Editor's Note: Jonathan Dudley is the author of "Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics."
By Jonathan Dudley, Special to CNN
Over the course of the 2012 election season, evangelical politicians have put their community’s hard-line opposition to abortion on dramatic display.
Missouri Rep. Todd Akin claimed “legitimate rape” doesn’t result in pregnancy. Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock insisted that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
While these statements have understandably provoked outrage, they’ve also reinforced a false assumption, shared by liberals and conservatives alike: that uncompromising opposition to abortion is a timeless feature of evangelical Christianity.
The reality is that what conservative Christians now say is the Bible’s clear teaching on the matter was not a widespread interpretation until the late 20th century.
Opinion: Let's get real about abortions
In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth:
“God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: 'If a man kills any human life he will be put to death' (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”
The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, “The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult.” And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.
Opinion: Why the abortion issue won’t go away
These stalwart evangelical institutions and leaders would be heretics by today’s standards. Yet their positions were mainstream at the time, widely believed by born-again Christians to flow from the unambiguous teaching of Scripture.
Televangelist Jerry Falwell spearheaded the reversal of opinion on abortion in the late 1970s, leading his Moral Majority activist group into close political alliance with Catholic organizations against the sexual revolution.
In contrast to evangelicals, Catholics had mobilized against abortion immediately after Roe v. Wade. Drawing on mid-19th century Church doctrines, organizations like the National Right to Life Committee insisted a right to life exists from the moment of conception.
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As evangelical leaders formed common cause with Catholics on topics like feminism and homosexuality, they began re-interpreting the Bible as teaching the Roman Catholic position on abortion.
Falwell’s first major treatment of the issue, in a 1980 book chapter called, significantly, “The Right to Life,” declared, “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception… (Abortion) is murder according to the Word of God.”
With the megawatt power of his TV presence and mailing list, Falwell and his allies disseminated these interpretations to evangelicals across America.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
By 1984, it became clear these efforts had worked. That year, InterVarsity Press published the book Brave New People, which re-stated the 1970 evangelical consensus: abortion was a tough issue and warranted in many circumstances.
An avalanche of protests met the publication, forcing InterVarsity Press to withdraw a book for the first time in its history.
“The heresy of which I appear to be guilty,” the author lamented, “is that I cannot state categorically that human/personal life commences at day one of gestation.... In order to be labeled an evangelical, it is now essential to hold a particular view of the status of the embryo and fetus.”
What the author quickly realized was that the “biblical view on abortion” had dramatically shifted over the course of a mere 15 years, from clearly stating life begins at birth to just as clearly teaching it begins at conception.
During the 2008 presidential election, Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren demonstrated the depth of this shift when he proclaimed: “The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it.”
It is hard to underestimate the political significance of this reversal. It has required the GOP presidential nominee to switch his views from pro-choice to pro-life to be a viable candidate. It has led conservative Christians to vote for politicians like Akin and Mourdock for an entire generation.
And on November 6, it will lead millions of evangelicals to support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama out of the conviction that the Bible unequivocally forbids abortion.
But before casting their ballots, such evangelicals would benefit from pausing to look back at their own history. In doing so, they might consider the possibility that they aren’t submitting to the dictates of a timeless biblical truth, but instead, to the goals of a well-organized political initiative only a little more than 30 years old.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Dudley.
Prayer changes things
"Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
"Salvatore" degenerates to:
"Douglas" degenerates to:
"truth be told" degenerates to:
"Thinker23" degenerates to:
"Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
"another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
"Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
"tina" degenerates to:
"captain america" degenerates to:
"Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
"Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
"just sayin" degenerates to:
"ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
"Kindness" degenerates to:
"Chad" degenerates to
"Bob" degenerates to
"nope" degenerates to:
"2357" degenerates to:
"WOW" degenerates to:
"fred" degenerates to:
"!" degenerates to:
This troll is not a christian
Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.
Anyone who comes to CNN for their religious education deserves what they get.
Why wait till birth for baptism then? Because original sin begins at birth not conception... So back off my womb!
The unborn child is in a continual baptism.
This troll is not a christian...
BULL SH IT ALERT ON TROLL ALERT
Please show me where it says that in the bible.
Add "BULL SH IT ALERT ON TROLL ALERT" degenerates to:
To the list.
Baptism doesn't save anyone. Don't be so Catholic.
