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.
Imagine an 18 year old, developmentally disabled person,hooked to feeding tubes and a respirator to keep them alive.
Should the parent or the government decide when to pull the plug?
It depends. Does he wear Depends?
hahaha i will see you in hell
Neither. Educated medical professionals should make the call in favor of the best interests of the patient.
If you don't believe in abortion, don't have one. If you believe in our rights and freedoms, don't tell someone else what they can and cannot do with their body.
PEACE!!!! Nice to hear from you. I hope all is well.
What a convenient response for someone who was not aborted and thinks government sanctioned killing of developing humans is sane. Not that easy and no – not well said.
Complete Red Herring argument.
Your right to do as you please with your body ends just before destroying the body of someone else who depends on you for survival.
@CGAW: Convienient response from someone who is not a woman who died after being forced to have a child against her will by the very government that was supposed to protect her rights.
Not your business. When you get pregnant, I promise you that I will not attempt to tell you what you should do.
Nobody ever gets drafted for da war, if you're Royalty.
So I guess you're ok with terrorists going into a mall and blowing themselves up. After all, they should be able to do whatever they like with their bodies.
Hint: the issue is not what you are free to do with your body because there is another human being in the picture (unborn baby). The issue is whether the unborn baby has a right to protection like a born baby.
@John: Actually, abortion is legal and the law protects the rights of the mother. So, your claim of "rights" is incorrect.
That is a false analogy and you know it. The issues is what you can do with your own body, a fetus is part of a woman's body.
That is your issue. Until the child is born, you have no say.
In reality, if a woman is in danger they will remove the baby and it may or may not dies depending on several factors – but it doesn;t need to be abortion.
@EricG So, your argument is it's okay to abort because the law says you can? I assume that if the law were changed to make abortion illegal, you would agree with my statement then?
Like I keep saying, "Abortion is nuttin but a demolition of God's buildings." Should a woman choose to come to term, so be it. Should abortion come to a woman's thoughts, who but God put her thoughts of aborting into motion? So many damn dumb buildings!
1Cr 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.
You "Pro-Lifers" on this thread make me chuckle.
What you are in reality: **Pro-Forced Gestationers** ™ Lets make, *force* women to deliver. 8O
What a grand idea.
Back at ya' -Eric... always good to hear from you as well.
I hope that all is well with you ? Don't see you as much here on the blogs as you used to be ?
Anyway... regards brother...
Huebert, you just made a claim you'll need to support. Why, exactly, must a fetus be interpreted as part of a woman's body? What, exactly, does this have to do with my analogy?
That's the question, Eric. You can't end the debate simply by stating you are right. Why, exactly, should no one have a say before the baby is born? Should we have a say after the baby is born? What's the difference? Location? Should location determine whether a baby has rights or not?
Somebody forgot. A fetus is part of a man's body, too. That somebody is a usurper.
A fetus must be interpreted as part of the mother's body because it is growing inside of the mothers body. A fetus can only access nutrition, and oxygen that has been taken in by the mother, just like an organ. Why would you say that a fetus is anything other than part of the mother's body?
Procreation is very hard to understand for some.
Huebert said: "A fetus must be interpreted as part of the mother's body because it is growing inside of the mothers body. A fetus can only access nutrition, and oxygen that has been taken in by the mother, just like an organ. Why would you say that a fetus is anything other than part of the mother's body?"
When a baby is born, its umbilical cord is still attached to the mother. Are you saying it is still not a person because it is still receiving nourishment from the mother, and therefore, if it hasn't yet taken a breath, its life could be snuffed out because it is part of the mother's body? A fetus is much more than an organ or a tumor. It is a new life with senses, with fingers, with toes, with a heart, with a brain. But to you it is just another piece of the mother's flesh, to be removed on demand? Just another appendix or a tonsil? Scary.
Interesting how christians are quick to say, "The bible says so..." Any researcher in the world that desires credibility knows that s/he must cite sources of their information or research. "God said it," and "the bible says" might get it for you in church or while you're brainwashing kids, but it cuts no ice in the real world. This writer has quickly shot down the whole abortion thing, really, because if the bible is quoted in Leviticus to have said that an adult and a fetus are looked at differently in the eyes of the law, who are christians to change it (Revelation 22:19)?
So much nonsense here, Jay, where to start. How about:
1. You don't need the Bible to argue against abortion. Common sense works.
2. Cited research is not equal to truth. I'm a research scientist. Cited research is often simply wrong.
3. The Leviticus passage shows that an unborn baby deserves protection, just as prolife advocates argue.
The issue is this: does an unborn baby deserve the same protections a born baby does. If not, why not? Age (born/unborn)? Location (in/out of the womb). "It's a blob of tissue" misses the issue. We're all blobs of tissue.
