We continue our critique of the Christian Action document Biblical principles for Using Your Vote on http://www.savotersguide.com. The author’s second point concerns the parties’ opposition to abortion.
Is this principle Biblical?
Yes, it is. The Christian case against abortion rests on the idea that man is created in God’s image, and that man’s life is a gift of God from the womb. For Christians, human value rests in our created nature, and every living human being is worthy of protection.
Is it essential?
This certainly is an essential issue for Christians. However, I am hesitant to say that a Christian may not vote for a party that is pro-choice for the following reasons.
Christian arguments against abortion seem to begin with the Christian presuppositions mentioned above, and tend not to go any further than that. Peter Hammond’s article against abortion does just that. It begins with a brief Biblical case proving that abortion is murder in scripture, and then provides anecdotes from people who now regard abortion as despicable. In other words, the only argument of any kind is a scriptural one.
But given that we live in a plural society in which scripture is not acknowledged as authoritative, can we hold parties responsible for not listening to us if we have failed both to understand abortion from a secular viewpoint, and failed to argue in terms that are common to all? We have quoted scripture to a world that disbelieves it, but we have done little or nothing to actually persuade our nation of the wisdom of our beliefs.
Almost everyone agrees that a foetus is alive in its own right. We disagree over whether human life is worth protecting in itself. From a secular perspective, personhood depends upon the functioning of human memory, reason, will, self-awareness etc. If these elements are not present, a human might be alive, but it is not a person. Killing it, therefore, is much like killing an animal, which, while not desirable, is not usually illegal. If a family can’t afford to keep its dog and thus has it put down, we might frown upon the action, but we wouldn’t call it murder. If we want to outlaw abortion, we need to demonstrate why killing a thing that may not even have a functioning nervous system yet is worse than killing a pet, and as serious as killing the child’s mother.
Given that we generally fail to argue convincingly (or at all), we can hardly find political parties culpable for sustaining their own beliefs and rejecting ours. After all, we do much the same when reject Sharia Law because it holds no authority for us.
Abortion is important, but it is a relatively small part of governance in general, and so if there is a party that stands for justice (and which therefore might become convinced that abortion is unjust), a Christian might be able to suspend judgment upon their attitude to abortion until such time as we’ve made a properly reasoned case against abortion.
The rule here is for Christians to obey conscience in voting, and to work harder in persuading the world of our wisdom.
Has the author been fair?
In general, yes. However, a simple yes or no answer is often not satisfactory. For example, although he marks them as in favour of abortion, the IFP claims to be opposed to abortion but with limited exclusions, such as when the mother’s life is in danger. I would be interested to hear what Christian parties say about such extreme cases.