If you were to sit down and read a 3,300-word argument from a professing Christian, urging you to think through your vote from a Christian perspective, how many biblical references would you expect to see? How about zero? That’s the amount of scripture blogger Rachel Held Evans chose to employ in her opus, “So you’re thinking of voting for a pro-choice candidate…”
Posted Tuesday, the blog post is Held Evans’ stab at making what she considers the Christian pro-life case for pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming presidential elections. Held Evans argues throughout that the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, is unfit for office for a litany of reasons. I have no desire to take on any of the arguments she lays out to that effect, except to say that the unfitness of one candidate does not in itself make the positive case for the other.
As Christians, we should strive to do better in our thinking than what seems to be the going rate at present. If we come to the conclusion that both candidates are awful and don’t deserve our trust, we have every right as citizens to take a hard pass and cast our “no vote” for the highest office in the land.
There will always be a spectrum, of course, where we need to weigh out the problems we have with each candidate and—since we live in a fallen world—choose the “lesser of two evils.” But it’s a spectrum, and we need to be careful we don’t underemphasize the evil of one candidate just because the other is wicked as well.
It’s as C.S. Lewis said in what has become a well-traveled quote this election season: “[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites… He relies on your extra dislike of the one to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled.”
Conflating Candidates and Party Platforms
Held Evans begins by asserting, “No single political party embodies the teachings of Jesus or the values of the Kingdom.” While that’s true enough on its face, it’s also an incredibly disingenuous reduction. Regardless of your thoughts on Trump and Clinton, there are major differences between the two parties on essential issues for Christians.
For example, the Republican platform calls for permanently pulling taxpayer support from any agency that provides or promotes abortion. The Democratic platform supports abortion and contraceptives for all women—paid for by everyone from your pastor to Held Evans to yours truly.
While the Republican platform calls for ending a disastrous policy that forces even pro-life nonprofits like mine to either pay for insurance plans that sponsor abortion or decline health care altogether—I’ll give you two guesses which we chose—the Democratic platform is rifling through my pockets to find more ways to make me pay for abortion.
As flustered as I am that the party of Lincoln is staggering toward abandoning its founding principles, that doesn’t give me a pass to ignore NARAL President Ilyse Hogue and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards giving full-throated support for Clinton on the Democrats’ stage. Regardless of our views of particular candidates, it’s intellectual cowardice and sloth to write off party differences as blue versus red without at least having a look at what they say.
Disdain for one candidate shouldn’t equate to blind support of the other. We Christians have it in our blood to go against the grain better than that.
Yes, a Pro-Life Ethic Must Oppose Abortion
As you might expect, a lengthy essay dealing with both politics and religion that references neither politics nor religion has its fair share of shortcomings. Perhaps the most striking is Held Evans’ muddying of the waters on what pro-lifers mean when we call ourselves “pro-life.”
Held Evans fancies her definition of “pro-life” as more enlightened and expansive than most. A “pro-life” approach must take into account affordable health care, poverty alleviation, racial reconciliation, etc., she asserts. To be sure, these are laudable, even “pro-life” goals, even if we disagree on the extent to which the government is capable of achieving them.
But a pro-life conviction comes from recognizing the inherent value and dignity of every human life. That is why we oppose abortion in all cases. We can argue a bigger tent, but never at the expense of that central conviction. Here’s where Held Evans gets in the weeds, and it’s where she stays. In trying to expand the definition of “pro-life,” she’s doing the very opposite, redefining the term to exclude the one issue on which we “pro-lifers” unanimously agree.
Take, for instance, the following quote:
Sometimes I think it’s easier for us to talk about ‘saving millions of babies’ than it is to work at creating a culture that can sustainably welcome those babies as they grow into children and adults. Speaking in abstract terms about blank, amorphous ‘innocent lives’ keeps us from confronting the reality that if most of these children are born at or near the poverty line, then the lives we are saving are more likely to be troubled ones, and if nothing changes, those lives will get caught in vicious cycles powered by poverty and systemic racism. (emphasis original)
Now, I know a few children, babies, and adults who are at or below the poverty line. Not one of them is “blank” or “amorphous.” These are real people with names, birthdays, retinas, and elbows. Every one of them. More to the point, every single one bears the very image of God—from womb to tomb.
Not one of them is better off dead, even if they are “caught in vicious cycles powered by poverty and systemic racism.” Like it or not, that’s the argument—better to be dead than poor or mistreated.
