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.
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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.
Bruce Waltke either didn't read or misinterpreted Exodus 21:22–24 before making those statements.
From the New King James Bible "If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no mischief follows: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine."
Just because the NIV changed it (and then footnoted in miscarriage) to "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely (or has a miscarriage) but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows." to suit their pro-life agenda doesn't mean it's true.
So a miscarriage from a man hitting a woman isn't a big deal and the guy just has to pay the father a bit of money but an abortion is a huge deal and is murder? Please.
No answer to my question Mr. Double standards?
Basically people who form their beliefs based on fantasy and fiction feel they have the right to force others to comply with their fiction based morality. Sorry holy rollers but you don't have that right and I will oppose you every way I can. Organized religion in this world is the bane of mankind and civilization.
You don't have to be a holy roller to know that abortion is plain murder.
But it's okay to kill brown people who aren't Christian. How many unwanted children have you adopted?
Dumb human buildings! Trying to argue over terminating a factory's assemblage of another building or to have said building come off the assembly-line in completion. Why really should God care about how many buildings are roaming about? Buildings by God are mainly dimly lit structures!
Let Us Love
I really don't get the point of this article. People believe what they believe based on lots of things from religion to science to personal experience to simply reasoning. I'm not religious at all, but I've got a real problem with abortion in general, and a SERIOUS problem with late-term abortions of babies that would be viable outside the womb. Virtually ALL laws are (or should be) a balancing of rights; in the case of abortions it's mother vs baby or fetus. Totally ignoring the most basic of all human rights (life) of a baby until the rather arbitrary moment it exits the womb seems to me radical, insane, and lawless. Conversely, endowing a newly-fertilized egg with full human rights at the expense of the mother seems a bit extreme also. Somewhere there's a reasonable compromise. I do have to say, though, that liberals labeling right to lifers as radical (unless, of course, they hurt people or destroy things) is pretty absurd and often hypocritical. Often, they're the same folks who fight for animal rights and international human rights – which is good, but why animals and "grown ups" and not babies?
The point of the article isn't that all people opposed to abortion are so opposed for religious reasons. It is noting that our commonly held perception of Christians, specifically Evangelical Christians as people who have always been pro-life is incorrect, and shows how, as a group, these people moved from one position to the other. That is an interesting shift, and something most of us did not know.
Honestly I believe that the current abortion laws are adequate. Abortion is allowed until a point, I believe that the exact cutoff time is determined by the state usually around 26 weeks, but late term and partial birth abortions are, apart from medical necessity, banned. As far as I know the only people who want to change the current laws are the ones who want to make them more restrictive.
They simply changed their long-standing position to the modern one when they realized they could generate far more political votes by doing so.
It was a cause that they could monopolize in order to gather and control members, like the Prohibition disaster of the 30s, the anti-gay and anti-Catholic stances that accompanied the anti-Choice one, and the anti-Muslim kick that they've recently taken up. The NEED to have their enemies. Without them, their members would simply drift away.
There are several reasons as to why life does not begin at conception, in my opinion. For anything to be considered 'life', it must be able to support itself for at least some time, or be able to be kept alive via medical intervention. If you take the fetus at 6 months out of the womb, it would likely fall under the second category (medical intervention), hence he/she is alive. You take that same fetus from the womb at 6 weeks, and all the medical knowledge in this world won't be able to do anything for it.
Also, please, please show me where in the bible it says that life begins at conception? I can't seem to find that passage. Also, just so you're aware, making that claim puts you to the right of Sharia law, which states that the angel breaths life into the child at 4 months.
Then why are there so many frozen embryos surviving outside of the womb waiting to be placed into some woman's womb so as to continue their growth process which has been interrupted by freezing?
A couple of problem here:
1) Where did you get this arbitrary definition of life?
2) It would be a moving target then.... so, when life begins has changed in the last 20 years (as we can now keep an infant alive at earlier stages, outside the womb)?
re: Bible – it doesn't but it does speak about the reaction of fetal humans to one another or situations... which would obviously imply it is sometime prior to birth (which should be obvious, sans-religious-text, to any semi-intelligent person).
re: sharia – While I agree with the Bible, as I'm a Christian, I tend to make the pro-life argument based on secular legal grounds and science. This shouldn't be surprising, as good morality and science should be in 100% agreement with Christianity if it is true (and I think they are as far as I've been able to see).
