obama for hypocrisy:
Following reports of widespread skepticism over his professed Christianity, President Obama on Tuesday invoked the teachings of Jesus Christ as the inspiration for his public agenda, which he called part of an "effort to express my Christian faith" - and in his next breath defended the legalized killing of unborn children.

Obama's story of his personal faith is actually rather interesting, even as the article seeks to downplay it:
"I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead - being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me," he said.
Obama continued: "And I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God.  But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace.
“That’s what I strive to do.  That’s what I pray to do every day.  I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith," he said.
Now I could nitpick about the way Obama has worded these statements ("the humility we all have"? "treating others as they would treat me"?) but I think the principle of charity demands I take Obama at face value: he's a Christian, struggling like the rest of us to live that out properly.

It's disturbing, then, that a site supposedly devoted to issues of human life would apparently try to promote skepticism about these beliefs. They even cite a poll showing that "nearly one in five Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, and only one in three believe he is an adherent of the faith he claims," and make no real attempt to refute this popular opinion. The goal seems to be enforcing a strict pro-life orthodoxy, under which it would seem that salvation depends not on grace alone but also on correctness of certain prescribed beliefs. Abortion apparently is not the only issue; the article predictably couples pro-life issues with homosexuality, then even manages to tie these with Islam. (Never mind that Islam is traditionally just as conservative as the most orthodox Christian traditions on the issues of abortion and homosexuality. It's as if many Christians never even consider Muslims as potential allies on these issues.) If you can't already tell, I find it completely illogical to tie any of these issues together.

If we can, let's just take a step back and consider whether or not we are in a position to dictate what qualifies as orthodoxy in the midst of this confusing political landscape. Pro-lifers not infrequently compare the abortion issue to slavery or civil rights. I can accept that comparison; I've made it myself on a number of occasions. But if the practice of abortion and the practice of slavery may be compared morally, then surely other comparisons can be made as well--for instance, the fact that good Christian people supported slavery. True, abolitionists were motivated by Christian faith to oppose slavery, but equally certain is that many others supported slavery on the basis of biblical evidence. This should give us pause. It is apparently quite possible for good people to get things horribly wrong. It stands to reason that we, even in our day and age, are equally prone to error.

I humbly submit that no one is in a position to judge Mr. Obama's faith, nor that of anyone else. Imagine if my brother looked at me one day and said, "Jameson, I have been judging your actions over the course of many years, and I've decided that you aren't really my brother." What an absurd offense that would be! Not only would it sting to the core, but it would be completely irrational. Family ties don't work that way. So it is with Christian brotherhood. Do we dare judge one another, even knowing that our ancestors in the faith have been equally misguided as any corrupt politician in our own day?

It's hard to find a good guy in this fight. All I see are various groups launching attacks at one another in order to gain power. But that's the story of the world, isn't it? None of us get out of this mess unstained. I only hope that rational critiques of Obama's policies aren't drowned out by the sheer absurdity of the angry Right.

1 comment:

  1. If Obama is a Christian, that makes it even more shocking that he is not pro-life. It also means he better have some darn good excuses someday in front of God about why he (who has been given so much) has done nothing to protect the lives of God's children.


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