This is an opinion column.
Dana Hall McCain writes on Faith, Culture and Public Policy for AL.com. She was a member of the Resolutions Committee for the 2021 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.
I have previously written about how the messengers of the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting last week does a lot of positive things. But there was an action on the second day of the meeting that made me uncomfortable. It was the adoption of a resolution entitled “On the abolition of abortion”.
I know what you are thinking: I am ardently pro-life. So why on earth would I resist a resolution with a headline like “On Abolition of Abortion?” “
This is because the language we use to advocate for righteousness is important, as are the methods, and this particular document has failed on both counts.
Prior to the annual meeting, a group of people submitted this resolution for consideration. Southern Baptist policy requires that all resolutions go through the Resolutions Committee (a nine-person panel of which I served this year). This allows the committee to determine which ones best capture the voice of the convention in any given year. Only a few resolutions reach the conference room for possible passage due to time constraints.
Our committee chose to decline this resolution and instead presented a well-argued resolution calling on Congress and the President to preserve the Hyde amendment. It was a definitive statement that affirmed – again, in plain language – our deep opposition to abortion. More importantly, he called attention to the most urgent front in this war: fighting the Biden administration’s efforts to flout Hyde by proposing the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.
After it was denied, the Abolition group was able to rally enough support to get its resolution out of the committee by a 2/3 messenger vote. (I don’t know if you’ve heard that, but it’s not hard to get 2/3 of a Southern Baptist hall to support anything that is commonly described as an anti-abortion statement.) Oh, how I would have liked all these voters to have indeed read the long and dense document.
I can only speak for myself, but there were several reasons why I was deeply uncomfortable with the “Abolish” resolution.
First: As submitted, he condemned as “appalling” all progressive laws restricting abortion. You read correctly. The fringe group that drafted the resolution called the legions pious, hard-working pro-life lawyers – staunch lawyers and lawmakers who reduced abortion as much as possible while Roe v. Wade – as part of the real problem. This suggests that the people who have strategically reduced abortion to next to nothing in many states, thereby saving millions of lives, are sinners who must repent.
It in no way reflects what the grassroots Southern Baptists think about this matter, for the average Southern Baptists are smarter than that. They understand and appreciate how restrictions on abortion save lives.
Second, they condemned any future efforts to pass progressive anti-abortion laws or restrictions. They demand the total abolition or nothing. An amendment (which was not received as friendly by the author of the resolution) was adopted, seeking to resolve this fundamental problem. But it fixed one sentence and left half a dozen others expressing the same stray ideology. So the amendment, while well intentioned, simply took a deeply flawed statement and made it contradictory.
There are two very distinct types of pro-life advocates. One guy wants to end abortion, has a real working knowledge of what it takes in our legal and legislative systems, and uses strategic expertise to save as many lives as possible setting the table to overthrow Roe v. Wade.
The other guy wants to lie on the floor kicking and screaming like a kid having a temper tantrum, expecting the whole world to capitulate to it. Their strategy could end abortion in Fantasy Land, but not in the United States of America.
This is Michael Scott, who declares bankruptcy.
The people who wrote the resolution don’t seem to understand that it will be one of those “appalling” progressive laws that will trigger the appeal process, returning us to the United States Supreme Court with a chance to overturn. Roe deer. (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, for example immediate.) Alabama’s Human Life Protection Act of 2019 was a legal warship designed precisely for this effort. Without the incremental law of triggering, this process never begins. And without spilling Roe deer, there is no legal way to eliminate abortion in our country.
Apart from this strategy, demands for the elimination of abortion are nothing but emotional racketeering.
But wait. It’s getting worse.
They also used advocacy language for women who have abortions. They phrased it in vague phrases like “also punished under the law”, but that’s what they mean. This tough and unique view of women seeking abortion was an idea the SBC discussed in connection with the Hyde Amendment resolution the day before. In this case, the messengers massively shot an attempt to change the language and label aborted women as murderers. But the abolition folks see no difference between a scared and broken 16-year-old or a victim of abuse who, in her deep distress, is tempted to ask for an abortion and a murderer who shoots another with blood- cold. No one is saying that abortion is not a sin, it is. But some of us try to hold the spirit of Christ as we minister of them persons created in the image of God: the unborn child and the mother.
So why did the SBC messengers turn around 24 hours later and vote for a resolution that contained the same legalistic sentiment on steroids?
There is only one reasonable explanation: most of them had not read the resolution. And if voters read it, they read the headline, briefly scanned the body, assumed it was a standard ‘abortion is bad, and we want it to end’ resolution, and voted yes.
It’s a shame. I don’t think a plurality of these messengers got up last Wednesday, had a cup of coffee and their quiet time with God, and felt led by the Spirit to roll over to the Music City Center and stab in the backs of those who have worked faithfully in the pro-life arena for decades.
But thanks to the resolution’s aggressive sidewalk campaign, voters’ mental fatigue after two full days of sessions, and a parliamentary process that kept the discussion very brief, this is what happened.
So congratulations friends. Not only have we passed a resolution that has no chance of speeding up abolition of abortion, but we have also undermined the pro-life cause in the real world by throwing its most effective warriors under the bus. In addition, we are damaging the reputation of the SBC as a principled group of allies thinking of other Christian and secular pro-life groups.
SBC resolutions are not binding on our churches or their members, so it is not a complete disaster. But our message to a watching world is important. In this regard, the adoption of this resolution is a disgrace.