The debates have been interesting to watch. I have appreciated the opportunity to hear Gov. Romney’s positions on various issues. He is certainly not the diabolical person that the president and the biased liberal media have painted him to be. But among the debates so far, perhaps the most striking comment came from Vice President Biden in his debate with Congressman Paul Ryan.
Near the end, the issue of religion was brought up. Both men are lifelong Catholics. Having co-written Indivisible with Jay Richards, who is Catholic, I have come to understand their social views in greater depth. While I disagree with many of their theological positions, I appreciate their commitment to our common values. One of these is, of course, their position on abortion.
Congressman Ryan stated that in his view life begins at conception, which is the Catholic church’s position. He then stated, “The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.” Clearly, Ryan’s personal position and Romney’s political position are not exactly the same. The Catholic church does not consider rape an excuse to terminate a child’s life. (Since rape caused my mother’s pregnancy which led to my birth, I personally have a problem with this idea also.)
Vice President Biden said, “My religion defines who I am. And I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.” He then turned it to abortion. “Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life, but I refuse to impose it…on others.”
To me, it sounds as if the Vice President’s social doctrine is terribly uninformed. If there is anyone who “can’t take care of themselves,” is it not those in the womb?
All of this raises a challenging question: Where do we draw the line between our personal convictions and the social, political, and legal policies we advocate? This is especially difficult for politicians, since they are lawmakers. If they push too much, they are called zealots. If they push too little, they are called hypocrites. How candidates handle this inherent tension reveals a lot about their character.
It’s often repeated, “You can’t legislate morality.” But if not, then what else is left to legislate? All laws reflect someone’s system of values and the principles guiding their decisions. “Thou shall not murder” is not just one of the Ten Commandments, it is law. Nobody argues that this is the imposition of religious values on a secular society. But “thou shall not kill a child in the womb?” Suddenly, that crosses a line with many people.
The challenge for believers is to take biblical principles and convince a majority of people of their truth. This is essentially what happened with abolition and more recently in the Civil Rights movement. In a democratic society, this can work. We cannot convince every person of the truth of God’s word, but we can convince a majority, which can directly impact legislation. Then it is not coercion, but a healthy case of majority rule. In the words of the apostle Paul, “we are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.”
When a politician believes one thing personally, but does not seek to establish it legislatively, we must ask why. Take the case of prostitution. I haven’t heard it addressed much, but I would bet one would have a hard time finding a candidate who would openly say, “Yes, I support prostitution.” At the same time, we don’t hear much opposition to Nevada’s legal brothels. Is that simply the laissez-faire attitude ingrained in Americans, especially in the west? Is it hypocrisy? Or, even worse, is political silence really an advancement of something most people consider wrong or perhaps evil?
I believe the preferred approach to all of the moral issues we face is to do exactly what Paul said: destroy the ideas that oppose God. In other words, we change people’s minds. We do this through gracious confrontation. Screaming and yelling doesn’t work. Legislation doesn’t always work (study prohibition to see its failure). But changing people’s minds almost always works.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is an extremely liberal Democrat and a Mormon from Nevada, has spoken out against prostitution. Granted, his opposition has been couched in economic benefits rather than moral conviction, but at least he is pointed in the right direction on this issue.
Which leads me back to Vice President Biden’s comments and the Obama administration’s actions. If Biden’s religion defines him as a person and, as he stated, particularly influences his social doctrine, wouldn’t he at least seek to convince people that abortion is wrong? If he truly believes that life begins at conception, his words and actions should reflect it. He may not seek to overturn Roe vs. Wade, but he should seek to convince Americans it should be overturned and especially to see life as precious and worthy of protection.
Instead, the current administration has been actively thwarting pro-life legislation while increasing funding to groups that advocate and provide abortions both domestically and internationally. As for President Obama, he claims to be a Christian, though many theologians reject his “liberation theology” as valid. Regardless, there is no logic in promoting abortion as a means of birth control, especially in the minority communities he claims to care so much about. Planned Parenthood, which has seen increased funding under the Obama administration, has been caught protecting under-age prostitution, promoting abortions based on gender selection, and designating funds to provide minority abortions. Yet Obama mocked Romney in this week’s debate for wanting to cut off millions of taxpayer dollars that go to Planned Parenthood.
In both cases – the President and the Vice-President – we have claims of religious beliefs that directly contradict the words and actions of both. This is not simply a “hands-off” approach that respects majority opinion. This is intentional political activism directly opposed to a supposed belief, which can only lead to one conclusion: what they claim to believe is not what they actually believe.
This is a serious moral dilemma.