It is Sanctity of Human Life Day in America. And it is political.
This day gained presidential recognition from President Ronald Reagan by proclamation in 1984 when he occupied the White House. For Christian conservatives, it is a darn near high holy day. In my book with colleague Kevin Coe The God Strategy: How Religion Became A Political Weapon in America, we track how Republican presidents have issued official presidential proclamations commemorating it annually (here is George W. Bush’a final one in 2009).
Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did not and have not issued such proclamations. Undoubtedly they see life as precious, even sacred. But the overt tie of the proclamation to opposition to abortion rights since its origins has led Republicans to embrace the act while Democrats have avoided it. As a further indication of the merger of religion and politics, this proclamation could be issued to commorate any day of the week. But it is issued on a Sunday by Republican presidents.
In its stead, Clinton proclaimed a Religious Freedom Day in 1994 and every subsequent January of his presidency, George W. Bush and Obama followed suit. President Obama issued his version of this proclamation two days ago.
Today at First Baptist Church Of Columbia — the founding church of the Southern Baptist Convention — the sanctity of life day was emphasized. We attended Sunday school adult education classes and worship services. In the class I attended the focus was on an old Testament passage dealing with murder, justice, and mercy. The discussion focused on a contemporary American culture that had, the participants claimed, lost sensitivity to humanity, personal relationships, and God. The room was packed.
The sanctuary holds 3500 and has an awe-inspiring choir. Barack Obama spoke there during the Democratic Party primary in South Carolina in 2008. Today Newt Gingrich’s sisters were there.
We’ll have more up soon on a our visit to First Baptist, including a conversation with the Gingrich sisters, and more photos. Now we’re on our way on a sunny South Carolina day to see Santorum in Florence…