A fetus is no more a human than a fertilized egg is a chicken. It takes at least 6 months for a zygote to develop into a functional human, and a good portion of zygotes have defective genes and never make it that far.
Life begins at conception in that a cell with a complete set of DNA can use energy for homeostasis and self-replication. A zygote is no more human than a stem cell.
When are you gonna start functioning?
I will take Christians seriously on the issue of abortion when Christians take protection of the child after it is born seriously. To care about the child before it is born, and then not give a damn about it after it is born is the pinnacle of Christian hypocrisy.
Hmmm – interesting you think it is a Christian problem when it is world wide and convicted child abusers are mostly non-religious.
He was not talking specifically only about child abusers (also, I would like to see cited studies to back up your claim that most child abusers are non-religious, because I think that's bullshit). Don't be disingenuous.
Actually, Hawaiiguest, Wes made the first claim. Let him prove that no Christian cares about their kids after birth. What laughable claim.
@CGAW – I think you missed the point.
You can't be a chronic abuser or criminal and claim you are abiding in any religion. People are what they do and very little of what they say they are. Be sure to vote – seems you guys don't think you need to over there on the islands brah.
It seemed more like hyperbole and shorthand, rather than an actual generalization claim.
Aww how cute. A preemptive No True Scotsman, not providing sources, and then giving completely irrelevant non-points about where I live. You must be so proud of your perceived "wit".
CGAW, Your reply makes no sense at all.
Wes Scott raises what should be a very obvious point. I find it disturbing that most conservatives I know frown strongly upon dependent children's public aid when they insist that pregnancies be carried. If you insist that a stranger behave as you wish, yet deny any support for the unavoidable consequence, God may have shorted you on decent DNA.
I believe he might be referring to social issues–children in poverty–as well as adoption perhaps. Christians love to parade "Stop Abortion" signs around Planned Parenthood buildings, but I've never seen a "Start Adoption" sign anywhere. Just sayin.
“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,
Depends on the interpretation of "serious injury"..... as well as the interpretation of the interpretation......
Evangelical history is irrelevant to the abortion issue. If you believe in the NT – it is real easy – killing is a no-no – good people, bad people, little humans, old humans, developing humans. Not rocket science people.
Thank, CGAW, a little bit of clarity. The issue is not what Evangelicals believed 60 years ago.
Please, go read some pro-life apologetics and come back later. You're embarrassing your cause.
New King James Version (NKJV) 22 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
What part of this scripture denies capital punishment for the life of the unborn? Verse 23 plainly states, "if any harm follows" then life for life. So if the premature birth of an unborn child causes that child to die, the person responsible should also die.
I am not advocating any harm come to someone causing an unborn child to die but if you are going to site the scripture then get the information correct.
Fortunately for me, I don't care what the "New King James" version, or any other version, of the Wholly Babble says about anything. And, fortunately for us all, the laws of the United States are NOT based upon your Biblical interpretations. If you like Taliban government so much, then why don't you just move to "The Promised Land" where they now have high technology that can whip up giant superstorms to punish infidels?
Buddy, it would take a 20 page dissertation to fully unpack the meaning of the Hebrew here and you could still get it wrong. Knowing that, maybe we should leave this passage alone. Even if you can extract a clear meaning from the words, it's inconveniently located in a chapter that also says "If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible." Not exactly the best place to find your proof-text.
 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
23] And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life . . .
This means: kill the offender if the "woman" dies in the assault. The fetus (or "fruit") was only considered to be property of the couple.
You gotta feel sorry for the Evangelicals when their standard is being carried by a Mormon and his flunkie is a Catholic. LMAO!
So you prefer a Christian and a Moron...
Martin, you are so funny! And you can be so funny because you made it out of the womb alive. Your Mom didn't "choose" you out of existance....did she.
Erik, we had a Christian and a moron from 2001-2009, and it was the same guy. Saying "Christian" and "moron" is just being redundant for no good reason. One automatically has to be a moron to believe in Christian teachings such as virgin birth, we all came from Adam and Eve (that is called "incest"), the Great Flood, rising from the dead, turning sticks into snakes, parting the Red Sea with a stick, turning water into wine or any of those other ridiculous beliefs shared by all Christians.
