As the world watches a virtual civil-war unfold over the issue of abortion, I figured I would do my part to best "de-fuse" the situation. I'm not trying to shape your opinion to mine, or shape it into anything else, for that matter. I hope you'll see where I'm coming from and keep an open mind about everything you read, then shape what you believe.
"Values voters" have always played an prominent role in elections. They shape how candidates act and what they talk about, and also can have a big impact on election day. Republicans often hinge their campaign on these voters coming to the polls. But what is a "values voter"? What motivates them to give their vote to a certain candidate? Often, the voter will find an evangelical Christian who makes it very known that he/she is pro-Bible, pro-life and against gay-marriage and stem cells. Often times, they would also be very much opposed to anything trying to remove the word "God" out of anything, and keeping the Ten Commandments everywhere.
However, there is one negative part to this. The "values voter" is often uninformed and only follows the Bible for guidance. Now let's be clear, many voters are uninformed when they enter the polling place. I'm not just picking on values voters. I'll also point out that I, myself, are conservative on most "values issues." Where my problem comes in, is how conservatives often justify their views.
Now, I'm as big a "Bible Fan" as you'll find. I read my Bible everyday and believe the Bible is God's Word. I'm a proud Southern Baptist and don't plan on changing that any time soon. However, as much as we would like to believe that every word in the Bible is the way we should live, we simply can't do it. Here's how I like to look at the Bible: "Anything Jesus said or did is fact and should be an example for us. Everything else is up for interpretation." One popular Christian argument for being against homosexuality is the Bible calls homosexuality an "abomination". This, if you're not already familiar with it, is in Leviticus(20:13). What most Christians fail to realize after making this argument (aside from, sadly enough, the liberal you're arguing with may not care what's in the Bible at all), is that you only need to flip over a few pages to Leviticus 11 to justify death to all football players (Lev. 11:7-8- "touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean"), to justify slavery (Exodus 21:7) and even putting people to death for working on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2). Although I believe the Bible gives many useful insights as to values issues, the Old Testament (which is often considered more of a "history" than a way to live) is not one of them.
Instead, a conservative's way of being opposed to Gay-Marriage, if they even are opposed to it, should dive more into reasons that effects today's life than pulling out scripture verses, which can almost always be interpreted different ways. An example of this would be to point out that a child, which there is little disagreement among experts on this point, grows up better with one loving mother and one loving father. Of course there are many tragic families out there without the word "loving", in which case, sure, it would be better to have two loving fathers. However, there are just as many homosexual mothers and fathers who are poor parents as heterosexuals. It also a respectable view that you believe marriage is an institution, and changing it would open too many doors. Who says polygamist won't be next? I can tell you that these arguments will be more respected in debates than pulling out verses from Leviticus.
While on the subject of homosexual marriage, I'd like to interject with a small defense of liberals. "Liberal" is often thrown around as a very negative term. I believe it is, for the most part, negative. However, let's not forget it's "liberals" that ended slavery in this country. It's "liberals" that got women to vote. I think in 30-40 years, we will look back at this point and see the persecution of homosexuals as akin to women and african americans and that the Bible was often pointed to as justification for these. As I said, I'm against homosexual marriage, but I'm strongly opposed to any "gay-bashing" and do not believe homosexuality is a sin. I simply believe homosexual marriage would open a whole new can of worms to be dealt with. If they want civil unions, I have no problem with it. Marriage, as I said, is an institution.
