Our democracy, and with it our country, is being threatened like never before. That being the case, it’s time we start talking about the one issue that more than any other, has rendered many Americans open to empowering the darkest tendencies of American culture and in so doing, has torn us apart. That issue is abortion. The debate over abortion is what has made all other disagreements between Americans non-negotiable. Religious interests have exploited this issue for very unreligious purposes since the day Roe v Wade was decided. I was in my early twenties at the time of Roe v Wade, and I’ve witnessed the tenor of the debate evolve over time.
From the very beginning, the dissent was greatest among white southern Christians. There were two reasons for this. First was that demographers predicted that white people were endangered of becoming racial minorities in the U.S. due to the tendency at time of whites, especially educated whites, to have smaller families than minorities of color, along with the increased rate of immigration of those in that demographic. Second, the American population had grown less religious as a result of the combination of the rapidly expanding body of scientific knowledge and the disillusionment of many due to the hypocrisy in the teaching and behavior of so many religious leaders at the time. They needed an issue that would galvanize the public back to the church and re-establish the church’s influence on it’s followers. Early in the debate, decades old science overwhelming debunked the idea that embryos and fetuses in the early stages were not extensions of the host (mother) who at those stages had every right to determine the fate of the developing human. In the beginning, no one paid much attention to the dissenters, and it was obvious that the only people they were concerned about when it came to abortions were white women. By the early 1980s, they had modified their argument to include the unborn of all races.
All this coincided with the concerted effort by the Republican Party to destroy public education, which they did by creating the myth that if a black family (even one with similar economic and educational background as the community at large) moved into their neighborhood, it would result in a decline in their property values. Since the only effective way to integrate schools was to integrate neighborhoods, the Republicans had to make schools a non issue by favoring private schools (such as charter and Christian schools and homeschooling), where in addition to basic education, children could be indoctrinated with conservative “Christian” values instead of traditional American democratic values. Destroying liberal arts education was critical because loss of the ability to engage in critical thinking was essential to leaving people open to the non scientific ideas they intended to promulgate in future years.
By the mid 1980s, the anti abortionists added another twist to their strategy. As the population became less educated and more superficial in their values, religion and “faith in God” was being tied to instant fulfillment of aspirations for greater wealth. The idea that the amount you donate to your church was a measure of your faith in God became very popular. According to the televangelists and the Christian leadership all over the country, God would pay back ten times what you donated. In my opinion, it was the greatest scam ever perpetrated on such a large group of people in the history of the world. The billions of dollars infused into the Christian industrial complex afforded them more political influence than the church had since the dark ages in Europe.
With the newfound wealth and power they amassed, by the 1990s, the Christian anti abortion crusaders became more sophisticated in their scheme to manipulate their followers to rely on the church’s direction more than their own common sense to determine what was in their best interest. They began to personalize the unborn, calling them babies at all stages of development and even devising what their followers were told was an intrauterine video of an abortion which supposedly depicted a fetus crying out with a look of horror on its face as it was being evacuated out of the uterus. Such an image would give anyone pause regarding the ethics of abortion. However, you have to ask yourself, who would make such a video and why? Did we even have the technology to film such a thing on the microscopic level necessary at that time? However, that image was powerful enough to cause a major shift in public opinion regarding abortion. It was during that time when intimidation and murder of abortion providers became prevalent.
By the 2000s passions on the issue of abortion were so high that it was becoming evident by many that if we did not dial back the rhetoric, the country could lapse into civil war on the issue. At the same time, the religious right had become such a powerful force in American politics, given its ability to mobilize millions of voters to vote for the candidate that the Christian leadership directed them to; candidates became more extreme in their positions on that single issue. It became clear that you could advance any agenda you wanted, whether is was in the public’s interest or not, as long as you gave unqualified support to your side, whether your side was so called pro life or pro choice.
In a democracy, whenever you become too extreme on any public issue of substance, eventually people begin to attach any unrelated part of their agenda to that issue, even when the issue attached is not in the best interest of the people supporting it. By 2010, to be a good Christian you had to be anti abortion, anti gun control, anti central government, anti gay rights, anti police/prison reform as related to black people, anti environmental reform and anti immigration. Conversely, if you were on the other side, you had to be pro all of those things. In any culture or society, when you have that kind of un-reconcilable division, you then become vulnerable to demagoguery and totalitarianism.
In spite of what is now called “the religious right”’s power over their constituents, the nation has remained 75% in favor of abortion rights and the percent of people who attend church or consider themselves religious is getting smaller and smaller. Yet that one issue is responsible for both the powerful economic growth of the Christian Church and the conversion of about 25% of the American populist into a powerful voting block. One way or another, it appears that America is going to have to experience the bitter fruit of catastrophe we are destined to encounter by the “Retrumplican” insurgency we are currently being subjected to before it uniformly re-embraces democracy.
Here’s what I think about all of this. The Christianity practiced in the United States is an ugly perversion of the actual religion. Nowhere in the Gospel do I see anything about compelling by law, anyone to follow Christ’s teachings. True Christians influence others to follow them not by force or coercion, but through the love manifested by the unqualified acceptance of people just as they are without judgment or condemnation. The practice of Christianity existed long before the New Testament bible or Gospel was written. A good deal of what’s written in those documents have nothing to do with God or Christ and everything to do with the self-serving needs and desires of the clergymen, rulers and wealthy land owners who attended the gathering at Nicaea. Christ came here to be an example of how we should love and treat each other while we live, not to make us worthy of going to Heaven after we die. In fact, the good news he brought was that we all are already worthy of God’s grace. The American Christian Church emphasizes believing in Christ and says little about following Christ’s example which requires you love all your neighbors, especially the ones who disagree with you or who don’t believe in the things that you believe in. It seems to me that the American Christian Church has been a leader in the practice of hate in this country. I get the sense that it requires its followers to hate everyone who does not see the world exactly as they do, and it all started with the made up notion that abortion is a sin, and no woman has the right to decide the fate of her unborn. The fetus is human, the fetus is killed, killing humans is a sin and therefore abortion is a sin. That’s a simple idea that you can create a lot of mischief with if you so desire. But we all know in our hearts that it’s much more complicated than that. The time has come for us to have compassionate dialog around this issue. We need to stop victimizing desperate women in desperate situations and using them as pawns to carry out agendas that have nothing to do with them or their unborn child.