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Politics for the Greatest Good: The Case for Prudence in the Public Square 
Author: Clarke D. Forsythe
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Pages: 261
 
Having worked in the Pro-life community for over 20 years on a variety of projects and with different pro-life organizations, I have had the opportunity to observe that my fellow defenders of life are often divided between people of passion versus people of prudence.  Sadly, many times both sides do not have an appreciation for one another’s approach to the issues.  I believe that Clarke D. Forsythe’s book, Politics for the Greatest Good: The Case for Prudence in the Public Square, is an excellent book to read in order to gain a greater appreciation for a prudent approach to pro-life issues.
 
In a culture where abortion is the law of the land, there are a lot of road blocks that impede the restoration of anti-abortion laws. Nevertheless, Forsythe argues that pro-lifers need to use prudence to do what they can to change culture and the laws of our country.
 
Forsythe uses the thoughts of both Aristotle and Aquinas in developing his working definition of prudence.  Forsythe says,  “Aristotle believed that the practical reasoning at the core of prudence was the ability to deliberate about living well as a whole.” Aquinas described prudence as “right reason about what is to be done.”
 
Forsythe goes on to show that in a culture where the abortion mentality prevails, prudence calls for “building fences” around the evil of abortion by passing legislation such as parental and informed consent laws. In working to pass laws that limit abortion (but not outright abolition); one is not compromising their pro-life principles.  One’s ultimate goal is the realization of laws that will make abortion illegal.
            
Forsythe uses the political careers of both William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln in their fight against slavery as a historical basis for using prudence in fighting moral evil.  Both Wilberforce and Lincoln recognized the moral evil of slavery, but they also saw the political limitations of bringing slavery to an immediate end. In response, they chose to work tirelessly to advocate and pass laws that would limit the slave trade and “build a fence” around the evil of slavery.   It was through these fence-building efforts that slavery eventually came to an end in both England and the United States.
            
Forsythe also emphasizes that pro-life activists need to remain charitable to their opposition while not compromising their pro-life principles.  It is in demonstrating charity, that the hearts and minds of the opposition will be changed.  Sadly, there are too many times when pro-life folks do not heed this advice and do not communicate the Christian spirit of love, forgiveness, patience and joy to pro-abortion folks.  Demonstrating charity will have a positive pro-life influence on our culture.  And as our culture becomes more pro-life, our laws will reflect a more pro-life approach.
            
Finally, Forsythe gives insight into the current political process of our country.  He explains how the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision which overturned all existing abortion laws in the United States did not respect the rule of law that our country was founded upon.  Forsythe also explains that pro-life efforts to overturn the Roe v Wade decision must respect the rule of law so as to not cause further damage to our country’s legal system. 
            
In reading Forsythe’s conclusion, one gets the sense that pro-life success will occur by putting more emphasis on prudence and less emphasis on passion.  Certainly in cases where people overemphasize passion, a healthy dose of prudence is in order.  On the other hand, it is my conviction that pro-life success will ultimately come about with a balanced mixture of prudence and passion.  It will be prudence driven by passion and Christian charity that ultimately wins the hearts and minds of people with regard to pro-life issues.  
 
 
Allen H. Rode
August 23, 2009
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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