Did they expect it to be different after he was elected? Last Fall many Evangelicals and Catholics jumped on the Obama bandwagon for a variety of reasons, and in the process, it appears, turned a blind eye to certain areas that would later come back to haunt them. They may have been tired by the war in the Middle East. They may have been concerned about the worsening economy. Financial worries topped the list for many of them. Obama ran a upbeat campaign aimed to project the beginning of an era change and hope. He was the face of youth and possibility. Nothing seemed out of range now. Christians saw a man deeply concerned about people and life, and assumed he shared their values.
Unfortunately there was also a entire agenda accompanying him that ran completely counter to conservative Christian values. He was pro-abortion. He was prepared to reverse the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research put in place by the previous administration. Somehow, it seems, they thought that when he talked about openness and fairness on the major culture issues of the day, he would allow their convictions a place at the table. They were wrong. And now they are experiencing what may aptly be called 'buyer's remorse.'
"Thus far, I have been disappointed to see little give. There's been a lot of take," said the Rev. Frank Page, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention who serves on a advisory board to President Obama's White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as reported by AP religious writer Eric Gorski. "I've seen little give in the area of relating to the evangelical community as far as life issues."
One of the major priorities of the president's faith-based office is "to find ways to reduce the abortion rate, an attempt at common ground," the AP article reported. However, in contradistinction to this goal Obama promptly lifted restriction on federal funding of international family planing groups that perform abortions for provide information about abortion. Furthermore, the administration also said that it would "rescind broad protections put in place in the waning days of the Bush administration for health workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on personal, moral or religious grounds." The claim was that the Bush policy "went too far and could restrict services such as family planning and infertility treatments." For me, that rationale is a bit of a stretch.
Still, some evangelicals remain optimistic. Instead of looking at what he is doing, they look to the more radical things he might have done, and calm their fears that it could have been worse. After all, the congress has yet to reverse the legislation that bans the use of federal money to create or destroy human embryos for research, they claim.
Well, it's admirable to want to be optimistic, but in this case I suspect its more about wishful thinking. President Obama was quite clear about his views on life-issues during the campaign. His record of past actions was there for any to review. Many of us voted based on that information, not on what we wished could be. We should not be surprised by his actions now, and we should not be so Pollyanna as to think he is going to suddenly be supportive of the values of the Christian right. It's just not going to happen.
President Obama comes from a United Church of Christ background, one that is deeply steeped in liberal values and theology. Thus, the predominant religious moral influence in his life did not create in him a conviction to defend unborn life, and we should not expect that it would. On the contrary, following the faith of his church, he would naturally defend the right of a woman to kill her unborn child and resist any legal effort to restrict that right. A woman's right to choose is a supreme right above the fetus. The UCC is on record supporting the right of a woman to an abortion even in the case of partial birth abortions, a position that values the health concerns of the mother well above the right of the unborn to live. If you want to see exactly where this church stands on such a controversial issue, be sure to read this pdf file entitled "Statement in response to the Supreme Court Ruling to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003."
The next four years will predictably be an era in which advances made on behalf of the rights of the unborn are repeatedly challenged and often reversed. The implications of this agenda will also spill over into other life issues that impact the elderly and disabled. Conservative Christians need to wake up and accept the reality of the times.