But, the very thought that "good Christians" could ever vote for a Mormon to be their president is just too much for an intelligent mind to comprehend. We already know who the First lady would be, but what we don't now is who would be the Second Lady, the Third Lady, the Fourth Lady, etc. And, we know that Romney would spend his vacation time on the planet Kolob rather than at Camp David. That's some scary shiite!
Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
This quote is God speaking specifically to Jeremiah, one of his prophets. There is no reason to think that it applies to all of humanity.
So you're saying life begins before conception (as in "before I formed you in the womb") You need to rethink that!
Ah yes, the book of Jeremiah. Written in 7 – 6 century BC. It was a Hebrew poem written about the coming of God and what he was going to do to all the non-believers. Jeremiah was crazy. He was thrown in jail several times, not because of his beliefs but because of "retributions" to people who did not believe his crazy prophecies. He was once thrown into a pit to die because of his behaviors.
Yes, let's use this as justification for life at conception.
The womb was made for the child. Keep your breaking and entering killers out.
Well now, isn't that special? Seems that there is no better way to get mad props than to proclaim that "God" sent you!
Did this "God" also know, pre-womb, each one of the many billions that he "created" who wouldn't measure up in the end and would spend eternity in hell?
Many a Christian apologist would shudder at your inadequate approach here. Yes. Jeremiah, a living, breathing adult human was told by God that he knew him before he was born–actually before he was even conceived. The question is... was God saying Jeremiah's soul existed before conception? Or was God saying that he simply knows the future and thus he knows every person who will be born? If it's the first, then when does the soul take up residence in the body? Adam, for instance, had a body, but only received life when God breathed it into him. When does God do that to newly formed humans? When the egg is fertilized? At "quickening" (the first movement/kicking)? When it looks like a human? When it receives its actual first breath? Unfortunately, the Bible has no easy answer. So stop posting Jeremiah and Psalm quotes as though they prove anything and start using your brain to work it out more fully.
Since your god "knew" me before he formed me, I must be about eleventy bajillion years old. Who do I speak to about getting all the back retirement money I'm owed?
God knows all. He knew Hitler, Bin Laden, Hussein; every person ever born. He also knew of those who would never exist because of abortion or miscarriage. He knows everything, because He is God. It just so happens that in the case of Jeremiah, God needed a prophet, chose a couple that He knew would raise their child in preparation for His work. Because of necessity, He stepped in.
To suggest that God steps in or is involved in every "before I formed you" is to suggest an awful lie about God. Generally God leaves human beings on planet earth free to choose. The very foundation of true Christianity is "free will" the ability of human beings to discover God and decide whether they would be happy under His authority, or rather, the authority of the anyone who claims to authority on this earth.
Nice try. I'm sure that makes you feel all tingly inside, but the fact remains - there is not a single shred of verified evidence that it is true.
Todd Akin's name was spelt incorrectly in this editorial.
...which is fine because he sucks anyway.
Countless studies have shown that there is a higher incidence of incest and child molestation among southern, white evangelical families than in any other group that participated in the study. Experts agree that this type of deviant behavior is generally a result of living in close quarters, such as trailer parks. Anyone requiring further proof only has to take a casual drive south of the Mason-Dixon line where you will encounter toothless inbreds wherever you travel. In fact, historians have long theorized that the reason the south lost the Civil War is because of the high number of mentally challenged soldiers in the army, a direct result of generations of inbreeding.
That's where you made your mistake. It's Trailer Park Avenue trash and royalty that kept it in the family that goes WAY Back. It's historic.
The article is about ABORTION, NOT INCEST OR THE CIVIL WAR. Stick to the topic or don't comment.
The dude is confused about bleeders.
This article, while somewhat incomplete/misleading, does raise questions about why Evangelicals so adamantly believe the Bible supports the pro-life position. The article is misleading because it only starts the historical account of Biblical interpretation in 20th century America. Come on now. Really? Abortion didn't start in America, and neither did the Church. Why start with American denominational statements from the 60s as though that was the first time anyone every thought about it? The church has struggled with this issue ever since Jesus' day, as did the Jews before them. The unnerving thing for Evangelicals is that an objective reading of pro-life proof texts is somewhat dissatisfying. Rick Warren's claim that the Bible says abortion is murder is, frankly, absolutely false. It's not in there–NO WHERE. Yes, there are passages that suggst that God knows a person before they take their first breath, but it's hardly iron-clad evidence to adamantly say "To God, abortion = murder." However, claiming that Exodus 21 supports abortion is equally reaching. I won't go into all the linguistic reasons for this, but there are plenty of websites that prattle on for pages and pages dissecting the meanings of the Hebrew. This is to say, there's no definitive, simple Biblical mandate on how to treat abortion, which is why Christians interpretations have swung back and forth for centuries, and will continue to do so til the Lord returns. Perhaps we Christians ought to at least step back and recognize a few things: 1. Abortion, be it murder or a woman's right, is a result of unwanted pregnancy. 2. Unwanted pregnancies can be prevented. 3. When an unwanted pregnancy occurs, adoption is the ideal alternative to an abortion, but there are still thousands of American babies who are under state care. How in the world can we stand against abortion without standing FOR adoption?
