(About a 3 minute read)
“I am not a conspiracy nut. But in this case no other word than conspiracy will do. We did what we did covertly, telling supporters one thing, and telling leaders on the inside of the political establishment another thing.
“There was one agenda in public, another one behind closed doors. And we changed America for the worse.” — Frank Schaeffer
Most of us today no longer remember back when abortion was opposed, mostly, only by Catholics. Indeed, there was a time when it was condoned even by some of the most religiously conservative denominations in America. For instance:
In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth:
“God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: ‘If a man kills any human life he will be put to death’ (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.” [Source]
Southern Baptists were on record supporting abortion rights as late as 1976, and they did not officially reverse themselves until the 1980s. [Source]
So what caused the reversal? Why did abortion become the huge issue it is today for so many religious folks?
By most accounts, the one person who had the most to do with the reversal was Francis Schaeffer. He was Frank Schaeffer’s father. Francis was also the Protestant theologian most responsible — not only for creating the notion that abortion violated biblical teachings — but for propagating it. He, along with other people, did everything they could to make sure it became a popular issue.
Francis’ son, Frank, was heavily and intimately involved in his father’s efforts. And, according to Frank, those efforts crucially involved conspiring with Republican leaders to turn abortion into a means of creating a reliable, Republican-voting block out of America’s Evangelicals and other fundamentalists.
The deal was this: The Republicans would get the Evangelicals, etc delivered to them by the religious leaders in exchange for the religious leaders getting power and wealth.
So, in a vital way, the abortion issue boils down to the ancient story of political elites and religious elites finding reasons to be in cahoots with each other. That story has been a constantly recurring theme in human history since the first civilizations were founded 5,500 years ago.
Beyond that, I wonder how many of us are genuinely surprised by this? I know some of us will dismiss it and the evidence for it, but that’s only human nature. I’m not all that interested in them. But I am interested in knowing if anyone has been genuinely surprised to hear that the anti-abortion movement had its origins more in politics, than in unquestioned biblical principles?
A Little Further Reading: