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the wilberforce myth 

It's like the abolition of slavery    No, it is not 
re: the false faith and the persistent illusion that 
The People Will Vote and The Law Will End Abortion

Contrary to a contemporary myth, slavery in America was not abolished by William Wilberforce patiently pushing abolition through Parliament.  William Wilberforce was a Member of Parliament who began sponsoring laws to abolish the slave trade.  And then laws to abolish slavery itself.  Slavery in the British Empire was finally outlawed in 1833, a year after his death. 

Wilberforce was a real person, but it is a myth that slavery was abolished by persistent parliamentarianism.  And it is a Grand Illusion to believe that Abortion will be stopped in America by people pushing Personhood initiatives.  The false faith that abortion in America can be ended via law and conventional politics is one of the major causes of the defeat of the pro life movement.  It is a symptom of the deeper cause:  the false faith of those worldly Christians who identify with power and define the pro life challenge within those limits.  Get me into Congress and I'll take care of it !  Those who pursue seats in Congress want to give Wilberforce the credit because that is how they justify their own commitment to coming in at the high end--their pursuit of political power.  

Thomas Clarkson, who became a vice president of the new anti slavery society in 1823 along with William Wilberforce, pioneered in organizing the anti slavery movement which was the social force behind the anti slavery legislation.  His first major work on the slave trade published in 1786 was based upon the Historical Survey of New Guinea by the American Quaker Anthony Benezet.  [ A first rate history of the Abolition Movement, which gives Clarkson the credit he deserves, was published in 2005 by Adam Hochschild: Bury the Chains.  ]   

Benezet's writings about slavery were circulated by the American Quakers.  In a letter of January 1773, Patrick Henry acknowledges receiving a copy from Robert Pleasants, a Quaker and Virginia neighbor who had freed his slaves and hired them back as paid laborers.  The reported cost was 3000 pounds--half a million in modern dollars.  He also set up schools to educate them at a time when Virginia had laws against educating slaves.  Henry expresses his sympathy with the book and his respect for the abolition movement among the Quakers.  But he lived and died a slave owner and left plantations worked by slave labor to his many children.  Henry's major concern when the Constitution was written in 1787 was to protect the property of Virginia slave owners like himself.  He never tried to square his famous Liberty or Death proclamation with his commitment to preserve slavery.  He and the other Virginia slave owners inspired the sarcastic quip from  Dr. Samuel Johnson:  How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for  liberty  among the drivers of Negroes ? 

The stubborn refusal to define what liberty is supposed to mean and the delusion that Americans care about it, has persisted to the present day.  How often do we hear abortion defended in the name of Freedom ?  And they are right in a way.  Sexual Freedom requires abortion.  Women being free to pursue careers and make lots of money requires contraception backed by abortion. 

William Wilberforce was a wealthy aristocrat who bought his seat in Parliament in 1781.  He became a convert to Christianity and took up the cause of opposing slavery in 1787.  It is to his credit that he used his position to do something, in contrast to all the other wealthy and powerful Englishmen who did nothing to oppose it even if they did not actually make money from investing in plantations or the slave trade.  But it is a dangerous myth that Christians can hold on to wealth and pursue political power and conform to this world and still effectively oppose the evil of society.  The rank and file of the abolition movement were those who had neither wealth nor political power and they were more likely to wind up in jail than to wind up in Parliament. 

Sommersett Case

Slavery was already outlawed in England itself before Wilberforce entered Parliament.  11,000 slaves were freed in England in 1772 by the Sommersett decision.  The British high court ruled that any slave landed in England thereby became a free man.  It was just the opposite of the Dred Scott decision in America in 1857, 85 years later,  which ruled that slaves were still property even if taken to free territories.  Benjamim Franklin lost his slave when he took him to England.  The man ran away and Franklin could not get him back because of the English law. 