What saves a person? Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on the cross on our behalf and turning away from your sins.
Moral Majority isn't pro-life. It's pro-moral outrage. Inspiring moral outrage in people gives them political power, and telling the religious about dead babies is a good way to do it.
We have technology that has changed infant mortality from 50% to 2%. We enter puberty earlier because of hormones in our food; we enter menopause later. Yet we still have a cult of motherhood, because it was necessary at one time to convince people to have more children. That time is passed.
Teenage pregnancy is about the same as it always was, percentage wise. There are more people, so that percentage means more babies. That will increase exponentially if our culture and ideas remains the same.
Young women need opportunity and education that shows them that having babies isn't all there is to life anymore.
Humanity needs population control, and until the “cult of motherhood” — combined with a disgusting lack of s.ex education, proper information, self-esteem, choice and critical thought — prevails, this won’t happen.
We say “here, have a condom. No, I can’t tell you more, or your parents will sue. Sure, you’ll have s.ex anyway, but we can’t give the impression that we approve, so we just won’t tell you about how to handle it if it does happen.”
Young evangelical women are taught to think that being a mother is good, except then they're told not to get pregnant. Motherhood is grand, but it’ll wreck your life.
If you give up a kid for adoption, you’re a failure!
If you get pregnant, you’re a failure!
But be fruitful and multiply!
We need to stop arguing about the semantic evils of abortion and concentrate on making it unnecessary. We need to encourage people to have abortions if they must, and make damn sure that the next generation doesn’t have to. Or that giving up children for adoption is a mature, honourable choice. Or that getting sterilized and adopting a used kid is even better. But we’re not acting in an intelligent way, for the most part, and for some reason people who don’t use birth control use vaccines and take antibiotics for their strep throat and TB. They use the positive applications of technology and yet feel bad about using the other side of it.
We need to stop feeling and start thinking.
I predict a great future for this kid. The world handsomely rewards those who distort the truth for the advancement of self.
Can't handle the facts, eh?
Yeah, CBinky, because if you read it online, it must be true!
Where is the distortion? Show a single instance where what he says is contrary to the prior published record. He is merely recounting the historical positions of various individuals as recounted by respectable Christian printed media and observes that there has been a shift. If he is misinterpreting the printed record, give a citation so we all can check it out.
22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[a] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
Remember that the time this passage was written a premature birth was death for the fetus. This passage explicitly states that the fetus's life is not valued equally with the mothers.
The verse is talking about the fetus. If she gives birth and there is no serious injury… it is talking of the fetus. The husband can demand fines for the wife. But if there is serious injury…the wife or the unborn child… then a life is required! Life for Life is for the unborn child! The serious injury is what causes the unborn child to die!
If the unborn lives then there is only fines, if the unborn dies, then there is death for the one that causes the injury!
Read it again!
Bah, forget religious interpretation of federal law... As for abortion=murder, try this on for size:
Murder: unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another human being.
Human being: An individual of the genus H0m0, especially a member of the species H0m0 sapiens.
Human embryo: Human fertilized egg that has survived cell division, at about day 14, lasting until about the end of week 8.
Human fetus: Developmental stages post-embryonic, but prior to birth, typically covering weeks 9 through birth.
To satisfy scientific definitions of being considered alive, we need to meet most of the following criteria:
1) Homeostasis, 2) Organization, 3) Sensitivity (at least one sense), 4) Growth, 5) Reproduction, 6) Metabolism, 7) Adaptation
9 Weeks: Fetus can move arms/legs independently, though limited. Organ and brain function are present, though minimal in actual operation. Respiration occurs through transfer of oxygen from mother's blood, excretion occurs through the outgoing portion of the same process. Growth continues to occur. Body has the ability to perform healing, therefore exhibits homeostasis. Cellular and organ organization is apparent. This satisfies #'s 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7.
18 weeks: Fetus' have been show to react to bright lights or sounds directed at the womb. This satisfies #3. Additional support for excretion occurs as the development of urine forms and the fetus' intestines moves from the umbilical cord to the fetal abdomen and is discharged into amniotic fluid.
#5 is only an eventual requirement, as it is not evident in human children prior to puberty. If it were an immediate requirement, then children who have not reached puberty would not yet be considered alive by scientific measures. It is plainly obvious that by week 14 any fetus has physical traits of gender, and therefore will eventually be capable of reproduction.
