Monday, October 12, 2009
Dirty Little Secrets
In a recent blog post “Abortion and the American Conscience,” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler highlights some of the chilling racial and population-control motives behind the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal in this country. He calls this “one of the dirty secrets of the abortion rights movement.” While I applaud Mohler’s tireless support for the unborn, I was disappointed because his post ignores the dirty little secrets of the religious, pro-life movement. Didn't Jesus say something about a mote in a brother’s eye and beam in one’s own?
Many forget that Southern Baptists initially supported abortion rights and other Evangelicals were slow to oppose Roe v. Wade. (Mohler hints at this lack evangelical pro-life concern in the wake of Roe v. Wade when he admits, “Evangelicals . . . were largely out of the debate” speculating that “a majority of evangelicals seemed to see abortion as a largely Catholic issue.”) Even Evangelist Billy Graham has been less-than-consistent in his statements on abortion over the years.
Here are some facts Mohler left out of his blog:
-Dr. W. A. Criswell, two-time Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president and longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas (and Billy Graham’s pastor for many years), initially voiced his support for Roe v. Wade, saying, “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had life separate from the mother that it became an individual person, and it always has, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.” Criswell later changed his position, becoming pro-life, as Ronald Reagan, now a patron saint of the Religious Right, had done before seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1976. (Reagan signed the pro-choice Therapeutic Abortion Act into state law when he was governor of California in 1967, over five years before Roe v. Wade.)
-The SBC passed multiple pro-choice resolutions in the 1970s both before and after Roe v. Wade. Only subsequent to the conservatives coming to power in the SBC in 1979 did the denomination begin to pass pro-life resolutions. The same year, Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority with an anti-abortion agenda intended to awaken Evangelicals’ to political action as means of social transformation. In subsequent years the Religious Right largely forgot Evangelicals earlier apathy toward abortion.
-A majority of Southern Baptists and Evangelicals voted for the self-proclaimed born-again Presidential Candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976, despite the fact that he was pro-choice.
Don’t get me wrong. Like Mohler I’m pro-life. But I’m also pro-truth. When it comes to dirty little secrets, it’s not just the pro-choice crowd that has something to hide.