On Scot McKnight‘s Jesus Creed blog David Fitch pushes back against an article by Tim Keller on on Justice. Fitch agrees with Keller that there is no universal standard of justice on which all Americans agree,
and then (basically) faults the church in both its conservative and progressive manifestations for assuming that it is their task to somehow persuade the culture at large of their respective views of justice (or even impose that view of justice on the culture at large). Instead he argues that the church, and Christians individually, should imply live out their vision of justice, and so model it for the unbelieving world.
I fundamentally agree with him, but there is a problem with this, in the context of the current American political situation, where many of us feel that the broad Evangelical (and conservative Catholic) support for President Trump is a problem, and is evidence that large sections of the church have abandoned the values to which they tried to hold other politicians and candidates, and have thereby damaged their witness.
That problem is that, as I listen to my Evangelical friends who support President Trump and excoriate the Democrats and those who vote for them, they are not so much concerned with the witness of the church; rather, they have become convinced that the unlimited abortion license as advocated by practically ALL Democratic candidates with increasing vehemence is a blight and an evil which has to be stopped at all cost, and that the current slate of Democratic candidates are either themselves extreme “progressives” or under the sway of such and their election victory would spell the end of religious freedom and thus of Christianity in the US.
The abortion question is complicated by the fact that it is no longer just a matter of tolerating others killing unborn babies; it is increasingly becoming an issue of being forced by government and the courts to become complicit in this evil when doctors and other health professionals are denied conscience exceptions and employers cannot opt out of including abortion coverage in their health plans.
Likewise, the “progressive agenda” is perceived as a threat because in its promotion of such things as gay and transgender rights it is no longer content to “live and let live” but increasingly tries to coerce approval of and participation in practices and lifestyles which conservative Christians view as sinful. This is, not without some justification, viewed as a violation of religious freedom.
The New York Times recently published an article about Trump’s 2016 campaign speech at Dordt University in Sioux Center, famous for his assertion that he could shoot someone in Times Square and would not lose any support. The NYT makes a great deal of the fact that in the same speech Trump asserted that in the case of his election win, “Christianity will have power”, and the headline makes it sound as if this appealed to Christians because they want to lord it over everyone else.
I believe that this is nonsense. Yes, there are some anti-abortion activists who will not stop until abortion is outlawed again; but I believe that if the threat of being coerced, by threats to one’s livelihood, to be complicit in abortions, and to affirm and participate in lifestyles one considers sinful, were removed, the majority of conservative Christians, both Evangelical and Catholic, would realize that they cannot expect and force those who do not share their beliefs to obey their values, and that the best way to persuade others of these values is to live exemplary lives that demonstrate the love and power of Christ.