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Why Do So Many Evangelicals Support Abortion?

The Story: A survey finds that a large number of Americans—including a disconcerting number of evangelicals—support keeping abortion legal.

The Background: Yesterday was the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states. After almost half a century, how many Americans still support the decision legalized abortion-on-demand?

A Pew Research Survey finds that 69 percent of Americans do not want to see Roe overturned. Among Protestants, nearly two-thirds say the Supreme Court should not overturn the decision (63 percent), including a near majority (49 percent) of white evangelical Protestants (only 47 percent say it should be overturned).

The breakdown by religious affiliation and denomination is also discouraging, and reveals that far too many Christians support the injustice of legal abortion.

Not surprisingly, in almost every mainline denomination a majority say abortion should be legal in all or most cases (the one exception is the American Baptist Churches USA, whose support for abortion only reaches 47 percent). But even evangelical denominations have a high proportion of members who support abortion.

Here are the number of respondent by denomination who say abortion should be legal in all or most cases:

• Presbyterian Church in America – 54 percent*

• Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod – 46 percent

• Churches of Christ — 36 percent

• Southern Baptist — 30 percent

• Church of the Nazarene — 27 percent

• Assemblies of God — 26 percent

• Church of God — 20 percent

*After talking to several people in the PCA, I’m convinced that at least a portion of the respondents misidentified themselves as belonging to the Presbyterian Church in America rather than Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

What is means: As with any survey that relies on religious self-identification, we should be careful not to automatically assume the numbers accurately represent committed believers. But even if we discount the numbers significantly (10 percent to 15 percent) it reveals there are a distressingly large number who support legalized abortion.

After all, no Christian—especially no one who claims to belong to an Bible-believing evangelical denomination—should support the grave injustice of allowing babies to be killed in the womb. (Not supporting the legal killing of innocent humans should be the minimum standard for Christian morality.) For heretical religious groups, such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, to more likely oppose abortion than do most evangelical denominations is a shameful stain on the American church.

There are likely many reasons for the disgraceful support for legalized abortion. Foremost is likely that too many Christians take a “I’m morally opposed, but . . .” position, in which they allow their political convictions to trump their moral commitments to justice. But whatever the reasons, the survey reveals we pro-lifers have a lot of work to do in changing hearts and minds. If we can’t even convince those in our denominations—redeemed believers who should know that God opposes killing babies—how are we ever going to convince the unbelieving world?

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