Prudence vs. Compromise
Pro lifers who act prudently given the real fallen world they are forced to work in are not compromising. Those who reject our principles are.
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Hello everyone. Scott Klusendorf here, president of Life Training Institute. Welcome to the Case for Life podcast, where we equip you to defend your pro life views persuasively. Be sure to visit our social media sites where you can get equipped with more information to make your case persuasively. Uh, today I want to talk about something related to our upcoming elections.

We often are critical of our politicians and I get it. Sometimes we feel like, Hey, they’re not doing enough. They’re not advancing the pro life cause the way they should. Why do they, why do they appear cowardly? And sometimes it’s true. They are people who are unprincipled. There are unprincipled politicians out there who hide behind a pro life banner, but they really never intend to do anything to advance real legislation that will save the lives of the unborn.

I get it. We’re all frustrated with people like that in the political realm, but I think we need to be clear on a few political points ourselves. Sometimes what looks like compromise may not be. It may be prudence, and here’s what I mean by that. Historically, Christians have always had to wrestle with a tension that goes like this.

How do I keep my principles true and valid? in a world that’s fallen, that’s sinful, and where the real world I have to live in doesn’t want to promote the principles that I know to be true. And this is the reality for all Christians in politics and in everyday life. We live in this fallen world where our principles, our objective truths, are not recognized as being valuable and people who also get a right to vote outnumber us.

So how do we maintain integrity in that kind of world. For example, I’ll just give you some examples historically. If you were a Christian in Congress in 1787 when the Constitution was ratified, would you have voted for it even though it did not condemn slavery? Would you have voted for it? Or if you were a Christian in the Continental Congress in 1776 and you were being asked to ratify the Declaration of Independence, which stripped intentionally the language condemning slavery, would it been o, would it have been okay for you to vote for that?

Even though the anti slavery language had been pulled from the document to keep the southern states in the union, would it have been okay to vote for that or would that have been compromised? I can give you some other examples. You can think, for example, of this tension. It’s 1860. Would you vote for president or the nominee for the Republican party, Abraham Lincoln, even though he said he would not go beyond his constitutional permission?

to ban slavery. What that meant was he would work as he campaigned. He would work to remove slavery or prevent the the spread of slavery into new territories, but he would not work to remove it where it already existed in those states that were in the confederacy. Would you have voted for him? Would that have been a permissible thing to do or would that have been compromised?

These are troubling questions and we don’t get away from them even today. If pro lifers introduce, for example, a ban on abortion in one state, let’s say that we take a state, I’ll just make one up, let’s say Alabama. passes a total ban on abortion and they protect all unborn children from conception.

However, in introducing that ban in just one state, are pro lifers compromising because they leave unprotected the children in other states that they didn’t introduce a ban in? These are the kinds of questions we need to think through shrewdly and politically. in a way that’s shrewd and yet politically permissible from a moral standpoint.

That’s what I want to kind of get at today because these aren’t easy questions at times. So let’s try to unpack them and see what we can do. Let’s go back to 1776 and you’re John Adams. You oppose slavery. You want to see it end. But you got a problem. You’re trying to bring southern states into the Union.

who are pro slavery and you need those southern states to strengthen your resolve against King George, can you go ahead and strip out that language and allow these states to enter the union even though they are pro slavery? And I would say that what Adams did was very prudent. And here’s why. It wasn’t compromise, it was prudence.

He took the long view. If you didn’t bring these southern states into the Union, they would remain slave holding, separate nations where slavery would never be abolished, where there would never be emancipation for, for black slaves. So, so Adams looking at this with a long view in mind. came to the right conclusion that the best way to eradicate slavery was to go ahead and bring them into the union where the language of the Declaration of Independence declared that all men have intrinsic value because they bear the image of God, that all men are created equal, and that That worldview assumption would eventually put slavery on the road to extinction, which is exactly what happened.

And, uh, so was Adams being a compromiser? No, I don’t think so. He did not have the political power at that point to protect slaves. And had he dug in and said, no, they’re not coming in. We’re not letting these other states in. You would have not had an eradication of slavery 70 some years later or 80 years later.

Instead, what you would have had would have been separate slaveholding nations that would have kept these people enslaved and Adams played a long game to get rid of them. That’s prudence. That’s not compromise. I think the same is true with Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln did not have constitutional or political power to abolish slavery.

And he took a lot of heat from abolitionists in his day who pressured him to do more. They wanted Lincoln to stand up and fight for the slaves and declare slavery null and void. And Lincoln couldn’t do that, and there were several reasons for it. He felt bound by the Constitution to not go beyond its limits.

He also felt that it would be counterintuitive to go ahead and declare slaves free. when there were so many white supremacists in the north. He had, for example, the Copperheads to deal with. The Copperheads were white supremacists who wanted slavery to continue. And in the border states like Kentucky and Maryland, along the the Mason Dixon line there that were in the North but barely, a lot of those states were being pulled toward the Confederacy.

And if Lincoln stepped up in 1860 and made slavery, the abolition of slavery, his primary political objective, and he made that public, he would have lost the support of the Copperheads and those border states that he needed to prosecute a war against the Southern rebellious states. So Lincoln very shrewdly withheld his full emancipation, uh, ideas until it was politically favorable to do so.

And so, for example, You look at the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Notice that that did not declare slavery outlawed in the North. It only declared slaves free in the southern rebellious states. Lincoln was using his war powers to do that. He knew that he could not just declare slavery null and void and survive politically to prosecute a war.

that would end slavery and reunify the country. Now, somebody might say, well, that means Lincoln was compromised. No, Lincoln was not compromised. Here’s why. In principle, he was an abolitionist, but in practice, he was forced to work incrementally to free the slaves, and that’s what he did. So, he wasn’t compromising on principle.

