Opinion: Buyers Remorse, Christian Obama Supporter Deeply Concerned


Deacon Keith Fournier

  CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) – The last radio program I hosted was entitled “Millennial Moment”. It was a talk format where we dealt with issues at the intersection of faith and culture. Personally, I concluded long ago that neither major political party in the USA was fully committed to the fundamental human rights issue of our age, the Right to Life from conception to natural death. My concern was that many who identified themselves with the so called “religious Right” were being used. We began that radio show every day with words from the Who song, 'Won’t get Fooled Again’: “I'll tip my hat to the new constitution, Take a bow for the new revolution, Smile and grin at the change all around me, Pick up my guitar and play, Just like yesterday… Then I'll get on my knees and pray, We don't get fooled again” Sadly, many Christians did get fooled again in 2008.

I watched as some, disappointed with the Republican Party, took a look at then candidate Barrack Obama in the early days of the Presidential campaign. As I examined his positions on the Right to Life, what I found horrified me. I could not - and did not - support him. Those called the ‘poorest of the poor’ by Mother Teresa were severely threatened by his positions. Personally, I never fully trusted the candidate’s claim to hear the cry of the poor because he blocked his ears to the cry of those children. Throughout the campaign I tried to do what I could, along with so many others, to expose his opposition to the Right to Life. I participated in an ongoing ‘dialogue’ with Doug Kmiec on Catholic Online seeking to persuade the Professor not to support candidate Obama. I was unsuccessful. Doug went on to write the book which became an apologetic for many Christian Obama supporters to hide behind. I did not give up and took exception to Doug’s mistaken Moral analysis in that little book and kept going. I have not stopped to this day, still hoping that Doug will come to see that his confidence was misplaced and come back to his senses.

Many Evangelical Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians did support then candidate Obama. Some observers say that the support from the Christian community secured his election to the Presidency. I certainly was not alone in believing that Christians who bought the “abortion reduction” claims would be sorry. I feared those on the “religious left” were making the same mistake that many on the “religious right” made in years past. They were being wooed by one Party and would be used by that same Party. The outspoken support of “Catholics United” and “Catholics in Alliance” for Obama nominees such as Kathleen Sebelius is inexplicable to me. They have now walked down the same road they once criticized and simply become captive to the other major Political Party.

However, something intriguing seems to be happening. It started as a murmur and now seems to have evolved into a real case of “Buyer’s Remorse” among some of the President’s Christians supporters. On Monday, March 16, 2009, one of them, David Gushee, a Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and the President of ‘Evangelicals for Human Rights’ wrote an opinion piece entitled “Mr. President, we need more than lip service” for USA Today. He began this candid, well written and sad piece with these words: “Centrist evangelicals like me embraced Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to help bridge the gaps of the culture wars. Instead, the president’s short record on abortion-related issues is familiar— and disappointing — rather than revolutionary.”

Here are excerpts from the opinion piece:

“It's no secret that a group of self-identified centrist or moderate evangelicals built a friendly relationship with Barack Obama and rejected the Christian right's vilification of him. I am in this group, which has also included megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, evangelical lobbyist Rich Cizik, academic-activist Ron Sider and others. …I knew from the beginning that if Obama took typical Democratic positions on abortion-related issues, this centrist evangelical friendliness toward him and his administration would be tested. I knew that during the campaign he had hewed closely to the standard Democratic pro-choice line. But his party's platform also promised a commitment to abortion-reduction efforts, and he has echoed that language. Some of us continue to dream that he will roll out a major abortion-reduction initiative. Such an initiative has not been offered. But what has occurred are a series of disappointingly typical Democratic abortion-related moves:

"First, the new president followed precedent by overturning the so-called Mexico City policy, which basically had withheld U.S. Agency for International Development funding from any organization that discusses, advocates or provides abortion as a method of family planning. Republicans withhold the money; Democrats provide it. Not great, but predictable. I stayed quiet on this one.

