Dear Republican and Pro-Life Friends,
Thanks for the spittle-flecked emails as well as for the polite queries. Yes, I am aware Obama is pro-choice. Yes, I'm still pro-life. I also believe that with Obama in the White House that there will be less abortions in America than with the Republicans in power.
As you know I was a lifelong Republican until I reregistered as an Independent in 2006, after I just couldn't take the Rove brigade's dirty tricks, lies and slime any longer. When I worked to get John McCain nominated in 2000 I went on many conservative and religious radio shows to plead his cause. I started edging away from the party after seeing the filth the Bush crew got away with.
I know rather a lot about the politics of the "life issues." And I know you know that is true because you are calling me a traitor for supporting Senator Obama because of my leadership in the early stages of the pro-life movement.
You also know that without my late Evangelical leader father Francis Schaeffer's and my work (teamed up with C. Everett Koop) there would have been no Evangelical/Republican pro-life movement as it emerged in the mid 1970s. And on a personal note, having gotten my girlfriend pregnant when we were teens, I also know a little about the heartache that goes along with a very unplanned pregnancy. Fortunately we received the sort of support that made keeping our daughter Jessica possible. It could have gone another way.
That said...I know (as you pro-lifers do if you're honest) that the Republicans have milked the abortion issue, as have the Evangelical and Roman Catholic leadership, for every dime it's worth for fundraising, votes, power and empire-building, without changing much if anything. As I said, I also am fully aware that Senator Obama is pro-choice. I think his pro-choice views are out of character with his otherwise generous and enlightened world view.
The pro-life cause poisoned many of us who were part of it. Me included. It led to self-righteous hubris that extended to a general attitude of hate toward the "other." For instance power hungry strivers such as James Dobson and Pat Robertson took the passion generated by the pro-life cause and fueled their wholly illegitimate war against gay Americans with it, not to mention their multi million dollar empires. Our cause became all about power over other people, money and the muscle to win elections, not about the good of unborn babies and women.
I describe this corruption in my book, CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back. I explore what happened to us as we were lured by politics and money. So lots of folks who are in the Evangelical/Republican/Roman Catholic establishment and who are still earning a good living through the culture wars hate my book (and me) for spilling the beans.
Just for the record: my annual income was a lot bigger and more secure within the Evangelical fold than without. The big bucks in America are all about selling God, as Rick Warren, James Dobson or Joel Osteen can tell you, not earned blogging for lefty sites such as Huffington Post or writing novels as I do now.
That said... First, a nod to reality: even if Roe were reversed (it won't be no matter who is president) the abortion pill and the acceptance of at least some types of legal abortion by most Americans guarantees there will be access to abortion. Besides, on a state-by-state basis abortion would remain legal in most states no matter what the court does. And as we have seen the Republicans haven't really changed anything in thirty years.
So what do we who find abortion abhorrent do if we want to deal in reality rather than fantasies and slogans of winner-take-all propaganda? The reality is that we need to foster a climate in which we can reduce the number of abortions and also keep the moral -- rather than legal -- debate alive.
We can't do this by concentrating on politics, or silver bullets such as trying for that one magic court appointment. It's the "holistic" approach that is really what's important if our goal is to reduce the number of abortions rather than just "win" political games.
The effort to reduce abortions will be more possible in the Obama era than in a continuation of the hardhearted Bush presidency with McCain. This is all about tone and moral leadership, not law.
At heart of the abortion reality is this: we are a consumerist society with a heart of stone when it comes to the poor, who account for four times the national average of people having abortions, mostly because of economic needs that Republicans don't lift a finger to address. And we still denigrate women and female sexuality.
Meanwhile we face global catastrophe if we keep on the path we are on that the Republicans have put us on. And Obama promises real change on the environment, education, the economy, the military and foreign affairs, all of which need to change, not as a luxury or choice or option, but as a matter of national survival.
I guess that having had my Marine son John go to war for George W. Bush concentrated my mind on the seriousness of this election. McCain won't do more than provide another four-to-eight years of Bush. Our planet and country can't endure that. And our military is disintegrating under the Bush doctrine, which is: "You all go shopping while we ask a few Americans to go to war again and again and again and again..."
For all you sanctimonious Evangelicals out there, also note: when it comes to squeaky clean family values, Senator Obama -- not Senator McCain -- should be your role model. The Republican right wants us to draw back in horror from Obama because he is pro-choice, but this is the same group working to get a philanderer who abandoned his wife because she had a disfiguring accident, elected.
It isn't just a matter of voting for Obama. Americans who want there to be a country left in which to argue our issues must vote against McCain. As his support for the Bush lies about Iraq shows McCain is hung up on his own version of post-Vietnam traumatic stress disorder. This is a man who would take our civilian culture down in flames and sacrifice it to his sense of death-or-glory military "honor." How do you "win" a wrong war? McCain will make the world more dangerous. You think Bush was a cowboy? Just try McCain.
I say this as the proud father of United States Marine. I say this as someone who believes that we should be in Afghanistan where my son served, fought and risked his life for us all. I also say this as someone who believes that when it comes to pro-life issues in the most comprehensive sense, that President Bush, Dick Cheney and the neoconservative/Republican establishment have needlessly killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and over 4000 American servicemen and women.
