To Win the Culture Wars, We Need to Accept Small Victories

The Abortion Wars

I try to make RosaryMeds relevant to current events. That means occasionally diving into the realm of politics. In this post, I want to talk about the current abortion debate in the United States. I’m going to discuss the difference between morality and political strategy. If you read the Old Testament, particularly the Torah, you will see how God did a bit of political maneuvering to guide the Israelites to a moral good.

Donald Trump was recently asked about whether he would support a national abortion ban. He said that he wouldn’t and instead leave abortion policy and enforcement to the states. This upset many in the pro-life community. A pregnant woman crossing between California and Arizona doesn’t magically change the personhood of the unborn baby. Morally, a national ban on abortion makes sense since something as fundamental as personhood doesn’t change at state borders. However, we have to be cautious using the power of the federal government when it comes to matters of morality.

Why National Bans Are a Bad Idea

A national abortion ban, while morally the correct action, puts the decision at too high a level in government. The United States is supposed to govern at the lowest levels — cities, counties, states, and then the federal government. This structure prevents a small group of people in Washington from enacting one-size-fits-all policies across the country. I’m not in favor of national policies even if they legislate something I agree with such as an abortion ban. That power can easily be used to enact laws that aren’t ethically sound. Think about how long Roe vs. Wade was the law of the land and how difficult it was for states to work around it to save lives.

Just because someone does not support a national abortion ban doesn’t mean he supports abortion. It’s a matter of political strategy. We can’t tear down Constitutional principles to win a battle only to lose the war. Furthermore, as a matter of political strategy, we need to get comfortable with incremental victories at the state levels. If we insist on a total abortion ban and nothing less, the pro-life movement will never get anywhere. While lives will continue to be lost if we settle with a 12-week ban, it’s a step towards that moral ideal.

God’s Incremental Plan

As I read the Bible in a Year, I see cases of God enacting laws that incrementally move towards a moral good. For example, he gave the Israelites laws governing divorce (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4). God allows it initially with the Israelites although he doesn’t desire it. God’s Will is later fulfilled by Jesus when he taught that God did not intend for divorce but allowed it because of the hardness of the Israelites’ hearts (see Matthew 19:3-9).

The giver of the Law and the Fulfillment of the Law

We have to remember that the Israelites came out of slavery in Egypt and were surrounded by cultures that treated women and wives as property. God saw that he couldn’t take the Israelites from the only mindset they ever knew to the one he desired for them. He needed to guide them which is why the Torah is filled with 613 laws — they steer the Israelites to the moral good God desires. God doesn’t want divorce and Jesus later clarified that God allowed it as a way for the Jewish people (and hence their Christian descendants) to come to know what is morally good. God, in his infinite wisdom, knows that sometimes he needs to gradually guide us towards that moral good because we may not understand and embrace his Will in its entirety up front.

We need to take God’s example when it comes to fighting these culture wars. God took people who had no concept of his moral Will and introduced laws and Commandments. His Will was later fulfilled by Jesus Christ. And while it would have been nice to skip the generations of suffering from an imperfect law, God knew he was dealing with people with “stiff necks” (Exodus 32:9 and 33:5). We’re also dealing in a culture that isn’t ready to entirely accept what is morally, ethically, and logically good. We have a choice on how move forward. We can either insist on laws that are entirely morally acceptable or steer the culture in the desired direction one law or one state at a time. God chose the latter. Maybe we should follow his lead.