The Riddle of a Key Issue

Mr. Bill Clinton (president of the United States) has, in the past, courted the minorities (people of color, women, etc.), the union, and special interest groups in his bid for the presidency and now has begun a relationship with the evangelicals of our day.  Mr. Clinton has called on some well-known evangelical Christian leaders to spend the night, as his guests, at the White House, and for others he has arranged to have breakfast meetings.

In the April 25, 1994 issue of Christianity Today, Editor-at-Large Philip Yancey reviewed in an article entitled, “The Riddle of Bill Clinton’s Faith,” what has come to be known as “The Controversy” (Mr. Clinton’s ever-growing relationship with evangelical Christians).  Yancey elaborated on key issues, of which evangelicals doubt Mr. Clinton’s sincerity.  Yancey quoted several scathing remarks concerning Mr. Clinton’s position on these key issues and concluded, “When it comes to Bill Clinton, I sense in many Christians a feeling beyond anger, something closer to betrayal” (p. 24).  The first one hundred days of Mr. Clinton’s presidency saw the enactment of new policies easing abortion restrictions and talk of resumed fetal tissue research, expanding homosexual rights, and the appointment of staff members who are opposed to the religious community.  Did those Christians who felt betrayed really think anything different would happen?  We all heard his campaign and knew going in essentially where he stood on the key issues.  It was the issue concerning abortion with which Yancey dealt most extensively in his article.

Mr. Clinton is a very capable man who claims to be a Christian.  He grew up in Bible Belt Arkansas as a Baptist and married a life-long Methodist and “today,” says Yancey, “feels most at home with the more emotional worship style of African-Americans and Pentecostals” (p. 26).  Mr. Clinton attended Georgetown and Yale Universities, and then as a Rhodes Scholar he attended Oxford in England.  Among other things, Mr. Clinton has proved himself to be a capable speaker.  According to Yancey, “school teachers thought young Bill might grow up to be an evangelist” (p. 26).  And so the riddle begins.

In his interview with Mr. Clinton and subsequent article, Philip Yancey exposes the key to Mr. Clinton’s riddle concerning abortion and maybe the key to all of his riddles.  Mr. Clinton does not have perseverance, and he lacks perseverance because he adheres to no Divine Standard.

As a young man, Mr. Clinton assumed that life began at birth.  However, over the last few years he has become less certain about when life begins.  He seems to grapple with the issue but still can’t come to a clear answer.  Mr. Clinton seems to get stuck with the issue when he tried to make, as he states, “a sophisticated judgment about personhood which is really a spiritual determination and not a biological determination…” (p. 29).

The key to this riddle concerning Mr. Clinton’s position on abortion is born out in his comment, “The truth is, no one knows when the spirit enters the body” (p. 29).  However, this true confession only makes the matter more difficult for believer and unbeliever alike to understand how Mr. Clinton can shift, within three years, from opposing abortion to fully supporting Roe v. Wade.  Mr. Clinton is not sure when, but sometime before birth, a fetus becomes a baby.  Mr. Clinton believes “personhood” is attained when the spirit enters the body.  Using Mr. Clinton’s logic, we can conclude that becoming a baby and attaining personhood are one and the same thing.  The obvious question is, how does Mr. Clinton know when a fetus is extracted or when a baby is killed?  Mr. Clinton does not know and therefore is in violation of his own standard, and remember Mr. Clinton claims to be a Christian who believes the Bible to be authoritative, and this is the key to the riddle.

Mr. Clinton exposes his lack of adherence to the Divine Standard when he states, “My position has always been that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare” (p. 29).  Yancey states that “Clinton defends this shill by saying the approach to specific moral issues in a democracy should change as popular opinion changes” (p. 29).  One wonders how Mr. Clinton can square this position with the Biblical mandate to be holy even as I am Holy when the God of the Bible does not change.