I plan to come back to my normal blogging schedule next week, beginning a new set in the “Drawing from the Well” series on the Nicene Creed. Today, I wanted to share some thoughts I have had recently about a pitfall I see in the pro-life movement.
What is the pro-life movement about? What are its specific cultural and political goals? How does it measure success? I believe the movement is primarily about one thing, and thus the success of the movement depends on the achievement of one measurable objective: the elimination of legal forms of murder in the United States and other (mostly Western) nations that currently allow it. The farther we drift from defining the term “pro-life” from that specific objective, the more fractured and weakened the movement will become. Continue reading
During the long presidential primary season, I would have preferred that the Republican party nominate anyone on its massive slate of candidates over Donald Trump. But Trump vanquished them all. Then, during the months of the general election campaign, I saw many reasons to be critical of candidate Trump, even to the point that, for the first time in my life, I chose not to vote for the Republican nominee for President (nor did I vote for the Democrat, nor have I ever done so, nor will I ever do so unless that party undergoes massive changes). And, in spite of my expectations, Trump vanquished Hillary Clinton and will tomorrow be inaugurated the 45th President of the United States.
In the two months that have passed since the election, as I have watched the Trump transition at work, my optimism for the future has grown. Here are several reasons why:
- As flawed as Donald Trump is, it seems he is a far better choice for President than the alternative we had this year. Hillary Clinton is one of the most transparently corrupt politicians in history. And, had she won, it would have been a foregone conclusion that leftist entrenchment in the massive organization of our federal government would have only grown, leading to more liberal policies on abortion, further curtailing of religious liberty, the permanence of Obamacare, and a continued push for cultural accommodations to LGBT concerns. Though I did not vote for Trump, I fully understand why many Christians did, and I think it is unfair to criticize them for choosing what appeared to be a bad option, when bad options were the only options on the table.
- As flawed as Donald Trump is, it is important to keep in mind that we are now emerging from eight years of an Obama administration that has been a wretched one. For eight years he has governed from the far left as a globalist and presidential imperialist. And now, at the end of his presidency, Constitutional government is virtually in shambles, left-wing ideology has permeated our federal government, our foreign policy is an incoherent mess that has led to a less stable world, and the list goes on and on. Having been through the Obama years, it is hard for me to imagine a President doing much worse. And by all accounts, it looks like Donald Trump will pursue policies oriented in a different political direction.
- As flawed as Donald Trump is, he has assembled a very strong administration, signaling his desire to pursue conservative policies in many areas of government. I am thrilled to see, for example, Betsy DeVos, an advocate for school choice, heading to the Department of Education. I expect Trump’s Supreme Court nominees will also be good ones. So far, Trump is making good on his promise to surround himself with solid, competent people. I believe, as the saying goes, that personnel is policy, and so the transition that Governor Pence (himself a solid pick for VP) has overseen gives me reason for optimism.
Of course, we cannot be naive. President Trump is very likely to continue the kind of imperialist presidency for which Barack Obama set a new precedent. On social issues related to marriage and sexuality, I don’t count Trump an ally. I don’t know that I have ever heard Donald Trump articulate a philosophy of government that comes close to resembling the Constitutional structure of checks and balances. It is regrettable that true conservatism wasn’t on the ballot in November 2016. I fully expect that the Trump presidency will help further the coarsening of our culture, that he will pursue some policies that will require convictional Christian believers to oppose him, and that under his leadership our national debt crisis will likely get worse.
And yet, all things considered, this is a scenario that is better than the alternative I envisioned. The hard push to the left that we have seen over these eight years has been arrested. The bleeding has been staunched. That doesn’t mean the whole body is healthy, but if you were expecting to bleed to death shortly, it’s certainly a reason to be thankful.
I am approaching the Trump years with cautious optimism, praying for our new President, hoping he will come through on many of his worthy campaign promises, but standing ready to oppose him when I must.