You're making ddrew's point for him. The embryo isn't really living, it's suspended, but more importantly, it can't or won't advance and grow until it ahs a womb to nurture it. Ie, it si not independently capable of sustaining its own life.
All I need to know is that I can pick up a heartbeat w/ an ultrasound probe at 28 days post-conception. Most women don't even know they are pregnant yet, but that baby is a life/alive.
@Dominick, @ Steve Wilkinson, @Tracey
So... safe to say you are all: **Pro-Forced Gestationers** ?
@BRC "it's that life should be considered independent once the fetus is fully viable and capable of surviving outside of the mother (generally speaking somewhere between 22-24 weeks). Your argument has a lot of passion, but it's not a true comparison to the opposing view."
If the argument you are putting forward is the ability to independently exist for oneself outside of a mother's womb, then you have also put forward the argument that anyone who is dependent upon life support for survival is less than human as well. And so we have now come to the euthanasia debate. Are you also arguing for putting the elderly to death because they have gotten to the other extreme of life...the end?
Depends. Do they have a living will that says in teh even t of a vegetative state DO NOT keep me on life support? Then obviously let them die with dignity, as they asked to. If they don't it becomes a decision for the family, if they believe that the person would have wanted to be kept alive indefinitely despite not really being who they once were, that's that family's decision, but I understand letting someone go once they're no longer truly alive. Euthenasia, when it is REQUESTED by the individual who is going to die, should not be illegal in my opinion, no.
Do I believe that we should just go out and kill old people? No, of course not (though the should be required to take a driving exam every year starting on their 65th birthday, and once they lose their license they never get it back).
uh, if that life support was another person who didn't want to be used as life support then yes, un-hook them.
Brian. You wrote
I think we have a winner in the "silly straw man argument from someone whose never left her left-wing echo chamber and actually met a pro-lifer" contest!
Then you wrote
LambofDog – Actually, its Princeton University, thank you.
But really, I love the open-minded, tolerant liberals here who
1) offer nothing but personal attacks and mockery
2) make fun of the south
3) make no logical arguments of their own.
4) Caricature pro-life views because they could never win a debate against our actual views.
No wonder most Americans now consider themselves pro-life....
So it's OK for you to mock people but not the other way around.
Double standards are what people like you are best at.
What's so "logical" about the anti-Choice argument, it'd fully grounded in religious beliefs about when life begins, not scientific ones. It's about as "logical" as the anti-gay religious argument.
Sheep of god. The anti-choice folk have no agenda apart from the unborn – there are a whole range of ways that humans die from that the NRLC etc. do not address: food safety and security, water safety and security, traffic safety, drug safety, gun safety, preventable disease, etc. Thousands die daily from these causes. Not to mention miscarriages which would presumably also fall under "god's will".
Mittology..just to clear things up...not all pro-lifers are necessarily anti-choice..personally I don't believe abortion needs to be an option at all...I think there are better ways to deal with the issue of folks that don't want children...better birth control options, adoption, etc...as a woman do I want someone telling me what to do..not really..but as a child advocate I also want to give every child a chance at a great life...it's once again the extremists that muddy the issue..not ever pro-lifer is saying they want to control your body..just like not every pro-choice person is saying they think abortion is a great form of birth control...
Kt, Scarabs got it right. Gays blew it. I still wouldn't want to wear one as jewelry like the Royalty do.
UGH..CNN...another abortion opinion article..which focuses on the extremists...which make this whole issue absurd because there are very rational middle of road people who have great suggestions....the answer to the whole abortion issue is for both sides to TALK to each other..I am pro-life but I understand the issue of unwanted or forced pregnancies are never as simple as just saying it's right or wrong...but we'll never find a better solution if we're too busy fighting over the details or arguing over when a baby is really a human or whatnot...come on people...my opinion is...it doesn't matter when it becomes "life"...if left alone it would develop into a baby...who there are MANY loving families that would love to adopt..we need to focus on birth control and improving the adoption process in this country...THAT"S how you eliminate abortion as an option...making it illegal won't help..you just have it make it the least favorable option...prevention is key....
