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Calvin grad critiques evangelical pro-life movement

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Jonathan Dudley, alumnus of Calvin College, gave a “critical appraisal” of the evangelical pro-life movement, arguing that the evidence used by the pro-life movement needs to be rehashed. Dudley, also a graduate from Yale University Divinity School and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, looked at the movement from three perspectives: the Bible, tradition and science.

The event, “A Critical Appraisal of the Evangelical Pro-Life Movement,” took place September 28 in the Covenant Fine Arts Center (CFAC) Recital Hall. The room was half full. Professors, students and guests attended the event.

Citing an NPR poll, Dudley mentioned how nearly 50% of white evangelicals would still support SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh even if the rape allegations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford prove true. Dudley, considering the evangelical concern for having a pro-life SCOTUS, said, “If you believe life begins at conception, and abortion takes that away, then it’s hard to be more than a single issue voter.”

He then analyzed the reasons behind the evangelical conviction, pointing to the flaws in the conviction that “full moral life” begins at conception. Katrina Haaksma, a senior studying philosophy, said “The argument as I took it was simply that the pro-life movement is in a multitude of ways ideologically inconsistent.”

In the Bible, there are no direct mentions of abortion, though there are relevant verses. The most common evangelical citation about God knitting humans in their mother’s wombs is from Psalm 139:13, 16. “Evangelicals see this as God developing life in the womb,” said Dudley. But this verse doesn’t tell us when life starts.

Dudley then focused on the tradition and scientific reasons for the evangelical conviction. Regarding scientific arguments, he mentioned how the American Cancer Society has proved false some evangelical claims that abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer and mental health issues. Dudley continued, “[These false claims are] worth keeping in mind when this movement claims the mantle of science.”

The event ended in a heated Q&A, with roughly six guests responding. Most guests in the Q&A didn’t ask Dudley a question at all; one guest even invited Dudley to a debate. Haaksma said “It was fascinating to me that after [a non-partisan talk], the first four …  “questions” … were strongly reactionary speeches from what I took to be four dudes, that didn’t address anything presented in the talk.”

Dudley, who wrote Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics, is an instructor of molecular genetic pathology at Stanford University.

Christian Perspectives in Science, a seminar series, sponsored the event. The History Department; Political Science Department, Biology Department and the Sexuality Series co-sponsored the event.

The speech can be found on YouTube.

The conversation continued on October 3 as Dr. Daniel Williams, University of West Georgia history professor, spoke on “The Liberal Origins (and Conservative Trajectory) of the Pro-Life Movement.”

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Calvin grad critiques evangelical pro-life movement”

  1. logan bruns on October 5th, 2018 1:26 pm

    I would like to respectfully understand how the questions addressed were not related to his talk? The questions asked were implications of the one point in particular he was making which was that the Bible does not specifically address whether humanity begins at conception. This is problematic for Christianity if we are to make this a grey area because human selfishness will use that as justification for abortion so that they may abdicate their responsibility to raise a child. Also as a Christian, how does blurring the lines between human/not human help spread the light of Christ in the world? And if the majority of Christians were to end up agreeing that humanity does not begin at conception/implantation where would we draw the line? Also I am not one to get into arguments on comment sections of articles but I just wanted to put my point of view out there and hopefully we can engage differing ideas as to how to address this topic in truth.

  2. TG on October 5th, 2018 1:58 pm

    I find it sad that you only interviewed some senior who was obviously friendly to Dudley’s position. There were questions asked, but it was difficult to properly summarize all the multitudinous ways in which his arguments don’t hold up. Hence, the invitation to debate. And he certainly wasn’t “non-partisan”; his talk was very much shaped by his ideology. His book makes that abundantly clear, not that is wasn’t obvious in the seminar.

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