The power of the British sugar plantation owners and investors long delayed the end of slavery in the British empire, even though they were a very small part of the population.  How much longer would it have been delayed if America had remained in the British empire ?  America breaking away from Britain preserved slavery in America and made it much easier for the British to abolish slavery in the rest of the empire because they no longer had to accommodate the powerful interest of the slave owners of Virginia--George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry and all the less famous owners of tobacco plantations worked by slave labor, who kept it going for another 75 years.  The American "statesmen" shamefully surrendered on slavery when they wrote the American Constitution in 1787 and this act of unprincipled political expedience on their part led directly to a major increase in slavery and in the power of the slavery interest in America and to the death of a million people in the Civil War.  There is a price that has to be paid for a moral society.  If we do not pay it now, we must pay it later--with heavy interest penalties.

the folly of half measures

Meanwhile Pitt and Wilberforce persuaded the British Parliament to pass an Act in 1788 which said that the number of slaves carried in British slave ships must be in proportion to the tonnage.  Partial measures actually increased the evil of slavery instead of alleviating it.  An act of the British Parliament in 1807 supposedly abolished, not slavery itself, but only the slave trade.  This led to a situation in which  the traders made great efforts to carry as many slaves as possible in every voyage, and practised atrocities to get rid of the slaves when capture was imminent.  It was, besides, the interest of the cruisers, who shared the price of the captured slave ship, rather to allow the slaves to be taken on board than to prevent their being shipped at all.  Thrice as great a number of negroes as before, it was said, was exported from Africa, and two-thirds of these were murdered on the high seas.  It was found also that the abolition of the British slave trade did not lead to an improved treatment of the Negroes in the West Indies.  The slaves were overworked now that fresh supplies were stopped, and their numbers rapidly decreased.  (Encyclopedia Britannica, 9th edition, essay on Slavery)   That illustrates the immoral folly of half measures.  There has been an epidemic of failed and futile half measures in the official pro life movement, invariably accompanied by bogus claims--abortions went down 20 per cent when we passed a law requiring the abortionist to wear a clean gown,  Send us a check. 

In fact, the slave trade persisted to the end of the 19th century despite the law.  In 1884 General Gordon in Khartoum issued a declaration which re-legalized the slave trade in the Sudan to pacify the Arab slave traders.  [  The White Nile  Alan Moorehead ]  And the Chinese and Indian COOLIE system which replaced it was often as bad as outright slavery.  See the horrifying little essay in the 9th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica VI 333   COOLIE or CoolyIn 1860 it was calculated that of the 4000 coolies who since the traffic began had been fraudulently consigned to the guano pits of Peru, not one had survived

excommunicating  slavery

George Fox began leading the Quakers in opposing slavery 116 years before William Wilberforce made his first speech in Parliament against the slave trade in 1787.  They led the movement which abolished slavery in England itself by 1772.  Thousands of Quakers were put in prison in England in the 17th century because of their radical and non-conforming Christian faith and morals, which led them to refuse to go along with war and slavery.  The Quakers were also persecuted in America.  They were banned from Plymouth, imprisoned in Virginia and Maryland, and hanged in Boston.  Pennsylvania, founded by William Penn after he became a Quaker, was the first American colony to allow religious freedom.  The Quakers and the Amish and the Mennonites and the Moravian Brethren who migrated there established the first authentic Christian faith in the new world, by contrast to the slave owners and traders and the rapacious land seekers of Virginia and New England, for whom war and slavery were an integral part of their pseudo Christian faith and morals.  [ see the Governor Bradford article ]  The real crusade against slavery in America began with the Quakers who excommunicated slave owners and slave traders at a time when America's Founding Slave Owners still clung to their property and put laws protecting slavery into the Constitution. 

By 1776, American Quakers excluded from their membership anyone who owned slaves.  They  abolished  slavery  from their own community at a time when George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry were still buying slaves.  Except for the Quakers and a few other radical Christian groups, the so-called Christian Churches went along with slavery right up to the time of the Civil War.  Their failure to arrive at a moral and spiritual answer to slavery is paralleled by their present failure to do anything effective to stop abortion.  After the Civil War put an end to formal legal slavery, these worldly Christian churches were the bastions of racial segregation.  11 am on Sunday was the most segregated hour in America.  To their credit, the Catholic schools in the South finally desegregated after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in 1954.  At least they followed the path of social morality after the state led the way. 

Imagine today's church excommunicating those who practice contraception and tolerate abortion.  Which is to imagine a church which has taken the road back from that  mass  church  of  no  standards  which was established by Conformist Christianity.  Which is to imagine a Church which no longer caters  to  the  crowd while holding on to its privileged position.  Is it impossible to imagine ?  Almost.  But how shall we abolish abortion in the larger society if we cannot do it in our own Christian society ?  

