Christianity,  Politics

Questions for the Emerging Church about Abortion

Michael Patton questions Emerging/Emergent churchers about their attempts to downgrade the abortion issue among evangelical voters. Patton’s penetrating queries could also be addressed to Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo, and the rest of the evangelical left. The questions are worth quoting at length:

If we have a respect for intrinsic human dignity—the imago dei in all people—which motivates us to provide a voice for the poor, for those discriminated against, and for Aids victims, how much more do we have the obligation to speak for the unborn? There are over three thousand children who are aborted each day in the United States alone (over 40 million worldwide). That is more than who died in the world trade center bombing.

Isn’t it hypocritical and imbalanced for us to speak with 10 decimals about the environment, the poor, and aids victims, and speak with only a hesitant whisper, if at all, toward the dying unborn who are being scraped from their mother’s womb?

Are you so disenchanted with a Republican agenda that you neglect these little ones for fear of being identified with the religious right?

If so, wouldn’t this neglect through disenchantment evidence an irresponsible and, indeed, sinful reaction that is totally inconsistent with the missio dei?

Even if we have, as of yet, not been able to do anything about abortion (which I do not concede—read Beckwith’s book), does this mean that we silence our passions and lay down our political arms in a democratic society where the people are the government?

Here is some more difficult questions:

Do you think slavery should have been abolished (or could have been) through a gentle appeal to the mass public to do what is right at the same time as keeping it legal?

Should America have given up on the abolition of slavery because for hundreds of years political activists were not able to do anything about it?

Do you think that it was right, in hindsight to have gone to war over the issue of slavery?

If so, would you support such a war—a civil war—over abortion. If not, why not? What is the difference?

Do you, as an emerger, believe that life begins at conception? Or are some emergers—social emergers—uncertain about when life begins? Is this why you don’t speak about it?

If you don’t speak to this issue, do you really expect people to listen to you about others? Why? Sometimes silence can speak louder than words. In other words, there is a message in silence.

Go read the rest of this at Reclaiming the Mind Ministries.

(HT: Justin Taylor)


  • Jesica

    Just saw this from Obama…

    I’m dumbfounded by this one…

    Obama: Sermon on Mount Justifies Same-Sex Unions

    By Terence P. Jeffrey Editor in Chief
    March 03, 2008

    ( – Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) told a crowd at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio, Sunday that he believes the Sermon on the Mount justifies his support for legal recognition of same-sex unions. He also told the crowd that his position in favor of legalized abortion does not make him “less Christian.”

    “I don’t think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state,” said Obama. “If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.” ((Hear audio from WTAP-TV)) St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans condemns homosexual acts as unnatural and sinful.

    Obama’s mention of the Sermon on the Mount in justifying legal recognition of same-sex unions may have been a reference to the Golden Rule: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” Or it may have been a reference to another famous line: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”…

    …Obama opened his town-hall-type meeting at the college with a short speech and then provided lengthy answers to a handful of questions. One questioner, Leon Forte, a Protestant clergyman, asked Obama about evangelical Christians who were concerned about his position on issues that conservatives consider “litmus tests.”…

    …”As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws,” Obama said in the letter. “I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples–whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage.”

    In Ohio on Sunday, before mentioning the Sermon on the Mount, Obama insisted he was against “gay marriage” and did not mention his support for allowing same-sex couples to adopt children and have the same “family” status as heterosexual couples…

    …Before discussing his views on same-sex unions and abortion, Obama told the crowd he was a “devout Christian.”

    “In terms of my faith, there has been so much confusion that has been deliberately perpetrated through emails and so forth, so here are the simple facts,” he said. “I am a Christian. I am a devout Christian. I have been a member of the same church for 20 years, pray to Jesus every night, and try to go to church as much as I can when they are not working me. Used to go quite often.

    “These days, we haven’t been at the home church–I haven’t been home on Sunday–for several months now. So, my faith is important to me. It is not something that I try to push on other people. But it is something that helps to guide my life and my values.”

  • Barry

    Here’s a question that has me curious about the young “evangelical left” of which Patton writes that marginalizes abortion: How many have kids? My own experience is that I didn’t like the idea of abortion when I was in college and seminary before getting married and having kids, but once little lives are conceived, carried, nursed by my wife etc., the abortion debate all of a sudden took on a whole new light, a whole new sense of disgust, and a whole new level of attention. I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience, or if this will be the experience of some of the emerg/emerg folks? Having babies changed everything.


  • Bryan L

    It seems both sides probably downgrade the issue. I mean let’s be honest if all you are doing is voting for a particular president every 4 years and debating the issue on blogs or forwarding emails it probably isn’t that big of an issue to you either.

    Maybe you are not that way. Maybe you are one of the token people who will speak up and object that you adopted a child or you gave some money to a ministry that helps pregnant mothers who decide to keep their babies, or even more maybe you attended a pro-life rally.

    But if that’s the extent of our involvement (and most often it’s not even that much) then lets be honest, everyone is downgrading the issue.

    If you really believe in the pro-life cause and that it the single most important issue, then I hope your life reflects that and it is something that you are living. I hope people can see the sacrifice in your life and that it really means something to you.

    Do you realize that if Christians (or anyone for that matter) actually lived their convictions and made real sacrifices in their lives for those convictions that things in this world would actually change and be different? Think about it. You have people that come on here and talk about abortion and then you have others come on here and talk about the poor. Neither issue is lacking support in the church. Both issues are covered. What is lacking is actual commitment and sacrifice for these issues.

    Stop debating and start acting, otherwise you’re no different than the people you are disagreeing.

    Just some thoughts.

    Bryan L

  • John

    Denny, do you think abortion is a “bottom up” issue? Above Patton said:

    “Do you think slavery should have been abolished (or could have been) through a gentle appeal to the mass public to do what is right at the same time as keeping it legal?”

    It seems like some pro-life people say we should push for making it illegal, and others say we should more or less start at the bottom of the chain to convince everyone first. I’m not really sure what to think. Thoughts? Or am I possibly creating a false dichotomy? More thoughts?

  • Denny Burk

    John (in #6),

    I think it should not be an either/or thing. Pro-lifers have to attack the pro-death culture at every level. So we make pro-life arguments in the public square (like I do on this blog), we financially support crisis pregnancy centers (like the Downtown Pregnancy Center here in Dallas), we support presidential candidates who would appoint supreme court justices that are likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.

    This is definitely a bottum-up issue in the sense that we need to win the hearts and minds of the wider culture to the pro-life cause. But doing that doesn’t mean that we neglect these other items that are important too.

    That’s my view.


  • Ted

    RE: # 2 Jesica comment:

    Wow, I can’t believe Obama’s comments either! But that’s a liberal– they pick and choose what verses they like and disparage the rest.

    Here’s a <a href=” to the raw text of Obama’s remarks, from the WTAP-TV Parkersburg, WV:

  • Paul


    I agree completely. It became 1,000,000x harder to maintain a pro-choice stance the minute my baby was born in November. You look at your baby and you just think, “how could anyone not want this?”

  • Barry

    Wow. Are you saying that it changed your position? We have 2 and 1 on the way, and I have had the same moments that you described.


  • Paul


    Well, that’s a hard question. It’s something that I’m really at a crossroads on. To tell the truth, at present, I don’t know where I stand. I just know that I love my kid and couldn’t imagine for a second thinking that it would have been a good idea to abort her.

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