"Next, Obama revoked the "provider refusal" rule that President Bush promulgated by executive order very late in his presidency. The stated aim of this rule was to protect medical professionals from being forced as a condition of employment to provide health care services or information about services, such as abortion or contraception that violated their consciences. Provider-conscience exceptions related to abortion are not new; the concern from the pro-choice side was that Bush's version of that rule had become too broad. Concluding that the basic idea of conscience exceptions was probably safe, I stayed quiet again.

"Then the president nominated Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to be head of the massive Department of Health and Human Services. The nomination of Sebelius, a Catholic whose bishop has condemned her stance on abortion, has gotten entangled in both national and Catholic abortion politics. Her opponents argue that she is a pro-choice extremist; her allies say she is a conscientious Catholic who has reduced abortion by 10% in Kansas. I signed on to a statement that was viewed as offering uncritical support for Sebelius. What I meant to say was that given the inevitability that Obama would choose a pro-choice HHS secretary, it seemed positive he would pick one with an abortion-reduction track record. I wish I had stayed out of this one, too.

"Finally, last week Obama signed his long-promised reversal of Bush policies on embryonic stem cell research. Again, this was not a surprise, either politically or, sadly, morally. A country that is willing to permit the destruction of a fetus at five months, when that destroyed fetus can provide no conceivable utilitarian benefit to society, is certainly going to permit the destruction of a leftover frozen embryo on the promise that it can contribute to medical breakthroughs someday.

"Mexico City, conscience clause, Sebelius, embryonic stem cells... In each case, I have been asked by friends at Democratic or progressive-leaning think tanks not just to refrain from opposing these moves, but instead to support them in the name of a broader understanding of what it means to be pro-life. I mainly refused. But I do confess that my desire to retain good relationships with the Obama team has tempted me to give what was asked in return for the big payoff of a serious abortion-reduction initiative that I could wholeheartedly support. …

"But this kind of calculation is precisely what has gotten Christian political activists in trouble in the past, not just for 40 years but for 1,600 years. We gain access to Caesar in order to affect policy; we hold onto access even if it involves compromising some of what we want in policy; in the end, we can easily forget what policies we were after in the first place. I think this definitely happened to the Christian right. It doesn't need to be repeated by the Christian center or left.

"My understanding of the majestic God-given sacredness of human life tells me that a society that legally permits abortion on demand is deeply corrupt. It pays for adult sexual liberties with the lives of defenseless developing children. That practice, in turn, desensitizes society to the implications of paying for prospective medical cures with defenseless frozen embryos, which themselves are available because our society pays for medically assisted reproductive technology by producing hundreds of thousands of these embryos as spares. And yes, that same commitment to life's sacredness has grounded my opposition to paying for national security with torture, or paying for today's affluence with tomorrow's environmental destruction.

"Christian conscience requires me to make this case even if it has no chance of prevailing in American society. And if we lose on abortion, as it appears we will lose for a long time to come, Christian conscience requires me to ask the government not to require citizens to pay for procuring services that violate their sacred beliefs. And if we lose there… Christian conscience requires me to insist that religious institutions and professionals not be required as a condition of accreditation, or employment, or contact with federal dollars, to actively facilitate or perform deeds that their conscience forbids them from doing. And if we lose there, then the entire relationship between religious faith and American society will move into a period of profound crisis… .”

We need to pray for David Gushee. He obviously has such a strong case of “Buyers' Remorse”. The words of the old “Who” song have sadly been fulfilled, “fooled again”. And, yes, we need to pray for Doug Kmiec. We should pray that all who succumbed to the Siren Song of the culture of death with its feigned promises to “reduce” these intrinsically evil killings of children in the womb finally wake up to the truth. Then, that they courageously speak out to protect our smallest neighbors as well as the other members of our community who are at risk, the disabled, the elderly and anyone who is considered “dependent” and no longer “useful”.

Imagine the impact on the current struggle in which we are engaged if the Christians -, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox - who once supported President Obama as he campaigned for office came out publicly now to strongly oppose his obvious anti-life positions and policies. Can it happen, you bet it can. Professor Gushee may be the beginning of the return.

Are you there Doug Kmiec?