As all the criteria have been met, I submit that any fetus can be considered alive by as early as week 9, and definitively by week 18. Thus any abortion occurring by, at the latest, 18 weeks should be considered murder by definition.
Wow! A fetus can reproduce? That's a new one! Oh wait, you conveniently ignore points that you don't agree with. By that definition, an ear is also "alive" and cutting one off should be considered murder – if youlet me ignore 5 and 6.
There's that small detail that in order to be alive you have to be able to live independently of the parental organism.
You are glossing over one huge point. The fetus NEEDS to be connected to the mother to survive. That kind of changes the argument. A fetus will not survive on its own, therefore it is not alive. Cut the umbilical cord at 9 weeks, or 18 if you wish, and see if your fetus makes it out alive. We can keep a dead person breathing indefinitely with machines, that doesn't make them alive either.
Poison Ivy is alive, too. That doesn't mean it warrants protection under the law.
Well laid out, but with one giant flaw.
You used the definitions for 'alive', not the definitions for a life form. Of course the fetus is alive, nobody ever suggested it wasnt. It is alive in the same way the spleen or the galbladder is alive. It is NOT, however, a life form until it achieves viability.
But this article is not about debating when life begins. It is about an apparent shift in conservatives between roughly 1970 and now as to when life begins supposedly using the same (meaning the Bible as a whole Biblical teachings as a foundational reference.
David talks about how the Lord made him in his mother's womb. It think this gives great insight into this matter.
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
And the key is the last verse (v16). This explicitly states that a fetus created in the womb has life and that all the details of his or her life has been determined before it has even started.
Stay out of my womb, brother
And odd how a contradiction occurs in the bible when god didn't consider the killing of the fetus murder. And who says there are no contradictions in the bible...
I am not in your womb, Mary, and I don't want to be. The baby is, and abortion is a absolute tragedy. If that baby is given a natural course of gestation it would very likely be born and speak for itself one day, but it can't right now.
A fetus at conception is a mass of growing cells with its own unique DNA. How can this NOT be considered life?! Only because "we" consider the mother to be an authoritarian over it? If it's illegal to harm a newborn child, then it should be illegal to harm a developing baby in utero. There is no difference. It's only that we have become so selfish and self-serving. We have become blind to the truth of a new life developing in the womb.
22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay LIFE FOR LIFE, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
I guess God does think that killing an unborn child is murder. I guess He even says that in this verse.
Where is the contradiction now? It might help if you read the Bible before you start saying what it does not say! God is speaking, you are not listening!
It's a book written over 2000 years ago by multiple men who claimed to hear voices. They had no concept of science or what actually happens in the womb. To act like it has any real application to modern life is the same as people believing we really live in the Matrix. If men were the one's who got pregnant there would be abortion clinics next to every Starbucks. It is ignorant to base modern law and critical thinking off a book that contradicts itself throughout. Also, MEN wrote this, God did not. That is a very important point many people refuse to accept. I do not get why an unborn, not yet viable fetus is valued more than a living breathing human. Make life better for those who are already born and this issue wouldn't be as prevalent. The evangelicals are so worried about the unborn yet seem to not care about the quality of life the living have. The bible also says slavery is ok....well before it says it isn't. It says that a man owns and has full authority over their women before it doesn't. Why we are expected to grow out of our belief in Santa yet encouraged to believe we are governed by a mystical being in the sky that see's all and know's all is a bit ridiculous.
The author needs to read Psalm 139: 13,15.
You miss the point of the article. The author isn't actually arguing for or against legal abortion. He is simply showing how evangelical Christians have reversed their thinking over time.
Why is it whenever the Fundies decide to harp on the right to abortion, they always pick that Psalm and the line in Jeremiah, but ignore the entirety of the Torah (the five books of Moses) that are the foundation of Jewish Law and are what John and Jesus would have been preaching, not the poems of an adulterous filicide, or the rantings of a man who loved to denounce the sins of others in the most public display possible.
However, I do respect your beliefs concerning life. I only ask this – for every woman you deny an abortion to, are you willing to take on the cost of helping her rear the child? Putting a plain dollars-and-cents take on things, this child you are requiring her to carry will cost approximately $300,000 to feed, shelter, clothe, provide medical care and educate by the time he or she graduates from high school. And please do not use the fall-back of "Welfare Mom". Because in addition to eliminating the rights guaranteed under Roe v Wade, you also want to eliminate all forms of public assistance, and public medical care.