The Abolitionist Movement was the forerunner of the Civil Rights Movement.  It was the work of the Quakers and other radical Christians who were opposed by the American establishment and by the Christian establishment of America.  They organized the Underground Railroad which helped many slaves to escape to freedom, much as today, the Sidewalk Counsellors help many babies escape from abortion.  From the Roman catacombs to the present time, serious Christians are often found in the underground, in one sense or another, and are rarely found in Parliament.

Leo Tolstoy was inspired by William Lloyd Garrison and the American abolitionists and there is a lot about them in The Kingdom of God Is Within You, the book which inspired Gandhi to launch his campaign of nonviolent direct action.  Gandhi's soul force principle  means the power which is born of truth and love.  It was his attempt--arguably unwise--to import the concept of the Holy Spirit of Truth and Love and Courage into his synthesis of Hindu / Moslem theology and Indian nationalism.  The imperial Christians of the British Empire had forgotten about it, but Gandhi dusted it off and made use of it.  Henry David Thoreau's  Essay on Civil Disobedience, written when he went to jail for refusing to pay the tax which supported war and slavery, is another of the charter documents of the nonviolent direct action movement.  And Gandhi's success inspired those who instructed Martin Luther King and Reverend James Lawson in the method of nonviolent resistance to evil. 

The American Answer to Slavery

The true history of how slavery was abolished in America--how we failed to abolish it--is far more relevant to our failure to stop abortion, than any fairy tale counter example imported from England.  In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson, the apostle of freedom, fired the man who was trying to enforce the new law against the slave trade and replaced him with someone who looked the other way while the slave trade flourished.  And the slave trade continued right up to the time of the Civil War even though it was nominally illegal.  [ see Roots of Abortion page 53 ] 

In February 1862, after the Civil War began, Captain Nathaniel Gordon was hung for bringing a cargo of slaves from Africa, the first man in American history to be so punished, even though slave trading had nominally been a hanging offense for more than 40 years.  book:  Hanging Captain Gordon: The Life and Trial of an American Slave Trader   Ron Soodalter 2006. 

When he was in the Congress in 1784, Jefferson supported a provision in the Ordinance regulating the new territories,  which would prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude after 1800.  When it was voted down, by one vote, he gave it up.  When the issue came up again in 1820 in respect to the Missouri Compromise he took the opposite position and defended the extension of slavery into the new territories.  [ See Roots of Abortion page 52. ]  Which led directly to Bloody Kansas, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry and the Civil War.  When Jefferson died bankrupt in 1826 his slaves had to be sold to pay up his wine bills.  He and his guests in effect drank up the blood of those 200 slaves in the fine wine they poured.  Today we sacrifice the lives of preborn children to sustain our luxurious life style.  To pay for the fine wine we pour and the fine cars we drive. 

Americans are stuck with the legacy of Thomas Jefferson.  American prisons are full of his descendants and the mixed race descendants of the other founding slave owners.  It is no use our trying to substitute William Wilberforce for our real founding fathers.  It is from them that we have received our real spiritual and moral legacy, the failure to live up to liberty and justice for all.  Americans put the lives of millions of slaves in the trash in the pursuit of wealth.  In the war against the natives of America, in the war with Mexico, in the invasion of the Philippines, in the other wars of empire, Americans put millions of lives in the trash in pursuit of land and loot and trade.  So it is not surprising that Americans now put the lives of millions of their own babies in the trash in pursuit of wealth.  That is our real heritage, contra all the proclamations of American righteousness.  And that is the challenge that anyone who is serious about living a Christian life in this place has to confront.  When we cling to American values and claim our share of American wealth and power, we cannot find a way out of this aborted society. 

The Civil War

In 1861, autocratic Russia, which made no claim to faith in freedom, achieved the emancipation of the peasants without a war.  Unlike America, where the failure to put an end to slavery in a peaceful way led to a fratricidal war in which 740,000 Americans were killed.  Like our other wars, it was a contest for wealth and political power, rather than for the  Great  Moral  Purpose  it pretended to serve.  As witness General Sherman's blunt statement:  All the niggers in the South aren't worth the blood of one Union soldier.  This is about control of the Mississippi River.  Lincoln said he would have perpetuated slavery to preserve the union.  His Emancipation Proclamation was a war measure which only applied to the rebel states. 

