Issue 1 on Ohioan’s ballots Tuesday is a brazen yet cunning attempt to remove all power to regulate abortion from the people’s elected representatives.
The pro-abortion movement in Ohio lost on the merits in the legislature. Now, fueled by millions of dollars from out-of-state special interests, it is pushing to amend the Ohio Constitution with this deceitfully-worded ballot initiative.
Despite what proponents of Issue 1 claim in misleading advertising, if Issue 1 passes, abortionists will argue that its broad language guarantees taxpayer-funded abortion up to the moment of birth, including abortions sought by minors without parental consent. This law is deeply at odds with the moral convictions of Ohioans, who overwhelmingly favor at least some restrictions on abortion.
Current polling indicates a close race. In my view, the scales will not be tipped by legal gamesmanship, special interests, out-of-state money, or deceitful ads. The power to defeat this barbaric initiative lies squarely with the leaders of Ohio’s local churches.
Ohio’s Church Leaders Hold the Keys to Victory
Ohio pastors influence a vast number of people. Thirty-eight percent of Ohioans attend church at least once per week. That’s roughly 4.4 million potential Ohio voters.
Pastoral influence runs broad and deep. Weekly churchgoers trust their pastor’s spiritual guidance and look to the pulpit for advice and direction. Congregants often view their pastor as the primary source of moral authority in life — including on the issue of abortion.
Pastors and priests could command tremendous political power by simply making their congregations aware of Issue 1, teaching the Biblical position on abortion, and directing their congregations to go vote no. This is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment, and seems like the obvious thing to do, but it is not happening at scale.
So why is this shaping up to be a close vote? Do Christians believe that abortion is wrong? With their numbers, could they not single-handedly defeat the Issue? The answer in theory is, of course, yes. Christians believe that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life and repugnant to the nature and law of God. They also have the numbers, to the tune of 4.4 million, to put down the Issue.
But there is a disconnect. Many church leaders have chosen not to spur their people to political action and are reluctant to take a firm and vocal stand on political issues like abortion. They have largely shied away from wading into their congregation’s political decisions. They may address the morality of issues like abortion but will not go so far as to instruct their congregants’ vote, for example.
With the best of intentions, the current generation of church leaders avoids politics and difficult cultural issues primarily in an effort not to deter unbelievers from hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With this approach to ministry, winsomeness is commonly elevated as the chief virtue. Abrasive truths about righteous Christian living often become softened or ignored in favor packaging the Gospel in a way the world finds palatable.
This approach to ministry, however, presents Christians as people who are not serious about their principles, often undermining the power of conviction that draws people to church. And softening conviction comes at the expense of the edification of the believing church — who knows the Gospel but needs to be trained in the comprehensive biblical worldview necessary for a robust Christian life.
Our church leaders cannot neglect to preach the whole counsel of God. That includes instructing their congregants in the way they ought to engage government, politics, culture, and voting — subjects upon which even a little investigation reveals clear biblical prescriptions.
Such instruction is consistent with historical Protestant political and social thought, which rightly understands that Christian influence in the public square helps to ensure that the government and culture make choices in accordance with the will of God, and not the will of themselves. And practically speaking, it is an effective way to inspire action in a significant portion of the electorate to achieve desired political outcomes, in this case, the protection of the unborn.
An Admonition to Church Leaders
The Gospel is powerful. When an unbeliever repents of his or her sin and evil deeds and confesses the need for righteousness through faith in Christ alone, the heart is changed forever. This change can produce great fruit: it can stop a mother from aborting her child; it can stop a father from coercing an abortion; it can stop an abortionist from continuing his work. But that change will not alone defeat Issue 1 and destroy the oppressive system of evil that actively works to destroy lives of countless babies, mothers, and families.
The abortion movement is not swayed by the heart change of one individual, as powerful as that may be. It will not stop until it is made to stop. Victory requires the power of the state in the hands of the righteous to halt the proliferation of the evil acts of man. Indeed, that is precisely God’s intent for government — to restrain and punish evil while upholding goodness. Righteous people must advocate that the state prudently wield that power to destroy the work of the Devil.
In achieving that end in the battle against abortion and Issue 1, no one wields greater influence than the local church pastor. He is utterly indispensable in this fight — and the babies of this state cannot afford for him to sit on the sidelines. Congregations must be made aware of what Issue 1 actually does and be admonished to stand for life at the ballot box. This is not only a permissible exercise of pastoral authority, but a good thing in the eyes of God, who is glorified when the righteous prevail.
It is an abdication of duty for a pastor to on one hand rightly condemn abortion as an abomination to God, yet on the other refuse to instruct his congregation to take the one action that, collectively, would stop the abomination. Go vote no on Issue 1.