In fact, if you think he was, notice what Lincoln did. In 1860, he rejected the Crittenden Compromise. Which would have ended all hostility and re, reunified the country, but with a provision that slavery would continue in per, in, in, in, indefinitely. And Lincoln said, nope, we’re not doing that. He refused to unify the country as long as it meant that slavery would be allowed to continue legally.

So this guy was absolutely committed to his principle, but he shrewdly worked incrementally. to where he could prosecute a war against the rebellious southern states and declare slavery, uh, null and void, not through just a presidential wish, but through the 13th amendment that actually banned slavery.

So Lincoln, working very shrewdly, got stuff done. In fact, even the great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass said at Lincoln’s funeral that it was Lincoln’s wisdom and prudence that freed his fellow bondmen. And even though abolitionists grew impatient with Lincoln, it was his political foresight and his prudence that actually got the job done of eradicating slavery.

Another example, look at the British situation with William Wilberforce and the abolitionists there. They did not start off banning slavery or abolishing slavery outright. They took an incremental step and aimed toward abolishing the slave trade. It was only 20 some years later that they abolished slavery and got full emancipation, but that didn’t happen until they took the incremental step of really taking the wind out of the sails, no pun intended of slavery by banning the slave trade first as an incremental step.

Very wise. Wilberforce himself in 1800 to 1803 withheld introducing his total abolition ban on slavery in Parliament because the political wins against him were strong and he knew it. So he withdrew that and held it back until more favorable times. Was he compromising? No, I don’t think so. He knew that there was war with France.

He knew that abolitionists in, in England were being viewed as radicals, probably allies of the French. It wasn’t true, but that was the political slander he was being subjected to. So in order to quell that, in order to wait for a more favorable time, he withdrew his total abolition bill, not because he was a coward, not because he was Uh, compromised, but because he recognized that in this real fallen world, politics will always be the art of the possible.

And so, Wilberforce waited for a time that was favorable before he reintroduced his total abolition bill. That’s not compromise, that’s prudence. But sometimes I think we can get impatient with politicians who may be working prudently, and we think they’re just being compromised. I think we need to take a careful look, a closer look, and make sure we distinguish between compromise, which looks to obstruct justice, and prudence, which looks to limit the evil insofar as possible, given current political constraints.

This is what we have to do as Christians. We need to think with a worldview principle in mind, and that worldview principle is this. We will never stop our efforts to end abortion until every child is protected in law. We will do that. However, along the way, we are going to work non stop to limit the evil insofar as possible.

We’ll save as many lives as we can along the way to saving all children. Again, that’s not compromise, that’s prudence. Now some people might say, well, Wouldn’t it be much better today if the pro life movement had simply always demanded the immediate abolition of abortion instead of accepting these incremental compromises?

And I think we need to look at the history here. In the ten years immediately following Roe v. Wade, pro lifers advanced no less than 17 human life amendments or human life bills in the Congress. Every one of those bills and amendments said two things. Number one, there is no right to an abortion in the Constitution, and they said that unborn humans are human beings and indeed persons from conception.

Now that’s a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade, and it went absolutely nowhere. Every one of those attempted amendments went down in flames at a time When our political clout was much stronger than it is today, at the time, we had a sizable number of pro life Democrats, even people like Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Dick Gebhardt, Al Gore, even Joe Biden at the time, um, all were mouthing pro life sentiment.

Now we all know that later they actually ditched their alleged pro life beliefs because it was politically profitable for them to do so, to run for Democratic Party office. But that aside, at the time you had pro life representatives in two political parties. Today it’s strictly one. The Democrat party is 100 percent wholesale committed to the proposition.

of intentionally killing children in the womb. The Republican party can do a better job, I’ll admit that, but they are not committed to that position the way that the Democrats are. At the time, though, in the 10 years right after Roe, you had pro life Democrats, you had Catholic bishops. actively campaigning along with parish priests for passage of the human life amendments that were in play.

You for part of that time had a pro life president, Ronald Reagan, who from 1981 to 1985 was outspoken on abortion. He even wrote a book on it called Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, a very good book I might add. I commend it to your reading. My point is simply this, at a time when pro lifers had a lot more political clout and influence than they do today, we were unable to successfully Uh, charge frontally into the abortion industry and demand total abolition.

It couldn’t happen. We went nowhere. So then we adopted a, an additional strategy, one of working to limit the evil done. We didn’t get rid of our principle of saving all children, but we did adapt the practice of working incrementally to limit the evil done. Again, I don’t believe that’s compromise. I believe that’s prudence in light of the political reality in front of us.

Christianity is not about denying the real world. We cannot just grab a magic wand and make abortion go away. That’s not how a constitutional republic like ours works. A constitutional republic like ours is actually set up structurally. to make change very difficult. And so it’s not going to be an easy fix moving forward.

We’re all going to have to be patient. And what I would say is this, don’t confuse political prudence with compromise. Compromise is a bad deal. Now here’s a, here’s a good example of compromise. You’re a pro life politician and you say why don’t we just settle permanently on a 15 week abortion ban, or on a heartbeat bill that bans abortion after six weeks, but never press for anything more.

We just want to make the public like us. Let’s accept those limits as being permanent. That we can never do. We can never allow some children permanently to be designated as human beings. We will never work. to protect. However, when we don’t have the votes to protect all of them, there’s nothing wrong with doing what we can to limit the evil and save as many lives as we can, given the political realities immediately in front of us.

That’s what our job is. That’s what we should do as Christians, and it’s important that we always strive to do the greatest good and limit evil insofar as it’s on us to do it. Thanks for watching today. I look forward to seeing you in our next Our next time together for now, go out there and do the best you can.