The Civil War devastated the South and embittered relations for generations after.  It put an end to legal slavery but a condition of semi-slavery for Southern Negroes persisted for 100 years.  Negro men were given 6 months in jail for trumped up misdemeanors and then rented out to plantation owners as convict labor.  Lynchings and Klan terrorism which American Presidents ignored kept Southern Negroes in economic bondage.  Today we are still living with the consequences of slavery.  Millions of impoverished Negroes living in slums.  American prisons are full of black men.  The bill for their incarceration should be sent to the estates of our founding slave owners. 

Legality often conceals a very different reality.  Today, all over the world, there are millions of people working in conditions of semi slavery,  including children trapped in factories.   140 million child slaves make goods for the free global market.  See the reports by the International Anti Slavery Society in Sydney  Australia.  Carpets,  chemicals and auto headlights sold in America are being produced in such factories.   In India they produce diesel engines, hoists, hand tools.    China produces shirts, pants, hairpins.  The  shoes made in Pakistan, Thailand, Nepal, Bangladesh and Vietnam come from such factories.  In the 1890s there were still a million kids working in American factories in dreadful conditions. 

Those who are obsessed with legal abortion, who care about the issue as the political football in a power contest, are willfully blind to the challenge of actually stopping abortion, regardless of whether it is legal or illegal.  Abortion became legal in 1967 in Colorado and California because it was already common in America.  That is what generated the pressure to make it legal.  California already had an estimated 100,000 abortions annually as of 1967, most of them still nominally illegal under the new law which Governor Ronald Reagan signed.  Which didn't prevent them from happening.  By 1967 abortion and contraception had become as common among Catholics as among Protestants.  Abortion came from the  imperative  of the luxury-loving American life style to which these Secular Christians had already conformed:  more money, fewer children.

Illegal Abortion

Abortion is common in all the nations of Central and South America despite the fact that it is still nominally against the law in those places.  Brazil has 2 million abortions a year.  Abortion is a crime for which no one is prosecuted.  [ These figures are exaggerated by those who promote legal abortion and minimized by those who raise their funds by a narrow focus on abortion laws.  ]  Peru even had a program of forced abortion.  Pro-lifers who speak no Spanish take junkets to help preserve these useless laws and then use that adventure to raise funds.  Mexico has a million abortions a year and the abortuaries are run by the criminal syndicates.  You are more likely to get gunned down than arrested for picketing one of those places.  The Philippines have a  higher  abortion rate than the United States, despite a ban on abortion written into the Constitution.  They  have  a Human Life Amendment and they ignore it.  As prohibition showed, the law is not enforced when many dissent from it, even if the law is an Amendment to the Constitution.  Is marijuana still illegal ?  You would hardly know it. 

This wrong focus is not just an intellectual error.  It is the necessary justification for the pro life lobbies which have to pretend that abortion can be stopped by what they are doing in Washington.  For worldly Christians, the obsession with what The Law says is joined to an indifference as to the actual evils of society.  They don't really care whether prostitution goes on or about the economic forces that push women into prostitution so long as it is still against the law and kept out of sight.  Their real desire is to restore that  whited  sepulchre  veneer of righteousness which allows ladies and gentlemen to come to Church without having to step over the scandal and disgrace of legal abortion and prostitution right out in the open where it can't be ignored.  So long as the State shows up at church on Sunday, dressed in his Sunday clothes, they ignore what he did on Saturday night. 

Most of what pretends to be a pro life movement is stuck in this old pattern of legal and political contests to restore the old hypocrisy.  So they have no motive to dig deeper into the roots of abortion and to try to understand better why a society which pretends to be Christian is so very, very far from home.  Their bottom line is to somehow find an answer which fits within the boundaries of their comfort zone.  There is a willful blindness in blaming abortion in America on Roe v. Wade, which is especially conspicuous in the statements of the bishops,  because they belong to an international Church which claims to have moral standards that transcend those of any national Church.  Is Roe v. Wade the reason that so-called Catholic Countries around the world have abortions just like America ?  What is the reason for abortion in Spain, France and Italy, where everyone is supposedly Catholic and where Roe v. Wade does not apply ?

