Author archives: David Closson

The Stark Contrast on Abortion at the National Conventions - In Quotes

by David Closson

September 1, 2020

Over the past two weeks, America’s two major political parties gathered for their quadrennial conventions. While certain aspects of each convention were different this year (e.g., neither party could fill arenas with delegates and supporters due to the coronavirus), Democrats and Republicans officially nominated their respective party’s standard-bearer for 2020 and set forth their governing vision. 

Typically, political conventions highlight the candidates and draw attention to the most important issues facing the country. Two months ahead of the November 3 election, Americans are concerned about the coronavirus pandemic, economy, racial tension, health care, and education. Unsurprisingly, all of these issues received significant attention at both political conventions. However, there was a marked difference in how the parties promoted their views on abortion, an important issue on which the country remains divided.  

Democrats were strategic in how they dealt with abortion at their convention. For starters, the word “abortion” was not mentioned a single time during four nights of programming. Joe Biden did not mention abortion in his acceptance speech, and most speakers even avoided using common euphemisms such as “reproductive justice” or “a woman’s choice.” Only two speakers (Raumesh Akbari and Hillary Clinton) mentioned Planned Parenthood, and only Kamala Harris (“reproductive choice”) and Nancy Pelosi (“woman’s right to choose”) used language that directly referred to abortion.

Moreover, whereas the Democrats had invited Planned Parenthood’s president to address the convention back in 2016, this year pro-life Republicans such as John Kasich were invited to speak to the delegates.

Lest Americans think Democrats have become moderate on abortion, the party’s extreme views were laid out in the 2020 Democratic Party Platform. According to the platform, “Democrats oppose and will fight to overturn federal and state laws that create barriers to reproductive health and rights.” Moreover, the platform commits to “repeal the Title X domestic gag rule and restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood” and “repeal the Hyde Amendment, and protect and codify the right to reproductive freedom.”

In contrast, Republicans reaffirmed the party’s pro-life views in writing by re-adopting the 2016 platform, which endorsed a strong pro-life agenda, and releasing a set of “core priorities,” which included protecting the unborn. Numerous convention speeches also highlighted the party’s commitment to protecting the unborn.

Here’s what speakers at the 2020 Republican National Convention had to say about abortion (in context):

Night 1

  • Ronna McDaniel, Chair of the Republican National Committee: “Policies that force jobs to flee our country or allow abortion up until the point of birth are not nice. The truth is, there’s only one person who has empathized with everyday Americans and actually been fighting for them over the past four years and that is President Donald Trump.”
  • Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York: “Pray we must that all lives may be protected and respected, in our troubled cities and the police who guard them, in tense world situations where our men and women in uniform keep the peace, for the innocent life of the baby in the womb, for our elders in nursing care and hospice, for our immigrants and refugees, those lives threatened by religious persecution throughout the world or by plague, hunger, drugs, human trafficking or war.”

Night 2

  • Cissie Graham Lynch, Ministry Spokesperson, Samaritan’s Purse: “Our founders did not envision a quiet, hidden faith. They fought to ensure that the voices of faith were always welcomed, not silenced, not bullied. But during the Obama-Biden administration, these freedoms were under attack. Democrats tried to make faith organizations pay for abortion-inducing drugs. Democrats tried to force adoption agencies to violate their deeply-held beliefs. Democrats pressured schools to allow boys to compete in girl sports and use girl’s locker rooms. Those are the facts. But then, we the people elected Donald Trump.”
  • Cissie Graham Lynch: “Some Democratic leaders tried to ban church services while marijuana shops and abortion clinics were declared essential. But you know what truly is essential: Our right to worship freely and live our faith in every aspect of life.”
  • Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood clinic director: “Today, almost 80 percent of Planned Parenthood abortion facilities are strategically located in minority neighborhoods. And every year Planned Parenthood celebrates its racist roots by presenting the Margaret Sanger award.”
  • Abby Johnson, describing her transformation from pro-choice to pro-life advocacy: “But the tipping point came a month later when a physician asked me to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion. Nothing prepared me for what I saw on the screen, an unborn baby fighting back, desperate to move away from the suction. And I’ll never forget what the doctor said next, ‘Beam me up Scotty.’ The last thing I saw was a spine twirling around in the mother’s womb before succumbing to the force of the suction. On October 6th, I left the clinic looking back only to remember why I now advocate so passionately for life.”
  • Abby Johnson: “You see, for me, abortion is real. I know what it sounds like. I know what abortion smells like. Did you know abortion even had a smell? I’ve been the perpetrator to these babies, to these women, and I now support President Trump because he has done more for the unborn than any other president. During his first month in office, he banned federal funds for global health groups that promote abortion. That same year, he overturned an Obama-Biden rule that allowed government subsidy of abortion. He appointed a record number of pro-life judges, including two Supreme Court justices. And importantly, he announced a new rule protecting the rights of healthcare workers objecting to abortion, many of whom I work with every day.”
  • Nicholas Sandmann, teenage activist: “In 2019, I attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C., where I demonstrated in defense of unborn. Later that day, I bought a Make America Great Again hat because our president Donald Trump has distinguished himself as one of the most pro-life presidents in the history of our country, and I wanted to express my support for him too.”
  • Daniel Cameron, Attorney General of Kentucky: “Joe Biden would destroy jobs, raise our taxes and throw away the lives of countless unborn children.”

