GK Chesterton, the great English apologist for the faith wrote: "It is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." I recently received this comment in response to my posting: “Bringing False Christianity Into the Public Square:
You have shown well the shallowness of our commitment to Christ. Your own commitment could be deepened by ceasing to use abortion as a foil to the rest of your argument. It shows that you haven't really taken to heart the realization that abortion is the taking of an innocent life. How else could you describe as 'sanctimonious veneer' the countless hours spent by thousands fighting for the pre-born, helping the newborns and comforting those recovering from the horror of abortion. When using the "what if Jesus walked in" standard, you could speculate on what He would say about the killing of huge numbers of innocent children and its comparative importance to health care and other important needs.
Now the curious thing is that in the postng while I mentioned universal access to health care, immigration, the death penalty, warfare, on the poor both here and abroad, violence as entertainment and weapons of violence, care for the environment, and the gross disparity of wealth in our society, I did not mention abortion. If I did not mention, it I can hardly be accused of using it as a “foil.” Moreover there were other issues I did not mention, some of because there is no question that evangelicals embrace them. They are not the contentious issues that can provide a litmus test of fidelity to the preaching of Jesus. There is no doubt that evangelicals—authentic and phony—oppose abortion. My denunciation is that opposition to abortion is no guarantee that a person is evangelical. People are opposed to abortion for many reasons. Some are opposed for religious reasons—including Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists. Some are opposed for philosophical reasons—including many atheists and agnostics. Some—indeed many—are opposed because they see the links between abortion and the collapse of traditional social values: same sex marriage, divorce, pre-marital sex, changing attitudes on gender. Some even see it as a woman’s health issue and view abortion as potentially dangerous to the health and welfare of women. All that is well and good. But all I say to them is “Good luck with your endeavors; I hope we have some mutual success.” The only reason that counts in my book for being opposed to abortion is that it undermines the Kingdom of God as proclaimed by Jesus in the Gospels, God alone is the author and giver of life and God alone can directly take a human life. Life is totally within the authority of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ must be committed to that principle. In the same sense just because a person is in favor of providing refuge to immigrants or health care to the poor doesn’t mean he or she is an evangelical. I am happy to see people working for goals I believe are central to the Kingdom of God regardless of their personal religious convictions, but my passion lies not with the issue but the motivation.
Now I am not going to get into the “seamless garment issue” though I firmly espouse it. What I am going to say is that the principle of protecting the Life of the Unborn is one jewel in the Catholic Magisterial Crown, it is one jewel and we have to buy the entire package. If we are authentically Catholic—and for me the person who is fully Catholic is fully evangelical because the teachings of the Catholic Church, though not yet perfect, enshrine the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must accept the entire magisterium of the Church. This is neither liberal nor conservative. The magisterium of the Catholic Church says that the direct taking of an unborn life is a grave sin of injustice. The magisterium of the Catholic Church says that the sacrament of Matrimony is between one man and one woman for the duration of their lives. But the magisterium of the Catholic Church also speaks about all God’s children having a right to education. And it speaks of all God’s Children having a right to migrate to seek better and safer lives. And it says that the salaries of workers and managers should be in reasonable proportion. And it says that all life—even the life of the criminal—must be protected, explicitly citing the United States as a particular example where the death penalty is being abused.
You can be opposed to abortion—that does not make you a disciple of Jesus Christ. You can be in favor of liberal immigration policies—that does not make you a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is the whole ball of wax, embraced not because it fits our political agenda or because our friends think that way but because when I encounter Jesus in the Gospel and the community of the faithful that adhere to the Gospel, I realize it can be no other way.
Now not everyone can equally invest himself in one facet or another of working for God’s Kingdom. Some will put more of their energy in one cause or another than a third. What is important is that Jesus’s disciples work together in harmony. And so when I refer to “the sanctimonious veneer” of those who spend “countless hours fighting for the pre-born,” I am not referring to true disciples but to those who pick and choose the unborn but turn their back on the immigrant or the person without health care. I can also speak of the “sanctimonious veneer” of the pants-suited 80 year-old-nun with a pro-choice button protesting at Fort Benning GA. It is not enough to be liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. And the end of the day we have to be disciples, pure and simple, nothing else.