Abortion is one of the most polarizing issues in America. For many evangelical Christians, this is the defining issue in any political election. Interestingly, President-Elect Barack Obama is the most staunchly pro-choice advocate ever to ascend to the Presidency. No candidate, whether elected or not (not even Sen. Hillary Clinton), has vowed to defend the rights of women to abortion as ferociously as President-Elect Obama.  

But if abortion is such a wedge issue in American politics and morality, why is it that Barack Obama made so many inroads among evangelicals in light of his stance on abortion? Obama has an appeal among younger evangelicals. As Brett McCracken of Relevant Magazine has noted, Obama “values diversity rather than dogma, cooperates rather than villifies and promotes ‘together we can’ rather than ‘us vs. them’.” This message captivated younger evangelicals. Obama won over younger evangelicals in spite of his position on abortion.

The reason for this is that while Obama’s entrenched position on abortion may be pro-choice, his rhetoric to the masses indicates that Obama and his administration will place a higher premium on other “life” issues such as poverty, health care, the environment and human rights. Younger evangelicals have broadened their pro-life stance to include these other issues. For the younger evangelical, the term “pro-life” has much broader implications than only the rights of the unborn. Thus, the result is that younger evangelicals are willing to embrace the candidate who is going to best defend and fight for all “life” causes, even though they recognize the fight to protect the rights of all will not be waged equally. The trade-off for younger evangelicals is an acknowledgement that Roe vs. Wade isn’t going to be overturned by the Obama administration and Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court will work to ensure that it never gets overturned. However, Obama convinced them that he is going to fight vigorously in the political arena over social justice issues such as poverty, health care and human rights. For many the fight to overturn Roe vs. Wade seems like a lost cause, so if it is, why not work towards increasing the quality of life for men, women and children as it relates to other important issues and causes.  The broadness of Obama’s intended policy is appealing to many because it seeks to do more for the cause of life in many arenas even if it is actively seeking the destruction of life in one particular arena (the unborn).

So this is how Obama won over younger evangelicals? But this brings up a good question as it relates to those who may have found Obama’s overall message appealing, but won’t budge on the issue of abortion. Are pro-lifer’s pro-life enough? Does my concern for “life” extend beyond the unborn? Biblically, it should. Jonathan Merritt – a 26-year old evangelical writer and Southern Baptist environmental activist gets it right:

Being pro-life does not mean only supporting anti-abortion causes. The disconnect between my generation and the generations that preceded me is this: Being pro-life to me does not mean simply opposing a culture of death. It means supporting a culture of life whereever we find it. So while that does mean supporting the abolition of abortion…it also means that we need to address the three million people that will die this year from water-related diseases and the over one million people in Africa who will die from malaria, and the list rolls on and on.

Whereas evangelicals have embraced the fight against a culture of death while marginalizing and often ignoring significant social issues such as homelessness, AIDS, poverty, unemployment, racial equality, etc, Obama is doing the exact opposite by marginalizing abortion by embracing it as and fighting for it to remain status quo, while advancing on the social front public policy that hopes to decrease unemployment, ensure equal civil rights for homosexuals, bring universal health care, equalize educational opportunities and more.

While this isn’t a case of Obama vs. evangelicals, the reality is that neither are getting it right. And why does it matter that Obama get it right? It matters on two levels. First, the government is supposed to work for the welfare of all people. This would include the unborn. Second, Obama is a confessing Christian.

Bringing this home, the question that I’m forced to ponder is whether or not I am pro-life enough. I certainly am passionate about the cause of the unborn and intend to fight a culture of death, but have I sufficiently embraced a culture of life? Do I care about poverty and human rights issues in my community? And what am I communicating about my belief in the gospel by my care or perceived lack of care about these issues?