FIRST-PERSON: What it means that only 41% in the U.S. say they're pro-choice
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Politico reported in May that "the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as 'pro-choice' is at the lowest point ever measured by Gallup" -- 41 percent. Fifty percent of Americans call themselves pro-life.
This is just a poll. Public opinion could and will shift in different directions. Polls, furthermore, are inexact. I don't ask polls to do a lot of heavy lifting in my intellectual life. With that said, this is a surprising development, a significant one.
This means that the "culture war" has not been for naught.
Granted, some have fought for the cause of life in less than ideal ways. Championing a pro-life position from a God-and-country stance -- linking the Kingdom of Christ with the nation of America -- is a mistake. Some who have fought for the pro-life cause and other conservative (biblical!) social positions have made personal compromises and used the church as a platform. Yet with all these qualifications stated, the "culture war" is a worthy one to fight.
The media, of course, loves this language of a war. Conservatives are read as a crusading, domineering force; to contend for the rights of the unborn is to become some sort of a vigilante, to shirk thoughtful, respectful dialogue and become a spittle-flecked warrior. Again, some may deserve this reputation, but many do not. Many Christians have fought for the unborn on staunchly biblical and intellectual grounds. These people take a great deal of heat from the secular press. But in reality they deserve a great deal of praise. Their efforts have not been in vain.
All the campus pro-life groups and silent protests and counseling at abortion clinics and legislative action and making of films like "Bella" and careful appointment of pro-life justices and, most importantly, prayer, has all been worth it. This is not to say that abortion is now illegal. It is not. But gains are being made.
This is a pretty strong counter to the rhetoric making its way around evangelicalism that politics don't really matter, that evangelicals should be neither blue nor red when it comes to social policy, that earthly causes aren't really worth fighting, that the pro-life cause is really about power and domination and winning the "war." For most Christians, fighting abortion is not about power. It is not about personally inaugurating Christ's Kingdom. It is about speaking up for the least of these in a profoundly Christocentric way. Psalm 139 matters; the fight for righteousness mapped out in the Beatitudes matters (Matthew 5).
I am glad to contend for the pro-life cause in a reasoned, rational way. But I am not willing to lay down this fight because someone brands me a "warrior" because of it. God's glory is in this fight. We may never win it, or we might. But it is worth our time and effort. If we abandoned abortion as a first-order issue to focus on other issues of less import, we would not be seeing the gains we are currently witnessing.
So, young evangelicals: do not believe the "fetus fatigue" language. Do not pass on an issue because it's controversial and people won't like you because of it. Do not cease to contend for the unborn, whether through calm conversation in the lunchroom or advocacy in the nation's capitol. Never make the mistake of thinking that this cause is the Kingdom, or that the state is the church. Don't make the further mistake of writing everyone off who came before you simply because the media branded them with the "culture warrior" tag.
With a proper perspective on this issue, let's keep fighting and praying for the day when Roe v. Wade is struck from the books.
Owen Strachan is assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky. This column first appeared at his website, http://owenstrachan.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).