If Abortion is a Decisive Issue, Does that Mean Other Issues are Unimportant?

For those who follow Jesus, we should celebrate what Biden/Harris do well and we should stand in humble and loving opposition when they make missteps. No doubt, there will be reasons to celebrate. For all the rhetoric surrounding the Trump presidency, he did some things that benefited our nation. And on the other side, there was plenty to lament over the last four years. Without a doubt, that’ll be the case with Biden/Harris. Reasons to rejoice and cause for concern.

What I want to do here is offer one thought that will help us think carefully about the issues that we will face in the future. The thought surrounds the issue of the sanctity of life. The sanctity of life is not restricted to the subject of abortion. Instead, abortion is one slice (a big one) of the sanctity of life pie. Sanctity of life includes conversations about euthanasia, suicide prevention, elderly care, and things like immigration policies. It is reductionistic to act as if abortion is the lone sanctity of life issue facing our world today.

However, in my mind (and in the mind of many), the abortion issue is perhaps the most pressing sanctity of life issue facing our nation and the world today. I say this due simply to the sheer numbers of abortions that happen per day/year. If you haven’t been absolutely stunned by numbers, visit this website for up-to-date information (I wonder if we are less concerned about abortion these days because it has become so ingrained in our culture. Our consciences are simply not as grieved as they once were). Given the numbers, I believe abortion outweighs every other real and significant sanctity of life issue facing us.

Given the DNC platform, and the record of Kamala Harris on abortion, the stage seems set for a Biden/Harris White House to push further legislation that only adds legal protection and support for unrestricted abortions. Of course, this is clear given their stated positions: “As states across our nation continue to attack reproductive rights, especially abortion, it’s more important than ever we have a president who will defend and expand these rights,” she tweeted. “As president, @JoeBiden will codify Roe v. Wade and protect the constitutional right to choose” (here). Note her words: “expand” and “codify” and “constitutional right.” Those are troublesome, to say the least. As for the DNC platform, they aim to federally fund Planned Parenthood and make sure to protect abortion rights (see page 30 of the DNC platform document).

The abortion issue, then, is massive in my mind and the mind of many evangelicals. At this point, that should not surprise anyone. Yet, and I’m finally ready to make my point, does looking at this issue of abortion and finding it decisive (I would never vote for a pro-choice president) necessarily mean that I think other issues (even issues that the Bible explicitly addresses) are unimportant? Some have leveled this charge. They have (most the time with snark and no real intellectual engagement) said things like, “Oh, abortion is a big deal and it drives your decision. Those other things the Bible talks about must not matter.” The problem, this line of reasoning is a non sequitur. That is, the premises and conclusions do not follow:

  • Premise 1: Abortion is a massively important issue for you.
  • Premise 2: Abortion is a decisive issue when you vote.
  • Conclusion: Other issues are unimportant to you.

Again, the reasoning does not follow (i.e. non sequitur). To say that a single issue outweighs other issues does not mean other issues are unimportant. It is possible to look at one issue and find that when it is placed on the scales that it is so heavy it simply tips the scales in a certain direction. John Piper noted that one issue can tip the scales so far as to disqualify a person from office. Twenty-five years ago he wrote, “But there are numerous single issues that disqualify a person from public office. For example, any candidate who endorsed bribery as a form of government efficiency would be disqualified, no matter what his party or platform was” (here). For many, abortion is weighted so heavily that it becomes a disqualifier, regardless of what other good and helpful policies a person might advocate.

As I’ve stated in other places, try this thought experiment: imagine you have a candidate running for office. He is a nice guy. He smiles, speaks kindly, and seems genuine. He has great economic policies, wonderful health care plans, and the way he would approach immigration is admirable. Yet, he plans to pursue policies that eradicate a slice of the population. Would that one issue outweigh the others? I hope that answer is a resounding yes (if not, we don’t operate in the same ethical, moral, or intellectual universe).

So, as we move (it seems) towards a Biden/Harris White House, we should be clear about a few things. First, I plan to pray for them and sincerely hope they do well (I think those who are eager for them to fail are people without money in the stock market!). Second, it is possible to celebrate their successes. I hope there are lots of reasons to rejoice and that we will all have the humility to do so when warranted. Third, and at the same time, if they pursue the DNC platform as it is written, then principled resistance, convictional opposition, and winsome words should mark God’s people. We will stand strongly against murderous policies and for the most vulnerable among us.

But don’t look at my strong stand for the life of the unborn and assume abortion is the only issue I care about. That is not intellectually honest. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I count the rest of the Bible as unimportant. No, I believe the whole Bible is relevant for today. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, stands authoritatively over my life because it is the Word of my King. And as I read his Word, I cannot escape the doctrine of the imago Dei (i.e. the image of God; Gen 1:26). Men and women, boys and girls, even those who exist in a mother’s womb, bear God’s stamp and are of inherent value. Therefore, the murder of those who cannot speak for themselves, at a rate that is simply unconscionable, breaks the scales for justice and righteousness and therefore outweighs so many other issues facing our world today. 

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