How does one spin support for killing unborn babies in the womb to religiously conservative older black voters who take the Bible seriously?
That was the essence of a question put to the Reverend Al Sharpton last week by an MSNBC interviewer and reported by The Christian Post and other media.
Don’t make the issue one of voting for abortion, Sharpton advised, but that of supporting choice. After all, he continued, the Bible is about choice. For example, one can choose freely to go to Heaven or Hell. Therefore, craft the message to biblically conservative elderly folk so that the focus is not on abortion but a matter of biblically blessed choice.
Rev. Sharpton seems to infer that since the Bible supports choice and because abortion is a matter of choice, therefore the Bible supports whatever choice is made. Does this mean that one’s choice to abort and thereby deny the right to life stipulated as the fundamental right in the American Declaration of Independence is also elastic?
As I read Al Sharpton’s remarks, I thought of a tense moment I lived through in 1963. I was a college student at that time and worked a part-time job. The route from my workplace to my home took me in front of the high school from which I had graduated in 1960. On a hot early September day, as I neared the school complex, I saw a huge white mob gathered outside. I remembered that this was the first day of desegregation for Birmingham schools. I soon found my car surrounded by angry people protesting desegregation. Suddenly, I saw white students pouring out of the building, joining the protestors. Someone shouted that only a dozen pupils had remained inside.
Now, still, in my car, I was encircled by the mob. Some were calling out Scriptural verses they believed might put the Bible on the side of racial segregation. I could stand no more, rolled down my side window, and shouted: “God loves us all and wants us to love one another!”
In my youthful idealism, I hoped to awaken people to the evils of racism and discrimination in this deep Bible Belt City by quoting the Bible back to them.
Suddenly, a very angry white woman shouted at me in reply: “But the Bible says that in Heaven we will be clothed in white robes!”
My mind reeled at the warped logic and implications of that statement.
Did she mean to suggest that the Bible’s mention of “white robes” sanctioned “whiteness” over all other human skin tones? Was she saying that the white race was biblically approved to be superior to all others, and authorized to deny non-whites fundamental rights? Would black people and other people of color not have white robes in Heaven? Would non-whites actually be in Heaven? Did she believe that the mingling of white and black would somehow violate the very Word of God?
And so back to Rev. Sharpton. Does the fact that abortion is a choice, and that the Bible supports choice, make all choices to abort biblically sanctioned? Is choice a handy and permissible diversion from the greater issue of the life of the child in the womb? Surely, he does not believe that.
Then why shift the attention of voters who seek to live and make decisions by the Bible from the fact of what abortion is — the killing of the unborn — to an apparently greater issue, the exercise of choice?
Certainly, Mr. Sharpton does not believe what his statement inferred, namely, that since the Bible supports human free will and the function of choice that arises from it, whatever we choose is biblically sanctioned. The Bible, in fact, tells us what not to choose. Do not murder is among those choices we are to reject.
Further, when the core documents that are foundational for the worldview and values of a civilization, its nations, their societies, and cultures become pliable and easily adaptable to trends and preferences of particular generations, the societies begin to die, nations become infected, and the civilization itself falls into chaos.
The United States was based on The Holy Bible, the Declaration of Independence — especially its Preamble — and the Constitution. Many movements across America’s history have tried to make these documents stretchable to bless the worldviews, values, and practices of a given period and given segment of society.
God did not sanction the choice by some of “whiteness” and segregation in Birmingham in 1963, and He does not now sanction the “choice” of killing a baby on demand in its mother’s womb.
Wallace B. Henley is a former pastor, daily newspaper editor, White House and Congressional aide. He served 18 years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Henley is author or co-author of more than 25 books, including God and Churchill, co-authored with Sir Winston Churchill's great grandson, Jonathan Sandys. Henley's latest book is Who will rule the coming 'gods'? The looming spiritual crisis of artificial intelligence.