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Jim Wallis, Abortion, and the Prophetic Voice

Christianity Today published an interview with Jim Wallis in May of this year discussing a number of his views on issues like abortion, marriage, and poverty. When asked about his position on abortion Wallis answered, “The abortion debate has really gotten very stale. It’s a symbolic battle that takes place mostly only in election years…But the abortion question is real. It’s a moral issue. The number of unborn lives that are lost every year is alarming. It’s a moral tragedy…” (53). It’s good to hear Wallis concerned about the abortion question. However, the interviewer goes on to ask about Wallis’ advocating of a prophetic voice on social issues such as abortion comparing it to Wilberforce’s battle against slavery(54). Wallis answers, “I don’t think that abortion is the moral equivalent issue to slavery that Wilberforce dealt with. I think that poverty is the new slavery. Poverty and global inequality are the fundamental moral issues of our time. That’s my judgment. People make the mistake of defining prophetic by politically left and right categories, and that the further left or right you are, the more prophetic you are. They’re not biblically prophetic; they’re politically ideological” (54).

Now, I agree that poverty is an important issue. Clearly Jesus spent a lot of time with poor people and those on the fringes of society. However, I can’t imagine how anyone can think that the outright slaughter of innocent babes is not the moral equivalent of slavery. If Wallis wants to talk about the prophetic voice, how about this? If you were to do a word study on the idea of hell in the gospels, you would find that one of the words rendered as hell is Gehenna (e.g. Mark 9:43). If you find that interesting enough to track down the meaning of Gehenna, you would find that Gehenna was the valley south of Jerusalem where two Judean kings, Ahaz and Manasseh, burned sacrifices to a false god. They even burned their own sons as sacrifices to Molech (2 Chron 28:3, 33:6). Because of this, the valley was cursed and became the Jerusalem garbage dump. It was a place where the flames never went out and the stench of burning garbage never ceased. This was Jesus’ image for hell. His image for eternal destruction was the burning pile of garbage on land that was cursed because Judean kings sacrificed their children there. How’s that for the prophetic voice? Sometimes I think we are so calloused that I wonder if we would know the prophetic voice if it were shouting in our faces? The slaughter of defenseless children is most clearly the subject that the prophetic voice is concerned with. That is not to say that poverty is not an important issue. It is to say that poverty is not a bigger issue than abortion. The wholesale slaughter of 50 million unborn children in last 25 years is the precise subject and content of the prophetic voice. It’s the sort of thing that Jesus would use as a metaphor for judgment and destruction.

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