“Pro life” is broader than the abortion issue

Evangelical pastor Rick Warren (whose book, The Purpose Driven Life, has sold approximately a buhzillion copies), felt the heat from fellow evangelicals last year.

His sin? He invited Barak Obama to speak at his church, in conjunction with the 2006 Global Summit On AIDS and the Church.

As everyone knows, Obama is a Democrat and pro-choice.

I am embedding the Youtube video of Warren’s response. The sound quality is poor, and it’s a long interview, so I’ve excerpted a key segment below it.

If you watch the first two or three minutes, there is one funny moment. When Warren says he’s willing to work with gay people, the interviewer’s eyebrows shoot upward so quickly, they practically fly right off his head.

If you can only work with people that you agree with 100%, you’ll never get anything done. …

I could show you Christians that run the whole spectrum politically and that’s not what we’re about. This is not a political issue. I’m a pastor, not a politician, and we’re about trying to save lives.

[Q. Do you think the evangelical movement has spent too much time focusing on questions of homosexuality?]

Well I definitely believe that we should expand the agenda because I’m tired of the Church just being known for what it’s against. … I do believe that there are other issues [besides gay marriage and abortion] involved, including 40 million people who have HIV/AIDS, growing to nearly a hundred million by the year 2010. 20 million deaths.

You know we’ve had two holocausts in my generation. One of them is the 40 million Americans who aren’t here because of abortion. And the other is the 40 million who are dying right now around the world because of AIDS. 20 million have already died.

I don’t think one is more important than the other. I think “pro life” means you care about saving lives any way you can. And that means malaria, that means poverty, that means waterborne eye diseases and many other things, not just one kind of protecting life. I’m for protecting life — all of life.

Some parts of Warren’s statement may make some of you cringe. But evangelical Christians get an awful lot of bad press, including from me, so let’s give credit where credit is due.

It’s so blinking obvious that the term “pro life” has a wider application than just the abortion issue. You mean it extends even to gay people dying of AIDS?! Who’d a thunk it?

Some evangelicals oppose torture on the grounds of the sanctity of life.

Maybe someday someone will argue that medical marijuana is also a sanctity of life issue, to prevent suicides like the tragic death of Robin Prosser.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nebcanuck
    Oct 28, 2007 @ 21:46:46

    It’s times like this that I’m pretty proud to be working for the Salvation Army. I think they’re a good example of a purpose-driven Church, if you excuse the play on words! I particularly like the portion about the Church being known for more than what it’s against. Christ’s message, above and beyond the thou-shalt-nots of the Old Testament, is a message of proaction, of helping out people who need it, regardless of the “rules.” He points out that in one faculty or another we have all failed, and to sit picking fights over who’s right and who’s wrong is going to ruin any chance the Church has of really affecting the world.

    The Sally Ann is built on serving people. It’s good to be a part of that! 🙂


  2. Bridgett
    Oct 29, 2007 @ 11:38:04

    It’s wonderful to hear this; here in the US heartland it is hard to get folks to see that pro-life really should mean life, not just one or two issues surrounding life (for instance, perhaps it should include a stance against the death penalty??). Just like how I’ve seen a slow change on environmental issues as more evangelicals realize the earth is in trouble and we are responsible, I’m hopeful that pro-life choices (no dissonance intended) will become more broad spectrum. In the end, there is no perfect candidate (and no perfect church). Nebcanuck is right–we all have failed. The real challenge is to get up and try to find our way, every day.


  3. aaron
    Oct 29, 2007 @ 23:11:55

    Along the same lines, I tip my hat to various Catholic organizations that have been fighting for the expansion of SCHIP, arguing that its passage is consistent with being pro-life. E.g., http://www.catholics-united.org/schip-ads.


  4. Stephen
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 07:36:04

    • nebcanuck:
    Well said!

    The Salvation Army Church has generally managed to retain a good reputation even among non-churchgoers. They manage to pull that off precisely because they respond practically to real needs, and they don’t deem anyone to be unworthy of their support. It’s hard to find fault with that!

    • Bridgett:
    Just like how I’ve seen a slow change on environmental issues as more evangelicals realize the earth is in trouble and we are responsible, I’m hopeful that pro-life choices (no dissonance intended) will become more broad spectrum.

    From your lips to God’s ear!

