It is not an exaggeration to say that I think about this sentence every single day. Every time I see someone of faith shamelessly overlook a key tenet of their beliefs in the name of a Republican politician who pretends to care about freedom of religion, I am reminded that for many people there is one issue that guides how they select a name at the polls every four years. Nothing that you can say or do will change the minds of those who believe that the singular, “black and white” issue of abortion is the most important policy position in American politics.
What does it actually mean to be pro-life? Who even decided that one side got to be called pro-life to begin with? Is the idea that the treatment of people beyond the womb is completely irrelevant even a pro human life stance? The term “pro-life” was coined by the Catholic-backed National Right to Life Committee in response to the landmark decision of Roe V. Wade in the early 70s, and has continued to be a flag to march behind for conservative and religious voters ever since. So many of the terms we use to describe policy positions in this country are designed by one side to demonize the other. To describe yourself as pro-choice in a way admits that you value your own selfish choices over the sanctity of human life, exactly as it was designed to. I have long since decided to stop describing myself as pro-choice because it short changes the designation as something other than a well-researched platform of valuing the lives of human beings that already exist.
Conservatives have always been better at fighting the culture war due to the fact that they lead almost every debate with morality in terms that their followers can understand and accept. Almost half of the voters in this country are willing to overlook the blatant moral discrepancies in a man that brags about sexual assault on a hot microphone because deep down they have convinced themselves that his position as a champion for the unborn automatically secures his spot as the evangelical leader of our generation.
I turned 18 less than a month after the 2004 presidential election, though that didn’t keep me from trying to understand the policy positions and political appeal of the candidates at the time. On election day, I remember wearing a “Kerry-Edwards ‘04” button on my shirt to my Presbyterian-aligned high school. Admittedly, part of my reasoning for this was to ruffle feathers and part of it was due to an understanding of the actual policies on which each candidate was promoting at the time. When I arrived at my Chemistry class that morning, my teacher looked at me and scoffed.
”No Christian could ever vote for a Democrat. Ever.” she said.
Ever? No matter what? That’s the whole thing? It was really my first experience with an all or nothing approach to American politics and an interaction that I still think about frequently. There are people in this country who associate the R next to a candidate’s name with Jesus no matter what, and that is because the Republican party is the party that protects the unborn from termination. It is not the party that protects the uninsured, the disenfranchised, the poor, the sick, the people that have been forced from their homes due to war or famine, the immigrants hoping to provide a better life for their families, but it is the party that stands up in every single election and says that they believe that human life is sacred and they will do everything they can to protect it.
In my opinion, the most important moment of Jesus’ ministry was the so-called Sermon on the Mount. If you were to sit down and compare the teachings of all of the world’s major prophets, this would be, in my opinion, the portion to include about Jesus. For the time, it was probably a pretty mind-bending declaration of beliefs. I don’t know if Jesus had any of this planned out or if he was just riffing, but the topics he covered included just about every aspect of human decency from caring for the needy to divorce and revenge. Regardless of what you believe about Christianity, it is hard to deny that the scene described in the biblical book of Matthew was a defining moment in human history.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Read through the items listed above and tell me if our current commander in chief exemplifies any of those things or the policy positions of the Republican party. The answer is obviously no, but he is still the evangelical leader and they are still the evangelical party of choice. Franklin Graham is on twitter today defending his father’s choice to vote for Trump in 2016 because the magazine he founded came out in support of removing him from office. Smack dab in the middle of his tirade about how disappointed he is in the op-ed, he hits the nail on the head:
“The list of accomplishments is long, but for me as a Christian, the fact that he is the most pro-life president in modern history is extremely important—and Christianity Today wants us to ignore that, to say it doesn’t count?“
That’s the whole ballgame. The most pro-life president in modern history. How dare a Christian overlook that fact to focus on literally anything else about his character or actions. A man given ultimate power by people hypnotized by theoretical love for other people’s unborn children.
The online vitriol is worse than usual today. All manner of people telling the other side that they don’t get it. Abortion, in my view, isn’t a black and white issue, unless of course we are talking about how black women are disproportionately affected by a lack of prenatal healthcare and are far more likely to die during pregnancy because they tend to be ignored by doctors, or if we are talking about how abortions in the United States reached an all time low in 2017 due to an administration that understood the importance of providing affordable preventative healthcare to low income communities who often times choose abortion due to an inability to take time off work or financially support the children they already have.
The data doesn’t matter because the culture war has been declared. It is us vs. them and them vs. us. There is no reasoning with someone who has abandoned all morals in support of an issue that they don’t truly understand. Our president is a flawed man of God, they say, like King David. He is the man chosen by God for this specific moment in US history and anyone who disagrees with him disagrees with the almighty being that installed him in the oval office. Evangelical faith in America has, once again, been laid bare as a political power structure, hellbent on stacking the deck in their favor with the talking points that they know will give them the cover to continue to do so.