I’ll be taking a week off from blogging for the Christmas holidays next week, December 25-31. I will plan the next “Drawing from the Well” post for Tuesday, January 3. In the meantime, I’m re-posting today a piece I originally wrote in December of 2007 on another blog site. It applies some basic theological insights about the Trinity and the Person of Christ to the issue of abortion.
Two important terms in theology are “nature” and “person.” Both terms help us understand the central Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. With regard to the Trinity, we have one nature and three persons. God is three “who’s” but one “what”. The three persons share the same nature, so that all three are fully God, and yet there is only one God. With regard to the Incarnation, Jesus Christ is one person with two natures. He is one “who” with two “what’s,” one person who is both fully divine and fully human. Both of these truths are great mysteries, because in our experience singular personhood is always tied to an individual human nature. We have nothing analogous to the Trinity or to the Incarnation in normal experience, so we bow before the mystery. Continue reading
Once again, I have proven myself a terrible political pundit. I saw an outside chance at a Trump victory, but it looks like we have ended up with a Trump (and Republican) landslide. I have conflicted thoughts on this day after. I see reasons for both encouragement and caution. Continue reading
The final phase of voting today could result in one of three outcomes:
(1) Hillary Clinton is elected President. Until a week ago Friday I would have said this outcome was virtually certain, and that we could expect a landslide. The FBI bombshell that was dropped on the campaign has shaken up the race significantly, but I still believe this is the most likely outcome. The margin of victory probably won’t be considered a landslide, but Trump’s path to victory remains, even now, very narrow. Continue reading
I am currently teaching a Sunday School series entitled “The Gospel, Politics, and Culture” at my church. This past Sunday I argued, among other things, that one aspect of the political witness of the church is the formation of strong moral convictions on the pressing moral-political issues of our day. As disciples of Jesus, we must not assume that the church must have no voice on issues that are politically contentious. While I do believe that the church should not get pulled into the weeds of specific political strategy (e.g., supporting this bill over that one), it has both the right and the responsibility to take a clear position on moral issues such as abortion, the nature of marriage, and religious liberty, among other things.
I will be teaching on the three issues I named explicitly above: abortion, the nature of marriage, and religious liberty (the three issues addressed by the Manhattan Declaration of several years ago). The fact that my mind immediately gravitates to these three issues when I consider the question of moral formation in our churches may suggest to some that I am simply proposing a right-wing agenda for churches. Why, some might ask, wouldn’t I focus on alleviating poverty, providing universal healthcare, and immigration policy? Aren’t these moral issues as well? Doesn’t my approach indicate that I am nothing more than a partisan cloaking his preferred issues in the language of discipleship? Continue reading
As Western culture’s faith in the Triune God has receded, our sexual ethic has been completely transformed. Whereas heterosexual marriage used to be a clearly defined parameter for sexual intimacy, now our only rule seems to be “Do no harm.” As long as all parties involved are consenting adults, the sexual behavior has the blessing–or will soon have it, once we mature beyond our “yuck” impulses–of our culture. Continue reading
Rachel Held Evans recently argued for the propriety of voting, at least in some circumstances, for pro-choice candidates, even if one holds pro-life convictions. Her main argument for doing so is that pro-choice candidates who pursue progressive policies (i.e., Democrats) are often more likely to create conditions in which a culture of life can prevail by helping to reduce poverty and expand access to contraception. These conditions, in turn, help lower the number of unwanted pregnancies, which is primarily what elevates the abortion rate. Although no candidate is perfect, on balance, it is often better to vote for one who is pro-choice for these reasons.
I believe Mrs. Evans is badly mistaken here. I will explain why below, but first I want to sweep away any idea that may be in my readers’ minds about my motives here in relation to Donald Trump. One of Evans’s main purposes in her article is to argue that pro-life voters should vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump. Lest anyone misread me: I am not defending Donald Trump here, nor am I arguing that anyone should vote for him. I do not intend to do so. Continue reading