“Personally opposed, but…” I like Stephen J. Heaney’s take on the phrase!

The Witherspoon Institute, Public Discourse posted an article on Feb 6, 2012 by Stephen J. Heaney. “Personally Opposed, but Sleeping with the Enemy” is a thoughtful and challenging response to those who define their positions on abortion or same-sex marriage as “personally opposed, but…”.

According to Heaney,

“If you were truly opposed to something, then you would try to defeat it, especially if your conscience tells you that this something is both a moral wrong in itself and disastrous in its consequences.”
I agree! This applies as much to the church as it does to the culture. Too often with abortion, and now with same-sex marriage, the group Heaney describes as the “personally opposed, but… contingent” ends up working actively for exactly the thing they profess to oppose. As ‘abortion’ was redefined to ‘terminate a pregnancy’ and then ‘reproductive choice’ and most recently ‘reproductive health’ those ‘personally opposed’ on moral grounds caved to the ‘but’ of personal freedom.

Heaney writes:

“Most people would automatically, and reasonably, come to the conclusion that such a person is not being honest: he is neither personally opposed, nor following the faith he professes.”
If our faith leads one to believe abortion is morally wrong, that in abortion the life of a child created by God and set apart for his purposes is snuffed out, but the law allows women to choose to permit a doctor to abort that child, reason dictates we should work to change the law! It is a “strange moral arithmetic,” says Heaney, that leads someone to forsake their own professed moral stance and instead “start working to forward someone else’s vision of the good.” He makes a great point! It surely does not add up when someone who believes abortion is morally wrong also works to protect a woman’s “right” to choose to abort her unborn child.

Heaney offers one possible trajectory of thought from “personally opposed” to “but”. He points to a passage in the US Supreme Court’s Casey decision (1992),

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State."
First, it is clear the above statement does not flow from a Christian understanding that God alone is the source of all truth and wisdom. Neither does it take into consideration that mankind is totally depraved. But even if we put that understanding aside, what seems on the surface to be freedom to define one’s own thinking and belief, Heaney says is more—

“...[O]ne has to be able to decide for oneself what is important and then act on it. . .Just having the right to decide for myself who counts as a person is not enough; I must be able then to kill those I find do not measure up, lest I have no liberty, and thus no personhood. In the marriage context, it apparently means that, whatever I believe or want marriage to be, it can be that, and the law is powerless against my desires.” Such thinking leads to lawlessness. No law can forbid anything because there will always be someone who disagrees. “In such a world the powerless are at the mercy of the powerful.”
Following such logic, according to Heaney leads to a strikingly familiar result:

“Under such a regime, only the conscience of one side can be tolerated. All opposing consciences must be silenced.”