Everybody is Pro-Choice…
Yesterday saw an historic victory for the pro-choice crowd. A judge clearly and forcefully sided with those who want choice…in the size of soft drinks they consume.
Opponents are not giving up. The struggle continues. An appeal is being filed. Those who are already choosing the smaller sizes, or who are drinking only water, insist that the government must insure that people who differ with them are forced by law into compliance. This is important, they say. They can’t understand why everyone doesn’t see how true that is. If people won’t voluntarily give up the big drinks we owe it to them, and to society at large, to compel them to do it anyway.
Everybody is pro-choice about something. Everybody feels the government should stay out of my bedroom, my practice of religion, my refrigerator or something. Oddly enough, everybody is sure the government should regulate something too. Everybody feels that there are things we “know” are wrong and is in favor of making sure that people who disagree comply anyway.
What are we to do in a culture where everybody is pro-choice about some things and in favor of government regulation of others? How do I not look like a philosophical flip-flopper as I go back and forth between things I want choice on and things I want regulated? When should I demand that government do something about it and when should I insist they should stay out? Here are some principles I think apply:
– It is OK to be against something. God clearly is. He tells us “Thou shalt not steal.” Even a quick reading of Scripture makes it clear that some things are wrong in His eyes. What is on the list of “wrong” things is much more debatable.
– My being for or against something is different from my feeling that my views need to be mandated by law. No matter how sure I am that my views represent those of God, an attitude that I hope we use sparingly, the second question of whether I need to try and see my views enacted into law is at least as important as the first.
– In a democratic society the process of making laws means that God’s views won’t always be laws. Of course, with even the slightest dash of humility I should actually have said “what I think God’s views are” but I have to admit that most of us never actually say that. I need to show grace when this is said because I need others to show it to me.
– It is not easy to mandate the behavior of others. Worse yet, they rarely appreciate our doing it. It is not in our nature to like being told what to do even as it seems we like to tell others what to do.
– I need a very compelling argument to insist that my views be mandated to others. Sadly, my fellow Christians, my surety that God is on my side tends to not be a compelling argument in a constitutional democracy. We need to work harder than that.
The good news is that the concept of government regulation is well accepted. Even those most extreme libertarians have a list, albeit a short one, of things they want the government to regulate. You will hear pro-choice arguments over issues from soft drinks to marriage to zoning laws to abortion but we are really only debating “Why this?” and not the concept. The idea that the government will regulate some things is firmly in our law and culture.
Debates about choice can be heated or silly. Moral issues and even Biblical principles can clash. As much as I’d like to think that every argument is black and white they rarely are. Should an abused wife get a divorce? Can a woman abort to save her own life? Can I drink that Coke if my blood sugar is normal? Grace is needed as we sort through these issues.
So what are you pro-choice about? Where do you feel that resisting government intrusion is vital? Conversely, where do you see it is imperative that the government act to insist on or forbid certain behaviors for all? Are you prepared to rationally and calmly attempt to persuade others you are right and not simply shout at them?
In specific, as Christians, are we consistent in our beliefs and efforts? Am I defending marriage in all the ways I feel it is threatened or picking and choosing where to defend it? Am I asking the government to keep its hands off my religious freedom and, at the same time, asking it to teach the Bible in public schools? (A proposed bill here in NC is doing just that.) Above all we need to avoid labels like ”pro” and “anti” and have the grace to engage the world in ways that reflect the love, the mercy and the justice of God.