By Christina Forrester | 1-30-19
I cannot tell you how many times “what about abortion?” has been brought up to me over the years. It has been more of a talking point than gay marriage, gun rights, immigration or even hatred of Hillary Clinton. This is because the Religious Right has had one of the most brilliant, widespread and coordinated disinformation campaigns in play on this topic than maybe any issue in modern history. I call it “brilliant” because, unlike most of the modern issue-driven campaigns, it does not rely on just digital forms of media – it has roots that go deep into churches, political and pastoral leadership, big money, multiple organizations and even into the very doctrine and culture of churches across America.
The abortion issue campaign is nearly impenetrable because it has a religious and peer-pressure aspect to it that other types of issue-based campaigns do not. I have received hundreds of emails from people asking how they can vote for Democrats, even though they don’t agree with Trump and Republicans on any other issue, because, “My pastor said it was a sin to support abortion.” For many, not voting for a candidate who is “pro-life” would mean being cast out of social circles, groups, chastisement from their peers…losing community. On the Democratic side, you don’t hear of this happening over priority issues such as healthcare for all or even what gun safety regulations look like. This is a uniquely volatile issue that can literally break apart communities – the only other issues that compare are LGBTQ issues, often within the same churches and communities.
Now, I am not discounting the genuine concern from many about the unborn. For many of the one-issue voters, for those who follow the political and religious leaders who preach a “pro-life above all” doctrine, the concern for the unborn is very genuine. They trust their leaders and have been inundated in all forms – through email, social media, sermons, television, talk radio and peer pressure – to a doctrine that places being pro-life on an altar of the highest concern for spiritual, political and public life. These are the people who are being used, lied to and misled in more ways than one.
First, let’s look at the hypocrisy of the leadership of the Religious Right in general. We’ve all heard the old adage “the lady doth protest too much, methinks” which comes from a line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and is usually shortened to some variation of “perhaps thou protest too much?” This has never been truer than in the “judgmental version of Christianity.” Many of the Evangelical conservative preachers over the decades who have condemned others most vehemently on certain issues, have only been discovered later to have participated in the very acts or actions they came down on others for the hardest. In October of 2017, pro-life Congressman Tim Murphy, who had one of the most dependable hard-line stances against abortion throughout his career, was discovered to have pressured his mistress into terminating her pregnancy during a pregnancy scare. Likewise Scott Lloyd, head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, was a fierce anti-abortion warrior who blocked a 17-year old refugee woman from getting an abortion, making condemning statements about the girl in the process. He was later reported to have pressured and helped pay for his girlfriend’s abortion. These are just two of several examples of the pro-life hypocrisy, but this “protest too much” theory goes beyond pro-life and into the other most divisive issue for conservative Evangelicals – gay marriage and acceptance of LGBTQ Christians.
David Matheson was a leader for years in the “ex-gay movement,” and considered an expert in the field of the damaging practice of conversion therapy, which has harmed over 700,000 adults in the US. Many of those who have undergone conversion therapy end up with mental health problems and/or become suicidal, but Matheson was praised in the world of conservatives such as our Vice President Mike Pence, who supported conversion therapy as governor of Indiana. Matheson was often brought in as an expert to “prove” being gay is a choice and how people can be “reformed.” That is until recently, when Matheson publicly came out as gay, divorced his wife and declared he was looking for a boyfriend, possibly proving once and for all the “thou protest too much” theory! In Psychological terms, this is called “projection”- the act of projecting and condemning others for the very thing you are doing or struggling with yourself. In spiritual terms, it is called hypocrisy.
These are just a few examples of the hypocrisy that almost always surrounds the practice of rigid-conservative Christianity. Where there is the harshest judgment and condemnation, there is self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Jesus said of the Pharisees, who were really the equivalent of the Religious Right of today, in Matthew 23:4 “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” And in verse 15: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Jesus did not mince words. And in verse 23 he lays out the answer to my thesis in this article (thank you, Jesus): “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” So focusing on the issues of lesser importance, the letter of the law in the most conservative sense, while neglecting all the social justice and spirit of God’s word…sound just a little familiar?
The Religious Right has been misleading its followers on the issue of abortion for decades. The idea that abortions can simply be banned and therefore none will ever be performed again is a fallacy – abortions have been taking place since Old Testament times. There is no probability that a ban would do anything other than force women into the types of practices that were happening before Roe v. Wade – back alley abortions, at home abortions, which often lead to the death of the woman. However, Democrats, who are characterized as pro-choice monsters who love seeing babies murdered, have realistic solutions that have lead to a decrease in abortion under Democrats and pro-choice policies. Republicans also have no agenda or plan for helping the unwanted children who are born into this world, any more than they have a plan for the wanted children. They don’t mention to pro-lifers how they are actively removing the funding for their education, healthcare, and doing everything they can to be able to sell them firearms and see that their future is one in which there is a high probability they will experience a school shooting in their lifetime. This is the very definition of gagging on a gnat and swallowing a camel.
If pro-life voters would simply look at what the Republicans have actually done – or not done – while in power, they would realize they have not helped reduce the number of abortions or provide any long term solutions to family planning at all. In fact, for the past two years Republicans had complete control of both Houses of Congress and the White House – yet they passed no comprehensive pro-life legislation, and their policies eventually lead to increased abortions. It is time for pro-life voters to realize they have been used for a political agenda and giant fundraiser for the GOP and prominent religious leaders/churches. And they need to consider this: if the GOP really did succeed in banning all abortions, the fight would be over. As would the massive amount of money they raise on this issue. As would the massive amount of votes they get for saying they are pro-life and fighting the “radical abortion-loving liberals.” If they actually solved the issue – the house of cards would fall. The money and the talking points lost.
The power and the money are much more important to the Republican party than the unborn….pro-life voters: you have been had.
Christina Forrester is the Founder and Director of Christian Democrats of America and co-host/co-producer of “What Would Jesus Pod?” Follow her at @Christinaof9 on Twitter, Instagram and /ChristinaForrester on Facebook.