New Evangelicals Finding Different Ways to Reduce Abortions
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"We were shocked in 2008 when so many people cameout for (Barack) Obama. Something had really changed," Sheryl Ripke, anevangelical in Iowa, told me. The 2006 midterms showed a significant white evangelical vote for Democrats; 41% were "happy" with Democratic wins. The 2008 elections saw a five-point rise in Democratic votes and a remarkable 32% vote for Obama by white evangelicals younger than 30.
Sincethen, evangelicals have been developing nuanced ideas about ending abortion that will appeal to Americans across the religious and political range. They begin with the idea that getting rid of abortion means providing an alternative. If we don't, we drive abortion underground, where we lose the babies and risk losing the mothers, too. There's no win there. As Shane Claiborne, the Elvis of younger evangelicals, put it, "If I am going to discourage abortion, I had better be ready to adopt some babies and care for some mothers."
Lookat what happened last month with the Mississippi vote on abortion. The proposal to give fertilized eggs legal status as persons failed in this heavily evangelical state--not because it was too radical but because it was not radical enough. Whatever that proposal would have done, it could not have effectively reduced abortion because it provided no resources to enable women to have and support their babies. It was, so to speak, all hat and no cattle.
This argument is usually made by feminists. But this time it's coming from "new evangelicals" -- those whohave left the right for a focus on economic justice, environmental protection and immigration reform. Theologian Scot McKnight calls it "the biggest change in the evangelical movement at the end of the 20th century, a new kind of Christian social conscience." Richard Cizik, president of The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, calls it a "slow earthquake."
Because 73% of U.S. abortions are economically motivated (according to the Guttmacher Institute,a non-profit that researches reproductive issues), abortion would drop significantly if medical, financial and emotional support were provided during pregnancy along with day care post-partum services. It would dropfurther if we re-thought our adoption policies and dealt with the values taught to our kids about the worth of others and of intimate relationships, and -- especially for boys -- about using others for one's own pleasure.
Moreover, there's no reason why evangelicals should not join with other faith groups, secular organizations and feminists in developing such programs.
"I am decidedly pro-life," Southern megachurch pastor Joel Hunter says, "but ... by working together instead of arguing, both sides (for and against legal abortion) can get what they want."
That,according to many new evangelicals, is the pro-life position. What's radical about it is that it means money, lots of it, and time and personal effort. Forming supportive relationships -- with women in crisispregnancies, with our kids -- is a contact sport.
Many"new evangelicals" have been putting their money where there their mouths are. That's not only free medical clinics and day care centers but also politically confronting the link between abortion and economic need. Midwestern megachurch pastor Greg Boyd explained it this way, "A person could vote for a candidate who is not 'pro-life' but who will help the economy and the poor. Yet this may be the best way to curb the abortion rate."
Source: Marcia Pally, USA TODAY
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