The Moral Question of our Generation

Monday, December 17, 2007

A month ago, the Associated Press ran a story on presidential candidate Mike Huckabee regarding his views on abortion.  Of course, many Republicans support overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that guaranteed abortion on demand throughout the country, and favor letting individual states decide their own abortion laws.

Huckabee rejected the idea of letting states decide their own rules and offered a key insight to abortion, especially from a Christian perspective.  According to the AP article, he said, “It’s the logic of the Civil War…If morality is the point here, and if it’s right or wrong, not just a political question, then you can’t have 50 different versions of what’s right and what’s wrong.”  During the interview, he continued by saying, “For those of us for whom this is a moral question, you can’t simply have 50 different versions of what’s right.”  To which I reply, “Well said, Governor!”

I would heartily agree that abortion is primarily a moral (rather than legal) question–in fact, it is the moral question of our generation, and we must treat it as such.  But it seems to me that the courtroom is a terrifically bad place to discuss the morality of abortion.  In fact, by the time we make it all the way to court to decide such an important question, I would argue that we have already given up tremendous moral ground.  For example, when I read about churches and ecclesiastical governing bodies who are turning to secular courts to settle moral and ecclesial issues, it strikes me as inappropriate, not to mention unbiblical (See 1 Corinthians 6:1-8!).

After many years of wrestling with this issue, I have come to the conclusion that abortion is a moral evil; any time we consciously take a human life, from conception to natural death, it is wrong.  (I’m not going to bother exploring the edges of this moral conviction; exceptions only muddy the important directives that should guide our society.  I actually applaud the Roman Catholic Church for their consistent perspective regarding issues of life; they make my own denomination look like a bunch of barbarians and hypocrites.)

The question for me is not whether abortion is wrong, but rather, what should we do about it?  How do important issues of morality (like abortion) find their way back into politics and law?  This is where things get a little sticky, in my opinion.  Governor Huckabee favors amending the Constitution to outlaw abortion.  Once again, attempting a drastic legal maneuver like amending our Constitution (which, from my libertarian-leaning perspective, should remain global, rather than specific) shows how much ground we Christians have already surrendered in the cultural conversation.

As the old saying goes, “You can’t legislate morality.”  And it’s true.  If abortion is at its heart a moral issue, as Governor Huckabee rightly pointed out, then we need to be primarily addressing that issue in venues that are conducive to moral discourse, like college campuses, Sunday schools, high school cafeterias, churches, coffee shops, golf courses, and hair salons, but not primarily in courtrooms!  Likewise, I question the effectiveness of picketing and using graphic signs to confront people with the ugliness of abortion.  More than likely, this approach alienates people who might otherwise agree with you and causes one’s opponents to dig in to their own position.

We as a nation will finally eliminate the scourge of abortion, not through expensive, protracted legal battles or even through graphic, in-your-face public demonstrations, but by convincing one person at a time with a winsome and gracious witness that abortion is always wrong.

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