Another popular values issues is abortion. We are seeing in the media the current friction between pro-lifers and pro-choice people with the murder of Dr. Tiller who was often called "Tiller the Baby Killer". However, I believe that both sides are seeing this for what it is. Murder is never a good thing, and never the solution to any problem, no matter how drastic (which is why I'm anti-capital punishment. Another argument for another day. Facebook me for more on that). I'm glad to see both sides condemn this tragedy. Yet, the debate on abortion presses on. Now, I'm a pretty fair minded person. I usually see the issue from both sides before making my choice. But this is one issue that I simply believe, there is no gray. This is an absolute wrong. What does the Bible say about it? One clear passage that almost all pro-lifers use for abortion is "even before you were in the womb, I knew you." This clearly shows that God says abortion is wrong. However, it's relatively easy for a smart liberal (they make those?) to poke holes in this argument. Here's a little devils advocate for you: "But the verse clearly says 'BEFORE you were in the womb.' Well what's that? That could easily mean the man's sperm. Does that mean birth control is wrong? Is it killing a (potential) baby every time a man produces sperm that doesn't fertilize a woman's egg?" (hey, I'm trying my best to keep this "PG" rated) So, conservatives are forced to find other avenue's of arguing. Try this one on for size. Every year in America, there's always high profile murders that make the front page of Fox News and CNN. Many times, these include the murders of babies, and sometimes, even unborn children. These stories always make me think 2 things: A) how awful it is and how that person better get the maximum jail sentence and B) how stupid our government is. Why B? Here's why. This is the first sentence from a local news story in Maryland: "[David Miller, who] is accused of killing his girlfriend is charged with her death and the death of her unborn child." There is another instance of a mother killing her own child by way of drinking poison, only to find she will be tried for the murder of child is the judge feels the child could have survived. What kind of messed up system is that? You are charged with the murder of unborn children, when any mother can just stroll down to a health clinic and have it done legally? This is should be the shouting point of every pro-life person in the world, not Biblical scripture.
There are many more values issues that will continued to be debated. Conservatives, sadly enough, will continue to spout off ill-informed pieces of information, when their opinion is quite valid and many of their points correct. For example: We should have the Ten Commandments and prayer in schools and government buildings because our country was founded on Christian values. Values? Yes. Christian? No. Our country was founded on religious freedom, whether that be Christian, Quaker, Mormon, Mennonite or Muslim. The founders believed in religious freedom and believed that Church and State should be separated. In fact, most of the founders were Deists, which is far from Christian. I'm just pointing out that the founders weren't the Christian we think them to be. They no doubt believed in God, but that doesn't make them Christian.
Here's my personal view on it all: I'm a Christian and I believe in the Bible. I am not for FIGHTING for prayer in schools and the Ten Commandments in schools. Do you know why? They already are! Why do we have to take 10 minutes out of our kids education for a prayer that's likely to be phony anyway. I'd much rather have the group of Christian kids circle together in the lobby for real, heartfelt prayer. There is no law saying that I can't pray in school, so I did so. There was no law prohibiting me from posting the Ten Commandments in my locker. That's enough for me. The founders would have been adamantly opposed to anything that forced Christian Values on anybody, including a Christian prayer every morning. My view is Christians should stop raising heck over points like prayer in schools when we already have it. Instead, the resources fighting that should go to funding things like a magnetic Ten Commandments in lockers or setting up FCF (Fellowship of Christian Friends) in schools without one. This would be a much for valuable use of our time and focused, not on winning a partisan war, but getting things done. This type of action would be an example not only to the future of our Country, but our government now. If Washington adopted that attitude, we would live in a much more efficient America.
I want to be very clear that I'm not opposed to the Bible shaping views. The Bible, for the most part, defines who I am and what I believe. If not the Bible, then no doubt my religious views. Jesus' words and actions help make me who I am. But I realize that the Bible is far too complex for even an evangelical like me to understand. I also understand that it's not meant to be taken literally and almost impossible to use as an arguing tool. I'm not trying to change values voters opinions, just the way they back up those opinions. I'm not tired of being the "values party", but am tired of the other party hitting us for being uninformed and closed minded. If you are a values voter yourself, I encourage you to look beyond just values and look into fiscal, foreign and domestic policy in a candidate. I believe the values voter who goes to the polls only to vote for values is messing up the electoral process. Voting for a candidate only because he is pro-abortion would be kind of foolish, considering Roe vs. Wade still hasn't been overturned, through multiple Republican Presidents. You need to vote for the man who will improve this country the most. I'm not saying that can't be a pro-life candidate, because it probably is. But look around for a good candidate, not one who's strong on just one issue.
I hope values voters continue to care about values, if that makes sense. These are important issues we are faced with everyday that I would not want to be neglected. But America's largest problem maybe just being informed, which unfortunately includes values voters. If conservatives all of a sudden became the "informed party" and began to crush the liberal side in almost any debate, we would see a shift in power in the country faster than the republican to democratic one we saw in recent years. To make a long story short- read your Bible, pray for our country, but become educated on realms outside religion. Be a Bible expert AND a current events expert. It will go a long way, I promise you, in electing good conservative candidates and more importantly, getting things done.
(Related Readings: What you should know about Politics...but don't [Conrad], The Faith of George W. Bush [Mansfield], The Moral Compass [Bennett].