Labels play a role in our religious and political conversations. Take the word Evangelical for instance. It is so loaded with negative images that I won't use it to describe myself anymore. This in spite of the fact that I have a very high Christology and still believe the Bible to be the measuring stick of all that I strive to do. In my mind however, the word has been co-opted by the Christian Right Wing and therefore represents a brand of Christianity with which I have little in common.
Liberal is another good word. If you use the term Liberal in Evangelical circles, well, you might as well have said heretic. Here's a news flash: Being liberal is not being sinful. I have been a bit afraid to label myself as a liberal but believe it or not, in the midst of this election, I am proud to take on the moniker. Liberals created Social Security. When Liberals have been in office, historically, the stock market is strong. Liberals want to create programs who protect poor people over protecting profits for large corporations. Liberals understand that we don't live in world where everyone ascribes to same value system and therefore we don't have the right to legislate what people should believe. Liberals seems to understand the division between church and state better than Conservatives.
Conservatives accuse liberals of being godless. We're godless because we think abortion should be legal. We're godless because we understand diversity. We're godless because we believe in civil rights for homosexuals. We're godless because we don't think that wearing a flag on your lapel is THE signal that a person is indeed totally patriotic. We're godless because we're soft on the war on terror. But this is where I take issue with this line of thinking. First of all, I am not godless. I am a committed Christian seeking to integrate my understanding of Jesus Christ with the ideals I set forth in my life. But I also understand that I can't force that world view on anyone else through legislation. So what I personally believe doesn't necessarily indicate what I think the law should be.
Let's take abortion. The Conservative bottom line is that they don't believe the government should be the organ that provides relief for people who are down and out. That should happen through the private sector. And yet, they do think the government should be involved in deciding whether or not it should be legal for a woman to abort an unwanted pregnancy. Christian conservatives spend a great deal of time and energy on this issue. It is often the only reason they will vote for a candidate. I really struggle with this perspective because often they haven't even tested the rest of the candidate's positions on other issues to ensure that they are actually going to set forth a political path that jives with the rest of their value system.
One of the first things I'd like to see in the abortion debate is a label change. I do not like the traditional positions of Pro-life/Pro-choice. Why? Because it intimates that those of us who are pro-choice are not pro-life which is ridiculous. It also intimates that those of us who are pro-choice also have no moral issue against abortion, which is also wrong. I much prefer the use of the terms pro-legal or anti-legal. No one loves abortion. No one thinks it is a great choice when faced with a difficult pregnancy. But many in our country and in our world believe that is it necessary to allow the option for women for whom a pregnancy would create greater hardship. Just because we think something is wrong doesn't mean we should legislate against it. And just because we think something is wrong doesn't mean that it isn't sometimes necessary. Take divorce for example. There is hardly an issue in scripture that is more clearly defined as sin. Jesus actually comes out and says in the book of Matthew, I hate divorce. Scripture indicates that in most cases, re-marriage is equivalent to committing adultery. Why is the Christian right not lobbying that divorce be illegal? Is this not akin to deciding that abortion is morally unacceptable and therefore should be legislated against?
A better route to take would be to embrace women facing unwanted pregnancies and providing them with support, emotionally, spiritually and fiscally so that they can face their pregnancy and give the child up for adoption if in the end, they still feel they can't handle the child. If more Christians who oppose abortion as a legal right were to put some teeth into their position by advocating for and lending a helping hand to the women who are tempted by abortion we would see a real change in the way in which the legal right to abortion is exercised. Instead many simply shout out against the rights of the unborn child and allow the living breathing mother to suffer under what are often crippling circumstances that definitely do not seem pro-life.
For the record, I consider myself to be pro-life on the following issues.
The War: I have been against the war in Iraq from the start and have remained unconvinced that the overwhelming loss of life on both the American and Iraqi sides has been much too costly.
Violence and Gun Control: As a nation, our gun perspective is out of control. The fact that there are murders reported on the nightly news across our nation tells me that this issue have reached a crisis point, and yet, Christians are not lobbying for greater gun control. How in the world is gun control not a pro-life issue?
Capital Punishment: Most people who oppose legal abortion support Capital Punishment. HELP ME. Is life life, or is life only life when you haven't done anything wrong? What about redemption? Is redemption not the center piece of all that Christ is about? Is responding to violent action with violence a good solution? How can anyone take us seriously on the issue of human rights when we are one of the last western nations to practice capital punishment?
Torture: It's just wrong. Plain and simple.
I am a pro-life person who happens to believe that women have the right to have a safe, clean, legal abortion when they feel it is necessary. How do I square this with my Christian world view? I think it showers compassion on someone who finds her self in a difficult place. And I think compassion should be the label Christians are most clearly known for in our world.