Do Christians have a Biblical mandate to outlaw abortion?
My name is Aaron Taylor and I’m a pro-life Christian. What I mean by calling myself pro-life is to say that I believe life begins at conception and no human being has the right to take another life. Period. If you ask me whether I believe abortion is a sin I’ll give you an unequivocal yes, and then I’ll be sure to point you to the cross of Jesus Christ if I sense you’re struggling with guilt over a dark past. On the other hand, if you ask me whether I think Christians should try to outlaw abortion, I’m not going to give you a straight answer. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m pro-abortion, and neither does it mean I’m pro-choice. It simply means that I can’t give you a straight answer, and the funny thing is, it’s precisely because of my Christian faith that I can’t come right out and say that Christians are obligated to pass laws to declare abortions illegal.
As a Christian and as a citizen I would love to see the abortion rate in the United States of America reduced to zero. But the question is how do we make that happen? Is it simply a matter of passing a law declaring abortion illegal? My conservative Christian background would answer with an immediate yes to this question, but these days my heart is telling me that passing a law outlawing abortion doesn’t quite solve the problem. For starters, we know that before Roe Vs Wade there were countless backyard abortions taking place. And given that little has changed in the past 30 years to address the root causes of systemic poverty in our nation, there’s little reason to believe this would change if abortion would be outlawed tomorrow.
Then there’s the question of rape and abuse. I think female rape victims that choose to keep their babies are saints, but as a man I have to wonder if I really understand the pain female rape victims that choose to deliver their babies full term goes through—even if they give them up for adoption later. And what about women—or young girls—in abusive situations? There’s been a lot of media attention lately about Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s 17 year-old daughter’s unplanned pregnancy and, make no mistake about it, I’m thrilled that Todd and Sarah Palin have chosen to love and support their daughter to guide her in the right direction to keep her baby. But let’s get real for a moment. Does anybody seriously think that every teenage girl has loving parents to come home to that can guide them through an unplanned pregnancy?
What about the girl who’s father molested her when she was young and fears bringing the child up under the same roof? Or what about the girl whose parents would kill them—literally—if they found out she had sex outside of marriage? Or how about the financially struggling woman that fears the father of her baby will abuse both her and the child if she decides to keep her baby? Even in these extreme cases, my Christian ethic on the sanctity of human life still demands that I could never counsel a woman to have an abortion, but the question is: Do I have an obligation as a Christian to take the further step and impose my view of morality on others by forcing them to do so?
The question isn’t just a moral one. It’s also a Biblical one. If the Bible commands Christians to implement God’s law over society through systems of laws and penalties, then by all means, Christians are obligated to declare anything that contradicts God’s law illegal. While we’re at it, if we’re going to be consistent, we might want to consider the death penalty for the 16- year old girl that takes the morning after pill. After all, life begins at conception and murder is murder. If, on the other hand, it can be sufficiently proven that Christians are not obligated to pursue political power to control other people’s behavior, then the question becomes how should followers of Jesus be salt and light in a world that’s gone mad?
I’m going to simplify this by answering my own question with a question. What would the Church look like if there were a universal consensus that our only moral agenda is to imitate Jesus? Throughout the three years of Christ’s ministry on earth, Jesus displayed the sum total of zero interest in pursuing political power to control other people’s behavior. Jesus was offered political power three times—once by Satan—and He turned it down each and every time. In the Roman culture of Jesus’ day, they had something worse than abortion. People could legally kill their children up until age two, but strangely we never see Jesus leading a campaign to outlaw this barbaric practice. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that the Apostle Paul could care less about how people outside the church behaved. His sole concern was for the moral lives of those inside the church. Those inside the church guilty of gross immorality were judged by excommunication, but those outside the Church, Paul made it very clear that Christians are to have nothing to do with judging them (I Corinthians 5:12).
I realize that what I’ve written so far challenges a deeply held notion in many Christian circles that God has called Bible believing Christians to be the moral guardians of society, but frankly, I don’t give a rip about offending religious people. What matters is what the Bible actually says, not the opinions of man. I ask the question again. What would Christianity look like if followers of Jesus decided that their only moral agenda in this life is to imitate Jesus? Would we condemn the sinner with a sword or would we serve the sinner with a towel?