I guess you guys will next demand the poor houses, treadmills, and debtors' prisons reopen. How enlightened!
If you think that the U.S. government should pass a law because "The Bible says..." or "The Torah says..." or "The Koran says..." or "[Insert Holy Text} says..." Your argument is DOA. The United States does not and SHOULD NEVER make laws based solely on condifying a religious doctrine. They do that sort of thing in Theocracies and fundamentalist states. Passing a law because "The Bible says..." is NO DIFFERENT than enacting Sharia law.
There may be other perfectly valid reasons for advocating a policy or law but if your sole argument is "The Bible says..." sorry you lose.
We need to change the motto and pledge before we can say that we are not a theocracy.That's my two cents(with in god we trust stamped into it.)
I never said the fetus wasn't alive. But it is not yet an independent person. Prior to viability that fetus is most certainly NOT an independent human being. It is 100% dependent on the organ system of another human being (the mother) for survival.
Now I know the argument you are going to make, that an infant is also dependent on another for survival. It is NOT an apt comparison. A fetus, prior to viability, is incapable of survival outside the womb, an infant relies on the CARE of other human beings but it is capable of self-sustaining vital functions outside a direct, physical connection to the organ system of its mother.
The author fails to recognize the technological and medical advances of the 1970s that gave us much greater scientific knowledge about fetal development and enabled sonographers to detect a baby's heartbeat as early as 5-7 weeks gestation (before a woman usually knows she is pregnant), and images of a first-trimester baby recoiling at pain.. A picture speaks a thousand words.
So if I don't believe in the bible do I have to follow its rules.. Just like all t he other books written by dead people we can't go back and actually figure out what they meant. And if you say it is "the word of god" you are crazy.. Because god never existed and still doesn't. God is a manifestation of man either by delusion or from drugs.. Therefore the entire story is null.
Says who? You?
EXACTLY. And the existence of god is soundly disproven by the quality of the people who claim to speak on his behalf. IF there was a god, it would definitely be creating better leaders for its cause.
Evangelicals or Modern Day Pharisees? I hate abortion but for a Womans Choice. Abortion is mixed in with the Likes of Big Business and Money not Good Will towards Men except for Profit. It is these same people who promote Privatised Prisons and cut funding from homes of severely disabled people The Church will protect their own is not always true because they judge others as they judge women with Anger and Anger is on the Level of Murder as I read in the Bible. Jeus did the opposite of what the Pharisees promoted as in the case of Mary. Why does Jesus say many are called and few are chosen? Believing in Jesus is more than O.K. this person Lived 2000 years ago and Died on a Cross for our Sins. Jesus was not a promoter of Himself because He promoted the Father in Heaven. No man Goes to the Father but by Jesus but it Seems few people take up that Relationship with God the Father. Jesus gets his Praise from the Father not by men. Love the Lord thy God and then Love your Neighbor as yourself. It is not Love to condemn each other or to think highly of oneself over others or to look for profit in every situation...This is greed and You can not Love God and Mammon. We had a great Country and we are losing it to Wolves in Sheeps Clothing Marching to the toon of Self Declared Righeousness. All have sinned and a humbling of the United States is at hand over Money. Do not seek judgement or vengence in God's name but seek a personal relationship asside of anyone else. Read 2 Corinthians 11 especially 11:14 and John 8:44. I voted for Obama as I believe He fulfilled His Duties well and Due to all of the Lies waged against Him. Not born Here? The AntiChrist? He ended the National Day of Prayer? He is For Abortion? No he is for a Womans Right. Scare words like Socialism and Jobs. He is for Equal Health care for all. Repblicans sell you on the Religeous stuff with no Fruit to bear. They are for Business for Money for Profit and will make as much money from Foreign Labor as they can until they drive down the wages here at home. I am for Obama but if Romney wins Watch out. Some of us do not worry because We Trust in God and God's Kingdom is Comming. There we don't vote! God's will is Love not Hate.
Pro-life is a misleading label... they are only pro-fetus. They don't care about life.
I prefer to call them Forced-birthers....I will not believe they are pro-life until they come out against war and the death penalty. From one side of their mouths they say any conception is a gift from god, yet the other side of the mouth says if you get pregnant that you should live with your sin. So which is it? A gift from god, or a punishment wrought on one who disregards god's word? I am so confused....