I understand and respect where you are coming from.
And... part of making it 'not' a black or white issue *is* by keeping the current laws of allowing a woman the right to choose.
I agree with this strongly. At the same time, if we also shored up support for women to keep the babies who are products of unwanted pregnancies, maybe more of them would feel capable of being competent parents who are able to raise and provide a life for these children. Pro-life has got to mean more than just right to be born.
So you think that preventing a life from beginning (and I don't mean the mere biological existence but the actual personal ident.ity of a being) is worse than having that potential person develop while going through what could be potentially a nightmare childhood by bouncing around in a pathetic foster care system or ending up with horrible foster families, because YOU hold that they have a right, and perhaps a moral responsibility, to live such a life. What about the mother, should she have to concur with you and accept the fact that she would be better off giving her offspring away to–more than likely–who knows who?
That is interesting...
I do feel very strongly that late term abortions should never be allowed since babies have proven to be viable after about 23 weeks or so..so we know they feel pain, emotions, etc..
I think it's impossible to ever craft a law that will make sense when it comes to abortion because again..not every situation is the same...and in my opinion as an advocate for all children..each baby also deserves the choice to live a life...soooo...if it's a matter of women not having access to BC let's help them get that...Plan B has proven to be a great option....and once again...adoption is a great option!! I understand there are issues with the process there as well that need to be ironed...so instead of one group yelling MURDERS and the other yelling HANDS OFF MY BODY...let's compromise...the law doesn't have to be yes it's allowed..or no it's not...there are many compromises that can be made....we have to start somewhere...
Bonnie...I completely agree..I'm a guardian ad litem in my county so I see "unwanted" children all of the time...so I don't want people feeling forced to raise children they don't want...I see a lot of families looking to adopt but frustrated with the process...and I've also seen a lot of women who find access to birth control too hard or expensive to get...or are uneducated about it...there is a lot of work to be done...but i think it's our society's job to protect those that are defensless...I miss the old " it takes a village to raise a child" mentality
NoTheism....I simply don't believe we can't give a child a shot at a great life for the fears of the bad people out there...yes..I've seen children suffer through the system but I've also seen children blossom and become great members of society. I've known children who's mothers could have easily aborted them but gave them up instead and have lived great and happy lives...does it always work out....nope...but give them a chance...
You Said: " the law doesn't have to be yes it's allowed..or no it's not...there are many compromises that can be made "
As I stated above in my response to you... in order to keep exploring these issues of how to minimize abortions, part of that answer *is* by keeping the *laws* as they are... allowing a woman to *choose.*
If you take that 'choice' from a woman, and enforce laws that make a woman 'have to' have a baby, you are basically a **Pro-Forced Gestationer** within which there really 'isn't' any compromise, yes ?
....we have to start somewhere...
A very brief study of Catholic history reveals similar flip flops (look up "Saint" Augustine to read one example of a major Catholic theologian who definitely felt early abortions were NOT sinful or murderous.)
Similarly, for a long while Christians felt a fetus was not really alive until God transferred his spirit to the fetus in a woman's womb–hence the idea of "the quickening," meaning the first time a pregnant woman felt a fetus move because god had made it human and alive.
The notion that a human life begins at conception is absurd. Clearly it begins long before conception.
I can't tell if you are being sarcastic.
If he's being sarcastic, then he's anti-intellectual and un-scientific. I'm guessing he's simply stating the facts very succinctly.
Oops, I misread that... yea, I'm guessing he's being sarcastic... AND that he's probably anti-intellecutal and un-scientific. :)
I read your first post and I was all :(
Then I read your second and I loled. :D
Science is no defense. There have been plenty of wacked experiments done in its name.
what person posting to this blog was not once a child within their mother's womb: heart beating, kicking, exploring their liminted universe, already starting to learn of their world. i fail to understand how people can say an unborn child is nothing but a mass of tissue that instantaneously becomes a human only at the point of exit from its mother's womb. These are not old fashioned ideas – this is true science and the logic of the time of humans on earth. Abortion is a matter of convenience only, and it is unabated murder. The mindless view that conservatives only care about the birth of the child and not its future welfare is also so very myopic. Conservatives and liberals all believe and agree for giving and bringing the child along in its growth and development to adulthood. By the way – that growing child, even outside the womb, is the same growing, forming, learning "blob of tissue" that it was inside the womb.