voting for morality 

The reason for legal abortion in Italy is that Italians voted to keep it legal in a 1981 national referendum on a law which was passed in 1978.  Despite the pleas of Pope John Paul II.  A country which is 90 percent Catholic, which is the home of the Pope,  voted against him on a fundamental question of Christian morality.  So much for establishing Christian morality by voting.  The basic reason that abortion could not be outlawed in so-called Catholic Italy is the same reason it cannot be outlawed in so-called Christian America:  the  people  wantitthatway.  In fact, contraception and abortion have become integrated into the Italian life style.  Native Italians have so few babies allowed to live that they are becoming an endangered species.  Italy is on the way to becoming a Moslem country because the Moslems still have large families and the Catholics don't.  The same thing is happening in the rest of Europe. 

And the  people have been taught to believe that you can vote on morality.  It is moral if 51 % think it is moral.  If only 49 % think it is moral, it isn't.  It is moral one year and immoral the next, depending on how the vote goes.  What was once a terrible crime is now a  standard  medical  procedure.  When you vote against abortion, you in effect concede that it is something to be voted on.  If the vote goes against you, you still have to go along with it.  If you aren't bound by the results of the vote, why is anyone else ?  If the vote goes your way, the way is open for those who were beaten this time to bring the issue up again.  The Pope asked the Italians to vote against abortion.  But they voted the other way, thus proving that the Pope was wrong about abortion.  What else is the logic of entrusting morality to the voters ? 

The fact of legal abortion in the Catholic countries of Europe and the fact of illegal abortion in the Catholic countries of South America shows the realistic context in which abortion among American Catholics has to be understood.  Clearly, abortion is not something outside the Catholic Church, which has been imposed upon it by some legal fluke.  Abortion is inside the Catholic Church.  Until Catholics face up to that fundamental fact, until they begin to deal with it, no change is possible.  Catholics who decry that culture of death, which has reached flood stage in modern times, are still trying to ignore five feet of sewer water in the Church itself.  Nor do they know how to free themselves from that  love  of  money  which breached the dike in the first place.  The pursuit of wealth needs contraception backed by abortion. 

Catholics should focus upon stopping abortion within the Catholic Church.  If the Catholic Church were the pro life bulwark it pretends to be, the abortion situation in America would be entirely different.  Roe versus Wade came about because abortion laws were passed not despite Catholics but because of them.  Because by, 1967, they had already adopted that two kid Kennedy life style which depends upon contraception and abortion.  Legal abortion continues because Catholic voters routinely elect pro abortion politicians.  States  with the most Catholic voters, provide the most reliable support for Catholicpro choice  Senators and Congressmen and Governors. 

Since automatic excommunication has taken care of it, the bishops can go in to lunch with the pro abortion politician.  Invite him to the Al Smith Dinner.  Perhaps influence him a little.  In the direction of their own moral cowardice.  It seems to be working.  No need for the bishops to confront pro abortion Catholic politicians.  No reason not to invite Obama to Notre Dame for the sake of dialogue.  Which means, we don't want to fight, let's just talk.  You make your speeches, we'll make ours.  Then we can eat.  No need for confrontation with abortion.  Let Mary confront the abortion bound woman while we provide prayer support.  Let pro abortion Catholic politicians be automatically excommunicated.  No need for the bishop to embarrass himself by attempting manual excommunication--actually opening his mouth and saying something unloving which the press will pounce on.  Prominent Pro Choice and Catholic politicians get a big funeral at the Cathedral. 

The most Catholic states are also those which elect pro choice Catholic politicians like Ted Kennedy,  Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi.   58 percent of Catholics voted for Obama and it would be silly to assume that the vote for John McCain represented a pro life vote.  More likely it represents a pro money vote--he'll protect my investments better than Obama. 

In short, Catholics cannot even be counted upon to make a one fingered gesture, once every two years, in the anonymous safety of the voting closet on behalf of ending abortion.  That accurately measures their pro life commitment.  How much Christian Courage they have.  How much of a claim to possess the Spirit which is the foundation of the Christian life.  It measures the depth of the spiritual hole they have to dig out of.  On the historical record, Catholics reliably vote pro abortion here just like they do in Italy.  Is this the foundation of a pro life movement ?  A foundation sitting upon quick sand.  The joke is that the American Catholic Church is pro life.  The joke is that the American Catholic Church is still opposed to contraception.  Because they still issue official statements now and then.  The million babies killed by abortion every year don't see the joke. 