Night 3

  • Marsha Blackburn, U.S. Senator, Tennessee: “Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and their radical allies, try to destroy these heroes because if there are no heroes to inspire us, government can control us. They close our churches but keep the liquor stores and abortion clinics open. They say we can’t gather in community groups, but encourage protests, riots and looting in the streets.”
  • Tera Myers, mother of a son with Down syndrome: “Before Samuel was even born, I was told his life wouldn’t be worth living. When early tests revealed he had Down syndrome, our doctor encouraged me to terminate the pregnancy. He said, ‘If you do not, you will be burdening your life, your family, and your community.’ I knew my baby was a human being, created by God and that made him worthy of life. I am thankful that President Trump values the life of the unborn. When we went to register Samuel for kindergarten, we were told to just put him where he would be comfortable.”

  • Sister Dede Byrne, Catholic nun: “President Trump will stand up against Biden-Harris, who are the most anti-life presidential ticket ever, even supporting the horrors of late-term abortion and infanticide. Because of his courage and conviction, President Trump has earned the support of America’s pro-life community.”
  • Sister Dede Byrne: “And while we tend to think of the marginalized as living beyond our borders, the truth is the largest marginalized group in the world can be found here in the United States, they are the unborn. As Christians, we first met Jesus as a stirring embryo in the womb of an unwed mother and saw him born nine months later in the poverty of the cave.”
  • Lou Holtz, former football coach: “One of the important reasons he has my trust is because nobody has been a stronger advocate for the unborn than President Trump. The Biden-Harris ticket is the most radically pro-abortion campaign in history. They and other politicians are Catholics in name only and abandoned innocent lives. President Trump protects those lives. I trust President Trump.”
  • Vice President Mike Pence: “President Trump has stood without apology for the sanctity of human life, every day of this administration. Joe Biden, he supports taxpayer funding of abortion, right up to the moment of birth. When you consider their agenda, it’s clear, Joe Biden would be nothing more than a Trojan horse for the radical left. The choice in this election has never been clearer, and the stakes have never been higher.”

Night 4

  • Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader: “As Republicans, we are proud to stand with him and to work for you. Together we built the greatest economy the world has ever seen, and we will do it again. We confronted China head-on, tore up bad trade deals and made better ones, supported our men and women in uniform, and took out the world’s top terrorist. Achieved energy independence, defended the sanctity of life, and restored law and order at the border.”
  • Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader: “They [the Democratic Party] want to defund the police and take away your Second Amendment rights. They want free healthcare for illegal immigrants, yet they offer no protection at all for unborn Americans.”
  • Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: “What is racist, is the fact that African-Americans have the highest abortion rate. President Trump is the most pro-life president in the country’s history. He will continue to fight for those who cannot yet speak.”

  • Donald Trump, President of the United States: “Joe Biden claims he has empathy for the vulnerable – yet the party he leads supports the extreme late-term abortion of defenseless babies right up to the moment of birth. Democrat politicians refuse to protect innocent life, and then they lecture us about morality and saving America’s soul? Tonight, we proudly declare that all children, born and unborn, have a God given right to life.”

Pete Buttigieg’s “Different Way” Is Not Biblical Christianity

by David Closson

January 15, 2020

Yesterday, six candidates participated in the final Democratic debate before the Iowa caucus. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer each made their pitch for why they should be their party’s nominee to take on President Donald Trump in the general election.

Buttigieg’s repeated emphasis of his religious background is unique for his party: Democrats have been reluctant to speak about their faith on the campaign trail. While last night’s debate focused on foreign policy and the recent tensions with Iran, Buttigieg made a point (as he has throughout the election) to highlight the role of religion in politics. Responding to a question about his electability, Buttigieg highlighted his Midwestern roots, military service, and Christian faith. He said, “If a guy like Donald Trump keeps trying to use religion to somehow recruit Christianity into the GOP, I will be standing there not afraid to talk about a different way to answer the call of faith and insist that God does not belong to a political party.”