    The common perception is that American evangelicals are monolithic — they’re all right wing. There’s an interesting (and long) article in the New York Times which indicates that the appearance doesn’t quite correspond to reality. In addition to Warren (whose influence is very widespread), the article also focuses on Bill Hybels (whose influence is every broader). For example, Hybels evidently came out as a pacifist just before the Iraq War began. That took some guts!

    The right-wing extremists (Robertson, Dobson) get most of the press. I’m encouraged to hear that Warren and Hybels are of a different spirit. And the winds may now be shifting in their direction, as disillusionment with the Bush Administration deepens.

    • Aaron:
    Thanks for sharing that information. Your link is broken so, for the record —

    SCHIP = the “State Children’s Health Insurance Program”, which would have provided healthcare benefits to children whose families have no health insurance. I say “would have” because President Bush vetoed the bill. I’m not sure if this is the link Aaron wanted to provide, but here is a relevant article from the same Catholic organization.

    “Today’s vote is not only a setback for the 10 million uninsured children of America, but also for all those who care about the sanctity of human life.”


  5. aaron
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 09:48:44

    Stephen — the broken link is due to the period being added to the URL. Get rid of it and it works fine.


  6. Stephen
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 10:45:54

    Thanks, Aaron. The script for the radio ad is very interesting.


  7. 49erDweet
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 14:53:14

    Stephen, sorry for the late comment. Generally, I agree with you, nebcanuck and Bridgett.

    Aaron, unfortunately, has apparently fallen for the politicization of the SCHIP issue, which one party conveniently forgets to mention would also needlessly duplicate health service coverage for another 15 million children whose parent(s) jobs, et al, already provide them with premium health care. It was a bill knowingly and cynically passed to be vetoed for political gain, imho, and not intended at this time to be taken seriously. But that’s not important.

    As for Warren, I tend to agree with his comments on this social issue. To be truly ‘pro-life’, one needs to be consistent.



  8. aaron
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 21:38:36

    49erDweet, I’m not sure what to say in response to your claim that a bill with bipartisan support was one party’s cynical attempt at political gain, so I figured I’d let Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Charles Grassley provide a refutation of your general assertions (including who politicized it):

    President Explains Veto

    The president’s first comments on the matter came Wednesday morning in Lancaster, Pa., at a town hall-style meeting on the broad topic of fiscal responsibility.

    The president told the group that it is right to help poor children, but he said some people were using this bill as a step toward federalized health care. He said the SCHIP bill went too far.

    “Here’s the thing, just so you know, this program expands coverage, federal coverage, up to families earning $83,000 a year,” he said. “That doesn’t sound poor to me. The intent of the program was to focus on poor children, not adults or families earning up to $83,000 a year.”

    Supporters Refute Claim

    But supporters of the bill immediately seized on that claim and said it was not true. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a loyal supporter of the Bush White House, responded angrily to the president during a Capitol Hill news conference.

    “Are families of four making $83,000 going to get benefit(s) under this? Not unless the administration agrees to it. This bill does not call for that high level of expenditure,” Hatch said.

    Hatch explained that the only way such families would get SCHIP coverage would be if their states petitioned the administration for a waiver — just like under the current program. When New York, made such a petition, the Bush administration turned it down.

    The new law would be the same, Hatch said, and even if the White House were willing to grant waivers, such families would make up just a tiny percentage of those eligible.

    “To call this a step toward one-size-fits-all, government-mandated health care is just political in my view,” he said. “This is a block grant. States have tremendous power over this bill — not total power, but power.”

    Hatch said he found the veto difficult to understand, and senior Republican Sen. Charles Grassley said the same thing.

    “Every effort was made to bring the administration into the process, but it decided to veto the bill, I think, before it was even written. From their position, it was either my way or the highway. Well, that’s not how the legislative process works,” the Iowa senator said. [/quote]

    Further, everything I’ve read about the bill (e.g., http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21358583/) said it would have expanded coverage from ~6 million children to 10 million children, [i]total[/i], so I have no idea where you come up with your figure of 15 million children already having health insurance.


  9. Stephen
    Nov 07, 2007 @ 12:03:26

    Could it be that President Bush is vetoing bills just because they come from a Democrat-dominated Congress, without regard for the merits of the bills?


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