I use the words "needlessly killed" advisedly. When you send men and women into an unnecessary and unprovoked war-of-choice for spurious reasons that then turn into outright lies, you've murdered them. And George W. Bush has sanctioned torture, contravened the Geneva conventions, and has lied to the American people about all of it.
Bush has destabilized the world. The latest evidence of this is the fact that Russia attacked Georgia. In the climate of Bush's aggression, where is our moral standing to criticize Russia? McCain offers no alternative. These too are life issues.
There's no point arguing about abortion, capital punishment, women's rights, gender equality or any other issue -- no matter how important -- while the ship of state is being torpedoed by the Commander-in-Chief. We can't afford more of this. Our honorable military can't endure more of this. Our economy can't endure more of this. Our Earth will not survive more of this. Bush and his look alike shill McCain have to go.
When it comes to the issue of abortion there is another side besides legality/illegality: the nature of our country.
What kind of care do we provide to mothers and children? What is our educational system like? Is healthcare available to all? Do our preschool programs and everything from paternal and maternal leave to the economic well-being of our country come first? Or do we argue about abortion rights while we live lives of such supreme selfish decadence that the nature of our country means that no matter what we do with the laws about abortion life will not be valued?
The Republican leadership is not pro-life. They are simply against abortion for reasons of political expediency. They are also for torture and military aggression. And they chose a literal executioner for president; a former governor who has more blood on his hands than any other modern American governor; Mr. Texas-sized, Capital Punishment-with-no-mercy-no-pardons hang em' high himself.
The Republicans have contributed to climate change by coddling oil companies and car companies and ducking the hard environmental and energy policy questions for thirty years. They have literally sold our country to the highest polluting bidders from the Saudis to the Chinese. Therefore the Republicans have literally risked the ability of our planet to sustain all human life born and unborn. So much for human life values.
Who will help us to become a nation that values life -- abortion rhetoric aside? Obama.
The contrast could not have been more clear than on August 16 in the interview between pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church and Obama and McCain. Obama gave real and thoughtful answers, often trying to explore a moral question deeply. McCain offered nothing more than canned applause lines and anecdotes from his tired simplistic stump speech.
McCain fed pre-programed red meat to the Evangelical faithful who were packing the auditorium, but not much more. He parroted all the "right" lines about abortion, the same empty phrases Bush, parrots, Bush's father parroted and Reagan and Ford parroted.
"When does life begin?" asked Warren. "At conception!" shot back McCain.
The Evangelical crowd goes wild! See?! That's our guy!
And where do the tired canned pro-life "correct answers" get us? Nowhere.
I will be voting for the presidential candidate who seems most authentically exercised about our devastating problems and who is ready to not only address them but to provide the inspiring leadership that will move my fellow citizens and I to do something about our terminal situation. I'll be voting for the man that has also inspired the world more than any national leader in my lifetime.
There are worse things than America being liked and therefore safer. Would you rather have non-Americans waving our flag or burning it?
In the best of all worlds we would be living in a country in which no one had an abortion. We would be living in a country in which there was never capital punishment. We would be living in a country that would have addressed the legacy of our racist past and racist present so that we would not have a disproportionate number of black men and women locked in our prisons. We would be living in a country where people calling themselves Christians would not hate gay people. We would be living in a country that never went to war except as last resort for self defense. We would be living in a country where education and opportunity was every American's birthright. But we are not.
The question is: Who can best help us to the realization of the real American Dream?
The Republicans only offer consumerism as a debased sort of "freedom." This is the freedom of "me" and "I." This is the freedom of pigs rooting at a trough.
As a born-again Christ-centered believer Obama offers a spiritual vision of life founded on the Sermon On the Mount. It is the freedom of "we." It is the same view of freedom that my Marine son learned in boot camp: that the person standing next to you is more important than you are. That concept of freedom is more in keeping with valuing all human life. It will create a climate more friendly to mothers and children.
As I listen to Senator Obama speak, as I see the selfless altruistic energy he has generated in a whole new generation of young people, as I think about the ethical, caring culture he would like to foster with healthcare for all, a revamped and reenergized educational system that includes the arts, history, poetry and all those things that make life worthwhile, as I think about the wars my son's brothers-in-arms are still mired and dying in because of the hubris of the Republicans, as I think about the crying need to restore our standing in the world, as I think about the scandalous way in which the Republicans have manipulated people, including the most sincere Evangelicals, Orthodox and Roman Catholics, to get their votes, while not actually doing anything about the issues they care most about, yes, I am ready to for a change.
In Obama's America arguments for compassion for the unborn and all the other "least of these" will resonate regardless of Obama's stance on the legality of abortion. Roe is not the point. Our hearts are the point. The unborn like everyone else will do better in a country that puts people, the earth, and our future ahead of greed, oil company profits and jingoistic rule by fear.
I will be voting for Senator Obama and am fighting for his election because I am pro-life.
Frank Schaeffer is coauthor of HOW FREE PEOPLE MOVE MOUNTAINS-A Male Christian Conservative and a Female Jewish Liberal On A Quest For Common Purpose and Meaning. He is also author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back