Paul L. Caron

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Evangelicals And Secularists On Abortion, Covid, Life, And Death

The Christian Post op-ed:  Evangelicals and Secularists On Abortion, Covid and Death, by Robert F. Cochran, Jr. (Pepperdine; Festschrift; Google Scholar):

Cochran 2I live in a very secular town and for 40 years have been part of America’s very secular legal academy. During that time, I also have been an evangelical and active in evangelical churches. I travel pretty comfortably in both circles, but at times I am puzzled by the reactions of each group to different issues. Most recently, I have been trying to understand their differing responses to Covid and abortion. Many evangelicals are pro-life on abortion, not on Covid. Secularists generally are pro-life on Covid, not on abortion. (Compare Source and Source). These differences were brought home to me recently by several images when my wife and I drove from the heavily secular Charlottesville, Virginia, to the heavily evangelical Waco, Texas.

As for Covid, in Charlottesville people wear masks in restaurants, crowds, and stores. Someone without a mask is likely to be shouted into compliance. That all changed as we drove south. From Tennessee through Texas, we seldom saw a mask. The Texas attitude is illustrated by the experience of a friend who came to Texas on a business trip. He offered his elbow to a business contact in a friendly, somewhat socially-distanced manner. The Texan smiled and drawled, “We don’t do that around here,” and warmly offered his hand. My friend conceded (and excused himself shortly thereafter to wash his hands).

As for abortion, on the way out of Charlottesville, we drove past a conveniently located abortion clinic (where someone had placed a sadly ironic “Black Lives Matter” sign). In Waco, one of the largest billboards in town recently pictured a woman crying and read: “’Lamento mi aborto.’ Por favor considere una adopción” [I'm sorry for my abortion. Please consider an adoption.]" When we visited Waco, the local Planned Parenthood Clinic was closed.

These attitudes toward death have consequences in both law and public policy. In recent years, heavily evangelical states (Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana) have passed restrictive abortion laws, while heavily secular states (New York and Virginia) have passed pro-abortion laws. On the Covid front, heavily evangelical states have been less inclined to impose restrictions than heavily secular states. Evangelical schools and schools in heavily evangelical areas have been significantly more likely to remain open during Covid than secular/public schools. (Compare Source and Source). 

Why are evangelicals and secularists each internally divided on abortion and Covid? Why is each group so vehemently pro-life on one issue and not-so-much on the other? ...

For both my evangelical friends and my secular friends, my hope is that we will choose life. We should broaden our sense of empathy to include those quite different from us and those we may never see. Whether life as a gift of God or a gift of forces we cannot imagine, it should be treasured. We may not know whether we will harm our neighbor and we many not know when life begins, but we should err on the side of life.

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