Friday, June 11, 2010

Issues We Must Not Ignore

In recent dialogues with social activists, I am noting a disturbing trend among those who identify themselves as Christians and 'post-conservatives." There is a visceral fear among many devout people at being identified with the Right. This disdain for conservatism leads them to take positions they claim are compassionate and nuanced, while in fact they are violations of their deepest moral principles. My concern is that these well-meaning folks are being usurped by the Left as they react to the Right.

I see this confused compassion in the phrase, "We need to get beyond abortion and gay marriage and focus on more important things, like justice for the poor and environmental concerns." The confusion is also exposed in how the current Middle East crisis is interpreted. These compassionate post-conservatives are playing into the eliminationist anti-Semitism of radical Islam and secular Europe with their calls to punish Israel for defending herself. The same United Nations that voted for partition and the creation of a Jewish homeland in 1947 has spent the last 60 years condemning every attempt of Israel to protect herself from destruction.

We cannot ignore these three fundamental issues. There are intelligent ways to navigate toward solutions that are equitable for all and compatible with biblical faith.

Abortion is the destruction of life. In some cases it happens naturally, as in a miscarriage. In cases of the mother's life in danger, it may be a tragic moral choice, hard but necessary. The consequences of rape and incest (non-voluntary intercourse) do not have to include abortion, however, we must have compassion for the women involved who are recovering from trauma. But abortion as birth control, abortion as the removal of an inconvenience is not morally right. When people scream, "a woman's right to choose" they are forgetting about 1) the baby inside the womb (called a fetus if not wanted and a baby if desired!); 2) the father of the child; and 3) the potential for adoption.

The way forward is to nurture a culture of life that welcomes children, provides for single parents, opens doors for adoption, and protects the vulnerable while reminding us that we are not the Almighty. The same people who bemoan the forced sterilization of thousands of mentally-challenged people and particular racial and social groups from the 1890s to 1960s are forgetting that Planned Parenthood's founder was a eugenics devotee who wanted to make sure that certain classes of people did not breed! These same folks support cloning, designer babies and all kinds of "scientific" progress with no moral absolutes to guide the process.

Gay Marriage is an oxymoron. GLBT people are individuals deserving all the benefits and protections of civil society. They should be free from fear, undisturbed in private adult activity and able to form voluntary associations. But marriage, by all definitions throughout history, is a social and spiritual compact between a man and a woman that ensures the future of the family, clan, tribe, community and civilization.

The way forward includes domestic partnerships and civil unions that protect the rights of the people involved, but are not in the category of marriage. When a California legislator told a clergyman, "Give us gay marriage and we will give you a religious exemption so you don't have to perform the weddings" a sociopolitical tipping point arrived. The idea that government is now bestowing rights to religious communities instead of protecting them is a complete reversal of our Founder's vision and a total violation of our freedom of conscience.

Clergy who preach against homosexual practice must not be persecuted for hate speech. It is interesting that the far Left says nothing about the oppression of gays and women in Islamic nations while pouring vitriol on Catholic or Evangelical advocates of biblical morality. It is the Judeo-Christina ethos of freedom and tolerance, developed (sometimes haltingly, with many advances and reversals if we are honest) over that last half-millennium, that created the right to criticize. It must be noted that opponents of gay marriage and homosexual practice are NOT judging the soul or ignoring the complexities of why people feel the way they do. Biblical advocates also reject gossip and greed, extramarital heterosexual activity and other attitudes and practices destructive to relationships and spiritual vitality.

The mere presence of the state of Israel is unacceptable to the majority of Arabs and Muslims. Israel has valiantly fought off her enemies for 60 years and come to the peace table numerous times ready to end the conflicts. Nobel Peace Prizes have been (presumptively) awarded for these efforts. But in every case, militant Islamicists have subverted the process. Has Israel overreacted at times? Yes. The disaster in Lebanon in 1982 is a stain on Israel's history just as Wounded Knee troubles the American conscience. This said, Israel is the only democracy in the region, has Arab citizens and religious freedom and over and over again demonstrates her willingness to negotiate directly for peace.

The Muslim world needs to show courage and toleration and advocate two things: 1) the legitimacy of Israel's existence in secure borders and as a partner for prosperity; and 2) the ending of terrorism that kills civilians and continues the cycle of violence. A new Sadat needs to emerge who will face down Al-Queda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban and offer friendship.

Environmental sensitivity and compassion for the poor are possible without capitulating to statist socialism. We can create wealth and manage the environment. We can have private-public partnerships. We can hold capitalists accountable and streamline necessary government services. We can agitate for workers while affirming the right of owners to make a profit. We can deliver health care locally and regionally without a centralized Leviathan rationing services and providing jobs for folks with no other skills.

I urge all Christians and other friends of freedom, from all faiths or none, to keep arguing about solutions that actually work without sacrificing the virtue-based liberties that cost our Founders their "lives, fortunes and sacred honor." Ideologies of Right and Left are the enemies of good morality and theology. Atheist and fundamentalist can live as neighbors and build a better world. Jew and Muslim can be friends, civilly debating while partnering for better schools and peaceful neighborhoods.

We cannot ignore or "get past" crucial issues. We can, however, forge solutions that make our world better. Will you join me in the debate and sacrifice necessary for a better future?