Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dudley: When Evangelicals Were Pro-Choice

Did you know that:

A Dallas Seminary professor, writing in a 1968 edition of Christianity Today, said that "God does not regard the fetus as a soul" and the "destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense."

An evangelical magazine called Christian Life said that the Bible distinguished the value of a fetus and an adult.

In 1971 the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution "affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well."

What happened to make evangelicals so pro-life today?  Jonathan Dudley explains at CNN.  Here is a taste:

These stalwart evangelical institutions and leaders would be heretics by today’s standards. Yet their positions were mainstream at the time, widely believed by born-again Christians to flow from the unambiguous teaching of Scripture.

Televangelist Jerry Falwell spearheaded the reversal of opinion on abortion in the late 1970s, leading his Moral Majority activist group into close political alliance with Catholic organizations against the sexual revolution.

In contrast to evangelicals, Catholics had mobilized against abortion immediately after Roe v. Wade. Drawing on mid-19th century Church doctrines, organizations like the National Right to Life Committee insisted a right to life exists from the moment of conception.

As evangelical leaders formed common cause with Catholics on topics like feminism and homosexuality, they began re-interpreting the Bible as teaching the Roman Catholic position on abortion.
Falwell’s first major treatment of the issue, in a 1980 book chapter called, significantly, “The Right to Life,” declared, “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception… (Abortion) is murder according to the Word of God.”

With the megawatt power of his TV presence and mailing list, Falwell and his allies disseminated these interpretations to evangelicals across America....


D G said...

John, a useful perspective on these evangelical views on abortion is Allan Carlson's new book, Godly Seed, American Evangelicals Confront Birth Control, 1873 to 1973. It shows how much anti-Catholicism played into the early arguments for birth control (and later for abortion), and how evangelicals got caught up in the Protestant rejection of traditional Christian views about sex. Dudley seems to want to show that the pro-abortion view is progressive. But as with most of history, it comes with a dark side -- not only anti-Catholicism but eugenics.

John Fea said...

Thanks Darryl. I will definitely have to check out Carlson's book. This becomes a fascinating question when examined historically.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Tip o'brim to Dr. Hart and of great interest to me. The creationism foofaraw is related: In real life, not the cartoonish Inherit the Wind: Wm. Jennings Bryan was standing up against modernity, materialism and eugenics far more than for Biblical literalism itself.

Creationism is a great embarrassment to many modern yet devout Christians. If only creationists knew the truth in what they're fighting for, the God-given dignity of man. There's a there in there somewwhere.

As a congressman from Lincoln, Nebraska, his eloquent "Cross of Gold" speech won him the first of three presidential nominations. He supported women's suffrage, championed the rights of farmers and laborers and believed passionately in majority rule.

In 1921, when he was 61 years old, Bryan began a new campaign -- to ban the teaching of evolution in public schools. Many wondered if Bryan had given up his progressive ideals. Had his religious faith turned him against science, education and free speech? Few understood his reasons for opposing evolution.

As a young man, Bryan had been open-minded about the origins of man. But over the years he became convinced that Darwin's theory was responsible for much that was wrong with the modern world. "The Darwinian theory represents man as reaching his present perfection by the operation of the law of hate," Bryan said, "Evolution is the merciless law by which the strong crowd out and kill off the weak." He believed that the Bible countered this merciless law with "the law of love."

[OK, y'all caught me standing up for Christian left-liberalism. But facts is facts, and I gotta give you and Darryl this one.]


[Y'know, the actual Bryan/Darrow transcript is much more interesting than that stupid movie...]