The Poor You Will Always Have with You
Remember Mary anointing Jesus at Bethany in John 12? It’s a beautiful scene, where the heartfelt love of a friend overflows in gratitude as Mary breaks an expensive jar of perfume and anoints Jesus’ feet with the sweet-smelling stuff. It’s a moving story. Captivating, really. That is, until Judas raises the very point Held Evans does in her essay: What about the poor?
Turns out Judas is asking about the poor, not because he cares so much about them, “but because he was a thief.” Judas cares nothing for the “amorphous” poor. What he’s after is the illusion that he cares. John’s not buying it, and neither is Jesus: “Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you will always have with you, but you do not always have me’”(John 12:7-8, emphasis added).
Now, before we rush to explain this statement away, it’s helpful to remember that Jesus was literally homeless when he said it. Jesus knew what poverty was all about. He knew the struggles of growing up in a non-traditional household that started with unwed pregnancy. Foxes and birds had better places to dwell than the Son of Man—who had no place to lay his head.
Poverty means opportunity for selfless Christian service, and that’s been the track record of the church bought by our selfless Christ—a man without a pillow. That’s why the church is constantly working to meet the needs of poor people in every community. That’s why we’ve been building hospitals, orphanages, adoption agencies, food pantries, clothing closets, pregnancy help centers, and maternity homes for 2,000 years.
Sadly, in our enlightened times, poverty is worse than death. In Held Evans’ world, being poor is worse than being dead. Suffice it to say, that’s not a biblical principle.
Dishonoring the Poor Man
Not only does Jesus himself say the poor are here to stay, but the book of James—written by Jesus’ brother—has quite a bit to say about the dignity of folks living at or below the poverty line: “[H]as not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man…” (James 2:5-6).
How dare we say a man is better off dead than poor? How much worse is it to sentence a million each year to death because they were just going to be poor anyway? “God has chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.” What could have more dignity and kingdom purpose than this?
Emptiness, poverty, brokenness, and suffering all find their perfect fulfillment—and therefore their dignity—in Christ Jesus’ emptying of himself to come join us in our suffering.
Under its current configuration, the party of Clinton officially endorses the unregulated, unfettered killing of babies in the same earthly situation as Jesus. Again, they want to use my money to do that.
Hyde It Under a Bushel?
Missing from Held Evans’ pro-Hillary essay is any mention of her chosen candidate’s pledge to repeal the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which was established to make sure no federal taxpayer funds go directly to fund abortions.
I say “directly” because we can all follow the money trail. Planned Parenthood commits upwards of 330,000 abortions in the United States while it takes in $500 million in federal taxpayer funds every year. Hence the Republican platform to stop this wicked end-around.
But Held Evans is content to omit the fact that the Democratic platform—and Clinton herself—is promising to repeal Hyde. In fact, Clinton’s running mate has gotten himself in hot water from the abortion lobby for daring to side with the already-despicable status quo. It’s not just Hyde domestically. Clinton and her party have their sights—and their platform—set on overturning the Helms Amendment, which prohibits U.S. taxpayer dollars going overseas for abortions.
In other words, Clinton’s Democrats have set as top priority expanding the abortion industry both at home and abroad. That’s not pro-life. It’s the opposite.
Shall We Do Evil So Good May Come?
As a self-proclaimed two-time voter for Barack Obama, Held Evans actually contends that, since the U.S. abortion rate has ticked down over the past eight years, electing another pro-abortion president would actually be a pro-life move in the end. Consider the logic of that proposition: Vote for abortion and there won’t be so many abortions.
Voting in a fallen world will always mean choosing the “lesser of two evils.” You could add to that equation another “evil” as well—you and I who are voting. We’re all fallen and wrecked, yet there are all sorts of factors that ought to contribute to our thinking.
We don’t know the future. All we know is what the candidates and the parties are saying, doing, and promising to do. If Trump makes an unconvincing promise to uphold the sanctity of life, that’s no reason to turn to Clinton—who has made abortion a centerpiece of her campaign.
The Crying Need for Clarity
To tell the truth, I didn’t wake up yesterday wondering who Rachel Held Evans was voting for in the upcoming election. Today, that remains immaterial to me. Since it’s highly unlikely she’s ever heard of me, it’s safe to say Held Evans isn’t wringing her hands over my vote either.
The issue I’m concerned with is the truth. If we’re going to have a discussion on religion and politics, then let’s have it. Let’s break out the Bible and talk about these things. Let’s look at the party platforms and compare them.
Let’s lament, if necessary, two nominees who fall woefully short of any reasonable expectations for civility, honesty, and serious policy. But let’s not muddy the waters on what it means to be “pro-life.” And let’s not muddy the waters on what it means to think as a Christian.