Bring Down the Big Tent !

Thanks to people like Rush Limbaugh endorsing pro choice Republicans, the Republican Party has long since become a big tent which can never be serious about opposing abortion.  And that also describes the American Catholic Church.  The bishops persist in using official paper to wall paper over the big crack in the church.  Behind the paper it is a house divided which can never be serious about opposing contraception and abortion.  Those Catholics who are serious are not just a minority but a remnant

The Catholic Church needs to divide permanently on the issues of contraception and abortion.  Even though only the minority of Catholics will stick with the official paper position.  Well and good.  Other churches divide on the question of abortion, just as they once divided on the question of slavery.  The American Baptist Church goes along with abortion, the Southern Baptists do not.  And there are similar divisions among the Lutherans and other denominations. 

It is morally right and spiritually healthy to part company with those whose beliefs are contrary--whose persistent actions violate basic faith and morals.  Pro choice is the alternative-- I wouldn't own a slave myself, but I won't interfere with someone who thinks differently.   By tolerating Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, etc. etc. etc.  . . . the American Catholic Church has put itself into a de facto pro choice position.  While preserving the hypocrisy of official paper.  On paper, it remains righteous.  It is justified by its paper position.  

If it is ever to renew a claim to integrity, the Church must abandon the worldly compromises which allow it to say one thing and do another.  Or, rather, the minority which has had enough of these compromises must find the exit.  Contrary to what Lincoln said, a house divided can stand, at least in a ramshackle way.  Look at America itself.  But it cannot stand for truth and righteousness.  It cannot and it does not and that is where it is now. 

power of nonviolent direct action

Many American Negroes finally escaped from semi slavery and racial segregation, not because of lawyers delivering speeches in Congress, but because rank and file Christians joined the nonviolent direct action movement of the 1960s.  The Civil Rights movement was corrupted soon enough, but it accomplished something before that happened.  A million people marched for Civil Rights in the summer of 1963.  The Civil Rights Laws of 1964 and 1965 were the result, not the cause, of a broad movement which bypassed conventional politics.  And the real changes in American society have come from the power of that movement, not from anything done by the lawyers and the lawyer politicians who claim the credit.  

For a few short years, the Civil Rights Movement showed how much real power for moral and social change can be generated by a nonviolent direct action movement.  And, going beyond protest, there were those who seriously set out to build an alternative society, a just society, which no government will ever create, despite its windy pretensions.  And the anti Vietnam War movement which followed, illustrated it once again.  It is one of the few times in history that people have managed to halfway stop a war.  They set an example which was copied by the pro life rescue movement of the 1980s in St Louis and Philadelphia, a primarily Catholic movement,   which led to the Operation Rescue movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

I believe in nonviolent direct action, that it is the kind of spiritual warfare that Jesus and Saint Paul taught us to use.  [ see my essay on  The Spiritual Warfare of Jesus Christ ]  I believe that personal witness is necessary to a Christian life--you can't pretend to be a Christian if you won't do it.  You shrivel in the Spirit when you fail to do it.  That describes most so-called Christians.  

Most Christians do not believe it.  Nominally pro life Christians are our worst critics because they have been brainwashed by the same media as everyone else, and because anything which calls for personal risk violates their religion.  They are all in favor of the war from a safe distance.  They support the troops with a $ 1 bumper sticker.  They support the pro life movement with a prayer, a vote and a $ 5 check to a pro life lobby.  When you are judged on what you did to rescue the least of these, they will give you back your $ 5 and send you down below to join the other supporters

Cast Your Whole Vote

As Thoreau says, in his Essay on Civil Disobedience:    There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them  . . . They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect.  They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret.  At most, they give only a cheap vote, and a feeble countenance and God-speed, to the right, as it goes by them.  There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man  . . .   cast  your  whole  vote,  not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.  ( Written after he went to jail rather than pay the taxes which supported slavery and the War with Mexico. ) 

If you are serious about claiming to be a Christian, You have to get serious about  casting  your  whole  vote.  You have to vote every day, not spend 10 minutes doing it once every two years while hiding behind the curtain of the voting closet.  You have to vote with both hands.  And both feet.  And do it right out in the open where everyone can see you. 

