President-Select George W. Bush’s recent decision to support federal funding for stem cell research has drawn some interesting responses from conservatives in America. Some regard his decision as a betrayal of his pro-life campaign promises, while others are modifying their views so they can stand behind his decision. The day after Bush announced his decision, I tuned in to a number of Christian radio stations (of which there are 17 in metro Atlanta alone). It was fascinating to hear preachers and talk show hosts who, only 24 hours previous, were firmly against stem cell research, suddenly re-vamping their theologies so they could support their beloved president. One “radio pastor” attempted to rationalize his support by saying that the embryo in the petri dish was a human life, but it was not yet a human being — but when asked by a confused caller to clarify what he meant, he could only talk in circles. It’s hard to defend a theological position you just created a few hours ago.
There are a number of pro-lifers who honestly believe that abortion is murder. Some of them are conservatives who believe life begins at conception, whether in a womb or in a test tube. Others are pro-life because of their belief in social justice and nonviolence. These “liberal pro-lifers” take a pro-life stance across the board, also fighting against militarism, economic injustice, and the death penalty. A small number of Protestants like Anthony Campolo and Ron Sider take this view, calling it a “consistent life ethic.” Roman Catholics (including members of the peace group Pax Christi) who take this view call it the “seamless garment” ethic. And there are other, smaller, pro-life groups who don’t fit in with the larger pro-life movement: Witches for Life, Feminists for Life of America, etc.
I can honestly respect the views of those, whether conservative or liberal, who oppose stem cell research because of their sincerely held religious or ethical beliefs on the origins of human life. The ones I cannot respect, however, are the ones for whom this issue is just one part of a much bigger agenda. For them, maintaining that agenda is far more important than their supposed “convictions” about protecting the smallest of human lives.
This larger agenda is a religious and political worldview that seeks to maintain a particular view of “American” morality and “family values” — a view which is decidedly anti-gay.
Item: The Gay and Lesbian Review (July-August 2001 issue) reported on Rev. Pat Robertson’s refusal, during an interview on Larry King Live, to criticize China’s policy of forced abortion after a woman’s first child. Robertson defended the policy using the same arguments you might expect to hear from his opponents on the political left: overpopulation, high unemployment, etc. As it turns out, Robertson has business interests in China. To him, maintaining his televangelism and business empire is far more important than his “convictions” about “protecting the rights of the unborn.”
Item: Operation Rescue, the right-wing group which attempts to “rescue” women from having abortions, has expanded its mission to include “rescuing” people from “the homosexual lifestyle.” Now, in addition to picketing abortion clinics, they also sometimes picket Gay Pride events.
Item: In January 2000, an activist group called Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians attempted to march in the big pro-life rally in Washington, DC. The conservative organizers of the event objected to their presence at their rally and actually tried to have them arrested (which only confused the hell out of the cops). For them, as for many in the pro-life movement, it is far more important to be anti-gay than it is to be anti-abortion.
Those on the religious right often talk about the danger of “the homosexual agenda.” Seems like some who use that terminology have a “heterosexual agenda” of their own — one which is so powerful it can cause religious leaders to change their long-held beliefs at the drop of a political hat.
A licensed professional counselor in private practice in metro Atlanta, Darrell Grizzle is the author of I Never Meant to Start a Murder Cult and Other Stories.