Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Let your voice be heard

I went to vote early twice, but didn't follow through either time. Last Tuesday afternoon I went to make a nursing home visit in Fuquay-Varina and decided to circle by the early voting location in Falcon Park. The parking lot was full and a long line of voters spilled out of the building and down the sidewalk. I figured the line on Election Day couldn't be any worse, so I went on to the nursing home without voting. 

On Saturday, Terri and I were running a few errands and we drove by the Falcon Park early voting spot and the parking lot was again full and cars were parked on the grass surrounding the parking lot and the line outside the building was even longer We both made the calculation that the wait couldn't possibly be any worse on Election Day and we continued with our errands without voting.

When I left the house this morning, the thermometer registered a temperature of 37 degrees outside. I arrived at my polling place at 7:15 a.m. The parking lot was full and cars lined both sides of the street near the parking lot such that the road was nearly impassable. The line of voters spilled out of the building and wound down the sidewalk. 

Last day. I got in line.

The time that elapsed from the moment I claimed my chilly spot at the back of the line until a ballot was placed in my hand was 31 minutes. Because the polling place was so full, voters were given the option of sitting at a table and filling out their ballot rather than waiting for a more confidential voting booth. I chose the table which was fully encircled with other voters soon after I sat down.

After I completed my ballot and stood in a short line to place it in a slot in a machine, I looked at my watch as I reached the outer door. The entire process took 37 minutes. Someone at church on Sunday told me that he and his wife waited one hour and fifteen minutes to vote on Saturday. Judging by the lines that I saw at the times that I stopped by an early voting location, I don't think I was any worse off in waiting until Election Day. I think it likely that I saved at least a few minutes.

Based on my limited exposure to polling places during early voting and on Election Day, it's a good thing that early voting is an option here. If the crowds that I saw at an early voting location are any indication, it would be tough to get all of those people through the process on Election Day alone. Furthermore one would think that the lines on Election Day would be super long rather than just long if it weren't for the fact that a lot of folks have already voted when Election Day arrives.

I am very encouraged by the long voter lines in my repeated experience at polling places in this election season. I don't know how things are elsewhere, but in these parts people appear to be dedicated to exercising their civic duty by casting a vote. I have no doubt that political pundits would say that a heavy turnout is more advantageous to one political party than another. But, leaving political considerations aside, I think it is a good thing that the people are making their voices heard.

"... lift up your voice with strength ... lift it up, do not fear ...," said the prophet (Isa. 40:9, NRSV). If you haven't voted I hope that you will make your voice heard before the day is over. You may have to wait in line a little while. But it is important that our voices be heard.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some good news about abortion

There are fewer abortions per capita in the United States now than in the year before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there were 825,564 legal abortions in theU.S. in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available. The population of the U.S. was estimated at 305 million in 2008, so there were 0.002707 abortions per citizen in that year. In 1972 (the year before the Roe v. Wade decision), there 586,760 legal abortions and the population of this nation was estimated at 209,896,021 for a ratio of 0.002795.

The “official” abortion rate of abortions per woman aged 15-44 remains higher for 2008 at 16 per 1,000 versus 13 per 1,000 in 1972. However, there were far more illegal, unreported abortions in 1972 than in 2008. No one really one knows how many illegal abortions there were before Roe v. Wade, but estimates range from200,000 to 1.2 million per year. Even if the lower number is used, the abortion rate for 1972 would be considerably higher than 2008 when illegal pre-Roe abortions are taken into account.   

It is true that the CDC abortion numbers for 2008 are incomplete with numerous states not reporting. But the numbers for 1972 were not complete either. Nonetheless, even when using the National Right to Life current estimate of 1.2million abortions per year in the U.S., when even a low estimate for illegal pre-Roe abortions is factored in, the abortion rate now is lower compared to 1972.

Just to be clear, I think abortion purely for birth control is morally wrong. Yet, in all the heat surrounding the debate about Todd Akin’s reprehensible comments, it seems appropriate to point out that there is some good news to report concerning abortion. Apparently improved sex education and improved birth control methods have resulted in an abortion rate in the U.S. that is now lower than the rate of pre-Roe days.

I always try to be careful how I discuss the emotionally charged issue of abortion. About 23 years ago, when I was an Associate Pastor of a church as a seminary student, I taught the Sunday evening adult discipleship class. One evening the assigned topic in our discipleship quarterly was abortion. I came prepared with a pretty hardline, anti-abortion lesson, armed with information that I obtained beyond that which was outlined in the quarterly.

As soon as I introduced the topic, I noticed a change in the facial expression and body language of a single mother in the class who was in her early 30’s. She was a new Christian, baptized only weeks before this class. She never spoke during the lesson, which was unusual for her. She left church after the class and never came back.

We reached out to her numerous times, but it did no good. She never said that she had an abortion, but I’m guessing that she did. She did not appear angry over my stand in class. Rather, she seemed ashamed of herself. Too ashamed to return no matter what we said.  

I learned from that experience. While Christians must never compromise on the issue of the sanctity of life, we must always respond to everyone with the love and compassion that Christ would have us exhibit. Behind every abortion in this country is a woman who needs to experience the love of Christ through the followers of Christ. We’re all sinners and we must not allow anti-abortion zeal to overwhelm our duty to love our neighbors.