Abortion is just the demolition of one of God's buildings still in the factory.
1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.
Why would God care if the 'factories' decide to demolish a building still in the design phase?
If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.
We are born and we live then we die. Where's the beef? What's in the middle? Life? The meat of it all!
I named my son the minute he was born. I did not name him before that.
At one time people did not give a permanent name to a child until it was about 3 months old or more due to infant mortality rates. That is why a number of children were still called Sissy or Baby for years and sometimes their whole lives.
So at 59 seconds, you could have strangled him to death and it would have been ok, right?
I named my child long before they were born. We had names for both a boy or a girl ready to go And I watched as, it turned out to be a "he", he grew logn before he was actually born. But some people think that what I was watching was not a real person. Now that he is a teenager, I can tell you, he is in fact, very real.
A real person with a real life. Just like you DD. ..............Again, just saying... TD01
No one is saying you should have to have an abortion. We are simply saying that you can't enact laws that would prevent others from getting one.
Everytime I think of Sarah Palin, I think of trailer trash. Every time I think of trailer trash, I think of teabaggers. Everytime I think of teabaggers, I think of nascar. Everytime I think of nascar, I think of assault weapons. Everytime I think of assault weapons, I think of Sarah Palin. Everytime I think of Sarah Palin, I think of trailer trash. Everytime I think of trailer trash, I think of teabaggers. Everytime .....
Yes, it is a vicious recycle...
That's where you made your mistake. It's Trailer Park Avenue trash.
Can't we take Nascar out of the cycle. A lot of people who are not trailer trash or teabaggers enjoy Nascar. It is also great for the economy in the areas where the races are. Besides my husband has 3 pair of Nascar jammies : ).
You obviously have a real problem there. What you call "thinking" is really just stuck on stupid. You really have no clue at what you rail about. Palin has more class in her discarded toenails than you will summon in a lifetime, at least as long as you spout garbage like your post here.. Sorry you are so bitter. I mean your way has been tried for FOUR years and it has been an abject FAILURE... and you know it....don't you. :).
Maybe if you tried logical "thinking" instead of hatred for Sara Palin/Tea Party/NASCAR/etc... and bigoted the idiocy against those who point out your failed philosphies and ruffle your pride, then you might have a cogent thought. And if you did really and truly start to "think" then you would be suprised and ashamed at just how foolish you look. Let down your pride and free your mind.
Something to think about. :) Glad to help. You are quite welcome. TD01
@TargetDestroyed01 – Giving a pass to morons lile Sarah Palin and her ilk is like taking the scoring out of pee wee football and other kid's sports so no one has to feel like the loser. Sara Palin/Tea Party/NASCAR/etc. are the stupid uncoordinated kid on the sideline we arent allowed to make fun of and just ends up ruining the game when they try to jump in saying "I got it!! I got it!!" when they clearly don't get it.
What about an unborn dog?
"Abortions for all…" (people boo)
"Ok… Ok, Abortions for none!"(people boo)
"Fine… Abortions for some… Miniature American flags for others!" (people cheer)
.- Kodos the Alien, The Simpsons
Best. Episode. Ever.
Life begins at conception but not ensoulment. This is true.
Becuase biology is observable, but magic isn't.
I like the "this is true". Admit it you have no clue.
I'm curious as to when doctors have determined the ensoulment occurs...
What made up total nonsense.
Not to point out the obvious but what the heck, I will do it anyway.....I find it funny that everyone here can pontificate about abortion ....because they actually made it out of the womb alive.
"I think, therefore, I am....unless of course I was aborted in which case, I am not really here.....am I?." TD01
A dog has more rights than an unborn child
Until that last trimester an unborn body is nothing more than a fancy vegetable, it can move and such but does not have anymore consciousness or self awareness than a carrot. A dog SHOULD have more rights than a vegetable!
That is because a don has been borne. Birth is a heck of a milestone, your most important rights rights are conferred at the moment of birth.
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