You're right, Sane! I would have more respect for them if they would put the same energy into protesting poverty, injustice, war and the death penalty, but they're only interested in fetuses and embryos not actual "born" people.
Where did they dig up this atheistic liberal boy? "Biblical truth" is up to the interpretation of the person reading the word. A literal interpretation of the Bible is difficult as there are numerous instances of contradictory statements in the Bible. People spend whole careers studying and helping us to determine the "true" messages contained in the Bible. They should not be left to some kid that was watching Barney just a couple years ago.
Doesn't it every occur to you that there is something wrong with a "god" who provides a manual that contradicts itself and allows so many conflicting interpretations, requiring it's followers to rely on experts to help them understand it? That "god" is either unintelligent, uncaring, or non-existent.
So, there is moral equivalence, despite the fact that religious people struggle with the concept and morality of when life begins, as opposed to the pro-abortion camp's adamant denial that there is even a moral question? Just say that you're pro-abortion and move along. You have not presented a balanced view of the issue, let alone the theology.
It just proves that due to the fact that the Bible, although a great book, is written in a way that you can defend almost ANYTHING with it. Religion belongs to each individuals heart and soul, you can interpret the Bible however you want as long as you live your life as a good person. And we all know organized religion and those who use the TV are anything BUT good people! Be wary of wolves in sheeps clothing!!!!
That is incorrect. He is cherry-picking the few instances where evangelical leaders asserted what the author suggests. Do your research and you will see. Are you suggesting that all evangelical sects were pro-choice at that point in the past, or even most?
This is not only biblical but almost more scientific at this point- science can no longer deny what God has ordained from a genetic standpoint of the embryo and the information it carries after conception.
From the genetic stand point, your skin cells also have all the information needed to make a human being. Is letting your skin cells die and shed the murder of a human being?
If not, then I'm sorry, science is NOT with you.
There is no god. This is not a Theocracy. All "god" arguments are irrelevant. Evolution created genetics. You need some Biology and genetics courses.
This author has not only misinterpreted the biblical passages he referenced, but he also cherry-picked two or three of them, as well. No one who is being intellectually honest as a Christian can say that Jesus would have been pro-choice. Just like no one can say he would have been pro death penalty. Abortion is ultimately a self-centered decision, given that there are many more families wanting to adopt than there are children available for adoption. That is indisputable.
Your argument is flawed because the author is neither cherry picking, nor stating whether one is right or wrong. Therefor, your whole argument that the article is incorrect because of cherry picking doesn't make sense.
The author is pointing out that, just over 30 years ago, evangelical christians held the exact opposite view they hold today. That's not cherry picking, that's just fact.
What we can say with certainty is that you ignorant hillbillies shouldn't be inflicting your damaged worldviews on people of different faiths.
Yes, a self centered dicision a WOMAN must make concerning HERSELF, her womb, & her life. There is a reason they dont issue birth certificates and SSNs before you are born.
To say something is insidputable kinda means there is no other way than yours, that you somehow own the "truth" Factually there are MANY kids wanting adoption, not INFANTS but kids. The problem is that people only want to adopt infants, so trust me your statement is more than a little disputable.
it's disputable. All your points are. The bible is very very open to interpretation otherwise there wouldn't be so many sects of christianity. And I've worked in a children's home and can certainly attest to the fact that there are many unwanted children who would love a permanent home. People aren't lined up for children to adopt. Just "certain types" of children. I believe abortion is generally a bad decision, but in some cases it should definitely be legal and the decision should always be with the woman.
@ialsoagree: I know evangelical Christians who were alive during those times, and they absolutely proclaim that they have never been pro-abortion. Obviously the author and their chosen references do not support the views held by *all* evangelical Christians during that time-frame. It is quite possible that the cited references only support a vocal minority, as is the case in modern society.
So, in your view he's misinterpreted a book of fiction, what's your point?
“Abortion is ultimately a self-centered decision, given that there are many more families wanting to adopt than there are children available for adoption”
How about the fact that in 2011, 401,000 children were in foster care. More than 20,000 foster youth "age out" of state care or run away every year, leaving them without ongoing connection to family members or caring adults. Shouldn’t we focus on these children first?
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.