Most so-called Christians will not do that.  Which is why we have to part company with them.  It provides a test, like the test which the Lord instructed Gideon to use to separate out the Lord's Army from all those who did not have the Spirit to belong to it. 

The lawyers, the legislators and the lobbyists will never do anything effective to end abortion.  The pro life movement cannot even get started until we acknowledge that basic fact.  Ambitious people use the movement to pursue political power just as Jesse Jackson and a thousand other ambitious blacks used the Civil Rights Movement to pursue political power and personal wealth.  They sold out the black people of America while pretending to serve them.  These fellows pretend to be pushing the wagon but they are only riding on it.  We fall for it because we are foolish and because there is a little bit of larceny in our hearts also.  We also dream of success, of rising to a position at the top.  And we fall for it because of our bedrock faith in  the  easy  way.  We have to believe that to justify our cowardice.  We do not believe a real battle is necessary--not if we have to fight it. 

We forget what Jesus taught us about how Christians change society.  We do not wish to remember it.  There is a legion of those who are willing to change society from the high end, from the prestige and comfort of a Senate seat.  But real moral change is brought about by those who have given up on being respectable in the eyes of their fellow citizens, who don't demand to be paid.  Who have no political careers to sacrifice.  Who have already made the sacrifice.  The Pro Life Revolution will not be carried out by those who have to be paid $ 200 an hour for their services.  A long lost first century Christian catechism,  the  teachings  of  the  apostles  says  if he asks for money, he is a false prophet.  You can see why they had to lose it.  When we begin to apply that standard to today's false prophets, we will have taken a necessary step forward in putting an end to abortion.  

Christians did not need the help of the Roman Senate and the Roman Emperor in building Christianity.  That is the false faith of Secular Christianity.  When they did get the sponsorship of the Emperor, it established that worldly and  conformist Christianity which is with us still.  Which is the crippling disease, the chronic and epidemic spiritual disease,  of that which pretends to be the Christian Church.  Which is the fundamental cause of abortion.  A real pro life movement cannot depend upon The Man at the Top of the American Empire.  That is the false faith which is destroying the American pro life movement as it has destroyed the Christian church.  

The pro life movement has to be a moral crusade.  A moral crusade has to chart a course which avoids the futility of the Law and the immoral compromises that are in the very nature of conventional politics.  We aren't going to win the battle in the court or in the legislature until we have won the battle out on the sidewalks and inside the shopping malls.  Until we have won the battle  within  the  church.  We are a long way from winning that battle because we haven't even begun to fight it seriously.  Most of our nominal "pro-life" organizations are too chicken-hearted to even think about fighting it.

holding on to privilege

The main reason the pro life movement goes no where is that people insist upon holding on to their own privileged position in American society ( and enhancing it when they can ) as the limiting condition of their efforts to oppose abortion;  There is a simple difference between a soldier who is willing to sacrifice himself to win the battle and a general who promotes his own career by taking credit for  winning the battle from 30 miles away.  The pro life movement is full of such generals.  And, unlike the general of the army, we have no conscripts who can be forced to fight the battle for us.  Nor money enough to hire a mercenary army.  So it remains a sham battle. 

Those whose wealth was tied to slavery were a minority of Americans, although a powerful and influential minority.  The majority of Americans owned no slaves and lost no money when the slave owners were finally forced to give up their slaves after a long and bitter war.  In fact, many of the New York capitalists made fortunes from the war, after buying their way out of the draft, like Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan.  The Roots of Abortion  [ see my book of that title ]  go just as deep as the roots of slavery once did and they are much more widespread.  Those whose prosperity depends upon careers for women--depends upon contraception backed by abortion--are a majority of Americans.  Most so-called Christians joined them long ago.  That is what we are up against.  We are not going to stop abortion in America by voting.  What we can do is vote with our feet for a family friendly and abortion free society by walking away from the aborted anti family society which dominates America.  And we may have to walk.  You are not likely to get there in your new car. 

[  this is pages 30 to 38 of Letter to the Bishops