In some ways, it is amazing how an issue that was “settled” with the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 continues to define the American moral landscape. In other ways, given the unique event of abortion, it should not be a surprise at all. Opponents of abortion compare it to our duel national sins of racism and slavery, and it is not hard to see why: in both cases, the natural rights of human beings are so disregarded that their lives have mere utilitarian value at best. Blacks were only good enough to be slaves and aborted babies—when “used”—are only useful for scientific experimentation.
In both cases, self-described Christians have both opposed and defended those evils. Yes, it was Christians who, by and large, brought slavery to an end. But not without millions more defending slavery as biblical, and not without Christians believing that blacks were sub-human. Christians also defend abortion. Some are even willing to sit by as it is “shouted” about with pride. Those of us who believe abortion to be evil find ourselves asking, “How can Christians support this?” And if we take it one step further asking, “Are they even Christians at all?”
With the highly publicized New York law that allows abortions up to the moment of birth for easily manipulated reasons and the titular-Catholic governor Andrew Cuomo seemingly receiving no discipline as a result of signing it, the question is as important now as ever: can you be a “pro-choice Christian?” I would like to offer a short answer and a long answer.
The short answer is: No. Assuming that when we say “Christian” we are referencing a Bible-believing, Jesus following, Law of God-supporting soul, then there is simply no way to square those descriptions with what abortion is: the willful, pre-meditated taking of an innocent human life. True Christians should not be able to survive the title if modifiers like “thieving”, “murdering” or “lying” can be added. And such a modifier, it seems, could be added to a pro-choice Christian that would render the final title a contradiction-in-terms.
Given what abortion is, and given the reality that God’s Law is so flagrantly violated, it begs credulity to allow one to bear the name of Christ while supporting abortion. Back to slavery, could true Christians support slavery? In fact, many famous Christians like renowned preacher George Whitfield owned slaves, so some would say yes. But were they really Christian? Sure, perhaps they could not have single-handedly overthrown the institution, but did they really need to own them?
It should be inserted here that the question is not, “Can Christians who have had abortions or supported abortion be forgiven upon repentance?” The answer to this is strongly, “Yes!”
The long answer involves the difficulty of actually defining what—or who—a “Christian” is. Historically, back when Christians confessed Christ with the reasonable guess that persecution and hardship would be coming their way, the creeds acted as a sufficient testament of true faith. The Apostles and Nicene Creeds were intrinsically at war against the pagans and Gnostics that were Christianity’s primary competition, so their confession was hugely significant. The creeds were the basic foundation of what a Christian needed to believe in order to deserve the title.
But a creed-only boundary is problematic on many levels. The creeds define the person of God with marvelous efficiency, but the Christian’s absolute relationship to legal, moral and cultural realities are not addressed, so the creeds can’t be wholly sufficient. For example, the serial killer known as BTK was the president of his Lutheran congregation and he undoubtedly recited the creed weekly. He probably believed every word. But there is something about that whole binding, torturing, killing spree of his that seems to undermine his authentic Christian bona fides. Wouldn’t we all agree to that?
On the flip side, some Christians refuse to recite the creeds because of the “vain repetition” concern. Does that make them lesser-than Christians? I would say not, for it is believing the content of the creeds that is more important than the recitation of them.
What about the cultural Christian, the Christian who takes on the name as a kind of default, but hasn’t read the Bible in years and only darkens the sanctuary door at Christmas or Easter? If they are “pro-choice”, does that prove that there are pro-choice Christians? Again, I would say no because that would rely on congregations being lazy about culling their rolls and allowing non-Christians to inherit the name as a kind of cultural right.
So being a true Christian is not merely creedal or cultural; it far more personal than that. And even though Christianity is marked by the beautiful Good News of the forgiveness of sins, the Law of God still applies. As Paul writes in Romans 6:1: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” Part of what defines authentic Christianity includes:
• The desire (albeit unfulfilled this side of heaven) to be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48)
• “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:1)
• and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31).
• “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." (James 1:27)
Throw in the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes for good measure and no sincere Christian could justify his faith while willfully harming other human beings.
So, if it is impossible to honestly pair the words “pro-choice” and “Christian”, assuming that both words truly reflect the reality that choice equals abortion and Christian equals adherence to ALL that Jesus taught, then I don’t know how there can be such a species as a “pro-choice Christian.” Either “choice” needs to be redefined to only focus on the woman and her rights while ignoring the reality of human life in her womb, or Christianity needs to be redefined as a bare minimum that reflects only the ethic of love and not the demands of the Law of Love. To see a “Christian” in action redefining these terms expertly, watch this video.
So what is needed? In a word, discipline. Church discipline is virtually extinct from nearly all church bodies. Only the most conservative Protestant churches (and cults!) still employ discipline. Roman Catholics, to my knowledge, haven’t excommunicated a pro-abortion pol, well, ever. Without such discipline, we are allowing so-called Christians to justify abortion. So it begins with the Church having some standards for the flock, so when purported Christians claim the name, we will have some credibility in denying it.