We must see that here, on such a central issue as abortion, the true nature of the problem was not understood: Christians failed to see that abortion was really a symptom of the much larger problem and not just one bit and piece . . . it is not only the babies who are being killed; it is humanness which the humanist worldview is beating to death (Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, 70).
Schaeffer gets right to the point in the fifth chapter of A Christian Manifesto. After indicting evangelical leadership for their decompartmentalization of the Lordship of Christ, he succinctly affirms the impact the gospel had in pre-revolutionary America on both personal conversion and Christian social action. He bemoans the reality that evangelicals in the United States presume upon the gospel and the tremendous freedoms experienced in American exceptionalism flowing from the Judeo-Christian consensus shared by its founders. He warns that what we take for granted today will be lost tomorrow (71).
At the heart of his critique is how lackluster evangelicals have shown themselves to be on the issue of abortion. He summarizes the stance Christians must have: If a law is wrong, you must disobey it (66). Why? Because “arbitrary legislation can never be really obligatory” (67). Abortion has never been legal in the ultimate (divine) sense of the word, and Schaeffer is correct to call for Christian dissidents to oppose an unrighteous law of the land.
Abortion: Then and Now
Fast-forward from Schaeffer’s cultural moment to ours: On June 24th, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States released its judgment on the controversial Dobbs v. Jackson case. In a six-to-three ruling, the court struck down the infamous Roe v. Wade decision just shy of its 50th anniversary. Under Roe’s “protection,” over 63 million preborn image bearers were aborted in forty nine and a half years. This ghastly death toll was the fruit of a poisonous root, and it continues to be so in the states where abortion remains on-demand. Schaeffer identifies this root as “humanism,” referring to the autonomous self-law animated by a rejection of God as Creator and Judge.
There was no excuse for evangelical silence when Roe was in force, and if Schaeffer was alive right now he would surely lament the way some evangelicals have quelled celebration of its demise because they have been so catechized by its legislation. Evangelicals must be crystal clear on this point: seeking to be nuanced on abortion is to compromise moral authority in the public square and to sin against the Giver of life. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Is. 5:20)!
1. Beth Allison Bar, “The Women Left Behind by the Pro-Life Movement,” last modified July 11, 2022, https://religionandpolitics.org/2022/07/11/the-women-left-behind-by-the-pro-life-movement/.
God has graciously and mercifully granted evangelicals in America the opportunity to survey our political landscape without the oppressive effect of the Roe decision for the moment, and this view forces us to consider afresh the perrenial question of whether a Christian can in good conscience vote for a pro-abortion candidate. Because of the Dobbs decision, we now have an “open window” (chapter six) that has been boarded up for the last half-century. In state after state, there will be new opportunities to stand for life.
With a diverse array of legal protections across the country, the 2022 midterm elections give Christians a legitimate opportunity to participate in the election of governmental leaders who can further protect unborn life. Going beyond elected representatives, this November the citizens of Kentucky and Montana, to give two examples, will vote on measures to increase the protection of unborn (or recently born) babies. Citizens of California, Michigan, and Vermont will vote on measures to expand greater access to snuffing out the life of a child as he or she grows in their mother’s womb. These are just a few of the political opportunities and threats that evangelical voters are called to faithfully engage in the public square at the voting booth.
If we have learned anything over the years leading up to Roe’s demise, we have discovered that abortion is central to the Democratic party’s platform—and it has been since at least 1992. President Biden tweeted soon after the Dobbs decision, “We have to codify Roe v. Wade into law. And as I said this morning: If the filibuster gets in the way, then we need to make an exception to get it done.” Abortion, and specifically reinstating Roe as a federally protected “right,” is the issue for Biden’s administration. And this is why we must remember Schaeffer’s insight that abortion is a piece of a larger unit, namely a mechanistic humanism that views people as disposable.
Justice Clarence Thomas understands this, which is why he adds in the third page of his concurrence with the Dobbs decision, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous,’ we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.” Thomas rightly points out in these cases the link between abortion, contraception, sodomy, and and so-called homosexual marriage. These are all interconnected distortions of humanity flowing from a humanism that sets itself up against God as Creator and Christ as Lord.
However, these other arbitrary legislations are not currently on the chopping block—abortion is. And Evangelicals must understand that as we enter a post-Roe America, the Democratic party has made Roe’s reinstitution the issue. Abortion is the “Big E” on their policy eye-chart. But sadly, as they fix their eyes on abortion, they expose their moral blindness by seeing abortion as “healthcare” or “reproductive justice.” We who have been given eyes to see, must identify their folly, lest we blindly follow them into a pit (Matt 15:14).
2. For context, there is only one Democrat up for re-election in congress in 2022—Texas House Representative Henry Cuellar—who dares stand against the party’s agenda to make abortion on-demand the law of the land. And he is increasingly a pariah within his own party; see Alexander Sammon, “The Looming Henry Cuellar Conundrum,” Slate, October 4, 2022, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/10/abortion-midterms-henry-cuellar-pro-life-democrat.html.
Even more, we must vote with equal clarity of vision. Since the Democratic party has made abortion-on-demand its primary agenda, casting a vote for a democratic candidate this November casts a vote for the party seeking to force all 50 states to recodify and even surpass Roe.
Remembering Schaeffer in October Prepares Us for November
Schaeffer reminds us that Jesus does not cease to be the Lord of our life when we enter the voting booth. As we witness the frantic response of Democrats to Roe’s demise we are vividly reminded of how stark the Christian worldview is from theirs.
For example, Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate running for governor of Georgia, stood in front of a church in August and proclaimed the following: “I was trained to read and understand the Bible, and I will tell you this, there is nothing about the decision to eliminate access to abortion care that is grounded in anything other than cruelty and meanness.” Schaeffer argues the exact opposite, “As the material-energy-chance humanistic worldview takes over increasingly in our country, the view concerning the intrinsic value of human life will grow less and less, and the concept of compassion for which the country is in some sense known will be further gone” (70).
Legalized abortion is grounded in cruelty and meanness, and the Democratic party has made full-access to it the centerpiece of its platform. President Biden makes this abundantly clear again when he tweets: “My dad used to say, ‘Joey, don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.’ And here’s the deal: Democrats want to codify Roe. Republicans want a national ban on abortion. The choice is clear.”
Certainly, abortion is not the only issue involved in voting, but as Schaeffer demonstrated in A Christian Manifesto, there is an antithesis between those who are for life and those who are against it. In a twist of irony, therefore, Schaeffer would likely agree with President Biden—“the choice is clear.” An evangelical can in good conscience vote for a Republican candidate who is pro-life, or a third-party candidate who is pro-life, or even not vote. But the question for evangelicals equivocating on abortion is this: can we revere Christ in our hearts as holy and vote for those who wish to “beat humanness to death” by recodifying Roe as a federally protected “right?” The answer to this question is clear.
(Editor’s Note: For more on this subject, check back in January when we will, as the Lord allows, address the subject of abortion head on).