The comment received little public attention following the debate, but Christians should pay close attention to what Buttigieg is suggesting. He is arguing that President Trump’s relationship with the faith community is transactional and utilitarian. In Buttigieg’s view, President Trump is using religion to advance his political agenda, and Christians who support him are allowing their faith to be co-opted. This is the same argument Mark Galli made last month in his widely shared Christianity Today editorial. In Galli’s words, if Christians don’t oppose President Trump, the “reputation of evangelical religion” and “the world’s understanding of the gospel” will be harmed. Buttigieg evidentially agrees with this assessment, which is why he is proposing a “different way to answer the call of faith.”

Buttigieg’s (and Galli’s) allegation deserves a response. How should Christian voters think about Buttigieg’s call for a “different way to answer the call of faith?” Is it true that Christian leaders have sacrificed their moral witness for a seat at the table of political power?

First, when it comes to evaluating the theological claims made by Buttigieg, it is important to remember that he is a member of the Episcopal Church, a theologically liberal denomination that has taken public stands against the historic teachings of Christianity on a host of social issues. For example, the Episcopal Church ordained its first clergy member who openly identified as gay in 1977 and continues to actively support LGBT causes. Also, since 1967 the Episcopal Church has opposed national or state legislation that would restrict abortion and, in 2018, called for “women’s reproductive health and reproductive health procedures to be treated as all other medical procedures.”

Buttigieg’s liberal politics align nicely with the liberal politics of the Episcopal Church, so it is not surprising that he finds himself at home there. Thus, when Buttigieg argues that the “Christian faith is going to point you in a progressive direction,” it is important to realize that by “Christian faith,” Buttigieg means something very different than what Christians have taught and believed for two millennia—not only about the nature of marriage and life but also about the role of Scripture.

Buttigieg’s understanding of the Bible came up in an interview with Rolling Stone last November. When asked to respond to the charge that his progressive faith disregards the Bible’s teaching on social issues, Buttigieg said: “There’s so many things in Scripture that are inconsistent internally, and you’ve got to decide what sense to make of it. Jesus speaks so often in hyperbole and parable, in mysterious code, that in my experience, there’s simply no way that a literal understanding of the Scripture can fit into the Bible that I find in my hands.” 

A shocking admission, Buttigieg’s comments shed light on the candidate’s flawed understanding of Christianity. They also explain what he likely had in mind during last night’s debate when he referred to a “different way to answer the call of faith.” By calling the Bible “inconsistent” and insisting that Jesus spoke in “mysterious code,” Buttigieg is rejecting what theologians refer to as the perspicuity of Scripture, which says the Bible communicates the doctrines of the faith clearly.

It is worth noting that some passages in Scripture are more difficult to understand than others. In fact, when referring to the Apostle Paul’s epistles, the Apostle Peter said, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16b). But even as he acknowledges the fact that Paul’s writings could be hard to understand, Peter underscores the fact that Scripture is objective and that failure to attend to the meaning of the text is harmful. The Bible teaches elsewhere that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). While there may be portions of Scripture that require extra study and attention, the Bible is clear on the doctrines of God, man, the way of salvation, and many issues with social and political implications.

However, by rejecting the clarity of Scripture, Buttigieg is conveniently able to remake and reinterpret the Christian faith to suit his preferences and beliefs, advancing proposals and policies in the garb of Christianity that either bear little resemblance or directly contradict “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

A clear example of this is Buttigieg’s argument that “there’s a lot of parts of the Bible that talk about how life begins with breath.” This despite the Bible’s repeated affirmation of the personhood of the unborn (see Psalm 139:13-16, Psalm 51:5-6, Luke 1:39-45, Jeremiah 1:4-5, Job 10:8, Genesis 25:22-23, and many others). By doubling down on this demonstrably false claim, Buttigieg is showing that political talking points, not Scripture, informs his view on life. 

Finally, in response to Galli’s charge that Christian leaders have sacrificed their moral witness and are no better than Buttigieg and his supporters on the religious left, it should be conceded that some on the right are willing to trade their credibility for influence. However, to allege, as Buttigieg has, that the “credibility of Christianity” is at stake because many Christians have supported President Trump and his party after measured consideration of their voting options is both unfair and inaccurate. Far from sacrificing their values and credibility, it is largely due to Christian encouragement that President Trump has taken significant action on issues of concern for social conservatives—issues such as life, religious liberty, Israel, and a return of faith in the public square.

As the 2020 election gets underway, it will be important for Christians to submit everything to the Lord, including their political engagement. As I argue in my recent publication, Christians ought to engage, but we must engage biblically. And as Christians, this requires prayerful consideration of candidates, party platforms, and most importantly, the Bible’s teaching on moral issues. On one level, Buttigieg is right when he insists, “God does not belong to a political party.” However, God does care deeply about many issues in our politics. And if Christians are going to be faithful in a time fraught with political turmoil and confusion, it will require more, not less, commitment to God’s Word.

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