The position most pro-choice people put forward is not that life magically starts at birth, it's that life should be considered independent once the fetus is fully viable and capable of surviving outside of the mother (generally speaking somewhere between 22-24 weeks). Your argument has a lot of passion, but it's not a true comparison to the opposing view.
Shhhhhh... they **need to** caricature pro-lifers as religious fanatics intent on controlling women.
Because they know they couldn't possibly win an argument against the actual pro-life viewpoint.
"a mass of tissue that instantaneously becomes a human only at the point of exit from its mother's womb."
I am not sure that is correct. I would say that a baby acquires personhood status even if it does not present all of the personhood qualities (whichever these might be).
Most of the rest of your claims are just bad and I don't really care to address them at this point.
Not everyone who is pro-choice believes that those who are pro-life are trying to control women. BUT, people who are pro-choice recognize that no matter what the intent of the pro-life agenda is, the EFFECT is that it controls women adn limits their ability to govern their own bodies. I understand that it's not always about religion, that there are atheists who are pro-life simply because they think life has intrinsic value; but those who are pro-choice believe that the importance of a person being able to control their own body outways the intrinsic value of a potential life.
Read Psalm 139
Fine. And you take Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy and Embryology from an accredited college or university.
Because that's what sandy reads to comfort her brainwashed mind.
Nancy not sandy
Before you can ever put a people to death, you must first make them to be less than human and thus, less than you are. That is what makes them worthy of death, they are low-lifes without the finesse that the higher classes possess. Declare them rats and put them into camps, for another example.
Only for those with low standards.
so.. christianity has "reinvented" and "reinterpreted" the book based on what gives them the most political power .. again.. whats new? its been happening for 2000 yrs now. which is why I keep referring back to Gandhi's quote about christ and christians!
If he would bring his bride to the USA today, he'd be arrested for child molestation. Progressives are NEVER satisfied.
@ anybody – but it's still OK when your Holy Spoôk ràpes a 13 year old girl and impregnates her with himself, right?
LambofDog - Actualy, its Princeton University, thank you.
But really, I love the open-minded, tolerant liberals here who
1) offer nothing but personal attacks and mockery
2) make fun of the south
3) make no logical arguments of their own.
4) Caricture pro-life views because they could never win a debate against our actual views.
No wonder most Americans now consider themselves pro-life.....
Straw man + sweeping generalization.. You're good at this.
Funny. I was making fun of your attack on a pro-choice person.
Sure....you people write that all pro-lifers are religious fanatics who care only about controlling women and then don't care about the people who've already been born.
But *I'm* the one committing straw man arguments.
That's for playing, we have some lovely parting gifts at the door.
every comment you have written.. every response you give is a mockery and a personal attack.. you attack people with logical gemstones like "coz god dunnit" and say others do not have logical response.. and after this all, you are complaining about people doing the EXACT same thing you do? what have you been smoking, dude? really!
Brian, what a weak little bit of writing for someone who claims to have had some affiliation with Princeton at some point. The real issue is that nobody (especially not a male who is not directly involved in the question) has any right telling a woman what to do with her body, her organs and her reproduction. Even if that person is an ignorant southern nisogynistic redneck or a self-declared intellectual from the north, or any other form of person who is not part of the woman's immediate family, medical and spiritual circle. MYOB.
Yes, exactly, you attacked his mispelling (ad hominem) and then you used it to make a false analogy (another logical fallacy you've comitted) between his logic and his ability to spell.
In the mean time, you haven't even said WHY should his logic and his spelling be able to be compared. That's begging the question.
Ultimately, you never addressed why how his logic is bad.
this was meant as a reply to Brian
They should allow for editing on this blog...
Correcting a spelling mistake is an "ad hominem attack?"
What planet are you on?
Oh, but you didn't simply correct the misspelling, did you? Now you're just lying.
I corrected his spelling and called his argument illogical.
Pleae, take a logic course before throwing out your 10-cent words.
I'm done with this.. I've already given you too much attention.
Interesting historical perspective. Jonathan Dudley is handsome, but he should remove his picture because his youth might make some doubt his credibility.
He looks like John-Boy Walton.
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.