Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Campbell and Abortion and Homosexuality

A reader of this blog asked where I thought Alexander Campbell would stand on two contemporary "hot buttons" -- abortion and homosexuality. My first response to the question is, of course, "I really don't know."

To be consistent, however, I think Campbell would take much the same tack he did with the slavery question. For the Christian, both abortion and homosexuality represent sinful actions and behaviors. Current law permits, with certain restrictions, abortion in all states in the Union. The states, by law, currently have a hodge podge of legislation regarding homosexuals. Some states have tried to permit homosexuals to marry while others allow various types of domestic partner relations. Variations of all sorts of legislation affecting homosexuals can be found in the states. It is interesting that American attitudes toward abortion are hardening in that more and more reject abortion as a means of birth control. At the same time, however, the media and activist groups are changing attitudes about homosexual behavior. This is true among Christians and non-Christians alike.

Campbell believed slavery was wrong not just because it fostered inequality among humans but because it was harmful to the country. I think he would see abortion and homosexuality the same way although the Bible is far more explicit in its view of the sanctity of life and sinfulness of homosexual behavior. I believe he would agree that abortion and homosexual behavior are reprehensible and need to be addressed in the church. Further, I think he would hold that the church should discipline its members when they abort a baby or are found to be involved in homosexual behavior. I do not think, however, he would be as inconsistent as the contemporary church is for the contemporary church condemns individuals who have had an abortion and those who practice homosexuality while refusing to condemn those who commit adultery or engage in other sinful behaviors.

The Millennial Harbinger did not promote the reform movements of the early 1800s. He rejected any effort to unite himself with the Temperance Movement. Although pacifist in his stance, Campbell did not join the Peace Movement. While he did not argue for women's rights, he acknowledged time after time the contribution of women to the success of the Restoration Movement. At least up to 1845 (that's as far as I've gotten in my reading of the Harbinger) Campbell has said nothing about other reform efforts. The reason he refused to align himself with such reform efforts is simple: these reform movements didn't make people Christian -- only the Gospel in its simplicity and purity brought people to Christ.

I think it is interesting that although abortion and homosexuality were rampant in the first century, there were no demonstrations, no beatings of abortionists or homosexuals, no burning of the places of business of those who sold the drugs that induced abortions. Christian people brought others to Christ and something happened to those who came to Jesus! They reformed from the inside out! They became new creatures in Christ. It took time, but eventually Christian principles guided a growing majority in the Roman Empire and ultimately Europe. Those who formed the Constitution of the United States held firmly to biblical principles. Even though they may not have accepted everything the Bible taught about God or Christ, they recognized biblical principles as superior. At the same time, they refused to establish any religious body -- specifically a church or denomination -- as the official church of the nation.

For well over a score of years Christians have worked politically to return the country to the original value system. The effort meets with limited success and in some cases tremendous resistance. Our Restoration forefathers recognized the political structures as corrupt because men's hearts are corrupt. Some leaders refused to participate in the political process even refusing to vote. Others expressed their principles in the ballot box.

Christians must come to grips with the role of the church as opposed to the role of the government. We live in a country where (supposedly) we citizens are the government. The government's role is to maintain the peace and execute justice through law and, when necessary, force. The role of the church is to seek the world's redemption not through law or force but through love and the communication of God's grace. We should never get those two roles confused. As much as I sympathize and agree with pro-life Christians and their stand, I must reject those who murdered abortion doctors and destroyed property. I must reject their methods as inappropriate. Of all people it was Rush Limbaugh who said that the way to deal with the abortion (and homosexuality) issues is to change hearts!

Christ's church needs to do three things. First, it needs to preach the whole counsel of God and win people to Christ and then expect believers to accept and obey it. Second, it needs to quit expecting unbelievers to act like believers, think like believers, and respond like believers. Third, it needs to discipline its members and hold them accountable to God's Word.