Monday, May 5, 2008

Rocking The Vote Boat

[cross-posted on the LTI Blog]

It is easy to become dismayed and frustrated in observing the general apathy and lack of urgency that seems to prevail within the general public toward the cause to which Scott Klusendorf and Jay Watts have dedicated their full-time professional lives. Jay's poignant post (here) reflects the anguish that comes in dealing with the general disinterestedness we have all observed. Regardless, we must continue to minister, educate and multiply the forces that do both. We each have to make the case for human personhood at all stages of life in our own little corners of the world. But what is the prognosis for the project of moving the culture at large? I want to make two observations, one here, another in a separate post ...

Peter Wehner, a former deputy assistant to President Bush, in his discussion (here) of the media’s hope-filled frenzy regarding the impending “crack up” of the modern evangelical movement, brings up some statistics that, when considered alongside some other pro-life thought, may offer pro-lifers some optimism. While Wehner is more concerned with the pure political and electoral implications of the changing evangelical movement, buried in his essay are some promising facts:
  • According to a recent Pew poll, 70 percent of evangelicals age 18-29 favor making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion compared with 55 percent of evangelicals 30 and above

  • Younger evangelicals are more suspicious of big institutions and skeptical of big government

  • Most evangelicals still care a great deal about the advancing culture-of-life agenda; abortion remains their most consistently important and galvanizing issue. Yet more and more evangelicals are showing concern for environmental issues like global warming; human rights issues like religious persecution and genocide; and “social justice” issues like poverty and AIDS. The evangelical movement’s longstanding concern about abortion isn’t receding; the area of concern is enlarging.
Included in this enlarged area of evangelical concern are issues that, though not specifically pro-life, share characteristics that cross political boundaries: sex trafficking in Africa, AIDS, tribal genocide, the plight of Tibet … and the list goes on. If Wehner is correct in his assessment of the concerns of younger evangelicals, they share these as pressing issues even with their secular peers. And while we conservative evangelicals rightly (no pun intended) knee-jerk to labeling many of these as left-leaning issues, they are at their core human rights issues that are considered important among the young.

To add to that, I can only offer concrete numbers from Super Tuesday but, exit polling showed that the youth vote (under 30) was up 84% over 2000 in Ohio and nearly quadrupled in Texas (from 172,228 voters in 2000 to an estimated 620,384 on March 4, 2008). Anecdotal evidence throughout the primary season suggests that the involvement of the young in politics is on the increase -- maybe even dramatically so.

The point: Youth voters see abortion as a human rights issue and they are voting in record numbers. This is good news for pro-life causes and candidates.

LTI does not argue the pro-life case on strictly religious grounds. Though his case is grounded in moral and theistic realism, Scott does not directly invoke the precepts of the Judeo-Christian faith to argue what the fetus is. At its root his case is a philosophical and moral case for personhood at all stages of life. The pro-life case is, in other words, an appeal to human rights that should resonate with the young.

This is not to dismiss potential problems, not the least of which is that the only pro-life candidate in this year's presidential race is 72 years old, while the youth vote seems to be magnetically attracted to the pro-abortion Obama. Nevertheless, it seems that this should have significant political impact in the future and that the pro-life movement needs to capitalize on the trend.

Unfortunately, ESCR is a different issue. More on that later ...

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